Released: 2008, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
The self-proclaimed “Polish Metal Kings” in Behemoth have certainly made vast strides toward becoming heavy metal royalty with their last two studio releases, DEMIGOD and THE APOSTASY. Even if the band’s brutal, Sumerian-inspired death metal isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, no one can deny the fact that Nergal & Co. have earned their props through relentless touring. Severing ties with Century Media Records following the touring cycle for THE APOSTASY, Behemoth got snatched up by Metal Blade Records who will release the band’s eagerly-anticipated new full-length in 2009. In the meantime, EZKATON, the latest in a series of stop-gap EPs the band has released in between studio albums, will tide fans over with a new original track, two covers, a re-recording of an old favorite and three live tracks culled from the band’s European tour last year.
“Chant For Ezkaton 2000 e.v.” was originally released on 1999’s SATANICA, an album that successfully transitioned Behemoth from an underground entity in the black metal scene to the complex pagan death metal that began to surface on 2002’s ZOS KIA CULTUS. The new version retains the fierce, tremolo-picked riffing and blazing melody of the original but benefits from greatly improved production that lends a much fuller sound. “Qadosh” will be the real draw here for Behemoth’s rabid followers as the band sticks to their punishing, multi-layered sound (love those horns!) with Nergal’s menacing vocals sharing space with Inferno’s whirlwind drumming. “Jama Pekel,” a cover of Czech black metal heroes Master’s Hammer, finds Nergal adopting a cleaner, less dense vocal style but being unfamiliar with the original, I can’t really comment on the differences between the two. “I’m Not Jesus,” on the other hand, has Behemoth tackling a mostly-forgotten song from The Ramones’ 1987 dud, HALFWAY TO SANITY. Behemoth covering New York’s punk sons, The Ramones?! Yes, and they do a bang-up job here, too, by pumping up what was already one of The Ramones heavier tunes into a ripping death metal juggernaut. The three live songs are a good introduction to new fans of where the band came from with “From The Pagan Vastlands” and “Decade of Therion” taken from their 1995 debut, SVENTEVITH and SATANICA, respectively. Behemoth’s live shows are quite a spectacle and bristle with intensity (you haven’t lived until you’ve witnessed one of Nergal’s anti-Christian rants) but as is the case with most live audio recordings, those sensory stimuli are lost here. Including a live version of “Chant For Ezkaton 2000 e.v.” seems a little curious, too, but I suppose it serves to reflect the differences between the re-recorded version and the rawer live one.
EZKATON is hardly essential but serves as a jumping off point with the band’s new home on Metal Blade Records and keeps Behemoth’s name out there, as well. Of course, anyone worth their salt will already have SATANICA rooted firmly in their collection and there is only one new song here, but it admittedly rips. Hearing the band’s take on a couple of obscure covers is kind of fun, too, so for less than eight bucks, purchasing EZKATON is pretty much a no-brainer for any fan of Behemoth but at the same time, a more frugal metalhead might want to shell out the buck or two on iTunes for the new song instead.
***There is also an expanded version of EZKATON available, which includes the E.P., as well as four vinyl albums and a few bonus tracks.
KILLER KUTS: “Chant For Ezkaton 2000 e.v.,” “Qadosh”