Live albums have become such a redundant format in recent times: either cynical stopgap releases or lazily pumped-out contractual obligations, they generally serve little artistic purpose and are destined to gather dust on the shelves of only the most devoted fans. But then, of course, there is Behemoth. When the Polish veterans released The Satanist in 2015, Nergal’s conquering of leukaemia the peerless back story, the metal world lost its shit en masse, and rightly so. Now routinely regarded as one of the finest extreme metal albums of the last 20 years, it confirmed beyond doubt that Behemoth had matured into a world-beating metal band while, somewhat perversely, becoming ever more extreme and challenging. Subsequently, performing the album in its entirety made perfect sense and Messe Noire is a simple but viciously effective document of what happens when a band at the height of their powers perform an adored record to a near-hysterical audience in their nation’s capital, Warsaw. Unlike a lot of contemporary live albums, this plunges you into the heart of the action and comes closer to eliminating that tiresome “you probably had to be there” vibe than any live record in recent memory. When the opening riff from Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel kicks in, you may find yourself rising to your feet and cheering along with the recorded audience. It really is that exciting.
The live Satanist aside, the Messe Noire DVD/Blu-ray also boasts the rest of the band’s live set from Warsaw, including the rarely played Pure Evil And Hate, plus another complete live show from Brutal Assault in 2016 and several eye-popping, demon-summoning promo videos. Chuck in some stunning artwork and an unavoidable sense that Nergal and his band may just be getting warmed up, and this is about as (a)live as it gets.