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.
Tags: Bathory, Black Metal, gavin baddeley, havohej, Occultism, profanatica, quorthon, Satanism, varg vikernes
21 thoughts on “Lucifer Rising: Sin, Devil Worship & Rock ‘n’ Roll by Gavin Baddeley”
Brett, I sincerely hope you and Varg get to kiss someday <3
Is THAT our next writing contest? I’ll admit that among the black metal figures I admire, Varg and Ledney are some of the most expressive.
Brett you botanist, I KNOW your pussy gets wet everytime you write about Varg, is it his deep blue eyes that gets to you so hard?
Nothing wrong with that. In the context of a Celtic male bonding ritual it`s not gay and totally acceptable. Not sure how traditional Varg is in this regard. I like professional bridge-burners like Seth Punam, so I can relate.
The real reason Brett loves Ledney:
know it grow it show it
“My philosophy helps me get as much money as I can, as much pussy as I can, drink as much as I can.”
Trve Black Metal. Expect a new split 12 inch soon!
Brett joining Bumzur. http://ebin.pw/934
I totally understand the man-crush. In addition to looking like a Viking Varg seems to be the perfect improbable marriage of the fantasy elements of metal and the reality of consequences in pursuing them, in both speech and action.
Who do you think has a bigger weiner, Vikernes or Ledney?
Trust in the West is at a record low. Americans’ trust in one another has declined by a full third since 1972, when 50% of Americans said most people could be trusted.
Today, a mere 33% believe that most people can be trusted, according to a poll conducted by AP-GfK.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exact causes for something like this, but if I had to hazard a guess, I’d wager that at least part of it comes from the expectations that people are being set up by their parents and the media to have (“You are the best!”) vs. the treatment they actually get out in the real world by salespeople, customer service, bosses, colleagues, classmates, teachers, friends, and prospective mates (“You’re just another guy/gal”).
Actually, pinpointing reasons for this isn’t that hard. Sociological research (by Elchardus, amongst others) in Europe has pointed out the main contributing factors for this decline in trust.
It’s mainly technical innovation that is at the root of it, most notably the television (and more recently the internet), and all that set in an increasingly commercialized environment. Obviously, fear, distrust and stories about crime sell more than balanced news. As such, most news shows a enormous distortion of reality, as violence actually has declined throughout the ages (read ‘The Better Angels Of Our Nature’ by Steven Pinker).
Technological innovation also led to the rise of the society of knowledge, and to globalisation (which made the world a lot more complex). This risen complexity and emphasis on knowledge leaves many people, who are not smart and/or educated enough, feeling not apt to live in today’s society, and hence distrust it.
A last factor is secularisation, which leaves people feeling disconnected. Secularisation, in the end, is a result of better science, again a result of better scientific tools.
There are numerous minor others factors, like the ones you mentioned, but one can safely state as a rule of tumb that technological evolution has been at the main core of most changes in society throughout the ages.
All bullshit. Our main reason for declining social trust is lack of similar direction and internal competition. Lack of social order, in other words. Putnam’s study is relevant too, I’m sure, and someone else will mention it in detail.
There is now more internal competition in our societies than ever, because social mobility actually is more or less achievable, as opposed to all societies before the 20th century, where people couldn’t change castes/social strata nor compete to do so.
And by the way, what led to that lack of social order, you think?
The decline in Christianity is the reason. And the lack of something to replace it with. Let’s ignore for now whether the metaphysics of Christianity is valid. Let’s just consider the effects of believing it is true.
For a Christian, being good is not an option. Even if nobody is going to found out about a bad action you are about to commit, a Christian believe God still knows. And even if they are not caught out – they will one day be judged.
For an atheist, life just becomes about whatever you can get away with. Sure, most of them don’t steal, murder etc. but only because they would face censure from their peer-group or the law. But if such a person feels he can get away with something, say there’s nobody around to see it for example, then they have a lot less restraining force on their actions.
So yes, it is POSSIBLE for an atheist to be a moral person. But there’s not COMPULSION to be so in ALL circumstances. And as the laws are becoming less and less enforced, with lesser sentences etc. due to liberal values in the judiciary etc, people know they can get away with more – so act worse.
People who are untrustworthy themselves are not likely to trust other people. And so, although this sounds like circular reasoning, people are less trusting because there are less trustworthy people around.
And what led to the decline of Christianity?
My answer: advances in technology.
This is the same stuff you see on all those atheist vs fundamentalist debates on youtube. It also runs counter to historical facts of the last hundred and fifty odd years of American expansionism which has been driven by the right-wing Christian fundamentalist notion of manifest destiny and the disruption of the natural order it has caused globally. Zealots feel their actions have divine sanction; their neurosis, inherent in any case, judging from their supranatural convictions, allows them to bypass objective (or rational if you will, since we don’t want to enter the murky waters of objective/subjective) evaluation of personal actions, both at a micro and a more enlarged scale.
My personal take is that all human beings, atheist or otherwise, reach a fork in the road in their formative years where they learn to differentiate between good and bad, in the broadest strokes. What impels them to take either course depends on a variety of factors, ranging from genetics and neurobiology to upbringing and self-conscious evolution of intellect. I’m not suggesting good and bad to be simple binaries; there are many shades to both but I’m relating good and bad more from the vantage point of how human social architecture perceives and defines it.
So, while I do agree that religion helps keep the great unwashed in order, for the most part, I beg to differ with the rather simplistic reading that atheists have a fluctuating moral compass. We’re all equally fucked up, just that the religious have God as a convenient fall-back mechanism when they fuck up.
Everything you say is right. That why I conceded it was POSSIBLE for atheists to be moral. Its just on average they are less so. There’s a shift in the Gaussian distribution in the direction of degeneracy. Otherwise we would have to infer its just a coincidence that people are acting so much worse now belief has diminished. Our genetics and life histories both inform our morality. But a huge part of our interpretation of our life experiences is our fundamental beliefs.
It’s a bit more complicated than that. It’s not declined as a NATURAL consequence of science. I know more science that most of the internet atheists out there put together but I still believe science is subsumed within a metaphysics. What that metaphysics is is another question…. Christianity has declined because the people who have directed society for the past two and a half centuries have pushed it in that direction. The people we hate. The reasons for this vary from, at the simple level, the mere expediency of ridding themselves of an ideology that doesn’t permit their greed and narcissism, at a deeper level, the demonic.
honestly though the satan angle has never been the attraction to metal for me the allure of metal is neither here nor there
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