BANGALORE OPEN AIR 2015: The Highlights

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By now, the good folks of Bangalore Open Air must be experts at pulling off spectacular tricks at the last minute. Just when things seem at their bleakest (i.e., Sodom pulling out of BOA 2013 and the failure of BOA 2014’s massive crowdfunding campaign), Salman U. Syed and team use an ace in the hole (i.e., bringing down Iced Earth for BOA 2013, and Destruction and Rotting Christ for the year after) to keep the show going.

For this year’s edition of the festival however, the BOA crew plotted their trail of destruction well in advance by booking British grindcore legends Napalm Death, Austrian black metal ghouls Belphegor and Colombian death/thrash stalwarts Inquisition. The aforementioned “last-minute trick” came in the form of an announcement just a few months before the main day that a host of bands from around India would be brought into Bangalore city to make BOA 2015 a week-long affair. I was fortunate enough to catch as many pre-gigs as I could in the week, as well as the main day itself, and witness a smorgasbord of local talent deliver tight, varied, and fuck-off-loud metal!

I regrettably missed the pre-gig at 1522 The Pub featuring Albatross, Hellwind and other heavy-hitters since I was thousands of feet in the air in an airplane from Mumbai (excuses, excuses). Fortunately, Albatross’ Dr. Hex was pulling double-duty as mild-mannered bassist Riju Dasgupta of pre-gig headliners Primitiv the night after at The Big Pitcher. Before that though, we were treated to a mega-serving of sludgy doom metal by Witchdoctor, The Grim Mage and Dirge! The contrast between Witchdoctor’s slow, meandering riffage and The Grim Mage’s scream-fueled sound right after worked very well, while the more experienced Dirge gave us the best of both worlds with their apocalyptic set.

Witchdoctor (top 3) and The Grim Mage (bottom 3) | Photos: Sairaj R Kamath
Witchdoctor (top 3) and The Grim Mage (bottom 3) | See full gallery here
Dirge | Photos: Sairaj R Kamath
Dirge | See full gallery here

As for Primitiv, they provided a welcome adrenaline shot to the festivities with their death metal sound. Not only did they invite Bharad Ravi of black/thrash supergroup Witchgoat on-stage for a song, but they actually managed to give the tune “No Quarter” by the almighty Led Zeppelin a death metal makeover. And holy smokes, was it good.

Primitiv | Photos: Sairaj R Kamath
Primitiv | See full gallery here

*****

Fast forward three days, a time-span in which I missed two more BOA pre-gigs (due to family commitments) that included hardened metal bands like Antakrit as well as grindcore acts like Necrophilia and Grossty. Sigh… this post is starting to have more holes than the AVN Awards.

ANYWAY, the Indigo Live Music Bar on the night of June 4th was the scene of not only a gig by progressive metallers Eccentric Pendulum, but also of the Wacken Metal Battle prelims. Two particularly brutal contestants were Amorphia and Counterplot Theory; the former went for all-out, speedy thrash metal reminiscent of 80s Slayer, while the latter added a more progressive and “teutonic” touch to their thrash metal template. However, the winners that night were The Down Troddence, who didn’t let their limited performance as a four-piece that night get in the way of delivering moshpit-inducing riffs and tribal grooves.

Amorphia (top 3) and Counterplot Theory (bottom 3) | Photos: Sairaj R Kamath
Amorphia (top 3) and Counterplot Theory (bottom 3) | See full gallery here

As for Eccentric Pendulum, their music isn’t particularly known to start off a good circle pit, but you can damn well be sure that they blasted some proggy madness through their amps! Their set almost reached Opeth levels of duration and variety as they debuted two brand-spanking-new songs near the end, giving a teaser for their new material to come.

