Behemoth - The SatanistThere is no way to dodge the issue, expectations for The Satanist are sky high. It’s easy to understand how that could be. Behemoth‘s most recent release was in 2009 but felt overwrought and flat; it had the form but little substance and the sound was loud but fatigued. Nearly 5 years later, Anno Domine 2014, Nergal has been through a bout with cancer and a fight with the Polish legal system. The narrative arising is simple. Indeed, it’s low hanging fruit: the best art arises from adversity. The long wait — 4.5 years between records is almost unheard of for a band on Behemoth‘s level — has set the stage for what has the makings of a rebirth of sorts for Poland’s best-known extreme metal act. The Satanist can set the stage for a new era in Behemoth‘s storied career and, as one would expect, the attention of the metal world is firmly fixed on it.

High expectations are a double-edged sword, of course. The Satanist also has ample opportunity to disappoint. Bands rarely have lightning strike twice for them, and in many ways Demigod was Behemoth‘s lightning strike. The record launched them into the public consciousness, put them on extensive world tours with top tier bands, and defined what their sound would be moving forward. So all of this begs the inevitable question: can Nergal and his gloomy band of black metal warriors redefine Behemoth‘s sound now in 2014? Can they produce a record that lives up to the expectations and gives something new? Does the hype leading up to The Satanist live up to the product?

I wasn’t convinced immediately. The Satanist starts slow, opening with a sluggish “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel,” which introduces the horn motif that permeates the whole record. This is quickly followed up by a better, but still largely generic “Furor Divinus,” before dropping back down to the sluggish, mid-paced death feel of “Messe Noire.” The slow start is deceptive, however, and after the third track The Satanist begins to pick up steam. “Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer” introduces classic trem picked riffing, a catchy chorus and an immense french horn bridge before merging smoothly into the Demigod-like brutality of “Amen.” Again, the song construction and the more classic black metal fare work well for Nergal and Co., there’s an energy to the writing and riffing and the frantic brutality of the track takes over.

Behemoth 2014The record’s true brilliance begins to shine through more fully starting with “The Satanist,” “Ben Sahar” and “In the Absence ov Light.” These tracks offer up a variety of different sounds—even wandering into Shining levels of tortured on “The Satanist”—but they continue building the slow build, knocking out catchy, simple riff after catchy, simple riff. The guitars play off each other, chanting countermelodies, and embodying an atmosphere that you’ve never heard on a Behemoth record before. Blasts are used for effect, as opposed to being the default, and the bass is more a real presence, with bassist Orion delivering an outstanding performance.

There are plenty of standout moments on The Satanist, with the guitar riffing and countermelodies between Nergal and Seth being particularly unique and engaging. Another point of differentiation is the Polish voice over section in “In the Absence ov Light” (for which I have no translation translation in the footnote1), that sports a saxophone and evokes Ulver‘s Perdition City and leads into a brutal verse and one of the band’s best riffs of all time. The absolute pinnacle of the record, though, is the closing track, “O Father O Satan O Sun!” This epic features the first clean vocals I can remember hearing on a Behemoth album, and the composition swirls with dark atmosphere, subtle riff construction, and is the perfect epic to finish the record off.

The Satanist‘s construction—starting slow, building up a head of steam and then ending on a melancholy note—leaves a remarkable impression. The silence when the closing track comes to a quiet close is a forlorn silence and reflection that one would not expect from a Behemoth record. It gives credence to the sale of The Satanist as the band’s most mature work to date.

While in many ways this is a rebirth, one thing is consistent with time: Behemoth is still brickwalling their recordings hard. The whole record is very compressed, but starting with “In the Absence ov Light” and continuing on “O Father O Satan O Sun!” the peaking isn’t just audible via my monitors and DAC, but also with my onboard audio. This record is mastered to the teeth, and that takes away from the end result in meaningful ways. For example, the drum build—which should be enormous—in “In the Absence ov Light” actually distorts so bad at the end that it loses its sense of scale and power, reminiscent of a similar fail from Fleshgod Apocalypse‘s most recent work. By flattening the sound, it neuters the power that should reside at times in these tracks, where the horns of fallen angels blare, only to have their clarion call sound flat and condensed.

