Hello Stereokiller. It’s been a minute but allow me to return from my lengthy absence from this site in the form of a review.

I think it’s pretty fitting that I come out of retirement to cover the new Behemoth record. 2014’s The Satanist was my favorite record of that year and I stand by the opinion that it’s the best metal record in the last decade. A work of anger, ferocity, but with captivating beauty, the album is still on heavy rotation with me. The Satanist, unlike previous Behemoth records, seemed to be Adam “Nergal” Darski’s most personal record. This was the first record following his battle with cancer, during a time in which his religious beliefs were constantly questioned and mocked. In response, Nergal returned with affirmation to what he stands for in a 9 song declaration to the big guy, Satan himself. The anger was a direct response to being ridiculed at the lowest, what could have been the last part, of his life. While there are intricacies splayed throughout the duration of the album, with the inclusions of jazz saxophone, spoke word segments, and some groove heavy bass riffs, the rage never dulled. Not for a second. During the touring cycle for the record, Nergal made a comment about how this might just be the last Behemoth record ever because it felt like they laid it all out in those 45 minutes. Behemoth would stay active doing multiple tours on the record for nearly 3 years before any inclination that they’d be heading back into the studio had happened. Nergal would also go onto form his folky side project, Me & That Man, during this time as well to work out some creative ideas that wouldn’t fit the Behemoth theme.

So here we are, 4 years after the release of their magnum opus in the form of I Loved You At Your Darkest. The title alone seems very out of character for a Behemoth record and it’s almost telling enough that we’re about to go on a different kind of journey with the band. To get right into it, the record is great but at times feels like B-sides to The Satanist but also with a lot more experimentation with clean guitars, clean vocals, choirs, and little kids chanting. If you pay attention to Nergal on social media, in which he’s very active, you can tell he’s in a very good place in his life right now. Is he just happy to be alive and enjoying his success or did he really clear his system of the anger when he recorded The Satanist? Either way it shows on this record as my one knock against it is that it does lack some balls. While The Satanist certainly has it’s down time, especially during some of the closing tracks, it still never abandoned that sense of fire behind it. There is something about even the “slow” parts that make you uncomfortable. ILYAYD doesn’t have any of that. It’s the same style of writing, bringing a lot more black metal elements back into the fold, but this seems like a band that is now writing for the sake of challenging themselves and the pure love of it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still blasphemous as all hell but it’s not angry.

During the middle stretch of the record is the make or break section for the album. As someone that has been listening to and seeing Behemoth live for over 15 years, it seems that The Satanist was the band’s first introduction to a lot of their fans that exist today. I mean, they pushed the hell out of that record and landed opening slots on two Slayer tours, which I’m sure help. The Satanist seems to be the album that other bands try to emulate, especially the slow riffing of songs like Blow Your Trumpet, Gabriel and will call themselves a black metal band because of it. The Satanist is a challenging record in which I continued to notice new things about it for months, but it was still first taste for many at what Behemoth does. As someone that has listened to been following along since the Thelema.6 era of the band, I’ve been fortunate enough to watch the progression and growth of the band as it happened. Something like The Satanist, while as blown away as I’ve been by it, was something expected to come. Now with ILYAYD, the band went in a direction that is going to ask a lot from their fans, especially the newer ones that haven’t been evolving with the band for years. During this middle stretch of songs, we have the newest single Bartzabel and it serves as the single most standout track on the record. It’s slow, romantic pacing coupled with the deep cleaning chorus, it feels like Nergal was more inspired by Depeche Mode and Killing Joke, rather than the blackened death we’re used to. I really wished that the band didn’t opted to release this as a single before the album came out, to keep it as a surprise for the fans first listen. Releasing it with a cool video kind of softens the blow and has people prepared for it to come up just before the mid-point of the record. I didn’t have that luxury and it completely caught me off guard. Admittedly, it had to work for my approval too and I’m glad that the song is there. The next two tracks aren’t near as demanding but the focus on clean guitar work definitely takes a lot of the oomph out of the record for a few minutes. During the first listen of the album, I was actually finding myself worried that I was going to end up hating this album as nothing was grabbing me on first take. After a few listens, I’m glad the album is arranged this way as Behemoth has never been about making things easy. They could have spread these tracks out and made it easier to digest but that would have been out of character. They baby you in the beginning, then fuck with your head, only to bring it back to a safe place for the last few tracks. I love the balls on that decision.

At the end of the day, this isn’t my favorite Behemoth record. I haven’t listened to much else since I received this 2 weeks ago and I don’t really see it leaving my rotation anytime soon but because of the moodiness of the middle section, it’s going to be the one record I have to be in the mood for. There are some heavy as balls tracks like Wolves Of Siberia, Angelvs III, and Sabbath Mater that will quench your thirst for the whipping frenzy of blast beats, gutturals, and rampage, which will probably get tossed into my workout mix, but because it’s not an easy overall album I won’t return to it as often as the others. It’s a really, really good record that I am quite interested in seeing the non-critic fan reaction to. I’m curious to see if they can handle Behemoth expressing their artistic side more than their pure vehemence. The album comes out on Friday so I’m sure I’ll find out soon enough.