Behemoth’s 2014 opus, The Satanist, is a vile masterpiece, delving into the eternal war of supposed good against evil. But long before The Satanist, Behemoth frontman Adam ‘Nergal’ Darski had been labeled as evil by the Polish government, spending years in court fighting charges of blasphemy.
At the dawn of the 2010s, Nergal caught a blasphemy charge, eventually heard by the Supreme Court of Poland, after he ripped up a Bible onstage and called the holy text a “book of lies.” During this time, Nergal was also diagnosed with lymphoma, publicly fighting the disease as he appeared on The Voice of Poland as a judge and dated famous pop star Doda.
With the 2011 Polish election about to take place, a newly-famous Nergal was widely used as a political prop. As a Satanist on national television, Nergal became his home country’s most vilified and controversial figure, and conservative politicians demonized the anti-religious musician to push their own agendas.
One study found that Nergal went from being mentioned just 61 times in the Polish media throughout 2009, to 2,755 times in 2011. “Shifts in meaning, context changing, hyperbolization and generalization were also used to supersede the religious category of the neighbor by the political category of the enemy,” writes Adam Warzecha.
“Divide and rule; that’s the ancient formula — divide et impera. That’s what the Polish government does,” Nergal explained to Loudwire in 2019. “They need enemies and they need scapegoats, and I’m one of their favorite scapegoats and enemies.”
These events set the stage for the Feb. 3, 2014 release of The Satanist, one of the most visceral and dissentient extreme metal albums of the 21st century. The album’s first track, “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel,” opens The Satanist with a primitive, atmospheric riff as Nergal churns out the lines, “I saw the virgin’s cunt spawning forth the snake / I witnessed tribes of Judah reduced to ruin.”
“I really wanted to have the word ‘cunt’ in the lyrics,” Nergal said. “It felt like to open with that strong a line would be so defining — this is a knockout from the very start.”
As a unit, Behemoth function as an uncompromising, anti-Christian howitzer throughout The Satanist, fueled by blackened vomit and warlike sacrilege. Whether digging into mid-tempo arpeggios on “Messe Noire” or blasting away at ungodly speeds in “Amen,” Behemoth’s instrumental section reigns with an utmost brilliance from the deepest circle of Hell.
Nergal explains, “With my art being radical and music being extreme and so on… it’s supposed to be violent and evil and I need those metaphors to express my disgust, my frustration towards those institutions and objects that, to me, are the HIV of today’s world.”
The Satanist concludes with its strongest and most expressive track, “O Father O Satan O Sun!” Originally composed to end at its dissonant, gargling crescendo at four minutes in, Behemoth stretched out “O Father” while in the studio, adding an epic series of chords over a chilling spoken-word performance influenced by famous occultist Aleister Crowley.
At the conclusion of the 2010s, Nergal’s life had changed immensely, for the better. The musician emerged victorious over the Polish government and remained in remission from cancer, with the Best Metal Album of the Decade to show for it.
“Coming out with that record throughout obstacles and problems, it was just a manifestation of self-empowerment and perseverance. It just couldn’t [have] come out better,” Nergal told us. “Is Behemoth’s music original? Fuck no. Is Behemoth’s music unique? I truly hope so. Is our music one-of-a-kind? I truly hope so. Don’t mix that with originality; this does not exist, this word is not in my dictionary, but I do believe in uniqueness of art. I do believe in individuality.”
THE SATANIST OF WARSAW: Blasphemy, Cancer & Behemoth