Behemoth kicked off their five-date UK tour in support of monstrous opus The Satanist at London’s HMV Forum tonight.
Winterfylleth, considered to be one of the UK’s best extreme metal acts in recent years, opened up the night. Unfortunately I missed the majority of their set, so only managed to hear a couple of songs – but what I did hear of their set gave substance to these claims. What I caught of the band’s set seemed to be mostly in support of new album The Divination of Antiquity, released in October via Candlelight Records. Winterfylleth have a talent for creating intense atmospheric vibes with their music, and this translates spectacularly well to the live performance environment.
Unfortunately, I also missed the first half of Grand Magus‘ set, but that wasn’t such a kick in the teeth. As it was my first time hearing the band, I was unfamiliar with their music, though what I heard didn’t particularly take hold of me enough to create a lasting impression. They weren’t by any means bad, their music just didn’t involve anything outstanding which caught my attention.
To promote new album Blood Mantra, which was released in September, Decapitated delivered an intense set of their unique brand of uncompromising technical death metal. As a casual listener to Decapitated, I’m not particularly familiar with their back catalogue – though having seen them before as a support for Lamb Of God, the band are definitely impressive. It’s clear why they’re regarded to be one of the most innovative and widely respected bands within the genre.
Behemoth‘s set, unsurprisingly, was heavily comprised of tracks from The Satanist – though it also included a few throwbacks into the earlier works of their discography in the form of tracks such as “Ov Fire and The Void” and “Christians To The Lions”. Behemoth work incredibly well together on stage, with their live performances reaching an exceptionally high calibre – just as their studio recordings do. Ranging from the sheer brutality and speed of Nergal and Seth’s joint guitar work, to Inferno’s immaculate drumming at inhuman tempos – as well as Nergal’s violent chants to Satan, which have a haunting quality to them – with all of these aspects of their music combined, Behemoth create a truly dark and mesmerising ambience in the live setting. Opening with “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel”, one of a handful of tracks from The Satanist which have become immensely popular, Behemoth unleashed a torrent of their world renowned hybrid of black and death metal. Followed by “Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer”, another fan favourite, the band powered through track after track with unrelenting vigour. Returning for an encore to conclude the performance with the epic “O Father O Satan O Sun!”, all four members of Behemoth reappeared on the stage with their faces drenched in blood – and towards the end of the track, clad with the infamous black, demonic masks from the music video for “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel”. The only slight critique I had with Behemoth‘s set is that Orion’s bass was considerably indistinct within the mix, so some of his more intricate moments which enhance the music were squandered.
Released in February, The Satanist has been named by many (including Metal Hammer) as the best heavy metal/rock album in 2014, and in my opinion, deservedly so.
No other album I’ve heard this year has had such a profound or long-lasting impact on me, nor paralleled the soaring new heights Behemoth have accomplished in terms of musical prowess and composition. From the very first note of the instantly recognisable opening riff to “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” right through to the closing horn section decrescendo of “O Father O Satan O Sun!”, not a single note played on the record is unnecessary or superfluous. Every track is masterfully composed and arranged, from the brutal, punishing riffs, down to every last subtle nuance of the orchestrated string and horn sections. There’s not one single ‘filler’ track throughout the entire record – The Satanist is a phenomenally dark, expressive and genuine work of art – an enthralling listening experience which captivates you from the first note to the last.