Hit The Lights: Behemoth: 'Our Music Doesn't Come Along With A Christian Message'
Robert Gray telephoned Behemoth frontman Adam "Nergal" Darski to discuss "Evangelion".
Posted on Nov 12, 2009 04:50 pm
Behind each act with genuine mileage, a mainman lies behind the steering wheel. That person assumes the role of leader, and is charged with the duty of never losing the group's focus. A typical leader must keep the band firmly on track, and when a said leader fails in that task, the band in question enters a downward spiral. Having said that, when a said leader fulfils their duties, the world is a band's oyster. One such mainman is Behemoth mastermind Adam "Nergal" Darski, and with the outfit's latest record, "Evangelion", that group's future is seemingly bright. Let's hope the album's success is a sign of things to come.
From February 16th, 2009 until May 2009, Behemoth recorded material at Radio Gdask in Gdask, Poland. Daniel Bergstrand produced drums, and on May 12th, frontman "Nergal" flew to the United Kingdom to assist Colin Richardson in mixing ninth album "Evangelion" at Miloco Studios, London. The title, "Evangelion", comes from a Greek term meaning "Good News", the term usually referring to the crucifixion of Jesus, and subsequent resurrection. A depiction of The Great Harlot of Babylon, the album's cover artwork was designed by Tomasz "Graal" Daniowicz. Mastering, meanwhile, was handled by Ted Jensen in New York. In early July 2009, Behemoth began filming a music video for "Ov Fire And The Void". Filmed by Grupa 13 in Wroclaw, Poland, direction was overseen by Dariusz Szermanowicz.
"Evangelion" was issued throughout Europe via Nuclear Blast Records on August 7th, its North American issue arriving four days later through Metal Blade Records. The full length spent three weeks at the top of the Polish Album Charts, and even charted at position fifty-five on the Billboard Top 200. From mid July to mid August, Behemoth toured North America as part of the Mayhem Festival. Performing on the Hot Topic Stage, others to play the same stage were Cannibal Corpse, Job For A Cowboy, The Black Dahlia Murder, and Whitechapel.
On October 18th at 17:00 GMT, Hit The Lights' Robert Gray telephoned Behemoth frontman Adam "Nergal" Darski. Discussing "Evangelion", the act were due to perform that night in Leeds, UK at Rios.
Adam "Nergal" Darski: Hello?
UG: Hello. This is Robert Gray from Ultimate-Guitar.com. I have an interview scheduled with "Nergal" from Behemoth.
It's me, it's me. We can talk.
It's you, is it? Ok. How are you Adam?
I'm very good. We're getting ready for a show. We're in Leeds, UK now, and yeah, we're ready to go. Soon.
Ok. Would it be alright if I began the interview?
Yeah, sure. No problem, man.
First of all, could you provide some background information about 'Evangelion'?
We recorded 'Evangelion' in Poland; the album was mixed in the UK by Colin Richardson, and Ted Jensen mastered it in New York. It took us up to three to four months to properly record. What can I say? The final result is crushing, and the way 'Evangelion' is being received by the media and the fans is beyond expectations. It's actually way better than we expected, so it feels great. It definitely feels great.
When Behemoth entered the studio to record 'Evangelion', what did the group aim for? What did Behemoth seek to achieve with the album's songs?
We wanted a record that would sound different, basically - something more sinister and more dangerous in a way. You know what I mean? We didn't want to record an album that would be predictable, but wanted to record an album that would be different for us, and at the same time, unified and completed. We wanted to record an album that would work as a whole, and where each song would work on its own, and would be as strong as it can be, and could be a potential single. When we put all the songs together, we wanted something that could be a crushing record. That's something that we will always try to maintain, though it looks like when we made 'The Apostasy' (2007), we kind of failed. There were some good songs, and some songs that didn't fit that concept. This time, we wanted to make a more conceptual record.
What new directions does 'Evangelion' venture in?
