September 17, 2014 | , | 4.5

Behemoth, The Satanist

Behemoth: The Satanist

It’s been five long years since Behemoth released Evangelion. In that time, lead growler Nergal was diagnosed with cancer. Not only did he beat the disease, he grabbed that bitch, nailed its ass to an inverted cross and set it aflame. The Satanist is the glorious result of that battle.

People naturally change as life progresses, but events like the untimely death of a family member or near-terminal disease can do so more dramatically. Many folks wondered if Nergal and the band were still as focused. Was the experience such that the group would turn introspective, soften and become more reflective with their music? One listen of album opener “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” answers that fear quite succinctly. Behemoth are not only back, but they are more powerful, more dynamic and more honed in on their mission. And in the process, have completely blown away their past material in this singular effort.

The songs are just as aggressive and, at times, just as unrelenting as previous albums, but The Satanist is simply better written, performed and produced than anything the band has put out before hand. Rich with layers and devastatingly beautiful at times, the record is adventurous and epic in scope. And yet, it’s not audacious or grandiose. It doesn’t alienate the listener in any way. “Furor Divinus” is a primary example as it incorporates the band’s past ferocity with layers of additional instrumentation, Nergal’s more honest delivery, and some intangible essence that drives the music forward.

Back to Nergal’s delivery for a moment. Take a listen to “Messe Noire.” You’ll hear not just the typical beastial growls the frontman is known for, but you’ll also hear emotion, strain, release as he lets loose with one of the better vocal deliveries heard this year. Is this a result of his struggle with cancer or just a natural evolution. Regardless, it suits the horns and piledriving rhythms perfectly on this song. And holy Hell, that lead at the three minute mark — whoa.

“Amen” is as frantic as anything the band has put out in recent years. Right from the start, blasting drums fill the air like a swarm of hornets lit on fire by the deepest pits of Hades, dripping malevolence and evil. The track is dense and layered, separating itself a good bit from the more anthemic sounds of the preceding songs. Fans of the group’s older material will love this one. The title track slows things down a bit to start off with, but eventually ramps back up to a galloping groove as it travels through atmosphere and Nergal’s diatribes. It’s a flowing track that also separates itself from much of the album.

Closing out The Satanist is the massive “O Father O Satan O Sun!” — another departure for the death metal stalwarts. Choirs, chaos and more is added throughout the song to add depth and layers as Behemoth marches through Hellfire and brimstone, stomping Christianity into the earth beneath their cloven hooves. This isn’t just another album for the band. It’s a proclamation that nothing can cause the band to falter. They’ll only get bigger. Stronger. More powerful.