Behemoth’s Nergal: Rock Music ‘Comes From Your F–king Dick’
Four years ago, Behemoth returned with The Satanist, their first album since leader Adam Darski, better known as Nergal, clawed his way back from near-death after a battle with leukemia. In the time since the album's arrival, it's been hailed as a watershed moment for Poland's blackened death metal battalion and was even performed in its entirety on tour two years after its release. Now, after taking a crucial sidestep with the dark folk duo Me and That Man, Nergal is creatively re-energized on I Loved You at Your Darkest, Behemoth's newest and most experimental album yet, as he explains in this exclusive interview.
I suggested that I Loved You at Your Darkest is similar to Slayer's South of Heaven, which saw them successfully shifting gears after the red-lined Reign in Blood. "I like the comparison," Nergal said. "Maybe you're right with that. The thing with me processing my own art is weird because sometimes it takes me years to realize what the record really is."
He's fascinated by the path an album can take when it is no longer in his hands and out for public consumption and eagerly awaits fan reaction to the record. We discuss some of the new elements, like a surprising drum beat in "Sabbath Mater." He describes the writing process behind this one, revealing that at first, drummer Inferno wanted to play it more uptempo. "It just sounds like some fucking happy German power metal bullshit," he derided as he described the tempo they stuck with instead. While Behemoth are stepping into new sonic territory, Nergal is conscious not to push things too far and that, ultimately, the music has to stay true to Behemoth's sound.
He strayed far from Behemoth's sound in Me and That Man, a collaboration with John Porter which featured Nergal's gritty clean singing. He's carried that element over to I Loved You at Your Darkest. "I went away with Me and That Man and did something completely different. The fact was, when we did The Satanist, I ran out of all the ideas. Literally, all there was, was all I could afford with these hands and with this head," he says, continuing, "It wasn't me teasing the crowd, 'Oh there might not be a next record.' I just felt that way and the moment I came out alive from my near-death experiences with leukemia [and] with the [return] concert, I think I literally saw the end of the road."
Nergal's clean singing is far from technical and perfect, falling more in line with the raw approach taken by Bathory's Quorthon. "It's the honesty of the message that you're bringing. This is the tool I have — it's imperfect but it's utterly genuine," confesses Nergal.
He admits he didn't plan on singing with Me and That Man, but doing so gave him the confidence to sing on Behemoth's new record. "I was like, 'Nah, I'm too shy,'" he explained, adding, "Well, I'm not shy, but I'm too shy for that, okay?"
Recollecting how he was urged to give it a try, Nergal detailed, "And then John goes, 'Okay, sing.' I'm like, 'What?' 'Sing!' 'What?' 'Whatever!' It's like, 'Just stop tuning the guitar — just fucking play.'" It was in Me and That Man that he learned that sometimes feeling is more important than technical perfection in music, rock and metal in particular. "That was pretty enlightening," offers Nergal. "It was like, 'Hey — this [points to groin] is way more important in rock music than this [points to head]. There is something, this metal language, it just goes through — if it's rock music it just comes from your fucking dick. Period."
Since emerging as the victor in his fight against leukemia, it seems all things have been coming up Nergal. Behemoth are bigger than they have ever been and, as a businessman, he owns two barbershops (Barberian) and one bar (Libation). Life seems to be pretty good, so where does his intensity come from? "Well, the fact that life is awesome does not mean that I've lost my — I still feel pretty vulnerable. I'm still very sensitive toward the circumstances. The times are dark. The fact that I'm comfortable myself does not mean I just cut myself out," he assesses.
"All the stuff that you mentioned is just the material world and the fact that there is money there, it doesn't mean that I — my sensitivity is still there," he goes on. "The material stuff, that's important, it's cool — it makes our lives smoother, easier, more relaxed, but it's not going to take away our anger [and] our need to confront the darkness."
I Loved Your at Your Darkest comes out Oct. 5 on Metal Blade and you can grab your copy of the album here. Behemoth's headlining North American tour begins on Oct. 20 and you can head to this location to see a list of all stops. Support will come from At the Gates and Wolves in the Throne Room.
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