It was about taking all possible directions, and all possible sides. 'The Apostasy' was a death metal oriented album, pretty much. This was different. We wanted to go back to the roots, and those old experiences throughout the years, collect them all together, and bring it to the next level, and even further. It was about taking all possible ways and directions, and making a very complex and diverse album on one hand, but then on the other hand, a very complete album.
Do you regret making 'The Apostasy'?
No - I don't ever regret anything. If it wasn't for 'The Apostasy', there wouldn't have been 'Evangelion', and if it wasn't for 'Demigod' (2004), there wouldn't have been 'The Apostasy', and so on and so on. I never regret doing anything. Everything happens for a reason - that's my theory.
What are your misgivings about 'The Apostasy' then?
I think 'The Apostasy' just lost its focus; the album drifted in too many different directions, and lost its insight. That's my main excuse for this record. 'Demigod', in comparison, was a more considered album than 'The Apostasy' - that's how I see it today. 'The Apostasy' had more developed ideas, and a really cool sound, and an organic sound. Also, the album had a killer song like "At the Left Hand ov God", and "Prometherion", which is one of the best songs on the record, but then it had a song like "Be Without Fear", which I personally don't think really fits the concept. I don't know. Maybe the order of the songs is wrong, and should be put differently. We just wanted to make it up with this new album though, and just not make the same mistakes. That's why even journalists have said it sounds different than anything else we've done in the past.
Do you feel Colin Richardson's mix is a factor in that then? Behemoth wanted Colin to mix 'The Apostasy', but he was unavailable.
Yeah. We wanted him to mix 'The Apostasy', but he didn't have the time (laughs). We used him for our best record so far though, which obviously is the new album. What can I say? The guy opened like a hundred doors of experience for us. Colin suggested things that were weird to me at first; he'd say "How about using this?" and so on, and I'd say "Well, I'm not sure about it". Then though, I thought "Ok". He's the man, and has experience and the name. Colin has this actual sense of providing the right sound. I thought "Ok, I have to learn this because probably what he's doing is the best for this record". We didn't really argue, but we did have different opinions of several things. At the end of the day though, we could always find a comprise. I'm happy that it turned out that way.
Daniel Bergstrand helped to produce the drum parts of "Inferno" (Zbigniew Robert Promiski).
Yeah. Daniel came down to Poland, set up the drums, and made the drums sound how they sound really. 'Evangelion' is still very organic, but there's more attack to the drums, which I like more than 'The Apostasy' for instance. There's more attack on this new record.
As we discussed, Colin Richardson handled 'Evangelion''s mix, whereas Daniel Bergstrand produced the drum parts, and so on. As you feel 'Evangelion' is so good, is that a set up you can see Behemoth using for the group's next album?
Oh definitely, definitely. I definitely want to have Colin mixing Behemoth's next album, and maybe not just mixing. You never know. But if it's mixing, I know we're not gonna book two weeks like we did for 'Evangelion' - we're gonna book at least four weeks for the next album. It totally works. Of course it's very costly and so on, but I really think it's worth it. The guy's awesome, and knows what he's doing. He just opened a whole new level of experience, a new dimension, and that's what we were looking for with this new record. We signed to new labels, and these whole new possibilities showed up. We thought "We need to follow that up with a really, really strong and very refreshing sound". That's why we looked for someone to take good care of that.
'Evangelion''s title is a Greek term that's used in a biblical context. For those who may not know, could you explain what the album's title means? And also, why did you decide to name the album 'Evangelion'?
'Evangelion' basically stands for "messenger of good news". We bring good news, but our good news, our music, doesn't necessarily come along with a Christian message. Although the name might suggest it's a very religious title because it has religious connotations, it's actually quite the opposite. It looks at opposite values, but still uses the same title. I found it very provocative on one hand, but at the same time, I just thought about reading between the lines. It's all about just fitting the concept. It's very provocative - it was a cool idea to use this title, I think. It also sounds very anti-Christian, and definitely suits the concept of the music.
According to a press release, 'Evangelion''s lyrics are about "the reclamation" of oneself.
