Album Review: Behemoth - I Loved You at Your Darkest

Artist: Behemoth

Album: I Loved You At Your Darkest

Genre: Blackened Death Metal

Release Date: 5 October 2018

Review by Samantha Wolstenholme

Every now and then throughout my years as a diehard metal enthusiast and dedicated musician, I have come across bands that irrevocably change the way I think about music and shatter my preconceived expectations of a given genre. One of those bands is the inimitable Behemoth. The Polish blackened death metal legends have always been a standout in the global extreme metal niche, building an unmistakable core sound that is their trademark over the years, yet demonstrating incredible versatility and diversity as composers through their discography of releases that are all individually unique in their own right.

Adding to the magic of Behemoth is their attainment of something of a cult celebrity status in recent years with vocalist/guitarist Nergal’s extraordinary recovery from leukemia, which spawned what is widely considered to be the four-piece’s greatest work, a tour de force: 2014’s “The Satanist”. Now with the imminent release of the long-awaited follow-up to “The Satanist”, the question is, how does “I Loved You At Your Darkest” compare to such a masterpiece? My answer would be – it doesn’t need to, because this album is perfection in an entirely different light.

Opening track “Solve (Intro)” begins the album with an unsettling chorus of children’s chants, adding instrumentation layer by layer in slow minor chord progressions like spirits creeping up from the dead, until rich guitar riffs and blast beats crash in like falling anvils, setting the tone for the complex album to come. This leads us smoothly into “Wolves ov Siberia”, a ferocious 3-minute hurricane that bleeds defiance, rage and desperation. It is signature Behemoth: the unholy trifecta of Inferno’s blast beats, relentless tremolo picking and Nergal’s hellish rasps exemplify the band’s technical mastery, and yet, rarely does music this heavy and chaotic sound so incredibly emotive. Album single “God=Dog” follows, and the exquisite building of tension in the first 30 seconds towards a cataclysmic sonic maelstrom is reminiscent of some of the band’s best work on “The Satanist”. However, the addition of liturgical choirs embedded cleverly at particular points throughout this track elevates it texturally and stylistically to new heights.

So far it’s been fairly standard blackened death metal, with a hint of stylistic maturity. “Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica” starts to build on the more unique nuances that appear throughout this album, with distinctly melodic choral and lead guitar passages breaking up the extreme metal furore. For a band that is notorious for their controversial lyrical and thematic content, there is something so unearthly and divine in their worship of the power and beauty of music. This introduction of a reflective, introspective note is further explored in “Bartzabel”, a poignant and powerful ballad in which the mournful guitar solo mirrors a particularly anguished vocal performance from Nergal. Brief album turning-point “If Crucifixtion Was Not Enough” follows, its instrumental elements slowly being stripped away to then deceptively lead right back into the chaos of “Angelvs XIII”, a mini-masterpiece of true black metal with a complex collection of harmonic minor riffs, ingenious drum patterns and various melodic motifs and movements.

“Sabbath Mater” is the album’s most progressive track yet, seamlessly tying various stylistic elements together and demonstrating the band’s extraordinary ability to take a musical idea and extrapolate on it in a variety of ingenious ways throughout a given track. “Havohej Pantocrator” begins at a glacial pace and slowly morphs into an extended ode to the fallen angel Lucifer, and musically it is reflective of this, sounding both beautiful and terrible at the same time and culminating in perhaps the only breakdown-like sections on this album that highlight the intensity of these sentiments. “Rom 5:8” has a very catchy groove to it that contrasts nicely with alternating blast beat passages and mysterious, almost menacing spoken word in the background. “We are the Next 1000 Years” is as ferocious and final as its title suggests, exploding back into action for one last statement of defiance, and then “Coagula (Outro)” rounds out this superb album with an immersive, richly melodic instrumental soundscape.

It’s been a long four years since “The Satanist”, but “I Loved You At Your Darkest” was well worth the wait. This album shines, and it shows Behemoth’s maturity both as songwriters and in life experience. “I Loved You At Your Darkest” stays with you long after the final track trails off, and the raw emotion expressed throughout the album makes for an incredibly compelling listen. There is a reason why this band is a leader in its genre, and in the metal world at large, and everything about this album exemplifies that. There is light to be found even in the darkest of places, so it would seem.

10 out of 10.

I Loved You At Your Darkest can be pre-ordered digitally now at:

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