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After a summer that should have seen them conquering festivals all over Europe, including a headline spot at Bloodstock, Behemoth are playing a live-streamed show on Saturday night (September 5). Being Behemoth, frontman Nergal promises that it will be “blasphemous and sacrilegious”. Naturally, it’s being performed in a church.
“Cross your fingers that there’s gonna be no police storming the church, no protesters,” he laughs. “We’re not in the UK, where the church doesn’t give a fuck and you’re all very secular and pretty enlightened. The churches are actually open here, even with COVID. Poland is a very conservative, religious society, so I remember when the whole COVID thing kicked off, they closed down the venues and stuff, but churches were fine. What the fuck?! How come?! And then you get statements following that, like, ‘We are Christians, we are immune. We are saved by our divine beliefs.’ Seriously?”
As with everything Behemoth, Nergal asserts that if they were going to do this, it would have to be a both-barrels, bigger-than-ever, all-or-nothing event. In fact, “event” is a word he specifically uses for what they’re cooking up. “It’s going to be something very special,” he assures us. ”The ultimate Behemoth.”
Where did the idea to do a show in a church come from?
“The initial idea was to do something outdoors, and we found a sort of mine, there was a lake, and it looked like a really fjord-ish, Nordic place. But then when we considered all the logistics, I realised that it might be possible, but it would be too big of a challenge. I remembered where we shot the Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel video, this old church. So we drove there, and when we approached it was all closed and the windows were covered and stuff. I thought, ‘Holy shit, this is not happening.’ But there was a cellphone number on the door, so one of us called up and the guy said, ‘Well yeah, I own the church now – I bought it.’ He’s an artist and asked us what we needed. We explained we were a rock band and wanted to do an event, and he said, ‘Fuck yeah!’”
How important was the location to you?
“I was very particular about the location. I really wanted this to be something else. In Poland, we have an abundance of old churches that are no longer in service since the war ended in 1945, and have just stayed there. Like, movies have been shot there and stuff, but no events. It’s basically walls with nothing in it. But it’s beautiful, in its ruined condition. It’s not civilised, it looks very raw. So we thought, ‘Let’s make it as raw and sacrilegious in every fucking way possible.’ It’s ruins that we’re going to leave – ashes.”
Presumably God won’t be there, then…
“Right after we locked it in I came up with this name, In Absentia Dei – the absence of God. Behemoth playing in a church and calling it that… there might be God anywhere else in the world, but on this particular night, God has a day off, I assure you. All that is happening, all the rituals and all that we’ve got set for the show, it’s gonna be absolutely unique and one of a kind and blasphemous and sacrilegious – the Behemoth way.”
The pics you’ve put on Instagram already look really ceremonial and flamboyant…
“It is! It is! Honestly, I’ve been working hard trying to give a name, a definition to what we’re doing. Is it a video? Is it a clip? Is it a show? And then I got in the back of my head: what if this is the first black metal musical? It’s beyond a normal show, a video. A movie, maybe? It’s none of them. It’s a lot of different concepts, and I hope that we have come up with something unprecedented and unmatched. Maybe when bands see things can be done this way, with a big, epic approach, they’ll start doing it. But for now, I’ve never seen anyone doing anything even similar to this.”
You sound very confident…
“I hope you don’t find me sounding arrogant, but we are stepping into the unknown. I would kindly ask you to cross your fingers for what we are doing, because it’s been a long process to get here. It’s a massive investment financially, of energy, emotionally, but we have all the confidence that it’s great. It could be a game changer. We don’t know what’s happening next, we don’t know what direction the world is heading towards, we don’t know if shows are back next year. We know nothing at this very moment. What we know is we’ve still got the internet and people can pay to support bands and people who work in music – techs, production people. All these people losing jobs, you are supporting them.”
You must be ready to get onstage as well, right? It’s been a long six months…
“Yeah, although there’s no stage – we’re basically standing on the altar, or where the altar used to be. It’s a show for me, though. There’s gonna be spectators, but not a full audience, but just to be performing songs and making this all happen is amazing. It’s a show within the new reality, for sure.”
Are you doing anything special setlist wise?
“There’s quite a few songs that we’re digging out from the buried past of our history. There’s new songs we’ve never played from the recent EP, and songs we haven’t played in, like, 15 years from Apostasy and Demigod. And guess what – we had to re-learn those songs. It wasn’t easy! But we’ve been rehearsing for weeks now, so we’ve nailed them. And this is longer than we normally play. Normally we play for one-and-a-half hours because it’s just too intense, too much to take. This is two hours, because we don’t know if there’s any more shows for a year, two years. Let’s just think there’s no tomorrow. This is the ultimate Behemoth. Whatever you’ve seen from us at a festival, this is times-five. I’m in the middle of that, and that’s overwhelming, and I’m thinking, ‘How are we meant to pull this off?’ But we must. There is no other way.”
Behemoth's In Absentia Dei livestream takes place on September 5. Tickets are available now.
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