THE NEW YORK TIMES REVIEWS BEHEMOTH
I’m not sure who called up Kelefa Sanneh at the Paper of Record and told him he’d better review the new Behemoth album – but he did it (even if the album did come out a couple of weeks ago – better late than never). And, like most metal reviews deemed part of “all the news that’s fit to print,” the review is pretty hilarious in its complete and utter lack of cool. Funniest sample line: “All of this pushed Behemoth across the fine line that separates black metal from its slightly more mainstream cousin, death metal. Some old fans weren’t amused, but they have been replaced — and then some — by new ones, some of whom like to split the difference by using a hybrid term, blackened death metal.” Ah, when you have to explain to your readers what “blackened death metal” is…
Read the entire review after the jump.
The new album from the Polish metal band Behemoth is called “The Apostasy,” and it ends with a ferocious song called “Christgrinding Avenue,” inspired by Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. In that track the band’s vocalist and guitarist, known as Nergal, makes a plain-spoken vow: “I shall complete the devil’s work.” Certainly that sounds pretty apostatic.
But among metal fans Nergal’s religious apostasy is much less shocking than his musical one. When he formed Behemoth in 1991, he embraced the eerie, atmospheric sound of black metal. But since then Behemoth’s music has grown more propulsive and explosive, thanks partly to the addition of the virtuoso drummer Inferno, and Nergal has evolved from a croaker into a growler. (Nergal has also become a reliable purveyor of hair-trigger guitar riffs and maelstromic solos.) All of this pushed Behemoth across the fine line that separates black metal from its slightly more mainstream cousin, death metal. Some old fans weren’t amused, but they have been replaced — and then some — by new ones, some of whom like to split the difference by using a hybrid term, blackened death metal.
Now Behemoth is huge, relatively speaking. (When you’re judging the popularity of blasphemous Poles whose music bears a faint resemblance to sustained bombardment, special standards apply.) Nergal and his band mates are spending the summer terrorizing or puzzling audiences on the Ozzfest tour, and last week “The Apostasy” made an appearance on the Billboard album chart, albeit at No. 149.
It’s a strong, vivid album, suspended between the clarity of Inferno’s brute-force pummeling and the obscurity of Nergal’s esoteric interests, which range from Kali (the Hindu goddess) to Shelley (the atheist). To underscore the sense of ritual, a small choir sometimes sings in unison with Nergal’s growls; in “At the Left Hand ov God,” the mayhem gives way to a chanted prayer to Samael.
There’s a startling foray into melodrama (“Inner Sanctum,” which sounds suspiciously like a pep talk), but the rest of this album is ruthless without being single-minded. This is the sound of a brutal but curious band figuring out what comes after renunciation. KELEFA SANNEH