Album Reviews : Me And That Man – Songs Of Love And Death
Adam Darski is a fiercely independent spirit. Better known as Nergal, the front man for black metal’s preeminent representative likely to obtain the mainstream attention in the late teen-naughties, Behemoth. On Songs Of Love And Death, Darski teams with Polish/British folk artist John Porter to create an album full of Delta blues inspired shanties.
I do wonder where Darski gets his drive from. Famously entrepreneurial, he has opened a barber academy and shop in Warsaw (Barberian); appeared as a judge on Poland’s version of The Voice; penned an autobiography that among other stories details his experience managing and recovering from a Leukaemia diagnosis; launched a line of beers under the Behemoth moniker in partnership with Perun brewery; fronts two musical outfits, and has a historical stake in two others. I’d suggest the most compelling reason to listen to Songs Of Love And Death is to hear the evolution of Darski as both a renaissance man and artist.
Before I discuss the album itself, there is a point I’ll raise that addresses a key obstacle that many readers out there will encounter when listening to Songs Of Love And Death for the first few times.
Many years ago I purchased Weezer’s career defining Pinkerton (’96) the day of its Australian release. Listening to it on the train ride home, I thought it was a noisy rabble of an album; the glossy sheen of Ric Ocasek’s production on the Blue Album (’94) was replaced with a gritty, harsher, heavier mix and production quality cloaking what many (myself included) would go on to consider the best collection of pop-slanted rock songs of the past 30 years. Similarly, Songs Of Love And Death is indeed a grower. At first, it’s a vexatious listen as the many melodies through the album are buried under Darski and Porter’s harsh vocal and angular guitar playing. History will judge if the album will do for Darski what Pinkerton did for Weezer, however, I implore fans of the dark arts and heavy metal in general to give Songs Of Love And Death a chance as it is a seriously addictive album once it gets its claws into you.
The first thing that I noticed is that in photos and on the official music video’s Darski has replaced his usual ESP LTD HEX-7 and ESP Eclipse guitars for a Gretsch White Falcon. That’s an important point. As a musician myself, there are very few applications I consider my collection of MusicMan 4 and 5 string basses unsuitable, however, Darski has gone to the opposite side of the room for this new guitar selection. So the album is both an artistic and stylistic departure. There is virtually no correlation between the musical content of Behemoth and Me And That Man. Both outfits share the rebelliousness of the lyrical content for sure but the music itself leans on a heady mix of the rockier moments of Nick Cave’s post-The Birthday Party output: the already mentioned southern-inspired Delta blues and Quentin Tarantino soundtrack-worthy ‘Spaghetti Western’ style country.
The most surprising aspect of Songs Of Love And Death is the similarity to Havilah (’08), the experimental blues-rock masterpiece from Perth outfit The Drones. Among a smattering of moments through other album cuts, “Magdalene” is the most obvious reference to Havilah and is the album highlight. If I were to offer any feedback to Darski, it’s to use “Magdalene” as a starting point for the next album and build it from there. If it were at all possible for The Drones vocalist/guitarist Gareth Liddiard and Darski to collaborate, we may have something unprecedentedly magnificent to wrap our ears around.
Elsewhere, “On the Road” sounds like a companion to Lorde’s “Royals” (’13), with its call and response refrain of “I’m on the road… he’s on the road” this could be the song above others on the album that could become a minor hit on FM radio stations across the globe. “My Church is Black” contains lyrics that could well have been written for a Behemoth album with the lyrical crux containing this gem: “My cross is pale, Hell is my home”.
Porter offers a welcome vocal contribution on the jivin’ “One Day”. With the gang vocal chorus “Oh my lord, its death I can’t afford”, it only feels right that Porter take the lead vocal over Darski on that ditty.
Of course, there are thirteen tracks on Songs Of Love And Death. What other number would suit an album penned by the man considered the modern day spokesperson of black/death metal and all things musically nefarious in 2017?
It’s almost impossible in the age of the internet to have singular music tastes. Songs Of Love And Death is an opportunity for fans of Behemoth and other nefarious heavy metal to branch out and explore new musical avenues guided by the hand of one of our very own statesmen.
Trust in Darski to take you on a worthwhile musical journey and the rewards will certainly come.
Songs of Love and Death is out now! Grab your copy HERE.