Poland’s black metal titans Behemoth are certainly living up to their name in recent years. With the 2014 release of their magnum opus, THE SATANIST, the band, especially leader Adam “Nergal” Darski seemed to have figured it all out. Not only have they been on top of their game in regards to the music they are releasing but they have turned into a small corporation of sorts with their merchandising, music videos, side projects, barber shops, and seemingly continual release of more and more musical material. Now, Behemoth has never shied away from releasing b-side and cover material before. As a matter of fact they’ve been releasing complimentary material since the ANTICHRISTIAN PHENOMENON EP that accompanied their THELEMA.6 full length back in 2000 and even did it as recently as the BLOW YOUR TRUMPET, GABRIEL and XIADZ EPs that accompanied THE SATANIST. So it should be no surprise that there songs that didn’t make the cut for the latest beast, I LOVED YOU AT YOUR DARKEST.
For the first, of what I assume will be many, supplemental material to ILYAYD we are presented an EP that revolves around The Cure’s A Forest, which originally appeared on the 1980 album SEVENTEEN SECONDS. Behemoth has never really taken it easy on their cover song choices as they’ve taken on the likes of Nine Inch Nails, The Nelphim, Danzig, and Venom. However, in tackling The Cure, which wouldn’t have been my first guess at a future cover, they are stepping way out of anything that could be remotely considered their realm. In my review of ILYAYD, I stated that while Behemoth might not be pushing the boundaries on heavy with that record, they were clearly challenging themselves in their pure song writing ability. That culminated in the slow and almost romantic track, Bartzebel, which has become a staple of their sets and a new fan favorite. So with going at A Forest, it seems that they took that approach as they not only kept the core of The Cure’s original work intact, they were able to build on it and make the song all their own. Had you never heard of The Cure before, you could easily be tricked into thinking this was a new original work from Behemoth. Normally, I’m not a fan of artistic liberty when it comes to a cover song but when it’s executed right, then it can be a real treat. Maybe that’s the wrong word here for a Behemoth song but gothic foundation mixed with Behemoth’s unbridled blasphemy, the end result is nothing short of somber beauty.
To prove that this isn’t just a work of studio magic, the EP includes a live version of the song, complete with the Shining’s Niklas Kvarforth doing his guest vocals. The band absolutely nails the playing of the song and if you removed Nergal’s call to the crowd and some of the cheering in the beginning, you could mistake it for a studio recording. The unfortunate thing here is Behemoth has become such a monster live that you miss all the spectacle that comes with it just listening to an audio recording of the live show. It’s a very well-produced recording but it did nothing to move me and I will probably continue to skip it for the forseeable future.
Rounding out the rest of the EP, and what I think is actually more important than the cover track, are two songs that did not make the cut for the last record. In track 3’s, Shadows Ov Ea Cast Upon Golgotha, I am quickly reminded of the song Crucifixion Is Not Enough that did make the album cut. Shadows has a similar song structure and even similar vocal pattern making up the main verses but with distorted guitars instead of the clean option. I can only assume that the band felt Crucifixion was the more diverse song and fit in with the overall theme of the record. While I’ve grown to appreciate that song a lot, I would argue that this is the more enjoyable song despite being the lesser in terms of experimentation. In the closing track, Evoe, I am left scratching my head how this song was left off. I am a firm believer, and I’ve said it many times, that song selection and order is part of the art and can greatly change the theme and story the album is trying to tell. Maybe throwing Evoe onto ILYAYD would mess up the flow of the record but I would argue that it’s just as strong as any of the heavier songs that did make the cut. Would have extending ILYAYD one more song changed the whole feel of the record? In this case, I doubt it. The song comes right at you and Nergal surprisingly jumps right in with his vocal attack. Throughout the song there is a rhythmic, near tribal like drum section that is gravitating. I’ve, on more than one occasion so far, have just started the track over as soon as it concludes, just so I can hear those parts again.
In the end, we have a collection of music that I feel is meant for the Behemoth legions and not necessarily to entice new fans to their world. The cover song is very intriguing and the b-sides are great in their own right, but I feel like this is meant for me and people like me. An added bonus to something we already have grown to love over the last year. Sadly, much like Nieboga Czarny Xiadz, which I think is one of the best songs that the band has ever written, I have a feeling we’ll never see these songs played live. Nergal even seems to dismiss them in promoting this record as he’s gone on a diatribe about the cover and then simply says “these two songs are a continuation of ILAYD. No more, no less”. So if you are amongst the legion and need all the Behemoth material you can get your hands on, A FOREST will be out May 29th. If you aren’t the superfan yet, I LOVED YOU AT YOUR DARKEST is currently available on all platforms.