THIS MONTH IN METAL No. 4: Behemoth’s “Evangelion”

The Legacy

I remember hearing about Behemoth in a computer class in the seventh grade.  Some eighth graders behind me were comparing the “most evil” metal bands, one pitting Slayer as the end-all-be-all.  The other quickly retorted, “Are you fucking kidding me?  Have you heard Behemoth?! They’re horrifying!”  Maiden being the hardest band I listened to at the time, little did I know that the legendary ninth full-length release Evangelion would be unleashed the coming summer.  By now I’m pretty sure even my old college roommate could recite that hail Dionysus” song in its entirety as I’ve blasted every album at least a hundred times each.  That’s my legacy with Behemoth, but I’m just one guy.  There’s a lot to say about not just Evangelion, but the almighty Polish black metal titans themselves.  Buckle up, ’cause we’re going straight to hell.

Original 2009 cover artwork by Tomasz Daniłowicz, concept by Nergal. Photo: Metal Kingdom

Behemoth had already established their big bloody footprint as one of the greats in the Polish black metal underground before transcending xerox-covered tapes.  With every record, the sound evolved into the more blackened death metal ring Behemoth is known for.  The style becomes pretty obvious by 1998’s Pandemonic Incantations, but had no sign of stopping there.  At the beginning of the early 00’s Behemoth was adopting more postmodern cover designs and sampling bits in their songs, branching out past the typical second wave black metal outfit.  Frontman and grand architect of the group Nergal kept exploring deeper heretic lyrical concepts.  While the roots laid in traditional Satanic panic, Nergal would delve deeper into Pagan and Thelemic symbolism, using philosophical parallels of deities, biblical wrath and writings of legendary occultist Aleister Crowley.  Behemoth has thus gained an intelligent legacy, providing darker perspectives on traditional Christianity in efforts to liberate the soul with an encyclopedia of esoteric and theological allusion.

Behemoth’s Evangelion era stage wear. Left to right: Orion, Nergal, Inferno. Photo: Wallpaper Memory

Damn, we haven’t even hit the end of the 00’s yet!  Hot-blooded jolts of blasphemeral empowerment such as Thelema 6, Zos Kia Cultus, Demigod and The Apostasy all speak to Behemoth’s legacy, but 2009’s Evangelion really hammers in the nail.  Seeing as their career has been rolling since 1991, it isn’t exactly an early record in the grand scheme.  Evangelion had been the most successful fusion of their black metal roots and a polished, horrifying death metal framework yet.  Timeless tracks like Daimonos and Ov Fire and the Void still ring strong and hold as evidence to Behemoths relentless evolution.  Translating to “spreading the word of God,” Evangelion is the sound of an oppressive God, calling out every listener to question the sacred and follow their rebellious spirit.  After 2014’s The Satanist and 2018’s I Loved You at Your Darkest, only God can imagine what beast Behemoth will conjure next.  Perhaps he is afraid.

The Great Unswathing of Amenti’s Veil (Evangelion X)

10th anniversary tribute artwork

Evangelion X
Disclaimer: unofficial design

Distilling an album as dense as Evangelion with artwork to match the gracefulness of Behemoth’s recent branding was a task.  The overarching theme stands out as the oppressive nature of God’s wrath, which inspired the downward motion of the composition above all else.  The twist involves incorporating other religious perspectives with such a common theme.  The track Transmigrating Beyond Realms ov Amenti refers to the ancient wisdom of Egyptian deity Thoth’s Emerald Tablets.  Thoth describes Amenti as the illusion of the physical world in which we live, acting as a barrier between our earthly unconsciousness and spiritual awakening.  Egyptian deities hold key concepts in Thelema, a common lyrical subject of Nergal’s writing.  Nergal pits Thoth’s wisdom against Christian ideals, dressing spiritual unconsciousness in the pages of the Bible.  Ecclesia, the personification of the church, falls above the scorching holy city entrapped in the energy field of Satan’s broken halo.  With Ecclesia’s fall, her own dress reveals to be Amenti’s blinding veil.  Now unbound, Thoth’s beak (often represented by an ibis) accompanies the jaw of the Antichrist, whom according to Hildegard von Bingen would be birthed out of the church itself.  The universal truths transgress beyond the confines of God’s word, such is the essence of Behemoth’s Evangelion.

See more heavy hitters in the MONTHLY METAL GALLERY

Evangelion stands as a challenge to tradition and a furious catalyst to the inner fire in all who seek to look past the curtain.

–NCM

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