Reviewed: October, 2018
Released: 2018, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
When you’ve titled your last album The Satanist, saying “it doesn’t get more blasphemous than this” of its follow up is either really saying something or utter bullshit. But let it never be said that Poland’s Behemoth were ones for idle threats, and the band give it an honest go with the seemingly innocuously titled I Loved You At Your Darkest.
The children’s choir chanting “Jesus Christ, I forgive thee not!” on the intro “Solve” – a refrain that is revisited not long after on the furious “God = Dog” – gets things off to a righteously sacrilegious start. This bookends the band declaring “We reject, we fucking deny” on the equally blazing opener “Wolves Ov Siberia” – which some of you may have heard this summer when Behemoth toured with Slayer.
I Loved You At Your Darkest (or ILYAYD) doesn’t feel so much like a follow-up to 2014’s The Satanist as it does a companion piece, or an extension. With The Satanist, frontman/creative director Adam “Nergal” Darski – the very embodiment of Behemoth – seemed to be describing what he was. Here, it feels more of a manifesto as to why – although that, of course, is open to interpretation.
The two albums share a comparable sonic palette, from the warm, natural production that helps mute some of the musical brutality while at the same time amplifying Darski’s rage, to the musical threads that run through them. Riffs and passages, themes and tropes – such as scornfully recasting “The Lord’s Prayer” on the monumental “Havohej Pantocrator” as they did with “Hail Mary” on The Satanist’s “Amen” – carry over or, in some cases, recur.
Yet despite the similarities, ILYAYD is the band’s most varied and adventurous album, building a bit on the classical elements that graced The Satanist and taking some rather unexpected terms that hint at the influence of Nergal’s very out of character solo work with Me And That Man. The children’s choir appears at several junctures and there is a Gregorian feel to some of the chanted choruses – whether with the choir or not – as on “Sabbath Mater,” “Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica” and “Angelvs XIII.”
“Bartzabel” takes things even further, venturing into Nick Cave-like goth rock territory for easily the most fiendishly listener-friendly song the band have ever done and making for a real shock to the system the first time or three you hear it. And despite its title, “If Crucifixion Was Not Enough …” also is surprisingly catchy, in more of a thrash metal manner with its hooky chorus and crisp, straight-ahead pace – the tumultuous lead break excepting.
But if Behemoth’s more typical bludgeon is what you’re after, fear not. “Angelvs XIII,” the aforementioned “Wolves” and “God = Dog,” and “We Are the Next 1000 Years” are redolent with carpet-bomb riffs, galloping drums and Darski’s flame-throwing vocals. And “Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica” rumbles with the locomotive chug that made The Satanist’s “Oro Pro Nobus Lucifer” such a bruiser.
ILYAYD might not be quite the towering triumph as was The Satanist – which followed Darski’s successful battle with leukemia and really did have an element of urgency and finality to it. But it is still another stellar outing from BEHEMOTH and certainly puts its money where Darski’s – and by extension the band’s – mouth is.