EPs are a staple in independent and underground music. Be it as a way to showcase rarities and B-sides, a bridge between albums, a way to experiment and show a new direction, or any combination of the three. However, short plays rarely have the ability to make a major impact on a band’s catalog without having a major shift or gem of a track on the release. Enter Behemoth’s A Forest.
Now, I haven’t actively listened to Behemoth since 2004’s Demigod as their style of blackened death never really resonated with me, but I was eager to see what kind of growth has occurred within the band over the past decade and a half and dove right in before reading the press release. The studio version of the title track scratched that itch quite well with it’s stronger focus on ambience and mood rather than the blackened death “Ahhh, Satan!” vibe I originally anticipated. Initially, my only complaint could be that guest Niklas Kvarforth of Shining’s vocals just upped the ante on the “blackened” aspect of their sound rather than being able to improve and lift the song higher. As it continued, it began to sound more and more familiar until I realized this wasn’t an original song displaying their growth, but rather a cover of The Cure.
In frontman Nergal’s own words, “Covering music outside of metal is a challenge – covering legendary music is an even greater challenge” which is an admirable challenge, one that I believe they met well musically but unfortunately fell flat vocally. But a single cover song does not make a full EP worthwhile, so to flesh it out, they included a live version of the cover recorded in Warsaw, Poland along with two new original tracks. Live recordings are very hit or miss based on quality of the recording or musicianship, the material itself, and the general feel of the track. Unfortunately, this is a hard miss for me. The recording quality and musicianship is good, but it lacks the depth, heart, and seriousness of the studio recording, what with the cries of “Fuck you!”, “For the fucking devil!” and “Come on you pussies!” directed at the crowd.
The two new originals, “Shadows Ov Ea Cast Upon Golgotha” and “Evoe”, fit with what my original expectations were; straight forward blackened death with a focus on grim lyrics. Although the band has significantly grown in recording quality, tightness of the writing, and Nergal’s vocals being more discerning than in the past, they seem just like B-sides from 2018’s I Loved You At Your Darkest rather than an indication of what’s to come. This does not mean that they are bad songs, “Shadows” has some interesting playfulness in effects on vocal harmonies and “Evoe” is one of the catchiest songs I’ve heard from this style in a long while. But the original output isn’t groundbreaking or catchy enough to make this EP a necessity to anyone but an avid fan.
Written by Ted Berger
*Edited by Dominic Abate