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Behemoth: Opvs Contra Natvram

Hailing from the extremely fertile metal scene of Poland, Behemoth are one of many extreme metal acts to emerge from that stacked group of talented bands. Artists like Decapitated, Lost Soul and Hate have all made some of the best music of their respective genres but easily the most successful and impactful would have to be the mighty Behemoth. These days they are an institution unto themselves with a legacy of amazing albums that is hard to rival. Clearly they are one of the biggest artists in the game and especially since their 2014 album The Satanist they have reached almost mythic status for many fans.

Unfortunately the faith of many Behemoth fans has been tested somewhat in recent years with their extremely divisive previous album I loved You At Your Darkest. Many fans felt that they strayed too far from what made them great and that album drew heavy criticism from some circles. So to say that Opvs Contra Natvram has been greeted with some skepticism would be an understatement. So is Opvs Contra Natvram a step in the right direction of righting the ship or have they gone even further off the path here?

Musically Opvs Contra Natvram opens with tribal-like, pagan ritual sounds on “Post-God Nirvana” with Nergal adding some snarling entreaties to satan. It’s definitely more of an intro track but more creative than the usual symphonic intro tracks we normally get from extreme metal bands these days. “Malaria Vulgata” is where the album really gets started and we get more of a straightforward Behemoth track replete with their blackened death extremities. One thing I enjoy is when extreme metal bands mix the bass guitar in a way that’s audible, especially when there is interesting movement happening on the instrument. That is certainly the case here as there are many times when you can hear the bassline snaking around the riffs in enjoyable and unexpected ways. Nothing over the top but it adds to the overall color. “The Deathless Sun” is more of a melodic affair with memorable chorus’, chanted choirs and ripping guitar solos and I found it very infectious and enjoyable. “Ov My Herculian Exile” adds some Greek lyrical themes and is more brooding. Again Nergal does a great job with the leads and that part of the song was definitely the most exciting for me. “Neo-Spartucus comes out swinging with speed and aggression. Behemoth has always been great at cultivating atmosphere and tension in the music and here it’s no different. “Disinheritance” leans heavily into Behemoth’s theatrical tendencies and black metal sensibilities. A ferocious and exciting onslaught that builds in tension and explosiveness as the track continues. As they’ve done since their hugely popular album The Satanist, additional elements of orchestration and dark melody have been intertwined with their blackened death again here on Opvs Contra Natvram. Overall they do a great job with it all, but perhaps not at the level achieved on The Satanist. “Off To War!” is another fast ripping track which again builds the overall tension throughout and becomes more explosive as it moves forward. Again expertly blending the traditional blackened death metal with synths and other demonic sounds. “Once Upon A Pale Horse” opens with a brooding guitar passage before becoming a quite bouncy upbeat verse, well upbeat for extreme metal anyway. Then it changes again, moving into more Morbid Angel territory briefly before returning to the blackness. Quite an unusual and cool track because of the changes. Again as throughout the album the leads are sounding fantastic and lift the track to new heights every time. “Thy Becoming Eternal” again marches forward apace with demonic choirs backing up Nergal in his satanic pronouncements. Again the theatricality is strong with this one and where I know for some they find those elements of Behemoth’s music to be an annoying divergence from the pure evil and hate they are known for, I personally think it elevates the music into something more exciting. Finally the album closes out with “Versvs Christvs”. Piano and clean deep vocals open the song. Then it continues to build as Nergal begins his usual gurgling growls and the band ramps it up eventually landing in some very tasty death metal riffing and chanted vocals. An epic and fitting way to end the album.

Opvs Contra Natvram is definitely a return to form in my opinion. Perhaps not as thrilling as some of their previous works but it’s definitely heavier and more of what you would expect from Behemoth than their previous effort. The sound on the album is mostly pretty strong however a couple of minor gripes are the drums at times are a little loud in the mix and the rhythm guitars at times are too buried. Besides that however, it's sonically very enjoyable. For Behemoth fans, especially of The Satanist, Opvs Contra Natvram feels like more of a continuation of that direction. Loaded with theatricality, heaviness and some standout performances Opvs Contra Natvram is a fine addition to the stellar Behemoth catalog. Not the greatest album they’ve ever made but an interesting and engaging listen nonetheless.

Nergal / Guitars, Vocals
Inferno / Drums, Percussion
Orion / Bass, Backing Vocals, Keyboards, Samples

Guest/session musicians:
Seth / Guitars
Zofia Fraś / Vocals (track 9, 10)
Einar Selvik / Percussion (track 1)
Micha�' Łapaj / Piano (track 10)
Jan Stok�'osa / Orchestral arrangements
Piotr Wróbel / Tuba
Wawrzyniec Dramowicz / Percussion, Timpani

1. Post-God Nirvana (3:10)
2. Malaria Vvlgata (2:18)
3. The Deathless Sun (4:43)
4. Ov My Herculean Exile (4:43)
5. Neo-Spartacvs (4:18)
6. Disinheritance (4:22)
7. Off to War! (4:47)
8. Once upon a Pale Horse (4:16)
9. Thy Becoming Eternal (4:09)
10. Versvs Christvs (6:29)
Total Time 43:15

Added: November 10th 2022
Reviewer: Benjamin Dudai
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 416
Language: english

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