Eccentric Pendulum (top right, top-left, bottom-left) and The Down Troddence (bottom, bottom-right) | Photos: Sairaj R Kamath
Eccentric Pendulum (top right, top-left, bottom-left) and The Down Troddence (bottom, bottom-right) | See full gallery here

*****

The very last BOA pre-gig at Vapour on June 5th was by far the most special for me. For one, it was the site of the Wacken Metal Battle finals, featuring some of the best homegrown talent I’d ever seen till that point. Indore death metallers Zero Gravity and Mumbai alt-metal band Anthracite surprised me the most in the vocalist department; ZG’s Kratika Bagora could give Arch Enemy’s Alissa White-Gluz a run for her money with her death metal vocals, while Anthracite’s Abhishek Nair proved to be the man of a dozen weird-but-cool voices coupled with his Fred Durst-like vocals. Also, I’ve gotta give props to Kolkata’s Scarface for the interesting guitars and soundscapes in their “modern metal” style.

Clockwise from left: Zero Gravity, Anthracite, and Scarface | See full gallery here
Clockwise from left: Zero Gravity, Anthracite, and Scarface | See full gallery here

But the real competition that night was between Sycorax from Darjeeling and the blessedly full line-up of The Down Troddence. With enough dreadlocks to whip an entire slave galley, Sycorax commanded the most intense moshpits of that night with their extreme death metal setlist. You could be mistaken for thinking that a live pig was being skinned onstage if you didn’t see the squeals coming from their vocalist Trivinesh Subba.

Sycorax | See full gallery here
Sycorax | See full gallery here

That’s not to say that The Down Troddence didn’t put up a fair fight as well. Finally complimented by the mezmerizing keyboard lines and soundscapes their music is known for, they burned through their popular hits and got the crowd headbanging like a collective, metal-as-fuck metronome. Of course, frontman Munz sported very little of his iconic black face-paint, but I’ll take what I can get. In the end though, Sycorax ended up being the winners of the WMB, but it was a damn well-deserved victory.

The Down Troddence | See full gallery here
The Down Troddence | See full gallery here

It was then time for the three headliners of the night to take the stage: Slohawk, Dying Embrace and Kryptos.

I really didn’t know what to expect when Slohawk came up on stage. Consisting of big names like Rahul Chacko of Bevar Sea and Ganesh Krishnaswamy of Kryptos, I remember nipping inside the smoking room with a buddy of mine while they were fiddling with their instruments, only to come back 10 minutes later and realize that they had been playing an improvised stoner-doom number all along! From then onwards, the whole venue was awash with trippy stoner-rock grooves and solos that could relax a cheetah on a sugar-high. The band cheekily continued playing well after their time-slot, but no one was complaining… except the poor organizers, of course.

Slohawk | See full gallery here
Slohawk | See full gallery here

The doom-y atmosphere in Vapour then took a darker turn as Dying Embrace came on stage. Vikram Bhat and co. had both the young metal loyalists and the members of the old guard hooked with their classic tunes, as well as a well-placed Bolt Thrower cover. Whatever they supposedly lacked in stage presence and movement, they more than made up for with spot-on playing and just a good, old-school vibe unseen in most bands today.

Dying Embrace | See full gallery here
Dying Embrace | See full gallery here

But now, it was time for the mighty Kryptos to end the night in style. With guitarists Nolan Lewis and Rohit Chaturvedi having enough patches on their jackets to mend ratty bedsheets in a slum, the band positively oozed 80s rockstar style as they thrashed through their crowd favourite songs. I guess they were probably too busy snarling at the audience to notice Barney Greenway and Shane Embury of Napalm Death looking down at their set from the upper level, and they just may have been impressed by Bangalore’s finest. It kinda makes you wonder about exactly who Rohit was showing off his bod for during his performance.

Kryptos | See full gallery here
Kryptos | See full gallery here

*****

Finally, the afternoon of June 6th had arrived. FYI, I stay 10 minutes away from the Royal Orchid Hotel in Yelahanka, so I was clad in my finest metal attire and camera, ready to witness India’s finest metal bands as well as the three mega-headliners. And I did… NOT. Once again, I was sidelined by family duties till about 6:30pm, with the result that I arrived at the grounds just as Belphegor was about to start their set.

