So you like heavy music do you? You’re fully kitted out with beard, top knot and albums containing screeching vocalists and guitarists for whom progression means spasmodically jabbing an open string randomly over a recurring splash cymbal!
But what happens to your perceptions of heavy when the distorted guitars disappear? When the vocals, preternaturally aided by Pro Tools are suddenly stripped back and left isolated and unvarnished? What happens when the smoke and mirrors clears to reveal a shimmering desert highway at midnight, desolate plantations, run-down towns dust-bowl towns and hard luck stories? Do you still like the heavy music then?
That’s right melodrama fans, heavy metal by it’s very definition prides itself on having no limits, no boundaries and no rulebook. Yet, to see the way a lot of us cut about, that doesn’t always seem to ring true. But Nergal, Behemoth’s visionary frontman, songwriter, guitarist, voice and all round magnet in human form doesn’t do rules and what he’s unleashed here will testify very explicitly to that fact.
Me And That Man, are a duo made up of the aforementioned Polish whirlwind along with a dude named John Porter and their forthcoming album, Songs of Love and Death deals in the same hard-drinkin’, world weary Americana that calls to mind Johnny Cash’s American Recordings, Calexico and Giant Sand along with the dark poetry of Nick Cave and Leonard Coen. It’s may not be heavy metal, but it sure as hell is heavy.
As though an assurance that the themes that have made Nergal’s name have not been abandoned the opening track is called “My Church is Black”. Yet it kicks off in sparse style with harmonica, minimal percussion and a swinging acoustic drone guitar drone. This ain’t Behemoth. But what it does share with Behemoth is the fact that it is also immediately engaging.
First standout track comes in the form of “On the Road” which sounds like the product of some kind of Trans-American adventure and contains touches of fuzzy guitar which crank the impetus. We also loved the lyrical guitar figures of “Vampires, Sirens and Lovers” and “Love and Death” with it’s vamping piano and campy lyrics. Elsewhere “One Day” sounds like the soundtrack to some kind of late night drunken personal revelation while “Shaman Blues” is about as traditionally blues rock as Me And That Man Get.
Songs of Love and Death’s strongest suite is songwriting, a testimony to Nergal’s creative mojo that bears all the hallmarks of having someone new to bounce off of this time out. While there are occasional raw edges to the vocals, Nergal sounds evocative and every bit the dark storyteller with his loose tenor style over the lo-fi back drop. There are moments where his Polish accent bleeds through quite strongly. It may seem a little incongruous given how American the music sounds, but really it just adds to the charm and originality of the thing rather than detracting from it.
Some Behemoth fans may well balk at Songs of Love and Death, but truthfully if you can’t get a sense of what the man has tried to achieve here then we fear you have missed the point of heavy metal entirely. In a world where we worship fake Gods on the TV screen and are force fed meaningless rubbish passed off as art, it is great to see someone with the balls and the integrity to make a record like this one. 8/10