Many were surprised when Nergal, the frontman of the notorious Polish death metal act Behemoth, announced that he was working on a folk/blues/country project. The project went unnamed for the longest time, with only clips of songs that Nergal posted to his Instagram. Eventually, we got a name, “Me and That Man,” and that Nergal was working with English musician John Porter. Then we got a name for the album, Songs of Love and Death, as well as a music video for the opening track, “My Church is Black.”
The album serves as a different form of emotional outlet for Nergal. The anger and negative emotions put into Behemoth’s lyrics and musical style are still the same ones that can be heard in Songs of Love and Death, just in a different form of expression. Drawing influences from artists like Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, and Johnny Cash, Nergal has made this outlet just as, if not darker, than Behemoth.
The first track; “My Church is Black” is a taste of what we can come to expect from the project. The slow tempo, soulful harmonica, and blues-folk guitar give the atmosphere of some old western, added on to by the backing vocals without a choir or harmony. It’s a good song to drive around to.
The song that was the highlight of the album to me was “Cross My Heart and Hope to Die.” The opening metallic sound effects, big group choruses, and the use of child singers bring out the unapologetic darker side to this project. That said, every song on this album brings something different to the table from the blues riff of “Shaman Blues” to mournful tones of “Ain’t Much Loving.”
While I was listening to this album, I found that I wasn’t having a good time, and that bothered me. And then it dawned on me why I wasn’t enjoying it. The album isn’t designed to bring out the happiness within, but rather, much like Behemoth, toy with the idea of inner darkness. Every part of this album, including the addicting guitar riffs, rough vocals, and dark lyrics, encompasses the essence of the blues genre.