Behemoth. An extreme name that is undoubtedly synonymous with extreme metal, extraordinary music, powerful performances and unorthodox philosophies. A band that has persisted despite all the odds that have challenged their journey and a group of dedicated musicians that will stop at nothing to create music that is absolutely mind-blowing and to share it with the world. I debated an introduction for this one, but here I am. It seems almost disrespectful to not introduce a band that has changed my life in so many different ways; not to mention the fact that they are just about to successfully release their eleventh offering to the world I Loved You At Your Darkest. HEAVY had the honour of chatting with the man himself, vocalist and all around good human Nergal, catching up on the latest album, yoga and all things Behemoth.
Nergal on stage is very, very different to the Nergal off stage and his usual, happy and charming self-greeted me like an old friend. “Hey, I’m doing really well, thanks! Everything is getting ready for the release of our new album so things are busy and hectic but we’re very very excited about it all. We’ve been so busy; we were just at Berlin for the ILYAYD exhibit – I’m running so high on adrenalin man!” His voice certainly gave that away; and continuing on from this excitement, we talked about Behemoth’s return to Australia for Download 2019, which will have made it just over three and a half years since the band last performed here on their “The Satanist” Tour run. ” I’ll tell you this Prat, every time we land there, it has always felt like home. I love Australia so much and the Australian hospitality – people are amazing. Whenever we’ve gone on tour there, I’ve loved every moment = we have a lot of good friends, so many good vibes there, the weather, the culture – it’s all perfect! I remember after every tour, I’d stay back for an extra week or two just to hang out so I cannot wait to do it again. The best part is – this time it is going to be the biggest show we’ve ever done in Australia. Till now, we’ve only ever done club shows but this time Behemoth comes out BIG and beastly. It is the perfect environment for us to unleash this new record. ”
‘I Loved You At Your Darkest’ is the incredible follow-up to 2015’s ‘The Satanist’, an album that undoubtedly reflects the band’s originality, they’re evolution as individuals and as a band and their dedication towards creating unorthodox music that is constantly defying genres. “Yes, it is definitely a pretty bold attempt to redefine ourselves again, however that is one of the things Behemoth stands for. We do not like repeating ourselves consciously. It’s interesting that you say this because just recently, I was reading an article about ILYAYD where some said ” fortunately it is not ‘The Satanist – Part II’ – and that’s exactly right. We were never trying to redo what we created with ‘The Satanist’. Due to the success that we have had the honour of experiencing with that album, many people still feel that now, we shall make ‘The Satanist’ for the next ten years! If you ask me, that would’ve been the stupidest thing to do. I’ve already done that – I’m an adventurous guy so let me be adventurous, let me be free and liberated within my realm. All that being said, I’m so happy that people respect the singles that we released and really got into it – we recently released the third and final single “Bartzabel” and the response has been absolutely ecstatic – so I do hope people dig the record!”
Delving deeper into the album, I couldn’t help but bring up one of my personal favourite tracks on the album God = Dog, a track that, the second it was released caused quite an excitable stir amongst metalheads everywhere, for it is indeed something very different to what Behemoth has previously done. I asked Nergal what his thoughts were on said stir to which his response had my respect and love for the man grow even further (is that even possible?). ” Well, let’s look at it this way – it’s like aging and biology. I mean come on man, I’m 41 years old. So you cannot expect me to be and perform and play like I’m 35. Can you?” At this point, I started laughing only to realise that that wasn’t a rhetorical question at all and so I gladly responded saying no to which Nergal then said, “Ok, good. Can you expect me to be 23? (This man is so cheeky) Well, there you go. That’s my answer to those people. However, what you can expect, embrace and appreciate is Nergal at his best at the age of 41, Behemoth at their best after all these years and that’s exactly what you get. With that single, we initially had ideas to release a different track first but then we decided that this is what we wanted to do. If we had put “Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica” out first, we felt that it would’ve been too obvious and predictable because its definitely a song that people would embrace easily. But with “God = Dog”, it is different and that’s what we wanted to do – because if you can handle that, you can handle everything else.”
