Having started their career churning out pure black metal in the city of Gdańsk, Poland, over the course of 30 years Behemoth have grown to become arguably their country’s finest musical export. It’s not been without controversy however, with band to this day facing backlash from the religious conservatives in their home country (and abroad).
Their absolutely potent blending of black and death metal has made Behemoth one of the most influential acts in modern metal. Their output is vicious and extreme, yet well-written and passionately delivered. As their career has moved forward as too has their style and sounds, never being afraid to embrace more high end production, as well as outside and melodic influences.
Nergal and crew never seem short on inspiration, and Behemoth are a group with a back catalogue that’s littered with lots of lesser known material. Lots of stop-gap EPs and deluxe album editions featuring otherwise unreleased songs and well-done, and sometimes unexpected covers. It certainly makes for lots of great underrated tracks! So with that said, let’s begin our list of Behemoth top 10 deep cuts…
“Conjuration ov Sleep Daemons”
Originally released on the oft-overlooked Conjuration EP, "Conjuration ov Sleep Daemons" is a blistering way to kick off our list. The extended-play is something of a stopgap between the Zos Kia Cultus and Demigod albums, and the song itself sees Behemoth dive into full death metal mode with wicked pace and fleet-fingered guitar work. You can certainly hear a strong Morbid Angel influence, and is a perfect example of the band's style in the mid 00's. For whatever reason, the EP is not available on Spotify or other streaming services, but certainly worth tracking down for this belter alone.
"Defiling Morality ov Black God"
Tucked away at the back end of the 2009's sublime Evangelion, "Defiling Morality ov Black God" is a sub-three minute blitzkrieg. Tearing by at an absolutely pulverising 270bpm, Inferno's drumming is absolutely relentless – even when he's not blastbeating, the double kicks are still at full force. While Behemoth exhibit a lot of groove and dynamic playing on the rest of the record, this track is all about blunt force destruction. There is lots of great stuff on Evangelion, and "Defiling Morality ov Black God" deserves more recognition – even if it's just for it's sheer pace-driven attack.
“Forgotten Empire of Dark Witchcraft”
We've gone back to the very start of Behemoth's career with "Forgotten Empire of Dark Witchcraft". A track from 1995's EP And The Forests Dream Eternally, the extended play is purely black metal; worlds away from the death metal influenced sound they'd refine over the next 25 years. While a lot of the EP is raw and visceral, it's closing number is a more somber and melodic piece of music – it definitely falls into the more solemn end of black metal. Plus it's also worth noting that founding member Nergal handles the drums on top of the guitar and vocal work.
“Nieboga Czarny Xiądz”
A leftover from The Satanist sessions, “Nieboga Czarny Xiądz” is the semi-title track from the Xiądz EP. Literally translating to ‘God the Black Priest’, the lyrics move between Polish and English, while musically the song would have fit in perfectly with it’s parent LP; it’s thunderous finale is alone worthy of admission. The EP was released in a limited run of 2000 copies, and has not been officially uploaded on any streaming services. It speaks volumes of the hot streak Behemoth are currently on, with this amazing piece of music not good enough to make an album proper. A tremendous tune more Behemoth fans need to know about.
“O Pentagram Ignis”
It’s testament to Behemoth’s prolific songwriting that another fantastic song has been relegated to the bonus-material also-rans. The massive “O Pentagram Ingis” was somehow included only on the Japanese edition of I Loved You At Your Darkest. While Behemoth were beginning to explore their sonic experimentation on it’s parent-album, this track is meat and potatoes Behemoth of old; Inferno’s rampaging drums, great riffing (especially in the intro) and impassioned vocals. Plus it closes with a fitting Aleister Crowley quote. If you were maybe a little disappointed by some of the band’s more restrained moments on ILYAYD, do yourself a favour and check out the fantastic “O Pentagram Ingis”.
"The Alchemist's Dream”
1999’s Satanica saw Behemoth fully move into the blackened death metal style that made them one of the biggest acts in extreme music. The release packed some of the group’s most revered work, including “Decade of Therion” and “Chant for Eschaton 2000”. A song that never gets talked about, or has been played live, is “The Alchemist’s Dream”. It really shows that Behemoth had begun to perfect their winning format, with the the band firing on all cylinders – yet still rough and raw around the edges.
“The Past Is Like A Funeral”
Dropping in 1998, Pandemonic Incantations is Behemoth’s third full length, and is noteworthy for the debut of longtime drummer Inferno. Still ostensibly a black metal group at this point, their music was slowly beginning to incorporate death metal elements – still lots of tremolo picked riffing though and Nergal’s vocals are mostly hoarse screams. The brief, almost Iron Maiden-esque guitar passage near the end of the track is amongst the most melodic thing the band had done to this point. “The Past Is Like A Funeral” is a song that never gets mentioned, even by the diehards, and for whatever reason Pandemonic Incantations isn’t available on Spotify in some regions.
"The Reign ov Shemsu-Hor”
An overlooked songwriting craft that Behemoth have frequently employed is the ability to create a great album closing track. "The Reign ov Shemsu-Hor” is a perfect example of this. The finale of the monumental Demigod, it’s atmosphere conjures up visions of marching into battle, being led by the absolutely possessed sounding Nergal. It’s dynamic, almost cinematic intro movement features layers of war-drum like percussion, before moving into their usual epic and blasphemous fare. It’s an massive way to wrap up the band’s breakthrough release – how Behemoth have never played it live is beyond us.
Behemoth have done a few covers across their career – some great (The Cure’s “A Forest”, The Ramones’ “I’m Not Jesus”) and some disappointing (Nine Inch Nails' “Wish” sadly comes to mind). While not a band that immediately springs to mind when thinking of Behemoth, Killing Joke’s tense and menacing style makes for great material for a heavier group to cover. A lesser known track by the English post-punk legends, “Total Invasion” has an creeping, unsettling mid-pace stomp and Behemoth wisely keep to the original’s arrangement, just making it a tad heavier. And boy do the Poles do the song justice. Released on the Japanese edition of the aforementioned Evangelion, Behemoth fans are highly encouraged to check out this great interpretation.
“Wolves Guard My Coffin”
Off of Behemoth’s debut full length Sventevith (Storming Near the Baltic), the excellently titled “Wolves Guard My Coffin” is a superb example of the Behemoth’s primitive early days. Nergal’s voice, and the instrumentation, is much harsher than the stuff that made them household names in the metal scene, and in line with the Norwegian black metal style that was all the rage at that time. It was played only once back in the day, before being resurrected in 2009 for a brief run of Polish tour dates. Perhaps it, along with a choice few of their early-days tracks, are worth resurrecting on tour again in the near future?
How did we go? Lots of great material from Behemoth has slipped through the cracks – whether it’s bonus tracks and hard to find EPs, or the band’s pure black metal early days. What are your favourite underrated Behemoth deep cuts? Do you think the Behemoth’s first few releases deserve more love? Let us know in the comments below!