*cries a little inside*

*still crying inside, give it a minute*

*ok, I’m good*

All things considered, I think Belphegor had the best stage presence that night. Occupying the main stage in a fog of deep red lighting and… well, fog, the band even had their backs faced to the rabid audience before dramatically launching into blackened death metal brutality. Belphegor’s whole set in front of the epic backdrop was a sight to behold, not least due to the fact that Helmuth’s mic-stand seemed to be made up of grisly goat bones. What’s the expression I’m looking for right now… “KVLT”? “KVRWA”? “NVTTERBVTTERS”? Anyway, the band burned through their set staples like “Walpurgis Rites”, satisfying the crowd’s appetites for all things black metal.

Belphegor | See full gallery here
Belphegor | See full gallery here

Inquisition followed up with their performance on the Jeff Hanneman Stage opposite, and they were the break-out stars of the show that night. Many of the old-school thrashers in the venue were already milling around the stage before showtime, curious about their sound. Well, suffice it to say that they were blown away by the tidal wave of black/thrash metal that came from the two musicians of the band. Yeah, that’s right, TWO. Proving themselves as the epitome of “doing more with less”, vocalist/guitarist Dagon and drummer Incubus played to an amazed and whooping audience that night. This only left a few stragglers hanging around the main-stage barricades, saving their places to witness the fury of Napalm Death next.

Inquisition | See full gallery here
Inquisition | See full gallery here

AND THEN… my Grindcore dreams came true. As the whole crowd that night concentrated themselves in front of the main stage, Napalm Death opened explosively with “When All is Said and Done”. One of my favourite songs of theirs, no less! Their whole set then blazed by in a wave of angry, louder-than-hell riffs, drums and roars. At that point of time, the answer as to how the hell vocalist Barney Greenway and bassist Shane Embury could still do this so well night after night for so many years was WAY beyond me. Honestly however, the audience in front kind of pulled a dick move by incessantly screaming for ND’s older hits as the band played their newer stuff. This was almost to the point where Barney had to repeatedly say “patience, patience!” in a joking voice, but I got the feeling that this was all in good spirit. Perhaps to respond to this, the band ended their headlining set with their seconds-long masterpiece, “You Suffer”. And no, I didn’t just phrase that sarcastically.

Napalm Death | See full gallery here
Napalm Death | See full gallery here

All in all, this year’s Bangalore Open Air extravaganza was one I’ll never forget, and I’m sure that’ll be the case for many other friends of mine who were there. Kudos, thumbs up, and cheers with beers to Salman and his team for pulling this massive shindig off!

But you know what? The next BOA will be an even more memorable experience for me, even though it hasn’t even happened yet! Wanna know why? Because it will include my favourite melodic death metal band of all time and space: SOIL-MOTHERFUCKING-WORK! My original band t-shirt of theirs will now be stained in my tears of happiness!

Oh, and Vader‘s gonna be there as well. S’all good.

*****

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BANGALORE OPEN AIR 2015: The Highlights

Warrior Within – Best Prince of Persia Game Ever?

prince_of_persia_warrior_within_wallpaper_hd-1600x1200Over the past six months, I steadily came to a realisation; an epiphany, even. The ‘Sands of Time’ trilogy of the Prince of Persia games (I’m not counting The Forgotten Sands here) could be THE BEST GAME SERIES OF ALL TIME. Think of this as an almost 10th Anniversary magic of sorts, after the series’ end in 2005 with The Two Thrones.

Everything from the level design to the combat to the free-running and parkour movement mechanics could keep even the staunchest of game critics relatively quiet while writing their reviews in their parents’ basements. I say “relatively”, because some nitpickers still managed to find small faults with each of the three games, and most of these were unceremoniously heaped on the 2nd entry, Warrior Within. After playing through the three games, I find it slightly unfair that that particular game has to be the black sheep of the ‘Sands of Time’ series. Allow me to share with you my opinion (and I can’t state that word any more obviously) that Warrior Within could in fact be the BEST game of the trilogy.

Oh, and for those of you who were expecting purely metal stuff in this next entry; if an angry Persian warrior slicing his enemies in half like they’re sandwich bread ISN’T metal enough for you, then I don’t know what is.

Also, MAJOR SPOILERS.

