Four years ago, we were treated to the very record metal needed, but did not deserve. That album was “The Satanist”, and it has since become a significant and ambitious masterpiece to the entirety of metal, and the shape of it to come. Now, onwards to 2018, and the Polish gods of blasphemy known as Behemoth have produced yet another creation to their brand. The long process of expelling the most obscure and malevolent sound they could muster, has resulted in the form of what could be the perfect spawn that 2018 never saw coming – “I Loved You At Your Darkest”.
Commencing with a children’s choir on Solve, chanting “I shall not forgive” to Elohim, Adonai and the Living God, and “I forgive thee not” to Jesus Christ, with a distant organ and a mellow, yet murky guitar that progresses and gets heavier and heavier. Soon after, Wolves Ov Siberia rips open a flare of punishing percussion and fast, crushing riffs by the band. Nergal’s malicious and secular range would help create a darker ambience to the lines he would quote, delivering a real fearful and wicked persona that would make many extreme vocalists sound impotent and idle. The first single God = Dog was seen as the introduction to what Behemoth had been organising in the studio for the record, and has since been deservingly praised for its production’s high intensity, and blasphemous lyricism by Nergal.
Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica patterns a very melodic structure at a mildly slower pace on the guitars while pumping out some reckless blastbeating by Inferno. The track also resonates on a bit of a rock n roll aura while resonating the full extreme metal package, and about three quarters of the way through, we’re treated to an echoing acoustic number that also plays along with the rest of the distorted strings and pulsating drums. The haunting clean rhythm and cinematic percussion on Bartzabel makes way for a very enthralling start to the song. As probably the slowest piece to the LP, the nature of Bartzabel is quaint and more atmospheric than the others, but it still brews the opaque concentration that is inhabited on the rest of the album.
Soon after, If Crucifixion Was Not Enough slide Behemoth back into the slightly speedier territory with a plethora of melodic and even crushingly technical riffs from the band. However, the impiety and darkness drastically increases in the form of Angelvs XIII, and the theatrical and heretical energy of Sabbath Mater. Both feature some even more gruelling and agonising vocals, as well as more spiteful lyricism that almost feel like a throwback to the days of “Satanica” and “Demigod”. While keeping the transgression of “I Loved You At Your Darkest” steady, Behemoth take an interesting turn on Havohej Pantocrator’s instrumentation with some European-inspired acoustics, setting a somewhat historical attitude to its character.
The potency that inhabits ROM 5:8 roars classic nineties black metal and makes its mark with a unique wall of reverberating distorted guitars that really dignify this wave of aggression that does not feel overbearing to the listener. As one of the closers, the adrenaline-fuelled fret-work and percussion on We Are the Next 1,000 Years pushes the boundaries on the production with Nergal quoting lyrics such as “we are the ending ov all days, we are the next thousand years”, referencing Jesus Christ, the Devil and the Emperor of Rome. Finally, with Coagula closing up “I Loved You At Your Darkest” in one of the most chilling, and callous manners Behemoth have ever done in such an epic, and cinematic way for an album.
There has definitely been some evolving going on in the process of this record, and Behemoth have relied very much on following the narrative perspective, and delivering a really straightforward approach without making the punches seem haughty, even for the first few listens. There’s plenty of breathing space between tracks, the flow and order of the track-listing is perfectly organised, and the production and mixing remains consistent throughout its entirety. Even for an extreme product that indulges in such sacrilegious tones, it still remains perpetual and catchy to its full extent while still preserving such a raw, and accessible aura to the final product. After “The Satanist”, many would wonder as to how Behemoth would be able to top such an opus that has already been standing the test of time in this current era of music. However, I find “I Loved You At Your Darkest” to be on par with its predecessor. “I Loved You At Your Darkest” is no ordinary record – it’s a redefining journey of blasphemy, a product of brutality, and above all, another immoral stroke of genius that only verifies Behemoth’s innovation and dynamism.