Behemoth’s Nergal Talks About Thinking For Yourself

Interview with Adam “Nergal” Darski  |  By Eric May  |  Photo by Adam DeGross

Behemoth is an act that needs no introduction. Having taken the world by storm, Nergal and crew have spent years bringing the might of metal to the masses. Demigod was a breakout hit, followed by an even greater release in The Apostasy and Evangelion soon after. It almost seemed like there was no stopping these metal titans until tragedy struck their tyrannical leader in the form of leukemia. Was it a sign from the God they cursed, a prayer for death brought forth by millions of evangelicals? No. It was a brand new beginning, another hurdle in life, a new experience. And though it was difficult, Nergal slapped down that beast with a godlike fury, ripping it from his body like the foul pest that it was. But now lay before him a new empire to conquer and a new foundation to build in The Satanist, a thundering beast that spits in the face of all those who thought that this champion could be slain. I had the wondrous experience in discussing this powerful event with the titan himself, as he also discussed the album’s striking cover artwork as well as Satan, traveling, hosting a reality show and why it’s important to think for yourself. A new era has begun!

Behemoth - The Satanist cover

Your new album, The Satanist is certainly a triumph in just the sheer fact that you’ve survived one of mankind’s deadliest plagues and were even able to record it. Do you feel that you’ve gained a new outlook on life after surviving this terrible experience?

I must say it was a shock for me. I mean, I felt bad for quite some time. I have a tendency to go hypochondriac, so my close friends and family wouldn’t really pay much attention to me complaining about my conditions. I remember there was a show in Poland at Castle Party festival. I couldn’t breathe already, I hardly pulled it off and that was the moment when my band mates realized I wasn’t pretending. Something very serious was going on with me and we all felt it… it’s no mystery that the diagnosis was a shock for me. I believe I had tears in my eyes and felt completely speechless. Leukemia. What the fuck is that? Is it fatal? These are the kinds of questions I was asking myself. Shortly after, I cut my hair and went to war with the sickness that lasted for six months all together. Relatively it went pretty fast considering that I was super lucky when we found out there were three donors already waiting on standby. It was rough man… it was very difficult. It’s almost impossible to describe how and what I felt at that time. I dedicated a lot space to it in my biography SacrumProfanum. It’s coming out later this year. You will have a chance to read it step by step. The bottom line is that I came out alive… stronger than ever and The Satanist is a living proof that YOU CAN!

The album cover is especially meaningful to you, as you’ve used your own blood in the paint that made up the original artwork. An extremely powerful statement for a man who had been previously diagnosed with a blood disease. How did this come about, and what is the meaning of the art piece on the album cover?

The meaning of the art is very complex and demands some serious studies. I’m not in the position to explain this in detail here, but I can say that it deals with the Acephalos concept that was explored in the lyrics and in some other graphics on the record. We named this painting The Philosopher and it has a very magical, distinct and intellectual approach to it. It’s very artistic and perfectly portrays the content of the album.

The Satanist seems like a truly bold statement, in that it is the core of your belief. What does Satan mean to you and how do you express this concept?

My Satan is very much inspired by the characters presented in William Blake poetry, PJ Shelley or Milton’s novels, even Tadeusz Micinski’s poetry. Based on the knowledge I gained from the mentioned writers, I find Satan to be one of the strongest if not the strongest manifestation of freedom. It also stands for autonomy, ambition, intelligence, rebellion among others…personally I have impression that it’s been a highly misunderstood figure in our culture due to religious manipulation. Satan = scapegoat. Thus it represents the nature that I find very much connected to human nature. When the concept of Satan meets human you get The Satanist, to make a long story short.

I get the feeling that the approach on this album is much different than that of your previous albums. What were your original intentions for this album and do you feel that you’ve successfully achieved them?

We were striving for a very organic and natural record. I’m still super proud of Evangelion. It belongs to the most completed of Behemoth albums, but with The Satanist we managed to create something very liberating artistically. This album pretty much opened so many new doors for us that it doesn’t worry me where the future direction is gonna take us. It’s a great unknown, but it’s totally exciting. We can do anything we want now. We feel unrestrained. The Satanist reflects this.

Describe the writing and recording process for The Satanist. How long did it take to write the album, and where did you record it? Additionally, how long did it take to record the piece and what was the atmosphere like in the studio?

I think I made the first drafts of the songs somewhere in the middle of 2012. We started jamming around September and nailed four songs! “Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer” was for sure one of the very first tracks we did for that record. Then we did two more sessions. Each took two to four weeks of intense rehearsal, including pre-production. In February we entered the studio and it took us another four months to complete all the tracks. Final mastering was done in September, if I’m right. It was the most time and energy consuming session of the process, but it definitely paid off. I’ve never been happier with how it came out… It’s fuckin’ epic!

Please explain the concept of “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel.” I would also like to talk about the video for the piece, which seemed to combine the elements of a dark ritual with that of Hellraiser. Exactly what is happening in this video? It seems to be symbolic of something, especially given the opening symbol of the triangle and torch, which some have attributed to the fabled “Illuminati” secret society.

I’m not sure if this makes sense talking about it. It is what it is, really. There’s a lot of symbolism behind it but I’d rather leave that for free interpretation. Otherwise, where would be the fun? Make up your mind. Stimulate your brain. Think for yourself… define it with your own words… create your own interpretation. That’s what I find creative.

Nergal, I have always been fascinated by your lyrical content throughout the whole of your career, finding myself reading the liner notes time and again, and cross-referencing those with the works of Spare and Crowley in order to understand the meaning further. Where do you get your lyrical inspiration, and what are some lyrically potent tracks that you would like to highlight from this release? What did you feel that you needed to say with this album?

