Lucifer Rising: Sin, Devil Worship & Rock ‘n’ Roll by Gavin Baddeley

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Among the many questions that journalists have struggled to answer, the fascination of some rock music and most heavy metal with Satan has ranked highly among them. Some take the pejorative view that it exists merely to offend, but others see in it the desire to create a counter-narrative or opposing philosophy to modern society itself.

Gavin Baddeley, a journalist who covers rock and populist metal alongside occult topics, delves into this project with a book that is both flawed and highly informative. Like a high school text, it begins with a history of Satanism and the occult with a focus on biographical fact and salacious detail more than philosophy. This gives us a vague view of Satanism that keeps the mystery alive, and nudges us toward the LaVeyian view. In this, the paradox of Lucifer Rising: Sin, Devil Worship & Rock ‘n’ Roll reveals itself: it is a journalistic exploration of the surface, namely what people say about the phenomenon of Satanism in music, not an explanation of their motivations.

Witness for example this exchange with Bathory’s Quorthon:

How did the Satanism get into your music?

When we first started, we had no ambitions to make records or write songs — we just wanted to cover Motorhead songs, because that’s what we’d grown up with. We’d just left school, so while other bands sang about drinking beer, fucking women and riding motorcycles, we didn’t know anything about any of that because we were too young. But we did have an innate interest in the dark side of life. It wasn’t purely Satanic from the beginning, it just grew into that. It was a protest, revolt thing — we knew it would upset people one way or another. If you look at it today, it all seems so very innocent. The main inspiration came from a Swedish horror comic called Shock. It was just the blood and gore thing, with a tongue-in-cheek approach…I didn’t have much of an academic knowledge of Satanism, though that came later as I got deeper into it. I started reading into the Christian side of it, too, which is when I decided that it is all fake, so the Viking elements started coming into my work.

This book is paradoxical because while it explores Satanism as a phenomenon, it accidentally hits a lot of other interesting notes about rebellion in general and the dislike of modern society held by metalheads. Its strength lies in its interviews with many leading figures not just in heavy metal but in various forms of occult rock and populist shock-rock. Once the reader gets through the Wikipedia-level introduction to Satanism through famous people accused of being evil, the book runs through a competent history of evil rock music and heavy metal, touching on the important acts with an uncanny ability to find thought-leaders in this area.

As it ventures further into heavy metal, this volume provides a detailed exploration of the death metal and black metal years which recite the major facts, provide some new details, and avoid rampant speculation. At this point as a reader I found myself liking this book, despite having been annoyed by the first chapters of history, and found its insights were greater than one would expect from a journalist outside of underground metal. There are some missteps but sensibly Baddeley allows the book to essentially trail off into interviews with interesting people who are vaguely evil, and does not police forms of Satanism to enforce an agenda. Thus the paradox again: a surface view of Satanism, but many ideas are allowed to emerge to show us the background thought behind those drawn to this general direction, even if no coherent philosophy emerges and so most of it seems like a trash heap of comedic contradictions, bold assertions, mistaken and inverted Christian notions and the like.

Some moments are simply good humor, such as this interview with the legendary Paul Ledney of Havohej/Profanatica/Revenant/Incantation:

What do you think of love?

I don’t know — I love sodomy

Many of the interview questions are excruciatingly obvious and repeated, but this is how Baddeley breaks down his subjects and gets them to finally articulate the core of their thinking on an issue, much like frustrated people often give the best summaries of an idea after they have tried to express it repeatedly to others. This both provides some insight, and creates a lot of redundancy in the interviews which add to the confusion of the topic and the consequent tendency of the reader to zone out. Still there are some exceptions, like this cutting to the chase with Varg Vikernes of Burzum:

Why do you and Euronymous have such a great hatred of the Church of Satan?

Satanism is supposed to be something forbidden, something evil, something secret, something people don’t know anything of. You go to America and in the telephone directory you can see ‘Church of God,’ ‘Church of Jesus’ and ‘Church of Satan.’ You call, and a woman answers, ‘Church of Satan, may I help you?’ You think, ‘This isn’t Satanism! Some stupid fuck is trying to ruin everything.’ The superstitious part of it falls apart. The Church of Satan deny Satan, they say He doesn’t exist, yet they act as if He did, they rebel against God. They call themselves Satanists because He also rebelled against God, but they’re basically light- and life-worshipping individualists.

