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Extreme metal bands are no stranger to gloomy forests. To steal from a meme, 75 per cent of a Scandinavian park ranger's job is rescuing black metal bands that get lost in the woods shooting album covers. Ah, but there is something undeniably atmospheric about a primal piece of woodland and Behemoth’s latest video – for their stunning cover of A Forest by gothic rock progenitors The Cure – makes full use of that fact.
The song is the centrepiece of the band’s new EP featuring two brand new tracks. Frontman Nergal has said that he’s been working on more new Behemoth material during lockdown, but it’s A Forest that really grabs the imagination. It’s a great cover, taking the brooding pulse of the original and adding an extreme metal wash of aggression, with added help from Shining frontman Niklas Kvaforth. It’s not the first time they’ve covered bands that emerged from the England’s post-punk and goth-era past either, having previously taken on songs by the likes of Killing Joke and Fields Of The Nephilim.
We grabbed Nergal to find out why he decided to cover A Forest and how his more goth-tinted leanings bled through into Behemoth…
What is it about the Cure that you love?
“I am a fan, but I wasn’t a huge fan for most of the time that I was aware that The Cure was out there... Until I realised there was a certain sonic darkness in their music that appeals to my aesthetics. While I started growing my interest in gothic and post-punk music, stuff like The Sisters Of Mercy and Fields Of The Nephilim, at some point The Cure must have come out for me as one of the core originators of the genre. It was a group of bands with Bauhaus and Peter Murphy and a few others that I found. I’m not really immersed in the genre but some of those bands are absolutely groundbreaking. I listen to more than just metal; there are certain dark atmospheres in different kinds of music that appeal to me and I’ll just go for that.”
Why did you decide to cover A Forest on the new EP?
“This was a song I felt I could relate to and build something out of it within Behemoth’s sound. I felt we could build a bridge with it between genres. You can make a cover that sounds like a cover – it respects the original but it has that Behemoth trademark on it. I couldn’t necessarily do that with a lot of other songs.”
Do you have any other favourite Cure songs?
“When it comes to The Cure, I can’t really say my favourite songs. A Forest stands out but it’s more about immersing myself in certain albums. The two records I think are supreme are Disintegration and Pornography. I don’t know if these are considered the magnum opuses by The Cure diehards. I’m not an expert but they’re the ones that I like and when I listen to them, they’re like twin records for me. They sound very monolithic and very complete yet very overwhelming as well. They share the same vibe and energy and atmosphere; it’s very dark and sinister sounding. There’s a nostalgic or perhaps masochistic feeling in those songs and a sadness and a longing for something. As well as being belligerent and extreme when it comes to metal, I also have a part of my nature that’s very romantic. I feed on the romanticism on those records. They’re timeless albums too. I got into them late, maybe when I was around 30, so you can call me a newborn fan of The Cure even now.
You’ve covered Killing Joke as well, who came from a similar English post-punk setting. Did you discover them at around the same time?
“Probably. I remember Killing Joke was brought to the band by our drummer [Inferno]. He introduced us to the orange record, their second self-titled album (2003’s Killing Joke) with Dave Grohl on drums. That was a big discovery for all of us and we covered Total Invasion from that record. From there I dug deeper into their discography and my favourite records from them are Pandemonium, the orange Killing Joke and Hosannas From The Basements Of Hell. My friend from the UK sent me Absolute Dissent when I was hospitalised, going through chemotherapy and fighting leukemia. It’s not the best album but one of my all-time favourite songs, European Superstate, is on there. They’re a band that inspired genres and Nirvana pretty much ripped off some of their songs and made it mainstream. Killing Joke were never a massive band but I’m happy they still deliver. I’ve seen them in Poland and the last time I saw them in Warsaw, it was one of the best shows. Some bands are just cashing in on nostalgia but Killing Joke are marching on and delivering.”
You mentioned the Sisters Of Mercy and Fields Of The Nephilim – is there a goth influence to Behemoth’s more atmospheric parts?
“Here and there. I don’t think it’s always audible but, for example, there’s a new song we’re working on that is an extreme metal song but it’s slower. We have an internal language that’s how we communicate within the band and I just told Orion when he was working on his bass, ‘Yeah can you do this like Fields Of The Nephilim on Psychonaut and he’d know exactly what I mean.”
And they’re another band you’ve covered aren’t they?
“Yeah, we covered the song Penetration and that’s pretty much what led me to get in touch with [Fields Of The Nephilim frontman] Carl McCoy and performing that song with them live. So yeah, all these bands have something in common and I just love it.”
Do you also channel some of that dark atmosphere into your folk/blues project Me And That Man?
“Yeah, but it’s more about me playing three chords instead of 73. It’s me just trying to strip down the music and only playing the note that you really must play to get a certain mood. It’s a big mix of different elements that makes Me And That Man so exciting. You can mix salt and sugar and it works. So I can bring in my post-punk influences and put them in with something else and just explore different things with the music.”
Behemoth's new A Forest EP is out now – have a listen or buy a copy now.
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