Behemoth - I Loved You at Your Darkest

Angry Metal Guy

Behemoth‘s star has been rising for nearly 15 years. Following the release of 2004’s Demigod and 2007’s The Apostasy, these Poles toured frenetically in the USA and Europe, building a huge fanbase based on their dominant live presence and hooky blackened death sound. Their hard work paid dividends when they were picked up by Nuclear Blast, resulting in 2009’s Evangelion. But while neither The Apostasy nor Evangelion were a tour de force equal to Demigod, Behemoth delivered on 2014’s The Satanist, which showcased the darkest, most mature writing of Nergal’s career. But great records are tough to follow, and the rounds of snickering that ensued following the release of the title I Loved You at Your Darkest and the album’s first single—”God=Dog”—hinted at skepticism among fans. Maybe The Satanist was an exception, not the establishment of a new rule.

At its root, I Loved You at Your Darkest (ILYaYD for short) is a blackened death album. Nergal’s scratchy screams, declarative shouts, and trem-picked riffs are girded by Inferno’s torrent of blasts, and Orion’s roiling bass. These performances are the blackened backbone of I Loved You at Your Darkest‘s tone as openers “Wolves ov Siberia” and “God=Dog” demonstrate. These tracks both feature classic black metal wall of sound riffing and the warm, familiar embrace of the genre’s most iconic conventions. Behemoth‘s adherence to convention would be, well, conventional, if not offset by tracks like “Havohej Pantocrator” or “Sabbath Mater” where swells and blasts of intensity bolster the dark sound. ILYaYD is dynamic and intense as a result.

But while firmly rooted in blackened death metal, Behemoth eschews the bombastic influences of Nile and Melechesh. Rather, ILYaYD shows Behemoth willing to lean into an increasingly mature and dark sound. I Loved You at Your Darkest is more musically dynamic than anything they’ve produced previously—reminiscent of “O Father O Satan O Sun!”—but it also dials back the speed and brutality that marked Behemoth‘s rise to prominence. The number of mid-paced tracks has increased (like “Rom 5:8” or “Bartzabel”). So, too, more minimalist guitar work. Tracks like “Havohej Pantocrator” and “If Crucifixion Was Not Enough…” feature Nergal picking chords—even over blasts in the former, reminiscent of Akercocke‘s “Axiom.” The album’s more varied compositions are bolstered by subtle orchestrations and the use of choral chants. The chanting sets a clearly ecclesiastical tone, a choice likely influenced by the brilliant and mysterious Batushka.

The strength of I Loved You at Your Darkest is its flow and the ominous, ecclesiastical tone. Tracks like “Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica,” “Bartzabel,” and “Havohej Pantocrator” make excellent use of the choral chants, but also explicitly embody a base, ritualistic feel that blast beats could never convey. Like The Satanist, ILYaYD also improves as the album progresses; each song adding another layer to the album’s blackened timbre. While the opening salvo is fast and aggressive, it’s the variations and developments in Behemoth‘s sound that define the record. The use of acoustics and blasts in “Havohej Pantocrator” or the triplet feel bridge in “We Are the Next 1000 Years” weigh heavily next to the 6/4 closing riff on “Angelvs XIII” and “Sabbath Mater’s” feel of ecstatic—orgiastic—joy. While some things don’t stick—like Nergal’s unmemorable guitar solos—the introduction of new elements into the Behemoth formula makes ILYaYD increasingly giving through repeated listens.

ILYaYD clearly demonstrates that Behemoth is a band operating at their peak. Only time will tell how I Loved You at Your Darkest will compare to its predecessor, but it’s certainly one of Behemoth‘s most dynamic and interesting albums to date. Clocking in at 46 minutes—and still featuring a bevy of blasts and a sound that can be no one but Nergal and company—I find that I have enjoyed I Loved You at Your Darkest more with every listen. The more time I give it, the more I appreciate the subtle compositional choices they made, the use of choral chants and dissonant orchestras. The album shows that 14 years (or 16, depending who you ask) after the band’s big breakthrough, they’re still finding new ways to express their hatred of Catholicism and love of anagrams. The only question that remains for me is if this is what Behemoth fans want.


Rating: Very Good!
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: V0 mp3
Label: Nuclear Blast
Websites: behemoth.pl | facebook.com/behemoth
Released Worldwide: October 5th, 2018

The post Behemoth – I Loved You at Your Darkest Review appeared first on Angry Metal Guy.

