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Satanic inspirations in metal and ambient music

We must destroy all forms of Christian and Semitic religion found in the world. Only Satanism gives every person freedom. - Gaahl, vocalist of the band Gorgoroth.

For a believer brought up in a Christian culture, music can play a dual role: to support his spiritual and cultural development or to direct his interests in the opposite direction. This problem particularly concerns young people who start their own, at least partially independent, life in modern culture. It must be admitted, however, that many adults, treating music only as a harmless source of entertainment and one of the foundations of the "culture of pleasure", are unaware of its negative social and spiritual impact or completely disregard it.

Anti-Christian messages can be found in almost every genre of music, but special attention should be paid to black metal and dark ambient music, which openly promote satanic, occult or neo-pagan content (bands that lyrically refer to National Socialist ideology constitute a separate group). Although they seem to still function on the periphery of popular music, they are, contrary to appearances, becoming more and more... pop. This can be evidenced by the presence in the Polish mainstream media of Adam Darski, the vocalist of the Behemoth group, which has over a million fans on Facebook. Darski (Nergal) has been created as one of the celebrities and musical experts, and his artistic Satanic activities are downplayed even by some church authorities.

Black metal   

The genre that, from the very beginning, openly opposed many of the basic organizing principles of Christianity was, of course, rock and roll. However, it was only hard rock and heavy metal that became very radical in this regard, whose creators (musicians of such bands as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Black Widow and Coven) openly admitted, among others, to the fascination with the figure of Aleis-ter Crowley, an English occultist at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. As the authors of the famous book about the metal underground write, from now on, Christianity was not to be slowly eroded by the long-term decay of moral values, but rather to be ruthlessly uprooted and burned to the ground (M. Moynihan, D. Søderlind, "Lords of Chaos", Poznań 2010, p. 19). However, anti-Christian and blasphemous content is most pronounced in the genre called "black metal", created in Norway in the early 1990s. The sources of inspiration for the creators of the most popular Norwegian bands can easily be found in the activities of pioneers of such groups as Venom, Mercyful Fate, Bathory, Celtic Frost and Slayer, which took place ten years earlier.

It is assumed that the name of the genre comes from one of the albums of the band Venom, titled "Black Metal". Researchers interested in the emergence and development of the musical metal underground unanimously claim that it was in the 1990s that a new wave of blasphemy appeared in music, which resulted not only in the propagation of anti-Christian and Satanic content, but also in a kind of transition from words to deeds: more frequent cases of murders, ritual suicides and destruction of Christian cultural heritage, e.g. desecration of cemeteries, burning churches or desecration of the Holy Scriptures. It is also important that almost all bands from the 1980s that had the greatest influence on the development of black metal as a genre admitted to knowing the "Satan's Bible" by Anton Szandor LaVey, published in 1969 and already constituting an integral part of "Satanic mass culture".

Black metal bands are distinguished from others by their stage image based on black and white corpse
paint makeup, as well as their characteristic outfits and vocals. The sound produced by bands of this genre is commonly described as raw, gloomy and sinister.

Black circle

The first band thanks to which the genre ceased to be peripheral and became an icon of the Satanic musical underground was the Norwegian Mayhem, whose founder, Øystein Aarseth, nicknamed Euronymous, was stabbed to death by Varg Vikernes, another member of the Norwegian black metal scene. The band's work was groundbreaking for another reason as well. Aarseth opened a music store in Oslo called Helvete (hell). The walls of this place, painted black, of course, were decorated with, among others, inverted crosses and desecrated figurines of Catholic saints. The anti-Christian organization Black Circle, also founded by Euronymous, had its headquarters there and unofficially gathered musicians and fans of the most important bands of the time (Mayhem, Burzum, Darkthrone, Immortal, Enslaved and Satyricon).

During the relatively short operation of this "organization" in Norway, many churches were burned down (it is estimated that between 50 and 60 temples, including historic churches, were destroyed in 1992-96), many others were set on fire, and dozens of cemeteries were also desecrated. Both individual musicians and fans inspired by their idols' on-stage and non-artistic activities admitted to these acts. Varg Vikernes, a musician considered to be the pioneer of these actions, stated in one of his interviews: I want Christians to remember that this is revenge for the burning of pagan temples. For destroying everything that was beautiful and contained the true culture of Norway, that of pagan times ("Lords of Chaos", p. 109). The wave of arson also reached other countries, e.g. Sweden and Russia. The young people accused of these acts admitted to being fascinated by Satanism and inspired by black metal music.