How interesting that he picked up on individualism as the dominant trait of mainstream Hollywood Satanism. It is as if the ultimate rebellion is to transcend all barriers, including the final one in the self. The interviews in this book are often like metal itself, half amateurish lazy drop-out and half insightful dissident looking for a way outside of the tenets of modern society. In that much of the value of this book emerges, not so much as a study of Satanism itself but as a look at the psychology of opposition, with Satanism as a helpful focus that covers for the real story, which is a revelation of discontent with the philosophies of our time. While Lucifer Rising: Sin, Devil Worship & Rock ‘n’ Roll does not dig deeper than that, as a read-between-the-lines experience this book is worth its weight in gold and reveals far more than it could under its ostensible topic.

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Varg Vikernes launches a D&D campaign

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Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) occupies a unique place in European and American consciousness. It attracted a specific type of person who was both nerdly and practical, yet geared toward the same futurism as those who read sci-fi and listen to 1970s space rock. D&D came out of the tail end of the hippie boom but embraced a number of ideals contrary to hippie-ness: it liked social hierarchy, expounded different ability by birth, glorified combat and loyalty to one’s kin and king.

These unorthodox tendencies made D&D, like metal, not acceptable for mainstream consumption even among the mainstream of nerds. While right-wing Christians protested it as somehow leading their children away from God (we’re still trying to figure that one out), the real herd quietly sidestepped it and sneered at it as nerdly fantasy suitable only for “perpetual virgins” who lived in basements and bathed monthly whether they needed it or not. And yet during the 1980s, D&D was also a flag for a certain type of nerd. Video-gaming had not yet created a hardcore audience despite being a fad, computers were ultra-nerdly but expensive and/or led to frequent arrests for illegal activity, and the “media nerd” Star Trek and Star Wars fans were still seen as just another type of celebrity-worship. But D&D crossed all those categories and attracted the type of kid who read sci-fi but also had a wider consciousness of the world than the true basement shut-ins.

Varg Vikernes probably played a lot of D&D in the 1980s. As in the US, most of his peers in Norway were probably delusional media zombies who repeated whatever the movies and the talking heads from the “intellectual” media told them. He wouldn’t fit in there. He might within the self-formed quasi-elite of those who both had the brains to understand and appreciate the nerdy bits of D&D, but also the historical and artistic consciousness to delight in its outright medievalism and sci-fi style post-civilizational thinking. Here’s Varg on D&D.

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Pale Existence posts entire 1995 demo

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Doom/death metal band Pale Existence has posted its complete 1995 demo for posterity. This band arose in the second wave of death metal and was part of the wave of bands experimenting with slower and more atmospheric metal after other branches had gone for speed or riff-labyrinth composition.

Over the years several members of Pale Existence migrated to other bands from the area surrounding their San Jose origin, including Exhumed. wound up in that band. Guitarist Lorin Ashton became the popular DJ/electronic artist Bassnectar.

Personnel
Brian Glover – Drums, obnoxious vocals
Bud Burke- Guitar , vocals
Mark Smith- Brutal low vocals
Lorin Ashton – Guitar and mid range vocals
Steve Cefala- Fretless Bass

Recorded by Bart Thurber on top of Mount Um in 1995.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRuMm7IAVEw

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Remains – Evoking Darkness

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Old school death metal band Remains returns with its fourth release Evoking Darkness which shows inspiration from the Swedish and American greats of mid-90s death metal merged with the type of bluesy and infectious integration of classic heavy metal that made Clandestine a powerful album, albeit placed in a style that is closer to a cross between older Dismember and Unleashed. The band does not attempt to innovate in aesthetics but creates a sonic charge with the energy and unsettling corruption of mainstream archetypes which defined death metal during its heyday.

