Eleven records in, and still going strong and as blasphemous as ever, Polish blackened death metal ensemble Behemoth have had themselves quite a journey with a. With their most recent effort “I Loved You At Your Darkest” just around the corner from its release date, and the band making their return to Australia as part of the upcoming Download Festival in March, we spoke to frontman Nergal about the construct of their latest LP, the evolution of himself and the band, and his reaction to the most recent single Bartzabel which had just been brought to the audience through YouTube.
“I think we’ve mustered the process to build up all of the anticipation and they’re dying to hear more of it” he says. “I’ve been going through the comments for Bartzabel, the third single and they’re ecstatic, and I’m super happy about it. It was a pretty risky song, because it’s so different to everything we’ve ever done in the past. A lot of people have been saying “this is your best single so far and we’re really digging it!” and I think we’ve really done well!”
2014 saw the release of “The Satanist”, which many have considered to be a masterpiece in the 21st century of music. Having many fans and critics wondering as to how Behemoth were going to top that record with “I Loved You At Your Darkest”, Nergal had no intention of trying to surpass “The Satanist”. Instead of attempting to craft something as an aim to exceed one of their most prodigious achievements, his and everyone else in Behemoth’s goal was to satiate their own needs as musicians, first and foremost. While he gets a nice buzz outta the responses so far, what matters to him most is fulfilling his artistic desires.
“It felt very refreshing because I took my time off. I wouldn’t just stress myself over “The Satanist”, I’d be like “Okay, this album did so well. But, I’m doing something different” and that something that’s going to make my life better and take me to a different spot, different places and that’s exactly what the whole process is. I’m really happy when I see people digging the record, but I will never compromise other people’s pleasures or joy over my own satisfactions. We can be 100% sure that in the first place, we have to satisfy our own artistic needs and they are solely completed. I’m an artist who’s really happy with his new endeavour, and if you love the record, that’s awesome. But if you’re like “I think its weak”, I’d be like “Well, it’s me”. You know, you can either accept me or you can reject me, but I can do nothing about it. It’s really not my choice.”
For a long time, Nergal’s lyricism has been embodied by many as a narrative. Whether deliberate or not, Nergal’s method of putting together a record deals with more with organising the album as a whole than just writing up what’s on his mind, no matter if they be roman or biblical references he puts on paper. When he looks back at the structural side of the tracklisting and irreligious poetry, some of the predecessors to “I Loved You At Your Darkest” and the album itself are exemplified as the best pieces that contain all the elements that make the records feel complete, while balancing the pre-planned and instinctive natures of Behemoth.
“You cannot really say that it’s a concept record, because it’s not. When you listen to the record, it’s not just a random compilation of my best songs that I’ve collected for the process. It’s a story and I’m telling it with all of its dynamics. I’ve always tried to maintain that, and I think we did pretty well with all of the most recently released records. But, I think with “The Satanist”, “Evangelion” and this new one, they’re the best put-together albums. Considering there’s a proper introduction and an outro, it all really builds up in a really smart way, and it’s not random stuff. That’s how I’ve always perceived Behemoth – it’s a massively, conceptual entity. There’s not just room for something spontaneous either, but everything you’re dealing with and confronting is pre-thought, as well. It’s pretty much a combination of both.”
In the past, Nergal has had his fair share of disagreements with his home country’s politics, involving legal battles revolving around Behemoth. While Behemoth have never been and never will be considered as a political band, Nergal states that the Polish government and the environment of Nergal’s lifestyle have had somewhat a subconscious impact on him as a person and as a musician leading up to this point.
“If you’re a sensitive, thinking human being, you’d also be sensitive to your surroundings and what’s happening. I’m not a sociopath – I react to everything that goes around. There’s a lot of tension, and I’m not really good at politics, but I take a chance at what’s happening. But, on a subconscious level, it does influence what I do. I’m not detached from the world, I’m pretty into what’s happening around me, and I believe that it does have an influence on me.”
Having been around for twenty-seven years, Behemoth have experienced a lot throughout their career. With Nergal now in his forties and finds himself in a more relaxed state of mind, he can still recall the days to when he was in his perfectionist mode, and how he has changed to a calm, lenient position.
“I’ve been going through so many different phases, and there are so many different approaches that I change, angles and so on. I think that back in the day, especially around the mid-section of our history, I’d be just striving for perfection. But today, I’m definitely way more relaxed. I feel very focused and I can be really nervous, but they’re good nerves. I’ll be more loose like “okay, I’m imperfect, and I want this imperfection to be heard in my music”. But, am I robust? No, I don’t really want to be that.”
Nergal also makes a note about how rarely the band look back at their previous releases when it comes to piecing the next big thing together. For him, he feels more stimulated by the act of looking forward, no matter how good one of their earlier records are. Pacing onwards is what has helped them excel.
“I’d love to think that what we’re doing is fresh and redefining. We hardly ever look back when we’re making a new record. We’d be like “Oh, that’s how we did it back then”, but it doesn’t influence us on what we do now. We just go with the flow, the energy and the vibe on where it takes us.”
Closing off the chat, Nergal comments about his excitement for next year’s Download Festival in Australia, sharing the stage with Ozzy Osbourne, Slayer, Judas Priest and many of his own personal heroes. With this being their first ever Aussie festival appearance, he and the rest of Behemoth are promising one leviathan of a show for their Australian audience.
“I’m thrilled as fuck about this. We couldn’t come out any bigger than this. We’ve had so many amazing tour trips around Australia, and every time we’ve been there, they were all club shows. But, this time, we’re coming out fucking monstrous and I can’t wait for this to happen. Australia has such a passionate and ecstatic audience that is very generous and very dedicated, and I literally cannot wait to get my ass over there.”
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