Dark atmosphere

Dark ambient is one of the varieties of electronic, atmospheric music, i.e. background music. It also appeared on the music scene in the 1980s, but its heyday dates back to the 1990s, when a music label with the "graceful" name Cold Meat Industry began operating and developing dynamically in Sweden. The most famous bands publishing under her banner are: MZ.412, Brighter Death Now, Atrium Carceri, Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio and Sephiroth. Moan, Paranoia Inducta and Sui Generis Umbra were the leaders on the Polish scene for a long time.

There is no harmony, melodic line or rhythm. The piece develops mainly through the use of sound timbre, and the aim of the projects is to create "ambient music". Unlike the mainstream ambient music, where music is most often pleasant and relaxing (some creators include in their songs e.g. Gregorian chant, collages of the hustle and bustle of big cities and sounds of nature), dark ambient is dark music whose main task is to evoke feelings of sadness and melancholy , anxiety, fear, paranoia and even terror.

Fans' comments indicate that this is an alternative for those who are too sensitive to the cacophonous and aggressive sounds of black metal or, on the contrary, that dark ambient complements them. Darkambient projects are fascinating and – according to listeners – addictive. It is also not surprising that many artists from this circle admit to being strongly inspired by mysticism, occultism and esotericism, trying to give their projects ritual and magical properties. The fans themselves call them a musical abyss, music possessed but at the same time hellishly beautiful, music straight from a psychiatric hospital, noise in the service of evil forces, sounds that drill into the brain, dehumanized music, cold, dirty and evil, a mood that leads you into during this unholy journey.

There are, of course, hundreds of dark ambient songs, but even a cursory review of the discography of the most famous artists and the iconography placed on covers or in music videos allows us to distinguish several leading thematic motifs, none of which, as we can guess, has anything to do with Christianity. First of all, the motif of emptiness, destruction, darkness, death (including suicide), fear, mental illness or fetishism and other sexual deviations is repeated here. If the songs have a text layer, Lucifer or the names of other demons are often mentioned and phrases referring to the magical and occult sphere are used.

In the case of songs with only a sound layer, Satanic messages appear, of course, in the titles of albums and individual songs, as well as in the symbols placed on the covers. Electronic sounds are often accompanied by screams, moans, crying or sounds that are difficult to identify. Depending on preferences and current mood, the creators take listeners on an imaginative journey to abandoned buildings, hell, a psychiatric hospital or to a witches' rally.

Satanism as a source of musical inspiration

The authors of "Lords of Chaos" also try to answer the question of why these varieties of Satanic music appeared and developed in Scandinavia, explaining this phenomenon with the crisis of the Church in the countries of Western Europe. In later years, openly admitting belief in the existence of hell and Satan was considered almost taboo in church circles [in Norway - MN]. These are topics, like exorcism, that are simply not discussed (p. 99). It can be seen that although Satan was practically "dead" in the Norwegian Church, he was doing better and better in popular culture, not only niche culture. Based on a similar scenario, the situation is also developing throughout Western Europe.

According to the simplest division, Satanism in music is divided into two trends: theistic and Laveyan. Followers of the former recognize Satan as a deity, while opposing Christianity. This attitude is demonstrated by many black metal and some dark ambient bands. Some groups promote a specific fusion of theistic and philosophical Satanism, e.g. based on the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche. Still other creators renounce any issues related to faith, replacing them with classic nihilism. An example of this approach can be the statement of Henrik Nordvargr Björkk from the band MZ.412, who admitted that he was once interested in occultism (hence the references to Satan, Lucifer and other anti-Christian "deities" in many of his songs), but now denies the existence of any gods and entities. , apart from the Great Nothing, i.e. death. Therefore, he calls for everyone to be their own god and make the most of the "here and now".

Satanism in music is either associated with an occult ritual or is a very attractive philosophy - a logical explanation for anti-Christian behavior. There are a lot of emotional elements to it as well. As the creators themselves claim, it is equally a spiritual life, which becomes deeper and deeper with the knowledge acquired. It does not matter much whether the musicians are supporters of Satanism or pagan culture and symbolism. In both cases, iconography and music become a reflection of an absolutist worldview, uncompromising and devoid of any tolerance for Christianity.

