“Sometimes it’s a darkness with a big wink, but sometimes it’s very serious,” he says of Me and That Man.
If there’s a performer for whom the word “outspoken” could be applied, Adam Darski is it. Better known as Nergal, the frontman of Behemoth is used to rattling cages in his homeland of Poland and beyond with his extremely blackened death metal, confrontational lyrics and personality. For instance, in 2012, he was the face of a Polish energy drink called Demon. In 2011, he served as a judge on the first season of The Voice of Poland, but his fellow judges and country looked down on his Satanic views, leading to a culture clash within and outside of the show that led to his limited time on it.
But Nergal willingly dances with the Polish mainstream. “I like to do that,” he declares. “As long as I can piss people off, it’s awesome.”
Keeping with this maverick spirit is New Man, New Songs, Same S–t, Vol. 1 (March 27, Napalm Records), the second album from his other band, Me and That Man, which is a musical 180 from Behemoth. Some call it a blues project, others country or folk. As Nergal points out, it is all of those things and more. While one can hear strains of Nick Cave and Tom Waits on both albums, he thinks the latest one is far more diverse than 2017 predecessor Songs of Love and Death.
Whereas that set featured him and blues guitarist-singer John Porter (who later departed), New Man, New Songs, Same S–t, Vol. 1 is a larger group effort. Nergal wrote about 60 percent of it, with the rest composed by the other band members — Lukasz Kumanski (drums), Matteo Bassoli (bass, synths) and Sasha Boole (guitars, mouth harp, banjo) — and guest performers.
Although he usually knows what he wants to do musically, Nergal remains open to other people’s ideas and the chance to redefine the band with outside influences. The guest list is impressive: Vocalists include Ihsahn (Emperor), Matt Heafy (Trivium) and Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour), among many others, plus Brent Hinds (Mastodon) and Volbeat’s Rob Caggiano contribute guitar. Saxophonist-singer Jorgen Munkeby enlivens opening track “Run With the Devil,” which sounds like it could fit Behemoth’s catalog, but the bass-driven music is vastly different — and fun.
“Me and That Man has a lot of darkness in it,” acknowledges Nergal. “Sometimes it’s a darkness with a big wink, but sometimes it’s very serious. It’s way more diverse than what Behemoth is. Behemoth is all-the-way serious, and there is a machine for humor and just goofing around, but only backstage.” He says his music always has a link to the dark side, “which is something that’s in my DNA and I can’t really cut out.”
The lyrics certainly traverse dark topics. They also are more straightforward than those of Behemoth, which Nergal says are full of metaphors and deeper meanings that he isn’t always aware of until he releases the music. “It takes years for me to realize what I was trying to say,” he admits, whereas Me and That Man’s themes more overt.
“Run With the Devil” and “Burning Churches” are pretty self-explanatory and show how some metal topics easily transcend genre. (Nergal plays the title character in the video for the former.) “Mestwo,” with music by Kumanski and Polish lyrics by Piotr Gibner, excoriates sex abuse and rape within the Catholic church. It’s the only track Nergal that sings on; its title translates as “Bravery” in English.
“The message is that I am who I am and I know who I am, and I’m going to stick to my codes and my ethics in a world that is full of slaves and opportunists,” explains Nergal. “It has a nature of confession in a way or a statement, ‘Hey, this is who I am, and if you want to f–k with me, bring it on.’”
In comparison, the Boole composition “You Will Be Mine” is a twisted tale of an obsessed lover who turns homicidal. It will likely generate polarized responses — for instance, when Nergal originally offered it to Seattle’s dark folkster King Dude, he turned it down because he wouldn’t sing the lyrics.
“I mean, ‘You’re going to be mine, or I’m going to f–king kill you.’ How more aggressive and violent and brutal you can get?” observes Nergal. “It is a bar song, basically. I love those ambiguities of what Me and That Man brings to the table because a lot of the stuff is brutal. Then again, just listen to Murder Ballads by Nick Cave, or Hank Williams and stuff like that. It’s kind of similar. It’s not politically correct, yet the music has the potential to make it to the radio. But probably because of the content, it never will.”
There were no American tour plans prior to the coronavirus pandemic, so Me and That Man was promoting New Man, New Songs, Same S–t, Vol. 1 by releasing multiple singles. However, a launch party show in London slated for March 27 was canceled, and an April tour of Poland also has been nixed. (There is no word yet on new dates.) But the group has summer appearances planned for such festivals as Hellfest and Wacken Open Air.
A lifelong fan of heavy music, Nergal understands the reaction some metal fans might have to the album. But he recalls how the way that punk rockers The Clash flirted with reggae made that genre sound cool to him. He hopes that headbangers who don’t like such styles as country will find his version acceptable. “Maybe it’s wishful thinking,” he muses, “but maybe not.”
He doesn’t minding irritating the metal masses, though. “There are plenty of artists out there,” says Nergal. “If you don’t like what I do, unfollow. The world is really that simple these days. I just don’t understand why people waste their time and go on my social media to comment and send some hate messages or to get offended so they can bring me to court because I did something last summer. It’s f–king pathetic and weak. I really despise that kind of attitude.”
Nergal considers himself “very lefty on most of the departments,” such as LGBTQ and human rights, but notes, “I honestly think that political correctness is going way overboard and crossing the limit. It’s just wrong. To me, it’s dangerous to rock’n’roll.”
He feels an example of this was when Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme kicked photographer Chelsea Lauren’s camera during a 2017 concert. “The whole world was ready to crucify Josh Homme,” recalls Nergal. “Obviously, what he did was wrong. But then again, [people] like the Sex Pistols and Motley Crue and Led Zeppelin and those classic bands that no one f–ks with these days. But my question is, do you ever bother to read their biographies? Because if you do, from today’s perspective, you’d have to burn all of their discographies.”
In the end, the metal icon feels it comes down to using discernment. “The world is stupid,” he asserts. “People don’t read anymore. People pay attention only to headlines. They never investigate. They never go any deeper than what they see in the headlines. That’s how they make their judgment, and then that’s how they throw the stones. So at this very moment, I’m going to shut up and not comment any further. If you have a brain, make up your mind and think for yourself. If you want to follow this stupid mass, just f–king do it.”