In Satan’s Ser­vice

Exclaim! - - TIMELINE - By Max Morin

BE­HE­MOTH’S CA­REER HAS BEEN A HIS­TORY OF PARA­DOXES. AS THEY CLIMB HIGHER AND HIGHER OUT OF METAL’S VAST UN­DER­GROUND, they just keep get­ting heav­ier. But with new record I Loved You at Your Dark­est,

Be­he­moth have taken their big­gest risk yet: go­ing a lit­tle softer. “I wouldn’t say we’re rein­vent­ing the wheel,” Adam “Ner­gal” Darski says. “We’re just rein­vent­ing the wheel for our­selves.”

ILYAYD ar­rives amid a storm of ru­mours sur­round­ing a more “rock-ori­ented” style. Most at­tempts to go main­stream in black metal, whether through gothic piano or an in­dieshoegaze wash, have been met with in­tense fan back­lash; for their part, Be­he­moth have be­come roy­alty in the scene for their un­com­pro­mis­ing “trade­mark sound,” to use Ner­gal’s own words. So what would pos­sess them to try and fix what clearly isn’t bro­ken? Blame Ryan Gosling.

“Not many peo­ple are aware of the fact that Ryan Gosling has a band,” Ner­gal ex­plains. “It’s called Dead Man’s Bones. He’s us­ing kids’ choirs on the whole al­bum and he does it amaz­ingly.”

The star of The Note­book played a huge part in in­flu­enc­ing Ner­gal’s folk-blues side pro­ject, Me and That Man. “Be­cause it was so spe­cial for that band,” Ner­gal con­tin­ues, “I de­cided to bring it even fur­ther, when it comes to ex­tremity, on the new Be­he­moth record.”

Kids choirs and Hol­ly­wood hunks aside, ILYAYD is still a ram­pag­ing black metal Satan­fest — a ma­jor hur­dle on the path to to­tal main­stream ac­cep­tance. Ner­gal seems aware of this, and is fully ready to de­bate the pub­lic’s re­jec­tion of his be­liefs.

“[Satan] is in our sys­tem,” he says ca­su­ally. “I do not agree with how this fig­ure is per­ceived. He’s been stig­ma­tized and he’s been de­mo­nized. So I stand with all those peo­ple who feel Satan is a scape­goat, or an easy tar­get. That’s why I adopted him as my soul an­i­mal. [Satan] is a metaphor to ex­press my free­dom.”

The link be­tween Satanism and pop­u­lar mu­sic goes all the way back to Robert John­son, but Be­he­moth have dis­tilled it down to an es­sen­tial root. In their minds, Satan equals free­dom — and there’s noth­ing more metal than that.

Some­times it’s hard to rec­on­cile these dark ideas with the friendly voice on the phone, but Ner­gal knows how to keep things light. He jokes and laughs about the dif­fi­culty of win­ning over crowds dur­ing the band’s multi-month tour sup­port­ing Slayer ear­lier this year. “You have to show off,” he says about the sta­dium gigs. “You have to im­press. You have to grab them by the balls and make them serve!”

Be­he­moth will never seek out the main­stream. It’s the main­stream that will have to con­form to find them.

“I stand with all those peo­ple who feel Satan is a scape­goat or an easy tar­get. ”

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