BEHEMOTH is a band that certainly needs no introduction. Along with NILE, they have become the face of epic Death Metal, a title previously held by the vaunted MORBID ANGEL. BEHEMOTH’s last two releases, “Demigod” and “The Apostasy” were both just about universally praised, jettisoning the Polish band into the Metal limelight. Now two years after “The Apostasy”, BEHEMOTH has returned with their latest offering, “Evangelion”, which just so happens to be a bit of a positive step backwards.
By a “positive step backwards” I do not mean regression. Rather “Evangelion” is great example of addition by subtraction, whereas BEHEMOTH toned down some of the sonic excesses to create their freshest album since 2002’s “Zos Kia Cultus”. While most lauded the band’s past two albums endlessly, I felt that the overall sound and multi-layered-to-death production were a bit too much. Death Metal can be polished without being overproduced (see the previously mentioned NILE), so BEHEMOTH’s tendency on the last two albums to multi-track everything to near insane levels simply grated on my ears and took away from the generally very strong song craft. And most irritating of all were main man Nergal’s vocals, which were layered to the ‘nth degree. I prefer one vocalist at a time in my Death Metal, thank you very much, so I don’t need like 20. Thankfully, on “Evangelion”, BEHEMOTH has simplified the sound to a degree, without losing an ounce of their usual grandeur.
Sure, “Evangelion” still contains many layered parts, including Nergal’s vocals, but it’s fairly toned down this time around (it sounds like two or three vocal tracks this time). With that in mind, BEHEMOTH have unleashed their most organic and raw album in the last seven years. Now don’t get me wrong, “Evangelion” is still polished to nice sheen, but compared to the last two efforts, it’s simply a more vicious animal. All in all, it’s nice to have a new BEHEMOTH record where the production doesn’t get in the way.
On this their ninth (!) full-length release, BEHEMOTH has also incorporated an element I don’t recall having heard from them before, in the form of doom-laden riffing. While the majority of the album is still of the faster variety, fully of blasting and rapid leads, this new element allows the album to slow down in parts in a heavy as hell, sinister, brooding fashion. It’s an element I truly hope BEHEMOTH holds onto for future albums.
What’s not new on “Evangelion” is the songwriting prowess of Nergal and co. These guys simply have a great formula for composing memorable Death Metal songs, full of both technicality and straight-forward aggressiveness. And let’s not forget the lyrics. The lack of so many vocal tracks makes Nergal’s vocals easier to understand, so the lyrics shine even more than normal. Mostly spiritual/philosophical in nature, BEHEMOTH’s lyrics are very interesting to hear/read, and explanations provided with each in the form of liner notes (just like the last few albums), further help the listener to understand each song’s meaning. The only complaint with the lyrics would have to be how overused “ov” is. I mean, what’s wrong with “of” and when did “v” become so much better than “f”? I minor and childish gripe I know, but I had to throw it out there.
“Evangelion” is possibly the strongest entry in BEHEMOTH’s catalogue thus far, and for a band of BEHEMOTH’s stature, that’s no small feat. The addition by subtraction by way of a less layered sound/production has allowed the band’s songwriting and sheer epic force to shine as bright as the morning star. If you buy only one Death Metal album in 2009, “Evangelion” is a recommended one to go with.
(Online August 26, 2009)