Although we had interviewed him before, this was my first time meeting Nergal, the singer of Behemoth, so I was pretty excited. With him on the lead, Behemoth have become one of the most important names in metal, even if they defy categorizations such as “black metal” or “death metal”, rather preferring following their own path.
As we both waited for Emperor to take the main stage at Wacken, Nergal and I sat down for a short, yet interesting, conversation.
I might die tomorrow, but you’ll never see me on my knees.
Metal Blast: Adam, thank you very much for taking the time today. First of all, congratulations on the success of The Satanist. I felt this album was a very good follow-up to Evangelion, although it seemed to be more technical than the raw approach of the latter. Was this something that you guys planned or was it just how it happened?
Nergal: I just felt like making a record that would go straight from my balls and not from my brain. I obviously think about things, I analyze them and produce them, but I wanted this to come more my insides. It was a natural progression.
Metal Blast: I also think that it feels more “black metal” than your previous stuff. Do you agree?
Nergal: That’s what people say. I don’t know; it’s just labels, things made by and for people. I’m all about just releasing my spirit.
Metal Blast: Regardless of the “musical” part of Behemoth, there seems to be a certain philosophical connection between Behemoth and black metal; this is especially true now, since you’ve moved from the early pagan ideas to a more Satanic content.
Nergal: Things are not as black and white as you present them. I feel connected with Satanism, but it has always been there. I just use different forms… some things are said in a more straightforward way, while others in a more underhanded manner. I’m not really good at analyzing my own art; any opinion is OK, I don’t really do self-analysis.
Metal Blast: There have always been two types of band dealing with Satanism; those which take it as just a gimmick, like Venom, and those which take it as a serious religious thing, like Watain and Dissection. I remember reading somewhere that you identified as an atheist, and yet you seem to be moving more and more into Satanism. Am I misinterpreting this?
Nergal: Things are way too complex to put them into simple definitions.
MB: In a different topic; how do you feel that the disease you went through affected your artistic output? Do you think that what you are doing now would have never been possible if it wasn’t for it?
Nergal: That’s for sure; then again, I try not to analyze it. Hopefully I’m learning from it, gaining some kind of knowledge, but I can’t really point out where and how it affected my life. Of course, it affected me in many ways, and since music is an integral part of my life it was also affected heavily; and yet, I’m not really in a position to go through the details of what happened.
MB: The late Christopher Hitchens, the author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, encountered a lot of happiness among his critics when he was diagnosed with cancer. Many seemed to be just waiting for him to just renounce atheism and beg for forgiveness. Were there some who expected that from you?
Nergal: There was a lot of aggression; there were those who were just waiting for my “coming out” and submit to some religious code; in a way I actually got more radical.
MB: People said that you just had it coming?
Nergal: Of course; that I deserved it and that it was the prize I had to pay for all of my “bad deeds” and all that bullshit. The typical Christian shit. I might die tomorrow, but you’ll never see me on my knees.
MB: What can the fans of Behemoth look forward to now, with The Satanist behind us?
Nergal: This album opened many doors for us, but it also closed many. You can expect anything from us, things could go in any direction… there might not even be another record. Either way feels right.
We’re in a very exciting journey right now, it’s a very joyful ride, but I don’t know where it’s going to take us. We might end in a dead-end and just call it quits.
MB: Can you imagine a life without Behemoth?
Nergal: I have so many ideas about so many different things… I’m a musician, I’m way more than that. I want to write stuff, another book, play some more music that isn’t necessarily metal. I might do it and keep Behemoth going, but only as long as we find the inspiration for it; if there’s no inspiration then you won’t see us.
There are many bands that just put out records to have a reason to tour, but you won’t see us doing that, because I’m not that kind of person. I wouldn’t compromise like that; so far I have no problems with looking in the mirror, I’ve always been honest. I have a lot of respect for Emperor, who decided to end their career on a high note instead of keep on going; they made no compromises.
MB: I think many hope The Satanist isn’t the last we’ll see of Behemoth.
Nergal: I hope so too; but I don’t know! [laughs] There are many questions… more than ever. You might see us rise again with an inspirational and strong record, but if it doesn’t happen I’m still a happy man, just because of how happy I am with The Satanist. I honesty love this record.
MB: Well, I know we both want to go see Emperor, so thanks a lot for the time!
Nergal: Thank you!