Still, even a DR6 brickwalling (which is better than the DR5 Demigod and nearly DR4 Satanica) has trouble holding back what is a truly inspiring, atmospheric blackened death metal record from one of the premiere bands in extreme metal today. The Satanist might be a slow burn, but it is a triumphant return and epic in scope and scale. The first truly great record I’ve heard in 2014.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 6
Format Reviewed: ~275 (VBR) mp3
Label: Nuclear Blast [EU/UK] | Metal Blade [US]
Website(s): |
Release Dates: UK: 2014.02.03 | US: 02.04.2014 | EU: 2014.02.07

Show 1 footnote

  1. Nergal says “I reject every order, all ideals. I don’t trust any abstractions or doctrines. I don’t believe in God nor reason. Enough with all the gods. Give me a man. Let him be like me. Confused and immature. Dark and unclear. That I could dance with him. Play with him. Fight with him. Pretend before him. Simper before him. Rape him, love him. Create myself anew. Grow, and by growing get married in a church of man.” – Quote from Witold Gombrowicz play “The Wedding”
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  • Piet

    I agree with pretty much everything you said. The standout tracks for me were Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer and The Satanist.

  • shmoo69

    I didn’t feel the mastering came anywhere close to fleshgod’s fuckuppery (which totally ruined that record for me), but I wasn’t expecting much from this not really being a fan. However the brooding shining-esque misery and sheer variation/creativity throughout has won me over. It’s been on repeat since landing; not something I can say since Carcass and the last In Vain. Can’t help thinking its immediacy might be a detractor in the long run tho’.

    • No, the mastering definitely didn’t ruin the record like it did for Fleshgod Apocalypse. However, it did fuck up that one place I was talking about in a meaningful way.

      • Jordan Campbell

        I think it;s a colossal step up in terms of production style (Behemoth has a bassist? WHOA), despite the flaws. Behemoth have been one of the most negatively-influential bands in death metal in that regard, and it’s refreshing to see them dial back that approach here.

        • That’s fair. It still is loud as fuck, though.

          • Ben Pegman

            “The bass sounded crap”? Really? Sounded fucking thunderous to me (and not to toot my own horn too much, but I’ve been playing bass for coming on 10 years now, so I always have an ear out for the bass when I listen through albums). Not completely audible ALL the time through the record, but most of the time and quite prominently so; which is something people don’t often experience in this kind of music, so it has the novelty factor.

            Audibility aside, the sound and tone of the bass is massive to boot, reminds me of the latest bolt thrower album. I can definitely see why people are raving about it. Growly, punchy and it cuts through the mix with ease when it needs to. Pretty sure Orion used a Darkglass B7K or B3K pedal to get his sound (for any bass nerds reading), they’re pretty awesome pedals from what I’ve heard.

        • tomasjacobi

          I agree that it IS listenable. But still, think about how much better the album would sound with just a few more dB of dynamic range….
          Apart from the mastering I have no complaints though.

        • It’s a terrible sounding record, PERIOD. Comparing this record to Demigod or some of the other mastering atrocities Behemoth has put out over the years doesn’t really change that fact.

          Yes, its an improvement, but a small one and frankly very disappointing on several levels given the pedigree of the engineer.

          Reading reviews that rave about the bass on this record is funny though…

          • The bass sounded great in my cans, man.

          • Sounded like crap in mine! Yeah, it’s there but it is by no means prominent as some are making it out to be. YMMV.

            Sorry AMG, that last comment was by no means directed at you actually.

          • I guess “great” on a Behemoth record is “audible.” I need to quit lowering my standards… hahaha

          • LOL! The fact is I read a myriad of reviews that are raving about how audible the bass is and then saying this is great production. Like for real? Audible? That’s the goal post? To be audible?

            We live in dark times my friend, dark times indeed.

          • There are a couple of passages where the bass does actually sound really good. Again, it’s on the back half. It has to do with being played in a way that cuts through the compression. And I complimented the performance, not the _sound_ per se.

          • Understood. Though again AMG, the original comments I made were not directed at you at all (I have the flu so bare with me…I think I got it from Behemoth’s production, all that compression lowered my immune system!).

          • markus o

            nope. the bass sounds great indeed. live with it.