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*ARCHITECTURAL SQUEES*

First, the level design. Warrior Within’s Island of Time made vast improvements over Sands of Time’s limited albeit engrossing Palace of Azad. The Island had better spread-out structures, platforms and death traps, with more intricate design and detail. And while I think its dominant colour scheme of reds and browns was a little much, I think it was a small price to pay for how it turned out in the end. The time portals were an ingenious move as well, adding an all-new twist to familiar areas.

But what I loved most about the island was its non-linearity. You could choose which tower you wanted to activate first, you could backtrack through the Empress’ castle to find the well-hidden life upgrades, and you had to find the right time portal to open inaccessible areas. It was easy for you to get lost or ponder your direction within the towers, especially the Mechanical Tower. That one had such a sense of scale and intricacy to it. And for all the good things about the level design of the first and third games, they were still comparatively more linear and restricting.

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"Oye, lads! What say we go grab a shawarma while this Prince bloke sucks our comrade into his shiny knife?"
“Oye, lads! What say we go grab a shawarma while this Prince bloke sucks our comrade into his shiny knife?”

Second, the combat. Sands of Time’s combat system was a little too simplistic; vault-and-slash for the maroon-clothed monsters, vault-off-the-walls-and-slash for the blue-wearing ones. Plus, the final fight with the Vizier was just too anticlimactic. Although it was pretty funny to see all the sand monsters just gormlessly standing around while the Prince made that whole in-fight stunt of absorbing each monster’s essence into the dagger.

Nevertheless, Warrior Within had different kinds of primary swords and secondary weapons, enabled more combat mechanics and combos, and offered a wider variety of enemies for your proverbial hack n’ slash buffet. The three main bosses – Shahdee, Kaileena, and the Dahaka – were easier to defeat once you figured out their attack patterns, but were pretty challenging nonetheless. Kudos to the Thrall and Griffin side-bosses as well.

With respect to Two Thrones, its combat system was a bit indecisive, if not sociopathic. If you ignore the fact that it borrowed aspects from Warrior Within’s environments and gameplay, you’d see that the game made you rely on stealth mechanics and speed kills first like a proto-Assassin’s Creed. But if you failed in these actions and had to switch to melee combat, OH BOY did Two Thrones make you pay for it. You would then have to control a slower, less agile and essentially weaker Prince with an unbelievably low health bar and sand-time limit. And God forbid you alerted the enemy archers while sneaking around the game, unless you wanted to become Persia’s first human pincushion. Sure, the Dark Prince and his daggertail attacks were really cool, but his constant dependence on the sands to stay alive made you break every piece of crockery and furniture in the game like the world’s clumsiest house-guest.

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Now for the story, characterisation and themes. Warrior Within got the spiky end of the review-stick when it came to its darker and angstier themes, which supposedly deceived the fans of Sands of Time’s more mystical and adventurous tone. As a result of this “mis-step”, Two Thrones went out of its way to re-introduce that ‘Arabian Nights’ feel by bringing back Yuri Lowenthal to voice the Prince and involving Princess Farah in the story again. I want to look at this whole story arc from a different angle.

I always thought that Sands of Time’s fantastical theme and aesthetic understated the true nature of the Prince’s actions. Think about it: his own father and his comrades were turned into sand monsters by his releasing the sands, he had to traverse a multitude of death traps and terrains in and around the castle, and he had to personally kill the monster forms of his loved ones by absorbing their sand essence into the dagger. The game included few blood animations and sounds during combat, but that shouldn’t take away from the true grisly nature of his fight with the sand monsters. Add to that the fact that the Prince had no food or drink to fuel him through the game (if you exclude the unexplained “magic water”), and that’s an inhuman amount of physical and mental stress burdened on the poor fellow. While it can be said that his “grand rewind” action at the end of the game effectively nullified these events, he still had the memories of the whole tragedy, and the mental scars can be every bit as severe as the physical ones.

