REVIEW: Behemoth – Opvs Contra Natvram

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Opvs Contra Natvram,” released on September 16th, 2022, via Nuclear Blast, is the twelfth full-length release in BEHEMOTH‘s career. This Polish blackened death metal act, as many of you are already aware, was founded back in 1991 and it is likely to be considered to be one of the first bands in the local metal scene to get global popularity. The album’s title, as frontman and guitarist Adam “Nergal” Darski has stated, refers to “going against the current,” which surely works as a hint in order to guide listeners into a journey. In fact, BEHEMOTH’s albums have always been quite strong in terms of storytelling, a feature that gets even more evident when we take also their music videos into account. “Opvs Contra Natvram” consists of ten tracks, and at a very first sight it feels like a proper continuation of the path they started walking on their previous two albums, “The Satanist,” published in 2014, and “I Loved You at Your Darkest,” released in 2018.

Opening track “Post-God Nirvana” shows an eerie and epic atmosphere, but due to its pattern it could be considered the intro track to the following tune. As we go a bit deeper, it is possible to detect some features that sound more like their older albums, in tracks like “Malaria Vvlgata,” whose furious blast-beats and riffs are reminiscent of the band’s early works. More accurate, evolved, and refined songwriting, as much as a great production, do put this album on a further level of complexity and completeness.

A massive dark-Gothic vibe is clearly “visible” in the fourth track, “Ov my Herculean Exile,” whose creepy but beautiful music video has not gone unnoticed. As for the vocals, they are always top-notch and well balanced in the brutal yet classy aftertaste one can get from the listening experience. A more rockish vibe in “Neo-Spartacvs,” masterfully blended in a typical blackened death structure, does really add some flavor to the whole thing: it is nothing new, considering how many layers BEHEMOTH’s trademark sound proved to have throughout the decades, but they managed to keep it fresh and enjoyable, which is not always given nor easy.

The following track, “Disinheritance,” seems to be a bit weaker in terms of riffing, but its precise and faultless drum-work does make a difference, although it is not innovative as in the band’s previous chapters. The second half of the song and the guitar solo do add good dynamics, though.

Slightly punk-oriented vibes in “Off to War!” do really work as an unexpected new ingredient in an otherwise well-known recipe: it caught me off guard, in a good way, and so far it is one of the album’s best moments.
“Once Upon a Pale Horse” has good guitar work, but it in the end, there is something missing – it is in tune with the band’s extreme sound, but does not feel that inspired in terms of composition; it sounds a bit all over the place, but survives thanks to that catchy main riff. Strong black metal elements on second-to-last song “Thy Becoming Eternal” make it probably the ultimate highlight on “Opvs Contra Natvram,” thanks to its rich structure, which involves a choir and a spoken-word part.

A piano intro paired with eerie and almost-clean vocals lead us to the end of this journey: closing tune “Versvs Christvs” is also the longest on the album and involves a nostalgic vibe from the ‘90s, as well as the band’s ability to hypnotize the listeners in a vortex of overwhelming sensations.

All-in-all, “Opvs Contra Natvram” may not be a perfect album, as it has its highs and lows, but it is undeniable that it is a further proof of BEHEMOTH’s talent in making remarkable music, 30 years after their career has started.

Written by Licia Mapelli

Tracklist

  1. Post-God Nirvana
  2. Malaria Vvlgata
  3. The Deathless Sun
  4. Ov my Herculean Exile
  5. Neo-Spartacvs
  6. Disinheritance
  7. Off to War!
  8. Once upon a Pale Horse
  9. Thy Becoming Eternal
  10. Versvs Christvs

Lineup

Nergal – vocals, guitars
Orion – bass, keyboards
Inferno – drums

Label

Nuclear Blast

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