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Behemoth: No Rest For The Wicked

Thursday, 13 February 2014 Written by Alec Chillingworth

In a recent interview with Metal Hammer, Adam 'Nergal' Darski, lead guitarist and vocalist of Behemoth, said: “I know that we are one of the most important bands in extreme metal in the world right now.” Such a bold statement could be seen as pretty obnoxious. But, when you’re talking Behemoth and ‘The Satanist’, their stunning new album, it starts to ring true in a big way.

While Nergal is back to crushing eardrums with the best of them, it’s only a few years since he was diagnosed with leukaemia. He tackled his recovery head on, while his illness also had a profound effect on his bandmates, among them bassist Tomasz 'Orion' Wróblewski and drummer Zbigniew ‘Inferno’ Promiński.

“It was striking when it all happened, but there wasn't a single doubt during this whole story,” Orion said. “We were even working with band material while Nergal was in hospital. We even released a DVD ['Evangelia Heretika'] when he was still hospitalised.

“The band was just going on with a break from playing live. That was it. I don't think anything changed during that time, but after we came back on stage and started to play with Nergal again there was a difference. We have learned a lot from this. Anything can happen any time, and the approach we have to what we do has changed a little due to this. That is the way I see it now.”

'The Satanist' is an absolute beast of an album. Amalgamating elements from the band's career into something truly magnificent, it has been hailed as their finest work. It’s an important record, and one that deserves to be recognised as such beyond the borders of extreme metal.

“I remember when we started touring after releasing 'Evangelion',” Orion continued. “We were already talking about what we should do next. We had no idea. We felt that we had done the most we could at that point, and we couldn't really see if we were able to write anything better. Then Nergal's illness happened, and we went through some big changes in our private lives also.

“When we sat down and started making music for 'The Satanist', the problem just didn't seem to be there any more. We finally stopped competing with anything and anyone – we just started listening to each other. The new music was the thing that we finally wanted to play. This album is not a straightforward continuation. It is our 10th album and it could possibly be seen as the last album for the band, or it could be a new opening. It all came very naturally. It wasn't a decision and it wasn't calculated – it just happened.”

Inferno, who had remained quiet to this point, added:  “It's a major record. It's not straight-up death or black metal. You can find rock structures and arrangements.”

With flourishes of black, death and thrash metal amid a ghastly choir and sweeping orchestration, 'The Satanist' surpasses the petty genre boundaries that constrain most metal albums. Both Orion and Inferno have their favourite moments. “Furor Divinus,” Inferno replied almost instantaneously, before Orion chimed in, punching his hand like Rocky Balboa.

“He's [Inferno] a drummer! His favourite song needs to be like this,” he laughed. “My personal favourite is O Father O Satan O Sun!, the closing track. Whenever I listen to it – I don't want to sound like this – but it just gets me every time we play it. I remember working on the song, and it reminded us a lot of a rock classic, and we were having doubts whether we should go down that route or not. We ended up with something that sounds so epic and big. The ending part with Nergal's vocals is just amazing. It's such a great closer for an album.”

Behemoth are now almost without peer, standing among bands peddling the same old rubbish or trying to recapture former glories. It shouldn’t be a surprise, given Orion and Inferno’s influences, that their sound has developed into something multi-dimensional.

“After the ‘80s period with all of the old metal bands like Metallica and Sepultura, the thing that inspired me was the Norwegian black metal scene,” Orion said. “The most influential band for me at that time was Emperor, which is very different for him [Inferno], I believe.”

Inferno added: “Yeah, I can say Neil Peart from Rush, Dave Lombardo from Slayer and bands like Mercyful Fate, Slayer. Yeah, old Slayer. The first three Slayer albums.”

With 'The Satanist' having only been out a mere week or so, Behemoth are just gearing up for the onslaught of press, touring and monotony that usually comes hand-in-hand with the release of a new album. But, the band aren't without a cheeky ace up their sleeve.

“The album has only just come out, so we are doing this European tour, then a tour of the US in April and Russia in May,” Orion said. “Then the summer festivals in Europe, then a Polish tour, then South America. We're already making tour plans for 2015. For now, we'll just stay on the road for quite some time. We're trying to fix some dates for shooting another music video to promote the album, and we're also thinking of releasing an EP sometime later in the year.

“A part of the EP will certainly be new music. We don't know full details of it yet, we just have plans to release an EP. There's a few songs that we recorded when doing 'The Satanist' that didn't make the album, and we would like to put them out.”

'The Satanist' is but the next chapter in the Behemoth story and this is a band at their absolute creative peak. Behemoth have been together for 23 years, but they're only just getting started.

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