At the moment Nergal is still home in Gdansk, but not for long anymore: “In a few days we leave for the festivals and all the other crazy shit” he promptly announces.
But in April you did already a long tour with the No Mercy package, isn't it?
Yes, we did No Mercy, we did some dates in the US, we did Israel and we did Russia and Eastern Europe, so actually this warm-up tour as we called it, was close to fifty shows.
That's a lot!
Well, someone has to do it, right!
But it expands the success…
Yeah, it is working fine for us. I mean, we have to be sure that this music is delivered to the crowd, you know. Some of the bands are so laidback, they just want to do one or two tours and that's it. Fuckers! Having such a strong album in our hands, we want to make sure that we are going to deliver it to people.
So you prefer being on the road, rather than being in the studio?
It depends. When I am too long on the road, then I definitely need to go home and relax. Now and then I kind of miss going to the studio. It is all about keeping the right balance between different activities. That's always the worst with me.
This time you once again recorded the album in Gdansk with long term engineer Malta. Is that your own studio?
No, we went to a studio and it is actually one of the best studios around and it is really well equipped. We still use these analogue and digital technologies, so it is really important for us to go to a good place.
The mix was done in Sweden at the Dugout Studios. Did you assisted or was it long distance cooperation?
I flew to Sweden to mix the record with Daniel Bergstrand. I always want to be there.
'The Apostasy' has a marvellous sound! There is a better balance between the acoustic parts and the real harsh parts…
Thank you! And that's what I think about this record too. It is well-balanced. It is bold. Extremely brutal and vast, but then on the other hand you have mellow parts. The first songs they kick you between the eyes, like 'Slaying The Prophets Ov Isa' and 'Prometherion' and then you have those acoustic parts coming in, and then 'At The Left Hand Ov God' which is like a majestic, mid-paced song. I think this album has really good dynamics. A mixture between fast and crazy parts and more groovy and atmospheric parts.
The mantra-like chants and percussion at the end of 'At The Left Hand Ov God' are fantastic!
Yeah, it is not bad (laughs). Actually it happened very spontaneous. We were rehearsing that song and we did not know how to finish it. We just kept going and Inferno was doing this weird drumming and I was thinking, maybe we should keep guitars in the ending and that's how it came out.
Another surprising song is 'Inner Sanctum'…
Oh yeah, everyone points that out, you know. This one stands out. Because it is different from anything else on the record. That's why people point this out, it does not sound like a typical Behemoth song.
And there are two guests on that song.
Yes, Leszek Mozdzer, a jazz pianist from Poland and a guy called Warrel Dane, you might know him from Nevermore.
How did you get in contact with him?
I just called him, because he is a Behemoth fan (laughs). I asked him “What about singing on our song?” and he was very flattered. And I was amazed by his version, by the way he sang on that song. He is one of those very few persons that could express the right expression of the deeper frustration that the entire lyrics have. These are very personal, very emotional lyrics. I did not want to ruin that song with my vocals. (smiles) I just ask Warrel and he did an awesome job. I am really proud that we have him on the record.
Is there a lyrical theme in general on the album?
Not really. I have to say that this is a very diverse record when it comes to lyrics to be honest. It is just different things going on. And I definitely don't want to take away the pleasure from people to have their own interpretations of the songs. All I can say is that it differs so much, every song from each other. It just happened, it is very direct.
And you wrote all the lyrics? Krzysztof wasn't there?
Krzysztof (Azarewicz – who writes often lyrics for Behemoth – Vera) wrote two songs together with me. 'At The Left Hand Ov God' and 'Arcana Hereticae' are the songs that we contributed together and the rest is me.
I guess you are pretty excited about going on tour with the Ozzfest caravan soon?
Oh yeah! (laughs) It is like a dream coming true! What can I say? Us being still an underground heavy metal band and we got on this mainstream high profile, probably biggest metal event ever! It is amazing! We are totally proud and honoured to be part of the bill, sharing the stage with all these awesome bands, especially Ozzy Osbourne. What can I say, I am blown away…
Did you suddenly get a call?
To be honest, we have worked on that for years. It was not a one night decision (laughs). I got this phone call one night from our manager, saying “You are on, what do you think about that?”, but we have worked on that like for two years now.
A trumpet trio and choirs give the album an extra epic feel.
In the studio I listened to the songs and I feel if the song needs something extra. And it can be anything. It can be some extra vocals, some solo here and some solo there. The music itself sounded so militant and epic, when you add some instruments it is going to sound so fucking big. And that's how it ended and turned out.
And they are mixed in the back, but they are there. Without them something would be missing.
I hate it when some bands who have those small cool details and then they just put it upfront so everyone can hear it. At the same time they kind of ruin the whole surprise. And I think it is much smarter to hide it a little bit in the mix and just make the whole sound richer. It is all up to vision. I might have a different vision. I think it worked well for Behemoth. It probably would not have worked for Therion or some other band.
I hear that you have lots of experience. You founded the band in 1991. It must have been strange at that time to come up with an extreme band in Poland?
To be honest, yes. It was strange for a fifteen year old kid to start a black metal band. In these days, it is usually mature, grown-up guys who do things like that, because it is dangerous music as you know. I was totally into this kind of stuff. I just wanted my band. I was so passionate about it. That's why I started Behemoth.
Through the years it turned out that you and drummer Inferno are the main permanent members. With Orion on bass. But what about Seth?
