Welcome to Throwback Thursday! This is the place where we get to indulge in nostalgia and wax poetic about excellent metal of years past. So sit back and relax with a grab a goblet of blood. We're going on a journey in search of modern albums that have primed the canvas of today's metal music scene.
It's the eleventh edition of this series folks. The air is getting crunchy and cool outside and the month of Halloween is upon us. It's the perfect time to visit a savage slice of hell brought to life.
Behemoth's The Satanist
Authenticity is a word you'll see time and time again here on TBT because the best music is the world is composed by musicians who stay true to themselves. The Satanist is an album not obsessed with 'never heard before' sounds, and it's not attempting to out-brutal contemporary black/death metal counterparts for the sake of 'metal points'. It's an album carved with honest, expertly crafted, authentic expression. Each and every song is comprised with purpose. The vocal tracks are expressive and emotional. There's also a quality to the vocals which is as desperate as it is declarative. Go no further than first track "Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel" to hear what I am talking about:
Nergal, lead vocalist and band member of note, sounds like he's barfing up a gurgle of blood at 1:04. On paper, that sounds gross and gimmicky, but it's actually awesome and intriguingly visceral.
It's really, really cool that modern bands keep on making official music videos to accompany their releases. Let's face it, the 'golden age' of music video obsession, including popular shows dedicated to their popularity and content, has passed us. To find a music video now we have to make time to seek it out online. That is, unless you're one of the lucky folks who still has a bombass public access show (the kind you flip on at 3 am stoned and/or drunk) dedicated to alternative metal. Consider how unlikely it would be for Behemoth to make a popular music video: A extreme band who evokes controversial, non-Christian imagery in a fringe category of metal decided to dedicate time and money on an accompanying vid which may or may not been seen by a large section of their fan base. I, for one, am thrilled that the effort was made. And, the video is not bad! It's cinematic and atmospheric. It's also drenched with unsubtle Satanic imagery which I find reeeeeaaallly satisfying. It almost feels like a guilty pleasure, watching the pageantry and drama of such draconian and taboo subjects unfold in a bite-sized video format.
Ready to be impressed? They released another video in the same vein for track "Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer":
Recorded in the same soft, high-contrast sepia tones as "Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel", the two videos feel like they're connected. While one video shows an artsy, acted story full of chopped-up time lines and animal symbolism, the other video shows Behemoth playing live in front of a enthusiastic crowd. While the two ideas aren't connected, both videos are shot with the same intensity and careful considerations of slow-motion movement. Together, they begin to paint a picture of the over-arching story of the band as a whole at the time of release of The Satanist.
That leads me to my next point, which is story behind the making of The Satanist. Aforementioned lead singer and metal icon Nergal was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010, prior to the release of The Satanist in 2014. In a 2016 article from Metal Hammer, Dayal Patterson cites Nergal as reflecting this,
I don’t want to say that the album was a reaction to my leukemia, but it was definitely a reaction to my whole life, and I definitely had a need to redefine myself as a human being. That’s why The Satanist resonates on so many levels and so many dimensions. It was very much rooted in where I came from. It was like a rebirth of an artist, of a human being – there was this fire deep within that should be unleashed, and it was manifested in the form of this record.
The diagnosis, while tragic, prompted his difficult journey to look inwards. The self-reflection birthed the authenticity of The Satanist. Each song, rooted in the speed and dissonance of black and death metal, is gorgeously produced. In fact, the whole album has a polish which seems to accentuate each and every contributing piece of a song. The guitar solos are full of personality and mimic the controlled agony of the vocals. The drums are fast as fuck and laced with interesting change-ups, incorporating every last piece of the kit and surprising brass moments. There's not a skip-able track on the entire 9-track list.
Here's the official video for title track "The Satanist":
The beginning of the video is rooted in now-expected sepia tones. As the story of the protagonist unfolds, the main character and her surroundings subtly saturate with color. Then, the progress of the plot is interrupted by the soft brown hues familiar to the last two videos. We see the band, clad again in robes, gathered around a cauldron over a fire. The juxtaposition of the two stories is really beautiful, clever, and focused. The artistry of their theme flows brilliantly from video to video. In all aspects, the achievements of The Satanist are huge. After all, the album's release was pregnant with expectation. Fans were thirsty for more of Behemoth's signature of dynamic brutality and wondered how the illness of Nergal would affect the future of the band.
Behemoth delivered. The album was critically acclaimed world-wide, and received such accolades as 'one of the best albums of the century', 'masterpiece', and 'best album of the year'. Here's another official video for track "Messe Noire":
This video is in full color, and breaks the theme of prior videos to pay homage to the life of brilliant artist H.R. Giger.
I can't end this reflection without talking about my favorite track of the album "O Father O Satan O Son":
I mean, come oonnn. If I had to crown a contestant in the 9-track line up for pageant title winner, "O Father O Satan O Son" would take the tiara. The last and longest song on the album incorporates every notable element found on the previous tracks and displays them together flawlessly. Interesting, unexpected drum work keeps the track compelling and seething vocals sound like 1000 tentacles whipping out of Nergal's throat. The song is enthralling, and moves like a barge on a tumultuous sea – tossing and turning wretchedly, steadily, beautifully.
The Satanist is effortlessly focused and stays bold through all facets of concept, execution, and expression. While traditional black metal is known for being hollow, harsh, raw, and unrefined, The Satanist delivers the same harshness in whole new anti-traditional way. Behemoth found a natural evolution for the hotly-protected genre and consummated it brilliantly -and- to the approval of die-hard fans. That is saying a lot, because as any reader here knows, old-school fans are the hardest to please for any musician.
As always, thanks for stopping by to read about these Polish giants on this weeks TBT! What albums rock your world? Lemme know down below, I'd love to hear from you.