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BEHEMOTH Messe Noire: Live Satanist

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Monday, April 16, 2018 @ 12:07 AM

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Messe Noire: Live Satanist

Metal Blade Records

As the band readies to open the first leg of SLAYER's final U.S. tour/victory lap and continues to work on its next album, Poland's mighty BEHEMOTH is offering fans a gap filler with the live CD/DVD Messe Noir: Live Satanist, since it could be a while before said new album is available.

This is something fans of the band should now be accustomed to. Messe Noire, or “black mass” if you prefer English over French, is BEHEMOTH's sixth live album/video, if my math is correct. Indeed, you have to go back 20 years, to 1998's Pandemonic Incantation – the band's third full-length – to find an album that was not followed by some sort of compilation.

But when a band tours as long and hard as BEHEMOTH does and has as many side projects going on – from drummer Zbigniew “Inferno” Prominski's work with AZARATH among others, bassist Tomasz “Orion” Wróblewski's VESANIA, guitarist Patryk “Seth” Sztyber's NOMAD, and frontman Adam “Nergal” Darski's solo effort ME AND THAT MAN and dabbling in TV, film and as a writer and entrepreneur, not to mention his recovery from leukemia in 2011 - new music can be slow in coming.

Messe Noire: Live Satanist is a bit different from the band's previous live CD/videos in that it features BEHEMOTH performing - as the title would imply - its last album, 2014's The Satanist, in its entirety. Indeed on the CD, that's all the music you'll get. The DVD features full sets from two performances – a headline show in Warsaw, Poland, and an appearance at the 2016 Brutal Assault festival in the Czech Republic – that offer additional material, along with all six of The Satanist's official video.

While that alone should be reason enough to opt for the DVD, the CD also leaves most of the ritualistic flair of the performances – from the costumes and theatrics to the ample pyro – to the imagination. And though BEHEMOTH is spot on and undeniably ferocious from a purely sonic perspective here, Nergal's voice sounds especially ragged during the Warsaw show that is featured on the CD, something the visuals make easier to overlook – especially when given a “drum cam” peek at the astonishing ease with which Inferno doles out his sometimes inhumanely fast, fluid fusillades.

The Satanist performances open with the band in cloaks and Nergal “blessing” the stage with incense pots and ends with everyone wearing demonic horned masks for the climactic “O Father O Satan O Sun!” It truly seems a black mass. And then there's the fire, which is to be expected on the festival stage during the Brutal Assault portion, but is somewhat of a shock in the Warsaw show that was shot in the Progresja, a music hall not unlike the Hard Rock Lives or Fillmores in the States where the fire marshals would be shitting their pants at the mere hint of such a display. But in Poland, it would seem, all bets are off and the flames fly with regularity. The element of danger makes it all the more cool.

The Warsaw show also offers six songs in addition the The Satanist material, including the vintage nugget “Pure Evil And Hate” from 1995 and more familiar classics “Conquer All”, “Ov Fire And The Void” and “Chant For Ezkaton 2000”. The Brutal Assault segment offers the aforementioned three classics, along with the full Satanist set. So there is an element of redundancy to the DVD, with really only the scale of the performance being different.

Still, there are few bands in extreme metal who put on as commanding and captivating a live show as BEHEMOTH. And even if Nergal's vocals sound like crap on Messe Noire: Live Satanist, there is no ebb in the sheer intensity and vehemence of the band's delivery - and the schtick that goes along with it feels genuine and purposeful. It really is more ritual than concert, and it's certainly worth experiencing more than once.

3.5 Out Of 5.0

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