2004, Regain Records
With a brief acoustic flourish dropping into churning guitars and blasting drums, we’re off to Behemoth Land, where Nergal sits upon a frozen throne of bone. Ah, a new Behemoth album; I’m always interested to hear what these guys are unleashing upon the unsuspecting masses! Plus, I was curious to hear what direction Nergal would take to follow up “Zos Kia Cultus”; I have to admit I hoped it would be even more crushing, and therefore, be capable of flaying my brain.
Since my brain remains unflayed after repeated listens, it may not have topped the previous effort, and is probably safe for world consumption. Still, it’s not bad at all for one of the premier exports of Polish metal. Nergal retains control through line up changes (Orion’s in, Novy’s out, but don’t fret he landed the Vader spot) and the resulting sonic cyclone spits out riffs o’ plenty, some cool bits, a well placed guest spot, chants, male chorus, and the Polish equivalent to the kitchen sink. That’s not all… you also get the by now obligatory .mpeg video of “Conquer All”, at least on the Stateside release.
Hate to throw up comparisons to the previous album, but there’s not as much groove on “Demigod”; it’s more of a straight up death metal hyperblast but with those special little twists that can only come from the mind of Nergal. The whole package is nice, the lyrics are worthy of a read, and hell, there’s even a song about Xul! Lately I’ve been seeing XUL show up on license plates all over Atlanta, and I’m convinced it’s carloads of ancient Sumerian priests driving to work…
Back to the music. Opener “Sculpting the Throne ov Seth” sets the mood, and this is a dark, pissed off, razor tipped Behemoth. The layered vocal is interesting, a strange, thick sound that comes off as muffled at low volume but sounds fine when cranked up. After a few rousing horn blasts, the title track kicks in. Some great drumming on this one, really on the whole album, as Inferno turns in yet another killer performance. “Conquer All” opens with… well I know that’s not an Anthrax vamp, probably, but it does sound like the “Be All End All” riff! Nergal’s lead on this song (2:31- 3:10) is worthy of note, melodic and not always choosing the expected route. “The Nephilim Rising” has a bit more of the groove factor, interesting lyrics, and a pleasant acoustic outro by session man Seth, who also provides solo work on several songs. There’s something morbidly angelic about “Towards Babylon”, but I can’t put my finger on it. Next up is “Before the Aeons Came”, with lyrics by Charles Swinburne (1837-1909), which is I believe the first time Swinburne has shown up in death metal. Nearing the end of the album, I realized that the groove I thought was missing is still there. It creeps up in “Mysterium Coniunctionis”, though it’s more of a steel rail than a snow plow. “Xul” of course features the guest spot by one Karl Sanders (2:22) which works fine. Plus I now have something to shout at the cars with “XUL” plates: “There is nothing but god in me!” I like the chanting that opens “Slaves Shall Serve”, which is one hell of a furious song. Whew… and that’s all before the grand closer, “The Reign ov Shemsu-Hor”, which is really one of the best songs on the album and a great way to end it.
It’s an intense listen. Props go to Nergal for not repeating the feel of the last one but giving “Demigod” its own mean-as-hell headspace to exist in. Admittedly, there’s nothing really new on here; but for a death metal album, it’s got an ice pick to the brain sort of charm.