You have to embrace the ridiculous a little bit when it comes to extreme metal. Otherwise the act just falls into pretension. For all of his posturing, Behemoth frontman Adam “Nergal” Darski knows a certain amount of pop and circumstance give life to his musical entity, and he embraces it. Thelema.6 eschews the more blackened elements of the band’s earlier output in favor of a real slick, dare I say catchy death metal that still sounds great, even better than a lot of his later output. It remains one of my favorite releases from the band, and that’s even without the David Bowie cover.
Yeah, you heard that right. The expanded version of Thelema.6 has a cover of “Hallo Spaceboy” (here dubbed “Hello Space Boy” and filled with way more “fucks” than the original). That aside, Thelema.6 is a real streamlined affair, with most of the songs averaging about three and a half minutes in length. Veery second is filled with abundant riffs and really clean lines and hooks that keep the songs moving forward. It’s a pristine production, letting you hear all the guitars play against each other and the drum sound is really nicely set in the mix. Bass isn’t really existent, but rather than a hinderance it lets the lines shine through more clearly.
One of my problems with later Behemoth is that after a while the songs take on a bit of a monotonous quality, running into each other and becoming forgettable. Not so on Thelema.6, which keeps it all brief and furious. “Natural Born Philosopher” is a mid-record champ with its late Death influence, but you can go anywhere – “The Act of Rebellion” or “The Universe Illumination” to cite an early and later track – and find the same roaring intensity and quality.
Lyrically, Behemoth are in the same bent they’ve always been on: Screw Christianity and up the devil horns. But Nergal does it with flair and enough manufactured venom that it’s a hoot rather than something to get up in arms about. I can’t say that’s specifically his intention: I read his autobiography and dude seems sincere, but how serious can I take a guy dressed up like an evil mummy? Enough to enjoy the music and laugh off the lyrics as the kind thing I loved as a kid.