It's been a great year for death metal. Every time I turn around it seems I'm hearing/reviewing a new death opus, whether it be new albums from VOMITORY, NILE, MALEVOLENT CREATION, or VITAL REMAINS. With much anticipation, the Polish death metal kings (well, along with VADER) recently released "The Apostasy", yet another strong death metal release. One can debate the merits of the new long player compared to watershed release "Demigod", and I'm still not certain if "The Apostasy" tops it, but there is no question that it will make many a critic's year end list.
At just under 40 minutes, "The Apostasy" is just long enough to satisfy, although it still leaves you wanting more. The sound on this baby is massive; the riffs are unbelievably chunky and Inferno's drumming is in your face and devastatingly heavy. The team of mainstay producer Malta and mix master Daniel Bergstrand have created an all encompassing sound characterized by knockout punch heaviness with Middle Eastern, even NILE-esque, touches and atmospheric nuance. As an aside, I do prefer Nergal's vocals on the release, as I thought the layering on "Demigod" was a bit much. The vocalist/guitarist's growl is barbaric and brutal, to say the least.
Most of the tunes are compact, driving the point home with well-placed leads and a pummeling attack. In fact, clocking in at just over 5 minutes, the epic sounding "Inner Sanctum" is the album's longest track. It is also the most dynamic of the disc, the mid-tempo song introduced with the cold sounds of piano-key strikes and featuring Warrel Dane's (NEVERMORE) anguished clean vocals, as well as croaky (and creepy) spoken word parts and Nergal's beastly growl.
The remainder of the album consists of repeated smacks to the mouth, beginning with "Slaying the Prophets ov Isa". A blasting monster of a tune, the aforementioned riff chunks, as well as subtle choral effects, making it one of several highlights. A basher called "Prometherion" comes with iron-scraping harmonic bits, while "Kriegsphilosophic" is a nicely textured track with Middle Eastern flourishes. But it is "At the Left Hand ov God" that is definitive, modern-day BEHEMOTH. The track starts out with acoustic playing and offers more textured sounds, ending with tribal drumming and chants. "Be Without Fear", with its excellent call-and-response backing vocals on the chorus, is one groovy chugger that packs a lot of punch into three minutes. The even shorter, fast blaster "Pazuzu" leaves one dizzy and "Christgrinding Avenue" wraps up the proceedings in fine fashion with an effective central melody, swirling licks, and keyboard slivers.
That "The Apostasy" landed at 149 on the Billboard Top 200 chart demonstrates BEHEMOTH's ever-increasing appeal and speaks well of quality death metal in 2007. Although I tend to prefer the new NILE and MALEVOLENT CREATION albums (the latter of course being a different kind of death metal album), "The Apostasy" will definitely be among my favorites of the death metal genre in 2007.