Annihilation Of The Wicked
21 December 2007
Words by Michael O'Brien and live images by Simon Milburn
Poland's Behemoth are one of the biggest names in extreme metal these days. After an extremely successful and well received tour of Australia nearly two years ago, and with a blistering new album out on the shelves, I was lucky enough to be able to take up a small amount of Nergal's (guitarist, vocalist) time to chat about their upcoming tour of Australia and their latest opus, The Apostasy.
Even for the seasoned metal fan I think it can be easy to get caught up in some of the imagery that our favorite bands display and expect the people behind the imagery to be just as angry and abrasive. While waiting for Nergal to pick up on the other end of the line I was not expecting to converse with perhaps one of the nicest and most down to earth people I have ever come across in the metal community.
After we exchanged pleasantries it was down to business and I asked Nergal for his thoughts on the reception The Apostasy has received.
“So far so good man, though I have to tell you that I'm actually surprised at how well it's been received. This was the most demanding, the most complex and very diverse and at the same time brutal. It was different to Demigod you know since Demigod such a huge success for us I kind of worried there that people might not get it but it seems like most people and the media took the effort to get into the music, get into the record, and really love it. The media love it and especially the fans; they just go crazy for this record. So I'm happy. Behemoth really never put out the same album again. It just feels good, it's very motivating, it's killer, and especially live these songs are just crazy. We played three songs so far on the last tour; we're planning to maybe do an extra one for the Australian tour.”
With so many bands using words and terms that are completely ambiguous at times I was interested to see what it is exactly that the word 'apostasy' means to Behemoth.
“Well basically the apostasy, the term itself, is all about withdrawing from religion or spanning out from an institution. This is an early explanation of the term. But I think there is a bigger meaning behind it which is very rebellious. Behemoth has always been about rebelling against any kinds of limitations or oppressions. I just felt it was so right to use this kind of title on this record. And with me coming from Poland which is an ex communist country and is now so Catholic, we just had one regime which was communism which was 20 years ago and now we have a Catholic regime (laughs). I have my reasons to rebel against that bullshit man, I can tell you that.”
Nergal's comments about the 'regime' in Poland brought me to something that I found rather interesting regarding a group of people who had recently put Behemoth on a list of bands that sing about Satanism in an attempt to get them banned from playing in their home country. I had to find out what became of this situation and had a laugh at the way things turned out in the end.
“We were like number one or two on the list. There were some politicians, in order to self promote themselves, they tried to get some recognition in because, I don't know man, it just felt weird. At the end of the day we actually benefited from it because we toured with it in September and it was the best we've done here ever. Most of the places were sold out and it was just crazy. There were like 700 people at each show which for this small country is just crazy, it's unheard of.”
At the end of the day it appears to have been a lot of hot air, but Nergal is thankful for the support that the band received and is in no doubt about the purpose that detractors serve.
“It was lacking the basic terms of democracy and Poland is said to be a democratic country. They just cannot tell you that you can't do this and you can't do that. They just can't do this you know? I feel pretty safe. It's worked out good so far for us and I think the fact that there's people that really support us, they stand behind our backs and they buy records, they love the band, is awesome. But you also need those people that try to fight you. You have to keep it balanced.”
Regardless of the stupidity of these challenges the band faced, on some level it can also be seen as a victory for the band who proudly speak their mind. Nergal agrees.
“I think so. The extreme opinions that we cause are because we are honest to ourselves. I always speak my mind and I never try to fool people. I say it is what it is and you can either love it or hate it. And you know what? They love it or hate it.”
Though the band have been around for over 15 years it is refreshing to see that Nergal maintains a level of humility regarding their recent success and appears genuinely surprised at how well the band is doing. Did he expect this level of recognition all those years ago?
“No (laughs). My answer is no man. I mean what's happening to this band, what's happening to my life now, I'm just speechless. I think it's a great gift. Of course I've worked on that so hard and it's paying off, it's a great reward, but I still consider it as a great gift from whoever, whatever you know. I'm totally speechless and I think it's awesome. I have a great life you know? I travel around the globe playing my music and people like to hear my music and buy my music and it just feels great. Of course I could never have imagined when I was 15 or even 20; I could never have foreseen or guessed that all this could have happened. What can I say? It's a great surprise (laughs).”
Love them or hate them, there is one element about Behemoth that is hard to dispute and that is that the bar is raised higher and higher on each successive album. Nergal shared some candid insights into how this is possible and the struggles associated with it.
“I can tell you that it's pretty fucking hard. With every new record it's more and more effort that we have to put into what we do. I can tell you that with the Apostasy before even entered the studio I attended these guitar lessons and I had vocal coaching. Some people might be like “hey, you're been around forever and you've put out several albums. You don't need that anymore”. But I'm like no. Now, especially now I need that. I need the extra push, I need the extra boost. It's never enough and we are never good enough. I'm never good enough. I'm always thinking I'm shit and I suck so I've got to improve this and I've got to improve that. That's what we did for the Apostasy in order to make this album what it is. We really needed to push ourselves so hard. I can tell you that every time it needs more dedication, more effort, more work, more and more and more. I'm just fucking happy that people appreciate that. They really do. They see it, they notice it and they appreciate it, that's awesome.”
With the band's second tour of Australia scheduled in a few short weeks I asked Nergal what it is that the fans can expect from the band this time around.
“We have a new set list and a new live show. It's going to be bigger; it's going to be more impressive. Seriously, I feel that it's very hard to improve on what already we did on the last tour of Australia because everything from the audience to the venues to everything was so fucking top notch and we loved it. It was one of those tours that was so perfect; perfect weather, perfect people, perfect venues, great sales. Fucking everything was good you know and really nice turn outs too. So what can you expect now? At least the same. If it's the same then I'm fucking satisfied you know. If it's better, then (laughs), what can I say! I think it's going to be great you know? We have a new set list with a different variety of songs from the early days and the new days, the new album, and we hopefully can bring a bigger production this time. So it should be killer man. I bet it'll be fucking awesome.”
Behemoth's latest album, The Apostasy, is out now on Regain Records through Riot! Entertainment. For more information on Behemoth, check out www.behemoth.pl.
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