Even the biggest and most bad-in-the-blood, knuckle-dragging metal fan will dip their toes into other genres from time to time. But even when you find out the companion to Me and That Man's John Porter is none other than Adam Nergal Darski, you can still be astonished. Yes, the very same frontman of bombastic, pyrotechnic theatrical blackened extreme metallers Behemoth. Twice damned and frequently singed, he turned his attention to the world of country and blues on 'Songs of Love and Death' back in 2017, which sounded like Cash, Cave and Lanegan, experts in divine law, doing a deal with the devil at the crossroads, and a dark brooding one at that.
So if you've been paying attention, you'll know Adam doesn't do things by halves. But you'll still be shocked by 'New Man, New Songs, Same Shit, Vol.1's' bigger and bolder approach, and not just because Jørgen Munkeby's sax has a more natural home than it ever has in Shining's output on footstomping opener 'Run With The Devil'. Just for clarity, that's the Norway Shining; Swedish Shining's Niklas Kvarforth makes an appearance on album closer 'Confession' as well. Yes indeedy, Adam has flung open his contacts book on this one and it's heaving with guest stars all over the place, all playing their part in an album that's bigger, bolder and better than it's predecessor. The brooding output has been further bolstered by barnstorming Americana blues rock on 'Coming Home' with Sivert Høyem from Madrugada. But possible album highlight is 'Burning Churches', a collaboration with impassioned vocal performance from Grave Pleasures/Hexvessel frontman Mat McNerney, a fantastically frantic acoustic guitar, an impassioned choir and some crispy clergy. Christian guilt may be a mainstay in the usual run of things but not in this narrative; it's an unrepentant yarn resplendent with revenge on a life of lies.
But then this writer wrote too soon, and it's even topped by following track, the Ihsahn-backed 'By The River' that howls of regret when being laid down in the grave, together with a guitar solo so evocative you can't help but screw up your eyes and play along. It's then you're at the deep dark heart of his album, laid bare for all to see, as the next songs all deal with love lost and love that never was. And for a man whose brush with divine intervention will most likely be a bolt from a previously loving god, he's even worked a miracle by having Matt Heafy's name on something that's actually pretty good.
It's a sign of how consistent the songwriting is throughout that the most star-laden track 'How Come?' (Corey Taylor, Brent Hinds AND Rob Caggiano for fuck's sake!) albeit still a fantastic, dust-strewn power ballad by another other standard, still isn't the best song on the album. It all comes to an end with the aforementioned 'Confession', which is rather odd in that it goes from a mournful harmonica and cello-infused Nick Cave-athon and then flips into a fierce and primitive black metal blastbeat finale on top of the strummed chords, as if Adam still needs to remind us that his contemplative and cacophonic aspects are both sides of the same dark heart.
'New Man, New Songs, Same Shit, Vol 1' is out now on Napalm