After the critical success of The Satanist, the pressure was on for Behemoth. Could lightning strike twice? Fortunately, ILYAYD stepped up to the challenge and proved that whatever black magic Behemoth had in 2014 was still lurking in their veins. Over here in the UK, we got a headline tour with At the Gates and Wolves in the Throne Room, a triumphant set at Download Festival and an imminent tour with Slipknot, starting in the next few days. Huge. But Behemoth have gone to the next level as true artists, bringing an art exhibition based on their record from Behemoth’s native Poland, across Europe, to America. The tour version of ILYAYD contains a DVD that documents their time in London, touring the art exhibition, with their Radio 1 Live Session for the viewer’s pleasure. I don’t think there’s much I can say about the album that hasn’t been said before. It’s got melody, fury, and lyrical brilliance intertwined within twelve blasphemous tracks. What’s new on this tour edition, then?
The opening chords of Bartzabel ring ominously as we see the ‘setting up’ phase of their Radio 1 performance at Maida Vale Studios. The band apply their corpse paint, and Nergal offers insight about the (anti-) biblical references on ILYAYD. He appears pensive before the microphone for a moment, before launching into his trademark, throat-lacerating vocals, and the live music starts. The performance of Bartzabel is as faultless as ever. After the song fades, Nergal talks his way through the legendary studio that the session was recorded in, paying homage to its significance. Maida Vale housed John Peel’s famous sessions over the years among many other things, which Nergal remains respectful of, but his wide-eyed awe reminds you of his inner music enthusiast that you or I would have.
The band tear through a blistering performance of God = Dog before the video cuts to the band meeting fans in a HMV shop. In front of the camera, the fans’ excitement about meeting their heroes is infectious and endearing. You’ve got everything from heartfelt praise about the band to one guy simply growling ‘Yes!’ at the cameraman. It wouldn’t be about metalheads without someone shouting gutturally at the camera, right? (See Slayer fans) Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica follows before it cuts to a section about their art exhibition, which was (fittingly?) titled Thou Art Darkest – which the DVD takes its name from. It really proves the record’s strength as a concept, showing the staggering amount of effort put into their work. Too often records don’t come across as cohesive – Behemoth’s passion for their work goes to take this one step further.
The DVD closes with a particularly vengeful-sounding Wolves ov Siberia, featuring a brilliant, wicked laugh from Nergal in the middle of the song. This is probably the only difference between the songs as we got to know them in the studio, and the songs as we hear them from Maida Vale. The Radio 1 songs do have that live warmth and energy to them, though, which can be difficult to put in to words. You only know it when you feel it. Footage of the VIP exhibition rounds everything off, which exhibited all the photography inside the ILYAYD album booklet. We get to see the band in a more relaxed, informal setting, reminding everyone of the person behind the corpse paint – of the Adam behind his alter ego. This goes hand in hand with the nature of their Radio 1 performance, free of the fiery chaos that makes their live shows so striking. He speaks to the room, and his audience lap up every word. His tone is relaxed, but the passion is unmistakeable.
It is surely this album that has cemented Behemoth’s well-deserved place at the top of the metal game. Their fans are committed, as we’ve watched, the music is brilliant, as we’ve heard; what more could you want? ILYAYD is a modern classic, and if you didn’t buy the CD when it came out in 2018 (or even if you did), it’s worth paying the extra few pounds and getting this tour version. The DVD will especially appeal to the most loyal fans. Definitely worth a watch if you’re interested in the more artistic, conceptual, and ‘behind the scenes’ side to Behemoth.