Fast-forward to the events just before Warrior Within. The Prince is recovering from his self-caused cataclysm when the whole Dahaka business crops up due to his fooling around with the sands. Later becoming estranged from his father and kingdom, he is marked for death by a giant time-travelling bogeyman that looked like the love child of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and the Nazgul from Lord of the Rings. At this point, I honestly didn’t know how the Prince’s probable PTSD didn’t reduce him to a quivering heap, curled up on the ground and cutting his wrists to the tune of My Chemical Romance albums. Nevertheless, Warrior Within authenticated his past experiences and portrayed him as a truly hardened and desperate soul, using any means necessary to “change his fate”. I’d venture to say that the game almost had no choice but to go with a darker theme.

Another good thing about Warrior Within is that it had a less linear storyline as well. While Sands of Time and Two Thrones just made you go after the girl (or in the former’s case, with the girl) and defeat the Vizier, Warrior Within had you jumping time periods, mowing down anyone in the way of your survival, and essentially playing against your past self while being the Sand Wraith; all the while not knowing whether to save or kill the mysterious Empress. I think all this made for a gorgeously twisted storyline, with the cherry on the top being the alternate endings.

Two Thrones’ story was fantastical and engrossing in its own right, but I still felt that even with the whole split personality angle with the Dark Prince in it, it was a bit too similar to Sands of Time. The chemistry between Farah and the Prince was forced as well (that elevator sequence was just lame), but the game’s major turn-off for me was Kaileena’s voice acting. Seriously, she sounds like she smoked all the hashish in Persia before narrating the story. Say what you want about Monica Bellucci’s voice acting in the previous game, but she at least brought more clit-balls to the character than in this sequel.

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In the end, is Warrior Within without flaws? Definitely not. Perhaps if it had Two Thrones’ environments and Sands of Time’s natural chemistry, it could’ve more or less become the perfect action-adventure game. But for now, I think it’s the best game of the series so far. And even if you all don’t share my view, I hope you can at least appreciate this black sheep of the series just a little more.

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Warrior Within – Best Prince of Persia Game Ever?

The Devil You Know: Lucifer and his Journey Through Heavy Metal

"Baphomet" by H.R Giger
“Baphomet” by H.R Giger: what a four-way looks like in Hell.

Ah yes, the Devil. Satan. Beelzebub (has a devil put aside for me… sorry, couldn’t resist). What better way to take my first steps into the heavy metal blogosphere than to talk about that big-horned bastard? He and heavy metal go together like sweet-bread and nutella, or cookies and nutella, or chocolate with a jar of nutella so huge that your veins will turn brown after eating it all. That being said, Lucifer has gone through quite a few transformations and ups-and-downs in popularity throughout metal music’s timeline until now. And since I’m an ambitious bugger, I’ll attempt to take you through his epic journey in heavy metal as part of my very first piece here.

The earliest avatars of the Devil entered our musical realms through the classic rock and early heavy metal of the 70s. At that point of time however, rock musicians actually viewed the dark arts with fascination rather than fear. Die-hard Led Zeppelin fans for example will know all the urban legends that revolved around the group; including the one where the band supposedly entered into a Faustian deal with the Devil to gain their musical talent and stratospheric success. Guitarist Jimmy Page himself went through the works of occult writer Aleister Crowley like how every rock musician at that time went through cocaine, so those rumours may not have been totally unwarranted.

Even Black Sabbath, the Grandmasters of metal themselves, had little intention in the beginning of being the poster boys for the dark arts. Guitarist Tony Iommi’s famously “evil” riffage was the result of his well-known industrial accident that severed the tips of his fingers, leading him to down-tune his guitars. Sabbath’s first few albums indeed were like psychedelic blues and hard rock with an occult bent to it, and even singer Ozzy Osbourne in those days looked more like a hippie than the Prince of Darkness he so exhaustively advertises himself as today.

Geezer Butler and Ozzy Osbourne: let's hope Satan doesn't like WHITE rooms...
Geezer Butler and Ozzy Osbourne: “… for the last time, Geezer… I’m not gonna do this in a fuckin’ ORANGE room!”

