The last time I spoke with frontman Nergal from Poland’s Behemoth in 2009, he told me that he wasn’t very popular in his home country. Unlike many of its neighbours, and despite producing some of the genre’s best bands, extreme metal music doesn’t seem as popular in Poland. Looking at an old appearance from a Polish chat show, Nergal seems at odds with mainstream culture, no matter how hard they try to understand him.

But since then Nergal’s profile at home has exploded. Many have attributed this rush of interest to his relationship with pop-star Doda and his brief involvement with the Polish version of the TV talent-show “The Voice”. This seemed a bit absurd to me, as Behemoth’s music at its most accessible is undeniably extreme and utterly indigestible to a pop audience.

At the same time it hasn’t always been easy. Nergal was twice brought up on charges of insulting the Roman Catholic Church for tearing up a bible on-stage, a crime with a maximum two-year sentence. As well Behemoth was put on hold in 2010 when he was diagnosed with leukemia.

So it was with all this in mind that I sat down with Nergal before his Toronto headlining set on the Metal Alliance tour to talk about his increased profile at home, and the unique circumstances both bad and good that have made Behemoth one of the world’s most well-known and consistent extreme acts.

Shot and edited by Aaron Mandel

A Journal of Musical Things

UPDATE 05/26/14: Not long after the release of this interview, the band found themselves in trouble on their “Russian Satanist Tour”. They attracted attention from conservative Christian groups with some dates being cancelled. Apparently things did get physical at some stops. Finally in the city of Yekaterinburg, the band was detained for not having the correct visa.

Seven members of band and crew spent a night in a narrow cell with feces smeared on the walls and were forced to urinate in bottles. The next day they were deported back to Poland. In the end, they were only able to play four of the thirteen Russian dates they had scheduled.

Sources: The Guardian, Moscow Times