          • Guest

            The bass sounded crap? Really? Sounded fucking thunderous to me (and not to toot my own horn too much, but I’ve been playing bass for coming on 10 years now, so I always have an ear out for the bass when I listen through albums). Not completely audible ALL the time through the record, but most of the time and quite prominently so; which is something people don’t often experience in this kind of music, so it has the novelty factor.

            Audibility aside, the sound and tone of the bass is massive to boot, reminds me of the latest bolt thrower album. I can definitely see why people are raving about it. Growly, punchy and it cuts through the mix with ease when it needs to. Pretty sure Orion used a Darkglass B7K or B3K pedal to get his sound (for any bass nerds reading), they’re pretty awesome pedals from what I’ve heard.

          • markus o

            time to change your setup or having your ears checked, maybe? expressing strong opinions about tone doesn’t make you the universal gold standard in judging everything audio. sad but true.

          • And responding with authority doesn’t either.

          • markus o

            i’m very, VERY curious to know what’s the last good sounding death metal record you’ve listened to. really.

  • anonbr666

    It’s funny, I read a review in another website (can’t tell which one now though) that was the exact opposite of yours: It said the album started fast and furious on the first 5 tracks and lost part of its intensity on the last 4.

    Anyway, personnally, I loved it. It’s powerful, inspired, emotional and ANGRY, oh so angry! Nergal’s voice has never sounded better and the barrage of amazing riffs, one after the other, touches me at all of the right places. Really loved it. Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer, Messe Noire and The Satanist are my personal standouts, though it all feels solid and there isn’t one track I want to “skip” while listening.

    Also, the fact that this album had people with insane expectations all over the world, and seemed to please almost everyone that heard it, proves that Nergal and co. are in a league of their own.

    Hail Behemoth! Can’t wait to check them live, it should be BRUTAL!

    • How is it possible they have a website and are so very wrong? ;) Certainly the start of the album is anything but “fast and furious.” Those songs drag.

      • anonbr666

        It was actually posted on Metalsucks:

        “The Satanist’s first half has plenty of blackened blastfests…”

        “The Satanist’s second half is where the band begin to drift…”

        But reading it again now, I think maybe he didn’t mean “drift” as a bad thing, only as a way of doing things differently. English is not my first language, so maybe I got it wrong.

        • JWG

          I will admit that the first time I listened to the album, I was concentrating in the first half then my mind just sort of wandered away in the second half.

          But after a second listen I feel like the second half is comparatively stronger, because it’s (slightly) more challenging to expectations (see Evangelion from start to finish for sample expectations).

          The ‘drift’ doesn’t detract from the quality because it’s handled in a way that speaks to the band’s collective ability to create cohesion from (controlled) chaos.

  • Post Nihilism

    “for which I have no translation”

    Nergal says “I reject every order, all ideals I don’t trust any abstractions or doctrines I don’t believe in God nor reason Enough with all the gods Give me a man Let him be like me Confused and immature Dark and unclear That I could dance with him Play with him Fight with him Pretend before him Simper before him Rape him, love him Create myself anew Grow, and by growing Get married in a church of man”
    Quote from Witold Gombrowicz play “The Wedding”.

  • Here’s Johnny

    nice review. have to agree that songs like “Furor Divinus” let them down. that has been their problem for a few years though, filler. thankfully there is only a couple of songs like that.

    from track 4 onwards it really picks up. the last part of the album really is something different from them and will catapult their careers even further.

    agree with the production too, the exact same issues with the latest fleshgod(lots of distortion/compression/too loud). i do like that you can hear the bass though and the guitar work is far more textured. im not so sure on how the drums sound though.

    all said and done its a triumphant return and nergal is already a metal legend for defeating a horrid disease.

    do a full uk tour please!

  • Excentric_1307

    This is an incredible album. Nergal’s vocals are better than any other record Behemoth has put out. I do wish there was a HDR version of this that I could get my hands on. This album is strange is that it’s very accessible without having much in the way of “pop sensibilities”. I think I’ve listened to it about 4-5 times now, and I love it every time. Too bad about the drums on that one track though…

  • Vega Magnus

    But this is still technically blvck metvl. So isn’t a crappy production acceptable because of kvltness?

    • It’s not kvlt at all. It’s over produced.