If anything, bassist Geezer Butler may have had the most fascination with the black magicks in those early days. It’s all in a story where he painted his apartment jet-black and adorned it with inverted crucifixes just for jollies, until he (in his own words) saw a dark figure at the foot of his bed one night while sleeping, which he was sure was Beelzebub himself. His story then ended in an extreme-home-makeover where he repainted his entire flat in a positively refreshing orange colour. The cross you see dangling on Geezer’s neck in those old photos? He was actually looking to PROTECT himself from Satan’s wrath. In short, all of these brush-ins with the occult that our 70s rock and heavy metal legends had were in the end borne out of fascination; a curiosity of what lay beyond our mundane mortal lives and close-minded religious systems.

The Devil’s now famous blood-fire-and-brimstone image only truly came to metal in the 80s. Iron Maiden terrified parents and pastors everywhere with ‘The Number of the Beast’, and Judas Priest made BDSM fetishists everywhere cream their codpieces with their studded leather clothing. Venom hit the peak of devil-worshipping parody with the now-prophetic-sounding ‘Black Metal’ album in 1982, though they weren’t taken very seriously at the time. Nevertheless, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal was out to smash religious and cultural taboos to smithereens, and heavy metal fans were only too happy to join them, Margaret Thatcher be damned. Satan and his dark minions then hitched a ride with this metal music movement as it made its way to the U.S.A, where it gave glorious birth to American thrash metal.

In America, while all the poofy-haired glam rockers sang about pouring some sugar on their sweet cherry pie and stuff, the underground thrash movement strived to sound rawer, harder, faster and stronger (no Daft Punk jokes, please). Newer and darker concepts were being explored by the now thrash metal greats like Metallica, Megadeth, Testament and Exodus. However, it was Slayer that really went the distance like Maiden did when it came to the devilry and hellfire in metal music. Their chugging guitars, break-neck tempos and evil vocals & lyrics in classics like ‘Hell Awaits’, ‘Reign in Blood’ and ‘South of Heaven’ gave the Devil a hearty meal of infamy and controversy with a side order of fear from the general populace. Even Germany and Brazil joined the fun, with Teutonic thrash legends like Kreator and Sodom as well as Brazilian thrash and proto-death metal heavyweights like Sepultura and Sarcofago.

westboro-baptist-church-god-hates-metal
Word.

But the thing is, even though thrash metal made some serious critique of religion, politics and popular culture, there was also the feeling that bands like Slayer were simply taking the piss out of Christianity for the fun of it.  All they needed to do at that point was gather the traditional tropes of the Devil – goat’s head and hooves, big horns, androgynous titties, etc. – and lob them at the general audience, and then lie back with a nice piña colada to watch all the “shock and moral outrage” with big grins on their faces. And I can see why, because it’s BLOODY GOOD FUN. Seriously, try wearing a ‘Seasons in the Abyss’ t-shirt while riding a public bus in India sometime; all the commuters will look at you like you’re Shah Rukh Khan with leprosy. Either way, Shaitaan certainly enjoyed his golden moments in the limelight of heavy metal during the 80s. Alas, those golden moments were short-lived.

Heavy metal itself underwent a HUGE metamorphosis in the onset of the 90s. The Devil was no longer the singular magical teat from which metal bands had to suck for inspiration, credibility and notoriety. A whole slew of sub-genres reared their heads: Progressive metal sang about life, the universe and everything, Power metal was a J.R.R Tolkien book club armed with Marshall Stacks, Nu metal heavily down-tuned itself in self-pity as well as its guitars, and so on. For a moment there, it looked like Satan was going to be swept away by the winds of change… only to be rescued by the two entities on the farthest end of the 90s metal spectrum: Death and Black metal.

The funny thing was, for all its extremity, black and death metal actually managed to evoke some of the greatest insight into Satanism and the Devil. The downplayed “First Wave” of black metal in the 80s had bands like Mercyful Fate and Bathory, who backed up their hellish music and stage presence with memberships in Satanism and the LaVeyan Church. Even the aforementioned Sepultura and Sarcofago had touches of black metal about them in their early years, with the corpse-paint and everything. It was only its more infamous “Second Wave” offspring that took things to a whole new level by outright rejecting and attacking Christianity in favour of Satanism or Paganism. But even amongst all the church burnings, murders and general shrieking noise and blast beats, there was something deeper going on here.

