Behemoth have always been one of the only bands in the world that truly think outside the box. From peculiar merch items such as the upcoming “God=Dog Food”, to the intellectual thought processes when it comes to writing their music. They’re the band that, time and time again, prove that their albums is not just a collection of 9 great songs, not just a loose conceptual album, but rather an in depth form of artistry that allows for public interpretation to however they see fit. After coming out with “The Satanist”, which has been critically acclaimed as one of the greatest albums of the century, Behemoth are back with their upcoming 11th record, “I Loved You At Your Darkest”, and to coincide with the album release, the band have set up 6 exclusive Art Gallery Exhibitions around the world to further develop and delve into the artistry behind “I Loved You At Your Darkest”.
A year before the announcement of Behemoth’s upcoming album, vocalist/guitarist/mastermind Adam “Nergal” Darski contacted renowned photography/photoshop duet Sylwia Makris and Christian Martin Weiss and sculptor Tomasz Górnicki to begin a project that would later become “Thou Art Darkest”, an exhibition portraying different forms of artistry related to “I Loved You At Your Darkest”. The exhibition in itself is one of the most ambitious projects, and one of the first that relates to a specific album, but if there is any band that could pull it off, it’s Behemoth.
At the exhibition in Gdańsk, the attendees are treated to a speech from Behemoth mastermind Nergal, as well as a speech by sculptor/artist, Tomasz Górnicki, to begin the overall exhibition and to give an loose description of the gallery, providing just enough detail to leave personal interpretation, whilst also getting the general idea of the art. I don’t want to spoil his speech for those who will be attending the upcoming exhibitions in Warsaw, Berlin, London, New York and Los Angeles, but everything in this gallery, all the way down to the colour of the suits, dresses and overall clothing, is allowed for personal interpretation and always has a reason.
In my personal rendition of the gallery, I found that a whole running theme behind everything, further developed by the music of “I Loved You At Your Darkest” to be the good and the evil; Solve et Coagula; Sanctum Profanum; Heaven and Hell. All these have the overall theme of similar opposites, with it being completely mirrored, but also completely different. Although my theory may not necessarily be correct, I found that this is also portrayed through “The Satanist” and “I Loved You At Your Darkest”, with the former being the dark, and the latter being the light, in terms of musical composition. I’m not saying that ILYAYD has a happy overtone to it, but it mirrors “The Satanist” in many different ways; my favourite example in this aspect would be the opening lyrics to Amen, compared to the opening lyrics on Havohej Pantocrator. “Hail Mary, full of disgrace”, “Our father who art in hell, unhallowed be thy name”. These are extracted from two different prayers, both mirroring each, but the music as well complements both in the idea of mirroring, with Amen being utterly chaotic with incredibly fast tempos, and Havohej Pantocrator being filled with acoustic guitars and performing at an overall slower tempo.
I want to begin with what’s possibly the most important piece of art at this exhibition, (unfortunately the one I didn’t get a chance to photograph), the sculpture of the uncrucified Jesus. It is the version of Jesus where he was not crucified, and for those who are unaware of the reasoning behind the aforementioned crucifixion, it is widely known as a sacrifice, and a chance of redemption.
The uncrucified Jesus sculpture portrays him as a deformed, old man begging for redemption, begging to be sacrificed in the name of the lord; if you can imagine a scenario where the crucifixion never occurred, it will ultimately lead to damnation of the human race.
Another sculpture by Górnicki caught my eye in more ways than one, and it depicts an unknown person missing his arms, with his head covered by a specific material. Whilst stuck in conversation with Górnicki, he explained to me that every single one of his works related to this gallery each depicts something deformed in one way or another, and in this specific instance, it’s the individuals arms. Kneeling on the ground, the positioning of this sculpture is placed right in front of the “Shrine” artwork, but with the figure’s face and body in the opposite direction. A man that has been tortured, missing a part of himself and blind, looking for the shrine; for salvation, but it’s known that he will never find it as he hasn’t been pointed in the right direction.
What was possibly my favourite sculpture of the entire exhibition however, is the sculpture of the deformed angel depicted as if he was falling from heaven. The deformity of this specific piece is the fact that the angel was missing a wing, both arms and a head, but what struck me the most almost immediately was that the angel was painted black.
If you imagine an angel in your head, you’re automatically directed to a white figure, and that’s where the interesting part of it comes; you’re left pondering to yourself as to whether or not this figure is a heavenly angel, and it can lead to many different interpretations, mine personally being that no figure in the history of mankind has ever been completely sinless. That sin sticks with us forever, and if the concept of Heaven/Hell is real, then every angel, every living being that has entered heaven has to have committed sins, pertaining to the idea that each of those beings have a side of that “blackness” as portrayed by the sculpture.
The other half of the sculpture that struck me was the fact that the angel’s missing arms, left wing and head were missing, but the way Górnicki sculpted it shows that they were all broken off by the falling motion, very much like if you were to drop glass, depicting the fragility of the angels and the sinners. A conversation with Górnicki helped shape my interpretation of it, further expanding on the idea that humanity is very fragile as a whole, but on the inside, everyone is a sinner one way or another, with this angel embracing it his past sins, rather than hiding it and burying it deep for it to come back and “shatter” you later.
After visiting an exhibition such as “Thou Art Darkest”, it becomes apparent that Behemoth are not just world class musicians, but artists to their own degree. They constantly push the boundaries of music and take everything one step further leaving fans and observers alike in shock, and being paired with “I Loved You At Your Darkest”, this exhibition is an absolute must for those who are not just interested in the music that Behemoth create, but rather the artistry behind what’s definitely the most ambitious project yet.
Preorder Behemoth‘s upcoming studio album, “I Loved You At Your Darkest”, due out October 5th here!