Poland’s most blasphemous metal institution returns after four years with a much more melodic and dynamic approach than before, but still loyal to their devilish foundations.
“It doesn’t get more blasphemous than this.” Those are the words by the mastermind behind Polish Blackened Death Metal institution Behemoth, the iconic Adam “Nergal” Darski, regarding the title of their 11th studio album, I Loved You At Your Darkest, a beautiful, bold and captivating follow-up to their 2014 masterpiece The Satanist. And the band comprised of the aforementioned Nergal on lead vocals and guitar, Patryk Dominik “Seth” Sztyber on the guitar, Tomasz “Orion” Wróblewski on bass and Zbigniew Robert “Inferno” Promiński on drums is not exaggerating when they say their new album reeks of sheer blasphemy. “It’s a verse from the Bible,” Nergal reveals. “It’s actually a quote from Jesus Christ himself. For Behemoth to use it as the basis of our record, it’s sacrilege to the extreme.”
Musically speaking, I Loved You At Your Darkest, which features a stunning artwork by Italian artist Nicola Samori, is not too far from what they did in The Satanist, but that doesn’t mean it’s an extension of their previous album, sounding less ferocious, more polished, and with a much more melodic and dynamic approach. “I really wanted to redefine ourselves with this record,” Nergal explains. “I Loved You At Your Darkest is a more dynamic record. It’s extreme and radical on one hand, but it’s also more rock-oriented than any other Behemoth record.” Furthermore, the lyrics for each and every song of the album also reinforce that kind of religious provocation Behemoth have mastered through the years. “It’s very religion-driven, maybe more than anything we’ve done before,” Nergal offers. “But it’s not just cheap goading. I believe this is some deeper metal language. It’s art.” Hence, listening to I Loved You At Your Darkest is not a simple journey, as it will demand your full attention, seizing all your senses at once and inviting you to repeat that path over and over again, but never sounding or feeling the same.
A creepy and totally awesome children’s choir kicks off the album on a high (and devilish) note in the intro Solve, reciting some cryptic words (“Elohim, I shall not forgive! / Adonai, I shall not forgive! / Living God, I shall not forgive! / Jesus Christ, I forgive thee not!”) while the music grows slowly and darkly until Wolves ov Siberia comes crushing our heads, following a similar musical pattern from their previous album with Nergal and Seth piercing our souls with their guitars, while Inferno brings tons of intricacy to the music with his precise beats. And things only get better in God = Dog, a full-bodied lecture in modern-day Blackened Death Metal that will work fantastically when played live, with Nergal blasting haunting growls and roars while Orion slams his bass strings beautifully, not to mention those demonic, Damian-like kids who return in full force to intone the same words from the album’s intro, supporting Nergal’s vocals to perfection. And in the excellent Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica we’re treated to a very melodic and thrilling fusion of Black and Death Metal with nuances of Symphonic Black Metal, with its background organ bringing even more darkness to the the song’s already obscure, austere and blasphemous lyrics (“Eritis sicut dii / Thus sermonized the serpent ov Eden / Thus struck the breath ov the Earth / And thus flooded the blood ov the soil / Slither into the gaping void!”).
Then after such demolishing first batch of songs in I Loved You At Your Darkest, Behemoth deliver Bartzabel, perhaps the most Stygian, melodic and melancholic of all tracks, proving they don’t have to play at the speed of light to sound imposing and devilish, showcasing a beyond catchy and hypnotizing chorus while Orion and Inferno bring sheer heaviness to the sonority with their damned instruments. In the also thunderous If Crucifixion Was Not Enough… the band speeds things up a bit, with the guitars by Nergal and Seth sounding ferocious but very harmonious at the same time while Inferno brings the usual intricacy in his beats to a whole new level; and leaning towards classic Black Metal we have Angelvs XIII, a song where Nergal’s growls sound and feel truly enraged and demonic, with the band’s guitar duo slashing their strings mercilessly and leaving the listener completely disoriented. Moreover, there’s no time to breathe as Behemoth keep darkening our minds and souls in Sabbath Mater, another bestial display of Blackened Death Metal made in Poland bringing to our avid ears an excellent job done on the guitars while Inferno’s fast and complex beats will hammer your head in a vibrant way.
Then a serene, almost acoustic intro evolves into a full-bodied aria of darkness and blasphemy titled Havohej Pantocrator (and please note “Havohej” is simply “Jehovah” backwards), sounding even even more melancholic than “Bartzabel” thanks to a brilliant performances by all band members, all enfolded by first-class poetics lyrics (“Our father, who art in hell / Unhallowed be Thy name / Thy legions come / Thy enemies begone / On Earth as it is in the Netherworld / Embrace our souls untraveled / Let us sail to the farthest sea / Ignite our craving hearts / Illuminate our ageless will”). In Rom 5:8 the band gets back to a more traditional vibe, blasting their core Blackened Death Metal with highlights to the perfect sync between Orion and Inferno with their rumbling bass and demented beats, respectively, whereas We Are the Next 1000 Years, the second to last song in I Loved You At Your Darkest, once again sounds closer to what they did in The Satanist, which obviously means awesomeness in the form of extreme music. Nergal delivers another bestial vocal performance, while the sound of the guitars gets more electrified and menacing than ever, flowing majestically until the outro Coagvla puts an end to a fantastic (and utterly blasphemous, as already mentioned) album of Extreme Metal by Behemoth, sounding like the grand finale to a theatrical play from the depths of hell.
In summary, I Loved You At Your Darkest (available for a full listen on YouTube and on sale HERE) is still Behemoth, but maybe not the same Behemoth you got used to. Do not expect to listen to The Satanist, nor to any of their old records, but at the same time there’s no need to panic as the Behemoth we learned to love is still there. I personally think I Loved You At Your Darkest might cause some controversy among admirers of the band, as their diehard, old school followers and their post-The Satanist fans might never reach an agreement if the album is actually good or not, but I don’t fear for the future of the band. Quite the contrary, although I still consider The Satanist their best release to date, I must admit I enjoyed a lot the direction Nergal took with the band in I Loved You At Your Darkest, providing the listener something new, something very melodic and groovy, but still loyal to the blasphemy and heaviness of their foundations.
Best moments of the album: God = Dog, Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica, Bartzabel and Havohej Pantocrator.
Worst moments of the album: Rom 5:8.
Released in 2018 Mystic Production
1. Solve 2:04
2. Wolves ov Siberia 2:54
3. God = Dog 3:58
4. Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica 4:49
5. Bartzabel 5:01
6. If Crucifixion Was Not Enough… 3:16
7. Angelvs XIII 3:41
8. Sabbath Mater 4:56
9. Havohej Pantocrator 6:04
10. Rom 5:8 4:22
11. We Are the Next 1000 Years 3:23
12. Coagvla (Instrumental) 2:04
Japanese Edition bonus track
13. O Pentagram Ignis 4:48
Adam “Nergal” Darski – lead vocals, guitars
Patryk Dominik “Seth” Sztyber – guitars
Tomasz “Orion” Wróblewski – bass guitar
Zbigniew Robert “Inferno” Promiński – drums and percussion
Dziablas – backing vocals
Michał Łapaj – Hammond organs
Krzysztof “Siegmar” Oloś – samples