Just a day before we spoke, Nergal was throwing a giant dildo at a crucifix on Instagram. It’s a bit different to his more notable act of tearing up a bible on stage, but a similar message nonetheless. This provides a loose metaphor for the Pole’s two bands. In darkened blues project Me And That Man, he’s still blasphemous, but he also allows himself a little fun (see new song Burning Churches). In extreme metal band Behemoth, he’s the serious corpse-painted founder, singer and guitarist surrounded by hellish iconography.
Since the world is shut down due to covid-19, Adam “Nergal” Darski talks to us about MATM’s new album ‘New Man, New Songs, Same Shit, Vol.1.’ from isolation in Sopot on Poland’s coastline. He’s using the downtime to read books, exercise and even write material for MATM’s third album and Behemoth’s twelfth album, which he says should be ready in 2021. Evidenced by his sextoy hi jinx, he’s also keeping spirits high. “A friend of mine who’s going through chemo, Anders (Odden) from Cadaver, he started this chain… People just go in the forrest and throw sticks, do I decided to throw dicks around,” he laughs. “My social media – I’m not only on there for professional reasons. There’s space for something serious, which I do. There’s some politics, but there’s also a silly Nergal there as well, which I have the luxury to occasionally be. And I like that. That’s an example of my surreal sense of humour. Especially these days, you know, laughter is a thing that should keep us alive.”
As well as these contrasting personas, he also has a preference for contrast in music. The metal he loved for so many decades had roots in rock and roll, which had roots in blues. That’s why he wanted to go back to basics and, despite some of his detractors, is still drawn to making that kind of music. “Honestly, Polish musical traditions are quite shitty. We have this really naive, shitty folklore that is the only thing you can consider purely Polish. So we don’t really have much traditions. We have to catch up with the world and look up to market that gave us the rock music; the blues. All the rock music came from blues. Once I realised that I just started digging deeper and deeper … It’s also to the contrary of what Behemoth uses; lots of layers, double guitars and intense driving instrumental parts and things are getting bigger and bigger with every record… I had a need to do something that is it exactly on the opposite pole. And there was a thought to start a band that would be very minimalist.”
‘New Man’ is the follow up to 2017’s debut, ‘Songs of Love and Death’. One of the major differences between the two is the first record was powered by the duo of Nergal and musician John Porter (who left in 2018), while the second features mostly heavy music icons as guests. Nergal doesn’t dwell too much on Porter’s departure, preferring to see it as an opportunity to do something different. “It was was a very, very challenging and super difficult collaboration. Basically he retracts from band activities with me for each other’s comfort; let’s put it that way. He’s out and he’s focusing on his solo stuff and I could freely release all my crazy ideas.”
Grand in scale, Nergal set about enlisting notable metalheads such as Corey Taylor (Slipknot), Brent Hinds, Matt Heafy (Trivium), Ihsahn (Emperor) and Sivert Høyem (Madrugada), lending his own vocals to just one song on this occasion. “Originally I didn’t want to do anything on the record,” he says. “I was like thinking, ‘I’ll be the master of puppets pulling the strings’”, he laughs. “But then I just thought if I just sing one song, it’s got to be very symbolic. I just pull back and let the true artists sing,” he laughs. That song is Męstwo; the first song that Nergal has ever performed completely in Polish. Drummer Lukasz Kumanski wrote the song and sent it to Nergal, who was was immediately drawn to it. Nergal says Męstwo translates to manhood; in this world of judgement, prejudice and struggle, the message of the song is to remain on your own course, to stay motivated and follow your own intuition. This is what manhood represents to him.
Nergal says he wrote the majority of the album’s lyrics and music, coming up with a figure of “around 60 per cent”. He then recorded the demos with the band members Kumanski (drums), Matteo Bassoli (bass, synths) and Sasha Boole (guitars, mouth harp, banjo) before sending them on to his friends to finish. “The whole record, we recorded it in one room. It’s all one-takes. We really just played once. We just chose the best takes. It was done very organically and then I would just send the files to the guys and they used their home studios to do the rest. Very organic, very cool. Considering the communication being quite easy these days due to digital transferring and stuff, it’s not really a problem. Imagine these kinds of records happening in 1992… it would take like two years. So consider me lucky.”
Regarding a third MATM and twelfth Behemoth record, Nergal says the world coming to a halt was unfortunate yet perfect timing. “I have plenty of time on my hands now, which is awesome. I couldn’t have organised it better myself. So sometimes it’s just better to let things go as they are. I’ve always liked very much staying busy. I could never tell anyone, ‘Okay, let’s have four months off, end of touring, pull back’. They would say yes, but I would never suggest that, because there’s always something to do. So this time, we are free from anything because the whole world is frozen, the whole economics, everything is frozen. And I think it’s gonna be that way… at least touring – it’s done for the next months. This is unprecedented, and probably the only opportunity in lifetime… or maybe not … maybe the viruses are gonna be like a regular thing from now on. I hope not, but you never know. But anyways, I’m thinking this is it – a few months gap in our careers – let’s use it in a smart way.”
He is writing music for both projects, but since Behemoth’s ‘I Loved You At Your Darkest’ came out in 2018, it is the priority. “Behemoth requires a lot of attention, a lot of attention to the detail … while Me And That Man… ‘Oh, I got this idea, I got this chord, bang!’ And you go. You don’t overthink. Demo, you write lyrics and it’s done. You don’t wanna overdo it. I cannot really tell you any strict plans other than I think you can expect the next Behemoth album coming out next year.”