Nergal: Vocals, Guitar
“‘Evangelion’ is a Greek term meaning ‘Good News’ and usually refers to the biblical stories of God saving humanity and Jesus and his substitutionary death on the cross and resurrection from the dead.” So explains Behemoth vocalist/guitarist Nergal and his co-lyricist Krzysztof Azarewicz in the manifest for the Polish death squad’s ninth and latest full-length, Evangelion.
As anyone familiar with the band might imagine, Behemoth’s own version of “good news” is considerably different than the one offered by the Bible or the self-important evangelicals who thump it, a far cry from the do-as-I-say-but-not-as-I-do theology of grandstanding born-agains, false prophets and opportunistic conservatives from all corners of the globe. But Evangelion is more than a mere antidote to Christian proselytizing. The album’s lyrics espouse the reclamation of the self—a self unbound by the manmade strictures of tradition, politics and religion. A philosophical upheaval set to the tune of merciless, face-ripping, speaker-shredding death metal.
As the band’s first full-length for Metal Blade and the follow-up to last year’s Ezkaton EP, Evangelion ushers modern death metal into the second decade of the new millennium with nine relentlessly blackened tracks of anti-liturgical fury and towering technical precision. Produced by Daniel Bergstrand (Meshuggah, In Flames, Dark Funeral) and mixed by Colin Richardson (Carcass, Slipknot, Napalm Death), the album sees Behemoth vaulting over their own previous musical acmes, 2004′s Demigod and 2007′s The Apostasy. “No bullshitting here, this is the ultimate Behemoth album,” Nergal enthuses. “I’ve never been happy with any of our albums before, which is kind of weird, but it’s very hard for me to achieve any kind of fulfillment or satisfaction. This time, I have no problems putting this album in the car stereo and just banging my head and enjoying it as if I was a fan.”
Demonized in their own country, the members of Behemoth have withstood ongoing defamation from the idle hands and misguided tongues of the All-Polish Committee for Defense Against Sects, a latter-day post-Bloc version of Tipper Gore’s infamous free-speech hit squad, the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC). Led by a similarly misinformed government official who has repeatedly tried to censor Behemoth—going so far as to propose that the band shouldn’t be allowed to play in Poland—the Committee has dragged Nergal and his cohorts into pointless legal proceedings, all in the name of shielding Polish youth from the band’s pro-individualist stance and penchant for cosmic allegory. “It’s like a soap opera,” Nergal confirms. “This guy thinks I’m promoting violence and criminal deeds. It’s all bullshit accusations. There is no evidence; his evidence is our music and our lyrics. But he seems to have no idea what a metaphor is.”
In recounting Behemoth’s tenacious rise from behind the Iron Curtain, attempts to contextualize the band into an overarching “Polish death metal scene” are well-meaning if not entirely accurate. Nine albums, six EPs and numerous world tours into an 18-year career, they’ve long since transcended their geographical roots and are operating prolifically on the global stage. The band’s forthcoming appearance on the 2009 Rockstar Mayhem Fest tour alongside Slayer, Marilyn Manson, Killswitch Engage and Cannibal Corpse will only solidify their exalted position and increase their already considerable profile. “I know I’ve got a massive job to be completed with all this touring that’s set up for Evangelion,” Nergal says. “But I think it’s our defining work to date. And that’s not just me trying to sell the record. I honestly think that this is the finest Behemoth album. But soon everyone will listen to it for themselves.”