The band produced an impressive body of work with its 2012 demo “The True Essence,” the …Of Death EP the following year and Angels Burned in 2014, and follows up on those with simpler, tighter songs that eschew pure grinding in favor of a well-blended integration of metal styles designed to be both audially compelling and unnerving in the method of classic death metal. Songs rotate around a central break from the verse/chorus pairings, repeating themselves in both introduction and egress from that core confrontation. Lead guitars drop in with a variety of styles integrated into organic but energetic explosions of clusters of notes and lengthy fret runs. Vocals take on the gruff exhortations of older Dismember and give it the percussive rhythm of American death metal like Malevolent Creation, crafting a narrative of violence with a lining of excited morbidity. Remains shy away from the melancholic and dark side of death metal and instead converge on its region of pure energy, with music that delights in the finely-picked textures of Swedish death metal alongside the percussive power of Florida death metal. Herein lies where Remains can improve this work, which is that the hard rock/heavy metal integration into the death metal does not always emerge triumphant and often consumes the death metal portion, and extremely basic chord progressions which do not give songs much room to expand in structure or melody. The aesthetic, energy and atmosphere remain perfect and can expand over time as this band matures.

Most people will be floored by how Evoking Darkness not only stays true to the old school sound but gives it life through a voice of its own which is not expressed in style but in these songs themselves and their unique takes on the riff forms from the past forty years of metal. Where Remains shows its power is in the fitting together of these meticulously crafted rhythms so that riffs both flow and contrast one another; while greater harmonic or melodic death would enhance this, it alone makes Evoking Darkness more listenable than all but a few of the retro-death albums which fit together blockily or unevenly. These riffs balance each other in dissymmetry and create a sense of an evolving lacuna which propels the listener forward to see what comes next. Not only do riffs counterpart each other well, but their internal rhythms show a study of the power of the riff itself, and the album flows past without lapses or discontinuities. It shows vast improvement over the previous album from this band and signals a path to their future, since Remains has built a framework upon which more complexity, both in complexity of structure and use of tone, can be built.

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Winner of Pantera slashfic contest announced

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A week ago, this site opened a contest for erotic fiction writing involving the groove-metal band Pantera, essentially a challenge to create pejorative “slashfic” about the band and its assorted milieu. Many users answered the call, and we received some truly great erotic writing involving Phil Anselmo, Vinnie Paul, Darrell Abbott, and Rex Brown.

Now it is time to announce a winner.

First, let us revisit the contenders for winning entry of this contest. A number of creative and insightful contributions were made, so let’s look at the group:

These offer true creative writing and some venture further into musical criticism of Pantera or even analysis of metal as a subculture. That makes for some stiff competition, with no one that rises erect above the rest because so many of these are so well-executed. However, choose a winner we must, and so it’s time to go through the candidates.

Grails_Mysteries offers one of the first qualifying entries and a short story that explores the pathology of sexual identity denial among heavy metal musicians. In addition, it gives us some insight into the type of personality that might power a band like Pantera. Compelling. steven foster offers a short piece with a Kerouac/Bukowski vibe with a strong conclusion. SEIG pops up next with a more violent offering that explores the visceral and organic side of Pantera eroticism. It reminds me of the Marquis de Sade outraged that the marketplace/polling-place for heavy metal had been taken over by mediocrity! LostInTheANUS offers an almost Huxleyian analysis of how the seductions of money, power and fame can lead to a different kind of seduction… disturbing, and I mean that in a good way. Then thisoneheredude satirizes every Didion-inspired experiential piece of rock journalism ever, creating a lingering sense of unease and distaste. Good work. Vnholy Loa gives us a lengthier look into the effects of timid poseurdom combined with aggro-brocore in a piece delightfully riddled with puns. Following up on that, Eli Murray shows us an unsettling view of psychological manipulation for sex in the context of rock fandom. That’s New Yorker territory but we’ll take it. As the contest gained momentum, Iconoclast wrote a Jungian exploration of the subconscious in attitudes toward existential crisis and how it manifests in the hollow carelessness of pop music like Pantera. This one is really worth reading. Next Dave reveals the paradox of sexual surrender paired with a tough guy exterior, in a story that may portray either rape or someone finally achieving satisfaction, or both… White Powder Activist typed up a whole bunch of stuff so disturbing I can’t comment on it here. Captain Penis Cheese presents a short poetic piece on the parallels between pop music and awkward sex. Turning the contest to a more introspective level, Marcus Antony Frattura explores the psychology of Pantera and their critics and finds some similarities. And if you made it through all of those, you will need professional help.

