Behemoth – Opvs Contra Natvram Review

Blackened death metal has stealthily climbed its way up my genre preference hierarchy over the last few years, and I’m still not sure that I’m totally conscious of that fact. I rarely seek out the genre purposefully when perusing promos, but as I look back over my top-ten lists during my time here as a reviewer, a blackened death metal album has earned the crowning spot each and every year. Now, while I don’t consider myself to be a huge Behemoth fan—in fact, I haven’t even listened to all of their releases—I rather enjoy most of the band’s albums with which I’m familiar. Demigod is a blackened death classic, and I like The Apostasy quite a bit too—and not just because it features an appearance by my beloved Warrel Dane (R.I.P.). The Satanist had some great moments, but the amount of pretense on display was a bit unnerving. And that sense of foreboding was ultimately justified with the release of its follow-up, the at times cringy I Loved You at Your Darkest. While initially hesitant to cover that album’s successor, I was overcome by curiosity; would Opvs Contra Natvram lean into the band’s recent trajectory (and deliver moar children’s choir), or would we be treated to a return to form?

It’s actually a little bit of both, and I’m happy to report that Opvs Contra Natvram seems to have found a nice balance between atmosphere and straightforward songwriting with nary a kids’ choir in sight. One of the best examples of this balance comes via the embedded single, “Off to War!” The epic opening flourish gives way to a martial guitar riff and violent verse, and then the rest of the song alternates between subdued beauty and melodic savagery.

And the album’s strength comes from the fact that neither of these two aspects gets abused or neglected in favor of the other; when it swings one way, you can be sure that it will soon swing back. This balance gives the record a large dose of accessibility, reminding me of the latest Dimmu Borgir quite often—that’s a good thing in my book. After the theatrical intro piece “Post-God Nirvana” opens the proceedings, a pair of tracks come along to set the tone for the rest of the album. The brief “Malaria Vvlgate” provides a couple of the record’s heaviest moments, and it’s followed by the mid-paced, symphonic “The Deathless Sun.” Tracks like “Disinheritance” and “Neo-Spartacvs” round out the album’s more brutal moments, while “Ov My Herculean Exile” and “Once Upon a Pale Horse” capitalize on the band’s subtlety. Epic closer “Versvs Christvs” skews heavily towards the atmospheric end of the spectrum, but still manages to throw in a few last heavy sections for good measure. This overall balance makes Opvs easily re-playable.

I enjoy the production on Opvs a lot more than that of ILYaYD, and while the songwriting tends toward the safe side, my gripes are pretty minor. As per usual for Behemoth, some of the lyrics here are so on the nose that they cause involuntary wincing. I’m happy that the record is concise and carries minimal bloat, but a few of these songs end so abruptly that it’s actually a bit jarring. Nergal understandably earns MVP honors here; his vocals sound properly pissed, and his guitar work pushes Behemoth back towards the black metal end of the spectrum with some nice, frozen tremolos. He also busts off a few heartfelt solos to add a bit of emotional nuance to the record’s sound. If you like Behemoth, you’ll probably like this whole album, but check out “Malaria Vvlgata,” “Ov My Herculean Exile,” “Neo-Spartacvs,” “Off to War!,” and “Thy Becoming Eternal” for some highlights.

I can’t help but mention that Wachenfeldt is producing a very similar style without the cheesy lyrics, the cringy pretense, and the irritating spelling—and the Swedish maestro’s musical product is exponentially more compelling than what’s on display here. But with that being said, I’m glad to be able to say that Behemoth is once again producing worthwhile blackened death metal, and while Opvs Contra Natvram can’t compete with a bludgeoning like Demigod, it’s still a fun and thoroughly enjoyable, if safe, listen.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: V0 mp3
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: September 16th, 2022

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