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For those that have been keeping up to date with the ever-evolving nuances of black metal, I Loved You At Your Darkest could be the album that propels Adam Darski AKA Nergal (vocals, guitar) further into the spotlight as the genres preeminent front man, or it could be the album that consolidates Behemoth as one of heavy metals ultimate statements of intent in the post streaming era. Maybe it will achieve both…
Darski and Behemoth usurped Cradle of Filth’s ascendancy as the blackened metal band most likely to gain the ears of a mainstream metal listener many moons ago. Zos Kia Cultus (Here and Beyond) (’02) was often purchased by the same fan who found much to like about Opeth’s commercial breakthrough, Blackwater Park (’01). Since that episode that Darski has found fame and positive critical response… tinkering with the Behemoth sound and evolving it to include layers of progressive elements against a bruising, tremolo picked metal assault.
That balance that has been expertly fine-tuned across I Loved You At Your Darkest. Classic rock and Bauhaus style goth rock creep further into the musical narrative. What fans make of that remains to be seen, however one thing is for certain… this is Behemoth at their most listenable and will likely expand on the band’s audience amongst casual fans of extreme metal, the fans that likely spin Metallica, post millennial Slayer, Machine Head, Slipknot and other arena gargantuans.
Why bands bother with moody introductions is still beyond the reviewer. “Solve (Intro)” serves to annoy more than set the scene, skipping past its two minutes of waffle to “Wolves Ov Siberia”, Darski’s signature rasp kicks in quickly against the excellent percussive groove of Zbigniew Robert Promiński AKA Inferno. This isn’t Behemoth by numbers, however it has a familiar cadence that fans of the band will appreciate… as the first real cut on the album it is an excellent opening. “God = Dog” has been out for a while, masculine and full of bile toward religious institutions, the cut peaks during the melodic break at 1:21, the guitar solos that start at 3:09 introduce the listener to a familiar theme throughout the album; the improved soloing of Darski that references too-many-mention classic metal shredders.
“Angelvs XIII”, “Sabbath Mater”, “Rom 5 8” and “We Are The Next 1000 Years” will sate old fans. They also keep the album cohesive and reference much of the bands past material. All feature solid guitar solos, blitzkrieg percussive passages and pleasing arrangements. It’s appropriate that as Darski’s song writing evolves he retains the DNA of the music that has inspired a legion of fans to relate to Behemoth.
On “Ecclesia Eiabolica Catholica”, the solo that starts at 2:16 deserved to be expanded upon, fans might not be ready for Darski to enter guitar hero territory, yet it’s one avenue the band should explore more frequently. At their core, Behemoth are a damn fine hard rock outfit who ooze charisma. Tastefully constructed guitar solos are a winner as far as many fans are concerned so the band should consider incorporating more of the element into their sound.
“Bartzabel” is the cut that hints at where Behemoth could be headed beyond I Loved You At Your Darkest. Mid-paced, full of introspection and an atmosphere mirroring Bauhaus’s classic album In The Flat Field (’80), choral chants litter the sparse arrangement that opens up to a choice harmonic guitar break that starts at 3:56.
It is too early in Behemoths evolution to include more cuts that sound like “Bartzabel”, yet it points to a glorious future should Darski hone his writing around this cut. The reason it works so well? Keeping identifiable elements of the Behemoth sound within a rock’n’goth themed framework.
I Loved You At Your Darkest is a lesson in how to please existing fans and keep things entertaining enough to entice a new audience.
I Loved You At Your Darkest is out through Nuclear Blast on 6th October 2018.
Purchase the album here.