Side/solo projects can be a risk for established artists. It’s always interesting to see a musician take a different approach to their self-expression, or the therapeutic outlet they seek through creativity, but mostly, the results can be somewhat disappointing. Adam ‘Nergal’ Darski of Behemoth fame found new levels of astonishing emotional depth with 2014’s extreme metal masterpiece, The Satanist – which is one of the best albums of this century – and so it seemed astonishing that he should find another avenue for his art. Given what he has been through, it is not surprising he has a lot to get off his chest. As was harrowingly captured in his autobiography, Confessions of a Heretic, he survived a bout of leukaemia and made a miraculous recovery after such a traumatic life event.
Darski is now back with his debut solo album, Songs of Love and Death with the renowned John Porter under the moniker, Me and That Man. It is a stark musical departure from the infernal cacophony of Behemoth’s work, but lyrically is as profound and dark in subject matter.
The album does start rather slowly; lead single, My Church is Black, is by far the weakest track, which will be a relief to fans of Nergal who approach the record with caution. Nightride is a slightly more up-tempo, road-weary country classic, but feels fairly stereotypical and a tad lifeless, which is a genuine shame to have to say, but from track three, everything changes.
With On the Road, Darski begins to show off his impressive vocal range, beginning with a raspy soliloquy, before his melodic verse comes in, sung in a higher register than the previous two tracks, breathing real excitement into the album. Joyous! The addition of some slight distortion to the acoustic guitars on top of the stomping percussion make this a sure-fire live hit – assuming Me and That Man continues in the future and remains a touring outfit. The album’s highlight, Voodoo Queen, is the epitome of Darski’s dark country-rock and stands out as a real gem in his eclectic arsenal.
Musically, this album is simple, but very effective, but lyrically the listener is treated to the same profound writing that you’d come to expect from Nergal. It’s a surprising change in direction, and takes a few listens to really click, but if you put the time in, you’ll get a lot of pleasure from this album.