Behemoth – Opvs Contra Natvram
Released: September 16th 2022
Nergal // Vocals, Guitars
Orion // Bass, Vocals
Inferno // Drums
Seth // Guitars
As of right now, Poland’s Behemoth are one of the biggest bands in metal – if not the biggest fish in the murky extreme metal pond. Of course, it didn’t happen overnight, with the group slaving away for three decades to carve their own identity in the densely populated world of heavy music. With the release of 2014’s The Satanist, the polish quartet branched out from their original blackened-death metal sound into unexplored directions; in particular, introducing the moodiest elements of the gothic and alternative genres. Its follow up I Loved You At Your Darkest expanded their palate even further, pushing the quartet right into the face of more mainstream-orientated metal fans. Coming back with a more direct and feral effort, Behemoth’s newest triumph Opvs Contra Natvram is, without doubt, one of the marquee metal releases of 2022. Having spent the last decade experiencing their biggest commercial and critical success, Behemoth’s newest full length meets the massive wave of expectation rushing towards it.
The mood-setting, cinematic opener ‘Post–God Nirvana’ serves as a prelude to the visceral brutality of ‘Malaria Vvlgata‘. At only two minutes long it’s a merciless assault, full of furious drumming and powerful screams. A perfect opening salvo to kick off the album, and a sign of things to come. ‘The Deathless Sun’ and ‘Ov My Herculean Exile’ are epic cuts and prime examples of what Behemoth sound like in 2022. Grandiose slabs of drama-filled extreme metal, yet still with melodic hooks buried not too far from the surface. The stomping ‘Ov My Herculean Exile’ is the obvious first single choice – its mid-pace, more straight-to-the-point structure makes for an accessible entrance to the record, with a blast beat driven outro bringing the track home in thunderous style.
Not to state the bleeding obvious, but there clearly hasn’t been a shortage of lyrical inspiration in recent years for chief writer and frontman Nergal. The war in Ukraine is a major focal point, whilst also dishing out their unrelenting criticism of their homeland’s deeply conservative Catholic government. Opvs Contra Natvram is a lean album – but all the better for it. At ten cuts and 43 minutes long, the excess fat is trimmed right back to the bone. The almost punk-like ‘Neo-Spartacvs’ is a melding of proto-black metal and hardcore, with an almost – by their standards – simplistic energy to the power chord and double-kick attack. ‘Disinheritance’ is honestly the album’s least interesting moment so far, but it redeems itself hugely with a great tempo-change bridge and climaxes with a demented wall of drums, screams, riffs and effects. That’s the thing about Behemoth’s writing at this moment – they know how to compose music that goes for a journey, rather than just basing the song around a singular hook or chorus. Even the album’s least memorable sections have these moments of power and conquer that lift them to a higher level.
‘Off To War!’ is an aptly titled tune if there ever was one. After a brief introduction of horns, the track’s driving pace begins. It’s an uptempo number, with the half-time feel in the choruses a nice compositional touch – and further example of their songwriting superiority. The immense drumming talents of Inferno are something that shouldn’t be overlooked – he’s such a timeless sounding dummer, yet relentlessly fast and in control – no wonder he’s one of the extreme metal world’s most highest regarded talents. ‘Versvs Christvs’ is the album’s epic closer. It continues the band’s tradition of having these massive outro pieces, and takes Behemoth’s sound to places they’ve never been before, with the piano and clean-vocal led intro leading into a thunderous crescendo. For a group that knows how to wrap up a LP, “Versus Christvs” is one of Behemoth’s finest record closing tracks to date.
With one of the grandest back catalogues in contemporary metal, it’s hard to rate Opvs Contra Natvram objectively without comparing it to the Behemoth albums that came before it. What we can say without a shred of doubt is that Opvs Contra Natvram stands firmly amongst the year’s best music releases. Extreme and intense in many sections, Behemoth’s songwriting prowess and ability to conjure immense drama places it into the heavy music world’s highest echelons. If indeed we are living in the end of times, then Opvs Contra Natvram makes the perfect soundtrack to the apocalypse.
Behemoth – Opvs Contra Natvram tracklisting
- Post-God Nirvana
- Malaria Vvlgata
- The Deathless Sun
- Ov My Herculean Exile
- Off to War!
- Once Upon A Pale Horse
- Thy Becoming Eternal
- Versvs Christvs
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