Behemoth, the metal project of Polish vocalist and guitarist Adam "Nergal" Darski, recorded four demos of amateurish Norwegian-style black metal, notably
From the Pagan Vastlands (1994), before their official debut album
Sventevith/ Storming Near the Baltic (1995). By then Behemoth had been
pared down to the duo of Negal (guitar, bass, high-pitched vocals) and drummer Adam “Baal Ravenlock” Muaraszko. The occasional keyboards and folkish interludes
compensate for the frequent blast-beats. The
bombast of Transylvanian Forest stands out but it's a minor work.
The pagan concept Grom (1996) featured female vocals, acoustic guitars and even synthesizers, but mostly it sounded equally derivative and mediocre,
despite a few interesting moments in The Dark Forest.
There is little to salvage on
Pandemonic Incantations (1998), perhaps
the riff of The Past Is Like a Funeral.
It's a transitional album that doesn't even seem to have been carefully
designed and assembled.
They embraced death-metal on Satanica (1999), recorded by a new trio with guitarist Leszek "L-Kaos" Dziegielewski and drummer Zbigniew "Inferno" Prominski, and with Nergal now indulging in stereotypical growling vocals.
The album also marks a quantum leap in quality, especially a
more technical guitar playing
(notably in The Sermon to the Hypocrites and in melodic standout
Chant for Eschaton 2000)
The impetus is unrelenting, as per death-metal's dogma, from the
carpet-bombing noise of Decade of Therion to the
vicious ripper Of Sephirotic Transformation and Carnality
via the infernal gallop of LAM.
Thelema.6 (2000) was a far less devastating venture into death-metal,
almost a retreat from the peaks of Satanica. It opens with the
a bombastic and cinematic mid-tempo song, Antichristian Phenomenon,
stumbles into the weird dynamics of
Natural Born Philosopher,
and indulges in the demonic singalong Inauguration Of Scorpio Dome.
The vitriol in the
decent and diligent Inflamed With Rage and Christians To The Lions
is just about enough to justify their death-metal credentials,
but the album also has some embarrassing slips into banality.
The highlight is certainly the drumming.
Their death-metal became more technical on Zos Kia Cultus (2002), thanks again mainly to the drummer.
The super-heavy As Above So Below
and Harlot Ov The Saints
compensate for the lame gallop of Horns Ov Baphometh.
Meanwhile, the satanic singalongs Modern Iconoclasts and Blackest Ov The Black
alleviate the claustrophobia of
the brainy and technical Zos Kia Cultus (the album's standout).
Demigod (2004) was their best imitation of
Nile, or at least their most violent and overblown yet.
The sheer shockwaves of Demigod,
the epic riffs of Conquer All (reminiscent of Anthrax's Be All End All),
the grandiloquent fiendish march of The Nephilim Rising,
and the gory frenzy of Slaves Shall Serve
matched anything in the annals of death-metal.
However, what stood out was also
the intricate guitar melodies of Towards Babylon
and countless moments when the music seems to collide against icebergs.
The formulaic The Apostasy (2007), both less brutal and less melodic than its predecessor, leans too often on the side of
bombast for the sake of bombast and frenzy for the sake of frenzy.
Not Nergal's best recording session:
both the singing and the guitar playing feel mediocre.
Slaying the Prophets ov Isa and especially Kriegsphilosophie do their job, but for most of the album the performance just doesn't seem too enthusiastic.
Evangelion (2009) focused more on melody, particularly
in the mid-tempo Ov Fire and the Void, which was almost a return to their black-metal roots, and in the eight-minute closer
Lucifer, another slower song,
while the exhilarating violence of Shemhamforash and
the apocalyptic Nile-esque He Who Breeds Pestilence are the exceptions here.
After a five-year hiatus due to Nergal's illness and recovery,
the concept The Satanist (2014), recorded by the quartet of Nergal, Inferno,
guitarist Patryk "Seth" Sztyber and bassist Tomasz "Orion" Wroblewski,
and slickly over-produced even by their standards,
ranked as their most accessible album yet, with
a less abrasive synthesis of black-metal and death-metal traditions.
Their polished black-death hybrid has further evolved, and several songs show
that the result is multi-faceted:
the stately gothic Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel,
the ceremonial Gojira-esque hymn of The Satanist (the catchiest refrain),
Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer, which is almost a grotesque cow-punk square dance,
and the theatrical closing invocation O Farther O Satan O Sun, which
incorporates operatic elements of the Broadway musical.
Overall, the album strives for a balance of crushing and melodic elements.
The blistering Amen is the one song that escapes that mission,
but most of the album is designed to be their most hummable.
Nergal also formed a duo with John Porter named Me and That Man, which debuted
Songs of Love and Death (2017), clearly inspired by
Nick Cave and country music.
They later released
New Man, New Songs, Same Shit, Vol.1
New Man, New Songs, Same Shit, Vol. 2
I Loved You at Your Darkest (2018), an anti-Catholic concept, incorporated
choral and orchestral arrangements. Most of it is pretentious
(the up and down dynamics of the single God=Dog, borrowed from prog-rock and post-rock) and rarely as
catchy as it strives to be (Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica has the least obnovious of the refrains). The album is saved by
Angelvs XIII and especially Havohej Pantocrator.
Opvs Contra Natvram (2022) contains all the sensational elements of their music but little of the musical skills that made them tolerable.
The melodies of songs like The Deathless Sun are borrowed from ancient