In Satan’s Service
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. ”