The competition is tough but some clearly came out ahead. Our winners are:

GOLD
Marcus Antony Frattura

SILVER
Iconoclast

BRONZE
Grails_Mysteries

Gentlemen/ladies, please claim your prizes by emailing editor at deathmetal dot org with the IP address you used to post your piece. Include a mailing address, US only please. I appreciate the contributions of all who participated and the many, many creative entries we received.

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Infernal Dominion – Salvation Through Infinite Suffering (2000)

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The late 1990s belonged to bands of the Suffocation style of percussive death metal which derived its essential technique, the muted-strum power chord, from speed metal, but worked riffs into mazes with high dynamic variation but consistent narrative in the death metal style. This balance proves difficult to maintain as choppy riffing lends itself too easily to simply circular riff patterns and the resulting patchwork song structures. Starting with Sinister Hate in 1996, the subgenre experienced a revitalization through the injection of melody and the more theatrical song structures of mid-paced death metal. With the rise of Unique Leader bands in the early 2000s, the percussive brutal death metal sub-sub-genre exploded, and into that environment Infernal Dominion dropped its only album.
(more…)

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Demoncy re-issues re-recorded Empire of the Fallen Angel

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Musicians who go back and improve former works get all respect from me. For example, Godflesh re-imagining Love and Hate as a dub album, or even the recent Nausea re-working of demo-era material. Demoncy — long the reigning black metal band from the United States — announced the re-issue of its fourth album as Empire of the Fallen Angel (Eternal Black Dominion) which will see release on Forever Plagued Records in 2015.

This re-issue follows the new version of Joined in Darkness which will be available March 9, 2015 on both gatefold vinyl and digipack CD with an inverted cross booklet layout. Where that album was remastered, Empire of the Fallen Angel was re-recorded by Ixithra during 2013-2014 and may be substantially altered from the original.

Tracklist:
1. Invocation To Satan
2. Risen From The Ancient Ruins
3. Scion Of The Dark
4. Eternal Black Dominion
5. Sepulchral Whispers
6. My Kingdom Enshrouded In Necromantical Fog
7. The Enchanted Woods Of Forgotten Lore
8. The Obsidian Age Of Ice
9. Night Song (Apocalyptic Dawn)
10. Empire Of The Fallen Angel
11. Shadows Of The Moon (The Winter Solstice)
12. Warmarch Of The Black Hordes
13. The Ode To Eternal Darkness

For more information, see the Forever Plagued Records website.

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Pantera erotic short story contest

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The recent fracas over Pantera grave desecration reminds us all of two things: many people who criticize Pantera do so out of hurt feelings about social justice issues, and many Pantera fans respond like raging apes locked in coin operated toilets. This creates a potent mix of rage and butthurt that appeals to the sadist in each of us.

To fan the flames, because simply being logical (RIP Spock) and level-headed about issues never gets anyone famous, DeathMetal.org announces a Pantera erotic short story contest. The rules are as follows:

  1. Your story must be between 500-5,000 words and involve the members of Pantera including Dimebag Darrell, and optionally the hipster crust/punk/black band that originally claimed to desecrate his grave, in intensely sexual or erotic situations involving homosexuality and other non-traditional sexual inclinations.
  2. You must paste the story into a comment on this site by midnight (EST) on March 6, 2015.
  3. Your story must be your work alone, except for Pantera lyrics quoted as characters reach climax.
  4. Winner will receive a box of random stuff I can reach easily without leaving this chair.

The point of this is to offend both those who criticize Pantera for being un-PC, and those who defend Pantera with blockheaded and thoughtless remarks. Hopefully both groups will be appalled and call for the death of anyone connected to this, pointing out yet again how both PC indie-metal fans and Pantera fans have more in common with ISIS than metal.

Writers are encouraged to seek inspiration in early Pantera glam metal works like Metal Magic, Power Metal and I am the Night. Bonus points for anyone who works in a Chuck Schuldiner/AIDS subplot, or even a thread about Opeth and a tour bus painted bright pastel colors.

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We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

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Often movies address a need for some voice to explore a certain idea, even if the implementation might be a bit shoddy. This movie attacks a necessary topic but does so in a way that while proficient in technique misses an opportunity to make the story come alive.

