One is never ready for the brutality of black metal. In a distant past (about four or five years ago), when thrash and death metal were constantly blasting in my earphones, I use to think I had reached the pinnacle of darkness and heaviness. I never got into black metal in those days, but today, with my growing appreciation for music, black metal intrigues me. It’s not something I listen to every day, but the structure, history, and pure unrelenting madness of the music draws me to it. Not to mention the dark and fantasy atmosphere that comes with it. Listening to Behemoth’s I Loved You at Your Darkest gave me a chance to delve head first into the darkness of black metal.
Right from to introductory track “Solve,” it’s hard to hold back the goosebumps crawling up your back as childish voices chant “Elohim,” the Hebrew word for God. Religious iconography plays a big role in black metal and for someone like me, who is not religious but was brought up a Catholic, hearing and seeing Christianity take on such a dark turn is very appealing to my rebellious nature. Behemoth wastes no time in attacking us with their music. The second track starts us off with some blast beats from Inferno and harsh vocals from the legendary Nergal, lead vocalist and guitarist. Black metal connoisseurs might disagree with me, but I feel like this sort of extreme metal is more about the atmosphere created with the music than the actual music itself. There aren’t many riffs (like we see them clearly laid out in Black Sabbath, for example), but the chaotic harmony between all the band members does an incredible job in putting one in the mood.
Behemoth is great in putting in “soft,” harmonic moments in their music, giving us a break from the blast beats. These points in the music often serves as bridges that lead to solos, setting the tone for some very skillful playing from the part of Seth, fellow guitarist of Behemoth, and Nergal. Orion’s bass playing serves more as a cushion that supports the entire band than a lead instrument. The bass playing is not as exciting as in other genres, but it is nonetheless essential to the music and its timing with the bass drum feels like getting smacked in the face with the body of a dead goat. The production and sound quality is incredible; we are very far from their first album.
Now, after talking with some friends who listen to black metal all the time, it seems like many people actually prefer the old sound of Behemoth. Many might feel that this new “polished” and “over-produced” music isn’t true to black metal roots, but for someone who is coming from the outside, it is very appealing. Music of this quality and structure, in my opinion, is the right move for a band that wants to attract a larger audience. Metal heads are known for being conservative cry babies, who complain as soon as their favourite bands change their sound and try to appeal to a larger audience, but if you ask me, this is the way it should be. Hell, as long as musicians are doing what they want to do, then power to them!
I could have written more on each individual song, because they bring so much flavour to the album, but writing a 5-page review isn’t really a good idea. Behemoth packs some hellish heat with this new record. It’s a true testament to not only their skills as musicians, but also as producers. I highly suggest giving this album a shot, even if you are not into Black Metal. It might just be the one that pulls you into the dark pit.
Written by Johnathan Robinson
*edited by Danielle Kenedy