      • Vega Magnus

        Then they should sacrifice themselves to Satan on an altar made of goats for they have blvsphvmed the vnholy stvndvrds ov kvltness!

  • It decidedly sounds better than Evangelion, even though I enjoyed a lot of Evangelion. I have been hearing it on google play since it was available there and sadly the production issues are way more apparent with the sucky bitrate google uses for streaming. Still, finally Orion got out the dog house and Nergal stopped playing a Newsted on him! Hail Santa!

    • Sui

      santa lol

  • RagE

    I do love this record, and i do love that bass sound. it has some great sounding bits where it stands out, but reading the comments here has made me adjust my view a bit. As great as Orion sounds when we can hear him properly, imagine how much better it would be if we could hear him like that throughout the entire record! Hearing him clearly here and there kind of fooled me into believing the entire record has a good bass sound. There is probably a cognitive bias involved here..

    I can live with the bass as it is, but what annoys me is the track “Amen”. It is a great fucking song, with a nice chugging bass and some slow building tribal drumming in the middle. When this finally explodes into pandemonic hyperblast, and Nergal starts sounding like Attila, it should be like megatron roundhouse kicked you in the face, but no. It’s more like it LOSES some punch when it sets off.

    I like trumpets and horns.

    • BlackMetal Stunfisk

      The title track and Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer are my favorites on here

    • I love the track Amen too- there is a bit of an expectation in that second take-off though, I agree, it should have had a different blast or upscale, but I think there’s a lot of things going on right then and there at that spot that, especially the bass, things get a little confusing. Great track though, no doubt.

  • Sui

    Over 3 spins now, can’t say I’m all that impressed or at least fully sink in. At
    times the songwriting sounds quite forced in order to create impactful drama, almost feels like an obligation to impress (the openning and the title tracks). I like Demigod and even the latter two, but now I feel a bit letdown. Many would disagree (and let’s the bashing begin). But I always assume it is a matter of either enjoying or not, that simple. Saying that, I really hope it’s a grower…

    Oh, I can’t believe I say this but for the first time, I like Hate’s latest offer a lot more, solarflesh is their more refined and memorable work to date (and reviews here might disagree again). But you know how differing opinions can be a bitch.

  • Kalsten

    Finally. I was waiting since breakfast to get to my office and read the review! (yay, employ of the month for me!)

    I have to say that I really enjoy the first part of the record. That crusing slow songs, full of hate, really got into me. Even the first track, “Blow your trumpets Gabriel”, which I didn’t like to much when they release the video, started to grow on me and I really love that ending with the trumpets. It is so epic! And when he says “blow your trumpets, Gabriel”, the way Nergal says the angel’s name is brutal…I really love it.

    I have to say that I am really impressed by this record. I am not a huge fan of Behemoth, but they really catch me with The Satanist. I think that it has been spinning continuously since I got it. That one, and also new Mayan record, that it is awesome too.

    • T.J. Barber

      Sound your trumpets is much better without the ham-fisted video. The video, decent production value aside, comes off as juvenile, which is INCREDIBLY distracting.

      • sathriel

        It is par for the course in the genre: darkness to the point of silly and laughable. So it has been since the start ( “Mother North” “Blashyrk”) and so it is going to stay. Many people love it tho.

        • T.J. Barber

          I can understand that, but it’s not the darkness that makes it silly, it’s the ability to cram so many cheesy ideas into a short amount of time.

          Fallen angels! Pools of blood! Cloaked cult members sacrificing things! Corruption of innocence! And by innocence I mean unreasonably hot metal chicks!

          All that is fun when it’s taken for what it is. If their was the slightest tongue in cheek feel to it that would help A LOT. I read a great little article (not sure where) by Metastasis about his Wormlust: Feral Wisdom artwork speaking to how a little silly, WHEN INTENTIONAL can off set the unintentional silliness of being overly serious, and in the end actually come off as something MUCH MORE self aware, intelligent and serious. An interesting approach to some reverse psychology that is absolutely true in my opinion.

    • Chris McAlevy

      The way he just fucking snarls out “gabriel” really stuck out to me too. Great moment.

  • Great review! Will check this one out as soon as I can.

  • T.J. Barber

    Mildly off topic discussion:

    Does anyone think the disparity between the quality of artwork on the disk and what the band puts out in it’s promotional material is rather jarring?

