SONGS OF INDULGENCE
Chapter One: DEATH
You see it—the all-black clad Satanists, adorned with skulls, skeletons, and coffins (via jewelry, clothing, or tattoos), ready at any moment for the hippest funeral known to humankind. But why? Are they goth? The reification of Lydia Deetz? Suicidal, even? Or are they just contrarian pieces of shit hellbent on providing the visual manifestation of the antithesis of life? Why are Satanists obsessed with DEATH?
First and foremost, not all Satanists wear black. But beyond that, death deserves both celebration and reverence. Like birth, it is one thing that connects us all, not just to each other, but to all living things. Life does not exist without death, nor death without life. It is therefore an integral (and, at times, an unpredictable) part of our experience. In most cases, Satanists are not necessarily “obsessed” with death. But we do indulge in it, both the thought of it and its reality. This is not a desire to be dead. On the contrary, and in the words of Anton LaVey, “Life is the great indulgence—death, the great abstinence. Therefore, make the most of life—HERE AND NOW!” By indulging in the thought of death, by keeping its reality ever present at the forefront of our minds (or in our wardrobes), we remind ourselves that life—just the one, which is not everlasting, and could easily end at any time with or without our consent—is to be lived to its fullest.
All of my grandparents have died from either cancer, emphysema, or old age. I had a cousin killed in a car accident when he was 16. I came home one day as a child to find half of one of my two gerbils who had both become the victims of my cat’s carnivorous nature (the other gerbil was never found). But there is no death more vivid, more real, or more present than that of my son. He died unexpectedly in childbirth on June 6, 2006, and his death wrecked my life. That is to say that it changed my life forever. I am not the man I used to be, nor am I the man I could have become had my son survived. I am different. That is the power of death, and as a powerful force it indeed demands reverence, whichever way we Satanists choose to revere it (because not all Satanists wear black).
Perhaps it is blasphemy that I do not include a single death metal track on my Death Indulgence playlist. But perhaps that would be too easy. And perhaps I was more interested in highlighting my diverse taste in music than packing myself neatly within the stereotypical association of Satanism with death metal.
Lorn—I recently came across “Acid Rain” via YouTube’s suggestion, and while the lyrics attempt to offer solace to those who, in the face of adversity or hard times in general, desperately need it, the music (and video) are seemingly associated closely with a deeply emotional longing associated with death. This song and the feelings it invokes touch me in strange internal places that haven’t been touched in a long time.
Elliot Smith—This artist committed suicide several years ago, and several of his songs, including “Everything Means Nothing to Me,” seemingly demonstrate the insurmountable depression he faced leading up to taking his own life.
Deftones—Different people think about death in different ways. “Knife Party” encapsulates both a reverence and fear of death (note the “solo” performed by a woman screaming) that I try to enjoy in moderation.
The Jim Carroll Band—If you’ve never watched The Basketball Diaries (1995), you should. “People Who Died” should be enough of a push for you to do so, I think. Or perhaps the fact that a young Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jim Carroll in this cinematic version of Carroll’s memoir?
HIM—Death and love (or infatuation?) are two interdependent components central to Western culture, and I find “Join Me in Death” as an appropriate illustration of this.
Meshuggah, Deftones, Nine Inch Nails
(3 important parts of what I was listening to in Little Rock, AR on August 16)