To put it mildly, Adam ‘Nergal’ Darski, frontman of Polish extreme metal behemoths Behemoth has a bit of a reputation. You could never accuse him of being backwards about coming forwards – hell, he dresses up in corpse paint on a regular basis – and I think that’s one of the qualities that draws a certain type of person to the band. That, and a shared dislike of religion and its self-aggrandising biblical ‘authority’.
In 2007, in a well documented ‘incident’, Darski was filmed destroying a copy of bible on stage (starting at 00:43 in the video below).
So far, so Nergal. They’ve been doing this for years, and so calling the Catholic Church “the most murderous cult on the planet”, as he also did, hardly seems like a stretch from there. Understandably this shocked a very small minority when it came out; those people who seemingly don’t have enough to worry about without having their frail sensibilities shocked to the very core. Of course there were complaints – I don’t think Behemoth would be doing their job properly if they didn’t shock someone from outside the scene on a daily basis – but what was utterly incredulous is that the incident brought Darski face to face with the Polish legal system. In the 21st century, a man was brought before a judge to answer for indirectly hurting someone’s feelings – and not for intentionally causing offense, mind, but because someone who wasn’t even at the show took it upon themselves to be offended by it. For blasphemy. Blasphemy. Fucking really? That’s still illegal in Europe?! What’s worse is that throughout this whole ordeal only one person was offended enough to make a complaint, and for that he had to answer for himself legally.
This brush with the law didn’t actually occur until March 2010 – mere months before he was rushed to hospital for what was later found to be leukemia – but thankfully he was acquitted. Even so, he only got off the hook by arguing that the action was artistic license, used to enhance the mood and tone of his live performance. Apparently it’s illegal to publicly denounce religion in Poland. Incredible.
Apparently he hasn’t heard the end of the situation, however. The Polish Supreme Court have stuck their beaks in and decided that he can be tried criminally for his actions – an offense that carries a maximum of two years in prison. The matter will go to a lower court, who will decide his fate. Darski and his representation are understandably concerned, as much over the apparent infringement on art and free speech as the possibility Nergal will end up in the slammer, and have stated that “We are still arguing that we were dealing with art, which allows more critical and radical statements.” – although the court clearly thinks a line has been crossed.
I’m trying not to let my own feelings on the subject matter cloud my judgement, but this attitude of “stop oppressing my beliefs by disagreeing with them so openly” is more than a damn sight ridiculous. I sincerely hope that reason prevails and Darski is acquitted once more.