As many know, screenwriting possesses its own discipline of technique over content much as songwriting does, based on the kind of spreadsheet-logic that shows the sweet spot where 77% of people in a crowd understand and appreciate a gesture, which in aggregate makes the product successful. This “workshop style” of screenwriting arrives at this movie most likely through the book on which it is based, and prevents any wholehearted recommendation of this film. It addresses the mother of a child described as “evil” who is at the very least troubled in the kind of apathetic direction toward sociopathy that arises in children of narcissistic parents. Therein we find the issue, which is the question of what produced this child? His parents are not only narcissistic but have delusions of grandeur and apparently a fair amount of money; the child is also of mixed-race and somewhat gender-mixed as well. Kevin appears in this film as troubled from his youngest days through adulthood, but what is more difficult to watch is the obliviousness of parental response, and it is perhaps in this that the intent of this film rests: people are focused on using others as means to their own ends, and as a result, they raise children in a void of common sense, actual love, concern, discipline, authority and attention. Children are designed to be accessories to the self-importance — measured in career, wealth, social prestige and other external accomplishments — of the parents. As a result, children are left empty and unattended, and sometimes one of those takes that in a hostile direction.

While no spoilers will be given here, the plot is not hard to figure out since it is as said above “workshop style,” which means that it is based on the predictability of things and the reactions of people as if they were simply complex chemical compounds in unique situations. In my view, this is what makes We Need To Talk About Kevin somewhat tedious: it is wholly linear despite attempts of the filmmaker to break up the narrative over different threads in time. The story itself is linear. Narcissists raise child, cannot snap out of their own little worlds to do something about it and then… and then, what you might expect would happen happens, and the viewer ends up without much sympathy for anyone involved.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGjjK5SMbJA

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Housebound (2014)

housebound

Combining comedy with horror takes a deft touch or the result rapidly veers into the leering variety show that Hollywood has adored since its earliest days but that strikes an audience with deep existential dread rooted in unacknowledged devastating boredom. A film can either be a horror film with a sense of humor, or a comedy wearing the mantle of horror, but few can do both.

Housebound reverses the direction in which even movies like Evil Dead (1981) venture, which is the “self-aware” movie in the postmodern style, or a movie which is ironically funny as part of its ineptitude or uncertainty about its primary mission. It might make more sense to refer to the 2014 movie as “suspense comedy” because it does not evoke horror so much as a sense of something large and important being wrong underneath the veneer of normalcy which we call “normal life” and as a species use to bury our doubts, fears and existential confusion. Housebound is a very funny movie, once the viewer gets accustomed to the method in which it delivers its humor, which is mostly situational and character-based but relies on a strong sense of the absurd and thus requires the viewer, like the protagonist in a horror film, to be a realist among the herd of denialist sheep.

The movie begins with plot-as-setting: a young woman, troubled in her relationship to drugs and crime, runs into a sadistic judge who assigns her not to jail but to a sentence back where the problem began, namely her childhood home. This in turn puts her into confrontation with her mother who exists in mental orbit most of the time, and a stepfather who seems to have no ability to change anything that happens in his life. While they live in uncertainty and loathing for each other, events that appear to be supernatural in origin begin to appear, and all react with skepticism until the pervasive intrusion within their lives can no longer be denied. At this point, the plot ramps up with a delicious lack of concern for human life and “feelings.” Like most good comedies, the characters are situationally accurate but take on a larger than life aspect in order to drive forward a plot that requires people to react like unstable chemical compounds. Sympathetic portrayals of even the pathetic give this movie somewhat of an extra grace, and while it is not always believable, its mockery of the head-in-the-sand of normal human existence makes it an enjoyable watch.

“Suspense comedy” might describe this film better than anything related to horror, since the aspect of horror that lives on is a pejorative realism toward human adaptive behaviors, and although there are moments of fear and terror the real drive of this film is satire of the wretched and absurd nature of human existence. As a result, it makes no sense to endorse this as a horror film, but more to say it is a comedy set in a horror backdrop which may win over its audience from the similar ways to horror films with which it treats humanity and its sacred cows. In addition, once it gains momentum (and the audience adapts to the New Zealand accent), Housebound provides a compelling character drama within an existence as nonsensical as actual reality, only more clearly revealed as such by the humorous events which it contains.

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