When it comes to pure black and Satanic metal, Behemoth are the undisputed dark lords occupying the throne – the biggest act in the controversial subgenre today. They’ve been banned in Russia, Ohio and even their homeland of Poland.
Simultaneously, they’re stars in Poland. Their latest extreme metal tribute to Lucifer, 2014’s “The Satanist,” broke the top 20 on Poland’s pop charts while enigmatic frontman Nergal hosted Poland’s version of “The Voice.”
He was ultimately booted from the show amidst complaints from Christians furious that a national network would allow the employ of an artist globally vilified for tearing up Bibles on stage and openly worshipping at Satan’s altar. Besides the controversy that inevitably follows them, the band has been sporadically active over the past few years as Nergal has undergone treatments for leukemia.
So when Behemoth stormed into House of Blues Friday, it marked the band’s triumphant return to Massachusetts and a rare appearance in Boston proper (they normally play more metal-friendly Worcester).
They did not disappoint. Like Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth and other second wave Satanic metal bands, they are highly technical and lack the rawness of early acts like Venom, Mayhem, Emperor, Bathory and Darkthrone. But whatever they may lack, they more than make up for it with pure evil, theatrics, musicianship and unharnessed power.
Satanic metal will always be associated with the Scandinavian church burning, murder and suicide scandals of the 1990s. Behemoth has no formal connection to that dark, disturbed period, but they are an outgrowth of that movement and represent the modern day incarnation of metal in its evilest form.
Donning black leather outfits, hoods, caked on corpse makeup and fake blood, Nergal and company’s pulpit was shrouded in darkness, burning incense, snake sculptures and other occult stage props. They take Satanic imagery to new depths (just check out any of their overtly sacrilegious videos. They make Marilyn Manson’s videos look like Baby Einstein tapes).
Live, they were simply brutal, pummeling with a blitzkrieg of ritualistic black metal, heavy on grooves and marked by possessed solos from guitarist Seth and thunderous bass by Orion. Mercilessly Satanic odes “Ov Fire and the Void,” “At the Left Hand Ov God,” “Chant for Ezkaton 2000,” and “Slaves Shall Serve,” were mesmerizing. “The Satanist” has been hailed as among their finest work, praise that is well justified given the bleak metal mastery they displayed on “Messe Noire,” “O Father O Satan O Sun!,” and “Ora Pro Nobus Lucifer.”
It was a tough act to follow but Buffalo, N.Y.’s infamous Cannibal Corpse was, as always, up to the task and then some.
Cannibal Corpse take themselves far less serious than the European black metal artists, choosing to wield gore, horrorcore and sick humor as their weapon, rather than Satan’s black wings. But their repulsive style and gory, offensive artwork has earned them their own share of controversy and government bans across the globe.
Relentlessly old school, Cannibal Corpse sticks to their tried and true formula: furious speed metal, neck-snapping changes and mosh grooves, XXX-rated lyrics and a guttural low end.
Frontman George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher led the onslaught, growling out twisted lyrics and swirling his hockey hair at breakneck speeds to the pace of vomit-inducing classics new and old, including “A Skull Full of Maggots,” “Stripped, Raped and Strangled” and “Addicted to Vaginal Skin.” While many bands in this genre never match the intensity of their early material, Cannibal Corpse has continued to churn out ferocious new creations that meet their standards. A prime example is “Kill or Become,” a violent thrash assault from their latest, “A Skeletal Domain,” with a chant-a-long chorus that cements it as a set staple.
Wrapping up with the gloriously revolting “Hammer Smashed Face,” (a 1992 song they performed in the Jim Carrey movie, “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective”), Cannibal Corpse closed the curtains on one of the more memorable metal nights in recent Boston history.