On 2017’s debut album ‘Songs of Love and Death’, Nergal introduced the black metal community to his blackened blues project; Me And That Man. With a sound hugely influenced by murder-balladeers like Nick Cave, Tom Waits and Johnny Cash, it was a major revelation. But in all honesty, it would be more of a revelation if the Behemoth frontman did indeed sit around the house all day in corpse paint with blast beats cranked up to eleven. In releasing ‘Songs of Love and Death’, Nergal was perhaps offering up a glimpse into his record collection, and given the overall acclaim that greeted it, a follow-up was always on the cards. Hence the arrival of ‘New Man, New Songs, Same Shit, Vol.1’, and by Lucifer’s beard, Nergal has knocked it out of the park again.
With original collaborator; John Porter, out of the picture, Nergal has gone down the route of calling on some famous friends and the result is a stunning album that constantly surprises. Being able to call on such names as Corey Taylor (Slipknot), Brent Hinds (Mastodon), Matt Heafy (Trivium), Ihsahn (Emperor) and Rob Caggiano (Volbeat) has meant that the album is as varied as they come. Throw in names maybe not as familiar, such as Sivert Høyem (Madrugada), Jørgen Munkeby (Shining NO), Mat McNerney (Grave Pleasures), Johanna Sadonis (Lucifer), Nicke Anderson (Entombed), Jerome Reuter (Rome), Niklas Kvarforth (Shining SE) and the band Dead Soul, and it is a mightily impressive whatsapp group.
Beginning with the full-on gusto of ‘Run With The Devil’ (a souped-up modern-day hybrid of Link Wray’s ‘Rumble’ and a soundtrack to a Russ Meyers movie), it’s a more upbeat Nergal than ‘Songs Of Love and Death’, hell there’s even some sizzling saxophone courtesy of Jørgen Munkeby. ‘Coming Home’ is the first suggestion of a Nick Cave influence, but was that a tip of the hat to The Cult and ‘Lil Devil’? – “She came on with a cyclone kiss”…
The first major surprise (or headfuck) comes on ‘Burning Churches’, which also features Mat McNerney. Imagine The Chieftains or even Fishermans Friends (with a mariachi band in the background) singing about burning churches and you are almost there. A proper Celtic-sea shanty vibe, with more than a hint of menace. ‘By the River’, featuring Ihsahn, is a simplistic dark tale, complete with a heavy, sinister organ throughout, and a killer guitar solo towards the end. ‘Męstwo’ not only acts as the end of side one, but it’s also the only track that Nergal sings on, and he sings entirely in Polish. A mournful, bewitching few minutes that lingers on for some time after.
Side two begins with one of many highlights on the album; ‘Surrender’. Featuring Swede’s Dead Soul, as well as Rob Caggiano on guitar, it is a brooding few moments where Anders Landelius from Dead Soul takes lead vocals and has the listener quickly searching for the band’s entire back catalogue. ‘Deep Down South’ features the twin lead vocals of Johanna Sadonis and Nicke Anderson, and the contrasting vocal styles, coupled with a bluegrass vibe, give the song real thrust, gotta be an upright bass playing surely? ‘Man Of The Cross’ will have you double-checking that it’s not a Pete Steele outtake (it isn’t, it’s the dulcet tones of Jerome Reuter that are caressing your ears), and then Matt Heafy pops up on ‘You Will Be Mine’, a dark semi-acoustic moment that features some of the best-loved tropes of murder-folk and outlaw country; love, betrayal, murder and incarceration. Even though it’s darker than 3am, the Trivium frontman sounds like he is having a blast.
‘How Come?’ featuring Corey Taylor, Brent Hinds and Rob Caggiano is another highlight. Quintessentially a rock track, the folk-like sway moves it up a notch or two and the end result is good fun. ‘New Man, New Songs, Same Shit, Vol.1’ ends on another major surprise (or headfuck) in the shape of the towering ‘Confession’ which features Niklas Kvarforth on lead vocals. Spaghetti Western meets Behemoth…c’mon who saw that one coming? The final word goes to the man himself…
“This time round, I wanted to take on a different challenge and curated an album of 11 songs – each with their own character and vibe…”
Well, he certainly succeeded, and in doing so Nergal has created arguably the first essential album of 2020.
Available now on Napalm Records.
Review – Dave