posted on 7/2007 By:
Though Behemoth have long been darlings of both underground metalheads and their more mainstream counterparts, I never quite understood the hype around them. Though Nergal and company obviously have talent coming out their ears and have been pumping out solid black/death metal for near a decade, I have never been quite convinced that they entirely deserve their spot at the forefront of the Polish metal scene. With the constant lauding of 2004’s Demigod and multiple reports of the band’s crushing live show, I figured it was time to give these boys another go. I’m glad I did; The Apostasy has duly impressed me, though I’m not quite sure I’ll be joining Behemoth’s legion of slavering devotees any time soon.
Though Behemoth made a name for themselves first as a black metal band and then as a blackened death troupe, The Apostasy completes their gradual shift into a comparatively straightforward death metal act. Though the band has retained their Matrix/leather daddy/Pinhead from Hellraiser look and the traditional black metal lyrical preoccupation with Satan and the occult, the black metal element has largely been erased from their sound. Aside from a few spiraling, Dissection-y tremolo riffs in “Inner Sanctum” and “Christgrinding Avenue,” all but the window dressing of their black metal roots (the outfits, a few keyboards and scattered choral segments) has been purged. In their place is a controlled but icily intense selection of darkly melodic death metal riffing. Even Nergal’s vocals sound different; though the production is otherwise just as massive and lush as it was on Demigod, his vox are far less layered. Though the straightforward death metal bellow he relies on for most of the album is certainly adequate, it’s not quite as distinctive as his previous approach.
That’s okay though, because one thing The Apostasy isn’t short on is catchiness. “At the Left Hand ov God,” “Kriegsphilosophie,” and “Arcana Hereticae” are all immediate-gratification sandstorms featuring both rigidly precise drum assaults from Inferno and twisting, serpentine Eastern riffing, while the aforementioned “Inner Sanctum” (featuring a brief Warrel Dane of Nevermore guest performance) and “Christgrinding Avenue” come closest to the epic sweep of Behemoth’s earlier days. These songs generally rely on a blend of dexterous high-speed guitar salvos and dramatic, synth-flocked slowdown grooves that often feature some rather…shall we say…Ithyphallic-sounding extra instrumentation, though they generally also stay within the three-to-five minute range. This saddles Behemoth with an unusual problem: they sound like a toned-down, more accessible version of fellow Ozzfest vets and tourmates Nile. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Both bands certainly have their own merits; though Nile is definitely a more intense and uncompromising group, they lack Behemoth’s sense of hooky groove as well as their crushing live presence.
Though all but the most anti-commercial death metal fans will find something to like on The Apostasy, whether these guys deserve their massive following is still up in the air for me. Though I can’t deny the appeal of these tracks, there also seems something innately derivative about them. Maybe it’s the Nile-ish guitar work or the retreat into the well-tread realms of death metal, but Behemoth seem to me to be a band whose popularity and live spectacle have outstripped the growth of their distinctive musical voice. I know most of you will disagree with me here, but something tells me that these guys haven’t really delivered the extreme metal epic they’re capable of yet. Color me impressed, but I’m still not blown away.
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