Behemoth's Nergal: still loves his blood and titties, though.
Behemoth’s Nergal: he still loves his blood ‘n titties, though.

As the bands in the Black metal movement in Norway grew and developed, there was a tonal shift as well as a greater clarity in their purpose. Black metal became not so much about devil-worshipping as about breaking free from the Christian system to embrace the old European or Pagan ways (which were themselves labelled “Satanic” in the first place). Many of the music movement’s finest slowly veered away from the Devil’s path to espouse ideologies like atheism and the religion of the old Norsemen, an example being our favourite anti-semitic, WôðanaR-worshipping former firebug, Varg Vikernes. Even personalities like Behemoth’s Adam ‘Nergal’ Darski now view the “Satan” persona as the ultimate manifestation of human freedom, or as Gorgoroth and God Seed’s Gaahl once put it, the “Superhuman”.

Death metal had its share of anti-religious dialogue as well, most famously with Tampa, Florida death metal legends and controversy-magnets Deicide. Frontman Glen Benton was especially trigger-happy about his Satanic views throughout his music as well as his media appearances in the 90s, his finest hour being his proclamation that he would grandly off himself at the age of 33 as part of some sacrificial-suicide shtick to achieve the exalted status of “Bizarro Jesus” or something. Of course, Deicide has left all of that behind now, and still continue to make some solid death metal albums in the new millennium, their only recent bit of “controversy” being their on-tour hissy-fit with Chicago-based death metallers Broken Hope in 2013. Other budding Cross-inverters of the time included Possessed and Morbid Angel, the latter of whom are now on the 20th Anniversary tour of their seminal ‘Covenant’ album to satiate their fans who were OH SO ANGRY AND DISAPPOINTED by their industrial-tinged comeback album ‘Illud Divinum Insanus’.

That being said, the other group of death metal bands that sang about killing people and mutilating and/or fucking their corpses actually presented a more contemporary view of the Devil, at least in my opinion. They didn’t really need some hell-spawned, big-horned bogeyman to scare people, because they noticed that those people were already afraid of death, mortality, and even their own bodies. To these bands, true evil was already present in every serial killer, rapist, mad doctor and otherwise unholy entity that would extinguish our lives and expose the grisly side of our human flesh and blood; and this was reflected in the music of such greats like Cannibal Corpse, Autopsy, Carcass, and others. Scream bloody gore, indeed.

Ghost: sorry Papa Emeritus II, but Snoop Dogg just ain't "Nameless Ghoul" material.
Ghost: … sorry Papa Emeritus II, but Snoop Doggy Dogg just ain’t “Nameless Ghoul” material.

Today, heavy metal itself is in a weird place; almost a clusterfuck. With the advent of the Internet and in the aftermath of Napster, a multitude of new bands are popping out of the ground like gophers and putting out their music on the information superhighway. So many things are going on at once – the thrash revival, the onset of djent, metalcore from Britain, technical death metal, etc. – and almost every idea under the sun is being explored by these new bands. But don’t fret, dear purists, because for all the far-reaching “progressive” bands out there, there is also a new breed of musicians paying homage to the occult and Satanic ways. We have our Watains, our Ghosts (or Ghost B.C’s for any ‘muricans reading this) and our Belphegors for example; and even if some of metal’s old guard have moved on to bigger and better things, other stalwarts like Slayer, Behemoth and Dimmu Borgir are still going strong today. Some stay true to the Devil’s Baphomet-like image, while others aren’t afraid to dig deeper into the greater philosophy of it all. And thanks to the easy sharing of music worldwide, we’re getting the best of all worlds here.

And so our journey draws to a close, and my concluding point is… well, not much. Just that the Devil and his mystic realms will always be heavy metal’s most evocative and alluring sources of inspiration, regardless of any “modern” trends in the music business.

Now go put on that Obituary t-shirt and scare the dentures out of your grand-mum, you slacker.

The Devil You Know: Lucifer and his Journey Through Heavy Metal