I get inspiration from anywhere really…I mean, I read a lot…I keep my eyes open. I meet inspiring people, I visit places that rock my world and bring so much fresh air into my thinking system. But generally speaking, it’s life my friend. That’s what makes me so driven. Life itself is inspiring enough to build this twisted world of Behemoth.

I have heard of your many travels as well, seeing as you’ve visited the exact area of the desert where the serpent Aiwass spoke to Crowley, yet you have also observed the sacred rites of a cult of Kali. What were these experiences like, if you could even begin to describe them? What are your thoughts on the occult, on magick and these sacred magickal orders? How would you prove the existence of occult magick to those who would be naysayers?

All these trips allow you to keep an open mind to the world. They may change your perspective. I’ve learned that changing the angle can have a healing aspect in our lives. Taking these journeys has helped me a lot in many cases. I love travelling. I have a gypsy nature my friend. I’m a nomad…. A nomad on a mission.

Unfortunately, one of your previous record labels released an unofficial box set containing remastered versions of all, if not most of your early material as well as an unofficial “greatest hits” collection. Do you think it is possible that one day these older albums might be remastered and reissued proper?

Well, I really hope that I can get these rights back one day. I mean… I know how and in which form they should be presented and re-released. I’m pretty disgusted to see how it’s being done and obviously the fact that the band doesn’t get shit from the sale of these albums makes this situation even more fucked up, if you want my opinion.

As of late, you’ve become sort of a celebrity in your native land of Poland. What was it like being a judge on Voice Of Poland and how did you feel about the acts being represented? What do you think of reality television shows like this today? And is it true that some of these are in fact staged?

I’m not a big TV fan to be honest. I hardly ever watch anything. There’s nothing inspiring. I’d rather spend time with a good book instead. But I have to say that it was pretty amusing to be a judge on The Voice. I learned a lot. I met lots of good people and it was definitely an added value to my life. I don’t think I would ever to do again but I regret nothing, and at the end of the day the world saw my contestant winning the program. So there’s a point for me!

Furthermore, there was the relationship with the pop singer Doda. I’ve always found that sort of interesting, seeing as you are very much a man of extreme metal, and she of course was very much interested in the world of commercial pop music. Though they have said “opposites attract” I wouldn’t figure that either of you would be that fond of each other’s music. But then again, does all of that really matter in the end?

Well, it’s emotions man… It wasn’t politics as some may suggest. I fell in love and that’s it. It happens…even to such depraved individuals like myself (laughs.) And I see no point in getting deeper into my private life.

I was quite taken aback when I saw that you had done some work with legendary gothic band, Fields Of The Nephillim. They have been credited with inspiring so many acts, like Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson and possibly even Tiamat and Paradise Lost to some extent. How did this meeting come together, and have you taken any of this influence back with you for The Satanist?

I remember we covered “Penetration” a while ago. I managed to get Carl’s email somewhere and sent a few lines explaining why we did it and how much his band means to me. He replied and we stayed in touch. One day they visited Poland and we got in touch, so I thought it was a good chance to perform as well. It was my first performance after being hospitalized! It was a rush, man. I felt numb on stage… It was a seriously striking experience, almost like losing my virginity for the second time… (Laughs.)

It is widely known that you’re still set to face a court hearing for the act of tearing of a bible on stage, back in 2007. Last year, you were told that you would be sent to a lower court and still might have to face a two year imprisonment term for something that I think is utterly ridiculous. Acts like Marilyn Manson and GG Allin have done far worse things than that in the name of showmanship, and have never had to face such a harsh sentence. How do you feel about this?

Let’s face facts. No one would go to jail for something like that. It’s not Russia. And even there, they would let Pussy Riot fly free at the end of the day. I actually have a good feeling about the final court case which will take place in a month. My guts are telling me that I shall win.

There’s no doubt in my mind that you’ve done some amazing tours throughout the years, so what would you say is your most memorable? The bible incident aside, what would you say have been some of your least memorable experiences? Also, how do you feel about touring the US and do you plan to tour the US this year?

It would have to be the most recent one, my friend. It was super intense. We visited Australia, Japan, China, Singapore and many others…but Nepal was fuckin’ intense. I brought back a devastating experience from that place. One of the most inspirational places I’ve ever been to.

After years of having been on Nuclear Blast, you have since migrated over to Metal Blade Records. Why did you decide to change labels, and what do you feel that Metal Blade offered you that Nuclear Blast would not?

We never left Nuclear Blast. They represent our business over here, in Europe. I’m proud being part of the Metal Blade and Nuclear Blast family. We will definitely release one more record for both. They are pushing us hard now. I couldn’t be happier with how passionate they are about The Satanist!

So what looms in the future for Behemoth?

We are gonna dedicate our lives to The Satanist for next two to three years. They’re gonna be the busiest years ever! We are ready to make this album the largest Behemoth album in history. Just wait and see! We are gonna tour every corner of the world in order to make sure there is not one single metalhead who doesn’t experience this record.

My final question is simple. We are living in an uncertain age these days, with the economy crumbling and people dreaming up all sorts of “end of the world” conspiracies. Obviously, Gabriel’s trumpet refers to the book of Revelation in which many are currently looking for the prophecy to be soon fulfilled. Do you think that we’re living in the last days of mankind?

We’ve been facing the Apocalypse ever since. It’s no worse than it was in the previous century. Personally, I think we live in quite an interesting time.

Purchase The Satanist here: http://www.metalblade.com/behemoth/

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