Satanism as the basis of self-narrative

The Holy Scripture warns: Children, beware of false gods (1 John 5:21). Adepts of music that openly promotes Satanic themes, both lyrically and stylistically, are usually teenagers and people in their twenties who have gained relative independence in the recent past, rejecting previously known authorities and moral principles. They look for content in the multi-threaded but at the same time homogeneous popular culture that seems attractive and strong. Music is one of the most important tools for creating identity in the culture of individualism. The anti-Christian and blasphemous message is, on the one hand, extremely extreme, but on the other hand, very clear and readable, which is why it fits surprisingly well into the process of creating the narrative identity of an individual, which in Western culture is deprived of any solid foundations (e.g. gender, national or religious categories). ). As sociologist Anthony Elliott writes, identity in the culture of individualism is a symbolic project that becomes a matter of choice and the risk that comes with it. In this sense (...) we use symbolic raw materials (language, images, signs) in order to interpret the motives that influence us and others, and to constantly re-create the identity narrative (A. Elliott, "Concepts of 'I'", Warsaw 2007 , p. 11).

Saints who have given their lives for Christ for centuries are almost completely unknown to today's youth or overlooked by them. The place of authorities was taken by experts and idols, which in the case of music are, of course, creators and band members. There was therefore a clear shift from the religious sphere to the magical sphere and a kind of idolatry and idolatry. For a Christian who becomes interested in Satanism in music, this has serious consequences, because it is a violation of the first, most important commandment of the Decalogue.

Satanism in music as a community-creating element

Satanism in the sound and text layer is a tool that binds the community together, fan groups are an example of the so-called empathetic communities, new tribes. The desire to be yourself, to be original, "different from everyone else", paradoxically coexists with the need to constantly be in a community, to be with those who are similar to us and who confirm us in our beliefs. Apart from a coherent image, community-creating elements include, of course, language and the non-verbal sphere, i.e. gestures such as the famous "horned hand", in Anglo-Saxon countries called devil horns - a hand clenched into a fist, with the index and little fingers extended.

This gesture is often inscribed on amulets that are intended to protect the owner from charm and enchant supernatural power. Some fans of Satanic bands belonging to the above-mentioned genres often greet each other with the phrase Heil Satan! (a version of the Latin phrase Ave Satanas, used, among others, by LaVey during public rituals and introduced to the rock music scene by the aforementioned band Coven), using it consciously or without attaching much importance to it and without thinking about the consequences. Regardless of the circumstances, this phrase is a kind of ritual in the sphere of communication, a blasphemous and profane inversion of the Christian greeting Praised be Jesus Christ.

Belonging to a specific community constituted through a Satanic context is supposed to be a "liberation" from the binding ties that, in their opinion, religion, especially Christianity, imposes on young people. By identifying religion with ideology, they proceed from the mythical assumption that it was invented only to control entire societies and individual individuals, and they consider God only as their superior and overseer.

Satan in the "music and stage" version therefore becomes mainly a synonym for a falsely understood carrier of freedom. Individuals looking for elements of identity in this ritual and philosophical sphere, however, often become addicted to creating their own "I". It is also a kind of paradox that fans of Satanic music are most often people who declare themselves to be atheists, rejecting the existence of both a personal God and personal evil. However, when creating their image, they use symbols, gestures and theistic iconographic representations that refer to these entities.

According to the Norwegian professor of theology, Pastor Jacob Jervell, the (Protestant) Church from time to time mentions Satan and, although it believes in his existence, in symbolism it often presents him as a harmless goat, a grotesque figure. Meanwhile, according to Jervell, downplaying the figure of Satan and his strength and moving away from biblical sources makes evil more attractive.

It's not just music

Music is a very effective communication tool, capable of shaping the thinking, behavior and attitudes of both creators and recipients, because the content and sounds convey ideas to the human subconscious that people, sooner or later, accept as their own. For some fans, especially those who do not have the courage to completely reject faith in God and Christian norms, a kind of "disenchantment" of the situation is to repeat that it is "just music" and stage fraud, and Satanic elements are only props used in artistic and theatricalized activities. Very often, listeners justify themselves by saying that there is nothing wrong with it, because it is "just a symbol and an innocent gesture."

However, Grzegorz Kasjaniuk, a music journalist, has a different opinion. In an interview for he says: I tried to understand the essence of their music, distinguish originality from a false musical message, and I came to one conclusion - the message of their music is true. This is done with full zeal, with full credibility, because they really believe in what they are doing.

The experiences of psychologists, psychiatrists, priests and exorcist priests prove that for many people, the fascination with Satanism in music may mean problems of a mental and spiritual nature.

Therefore, the words of Isahn, the vocalist of the band Emperor, who in one of the interviews states that the black metal scene has become so extreme should be a warning to fans. precisely because of the symbolism. He emphasizes that the people appearing on and around the stage did not necessarily immediately hate Christianity. Their hostility towards Christians, however, grew as they entered the world of black metal (see "Lords of Chaos", p. 238).

Dr. Małgorzata Nieszczerzewska

The text was published in the February issue of the monthly "Egzorcysta"