Mon Oct 08 16:56:32 CEST 2018

The Quietus

To any band whose career has seen grown a little with each increasingly well-liked, decently reviewed album until they reach the status of ‘mid-tier’, the sudden arrival of a record that gets lauded as ‘game-changing’, ‘unit-shifting’ and ‘genre-defining’ can be something of a curse. The venues swell to Academy levels, hitherto unvisited lands open up, and the lucrative album tour rolls on and on until, finally, you have to think about following it up.

There is a compelling argument that the recent implosion of Machine Head can be traced back to their decision to incessantly tour 2007 masterpiece The Blackening, milking it so vigorously that it overshadowed the entire next decade of their career. Fans had to wait until 2011 for the underwhelming Unto The Locust, and never again were the band discussed as future Download headliners.

As 2018 dawned there looked to be a real danger of a similar thing happening to Behemoth as they prepared to release a live album consisting solely of songs from a record they’d released four years earlier and had been touring non-stop ever since. Though Nergal and co had been something of an extreme metal institution for over 20 years, they had never known success on the level The Satanist brought them.

Thankfully the four horsemen haven’t been blinded by their success. I Loved You At Your Darkest is, in many ways, an even more impressive release. The Satanist saw the band, aided by a newly ambitious approach to production, accentuate the dynamics in their sound to bring out the varying shades of darkness and reveal an unexpectedly accessible (or, at the very least, bewitching) canvas beneath.

Having successfully trialled this approach, Behemoth are now free to explore it more ambitiously as one body of work. Using the The Satanist’s foreboding title track as a starting point, they mix a palette of distinctive darkness, creating a work of remarkable richness and thematic consistency. While there are still full-throttle assaults that recall the face-chewing passages of The Apostacy (‘Angelvus XIII’ packs particular bite), vast swathes of the album exude a more sinister magnificence.

The gallowsman guitar heard on the outro to ‘God = Dog’ stalks across the record like a giant arachnid. It’s especially effective on ‘Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica’ and ‘If Crucifixion Was Not Enough’, where Seth’s decision to lower his distortion levels and let each plucked note ring out across the void brings a stately gothicness that suits this new arena-straddling Behemoth. These guitar lines also act as the anchor for the album, each song beginning with a riff that mirrors the end of the one before, weaving a narrative through-line of shadow motifs that helps make this more than just a collection of top-notch songs.

Add this sterling riff work to drummer Inferno’s new love for rototom fills and Nergal’s increasing mastery of deceptively sing-able choruses (Gregorian chant anthem ‘Bartzabel’ is a thing of evil beauty) and the result is an album that should draw in the uninitiated like a death cult dispensing sweets outside a nursery. Extreme metal has never had this much mass appeal, long may Behemoth’s dark reign continue.

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Tue Oct 09 17:14:14 CEST 2018

80

The Guardian

Nuclear Blast

As Behemoth mastermind Nergal gleefully points out, I Loved You at Your Darkest is a phrase from the Bible, enabling him to boast proudly of the veteran Polish black-metal satanists’ 11th album: “It doesn’t get more blasphemous than this.” It certainly tries. God = Dog could cause palpitations in some states of America, while there seems to be a macabre sense of humour at work in the decision to start the album with a children’s choir. Otherwise, this is trademark, huge, at times semi-operatic, industrially heavy black metal. Drummer Inferno’s thunderous tom-toms are presumably inspired by the sound of civil war cannon fire and the screaming guitars possibly feature actual wailing souls.

Even if it’s hard not to titter at titles such as If Crucifixion Was Not Enough, the album is an entertaining romp that could appeal more widely than to just the band’s regular extreme metal hardcore audience. There are acoustic guitars, Gregorian chants and songs that would be suspiciously close to classic rock, were it not for Nergal’s guttural growl and words designed to bring down the nearest church. Bartzabel’s chorus – “Come unto me, Bartzabel” – is ominous but catchy. Wolves ov Siberia is a riot of symphonic metal, cries of defiance and hellish blast beats. The ominously titled Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica probably won’t feature in the Vatican’s latest audio guides, but the Wagnerian, Omen-soundtrack-type choir is glorious. “Fuck me, ecstatically,” Nergal yells on Sabbath Mater. Lock up your nuns.

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Fri Oct 05 10:30:05 CEST 2018