    The album itself, is stunning design and artwork wise (Minus having the disks in the folds, I personally hate that as I feel like I need to get finger prints all over the damn things to get them out, would have been nice to be housed in a digi book like Katatonia’s dead end kings rerelease instead). There is a real sense of professionalism and lack of bad moves (no crummy band pictures or use of papyrus font and their ilk for example).

    BUT, the band tend to display themselves as downright silly otherwise, the videos are trying WAY too hard which comes off as incredibly distracting and press photos are laughable at best and downright nu-metal levels of silly at worst.

    I was gong to completely pass on this record until the above review btw. It’s very solidly written, too bad about the production, but I was looking at a new Behemoth record like it might as well be a new Dimmu Borgir album. Just something that is still popular despite how past it’s prime it is, but here I am surprised at the quality of it.

    • I totally agree. These guys are kinda silly in self-presentation.

  • BlackMetal Stunfisk

    Yeah, I love this too

  • FutureBeyondSatan

    This is how it should be done. Solid review, AMG.
    This is a shout to whomever started the v nonsense….Fvck Ovv!!!

  • Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer is a lovable and captivating track. The line “For our is the kingdom and the power and the glory – forever” can also be found on Samael’s Passage. Maybe a tribute to the band?

    • “The kingdom and the power and the glory, forever” is from The Lord’s Prayer.

  • Andrzej Telega

    It’s kinda funny, that someone is trying to discuss the quality of the record based on mp3 files… really? Go for vinyl, bro…. The record itself sounds very decent for me and my (high end) equipment. Stop constantly praying at DR and numbers, it’s black metal after all, not jazz.

    • P-ST0LER0

      I agree; headphones, mobile-sized speakers and compressed files do this album no justice at all and the (bad) comments and reviews it’s getting really need to be reassessed after putting this album through quality systems. I don’t have a turntable to use vinyl, but I’m using an old Techniques SA-GX290 receiver and SL-MC4 cd player with some American Acoustics speakers and it sounds great over my ceramic floor.

      • I use a DAC and monitor headphones as well as BitPerfect. The record is compressed to shit, regardless of whether it sounds good for what it is. Also, it peaks. It peaks in my (very good, but not studio quality) computer speakers, it peaks in my monitors, it peaks in my fucking ear buds for fucks sake. It’s too damned loud. And it suffers.

        It seems that you’re listening to it with not the best ears if you’re not hearing it.

        • P-ST0LER0

          My ears work perfectly well, I get them checked regularly. My system has no equalization other than high, low and balance- the only eq I use are the tweeter and mid level nobs on my speakers. They pick up those little chinks in Inferno’s cymbals clearly and the guitars sounds chunky as well as the bottom end, it chugs. Sounds like a well balanced record to me.

    • I think it’s funny that you criticize a reviewer who gets their product from a label for reviewing the product that was given to them by the label. The difference between a lossless file and a 256k file, when it comes to DR, isn’t really that great–as I’ve tested a number of times myself.

      But most importantly: I review what I am given by labels. If they want to not be criticized for sound they should change their mastering practices, but it would help if they gave us lossless files.

      Also: I use a DAC, monitor headphones and programs to get the best sound I can.

      Finally, I give the information about the format I’m reviewing for purposes of being clear about what I’m reviewing. You should be _happy_ I’m telling you what I’m reviewing, as opposed to complaining that I’m not reviewing the fucking vinyl mix.

      Anyway, it’s too damned loud, and if your equipment was so damned good, you’d probably be able to hear that.

      • Andrzej Telega

        Well man, it does not change the fact, that you are talking about quality of the sound based on poor mp3 files, does it? What’s the point of doing this? Once again: DR is not everything, it’s not about numbers… especially in metal music. OK, “The Satanist” is not an audiophile record, it is loud, but, for god’s sake, it’s black metal. And the sound of this record could give a lot of pleasure to listen to. Many times I had an impression, that very often people make their opinion about sound only by checking the DR in foobar and not by listening to music….

        • The mp3s that Nuclear Blast gives out are basically V2 or V0 I think. It’s pretty good, man. It’s not totally crap.

          Also mp3 quality doesn’t seem to affect DR so much, as earlier stated.

