Music

Where Strides the Behemoth

Begrand talks with Darski of Behemoth, one of the most visually imposing and sonically punishing bands in all of metal, on the eve of the release of their new CD, Evangelion.

It might be a travel day for the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Fest, but typical of Adam Darski and his band Behemoth, there's no such thing as a day off. Calling from Richmond, Viginia, where the band is getting set for an off-date show with Mayhem tour mates Cannibal Corpse, the tall, genial, Polish dude who is best known by the god-like moniker ‘Nergal’ finds himself in the middle of a worldwide metal media maelstrom.

Behemoth's ninth album Evangelion is just over a week away from its street date, and the hype machine, coordinated by the band's new labels Metal Blade and Nuclear Blast, is in full throttle, Darski in constant demand for interviews, whether it's a small alternative weekly or a glossy metal mag from somewhere on the other side of the world. Fully aware that nearly two decades of hard work is about to pay off in a very big way, he might be swamped, but judging by his energetic tone, he's relishing every minute of it.

Artist: Behemoth

Album: Evangelion

Label: Metal Blade

US Release Date: 2009-08-11

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/b/behemoth-cover.jpg"I have the impression that every show has been better and better, improving all the time," Darski enthuses. "And especially last week, all the shows we did, Detroit, Chicago, it was fucking amazing, so much better than we expected. I don't know why. Yesterday, Detroit just went fuckin' sick, it was one of the biggest crowds, chanting our name before and after the show. It was pretty motivating, we loved it."

Behemoth's progression over the past decade has been remarkable to witness. One of the most visually imposing and sonically punishing bands in all of metal, guitarist/vocalist Nergal, bassist Tomasz "Orion" Wróblewski, and drummer Zbigniew Robert "Inferno" Prominski have been making tremendous strides as of late, their fusion of death metal and black metal (the latter's influence more than evident in their use of corpse paint and elaborate costumes) first coming into its own on 1999's Satanica and continuing on the superb follow-ups Thelema.6 (2001) and Zos Kia Cultus (Here and Beyond) (2002).

Artist: Behemoth

Album: Demigod

Label: Enhanced

US Release Date: 2005-01-25

Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/b/begrand-demigod-cvr.jpgIt was on 2004's classic Demigod, however, where ears started to perk up en masse Stateside, and for good reason. A stunning, immaculately recorded album boasting an unrelenting wave of blastbeats and astonishing vocal roars by Nergal, it somehow balanced all that brutality with a melodic sensibility few of the band's peers could match, the overall package made all the more enticing by Nergal's smart, confrontational lyrics.

Ideally, the big creative and commercial leap should have happened with 2007's heavily-anticipated follow-up The Apostasy, but while nowhere near a bad record (it debuted at an admirable #149 in America), it did lack the crystalline production and flamboyance of Demigod, the approach coming off as more workmanlike rather than ambitious. Openly dissatisfied with how that album came about, Darski and his bandmates reunited with Demigod producer Daniel Bergstrand for Evangelion, and the improvement on the new disc is quickly apparent.

With nearly five years' worth of touring in North America and prominent spots on European festival bills slowly building a very loyal fan base, and now that the follow-up that Demigod deserved is finally here, this band, formed in Gdansk back in 1991, seemingly a lifetime ago, is set to explode at long last.

"You know what, I would really love it if it happens, to be honest," Darski admits. "We're working our asses off to get the biggest push, the biggest support of Evangelion that we can afford. What happens, we can't tell. There are certain things that we simply cannot control, but it looks like the feedback has been un-fucking-amazing.

The media are loving the record, we are just getting news that German Metal Hammer made it Album of the Month. We're Album of the Month in the three biggest Polish magazines, all these cover stories with Metal Hammer, Zero Tolerance, and now Decibel, it's just crazy you know, there's definitely a lot of talk about the band, about the record, there's definitely hype. Obviously the album leaked to the internet, so I already know what's going on when it comes to people's opinions, and people fucking adore this record.

So yes, I would love to think this album is definitely bringing Behemoth to the next level. What happens in reality, give us a few months, maybe a few years, and see what happens. Having Metal Blade picking us up, having Nuclear Blast in Europe picking us up, I really think it's possible."

So why did it take until now, and not two years ago, for Behemoth to deliver the kind of album that everyone knew they had in them? Darski quickly admits that he's in a much healthier frame of mind than he was during the writing and recording of The Apostasy, but he cannot underestimate just how important his band's constant touring over the last few years has been to the songwriting process on Evangelion.

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