Thematically, what’s always most interesting about Behemoth is their well-known anti-religion stance in general, but how much they adopt various aspects of religion into their art. “Yes there is always controversy attached to us and what we do and we love it. God = Dog is a controversial track – and the best explanation of it is inverting God to give you Dog. However, a much deeper explanation is that it comes from Crowley’s philosophy which is “Is a God to live in a dog? No! But the highest are of us”. However I’ll like to see what people’s interpretations of our music are, and it’s been interesting to hear what people make of all our different tracks on the new album!” This is one of the many things that I love about this band – they are radical, they are unorthodox and unique, and they just don’t give a shit. ILYAYD is indeed, one of their most radical offerings to the world – it has the makings of a fine, black metal album but with a magnificent air of atmospheric, symphonic brilliance and a few surprises along the way. Nergal shared his thoughts about the direction and sound dynamic of this album and how the band got to that point of doing something that is different but still maintaining their signature sound. ” I kind of had an idea right from the start about what I wanted to do with the band – for instance, there were some rock inclinations on ‘The Satanist’ and that’s what I wanted to push even further on the new album; that was the direction I wanted to go in and push those dynamics harder and even further. I think we managed to do that. This album is more about valleys and mountains – it goes up and down up and down all the time, there’s so many moods, so many powerful moods and always something that you have to pay attention to. It feels like we explored different aspects of musical realms we’ve never been to before. If you listen to ” If Crucifixion” or “Sabbath Mater”, you will notice these differences. I’ll say here to those that think we’ve repeated ourselves – some of the tracks may not be super original to a lot of our fans or people that listen to us, however, it’s new to us – we’ve never done it before and that’s what is interesting for us. ”
For someone who has followed Behemoth for as long as I have, I’ve noticed some pretty incredible phases in the band’s existence/career and that’s one thing ILYAYD signifies – an almost, enlightened in a way form of Behemoth. ” Of course! There is no doubt that with every new record, there is a new formula behind it. When I approach a new Behemoth album, it’s like carte blanche, we can do what we want, what we feel. We’re not digging into our past to learn what we should do in the new record but it’s something that just happens. When we release new music that comes from within us, it turns out to be powerful. I cannot articulate it intellectually enough but it does happen on an energy level, even more so than on a brain level.” That statement in itself made me know exactly what I wanted to talk about next, something that I know is very close to Nergal’s heart. From one Yogic being to another, I asked this legend whether he felt Yoga influenced his music in any way at all. ” Yoga focuses on breathing; breath is life. It is energy. And we all need energy. Every morning I love my coffee, it has a massive effect on me. Yoga? Takes that even further. It enhances everything. I’m not superficial; I’m not one of those guys that says “Mayhem is what got me into black metal” and then I write an album just like Mayhem. Of course, I fucking worship Mayhem but I also worship coffee, I worship Yoga, I worship women, I worship life and death. All of this is the result of that celebration of life that you’ll hear in Behemoth’s music. ” Holy shit.
It was unfortunate that I only had a few more minutes left of the conversation because it was really intense but in a beautiful, intellectual way. Trying to decide what was the single most important question out of the many that I had, and there was no doubt. I knew what I wanted to bond with Nergal over towards the end of our conversation. A huge animal lover, Nergal is recently seen in a video feeding Stella, a beautiful dog Behemoth’s limited edition, cruelty-free inverted cross dog food. Knowing that both Nergal and Orion are supports of an animal shelter in their hometown, this came as no surprise to me. But it did for a lot of people and what Nergal said next, I couldn’t have imagined a better end to this interview. “Within my artistic and human freedom, I can do whatever the fuck I want. I do understand when people react a certain way to things that seem weird, or normal, or mainstream etc. I do get it. They think it is a marketing strategy ,or gimmick. However, what I will point out is that I absolutely love animals. I love dogs. I want to support dogs. I find it weird if people criticize that – wanting to give to people food for their animals. I’m glad that we did it, and if you buy pick one up before it’s gone, you’re one of the lucky ones!”
Final words: “Thank you so much to our Australian legions. It has been and is always a pleasure to hear from you guys and we cannot wait to bring Behemoth back bigger, and stronger than ever in 2019. We’ll see you there!”