It’s undeniable that Behemoth are one of the most hardworking, dedicated acts in the entire music industry, and it’s been proven with the release of their latest magnum opus, I Loved You At Your Darkest. Recently, the band almost entirely sold out a European tour, completed a massive arena tour with Slayer, a huge run of European festival shows and the inaugural Merry Christless weekender, and the band shows no signs of stopping anytime soon; with a recently announced tour with Slipknot, Volbeat and Gojira. For the moment, the Polish 3 piece have finally come down to Australia after three long, dreadful years, playing the epic Download festival and again, supporting Slayer and Anthrax on two of the sideshows. Having landed in Brisbane on Tuesday, vocalist/guitarist/mastermind Nergal cannot contain his excitement for this upcoming run.
‘We’ve already had the privilege of supporting Slayer on our last run, and this is the third time we’re joining them; it feels amazing. We’ve become good friends with Slayer, Anthrax and the entire crew overtime and combining this with our biggest ever Aussie shows, it’s like a perfect combo, it couldn’t be better. We’ve done about 4 or 5 Aussie tours, but they were all relatively small club shows; some of the shows were quite big like 1000 people in Sydney, but still, now we’re doing arenas and it feels awesome.”
Having been to Australia a few times now, Nergal has had his fair share of experiences down under. “I remember crashing with Dyson (Soundworks Touring) on our first ever run and we just crashed at his place, old school DIY, and he organized this Barbeque with Kangaroo meat, remember eating it and I didn’t like the taste of it. The next day they took us to a park with Kangaroos and I remember saying to him “Man, it should be the exact opposite of this, we shouldn’t be eating these animals.” Ever since then, I have never touched Kangaroo meat, not only because I didn’t like the taste, I don’t want to fucking eat kangaroo.”
When it comes to having your profession as a musician, especially being in the stature of a band like Behemoth, it’s always important to take care of your physicality and mentality. Even being as dedicated of a worker as Nergal, it’s never a bad thing to take a step back and reward yourself.
“Occasionally I get burnt out, I just try to rejuvenate the passion, and every now and then it comes in waves. I know how much I’ve worked the past couple of months, I didn’t really have much time off, so I’m rewarding myself with a New Zealand holiday; a proper holiday, and then disappearing onto one of the Japanese islands just to get some tranquillity back.”
“Even though my schedule is very hectic, I try to balance it out. Life is joy and I’m very happy with what I do; this is the best profession and I’m living my dream, I’m very grateful for my life and grateful for all the consistent support, but I don’t want to end up just working. I don’t want to end up like a workaholic junkie; like a Duracell battery that just never goes off. I really need to live my life in between and it’s very important to do that once in a while.”
When it comes to Behemoth’s artistry, it’s undeniable that each album shows growth, change and innovation in its own respect. “It’s much easier to describe my aging and maturing. I’ve got some extra wrinkles, more grey hair but when it comes to music and art, it’s there, that’s why I record it, that’s why I scream it out and I don’t need to explain myself to anyone. If you’re sensitive to art and to music, you definitely feel a progression, and I know there is progression, but it’s not as vast now as it was with my earlier records, where we make this giant, gigantic steps from one to another, but they’re not that vast anymore. We are pretty defined and well established, I don’t think you’re ever going to see us doing a super radical change. We always deliver the music we embrace and we love.”
Behemoth have always been that band that shows intense progression, especially revisiting albums like From the Pagan Vastlands, and all the way up until I Loved You At Your Darkest. One theme that’s always managed to stick throughout Behemoth’s releases is the intense, artistic manner of shutting down the Catholic church and fighting the oppression on our lives and freedom. “I just hope that I’m way more mature and I’m using more mature ways to fight any oppressions really, not just religious; any system that tries to restrain us and limit us. I think the basic idea, the formula is the same, or rather very similar, but I feel the way I express myself and the maturity is what’s really changed in my time with Behemoth.”
If you’ve listened to The Satanist and I Loved You At Your Darkest, there’s a lot of underlying themes between the two albums, such as the Solve et Coagula theme; the Yin/Yang of Behemoth. An interesting example of how the theme pops up, is the comparison between ‘Amen’ and ‘Havohej Pantocrator’ and their lyrics; the way they begin. “Hail Mary, full of disgrace”, “Our Father, who art in hell, unhallowed be thy name”. If you’re unfamiliar with the meaning behind those lyrics, both are the beginnings of Catholic prayers (modified), and Nergal’s simple use of changing the words to the solve et Coagula theme adds much more depth to both albums.
“It’s always an intentional decision to write something, but I didn’t really think of links like the ones you’ve just mentioned, but I can see why you can treat both records like complementary; I can really see why, but they are also very different in their own ways. I Loved You At Your Darkest is a separate piece of art, and at the time I wasn’t really thinking or self-analysing myself whilst making The Satanist and I Loved You At Your Darkest, but every time is a fresh start for me and this time it’s no different.”
Growing up Roman Catholic in Poland, it’s easy to understand the strength of the hand around the throat of the people, and Nergal is no exception to this. Many people these days ask why Nergal only attacks the Catholic religion and not others, but it’s easy to understand that Nergal grew up with this and uses his past experiences and drive to show Catholicism in its true form.
“It just felt natural. The genres I was entangled in; black metal, death metal… it has the rebelliousness at its very source, it was deeply rooted. It felt natural just to question the ropes, and I wouldn’t think politics, I wasn’t ever involved politically, and naturally it involved religion, just deciding for yourself, thinking for yourself, picking up all the very universal messages and seeing for what they really are.”
If you attended the Thou Art Darkest exhibition that Behemoth held during the release of I Loved You At Your Darkest, you definitely would have noticed the incredible sculpture that artist Tomasz Gornicki developed of a rendition of Jesus Christ, where he’d never been crucified for our sins.
“Well I gave him the wheel; a free reign, and I told him “hey, you can go ahead and make your own interpretation of the record, but try to keep it as close to the album cover and the themes,” and he developed the idea and created his own concept of ‘uncrucified’; I didn’t tell him the stories. It was all his idea, he came up with the story. I really think each one of us can have our own interpretations of the cover, and I’ve heard so many, I never try to force my own. Every time I see it, I think of something new and he came up with something that he saw, his own vision of it, and it was beautiful.”
Since it’s been 3 years that Behemoth have last toured, it’s only natural that all the Legions in Australia want to see the band do a full headline set and their own headline tour. “We won’t be coming back to Australia anytime *soon*, but we were thinking of doing a full cycle, and we want to come back again during this cycle again: maybe late 2019.”
To all the legions of Australia: “Thanks for sticking around and being there for when we come back. Maybe it’s not a super big market for us, but it’s always felt very welcoming, very warm and beautiful place to come back. Every time I come back here, I’m stoked and excited and I can’t wait to unleash hell in Brisbane and around the country!”
Catch Behemoth supporting Slayer and Anthrax TONIGHT in Brisbane and on the 13th of March in Adelaide, buy tickets HERE
Catch Behemoth at Download and get tickets RIGHT NOW, RIGHT HERE
Thursday 7th March 2019: Riverstage, Brisbane
Saturday 9th March 2019: Download Festival, Sydney
Monday 11th March 2019: Download Festival, Melbourne
Wednesday 13th March 2019: AEC Arena, Adelaide