Behemoth – I Loved You At Your Darkest (Album Review)

The advent of a Behemoth album is becoming more and more of a major occasion, so when I Loved You At Your Darkest drops on October 5th, 2018, via Metal Blade Records, it will certainly cause quite a ripple in the underground and beyond. The word beyond is pertinent here, because it is not often that something from the world of Black Metal and Death Metal reaches out from the murky depths to tickle the mainstream.

Album number eleven sees the Polish juggernaut joining the ranks of acts such as Dimmu Borgir, Watain, and Morbid Angel; origins rooted in the confrontational, Satanic atavism of music consumed and digested by the few, now packaged and delivered to the wider global Metal audience. Will I Loved You At Your Darkest allow Behemoth to sustain themselves up at this level? Will it surpass 2014’s The Satanist?

For those unfamiliar, Behemoth began life alongside the emergence of the second wave of Black Metal. Their early output, other than having a Slavic bent, matched strides stylistically with their neighbors across the Baltic, until the turn of the new millennium saw them adding a helping of Death Metal to their sound. Years passed, Adam ‘Nergal’ Darski, vocalist, guitarist, and driving creative force of the band, emerged from a battle with cancer stronger and even more focused.

As the music of Behemoth grew more expansive, blurring the lines further between the Death Metal and Black Metal comprising their sound, the table was set for I Loved You At Your Darkest to propel Behemoth even further. As an album, it continues moving the band’s sound from their middle ‘Death Metal’ period. “Wolves ov Siberia” starts off with the signature speed attack from Crummer Zbigniew ‘Inferno’ Prominski, but the slower, more epic and choral latter half demonstrates where Behemoth is heading with their music.

Bigger production, choruses, and the sonic trappings that go with that will increase their appeal, but has it come at the expense of Behemoth’s underground credibility? Sometimes, just becoming popular by itself is enough to alienate some fans. Combine it with Behemoth’s relentless touring, and some will be turned off no matter what. While this might be true, it would be dishonest to suggest that a song like “God=Dog” is not thematically consistent with what Behemoth has always been about.

“God=Dog” builds using the elements fans have become accustomed to from Behemoth. Heavy on the low end, the battery of Inferno and the four-string rumble of Orion underpinning Nergal’s growl. Right on time comes the drawn out chorus. They have been building their songs in this manner for a while and it is something they do quite naturally; a beat hard enough to crumble a building beneath a hummable verse. In their latest album, Swedish Black Metallers Marduk incorporated a children’s chorus of voices into one of their songs. Behemoth are doing it here. Will this spawn a new micro-trend in Black Metal? The perceived purity and innocence in the voice of children interspersed with the hoarse, spat blasphemy of these tunes certainly grabs the attention of the listener.

The middle of I Loved You At Your Darkest offers up some interesting tracks. “Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica” sees the Polish trio entering slightly new territory. Mid-paced and burly, the song features a choral arrangement that gives it an uplifting feel. This is interesting because much of the material Darski has written over the years was bursting at the seams with a sort of triumphant glare, couched always in his over-the-top vocal attack. Buried, some might say, in the general racket. Now, with arrangements like this one abounding on the album, Behemoth has given voice to this feeling beyond the bounds of their traditional sound.

Fans who have followed the creative journeys of acts such as Rotting Christ, Moonspell, Dimmu Borgir, and even Therion will accept these elements far more readily than those who prefer their odes to the horned one filthy and spontaneous. The cleanly sung ‘Come to me Bartzabel’ line in “Bartzabel” gets under the skin, as Behemoth injects some sophisticated atmosphere into the tune. While it closes with a great solo, the lack of nuance in Darski’s voice in the verses very subtly detracts from the overall effect of what is an otherwise interesting tune.

The back half of the album has a couple of storming tracks amid some song ideas that wind up lacking a bit of finish. “Sabbath Mater,” while it treads the same path as “Oro No Probis Lucifer” (2014 The Satanist) and “Chant for Eschaton,” (1999 Satanica) is that headbanger that is sort of impossible not to like. The vocal arrangement on the chorus – again that cleanly intoned group shout – works very well here.

Behemoth is definitely reaching for something on this album. It can be felt in the somber chords of “Havohej Pantocrator,” which resonates the way “O Father, O Satan, O Sun” did on 2014’s The Satanist before blast beats and a robust vocal take us elsewhere. It can be felt in the repetitive menace of “Rom 5:8” with the whispered counterpoint giving way to blast beats, then the epic middle-pace and the growl of Nergal.

Whether or not Behemoth has grasped what they are reaching for, the album gives the listener the distinct impression that the restless trio is not done morphing just yet, and most likely, there are more changes coming in the future. For now, I Loved You At Your Darkest stands on solid, if not spectacular, ground. That is why gives this album 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase I Loved You At Your Darkest:

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