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Behemoth "The Satanist"

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Behemoth "The Satanist"

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If you've ever wondered what the religious alignment of Behemoth main man Nergal was, The Satanist puts the subject in stark relief. For those who don't know who Behemoth or Nergal are, they are definitely an underground band here in the United States (a status most likely cemented by their current offering). But in their native Poland, Nergal is well known (and apparently liked) enough for him to appear as a judge on that nation's version of “American Idol.”
Let that one sink in a bit. Poland's version of, say, Steven Tyler just released a magna culpa album with a closing song entitled “O Father O Satan O Sun!” Tyler's preoccupation with young hormones may seem increasingly creepy to stateside audiences, especially considering his advanced age, but Nergal's preoccupation is a genuine taboo at best here.
But disturbing content has long been a hallmark of Behemoth's oeuvre, and if their earlier content seemed shockingly in your face, they've only grown more blunt with time. While that may make them seem as nothing more than a third-rate shock band, depending on graphic content to garner attention, their saving grace is in their execution. Put briefly, Behemoth are known as much for high quality as they are for the shock topics, and Nergal's intensity and apparent sincerity only add to their underground cred. But would you expect anything less from a band called Behemoth?
Musically, The Satanist finds the band in a more varied form than on their last studio effort, 2009's Evangelion, which was a top to bottom onslaught on the senses. While they don't go so far as to, say, deliver a ballad on the album, their tempo and volume run the gamut from slow and quiet to loud and fast. Opener “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” starts out with a dirge-y section which then oscillates between it and an in-your-face onslaught. The next two tracks are somewhat standard black/death metal numbers characterized by blast beats and turgid guitar work, improved upon by drum breakdowns and some interesting guitar soloing. The band really hits its stride, however, on fourth track “Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer” which finds the band mixing an assertive heavy metal stomp with subtle horns which add a surprising amount of depth to the proceedings.
In fact, the band is at its best when it deviates from the standard death metal path. Take for example the strange acoustic/foreign language spoken word interlude in the middle of “In the Absence of Light,” which ultimately is splintered into a metallic onslaught, or the masterful dynamics of the title track. It's moments like those that demonstrate indubidably what the band is capable of. Unfortunately, those deviations are few and far between, and the band (here as always) sticks close to its trademark blackened death metal style. But then again, if you're a fan of the genre, they're still one of its better progenitors. It's their high standards and flashes of inspiration more than their shock value that elevate the band and the album above so many of their brethren, even if their controversial content keeps them planted squarely outside of the mainstream.

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