“To create one’s own world in any of the arts takes courage.”
The above statement from famed American artist Georgia O’Keeffe (known as the “Mother of American Modernism”) could very well be the title of Adam “Nergal” Darski’s second autobiography; he has faced his own mortality after being diagnosed with leukaemia in 2010, he confronted a two year prison sentence for tearing up a Bible on stage and after this was dismissed, called to return to court for the same incident as well as his renunciation of the Catholic Church. These few devastating events would bring most to ruin, not Nergal. His courage took him beyond simply defeating these obstacles (and others), he used it all as a catalyst to create his own universes of art that not only altered the history of heavy music, but himself and his status in the world of entertainment.
From his leukaemia diagnosis and recovery came the blackened death metal masterpiece entitled The Satanist released in 2014; the 10th studio album by Behemoth received universal acclaim. His stage persona with the aforementioned extreme metal band brought him global attention never sought after or thought to be achieved, regardless, Nergal was invited to be a coach on the Polish reality TV program “The Voice Of Poland” in 2011 as what many thought would be a controversial event. Nergal agreed to the position and with his selection and protege Damian Ukeje, the pair went on to win the first season of the celebrated series.
He has released an autobiography, appeared in film, he is a qualified museum curator and has the status of anti-hero of sorts the world over; incredibly, this has not been enough for the inspired Polish musician. 2020 has found Nergal with two new musical releases ready for the world to devour – the first being the sophomore full-length from his satanic folk/devil’s blues project Me And That Man that would be better identified with the likes of Johnny Cash and Tom Waits than Satyricon and Emperor. As Nergal explains from his home (as COVID-19 has imprisoned him and countless other musicians around the world), this second full-length utilises those aforementioned influences and so much more:
“Absolutely! You just mentioned two of my biggest influences to write these kind of songs – truthfully there are quite a few more including: Iggy Pop, Jack White and Josh Homme. I am happy to say I am not reinventing the wheel here, there is a lot of artists that would use those musicians as inspirations. I guess a lot of it could be described musically around three chords really; but the approach and production is what makes it magical. Although, the very core of this music is pretty simplistic and similar (laughs).” He elaborates further – “I wanted this album to be all over the place and exciting and I really believe I have fulfilled that intention. The album is 11 songs and pretty much every song is different which is a big advantage overall. Don’t get me wrong, the first record was and is really cool, it was my first attempt at this kind of music, I did OK, but this one is definitely a big improvement.”
New Man, New Songs, Same Shit Vol 1 is a very different record to Songs of Love and Death (2017) – the sound has expanded exponentially from the raw folk of Me And That Man’s debut. The devil’s blues description would be far more accurate representation and it is awe-inspiring. Almost every track features a guest vocalist including the likes of Corey Taylor from Slipknot and Matt Heafy from Trivium – one such guest who would be better known to the fans of Behemoth is Niklas Kvarforth from depressive black metal outfit Shining on the track ‘Confession‘ comes as quite the surprise as Niklas’ artistic embodiment is disturbing at best (self-mutilation was part of the musician’s performance and identity).
But as Nergal describes, there wasn’t that much forethought put into the collaboration.
“A lot of the songs on the record I am asked about ‘the formula’ for them; there literally wasn’t one. Every song has a different story and different characters.” Nergal pauses, the continues with a light-hearted tone – “You are going to laugh at this story, I believe I was on tour or writing somewhere and Niklas called me out, maybe because he was upset or angry about something he heard maybe about me from who knows where, a label, a friend, I don’t know. Anyways he ended up calling me because he wanted to know something about it, whatever it was and then and there I connected the dots about that song ‘Confession‘, so I asked him almost straight away before he could actually ask me anything: ‘Hey man I have this song it’s a ballad for the next Me And That Man record, do you want to sing it?’ – he took a confused breath and replied: ‘Of course’. There was nothing more to it than that, I cannot stress that enough, that was how he ended up singing on that song. I know the guy is a bit nuts, a bit crazy but it suits a crazy idea too.” Nergal continues but nearly chuckling – “I think that’s why the album has been so well received and successful, not because of the sound, it’s not that original, but the approach is very unique. We have recycled the old blues, or country formula but the approach and combination of guests used make this release absolutely one-of-a-kind. You cannot find another record like this on the market and you won’t, it has never been done before.”
