"With every record, I want to redefine myself and the band" - Behemoth mainman Nergal talks new album I Loved You at Your Darkest
Polish black metal trio Behemoth have overcome quite a bit in their 27-year career, but are now stronger than ever.
Formed in 1991 by frontman Adam ‘Nergal’ Darski, the band have released 10 albums and pushed black metal to new heights. Taking it to arenas all over Europe and huge stardom in their native land, with Nergal even landing a spot on The Voice in Poland!
Stardom has come with its drawbacks too. As with so many bands in extreme metal, the band’s lyrical religious preoccupation has caused quite a few issues over the years, with Nergal twice called before courts in the band’s native Poland for the crime of "offending religious feelings" after he ripped up a Bible onstage.
Their greatest test came in August 2010, when Nergal was rushed to a hospital and was diagnosed with advanced leukaemia. His condition was so severe that the initial prognosis was bleak and an emergency bone marrow transplant had to be found. After a long recovery, Nergal was back working in 2012 and starting working on what would become the band’s defining album, 2014’s The Satanist.
The Satanist took the band to new heights. As uncompromising as ever in its sound and as blasphemous in its lyrics, the album went straight to Number One in the band’s native Poland and took them on a never-ending world tour, which included festival headline slots all over the world and took them into the biggest venues of their career.
Now they’re back with a follow-up, I Loved You At Your Darkest, their 11th full-length effort. The album sees the band moving into hard rock territory, with AC/DC a key influence. Though with song titles like 'God = Dog' and 'If Crucifixion Was Not Enough...', it's safe to say the trio haven't lost their taste for religious controversy.
The album has been produced by the band members themselves, with drum co-production by Daniel Bergstrand. It also features an epic collaboration with a 17-piece Polish orchestra...
We spoke to Nergal about the making of I Loved You At Your Darkest and why this album is a huge step forward for the band…
When did you start coming up with the songs for this album? Were you still touring?
“I’m usually quite good at multitasking, I can work on multiple projects and do many things, but when it comes to writing for Behemoth, I have to be in a special place. I need to be in solitude in my apartment. I don’t remember the first song, but it’s been a process that has lasted for over three years.”
Did you have a goal of how you wanted to move on from The Satanist?
“Usually, I just write, we see what happens. I try to build something interesting, the worst possible thing you can do is be repetitive. With every record, I want to redefine myself and the band. Take a different approach, a different angle. After The Satanist, I was drained, there was no music left in me, I knew I had to enjoy my time on the road and make sure I didn’t write.”
“Then I did Me And That Man, my other project, just to do something new. After I did that then I started to feel passionate about doing Behemoth again and like that project needed me. You don’t want to get trapped. So many artists, they just do tour, album, tour, album, they don’t live or try new things. You need to live your life and then come back. That’s when you deliver something rejuvenated and exciting.”
What kind of album is this lyrically? Is there a concept to it?
“It is a conceptual album, without being a concept album. If you listen to it from beginning to end, you will feel like you are in a story. I approach every Behemoth album this way. No Behemoth is a just a compilation, a ‘Best Of’ the last few years, it’s always a story. In this case, it’s not one singular story, but it is pretty dark.”
Can you describe what inspired you? Religion plays a big part again…
“I’m inspired by life. Happenings in my life, love, death, bits of pop culture, movies, relationships, they all come into it. But yes, we have always been bible-bound, but this is the first time the connection has been so strong. It starts with the title, which is a literal quote from The Bible and then you go all that aesthetic elements. We took a lot from there.”
Was the title there from the beginning of writing?
“It appeared in the middle. Usually, I have the title and it develops from there, but not this time. I came across the bible passage and I didn’t think right away ‘I love this!’. It grew on me and I let it do that over time.”
How’s your live set coming together? You spent a lot of the tour for The Satanist playing the whole album beginning to end, will this album get the same treatment?
“The short answer to that is we don’t know, well, not yet. The next two tours are crossover tours. We are supporting the new record, all the production will be focused on the new album, but it won’t be the whole record. Then we’ll see how the crowds like it. We might end up doing that. It is meant to be played that way, but we are not doing that yet.”