Twenty-seven years after their formation, Polish bible-destroyers Behemoth have distilled their blackened death metal essence, added a generous heaping of heavy rock and proved, once again, that they are at the forefront of thrilling, visceral heavy metal. For those of you who thought they may have peaked with 2014’s masterful The Satanist: nuh huh. Shiny new album I Loved You at Your Darkest may sound like a softening of both their sound and their Satanic beliefs but again, nope: the title is actually a quote from ol’ JC himself in the Christian bible. It doesn’t get more blasphemous than that, as front-man Nergal has said himself in recent interviews.
Coming from as conservative a country as Poland would be challenging for anyone who is perhaps starting to question the authority and rigidity of Christianity; one can only try to imagine what it would be like to be a Satanist there. Nergal – and indeed, the band – has been the target of this puritanical religious dogma on several occasions, particularly after he tore up a bible onstage at a Polish show. This struggle for religious freedom has shaped both the themes and sound of Behemoth’s music over the years, and ILYAYD is no exception. That said, the band have never been one to hide their beliefs – far from it: you can’t call an album The Satanist without somewhat giving the game away, after all.
Those beliefs become immediately apparent right from opening intro track ‘Solve’, which twins with outro track ‘Coagula’: those two words together represent both the alchemical process of breaking things down in order to build them up again, and the Satanic theme of a similar nature. The intro track itself consists of children chanting lines such as “Jesus Christ, I will not forgive” over two minutes of blackened metal which is heavy with menace.
Without a pause, the album immediately swings into second single ‘Wolves of Siberia’, a short, sharp shock of a track complete with blistering pace and Nergal’s unmistakable vocals. Rather intriguingly, it showcases the ‘blackened death metal mixed with hard rock’ sound that Nergal has hinted at recently during interviews. It’s an intoxicating mix…
Lead single ‘God=Dog’ follows in all its blasphemous glory (don’t watch the video if you’re easily offended). With a buzz-saw riff that could cut through walls and a drumming performance that must have all but destroyed the kit – as well as that rock influence mentioned above in the form of some tasty guitar licks – it is both the perfect way to introduce the world to this album and a really sweet way to tick off the puritans. A perfect blackened death metal specimen.
That’s not to say that Behemoth write songs just to shock and offend – far from it. Their passion for Satanism and desire to express their pride in it shines throughout the entire album, whether they’re in conversation with Satan himself (‘Angelvs XIII’, which includes an acoustic guitar peeking through in a rare moment of restraint and delicacy); ‘Havohej Pantocrater’, which speaks disdainfully on the idea that god rules the world (Havohej is ‘Jehovah’ spelled backwards); the bible quoting ‘ROM 5:8’, (god loves us and sacrificed his son even though we were “still sinners”), which includes the most ferocious drum performance of the album (honestly, Zbigniew ‘Inferno’ Prominski must have needed a shower and a lie down after recording this one); and the ominous ‘We Are the Next 1000 Years’, an apocalyptic track which drips with scorn and dismissal of the way the world is being run today.
When an album is as good as this, it can be hard to pick highlights, but there are a few. The aforementioned lead single is magnificent, as is the racing, relentless ‘Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica’. The richly textured ‘Bartzabel’ is another, with its dark atmospherics and explosive vocals, as is the pounding and no-nonsense ‘If Cruxification Wasn’t Enough’. ‘Sabbath Mater’ sounds like what Iron Maiden would come up with if they wrote a black metal song. In actuality, every song could be included in the highlights reel; there truly isn’t a duff moment on the entire album.
ILYAYD is, in short, Behemoth at the top of their game. Uncompromising and relentless, both lyrically and musically, and definitely a more up-tempo album in the truest sense of the word – the subject matter may have remained the same, but on several tracks the pace is decidedly quicker – it shows Satanism in its most honest form: questioning authority, bringing light to often dark topics (the word “illuminate” pops up several times: ‘Lucifer’ literally means ‘light-bringer’ or ‘illuminator’), celebrating oneself and believing in what is just. Twenty-seven years on, they show no signs of slowing down whatsoever: instead, they are getting better with every release. Hail Behemoth.
Review by Melanie Brehaut @MelinBelfast333
I Loved You at Your Darkest is due for release on October 5th.
BEHEMOTH Ecclesia Diabolica America 2018 tour dates;
w/ At the Gates, Wolves in the Throne Room
Oct. 20 – Phoenix, AZ – Van Buren
Oct. 22 – Dallas, TX – House of Blues
Oct. 23 – San Antonio, TX – The Aztec Theatre
Oct. 24 – Houston, TX – House of Blues
Oct. 26 – Atlanta, GA – Masquerade
Oct. 27 – Tampa, FL – Jannus Landing
Oct. 29 – Charlotte, NC – The Underground
Oct. 30 – Philadelphia, PA – The Fillmore
Nov. 1 – Boston, MA – House of Blues
Nov. 2 – Silver Spring, MD – The Fillmore
Nov. 3 – New York, NY – Playstation Theater
Nov. 4 – Montreal, QC – M-Telus
Nov. 6 – Toronto, ON – The Danforth Music Hall
Nov. 7 – Detroit, MI – St. Andrews Hall
Nov. 9 – Chicago, IL – House of Blues
Nov. 10 – Minneapolis, MN – Cabooze
Nov. 11 – Kansas City, MO – The Truman
Nov. 13 – Denver, CO – The Ogden Theatre
Nov. 14 – Salt Lake City, UT – The Depot
Nov. 16 – Calgary, AB – MacEwan Ballroom
Nov. 17 – Edmonton, AB – Union Hall
Nov. 19 – Vancouver, BC – The Commodore Ballroom
Nov. 20 – Seattle, WA – Showbox Market
Nov. 21 – Portland, OR – Crystal Ballroom
Nov. 23 – San Francisco, CA – The Regency Ballroom
Nov. 24 – Los Angeles, CA – The Wiltern Theatre
BEHEMOTH Ecclesia Diabolica Evropa 2019 tour dates;
w/ At the Gates, Wolves in the Throne Room
Jan. 10 – Frankfurt, Germany – Batschkapp
Jan. 11 – Munich, Germany – Tonhalle
Jan. 13 – Vienna, Austria – Arena
Jan. 15 – Zurich, Switzerland – Komplex 457
Jan. 16 – Milano, Italy – Alcatraz
Jan. 17 – Lyon, France – Le Transbordeur
Jan. 18 – Barcelona, Spain – Razzmatazz
Jan. 19 – Madrid, Spain – La Riviera
Jan. 21 – Toulouse, France – Le Bikini
Jan. 22 – Paris, France – Bataclan
Jan. 23 – Oberhausen, Germany – Turbinenhalle
Jan. 24 – Berlin, Germany – Huxleys
Jan. 25 – Copenhagen, Denmark – Vega
Jan. 26 – Stockholm, Sweden – Annexet
Jan. 29 – Helsinki, Finland – The Circus
Jan. 30 – Tampere, Finland – Pakkahuone
Feb. 1 – Hamburg, Germany – Grosse Freiheit 36
Feb. 4 – Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg – Rockhal
Feb. 6 – Bristol, UK – Motion
Feb. 7 – Birmingham, UK – O2 Institute
Feb. 8 – London, UK – O2 Forum Kentish Town
Feb. 9 – Manchester, UK – O2 Ritz
Feb. 10 – Dublin, Ireland – Vicar Street
Feb. 11 – Glasgow, UK – QM Union