Published Oct 04, 2018Nergal is the bloodthirsty, satanic frontman of blackened death metal outfit Behemoth. He's also Adam Darski, the friendly musician who spoke to Exclaim! from his record label's headquarters in sunny California.
"I love Canada," he says. "We did a 26-stop tour, only Canada. I know plenty of Canadian bands who don't make that many stops."
It's been four years since Behemoth released The Satanist. Since then, things have calmed down quite a bit on the band's homefront. Nergal has opened a nightclub, called Libation, and embraced his country-blues side, creating a side-project called Me and That Man, in collaboration with songwriter John Porter. This experience, it turns out, led to some unexpected influences on Behemoth's new album, I Loved You At Your Darkest.
"Not many people are aware of the fact that Ryan Gosling has a band called Dead Man's Bones. He's using kids choirs on the whole record, and he does it amazingly. That's exactly where I got the idea for Me and That Man. And because it was so special for that band, I decided to bring it even further when it comes to extremity, on the new Behemoth record."
The Satanist considerably raised the band's international profile, heightening anticipation for a followup. When I Loved You At Your Darkest was finally announced last month, it came with rumours of a more "rock-oriented" direction. Diehard fans recoiled, but Nergal has no time for this kind of internet chatter.
"It's 85 percent good and 15 percent bad," he says of the band's online reception. "It's just that the bad ones are amplified. Who are these people? I don't know them. If I got it face-to-face from Kerry King, someone I look up to, then I would think about it. But online it's so anonymous."
Behemoth face not only angry metal fans enraged by the idea of stylistic evolution, but also moralists who object to the band's blatantly Satanic stance.
"I was born in a very Catholic, conservative country," Nergal says of his native Poland. "[Satan] is sort of bred into our DNA. But he's demonized, literally — I stand with all those people who feel Satan is a scapegoat, an easy target. He's a powerful ally, so I adopted him as my soul animal."
This sounds like Spinal Tap-level cheesiness, but there's something about the way Nergal speaks that makes it totally convincing. He's well-educated on this topic (six years of history at the University of Gdansk, plus one year of Latin). He's calm and collected, without a hint of showmanship. This isn't for shock value, or even contrarian angst. Nergal truly and totally believes what he is saying.
It looks like listeners picking up I Loved You At Your Darkest can expect another Satanic black metal master class. And we might be hearing more from Nergal sooner then we thought — he's been talking to Judas Priest's Rob Halford recently about a possible new project.
"I would love to," he says, "It would make my life just a little more complete then it already is. He's really into it, but there's some politics, with the new Priest record, so he can't really take attention away right now."
Nergal also mentions Manuel Gagneux, of Zeal and Ardor, as another possible collaborator, saying he's "also very interested in extremity."
To use Nergal's own words, "when I have an idea, I do it 100 percent. I can't do it otherwise."
I Loved You At Your Darkest is out October 5 via Metal Blade Records.