Nergal: “I use a Peavey 6505+ because for touring you need a Kalashnikov... and Peavey are the Kalashnikov of amps”

(Image credit: Krzysztof Wiktor)

It’s no secret that Behemoth are one of the most ferocious live bands on this planet. But even by their own standards, new cinematic release In Absentia Dei – filmed in an abandoned church with all kinds of pyro and theatrics thrown in for good measure – depicts some truly jaw-dropping heaviness. 

Singer/guitarist Nergal talks us through his weapons of war...

It’s surprising how pentatonic and almost bluesy your leads are in places.

“I don’t really know much theory. My brain seemed to reject a lot of that knowledge. My approach is intuitive. I try to find the right notes and quite often they are pentatonic ones, because those are what I learned. 

“If it was just me doing the licks for Behemoth, maybe it would get a little boring. But Seth [rhythm guitarist] is doing more leads now and his skillset is very different. It makes for an interesting combo, crossing between two distinct styles. 

“I’m a big Slayer fan and it’s the same with Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King. They were both gods and they had that trademark of crossing over. The same goes for Judas Priest: two very different guitarists with unique skills. That’s what made those bands magical for me.”

What kind of rig were you running for the recording?

“I tend to swap between my ESP and LTD guitars, generally taking three to five out when we play, but for this show I mainly played my most recent signature. I use a Peavey 6505+ because for touring you need a Kalashnikov... and Peavey are the Kalashnikov of amps. If the road gets bumpy, you need something that you can trust to work. 

“I have a similar relationship with ESP – I can’t remember a situation where they’ve let me down. I have a large collection of Gibsons at home but I never carry them around – they never stay in tune! The older I get, the less bullshit I take. I just want something that works, not something that’s 60 years old and super-vintage. Give me the Kalashnikov.”

What pedals did you have in front of you?

“I keep to just a few pedals from different brands, general basic stuff. There was a boost pedal, though I didn’t have my KHDK signature back then. I always have two noise gates, one on the way in and one on the way out. 

“Because all that gain with the pedalboard and cables can make things pretty noisy, it really needs to be controlled. There was a Dunlop Cry Baby wah pedal, a delay and a pitch-shifter. That’s it.”

Speaking of your KHDK LCFR overdrive/boost, what kind of sounds inspired it?

“I use it more as a boost. If there was any point of reference in terms of circuit, it would have been the classic Tube Screamer, but tailored for high-gain playing. What’s funny and surprising is that I’ve found its range to be way wider than I expected.

“My other band, Me And That Man, is very vintage-sounding and I’ve been using it for my lead tones in that group. It sounded great with my Gretsch White Falcon, so I’ve realised this pedal is not just for extreme metal.”

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Amit Sharma

Amit has been writing for titles like Total GuitarMusicRadar and Guitar World for over a decade and counts Richie Kotzen, Guthrie Govan and Jeff Beck among his primary influences as a guitar player. He's worked for magazines like Kerrang!Metal HammerClassic RockProgRecord CollectorPlanet RockRhythm and Bass Player, as well as newspapers like Metro and The Independent, interviewing everyone from Ozzy Osbourne and Lemmy to Slash and Jimmy Page, and once even traded solos with a member of Slayer on a track released internationally. As a session guitarist, he's played alongside members of Judas Priest and Uriah Heep in London ensemble Metalworks, as well as handled lead guitars for legends like Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols, The Faces) and Stu Hamm (Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, G3).