Another infectious yet fascinating song which appears on the second LP entitled ‘You Will Be Mine’ that includes the talents of Matt Heafy is one that may spark some negative attention. Lyrically the song borders on discomforting as it is a tale of lover’s murder tragedy; however, as Nergal ensures, this tale is completely fictional but the track does in fact have an interesting back story.
“The song is written in part by Sasha Boole (guitarist and backing vocalist for M&TM) so I cannot really talk on his behalf, but I can discuss the song. First and foremost, I will say proudly that I am a feminist and a woman lover and I respect them and I would never do any harm or hit a woman, it SHOULD be a punishable offence.” He reassures with absolute conviction – “This song is a story, that is all. In music we can release demons or evils through metaphors of rock’n’roll and in a sense getaway with it, but it is just a tale, that is all. I originally sent this song to TJ Cowgill, better known as King Dude to contribute and to sing on and he declined to be a part of the song because he couldn’t sing those lyrics, though he loved the music. He flat-out refused, I was actually surprised, but I carried on and played with the formula and I reassured many people it was just a story, there was nothing literal about it, it was stupid to see it any other way than a fiction. If people start accusing me of actually condoning the topic of that song, I laugh and think ‘fuck you’ – I am the exact opposite.”
Nergal whimsically laughs at the idea of the song being anything else then poetically clarifies: “The song is a Murder Ballad, a concept song, a story. It is only one song also, I mean one of the world’s most adored songwriters and famous artists Nick Cave literally has an album called Murder Ballads which is ten songs of stories similar to ‘You Will Be Mine’.”
The typical album cycle revolves around a musician or band releasing new music, then touring to promote the new musical endeavour. Sadly, the Coronavirus has changed the world so drastically that this is not currently a plausible or safe method to celebrate this remarkable LP. It therefore plagued this scribe to ask Nergal what had kept his active mind and creative soul busy during this forced downtime?
“It is a tougher time but my creativity is at an all time high during this interruption of performing live. Let’s just say the world will be hearing some new Behemoth much sooner than they think.”
A short time later, came the surprise release of the Behemoth EP A Forest – featuring a studio and live cover of the infamous song by The Cure and two unreleased Behemoth songs from their last full-length I Loved You At Your Darkest. The cover again consists of Niklas Kvarforth lending his haunting vocals to both versions which appear on the EP and an eerie yet extravagant film clip that Nergal has consistently delivered for years with his projects and made sure he has his own heavy involvement in its production.
“I’m usually very involved with the production and I will guide the film crews and directors about the story I have conducted for the film clip on either band. I do like to come in with the premise to them, but sometimes I will ask them what kind of video they would like to do and sometimes I like it but usually I will present something else which they will love. I love doing them, both of my bands are very visually engaging bands and that’s not accidental, I really try to represent my music through all art forms.”
To close he expresses just how much his world of art means to him:
“At some point I will be gone and the music I have left for the world is my legacy. So I want to always be proud of what I am involved in and I want to have people still enjoy my art and music long after I am dead; that’s why I push myself to always be better and ensure I am involved with every part of releasing music.”
Interview by Will Oakeshott @TeenWolfWill
Grab A Forest EP here
Behemoth – A Forest EP tracklisting
1. A Forest (feat. Niklas Kvarforth)
2. A Forest (Live from Merry Christless, Warsaw, Poland, December 2018) [feat. Niklas Kvarforth]
3. Shadows ov Ea Cast Upon Golgotha
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