          • P-ST0LER0

            You should buy the actual record/cd and test that though. I think that’s where the err of reviews like this become an issue- you shouldn’t point out the quality of the sound based on an mp3 file. It’s a bit misguiding for someone who appreciates a good production.

          • No I shouldn’t. First, the audio shifts between a high quality mp3 and a lossless files are often considered to be negligible to the point of being mythical. Further, if it’s the case that a 256k file can’t be expected to represent the sound of a record properly, how does anyone get off selling those kinds of files (i.e., the entire iTunes library), or streaming them (at Spotify). Should I just ignore the fact that this is the way its being presented and act as though it’s extremely well done because on the CD someone has it sounds better? If the label cared about that at all, they would send out better quality files.

            But this is also an extremely strange critique in that some of the best-sounding and least compressed files I own I only have in 320 mp3. These are coming from Dan Swanö and as 320 mp3s they still sound extremely good. So this idea that somehow an mp3 can’t sound good is simply a misunderstanding of what “compression” is and what it does to the sound quality of a file. When one starts getting into 128k area is when the human ear starts to really notice the differences. And btw, I do think I _can_ hear the difference between lossless and lossy files in some cases, but one needs to have excellent equipment to do so.

          • You should know that record companies don’t care so much about how good or bad the quality you choose to buy their products in is because it’s all about the numbers and they’ll shortchange you if they could no matter what. However, my opinion about the quality of cd versus compression is an impractical debate- it’s like religion, you have your opinion, I have mine, but I care about my opinion more than I care about yours. I’m sure you’d say say the same of anyone else. You’ve also proven my point in your second paragraph where you state having “excellent equipment” to really get at the heart of how great this new Behemoth record, The Satanist, truly is. I don’t think I need to recap the equipment I’m using in detail, but it’s really not state of the art by today’s standards, I feel in some ways technology, although remarkably practical for an abundant of formats, has been extremely bastardized in that regard. Not that it’s a totally bad thing, but I like that warm bottom end I get out of my receiver (SA-GX290). Only eq is bass and treble and that’s about all I need- if the record is produced well you don’t need to tweak it much. I think The Satanist was mixed properly and sounds great.

          • “What MP3 encoding does not do is alter the amount of dynamic range compression on a track in any way. Seriously, there will not be 0.01dB of difference. The recorded volume will be identical.”


            My issue is that complaining about me criticizing the mp3s released by the label as not being representative of the actual sound of the music (when what I’m criticizing is specifically dynamic range compression and the way the music sounds because of it). The sound quality is mildly effected, of course, but hardly.

          • Andrzej Telega

            Not totally crap? So what is “crap” in this case?.. You said that the record is compresed. OK, but listening to mp3 (and not of the highest bitrate btw) you have it double-, triple- and even multi-compresed. In this situation all your DAC’s, monitor headphones and programes are useless…

      • …and why would a label “give” you anything good for free???

        • Because we’re part of the promotional scheme. And we get V0 mp3s, which are better than what one purchases on iTunes.

  • P-ST0LER0

    I’ve listened to this album a handful of times already- Behemoth is great. I hear, in The Satanist, a complexity of riffs that are both nostalgic and contemporary. Sometimes I think I’m listening to a better version of the Behemoth that was during the Pandemonic Incantation days, such as in the track Ben Sahar and yet there are those other newer sounds like Messe Noir that incorporate nicely woven tempo changes. The Satanist is a priceless gem of blackened/death metal art.

  • Barry Neilson

    This album has been in my car the last few days and isn’t going to be taken out any time soon; immense. I totally agree with you in saying the album doesn’t really get going until after the third track, it seems an odd choice to start an album off with what you could say are the weakest 3 songs on there… but Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer makes the wait for a truly great song worthwhile.

    • Is that still your opinion (you posted a year ago it says)? Just curious because I know a couple of people (coworkers) that said the album sucked when it first came out and now they’re all charmed by the entire thing… it’s amazing how sometimes our opinions change. I bet it has to to do with mood and/or expectation. What do you think?

  • David Rosales

    It’s a fun album to listen to if you’re in the mood for comedy. Like late Vader (Necropolis-WTTMR) parody of Black Metal.
    A 2.5 for this one is only fair. Giving it more is just not being serious.