Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Behemoth- Satanica

One strange assumption made by underground bands (in all genres) is that there is a continuum of "catchiness" or "accessibility" along which they have intentionally situated themselves. A band imagines that, because they are playing Brutal Death Metal, they are closing off the "obvious" and friendly melodies that they (naturally) would be writing, if they were, say, a pop-punk band.

Nothing could be further from the truth. You see this by the boring and pedestrian albums that a band makes whenever they try to "sell out"-- surprise, surprise, they aren't as good as The Beatles, and they can write riffs which are only *so* good.

Behemoth play a very commercial, unintimidating, well-produced, image-conscious style of death metal. But despite the "obvious" pandering nature and (relative!) accessibility of this style... despite what should make this music user-friendly and "arena-sized"... despite all this, I find Behemoth to be quite forgettable and not big enough. I suspect that the calculation which led them to play in *this* style at the same time hinders the song-writing from the natural ebullience of creativity which produced, say, Metallica's Ride the Lightning, Judas Priest's Sad Wings of Destiny, or Graveland's Thousand Swords.

It may seem that I am saying the boring thing, "This lacks soul because it is so calculating." But it is rather that the calculation undoes itself... What is supposed to be huge is rather never as absurdly catchy and over-the-top as a less self-conscious band (say, Sacramentum). If this were completely "manufactured" and was still outsized and cartoonish, like the Ulver album Nattens Madrigal, I would be happier. Instead, Behemoth stop short--they make tepid, pleasant music that is neither goofy enough to be fun, nor uncompromising enough to be creative/interesting.

All that being said, there are some good riffs on this album, which is an astonishingly short 35 minutes. But because it is neither challenging nor a rockin' good time, you do not find yourself necessarily wanting more.

Score: 3.5/5 (*** 1/2)
Best songs: "Ceremony of Shiva," "Lam"

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