In Absentia Dei
REVIEW AND SCREENSHOTS BY STEPHANIE JENSEN
Since the COVID-19 pandemic has taken away live shows with an audience, your favorite artists are finding creative ways to perform for the fans. A major trend that has been going around is streaming entire live concerts, with fans paying a fee to watch a band perform from the comforts of the home. It’s the closest thing to being in attendance at a live show for right now.
One of the best aspects about livestreaming shows is that bands can achieve more than they could in a traditional concert or festival setting. Black metal giants Behemoth has proved this with the band’s In Absentia Dei performance.
In Absentia Dei was performed at a church in Poland, the same church where Behemoth filmed the music video for “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel.” This entire set was filmed in 4K and was absolutely beautiful. The concert also included an hour-long pre-show that featured a set from avant-garde metal band Imperial Triumphant performing at The Slipper Room Cabaret in New York City. The pre-show is available for free, and both sets can be streamed for 72 hours after the initial broadcast—you can view the pre-show here and the In Absentia Dei set here.
The pre-show started with some behind the scenes footage of Behemoth setting up for the show and features interviews with frontman Adam “Nergal” Darski and other band members. You can also view footage of the band rehearsing and cool shots of the church. During this segment, Nergal reveals more information about the set and how the concert is separated into four parts. He also mentions that this is the most songs Behemoth has ever played live in one performance.
The interviews and behind the scenes footage were brief so Imperial Triumphant could emerge from their stage. The entire atmosphere looked like an old movie, with some really cool filters and other effects applied to the footage, and this made their live set even more special.
Imperial Triumphant starts their set strong with the song “Rotted Futures,” one of the best songs from their new album Alphaville. This is a great song to start the festivities off with—the introduction is very slow and you ease into the heaviness with guitar and drum accents. After the song starts, it progressively gets crazier.
Imperial Triumphant completely hypnotizes the audience for the band’s entire set. Their masks, stage movements, lighting, different camera angles, and overall presence of the performance is very intriguing.
The next song is “Transmission to Mercury,” and the band has a saxophone player joining them. The song begins with a beautiful piano melody, and when the saxophone joins in, you feel like you’re in a jazz lounge in New York City. There is footage of the band opening a champagne bottle with blended in clips of New York, until the song suddenly cuts into Imperial Triumphant playing their more aggressive music. One aspect about this song that works perfectly is that, even though it’s crazy, the saxophone doesn’t sound out of place.
The next song is album favorite “Atomic Age.” The barbershop quartet intro rings loud and clear, and then morphs into an insane spastic song. One of the best parts about watching this song on the livestream is watching all of the members playing this song, especially the drums. There are some crazy accents in this song, and watching the drummer play them is mind-blowing.
It’s shocking at how much energy Imperial Triumphant has, which must be especially difficult to maintain without an audience. The band performed with plenty of spirit, great stage moves, and overall conveyed their presence well.
The only complaint about the pre-show is that Imperial Triumphant only got to perform for about half an hour—we wish it had been longer. Their set was excellent, and Imperial Triumphant is one of the most unique bands today with their distinctive and addictive sound. In the chat, many of the viewers said they had never heard of Imperial Triumphant and now they’re fans. It’s awesome of Behemoth to introduce Imperial Triumphant to so many people.
Now it’s time for the main event, In Absentia Dei. We had to wait 20-ish minutes for Behemoth, but it was definitely worth it.
Before we go into the band’s nearly two hour performance, it’s important to mention the beauty of the church. In the behind the scenes footage, Nergal mentions the location is 120 years old and was formerly an Evangelist church, which stopped being in service in the 1940s. During the performance, the church is illuminated with different lights and adorned with all of Behemoth’s props, such as altars. Nergal also mentions this is Behemoth’s first time playing in a proper church—not a former church converted to a venue. It’s amazing how the entire production was pulled off—the sound, lighting, and everything else.
The footage looks incredible. The 4K quality is crystal clear with the use of different lighting, including torches, which makes the band look amazing. The Director’s Cut shows the stage from different angles, and was definitely worth it because you can see every member perfectly as well as lots of footage of the church.
The set starts out with all four Behemoth members wearing masks and riding on horses toward the church, which is smoking and burning as the band walks inside.
Behemoth starts the performance with “Evoe.” This is an interesting song to begin with, as it’s one of their catchier songs, but it suddenly attacks you toward the middle and the performance only gets better from here. Behemoth then plays the high energy songs “Wolves ov Siberia” and “Prometherian.” Like Imperial Triumphant, Behemoth performs with so much vigor and was expressive for the entire two hours they played, again without a live crowd.
After these songs, Behemoth performs, “From the Pagan Vastlands.” So far, every song sounds perfect. It’s incredible how they’re able to achieve live quality sound on camera and in a church that isn’t designed for such purposes. It’s also satisfying to see Behemoth perform material from their entire discography. This track is on the 1995 album Sventevith (Storming Near the Baltic) and was a nice surprise.
