To say that I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of The Satanist would probably be the understatement of the year. I was practically camping out in front of the record store waiting for this to come out. I’ve followed Behemoth since their The Return of the Northern Moon demo tape (professionally released by Pagan Records in 1993), and while their music has changed considerably since those days, I’ve always enjoyed listening to them. When Nergal came down with leukemia, I was afraid that I would lose another one of my Metal idols. It appears that our Lord and Master, Satan, had other plans for Nergal, though. The Satanist is one of those records that you have to listen to multiple times before you get a firm grasp on what Behemoth is doing. The early part of this album suffers from some production issues, namely the guitars getting buried underneath either the drums or the atmospherics (keyboards, choir or samples), sometimes both. There are parts of “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” and “Furor Divinus” where the guitars can’t really be heard beyond the occasional bit that breaks through during a segment when the drums or orchestration slow down or stop. Things get better around the middle of the LP, with the second half of The Satanist being significantly better sounding than the first. I think the main reason for this is that the slower songs were concentrated more in this half of the record, and the faster ones came early on. What holds all of this together is Nergal’s corrosive singing. He has a fairly distinctive voice that is raw and harsh, but still coherent and understandable, which is a rare thing in a genre filled with vocalists that gurgle like some sort of rabid beast or scream like a banshee. The music here is a veritable maelstrom of brutal and evil sounding guitars, keyboards, drums and whatever else Nergal and his compatriots can throw at you. In a way, Behemoth has become what I always hoped that Morbid Angel would be. While Trey Azagthoth and company have turned into something of a mockery of their former selves, Behemoth stepped in and stole the throne right out from under them. Tracks like “The Satanist” and “O Father O Satan O Sun!” easily make this a worthwhile purchase, and while this isn’t an absolutely ungodly masterpiece, there’s more than enough awesomeness to make up for whatever unevenness can be found.
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