5th September 2020
Behemoth - In Absentia Dei
Poland’s Extreme Metal band number one, BEHEMOTH, have returned to us. Not, like many of her colleagues, with new music or a new album, but with a livestream. This event took place on September 5th and was called “In Absentia Dei” (In the absence of God) and was recorded in Poland from a church whose location was kept secret.
What? A church concert with BEHEMOTH? Yes, the Poles came up with something very special for their almost two-hour livestream. Fans of the band will know the place from the video for ‘Blow Your Trumpet Gabriel’ from the album ‘The Satanist’. The concert was streamed in High Definition 4K with a wide range of discovery possibilities - so the audience had the chance to choose from eight different camera perspectives or watch the “Director's Cut”. Parts of the performance could be offensive to some people, so a minimum age of 18 years was recommended. Ticket holders can watch the show up to 72 hours after the live premiere.
BEHEMOTH is a Polish blackened Death Metal band from Gdansk, formed in 1991. They are considered to have played an important role in establishing the Polish Extreme Metal underground. Until the late 1990s, the band played a traditional Black Metal style with heathen lyrical content, but soon changed to that of occult and Thalamic themes written by their lead vocalist Nergal and Krzysztof Azarewicz. With the 1999 release of ‘Satanica’, the band demonstrated their presence in the Death Metal scene, while retaining their own signature style characterized by the drum work of ‘Inferno’, multi-layered vocals and Middle-Eastern influences. Despite BEHEMOTH having been labelled as Death Metal or Thrash Metal-influenced, Nergal has mentioned that he does not like the band to be labelled.
Music & Performance
“In Absentia Dei” began with a one-hour pre-show, which is freely available to all on youtube.com/behemothofficial. The actual livestream started at exactly 20 o’clock European time. A scary violin plays sounds while the event’s lettering slowly appears on foggy effects. The first act begins. One sees four darkly dressed figures with skull masks, carrying flags, riding on horses to a church. You don’t really need to have much knowledge in the Christian religion to recognise that these are the four apocalyptic horsemen. The four horsemen enter the flaming gate of the church and start with the first song ‘Evoe’ from the current EP ‘A Forest’, which is played live for the first time. As expected, BEHEMOTH stand exactly where the altar should be. This is followed by a strong ‘Wolves of Siberia’, which makes even the last viewer, who hasn’t jumped off the couch yet, headbang. After that follows ‘Prometherion’ and ‘From the Pagan Vastlands’, which have not been performed live since 2011 and 2009. In between, some illustrations and aerial views of the church are shown. And so, the first act already ends.
The next part starts with a little transition, which flows into the timeless classic ‘Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel’ and makes every fan’s heart beat faster. Finally, here comes the long-awaited pyro effects, which are definitely impressive! Those who know BEHEMOTH also know that the band around singer Nergal is not the most talkative during their performances. Nevertheless, Nergal asks his legions if they can see and hear him. Then comes ‘Antichristian Phenomenon’, during which a dancer hangs on a flaming wheel and moves elegantly to the music. Very nice to watch. Nergal really uses every space at his disposal, poses for the cameras and makes the experience as real as possible. Afterwards he speaks to his audience once more and encourages them that we should all stick together during this time and that together we will conquer all. A fitting transition to the next song. With ‘Lucifer’, the Black Metal band also ends the second act.
Act 3 is not for the weak-hearted. Here again a small film as a transition, which will remind you of the restrictions at the beginning (recommended for people over 18). You see an almost undressed woman entering the room and placing herself under ropes. Several dark figures appear behind her and introduce hooks into the lady’s skin. These are then attached to the ropes. Then the song ‘Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer’ begins. During this, the woman is pulled up on the ropes and hangs from the ceiling in cruciform pose. (I spare you this screenshot). Then it’s on to the next songs ‘Satan’s Sword (I Have Become)’, ‘Ov Fire and the Void’ and ‘Chwała mordercom Wojciecha’. For the latter singer Nergal moves to the second level of the church and gives a speech. What exactly he says can probably only be understood by Polish speaking viewers. However, the frontman really acts in rage and shows that he is doing his job as an artist with all his heart. This is followed by ‘As Above So Below’, ‘Slaves Shall Serve’ and ‘Chant for Eschaton 2000’ which finish the third and longest act. Even a little “Stay strong, stay healthy and free” Nergal said during the latter.
Act 4 is opened by Orion, who shoots a burning torch into the darkness with his bow. Afterwards two stands in the shape of the BEHEMOTH logo light up. These stand behind them in ‘Sculpting the Throne ov Seth’ and burn brightly. This song also has no regular place on their setlist and was last played live in 2015. For ‘Bartzabel’, Nergal dresses up as usual with his priest’s hat, which immediately makes you miss the concerts a bit more. Afterwards ‘Decade of Therion’ follows, before ‘O Fahter O Satan O Sun!’ finishes the last part as well as the concert. For this BEHEMOTH set the church symbolically on fire and let some fire fountains go up near the windows. A very worthy conclusion! Then again, a small film follows and the viewer can read the names of all participants.
Together with G13 Production House, a Polish production company that has been working with the band for a long time, BEHEMOTH offers the viewer with “In Absentia Dei” a completely new and high-quality experience of a live stream. A team of 40-50 people put on a concert here, during these crazy pandemic times, which resembles a movie. The band moves authentically in the atmospheric environment, the lighting in combination with the pyro effects are impressive and the cuts of the interior and exterior shots round off the whole thing perfectly. The only point of criticism is the sound, which seems very dry. I personally would have found it interesting to hear more of the ambience of the church. But that is probably a matter of taste. All in one you will be offered a first-class concert experience, which hopefully will be available on DVD or Blu-Ray.
02. Wolves ov Siberia
04. From the Pagan Vastlands
05. Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel
06. Antichristian Phenomenon
07. Conquer All
09. Ora Pro Nobis
11. Satan’s Sword (I Have Become)
12. Ov Fire and the Void
13. Chwała mordercom Wojciecha
14. As Above So Below
15. Slaves Shall Serve
16. Chant for Eschaton 2000
17. Sculpting the Throne ov Seth
19. Decade of Therion
20. O Father O Satan O Sun!
Total: 8.8 / 10
Pictures: Screenshots from the streaming