'Evangelion''s lyrics are very complex.. I don't really know how to explain the lyrics. I wrote them, so I don't need to talk about them. You know what I mean? Same goes for the music. I really hate talking about music, the lyrics, and then the cover. It's all there; it's all about people grabbing it, reading it, and interpreting it themselves. That's how I see it. It's a lot of stuff (laughs). It's poetry, it's metaphors. If you want to talk about the lyrics, we should take one song at a time, just go through it, and do the analysis. We'll probably take thirty minutes to analyze each song if you want to do this, but I think it makes no sense.
If you had to briefly summarise the lyrical topics 'Evangelion' touches upon though?
I've written about millions of topics - I'm inspired by life in general. I'm talking about life.. I'm talking about all aspects of life, be it religion, philosophy, or anything really. You name it, it's there. Behemoth has a two-dimensional, very complex, multi-layered message. There's a lot of anti-establishment and anti-political attitude, but in general, there's a very heathen message behind what we do.
'Evangelion''s artwork was designed by Tomasz Danilowicz, and depicts The Great Harlot of Babylon. How did Behemoth come to use that illustration as the album's cover?
I was just googling, basically. I just searched through the net, and just tried to find a concept idea. I just tried to find something that would be inspiring, something that we could use for the record, and for the album cover. Something that would be the concept, but at the same time, wouldn't be another Baphomet, or the Antichrist, or another horned being. I came across the "Whore of Babylon", and thought "Wow". I hadn't really come across any heavy metal band in the past that had used that image, and I'd seen quite a few records throughout my life. I thought that it'd be very refreshing to do that, and that it would look cool.
With the whole concept behind it, and the way she looks, she's like a female aspect of the Antichrist in a way. She's something very sinister, very evil, and very creepy, but at the same time, she's very distinct, she's very noble, and she's very proud. We just developed that concept together, and added some extra elements. You can see the morning sun on both sides of 'Evangelion''s cover. Also, you can see these two saints, or the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, or whatever your interpretation really is, basically praising the Whore. And then, you have the broken Ten Commandments at her feet, which is an obvious manifestation of our feelings towards Christianity, and pretty much any form of religion. To us, it just made so much sense to use the "Whore of Babylon".
Are you a lot more involved in all aspects of Behemoth than say other musicians generally are in their respective groups then?
Yeah, it looks like. I'm pulling the strings (laughs). It's always been like that. I'm pretty much involved in every aspect of the band, and I have serious problems letting it being taken over by other people, because I feel so responsible for everything. It all comes out of my sense of being so much responsible for what we do. I let the other guys take things on their shoulders, but I need to have the final word. I need to have the final decision about things, and to be honest, I don't know if I can be objective here, but this is something that keeps everything in one place. Of course, I listen to my manager, and within the band, I think everyone can say their opinion and so on. We listen to each other, but it's important there's a person who's in charge, so I'm the person who's in charge. From my observations of many other bands, they're just mainly interested in playing their instruments, and just getting wasted after the show. I'm not really like that - I've never been like that.
What role do you feel symbolism plays in Behemoth?
Essential. It's crucial. The symbolic value of things is crucial. Behemoth has dealt with all kinds of symbolism, and yeah, it just goes through every record. There's millions of things going on there. It's very complex.
So Behemoth's symbolism is something that an average listener can listen to, and interpret for themselves?
Yeah. That's the whole point. I use symbols pretty much just to express myself. I'm not doing everything for people to understand it; I do it for myself in the first place, and then I just pass it over to other people. I think "Ok. Just make up your mind, and think for yourself. Just make the right use out of it - it's another tool". Behemoth is a tool for me; it's a tool to make me fucking happy, and a stronger person. It's a perfect tool to express myself in the right way, and I really hope that Behemoth can be a right tool for other people to identify with certain emotions.
How would you compare Behemoth's label situation going into 'Evangelion' to the group's label situation going into 'The Apostasy'?
