Metal Goes (Post-)Punk: BEHEMOTH - A Forest Review

Nergal continues BEHEMOTH's experimental streak with their newest EP.

Words by Ryan McCarthy:

It probably goes without saying, but BEHEMOTH is a divisive band. They occupy a unique position in the extreme metal world: not “true” enough for many individuals in the underground, and not commercial enough for the average listener. However, this position also lends the band a degree of creative freedom that they may not otherwise be comfortable pursuing. They’re certainly financially secure enough in their music career to take risks that lesser known bands may not be willing to take. Risks such as, I don’t know, covering a well-known and widely beloved post-punk song like THE CURE’s A Forest.


And what a cover it is. One of my biggest concerns when I heard that BEHEMOTH would be covering this track was whether or not they would make it fully metal and thus take away the inherent dynamics and brooding, gothic nature of the track. My fears were wholly unfounded. If anything, the musicianship and the unique vocal performance, courtesy of SHINING’s Niklas Kvarforth, enhanced the dynamic nature of the song and allowed me to enjoy it in a brand new light. Not to mention the production value is incredibly polished - no surprise for one of the biggest extreme metal bands in the world.


Let’s talk more about Niklas Kvarforth’s vocal performance on this cover. Kvarforth seems to be carrying the torch that Attila Csihar lit on De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. Operatic, tormented, half-sung and half-shrieked, Kvarforth’s vocals are truly masterful and a perfect match for a cover of a song as emotionally stirring as A Forest. SHINING is another very divisive band, but it’s hard to imagine that anyone in the black metal scene could have done a better job with this cover.


As far as the other two tracks, Shadows ov Ea Cast Upon Golgotha has a high-energy, almost rock n roll vibe to it, while still remaining firmly rooted in BEHEMOTH’s brand of blackened death metal. As a related aside, I’m a big fan of BEHEMOTH’s use, however infrequent, of really tight, high-pitched toms. This seems to be something they incorporated around the release of The Satanist and have stuck with - much to their benefit.


The fourth track on this record, Evoe, picks up the pace a bit with a more straightforward blackened death metal composition that sounds like a logical continuation of the style offered on I Loved You At Your Darkest. Of course, in traditional BEHEMOTH fashion, this song still has a verse-chorus-bridge structure, but the entirety of the track has the level of energy and freneticism that you'd expect from an extreme metal band. At the end of the day, I don’t think anything on this EP will win over someone who isn’t already a BEHEMOTH fan, but for both longtime and recent fans, this EP has some great material that contributes even more breadth to BEHEMOTH’s catalogue.


In the interest of full disclosure, I do have one major qualm with this release. I think that including a live version of the cover immediately after the studio version was an… interesting addition. It doesn’t feel necessary, especially when the cover and the two new songs stand so well on their own as it is. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good version of the track in its own right, but as someone who always listens to releases in their entirety, I don’t think it needed to be included on this EP. But that’s a minor complaint, and over all I’m thrilled that this exists.


A Forest will be released on May 29th courtesy of Metal Blade Records and New Aeon Musick. Preorder it HERE.


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