"I Loved You at Your Darkest"

By El Chief

Let's get this out of the way, Behemoth's "I Loved You at Your Darkest" is not "The Satanist, Part II." Despite how you feel about change, Nergal, Orion, Infernal and Seth understand that creating a sequel would feel hollow. Instead of going through the motions in the form of a fan pleaser, the Polish quartet has unleashed upon the world their most ambitious album to date.

In retrospect, the use of instrumentation and choir-effects on "The Satanist" now feels like a warm-up to the onslaught of orchestration unfurled in the beginning frames of "ILYAYD." By now, most of the world has gotten used to the left-of-center stylings of the ridiculously named "God = Dog." From the opening track through "Bartzabel," Behemoth slathers a huge dose of horns, violins, strings, and even kids (!) both on top of and under the mix. Sometimes, it's a little much. Especially when you just want to hear the interplay between Nergal, Orion and Seth.

But, just when you think that Behemoth is trying to pull off a more diabolical version of math metal mixed with prog rock, "If Crucifixion Was Not Enough" shows the lads returning to the devil-slay-all approach most familiar to the group's rabid fan base. And while I eagerly anticipate getting used to the record's more artsy front half, I instantly adore the straight-ahead shredding of the back half.

Few bands can boast of having one album of the year, and even fewer can say they have two such albums in their repertoire. But that's what Behemoth has in both "The Satanist" and "I Loved You at Your Darkest." That's why they will be long remembered as metal's standard bearers of the twenty-first century.