Anyone who saw Behemoth play a gargantuan headline set at this year’s Bloodstock Open Air festival will have been left with no doubt that this is a band who still has the necessary desire and drive as they stretch into their 31st year. Despite the numerous costume changes, underneath the spectacle of lights and fire lurks a band whose feet are still very much rooted in the extreme side of Black Metal.
Behemoth – Opvs Contra Natvram (Nuclear Blast)
Release Date: 16 September 2022
Words: Paul Hutchings
Frontman and mastermind Adam Darski, aka Nergal, has driven the Poles forward with relentless enthusiasm, passion, and attention to detail. His battles have been many, his trial for blasphemy and his recovery from Leukaemia just two that have provided more ammunition for his writing.
Having challenged the deep-seated hypocrisies of Catholicism, Behemoth now turns their attention to the destructive tendencies that are prevalent in society through pop culture, cancel culture, social media, and the judgment of others. “That’s something which I find very destructive and disturbing and extremely limiting coming from an artist’s perspective,” Nergal says. “This is my middle finger to that!”
It’s immediately noticeable that the production is something that the band has worked hard on. It allows the band to breathe and deliver their music in an expansive and organic style. Credit to the production team of Behemoth, producer Daniel Bergstrand who undertook engineering duties and the mixing of famed producer and mixer Joe Barresi whose credits include Queens of the Stone Age, Nine Inch Nails, Alice in Chains and Tool.
The result is their 12th long-player, full of familiar ferocity but with several twists and turns that make it both contemporary and original. An album that has benefitted from meticulous crafting during the pandemic, having been released from the shackles of label timescales, Opvs Contra Natvram is intricate and detailed, with many layers woven into its fabric.
Sweeping soundscapes and soaring sonic blasts make it a worthy successor to I Loved You At Your Darkest. Opvs Contral Natvram may not be as instant as the 2018 record, but once you are involved, the result is intoxicating.
Behemoth has never been afraid to follow their own path, and this is apparent by the way the album is bookended. Post God Nirvana opens the album in a dark, atmospheric, and sinister manner. The combination of menacing drums over which strained and emotive vocals scream, “we worship the devil; we hail the beast” before a torrent of frenetic riffs cascade forth on Malaria Vulgata.
At the other end, closing track Versus Christus sees Nergal duet with an eerie piano tone in ominous fashion before the emotions explode into a finale of demonic chaos.
Sandwiched in between these two songs are eight slabs of Black Metal that vary in tempo and voracity. The savageness of the two-minute Malaria Vulgata contrasts with the almost industrial bassline on Neo Spartacvs and a subsequent groove vibe that is salvaged by Nergal’s snarling vocal delivery.
The three songs that debuted at Bloodstock all fit neatly into the album, with My Herculean Exile slower yet heavier than the anthemic style of The Deathless Sun. And laced through the entire album is music of blistering pace and power. Searing lead work bursts forth above the blast beats and battery of hammering percussion. It’s brutal and bruising and, at times, leaves the listener breathless.
The compositions are carefully constructed. Listen carefully to Disinheritance, and you’ll find multiple layers of sound that knit together in a Black Metal harmony that swirls and falls dramatically. There’s a melodic flow to Off To War! with its pulsing rhythm and driving riffs.
Opvs Contra Natvram is an album that really needs time to become acquainted with. There are stellar performances from all three band members, with Inferno’s drumming and his link with Orion holding everything together.
Nergal feels it is “the most mature thing we’ve done – it’s quintessentially Behemoth,” he says. “It’s just bangers – all meat, no fat.”
Whether the old school will feel the same is debatable but for me, to be able to bring something this intense on album number 12 is some feat.
Opvs Contra Natvram can be pre-ordered from https://behemoth.bfan.link/opvs-contra-natvram.