Is there anything that Behemoth frontman Nergal will not dip his toes into? What is inconceivable to some extreme metal fans is this side project, Me and That Man, with its blues infused melodies. But those of us with a more open mind are akin to appreciate the overall message Nergal is trying to portray here. There are plenty of references to the Dark Lord (not Voldemort, the other one) in this record and what better way to spread the message than maybe recording something that will potentially be listened to by more people, as well as to release an album that he feels is in his blood. This effort is different to 2017’s Songs of Love and Death as Nergal has enlisted an array of talent from the metal scene to carry out the vocals for each track. This could be looked at as self reflection by Nergal, but also seen as an opportunity to strengthen the links that he already has in the metal music scene.
The album is clearly a celebration of American music with country, blues and some folk in the mix too. We start off with a blues song, “Run with the Devil”, with vocals from Jørgen Munkeby (Norway’s Shining) coping admirably well compared to his own outfit. The undoubted highlight of the earlier song is “Burning Churches” with vocals from Mat McNerney (Grave Pleasures) who somehow sings “I am saved by the light of burning churches” into an anthem that you would sing around a campfire or dare I say it, a church that you had just burned to the ground. Mat’s vocals are stunning in this piece and suits the music perfectly. Next we have Ihshan (Emperor) with the ballad and blues piece “By the River” which showcases the talented vocalist he is with a wide ranging vocal style, and not just an extreme metal vocalist.
“Mestwo” is where we hear Nergal sing in his native tongue… and don’t even think it’s anything like Behemoths growling style. I personally think that this along with one or two others is the highlight of the album. “Surrender” with vocalist Rob Caggiano (Volbeat) with his haunting vocal line “I surrender to you”, has a gospel feel to it with female choir vocals but we all know that ain’t what’s happening here. Again the vocals are standout here and it’s clear why Nergal rates him so highly. “Deep Down South” as a title should give you an idea of what this track sounds like, and it features Nicke Anderson (Entombed) and Johanna Sadonis (Lucifer) who make an interesting double act, but don’t expect them to be on Eurovision anytime soon. I I do love the line, “Entombed in dirt and rattlesnakes”!
But it’s the beginning and especially the end of the album that make it for me. Second last track “How Come” featuring vocals by Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour) and Brent Hinds (Mastodon). Again, I love the cheekiness of Nergal inserting the Behemoth song “Blow your Trumpets, Gabriel” into the lyrics, but I have to say Corey Taylor makes this the song what it is with a stunning vocal performance.
However, for me, it is the last track “Confession” which include Niklas Kvarforth from Shining (Swe) which is most pleasing in a few ways. Firstly, it lets me know that this man is alive and well, that he has a Nick Cave clean vocal style and that he uses this track to maybe confess a few of his own sins… nah, maybe not. The lyrics float around the subject matter that he portrays in Shining, there is an extreme metal ending and only in this song does Nergal let us know where his real heart lies.
I must admit, I opted to review with trepidation and fear about what I may have encountered. The songs are well out of my usual zone and I have never owned a blues, country or folk record in my life. Nergal, with Me and That Man, may just have got me to expand my listening ears that little bit further. The talent on show here throughout this record is astonishing with not one bad track to behold. A lot has to be said of the status that Nergal has, in not only the extreme metal scene but the music scene in general, that has made possible this most enjoyable listen.
Band photo credit: Grzegorz Gołębiowski
New Man, New Songs, Same Shit Vol 1 is out now