Book Review: Confessions of A Heretic

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There are a lot of albums reviewed here on the toilet, but I thought I’d take some time and look at the literary side of our beloved genre, starting with our favorite Satanist and Behemoth frontman.  So, pop a squat, put your reading glasses on, and let’s take a look.

Allow me to first preface this review by saying this: I consider myself a casual Behemoth fan.  I like Evangelion, I jam out to “At the Left Hand ov God” pretty regularly, but that is the extent of my knowledge and interest in the band (although I have yet to see them live, which I’ve been told is an excellent experience).  That being said, there is no avoiding Behemoth’s larger-than-life, yet still enigmatic, frontman — Mr. Adam Nergal Darski.  He is one of our community’s most important modern-day figures, known both for his controversies and triumphs in equal measure.  Despite whatever misgivings or disinterest you may have regarding the band, it is hard not to admire, or at the very least respect, Nergal, especially in light of his struggles with life-threatening illness, antiquated religious laws, and a particular Polish pop-star in recent years.  In short, the man has been through a lot, and he has managed to come out of all of it stronger than before.

When I first heard that Nergal was planning on releasing a biography, I was very excited.  It was slated to be a great addition to the limited selection of “extreme metal” literature out there.  Besides the excellent Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal and Grindcore (by Albert Mudrian) and Lords of Chaos (by Michael Jenkins Moynihan), there is not much out there for black/death/grind/doom/extreme metal heads.  That is unless you want to go ahead and read Slash’s memoir, or the one from the dude in Godsmack.  Yeah, didn’t think so.  When I finally got my hands on a copy of the English translation, I knew I had to give my fellow toileteers an idea of what to expect, as I know a few of you were as curious about the tome as I was.  So, did Confessions of A Heretic live up to the hype?  Let’s find out.

I encourage all toileteers to watch the trailers for Confessions of A Heretic.  Note: occult/religious paraphernalia, motorcycle, aviators, cigar, and attractive nude woman not included with the purchase of this memoir.  Those items can all be found in the “21st Century Satanist Starter Set” 

Remember those lolbuttz’y video ads for the book?  You know, the ones that looked like an edgy cologne ad for all those metrosexual satanists out there?  Well, there are certainly a few sections of the text that feel just like those ads, particularly when discussing the fairer sex (he comes across as a man who is comfortable being at once chivalric and chauvinistic in a seemingly impossible union of those opposing traits).  However, for every moment that Nergal indulges in his indomitable, Luciferian icon persona, there are attendant flashes of humanity and some welcome humility.  I was especially hooked while reading about his fight with leukemia, which is located close to the climactic center of the book.  Again, we’ve all seen his militaristic confidence in post-illness interviews, but the candid nature of this section in the book reveals just the kind of uncertainty and less-than-favorable odds at survival that Nergal was facing upon diagnosis.  He does not hold back in telling readers his reaction, in which he reacts as I imagine any of us, myself included, would: anger, frustration, hopelessness, and ultimately, fear.  This “human” moment is somewhat overshadowed by the other larger-than-life aspects of his life that seem to take priority in the text, but it certainly provides readers with something from which to draw inspiration, especially for individuals in similar predicaments.

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BUY CONFESSIONS OF A HERETIC  Also note: I did not cover any of the sections that discussed Nergal’s appearance on the Polish “Voice” in this review.  It did not interest me nearly as much as the other aspects of his life story.

The book, for better or worse depending on your level of tolerance of the man, essentially reinforces the F.O.A.D. attitude with which Nergal approaches life.  One particular example that resonated with me was the juxtaposition of perspectives on an incident at a Kentucky music festival that involved a crowd of devout Christians and a shredded/torn/defiled/consumed-and-digested bible.  Randy Blythe gives the first version of events that transpired at this Kentucky shit-show in his excellent foreword.  He more or less summarizes the incident — which involved Nergal shredding a bible on stage in front of a predominantly Christian crowd — as a real live “oh shit, we’re gonna die” moment, to quote Mr. Blythe directly.  Nergal’s response to this incident is, on the other hand, characteristically nonchalant, turning a potentially dangerous situation involving thousands of drunk, angry Evangelical Americans into a laughable event whose only significance is that it spawned a new Behemoth stage tradition designed purely with provocation in mind.  This is the Nergal we know and love: musician/provocateur/edge-lord.

If you are looking for a history of Behemoth, stay away.  If you are looking for an engaging biography, think twice: the extended long-form interview format is clunky at times and makes for a challenging read.  If you want a closer look into the motivations of a man who has reclaimed Satanism from all those misguided middle-schoolers out there (arguably), then I encourage you to check it out.  After completing the book, I feel as though I have not learned very much: besides some humanizing moments centered on the main acts of his upbringing, his fight with leukemia, and his nasty, public break-up with Dorota, the Nergal we already know remains the same.  Adam Nergal Darski has carefully built a public persona over the years, and this memoir seems more like an opportunity to reinforce that persona rather than an unfiltered recollection of life as an extreme metal musician.  Despite this, I ultimately enjoyed my time with Confessions of A Heretic, even though it’s untraditional biography format and method of story-telling made it feel like a race to the finish line at times.

Confessions of A Heretic rates a 3 out of 5 toilets ov hell

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