“Elohim! – I shall not forgive!
Adonai! – I shall not forgive!
Living God! – I shall not forgive!
Jesus Christ! – I forgive thee not!”
A choir of children deliver the above which can only mean one thing – Nergal and the Behemoth boys are back with a brand new release. There is a huge amount on this record as it follows up 2014’s flawless The Satanist. Make no mistake, that record deserved every plaudit, every album of the year award, and the huge amount of touring the band did for it, which included a stretch of dates where The Satanist was played in its entirety. All that has made I Loved You at Your Darkest arguably the most anticipated record in Metal this year. I, along with legions of Behemoth devotees were desperate to see if they can deliver something as mind blowing as The Satanist.
Well, Behemoth have, I assure you. HOWEVER, I Loved You at Your Darkest is a hard listen, really fucking hard. Play it once, and you might be a bit confused at your feelings towards the album, and like me, unable to decide if you like it or not. Play I Loved You at Your Darkest again, and then you will hear more of what is unusual about it. Play I Loved You at Your Darkest again, and you notice what is familiar about the album. Play I Loved You at Your Darkest again, and you understand how brilliantly put together everything unusual and familiar works together to create the whole. Any plays after that will then allow you to get to know the songs fully, and begin to form thoughts you can actually articulate to others.
There are two main things I want to see if people take away from I Loved You at Your Darkest. First, Nergal has managed to do what is extremely rare and seemingly hard to achieve, which is with this record placed Behemoth in that rather exclusive pantheon where an album is so unique that it is almost genre-less. Seriously, I Loved You at Your Darkest is its own entity. OK, I know this is a Metal record, and I don’t really see fans of David Guetta rushing to add it to their playlist. Still, I Loved You at Your Darkest is truly unlike anything I have heard.
Secondly, Behemoth have always been able to do what many extreme Metal bands fail to do for an entire record, which is create a true feeling of menace and horror. Not for gratuitous purposes, but for provoking thought and creating a back drop to the lyrics. Nergal is pretty much untouchable in both his style of writing, and on how knowledgeable he is on both the beliefs and practices of the Abrahamic religions he so despises, as well as the free thinking and considered “evil”, but actually spiritually liberated and enlightened visionaries he admires such as Crowley.
The music here as the above mentioned back drop is probably as simple as Behemoth has put their name to since their very early, and rather primitive black metal days in the nineties. Nonetheless, it’s not a regression. Everything is for the mood and illustration of the message. There are many passages where chords are picked and notes cascade on us like rain rather than us being bludgeoned. The drums are left to do much of the heavy lifting, often blasting over some of the most melodic compositions the band has, and probably will ever create. This dichotomy of styles combines to create the sound of Behemoth. Guitars are used less to impress, although there are solos, they’re nowhere near the shred that they often employ. They are more legato, and again, serving the purpose of backing the message!
Nergal’s voice has never sounded better, which is a relief after the huge amount of abuse it undoubtedly took touring almost non-stop for the last four years. Of course, you can care for a voice, but it is still a body part and it is fragile. Nevertheless, he spits, snarls, croons, groans, and screams bloody murder with devastating effect.
In summation, I Loved You at Your Darkest is a beautiful contradiction. Simple, yet complex. Open yet, layered. Celebratory, yet dark. Dangerous, yet welcoming. The level of conflict within the music, whether premeditated or not, is at a perfect balance that if tipped one way or the other, might have resulted in something completely different. I Loved You at Your Darkest is art that mirrors Behemoth and their inspirations. This is a new chapter for the spiritually awakened.