posted on 8/2009 By:
There are few death metal acts who inspire debate as much as Behemoth these days, and I honestly have no idea how they’ve managed to arouse such controversy. Have they really done anything terribly wrong? Some have said their preoccupation with putting forth the most intense sounds imaginable has lessened the actual brutality of their songs, and I’d have to say it’s a good point to recognize. Evangelion, as one of the highest-profile albums released in this mammoth metal year, is a sly, devious expression for Behemoth. In contrast to their steady upward climb through the underground metal ranks, their newest release is a wholly fierce listen that seems to entice two very differing reactions; people have either become frustrated with their relentless death metal direction, or they’re highly impressed that this Polish powerhouse shows no sign of easing their attack in the slightest.
As for my take on the matter, I think both sides are pretty damn valid.
What Goes Right: for the uninitiated, Evangelion will easily rip you a new one courtesy of each of the musicians that comprise Behemoth. Of course, Inferno is arguably the star of the show, and continues to be one of the greatest drummers in the current extreme metal scene by putting on another absolutely stellar performance. As if his work in Azarath isn’t devastating enough (as concretely proven by the smokin’ hot Praise The Beast), his versatile precision, tasteful enhancements, and unyielding power are at times quite jaw-dropping throughout this album. Additionally, Nergal has taken a slight step back into a drier, more natural vocal as opposed to the layered overdrive of The Apostasy, and Demigod. This matte delivery helps immensely when it comes to complimenting the actual music, and it makes their overall, less processed sound come across as much more focused. You won’t hear a vast bevy of acoustic guitars, clean lead guest vocals, or sparse interludes, and with the exceptions of the atmospheric “Lucifer” and “Ov Fire And The Void”, it’s pretty much one high-octane, textured blastfest after another. They’re just as violent as they’ve ever been, and have become masters of synergy in ways lesser bands will never come close to achieving.
“Transmigrating Beyond Realms Ov Amenti” is possibly the most vicious tune they’ve put forth this time around, integrating just the barest bit of sinuous black metal before stabbing into the muscular belly of varied blasts, and scathing, wrist-snapping tremolo. To my ear, Behemoth are also pulling back with the Nile influence, with those exotic emanations coming out mostly through “Shemhamforash” more than anywhere else on the disc, a tune that also features the most parched vocal delivery from Nergal. Another plus is the fact that they never stop moving, as Seth and Nergal wind humming riffs around each other in inseparable tandem, while Orion and Inferno lock down the rhythm section with deft dexterity, and endless waves of pulsing bottom end.
More than anything, the personality of the band is evident on Evangelion. In a strange way, there’s a lot of heart and soul to be heard when they let the music breathe by holding back on over-singing the lines, and over-playing the riffs, most notably on the operatic, and strongly Hate Eternal-sounding “He Who Breeds Pestilence”. I’ll even go so far as to directly compare this album to Of Fury And Flames in regards to the overall feel; it sounds passionate. It sounds like it took heartfelt effort instead of simple force and rage alone, but at the same time refraining from treading into overdone, hokey self-consumption. It brings on an almost physical reaction rather than just an aural sensation, and that’s very commendable.
What Goes Wrong: Not too much, really, except maybe being too much of a good thing. There are no bad songs on this disc at all, but nothing is goosebump-inducing either. The first six songs are also more interesting than the last three, with the excellent “The Seed Ov I” capping off a nearly flawless string of bullseye strikes before things steadily just sort of come-and-go in comparison to the previous assaults. With “Lucifer”, Behemoth imitate their namesake by slowing down to a thundering crawl, marking the first time they actually manage to chill a bit and unwind into something less urgent. Again, these last three songs aren’t bad, and “Lucifer” is quite killer in parts, they just fail to match up with the rest of the album. Evangelion also doesn’t show off a ton of dimension, setting off one explosion after another designed to decimate with no mercy at all. So while there is heart, might, and thought behind everything you hear, none of it takes you by surprise by the time the fourth tune rolls around, which is where some listeners might start getting nonplussed.
In The End: Behemoth has thrown one hell of a hand grenade into the heavy metal party of 2009. They’re still not exactly the most innovative band in the world, or even Poland for that matter, but this is an album to be reckoned with. The musical performances alone are worth investigating if nothing else, but I can see why that still isn’t enough for some folks to go out of their way to purchase it, and why it would appeal more to relatively recent fans (from Demigod on), than to those who prefer their more blackened times. As this year begins to age, and the releases we already own have thoroughly settled in, Evangelion is a nice, compact fireball that is admirably doing its part to keep the bonfire of all things heavy burning strong, and help close out the decade as a whole in highly memorable fashion. I hope they never stop, but I’d still love to hear them do more with the fantastic gifts they possess.
posted on 8/2009 By:
I’ve always defended Behemoth adamantly against those that dare sneer “Mehemoth” from the depths of their flaccid souls to the roofs of their mouths, and for the most part the sneering have been kept at bay. Behemoth swelled, like the apex of a tide, at Zos Kia Cultus, arguably the band’s best and have kept their niched brutal death metal crest a-goin’ for two albums since, but eventually the wave has to come crashing down. It is ironic that Evangelion, “spreading the good news,” is the album at which the roar of nature lulls to tepid waters gliding up shores, turning no rocks, nor heads, in its wake.
The opening three numbers are incredible. Well, the opening two are, anyways. Evangelion’s poster-child track, “Ov Fire and the Void,” which has garnered considerable attention for its depiction of the band eating heavenly hosts and its subsequent banning from YouTube, is as standard a Behemoth track as ever a fan of the band has ever heard. Listen to “Ov Fire and the Void,” turn around and listen to Demigod’s title track, and you have just about the exact same thing blasting in your speakers. I can’t say the same for “Daimonos,” featuring epic chants, throttling melodies, and has a more palpable arrangement than, say, “Transmigrating Beyond Realms ov Amenti” or “Defiling Morality ov Black God,” both of which stagnate early and have no staying power. I’m sure “Transmigrating” and “Defiling” have good moments in them (I’ve only listened to the album an innumerable amount of times), but were you, dear reader, to ask me to recite a riff or verse of either song that totally kicked ass, you would be audience to silence.
Closers are particularly tricky, since Behemoth have more or less traded off the short speedy closer with the long and winding closer for the past four albums, starting with “Heru Ra Ha” and alternating with “The Reign of Shemsu-Hor.” “Christgrinding Avenue,” admittedly one of Behemoth’s better and more abrasive moments, closed out The Apostasy, and we’re left this time with “Lucifer.” May I say that “The Reign of Shemsu-Hor” made me believe Behemoth could crank out five epic tracks and release a CD that I would invariably love. “Lucifer” has made me believe otherwise. Like most of the album, “Lucifer” has no direction, no ferocity, and such passing presence that it sours my fingers to write to tell you that the first four minutes of “Lucifer” are just like the second four minutes. Those ascending triplets you hear don’t get any better with age. Nor does Evangelion on the whole.
Trust me when I say I am an enormous Behemoth fan. This probably appeals to somebody who missed out on these turn-of-the-millennium death metal titans when it was, well, the turn, but as it is, Evangelion is by no means a spreading of good news. It’s more like a spreading of a cold. A note to Nergal: get back to looking over Karl Sanders’ (or better yet, Dallas Toler-Wade’s) shoulder for some inspiration. You are loved best due in no small part to imitation.
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Zos Kia Cultus