Nergal: Vocals / Guitars
Orion: Bass / Vocals
Inferno: Drums / Percussion
"It doesn't get more blasphemous than this."
That's Behemoth mastermind Nergal talking about the title of the band's 11th and latest album, I Loved You At Your Darkest. While it certainly seems an unlikely title for a black metal band - especially one that called their last album The Satanist - its origin might surprise you even more than the words themselves. "It's a verse from the Bible," Nergal reveals. "It's actually a quote from Jesus Christ himself. For Behemoth to use it as the basis of our record, it's sacrilege to the extreme."
Of course, Behemoth are no strangers to blasphemy. Over the course of the last 27 years, they've pushed the boundaries of black metal and heresy alike. While anti-Christian sentiment might seem like stale bread where most metal bands are concerned, for Behemoth such ideas represent a very real threat to their physical freedom. Time and again, the government of their native Poland has charged them with various "crimes" such as tearing up a bible onstage in 2007 and using the Polish coat of arms on a Behemoth t-shirt in 2017.
"Obviously, stuff like that can piss you off. But I think it's good to be pissed off," Nergal says with a laugh. "Anger can be a massive driving force, especially when you make extreme music. But politically and socially, Poland is a very disparate country. You can never feel totally safe here. That makes it easier for me to get inspiration. If I lived in Holland or Australia, I don't think I'd be doing what I do now. You can do or be anything you want there. I'm a huge fan of that kind of freedom, but I don't really have it here. Struggling with that on a daily basis makes me who I am, and fuels my passion for this music."
Nergal and his bandmates - Orion (bass) and Inferno (drums) - have channeled that passion into I Loved You At Your Darkest. A crushing salvo of black metal majesty replete with hellish riffs, thundering drum cannonades and soaring liturgical choirs reminiscent of classic horror cinema, the album is also bejeweled with nimble-fingered rock guitar solos on songs like "God=Dog," "Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica" and "Sabbath Mater." "I really wanted to redefine ourselves with this record," Nergal explains. "I Loved You At Your Darkest is a more dynamic record. It's extreme and radical on one hand, but it's also more rock-oriented than any other Behemoth record."
Nergal doesn't view the heightened rock influence as a conscious creative decision so much as a renewed interest in the historical origins of the music he makes. "We don't give consideration to musical direction, we simply create what naturally comes to us" he says. "But 15 years ago, if you had asked me who I thought was the best band on the planet, I probably would have said Mayhem or Morbid Angel. Today if you asked me, I'd say AC/DC. That should give you a clear indication of why this album is more rock-based. It all comes down to the song writing."
Lyrically, I Loved You At Your Darkest revels in the kind of religious provocation that Behemoth do best. "It's very religion-driven, maybe more than anything we've done before," Nergal offers. "But it's not just cheap goading. I believe this is some deeper metal language. It's art."
Unlike The Satanist, which was primarily recorded in one studio, I Loved You At Your Darkest saw its production spread across Poland and the United States. It was produced by the band members themselves, with drum co-production by Daniel Bergstrand (Meshuggah, In Flames), mixing by Matt Hyde (Slayer, Children Of Bodom) and mastering by Tom Baker (Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson). Which is to say nothing of the 17-piece Polish orchestra arranged by Jan Stoklosa and engineered by Tomasz Budkiewicz. Or as Nergal sums it up: "Pretty much every instrument was recorded in a different studio, and a lot of amazing people were involved."
All of whom came together to help realize Behemoth's most exciting record yet. "Although our origin is black metal, Behemoth is something bigger," Nergal ventures. "We know our legacy - but, with this record, we look to advance to higher ground!"