He is a session guy, but he is playing on this record also. Orion is another permanent member.
Do they contribute to the writing process?
Oh totally. Well, I write the music, I bring the ideas to the table, but we definitely sit together and decide if it is good or bad. And I always rely on their opinions because these guys are really well-experienced and they know what they are talking about. They are great musicians. It is definitely a team work.
What about the artwork? Who did it?
It is actually the same guy. Graal. (Tomasz Danilowicz – Vera). He did everything since 'Pandemonic Incantations'. But this time is the first time that he did not use this budget-life way of things. He's got the whole sculpture made and he took a picture of it. The whole idea of having that was because the whole record sounds more organic than before. The photo session, every single detail about 'The Apostasy' was more organic than before. So we just could not do another cover that would look the same. We wanted to do something refreshing, something appealing to the whole vision. It is disturbing and kind of scary.
You had a contract with Regain Records for two albums. Is it now the end of the contract?
Yes, it seems like. They will definitely be putting out our new EP and then we'll see. I cannot say anything right now.
A new EP? So there is going to be an EP next?
Maybe in a few months or so. We are working on it right now. It is mostly done; we only have to compile it. These were leftover songs from this record, but these are good songs. They have to be released and out, cool songs, we just think about the best timing.
So you prefer to release an EP and release it close to this album, better than wait until you have a complete new album again and put them on that one?
Because I like to be fresh when I start working on a new album. I do not want to use old songs. By the time we start thinking about a new album, these songs are going to be old already.
Sometimes I hear the remark from people: “They have evolved from pure black metal to death metal”. Does it bother you?
That's what people say. I don't really know about that. I know that I evolved myself. I am not the same person that I was when I was fifteen. I really don't know what to say to those people. I'm in a different place, in a different situation and I have been through different experiences, and it brought me to what I am now. Everything evolves, nothing stays the same.
Fortunately, because I don't like bands that make the same record fifteen times.
I am happy you are saying that because Behemoth is actually one of those bands that never do the same record. I like intriguing and refreshed things; I like something new every time.
Poland is known for its brutal metal scene. Do you have contact with many bands?
I think I know all of them, or maybe 90%. We are good friends. It is a good scene!
Nergal once played – ten years ago or longer – in a band called Mastiphal. I immediately thought about the Darzamat guys, but that is a different Mastiphal in which they started. You had a Mastiphal from Gdansk and a band with the same name coming from Katowice. I told Nergal that I have the (rather exclusive) records of December's Fire and Hefeystos, where he did some guest vocals.
You have it? O, shit! (laughs)
No, no I liked it!
That's cool, thank you. Yes, I did some extra stuff aside, but it was so long ago. I am always surprised that people still remember that. But I don't have problems with that. It is something I once did, that's how I was, who I were, how can I deny myself, you know? It is the same with Behemoth's old stuff. Our demo tapes do not represent how we are now, but I definitely respect what I was back then.
Your previous release was a double CD with extremely beautiful and interesting booklet and old material, called 'Demonica'. Was it an idea of the record company?
'Demonica' was all me who compiled it. I just wanted to make sure, when people spend money on something with Behemoth's name on; they always have something with quality. That is why you have this extensive booklet with pictures and the whole story on top of the music.
Now maybe a strange question: what do you think of the Viking culture and the bands in this genre with growing popularity?
Well, it is not really my cup of tea to be honest. I would not listen to this music myself at home. But I like any band, as long as it is good, it is okay. It is all about quality and sincerity. And if they are good in what they do, well, let them fucking rule the world. I don't mind, really.
What are you listening to at home?
(thinks and laughs) Well, everything, to be honest. I am very open-minded. I just got the new Queens Of The Stone Age. I have been listening to it with my headphones on. Everything, from extreme music to country. It is kind of mind opening for me, being a writer of music, I don't want to stay on this narrow path of extreme metal. I like to know what is going on in other genres too. I wish to find a lot of good music in almost any kind of music.
Are there plans to make a videoclip?
We are actually thinking about it right now. We had one guy scheduled to make the video later this month (June), but it got fucked up. So we try to find replacement, a right man to shoot a video for 'Prometherion'.
Is there a special reason you called the album 'The Apostasy'?
Actually it was kind of accidental. I got this e-mail from a friend of mine that has a link to some news. It was about those youngsters in Poland, that were trying to break with the church because they no longer want to be a part of the church and all of a sudden I saw the name 'The Apostasy'. I was enlightened. I thought “What a killer, awesome name!” and then I searched more about that and I just decided to name the record after it.
What do you think about news ways of publicity, like “myspace” and “youtube”?
I totally love it! Our www.myspace.com/behemothofficial is going extremely well. It is very popular. We got a new design. Check it out. There are so many cool things happening there. I think that people really like that and I like it too. I think it is a nice way of communicating with the people.
Except for touring coming up and the EP, is there something else we ought to know?
We will be doing this huge tour now and I hope we are going to film some professional shows and start working on a new DVD next year. This coming time we have this huge, massive tour and hopefully a DVD is going to follow. We are going to film everywhere.
Exciting times for Behemoth! On Ozzfest they are direct support of Hatebreed and Ancest. They are the only black metal band, though there is Nile on the bill as well as extreme death act. They will be touring in our areas with Kataklysm in October 2007! Be there and check out 'The Apostasy'!