It's not comparable, man. We dealt with idiots in the past. Regain is such a lame company; they have no will, and they're just so laid back. There's nothing happening. As a label nowadays, they mean nothing. It was a downward spiral following 'Demigod', but then again, they did a lot for 'Demigod'. For 'The Apostasy', they didn't do much, and then, it was just (whistles). We have one of the best companies in the business these days - Nuclear Blast is independent, but is probably the strongest company in Europe at least. Then, we have Metal Blade along with Roadrunner, and yeah, Roadrunner is the strongest company over in North America. It feels great. We've never been in better relations with our record companies ever; they fully trust us, and they invest a lot of money. It's a really great partnership, and we're on great terms with each other.
So you feel that when Behemoth was signed to Regain Records, that's what stifled the group's progress in terms of record sales and recognition?
Yeah. Everything's progressed; in Europe, we've already sold what 'The Apostasy' sold altogether within over two years.
Yeah, that's crazy, I'm telling you. 'Evangelion' has even sold twenty thousand records in two months, and it's half of what 'The Apostasy' did within over two years in the US - 'The Apostasy' sold forty thousand. 'Evangelion' has sold twenty thousand in two months, so the album will easily surpass those numbers. It means a lot.
And also, 'Evangelion' charted at position fifty-five on the Billboard Top 200 Chart.
Exactly, exactly. We hit the Billboard Charts with 'The Apostasy' already, but it feels good that we finally managed to be in the top hundred. We were there for two weeks, which is a pretty great success. I mean, we're an extreme metal band. It is a success, and we're really proud of that.
You must be a pretty happy man right now, then?
In Poland, we were number one for three weeks. That's unheard of.
What can you reveal about the music video filmed for "Ov Fire and the Void"?
"Ov Fire and the Void"'s music video was filmed in Wrocaw, Poland by Grupa 13, the same company that we used to film the "At the Left Hand Ov God" video. They did an awesome job back then, and they did an even better job this time. I think it's great. It's killer, and is a great band performance. There's a cool storyline as well, a better storyline line than "At the Left Hand Ov God". "Ov Fire and the Void"'s music video is very impressive. It's very controversial; people hate it and people love it, but that's the way it should be. We have a script with us here for the next video, which should be "Shemhamforash" - that should be the next single from 'Evangelion'.
What was it like to tour as part of the 2009 Mayhem Festival from mid July to mid August?
It was hard (laughs). It was very hard, but it was good. Mayhem was great publicity, and great marketing for our album. Getting exposed in front of ten thousand people every day was a privilege, as was sharing the same bill with Slayer and Marilyn Manson, and some other bands. It was awesome - I watched Slayer pretty much every day.
What do you feel the future holds for Behemoth?
Well, I just know that there's plenty of work ahead of us. We've done a lot of interviews, and we still keep on doing fucking non-stop interviews pretty much, but there's so much interest. There's so much recognition we're getting these days. There's gonna be a lot of touring - there's gonna be touring, touring and touring. We're gonna go to every corner of this world, and we're gonna make sure that everyone has a copy of 'Evangelion', and fucking worships it. That's the plan. We'll be coming back with a new DVD next year, and we're also coming back with a book - it'll be a biography written by a friend of ours from Poland. There's a lot of surprises to come, so just keep your eyes open. We'll be coming back to the UK. We'll be going to pretty much every fucking continent with this record, making sure that we fucking dominate.
Is Behemoth's future DVD a live DVD?
Yeah. There's gonna be a huge double DVD coming out in the first half of 2010.
And will the Behemoth biography you mentioned be released around the same time?
No, no. It should come out in late 2010, but maybe around the fall.
Do you have a message for the fans who've supported Behemoth over the years?
My message is always the same. We're so thankful, and so grateful, for all your support and interest. I just want to say "Hey, if you don't have a copy of 'Evangelion', go out and buy it. You're never gonna regret it". If you don't like, I'll give you your money back (laughs). But no, seriously, thanks for all the support. Come down, and check us out.
Ok. Thanks for the interview Adam - it's much appreciated.
Cheers. Thank you so much for calling man - I appreciate it.
Take care. Bye.
You take care too. Bye.
Interview by Robert GrayUltimate-Guitar.Com 2009