Lords of Chaos
Behemoth frontman Nergal talks controversy, India plans and their latest album Evangelion
It’s a weary Nergal ”“ frontman and founder of Polish blackened death metal band Behemoth ”“ who comes on the phone, hacking and coughing his way alarmingly through every sentence. It’s a bit worrisome, especially since the band has a gig to play in less than two hours but Nergal aka Adam Darski doesn’t seem too concerned. “Occupational hazard,” he coughs. In the next few hours Behemoth will take stage at 3:00 in the afternoon, in full leather-and-spikes warriors-of-the-dead costumes and corpse paint, to scare the living daylights out of even the fans who’ve come to watch Marilyn Manson and Slayer at the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival in Kansas City. If they’re upset that purveyors of darkness like themselves should play at such an un-metal time, they’re not showing it. “I would like to think that people who are shitfaced and drunk at the end of the night, when they go back home, they will remember that there was a band called Behemoth and they were all painted and scary,” drawls Darski. This tour is also part of Behemoth’s prep for the release of their latest album Evangelion.
Evangelion is Behemoth’s ninth album in 18 tempestuous years that saw the band through numerous lineup changes, controversies and shifts in genre. Founded as a trio by Adam Darski in 1991 at age 16, the band found its calling in raw early black metal complete with heathen lyrical themes and bad production. But interest in black metal petered out in the late Nineties and this was reflected in the change in the band’s sound as they began to incorporate death metal structures while keeping their themes focussed around black metal. With their release of their sixth album Zos Kia Cultus (2002) they’d firmly established themselves as pioneers of the developing blackened death metal genre. With their last two albums Demigod (2004) and The Apostasy (2007), the band finally found billing at more commercial festivals like Ozzfest (2007) and now at Rockstar Mayhem. The band’s current lineup, with bassist Tomasz “Orion” WrÃ³blewski, drummer Zbigniew Robert “Inferno” PromiÅ„ski, second guitarist Patryk “Seth” Sztyber and Darski on guitars and vocals, has been constant for the last five years. And with Evangelion, the band finally seems to have settled comfortably into the groove they created for themselves while expanding on their sound; it’s easily their darkest and most intense album to date. “I would say this is our most definitive album,” affirms Darski. “It’s not our fastest record but it’s just so fucking intense. We tapped Colin Richardson, the legendary producer who’s worked with Machine Head, Slipknot”¦ he did such an amazing job and I’m so fuckin’ happy. We’ve never sounded this massive, this juicy before.”
Darski’s also known to be a chronic namedropper when it comes to his lyrics ”“ he references everything from little known Egyptian gods to Hindu mythological figures to Greek heroes into a mishmash philosophy of his own concocting. But the basic idea behind his lyrics is individual freedom and rebellion against organised religion and he’d much rather have people interpret them the way they choose, he says. “It’s just a bunch of reflections on life and stuff. We’re definitely not telling any stories; if I was a storyteller I would tell you ”˜This song is about me going to the mountains and this next song is about me going to the sea.’ But this is completely different, it has a philosophical approach so I always advise people to go through it themselves and discover things for themselves.” This open interpretation, however, has got the band into trouble in the past. In 2007, Behemoth found themselves on a list the All-Polish Committee for Defense Against Sects compiled of bands they considered Satanic (quoting a Bible-tearing incident during one Behemoth gig). There’s still a chance that if the government acts on it the band may be banned from playing in their own country. Darski chooses to shrug it off. “It’s just some ridiculous Polish censorship committee. It’s human nature to rebel against things and that’s what Satanism is to me. It’s about using your instincts as a tool to make your life better, to please yourself, not to be a slave to someone else’s idea of how you should live. It’s bullshit,” he says, effectively ending the discussion.
What he is happy to talk about are Behemoth’s far-reaching licensing and tour plans and the now ubiquitous designs on India. “We’re touring Europe again, we’re going back to the US, we’re going to Israel”¦ we’re doing a hundred shows this year. We’re also licensing the album in India and while that’s happening there have been some talks about Behemoth touring India with another band. I’m going to be pushing for this to happen,” he concludes, heading off to scare a few kids at his afternoon rendezvous on the Rockstar Mayhem tour.