“I saw the virgin’s cunt spawning forth the snake” is a hell1 of a way to open a death metal album. Adam Darski (a.k.a. Nergal) – the creative mind behind Polish group Behemoth – experienced a stint with life-threatening leukemia in the first half of the 2010s,2 and The Satanist is the first album to be released since his diagnosis and recovery.3
It is tempting to call The Satanist the most evil act in heavy metal this side of Grand Belial’s Key, but that would be a shallow remark: this is a strikingly humanistic work – which, coincidentally, is the main tenant of LaVeyan Satanism and the modern Church of Satan. “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” directly challenges the Lord’s archangel to wage war on mankind, whom Darski implies contemporary religion views as worthless. Darski blatantly rejects contemporary Christianity’s perspective on the fallibility of man in “In the Absence ov Light,” in which he quotes Polish playwright Witold Gombrowicz’s secular humanist disestablishment of Christian doctrine in favor of the “sacred human church.” The Satanist‘s revelation of disorder and decay is not an attack on man; it is a celebration of him through rejecting what Darski sees as the confines of divinity, real or imagined.
“Furor Divinus” and “Amen” are prototypical death metal songs at their most brutal: pummeling percussion, death growls, and even a respectfully bizarre guitar solo. The high-hat, bell-ringing percussion during the chorus of “Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer” is a subtle mocking of The Lord’s Prayer.5 Yet, the majority of the album is relatively slow and melodic, especially in comparison to works by Necrophagist and Goatwhore; The Satanist is surprisingly accessible for death metal neophytes, while retaining the dissonance and profound instrumentation that will keep longtime fans hooked.
Closer track “O Father O Satan O Sun!” has the best use of clean singing in the past five years of death metal. Far too many bands opt for soprano/gravel juxtaposition that frequently sounds forced or fetishized5; or frankly, just bad. Behemoth avoid those tropes by using clean singing in the background of Darski’s growls, which wisely foregoes upstaging the already extant grandness. The result is an ebullient, ecstatic, even orgasmic celebration of man’s capability for glory through the metaphor of the Light Bearer.
The Satanist is gorgeous. Not in bleakness or misanthropy – in fact, the dire opposite. Behemoth celebrate the power and wonder of mankind,6 and their ability to make such a work while avoiding marginalization or onanism speaks to their versatility and self-awareness in songwriting.7
1. Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel – (4:25) – ★★★★★
2. Furor Divinus – (3:06) – ★★★★★
3. Messe Noire – (4:04) – ★★★★★
4. Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer – (5:35) – ★★★★★
5. Amen – (3:49) – ★★★★★
6. The Satanist – (5:33) – ★★★☆☆
7. Ben Sahar – (5:35) – ★★★☆☆
8. In the Absence ov Light – (4:58) – ★★★☆☆
9. O Father O Satan O Sun! – (7:13) – ★★★★★
1Yes, I thought I was very clever.
2What do we call this decade? The post-noughties? The naughty noughties?
4Many Orthodox Christian denominations ring a bell upon reciting each stanza of The Lord’s Prayer during communal worship services. Admittedly, my source for this is only my time spent growing up in various Presbyterian, Lutheran, Disciples of Christ, Catholic, and Methodist churches. My mother didn’t really care what we belonged to as long as the people weren’t assholes and they had other kids with whom I wanted to be friends, which I guess is one of those things that contemporary religion should always have.
5Especially if the singer is a woman.
6Plus, it’ll give those edgy teenagers something to freak out mom over. Or maybe mom is hardcore, who knows.
7I’m torn on whether or not I want Darski’s leukemia to resurface.