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From Shakespeare to skyscrapers, Nergal unpacks every single song on Behemoth’s new record Opvs Contra Natvram.
This week, Behemoth unleash their new album, Opvs Contra Natvram. Those who saw the band’s devastating headline set at Bloodstock last month will already know that the Polish metal kings are emerging from lockdown with an even greater fire in their hearts than previously, and the album is no different.
Creatively, it sees Nergal and the rest of the band on crushing form, but also trying to defy expectation. After it slaps you in the head, it backs off a sec “to give you a breather” as the frontman says. And as ever, he has a lot to say. Pouring excited energy into everything he says from his home in Poland, he talked us through the album, how he wants to construct it as a journey, and why Behemoth purposefully ditched “forests and caves” for playing on top of skyscrapers…
“Obviously this is the intro for the record, but it’s also a song – just not the regular Behemoth-sounding song. I really wanted to make this completely different than the last record. That one had this grand intro and outro, and there was this big epic vibe for the album. This time, I just wanted to make this really grim, evil, sinister, eerie opener, and then just bang, you know, kick in the face. And then it moves through lots of other things. It was all about building the album up.”
“If you check the time on this song, it’s two minutes and two seconds or something like that. Which makes it probably the shortest proper song that I’ve ever written. And still, it’s very dense. It’s got three verses, and there’s a bridge – it has all the elements. But it’s only two minutes long, which for Behemoth is just, ‘Oh, shit!’ But it didn’t really need more. It’s a pure blast. It’s a hate anthem. It’s straight to the point. It’s punky.”
“This keeps up the song before it, but it’s more epic, you know, but still a banger. I wanted the first part of the album to be very strong and very aggressive, until you get to Ov My Herculean Exile, because that’s probably the most ‘mellow’ song on the record. Everything before that I wanted to really kick you in the face, and not give you a chance to get your breath.”
“Someone said to me lately, ‘There’s a loneliness in your music. It feels like you’re outside.’ Well, I’ve always been that way. I’ve always felt that I don’t belong. I mean, I do belong to society in that I fucking pay taxes. So, I do and I don’t at the same time – I’m a contrary person.
“Ov My Herculean Exile is maybe the first storytelling song that we’ve ever written. It’s quite monotonous for most part of it. We deliberately started the campaign with that song, because every time we come out, it’s with big muscles, ‘This is Behemoth,’ fast, bang, bang, bang. But this time now, we thought, ‘Let’s just fucking surprise people.’ Some people were complaining, like, ‘Hey, who cut off your balls?’ I bet that when they get the full picture, they go, ‘Holy shit, man, that’s too fast. That’s too extreme. Hold on, hold on, give me a breath.’”
“That’s a title that came last minute. I believe a friend of mine suggested it, and I thought it was absolutely brilliant. Obviously, Spartacus is the most known rebel in history, going against the most powerful empire of his time. But when people ask me who it’s actually about, well, I am neo-Spartacus, you can be neo-Spartacus – just act, just do something. If there’s something important you need to say, you got to say it. There’s a lot of actions of governments that are just taking us backward instead of moving forward. I’m gonna use my voice to say something that I find very important, and maybe people will react to that, and maybe it will make people act in the name of those who are in need. And yes, it can be hard. I have three lawsuits happening simultaneously as we speak [from the Polish Church]. Of course, it never ends. But you know what? I kind of stopped thinking about it. I just pay invoices for my lawyers, and they go [to court for me]. So far, so good – we’re all winning!”
“It’s another really heavy one that’s pretty short, pretty bang, bang, bang. All though this album, I’m trying to create something that’s not the same thing twice in a row, you know? Someone compared the way it’s done to Master Of Puppets by Metallica, where it’s constantly moving, and it can get complicated, but it’s always got a hook to it. I’m not saying we’re as good as Metallica! But that album does so much, but you don’t get lost, because of how it’s put together.”
“I actually wrote this before the war in Ukraine started. It’s not really about that. But then, when it started, the dots naturally connected. And now, I use this song and the stage for a platform to talk about the threat coming from the East, Russia being invaders. I use this song to support my neighbours and friends in Ukraine, even though the song is not really about that. It’s an existential song. I don’t think it’s worth elaborating on exactly what it’s all about. It’s a lot of questions. And I don’t think there’s any answers, you know, but let’s just take this quote: ‘Are we defenceless prey in the predator’s eye?’ Just one line of those lyrics, but how relevant it is with what’s happening in the world now? And then it’s a question: do you want to be that? Do you want to change that? I don’t have answers. I’m not clever enough to give you the answer, because I’m still searching, but I hope I’m stimulating people with questions.”
“Is that a Shakespeare reference? Sort of. Everyone knows what a pale horse symbolises. And that’s a Deicide reference as well – Once Upon The Cross! With the lyrics, it just is straight-up what you read: just go out there and own what is already yours. And there’s some Crowley references in there as well, which is very fitting. I think it’s the most heavy metal track on the album, it’s one where the riff really inspired what the lyrics should do. I think fans of Evangelion and Demigod will really like it.”
“This would be quite a regular Behemoth song if it wasn't for those insane choirs there. I remember I played the first mix to someone and he was like, ‘Man, I can’t unhear those choirs. It sounds unworldly. It sounds it sounds sick, weird, bizarre.’ But I’m
doing most of it! Plus there’s female vocals from a friend of mine, and then I asked Orion, ‘Hey, can you pick it up so there’s more voices in there?’ But it sounds like a fucked-up choir!
“We just performed it on the rooftop of a skyscraper in Poland. Trust me, this is not an easy one to pull off, singing all that – it’s very intense. And playing on the roof was fucking weird, man. I came up with the idea when I was sitting with our manager in London, brainstorming ideas. We were at Soho House, and I was sitting there, surrounded by skyscrapers, and I thought, ‘Man, I really want to get out of [this thing we’re always doing].’ I’m talking about forests and fucking caves – it’s just overdone. What can we do? And we decided to play on a skyscraper! So if you go through the videos of the new record, every one of those videos is completely different. But you also see that we are trying out new ground, new techniques new ways.”
Opvs Contra Natvram is due out on September 16 via Nuclear Blast
All hail: Polish metal kings Behemoth continue to burn brighter than the fires of Hell on incredible 12th album…
The day before they drop their new album, Behemoth will perform atop Warsaw’s Palace of Culture & Science for their Opvs Contra Cvltvram streaming event.
K! slaps on the sunscreen and straps on the camel-pack to dive into the most sizzling metal gathering of the summer… Bloodstock Open Air!
Watch the video for Thy Becoming Eternal, the latest single from Behemoth’s upcoming 12th album Opvs Contra Natvram.
Behemoth have unleashed their latest single, Off To War!, from upcoming 12th album Opvs Contra Natvram.
Nergal says new Behemoth album Opvs Contra Natvram (which means going against the current) is his middle finger to “destructive tendencies in pop culture”.