For over 30 years, Polish legends Behemoth have reigned supreme in the versatile world of blackened death metal with their no-nonsense and unapologetically satanic attitude. An inspiration to many and devils to some, Behemoth though have always been a source of controversy. They are the raisers of Hell and masterminds behind many of extreme metals most game-changing releases.
Behemoth are simply in a league of their own, and few will come close to what they have conquered in their lengthy and slightly turbulent existence. New album Opvs Contra Natvram is yet another pandemic-conceived masterpiece and feels like a love letter written in Behemoth’s blood, sweat and tears and also serves to challenge the current worldly social shit storm with a hefty boot full of dust in its eyes.
Churning static introduces the intriguing opener “Post-God Nirvana” before gutteral throat singing and a tribalistic beat transform this into a full-fledged ceremonial ritual. It’s the soundtrack to a blood-letting and the march of lambs to the slaughter… an eerie, death-bringing declaration of return… a statement that Behemoth are back… “We worship the Devil, we hail the Beast,” “Malaria Vulgata” is the mini hellstorm encompassing all the fury of early days Behemoth packed into a two-minute acid rain cloud of chaos and anger. Fiery tremolos from the trvest of church burning fingers alight a blistering assault of scything riffs against torrential blast beats, and just like that, your face has melted.
The anthemic “Neo Spartacus” is a rebellious middle finger and foot-pounding stomp through black metal tinged hardcore. Featuring Orion’s bass-heavy pulsing rhythm and ominously energetic tremolos and double-kicks, this features throne-beast Inferno in particularly fine form. The untethered sonic theatrics of “Disinheritence” bring us crashing face-first into Behemoth at their crushing and creative best. The devilish nuances that set this sulfurous track aflame really add a sinister depth of darkness, such as the whispered/screamed “What is liberty?!” and volatile outbursts of symbol-crashing skin savagery. The icing on the cake comes in the final moments of unhinged blast beats fighting through a cacophonous orchestration of strangled violins.
The barbaric opening half of “Thy Becoming Eternal” is Behemoth at their most deranged in years as Nergal vomits-forth blasphemies over orifice-ripping guitars and sadistic blast beats, only to then melt away into an ethereal finale of spoken words and atmospherical calmness. The piano-led closing track “Versus Christus” immediately showcases the unexpected by leading us into an evocatively cinematic, soundtrack-esque journey thick with smokey, mysterious ambience. Nergal’s half-spoken and half-sung vocals grab you by the hand and deliver you into the dark world beyond. Sporodic blasts and runaway tremolos give the track a sharp, quick stab of life amongst the grand scope but slower pace of the track.
The singles offered before release are merely appetisers. Behemoth legions will still swarm to check out this album regardless of the response of those first teasers. The real meat of the new album are the wickedly evil tracks slithering in between the singles, showing that Behemoth really have saved something truly special for the albums release.
Opvs Contra Natvram is Behemoth back at their most brutal and unforgiving. The 10 new offerings are stripped back, more to-the-point and filled with a depth of detail deeper than the abyss and the blackest ov intricacies hidden within, which makes the mayhem even more darkly scintillating. The songwriting is refined and crammed full of dramatic moments, with the fat chewed off and spat in the face of doubters. Nergal is also at his most feral and ferocious, further proving he is one of, if not the best, extreme metal frontmen out there.
However brilliant they are, Behemoth are doomed to forever be judged against the work which transformed their status, in their case the 2014 magnum opus The Satanist, which seemed to hit the right spots and launched the band into their career zenith. Fortunately for Nergal and Co., they still have plenty of fire left in their arsenal. Opvs Contra Natvram certainly deserves to been seen as equally impressive and is a defiant and thoroughly deserved statement of their position in the highest of extreme metals echelons.