Dark and Brooding
When Nergal from the Death Metal powerhouse unit Behemoth speculated that he would be starting a brand new project away from his 'day job' there was a fair bit of interest as to what exactly it might entail. Speculation ran wild but the general consensus was that he'd still be doing something hard and heavy. When he finally did announce his intentions, that he would be teaming up with the solo artist John Porter to produce a Blues, Country and Folk record, eyebrows were raised but intrigue certainly went off the scale. Nergal, who is usually screaming about Satan through a barrage of chaos and noise has decided to don a cowboy hat and strum an acoustic guitar?! How can you not be interested by that?
We sit here now then with the album in hand, and my word is it impressive. The record carries this hugely dark, brooding tone throughout in a partnership which works tremendously well as vocally both Nergal and Porter bounce off each other seamlessly. Some of the darker moments on the album sound like a concoction of that Johnny Cash/Rick Rubin series produced towards the end of his life and Nick Cave's chilling material created via the throes of depression. One thing is for damn sure, you cannot just call this a Nergal project because John Porter's contribution is huge - there's no doubt that his vast experience ended up being a key component behind the make-up of some of these songs. Another key highlight on Songs Of Love And Death comes about midway through the album as Of Sirens, Vampires And Lovers sees Porter channel Jim Morrison in a gloomy and ominous piece of music close to something you'd expect on an album from The Doors.
The opening track My Church Is Black immediately throws you in to a 45 minute journey containing tales of love, despair, hate and death. Whilst this does veer in to the darker side of Blues/Country music this doesn't in any way impact just how catchy some of it is. You'll find yourself humming sections long after the album has finished and even if this isn't necessarily a genre of music you have much of an investment in, the sheer quality will almost certainly encourage repeat listens.
All in all then this is definitely one of the more impressive releases of the year so far. Whilst Nergal's involvement will bring in plenty of those who will listen simply because it's him before forgetting about it and throwing on a Behemoth record instead, one thing is for sure, the tremendously high quality from start to finish on Songs Of Love And Death will be delivering a whole new fan base on Nergal and John Porter's doorsteps. We can only hope that this isn't going to be a one-album project.