Poland’s Behemoth has grown substantially through the years, from their black metal grassroots to one of the most popular and successful extreme metal bands with their brand of polished blackened death metal. From his social media presence to his outlandish autobiography and his dark country project, Me And That Man, group mastermind Nergal has become one of the most outspoken, controversial, and recognisable characters from the underground scene. The band’s 2014 album, The Satanist, consistently gets name-checked by critics and fans alike as one of finest extreme albums of the decade, and their I Loved You At Your Darkest full-length from 2018 took that modern classic sound to even more impressive heights musically.
Always keen to keep in the public eye, and the fan’s hearts between major releases, they like to release EPs with interesting covers, b-sides, live songs, and whatever else takes their fancy really (and it more often than not usually yields tasty results). A Forest follows this trend and is one of their best ever.
The EP is based around a cover of goth classic “A Forest” by The Cure, from their classic Seventeen Seconds album. Classic for good reason, the original was a stark, emotional cry into the shadows that has been covered by many other artists, with differing results. This cover retains all the stripped-down melancholy of The Cure version and adds layers of Behemoth malevolence that give the song additional poignancy and weight. Central to this atmosphere and execution are the additional vocals by Niklas Kvarforth of Shining fame/infamy, who duets with Nergal’s signature throaty roar, utilizing creepy inflections that instantly remind one of Attila Csihar, notably his performance on Mayhem’s classic black metal album, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. The song hits hard and works on every level, and is a successful take on an unusual cover for a band in this idiom.
This is followed by a live version recorded at the Merry Christless show in 2018, once again with Kvarforth in tow. This version is very similar to the recorded one, but with the added injection of adrenaline that only comes from the live experience. This is my preferred version as it truly comes alive with power and emotion, and Nergal and Kvarforth give 110% (especially Kvarforth with his rallying cries at the audience, most notably the call to arms of “for the fuckin’ Devil!”).
The latter half of the record contains two new songs which, in the words of the man himself, “act as a continuation on from I Loved You At Your Darkest – no more, no less.” “Shadows Ov Ea Cast Upon Golgotha” is an epic journey of power with a punky vibe that would have been prime fodder on The Satanist with its urging swells of tone and swirling riffs. “Evoe” follows suit, a prime example of modern Behemoth and would have made a notable addition to I Loved You At Your Darkest (although it would have skewed the on-point cohesiveness), and has a manic, throttling guitar solo and chorus for the ages.
As EPs go, this is a golden ticket and a highly worthy notch on the band’s discography bedpost. As brave as ever, they take a song that is dear to many hearts and totally make it their own, and the new tracks just make you love the band even more. With A Forest, Behemoth shows that they truly know their target audience and are able to give them a quality slab of delight to keep them satisfied in their eager wait for the next, and most probably, amazing full-length album. Highly recommended.
A Forest Track Listing:
1. A Forest (Feat. Niklas Kvarforth)
2. A Forest (Live From Merry Christless, Warsaw…)
3. Shadows Ov Ea Cast Upon Golgotha
Run Time: 19 minutes
Release Date: May 29, 2020
Record Label: Metal Blade Records