EZKATON: BEHEMOTH’S RECOMPENSE FOR THEIR LOYAL SLAVESYou’ve got to hand it to Behemoth and their management. After last year’s impressive The Apostasy, which saw these armored, Polish juggernauts continue their ascent to international popularity and critical recognition, I’ll bet nobody was expecting to hear much from them this year. In their own restless way, however, Behemoth have done more than expected to ensure that they’ll continue to be on lips of metal heads or at least bubbling in the back of their minds; this year has seen the release of both the first Behemoth live album, At the Arena ov Aion – Live Apostasy, as well as a video for “At the Left Hand ov God”. The latter has the honor of being the most ridiculously expensive-looking and just plain ridiculous music video in the history of extreme metal (ousting previous champion Dimmu Borgir). Now as 2008 recedes into wintry cold, Behemoth have graced us with one last reminder: the Ezkaton EP.

Like the Slaves Shall Serve EP was to 2004’s Demigod, Ezkaton is a companion piece to The Apostasy and contains a similar amount of live tracks, cover songs and new material. While EPs are generally not marketed towards the casual fan, there is some considerable substance here for the most die-hard slaves of Behemoth.

These fans will likely appreciate the new recording of the classic “Chant for Eschaton 2000” subtly re-christened (un-christened? de-christened?) as “Chant for Ezkaton 2000 E.V.” While the heart and soul of this song is the same, the progression of technology and indeed the progression of the band’s sound are evident in this new version. The production is crisp and modern and much of the noise/feedback in the intro has been stripped down so that the instantly recognizable chorus riff is heard above it. Also a welcome change are the vocals which now sound full and furious with Nergal’s distinctive voice without the unnecessary layering that marred so much of Behemoth’s earlier material, even as late as Demigod. Additionally, we are given at the end of the album a live version of this track cementing in our heads what the modern Behemoth wants this song to sound like.

However, don’t take this to mean that they’ve forgotten where they’ve come from. The very cool cover of “Jama Pekel” from Czech black metal pioneers Master’s Hammer is Behemoth revisiting their grim and frostbitten roots. Though it’s unlikely that most of their fans have ever heard the obscure original, the catchy foreign language chorus will likely discover them to a whole new generation in this well-intentioned homage. The EP’s second cover is of the Ramones’ “I’m Not Jesus.” While Behemoth have shown with their live cover of Turbonegro’s “I Got Erection” (a.k.a. the greatest song ever written) that they do not hold the usual metal aversion to punk rock, the drastically increased speed of this cover turns it into a real thrasher. The snarling chorus of “I’m not Jesus, I can’t heal you” not only meshes well with the band’s ideology but comes off a whole hell of a lot more sinister than the original.

The inclusion of two more live tracks, the respective classics “From the Pagan Vastlands” and “Decade ov Therion,” round out the EP nicely, but the real excitement comes from the brand-new song “Quadosh.” Without saying too much, this track could probably slay weaker mortals who listened to its fiery aural punishment. Seriously. Though the rest of the album is mostly non-essential, the new track is bound to make you hot and ready for the next full-length.

For all the slaves who have served faithfully, Ezkaton is recompense for your loyalty and an aid for your patience as you await the next offering that is sure to bring even sweeter rewards.
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(3 Horns out of 5)

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