Around this time is when technical issues arose. The footage kept pausing and stalling. Before the stream, they warned a bad internet connection could affect the quality, but other viewers in the chat also mentioned about the lagging footage. Fortunately, the issue was resolved promptly without any further problems. With livestreaming, there are bound to be issues, and fortunately, it didn’t take away from the overall viewing experience.
The next song Behemoth performed was “Blow Your Trumpet Gabriel.” As stated previously, they filmed the music video for this song at this same church, and this made this performance even more special.
It starts off with a masked figure circling around a lantern, releasing sparks everywhere. He almost performs a dance with the band, sending the sparks flying—it’s a really cool effect. You see him performing this dance throughout the song, and the band also puts its full effort into the performance. Nergal was doing these crazy stage moves and raising his guitar up.
The visuals of this entire performance are amazing. During “Antichristian Phenomenon,” a woman dances on a flaming lyra. The band also performs that song while surrounded by flames. It’s a very evil performance but also very sensual. People often give Behemoth crap for their artistic visuals, but they really work with the band’s image and beliefs by adding something special to this performance.
The next song is “Conquer All.” Demigod is probably my favorite Behemoth album, and they play quite a few songs off of this album. Behemoth is really performing as if there’s a crowd—the band is interacting with each other and getting expressive when the camera approaches them. Nergal even moves to the front of the stage as he was playing his solo, as if the live crowd was there. The lighting is also amazing, illuminating the church and giving the appearance as if Behemoth is playing a concert.
Starting at Act III, the concert gets even more intense. For the song “Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer,” a woman is suspended in front of the band with hooks inserted into her flesh in several places on her arms and back. Ropes hold her up, her legs are bound, and her arms are outstretched as if she was on a crucifix. She stays like that for the entire song as you see blood running down her body. When signing up, there were disclaimers stating that some elements of the performance could be offensive to some (which doesn’t deter Behemoth fans). Now that disclaimer makes more sense. I personally thought it was badass.
The set continues the craziness with the next couple of songs, namely “Ov Fire and the Void.” You see more visuals of the church, fire effects, and even a man surrounded by a flaming cube. They play the song absolutely perfect. The whole band is full of energy while Nergal stands in the center of his altar, leading the pack.
One of the most momentous parts of the set was during “Chwala Mordercom Wojchiecha.” Nergal emerges in a headdress and chants the lyrics in an illuminated megaphone. He then takes two lighted torches and swings them around as the band plays behind him. This part leads into their beast of a song “As Above So Below.”
The entire band gets into this heavy song, performing different stage moves and playing with a lot of energy.
“Slaves Shall Serve” is next, and the band members act especially crazy for this monstrous song. The entire band was moving and getting into the performance with lots of headbanging. I’ve seen Behemoth live so many times, but this is the best I’ve ever seen this song performed. It sounded perfect, and the whole band did an incredible job.
During “Chant for Estachon 2000,” Nergal, Orion, and Seth start the song by standing on stones. As they’re playing, blood spills down Nergal’s mouth, Orion is covered in blood, and blood also pours from Seth’s mouth.
All of these visuals prove Behemoth is truly the perfect band for this type of performance. The imagery, the theatrics, and visuals are so evil, brutal, and absolutely amazing. This performance will surely be a landmark in the band’s career.
Towards the end of the song, Nergal thanks the fans for watching and shares this message, “Stay strong, healthy, and free. Hail Satan.”
From here, the final act, Act IV, begins with Orion shooting a flaming arrow with their upside down cross logo engulfed in flames.
As the clip plays, all Behemoth fans will recognize the intro to “Sculpting the Throne ov Seth,” and the band has two flaming upside down cross logos burn behind the band. They performed the song with so much force and energy, as if they were playing it live right in front of you.
Their performance for “Bartzabel” was also really cool. Inferno wears a skeleton mask and plays the drums with two bones. Another man, covered in blood, plays two floor drums with flaming mallets.
Orion appears standing on a stone as Nergal walks out wearing a headdress. “Bartzabel” is one of their more melodic songs, but it was still awesome to see such an evil presentation of this track.
Unfortunately, the set had to come to a close, and Behemoth ends their performance with “O Father O Satan O Sun”—the best way to end the set. Flames surround the band as Nergal is covered in blood, and there are more shots of the same man from “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” waving around the lantern with sparks, the burning logo, and hooded individuals on horses. The entire song and performance are so intense, it sends shivers down your spine.
This entire performance exceeded our expectations. The quality of the sound, how perfectly they played every song, the visuals, the extremities, and the overall style of the performance is mind-blowing. There were a few technical difficulties and we wish Imperial Triumphant played longer, but we were blown away by In Absentia Dei.
Sure, we all want live shows with an audience to come back, but In Absentia Dei proves that there are some things you can’t achieve with a traditional live show. Livestreaming shows are here to stay and are a unique way to interact with your favorite bands. In Absentia Dei was an incredible performance, and we hope more bands release livestreaming shows like this one.