Like you don’t know who Behemoth is. What, you’re here because you thought this was a science blog? Okay, sorry…
Behemoth is a 4-piece death metal coven from Poland. They’ve been around forever. The band was formed in 1991, back when I was screwing around in my first band playing crappy rip-offs of Celtic Frost and Slayer. Of course, that’s probably what Nergal was doing too, at the time, but hey, it worked for him, and I ended up as a scruffy scientist. Go figure.
Behemoth exuded a number of solid necro-strength black metal records in the 90’s and then graduated to fancy studio-quality death metal in the aughties, resulting in American tours and substantial financial success. I saw them at some point around 2004 (the Demigod tour, I believe) at the Masquerade in Atlanta. My recollection is that they had very creepy Polynesian masks or something. It was definitely their image that stuck with me more than their music. Behemoth definitely has a unique, and unignorable, fashion sense:
Their latest album, The Satanist, is definitely worth a listen or 5. It’s got all the elements that make me seethe with pleasant hatred. It alternates between head-bobbing moshy bits and blast-beating air-drumming sections — check out the dynamic range between tracks 4 (“Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer”, the best single track on the record), 5, and 6. It’s got a bunch of those 8va wheedly-wheedly riffs that cut through the bassy chaos like the screams of pitchforked sinners. There are some great hooks on this record, bits that will stick in your head and have you singing lyrics like
over and over around your unsuspecting work friends. The drums are distinct but not too triggery — the individual toms are distinguishable from time to time, and you can even hear what appear to be actual cymbals here and there. And there are synths that are cleverly and effectively worked into the music, adding atmosphere and depth. For instance, there are “horns” in track 6 — the title track, “The Satanist” — that sound quite solid. The obvious comparison is the horns in Emperor’s “Alsvartr” — an otherwise spectacular track, but when the horns pop in, first-time listeners have a tendency to sit up and say “What the fuck is that shit?” No, Behemoths’ horns work, and the synths return in the epic final track “O Father O Satan O Sun” to produce a many-layered, vocoded choir praising the Adversary. It works. Hail Satan, dude.
You can’t talk about Behemoth without talking about Nergal, the vocalist/lead guitarist. He’s the only permanent member, and based on the liner notes he literally wrote everything on this record, lyrics and music. Never mind that he was incapacitated for a year or so by a well-publicized bout of leukemia. I suppose he’s a very motivated guy, and he’s certainly open to voicing his opinions. But as I look at the lyrics, and the art, and everything about Nergal’s band, I find myself asking, “What does this guy actually believe?”
First, I’ve got to give him credit for writing lyrics in reasonably well-assembled English. That’s a rarity even amongst English-as-a-first-language death metal bands.
But where is he going with some of this stuff? I get it that Behemoth is all about “the occult” whatever that means. Sort of moving backwards from the rest of the metal world, they’ve moved from Heathen-inspired themes in their old work to “Satanic” themes on their later records. Sometimes I look at Nergal’s stuff and I wonder if he’s serious, or if he’s subtly making fun of people like me. There’s a lot of Bible-inspired antichristian crap in there, all swallowed up with fancy words to make it seem more high-brow than “Hell Awaits“. There’s also a lot of occulty buzzwords that pop up — “Zos Kia” and “Thelema” and all that. There’s a lot of penis imagery and solar ideolatry — not sure whether David Wong or Louis Farrakhan is a stronger influence for some of these ideas, but hey, if you’re going to start a cult, might as well do it with swastikas and giant dongs.
So who is “The Satanist” in this record? If I give up my idea that I’m being made fun of by Nergal, I might believe that he sees the image of Satan as I do — the “Adversary” of, well, whatever. In Heathen philosophy, this entity would be the embodiment of the “utangard“, the lawless realms outside of society. In this incarnation, Satan is the “God of the Middle Finger”, the eternal fly in the ointment, and the Reason We Can’t Have Nice Things. Here’s a great line from the title track:
I am the fly that flew forth from the ark
Yeah, cause the Noah myth is all in the news now, with big Russell Crowe biceps and all. Jehovah’s awesome genocidal plan to fix the world was screwed from the beginning, because all the corruption of reality followed along with whatever life “He” sought to preserve. Decay and horror and conflict are inevitable products of natural systems.
So that urge to say “No, you are fucking wrong” is the embodiment of Satanism. Scientists, every time you peer-review your colleagues’ work and say, “This is total shit,” you are doing the work of the Devil. You ought to say, “Oh, we’re all the same, I feel your pain, it’s hard to get a job, here’s a publication, I hope things work out for you.” But instead you say, “Your ANOVA was calculated wrong. Go back to grad school, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.” SATAN.
Really, guys. Quit trying to cozy up to the christers and play nice, like you’d be on their side but for the evolution thing. No, there’s an insuperable void separating us. We scientists aren’t just doing Satan’s work, our whole system is the living embodiment of Satanism, and in fact only works because of our absolute philosophical devotion to Satan and his ideals. \m/
Moving on: all in all, this is my favorite Behemoth record so far. All their earlier albums have toyed with ideas and musical motifs that had the sort of suggestion that sort of maybe they would be awesome at some point in the future, but on The Satanist those elements are finally starting to come together. Behemoth isn’t going to become my favorite band any time soon, but this is a strong album and further cements their position in the canon of extreme metal.
*** I can’t comment on The Satanist‘s packaging because my CD got lost in the mail. Fortunately, I was able to download it thanks to Amazon’s cloud player service. But still, the shoddy delivery service we get from UPS etc. makes my mission of lauding physical music substantially more difficult.