So here’s the quick take if you want to spare yourself any extra time reading about an album you should neither be excited about, nor purchase: Behemoth, arguably for the first time in its entire career, phoned in what is essentially a Walmart version of Aosoth on training wheels, and slapped a silly name on it as a marketing tactic to lure in teenagers still angry at their parents for making them go to church. If you want the in-depth analysis, by all means continue reading.
You know those moments when the people in life whom you love and respect give you the whole, “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed” spiel? That is exactly the feeling fans are going to have after the letdown that is I Loved You at Your Darkest fully sinks in. While it’s true that not all of Behemoth’s 10 previous full-lengths have knocked listeners off their feet, most of them have played an essential role in taking Poland’s most popular black metal outfit to heights no other extreme band in the entirety of Eastern Europe has ever experienced. Most recently, the deservedly popular and now four-year-old album The Satanist re-captured plenty of older fans who saw it as an invigorating return to form after the stagnation of The Apostasy and Evangelion. The Satanist was packed to the brim with the same types of riffs that made the original Nergal/Baal era shine so brightly in the eyes of the underground, but with the energy and enthusiasm that Inferno brought to the table during the band’s most classic run of albums in the early aughties.
When Behemoth’s completist fans argue over which of the band’s albums reigns supreme, it’s generally one of the three consecutive albums that hit the sweet spot of firmament-tearing riffs and a destructive blitzkrieg of drumming that set the standard for blackened death metal, namely Satanica, Thelema.6, and Zos Kia Cultus. Demigod, although popular at the time of its release, started a transition of form over function that may have excited fans due to overblown production and pomp, but would not go on to age very well, something that was even more apparent on the two albums that followed.
It’s a general rule, even in extreme metal, that once band members can sustain a nice living churning out album after album with little-to-no effort, not much is done to push musical boundaries ever again. That’s not to say living on the road is by any means an easy thing to do, but why ruin a good thing when it’s not broken? That’s what side projects are for. Well the defiance of this attitude, quite frankly, is what made The Satanist so goddamned exciting. In terms of accessibility, Nergal would have been better off sticking to the same formula that sold so many copies of The Apostasy and Evangelion, but he took a risk, and going with his gut apparently paid off. Well, that wave is exactly what Nergal, Inferno, and Orion were counting on riding when they phoned in this piece of shit, folks, because I Loved You at Your Darkest is a giant, riffless turd that you’re going to have to flush more than once to remove from your memory.
– I Loved You at Your Darkest will hereby be given a new name for the sake of brevity: I<3’dU@URdarkest –
First, let’s talk about aesthetic, since that is the only thing that’s going to sell I<3’dU@URdarkest. The album starts out with a choir of children singing about the same type of sacrilegious jargon Behemoth has been using since Satanica, but it’s not backed up by any actual music. The same children’s chorus is repeated on “God = Dog,” one of three tracks that received a music video before the album was even released. One of the most unfortunate things about the album is that it shares the brilliant, stripped-down-but-still-crisp production of The Satanist, but there are no riffs to accompany the production. It isn’t until I<3’dU@URdarkest‘s fifth track, “Bartzabel,” that the illusion that this album could possibly be worth a shit falls flat on its face. The songwriting displayed here is drastically formulaic, and is the laziest attempt to piece notes together that Nergal has put forth over the 27 years that Behemoth has been a band. One could get more riffs out of a lone tumbleweed waddling through the wastelands of Western Texas. Well, at least there’s still Inferno. Right? Right?!
Around the time of Zos Kia Cultus and Demigod, Inferno was a shoo-in on any list when it came to naming the best drummers in metal. Consequently, this was right around the time that his founding band Azarath put forth its sophomore effort, Infernal Blasting, an album that would give any Behemoth release a solid run for its money. Although Inferno’s relevance as a drummer has waned, his live performances on tour are more than proof that the dude can still hold his own behind a kit, which is why he may have used only one hand for the studio recording of I<3’dU@URdarkest. Hell, even by Polish standards, younger drummers such as Darkside (Kriegsmaschine, Mgła) and Namtar (Furia, FDS) wipe their asses with toilet paper stronger than the fills and cymbal work on this album, and that doesn’t even begin to describe how thoroughly boring Inferno sounds for all 46 minutes of I<3’dU@URdarkest.
The bottom line is that it’s perfectly understandable for bands to be distracted in the off season. To continue the sports metaphor, when a team wins the championship, its players are distracted with so many things, whether it be internal vices such as pride or arrogance, or external obligations such as commercials, photo shoots, and endorsements that make it so much harder to focus on next season. In 2014, Behemoth might as well have won the championship, and since then has released one EP, three compilations, and three live albums all on top of touring considerably. It’s no wonder the band is trying to bullshit its way into hitting those sales margins again, and it probably can with the amount of market share it has captured in the last four years. But for fuck’s sake, y’all, do something better with the amount of power and attention you now have. In the amount of time it took to shoot all three ridiculous videos for I<3’dU@URdarkest, teenage Nergal could have riffed circles around whatever hollow shells of artists are on display here. Meanwhile, a hologram version of Inferno from 15 years ago would be more interesting to watch than whatever autopilot mode he seems to be in now.
Of all the releases Behemoth has ever brought to the drawing board, this one contains the highest level of material that should have been scrapped and sent to the junkyard. It is complete and utter bullshit that the band would put its well-earned reputation on the line just to ride its recent wave of popularity in both the underground and in the mainstream metal community. Sure, people with no musical backbone might pretend I<3’dU@URdarkest excites them, but even the most shallow of all metalheads will end up being astonished at the amount of dust this will collect on their shelves even if they do try and tout it as one of their favorites of the year. Next time, Behemoth, try at least pretending you give a shit.