We’re nearing the end of October, and thus in the week of Devil’s Night and All Hallow’s Eve – or Hallowe’en, of course. So I thought I’d dig into my list of as-yet-unposted subjects to find an appropriate one.
/Subject /Magic, Occult
/Playlists /Spotify / /YouTube
/Related /163/Devil’s Night /Tuesday Ten/Index
/Assistance /Suggestions/232 /Used Prior/8 /Unique Songs/194 /People Suggesting/92
/Details /Tracks this week/10 /Tracks on Spotify Playlist/10 /Duration/51:57
The original thinking about this one actually pre-dates lockdowns, as I asked about it in February 2020, and it got an awful lot of suggestions (one of the biggest threads I’ve ever done for song suggestions, in fact). Magic and the occult, of course, have long been a touchstone in a variety of musical styles, but particularly metal and goth, and both genres get a look-in here, more than once.
Thanks, as always, to everyone who got involved.
The spookiness continues tonight with /TheKindaMzkYouLike /022, which will have appropriately spooky songs joining the usual mix of Alternative tracks.
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound me. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
/Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
/I Put A Spell On You
/At Home with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
It’s amazing to think that the original 1955 version (released much, much later on The Whamee 1953–55, and they got the track names wrong on Spotify) is basically a bluesy shuffle with the odd flourish. The story goes that Hawkins and his band kicked back with food and a lot of booze, and the definitive version just happened. Hawkins sounds absolutely wild, as if he’d been possessed and really was putting a spell on someone, to bewitch them into acquiesence. I cannot even begin to think what this sounded like in 1956.
Often suggested to be the original death metal band (although as with many firsts, there’s probably dispute about this somewhere), indeed vocalist (and sole constant member over the various times the band have been active) Jeff Becerra is reputed to have coined the term “death metal”, and the last track here bears that title. Their remarkable debut Seven Churches, from 1985, must have blown a great many metalheads minds, and indeed, production aside, it still sounds pretty fucking evil in 2022. Pentagram digs deep into something that would quickly be associated with the genre by detractors – Satanism. Becerra takes us down into Hell, a black environment of violence and torment, and revels in it.
The pentagram has long been associated with the occult and satanism, and as Loudersound note, it’s featured an awful lot in metal over the years…
/Twin Temple (Bring You Their Signature Sound…. Satanic Doo-Wop)
In some respects, the marvellous Satanic Doo-Wop of Twin Temple is such a great idea that I can’t believe that it hasn’t been thought of before. In a broad sense, think of Amy Winehouse if she had turned to Satan, and you’ll have a good idea of what they sound like (and their live shows are reputedly something else, too). One of their best songs is Sex Magick, which uses the ideal of the sacred and profane to use the potent force of sex for better. The video, by the way, is not worksafe in a million years or more!
Norwegian metal band Kvelertak have a heck of a story to tell, that of Norwegian author, diarist and Lutheran clergyman Absalon Pederssøn Beyer (who apparently was very important in that country’s Reformation in the 1500s), but more about what happened to his widow, Anne Pedersdotter. Before he even died, she had been accused of using Witchcraft to kill a rival of her husband’s, and while cleared, the rumours never went away, and fifteen years after Beyer’s death, she was accused again, and this time burned at the stake for her alleged “crimes”.
/White Witch of Rosehall
/Witchcraft Destroys Minds & Reaps Souls
If nothing else, Coven have one particular claim to fame that is perhaps relevant this week: they introduced the “sign of the horns” (and the phrase “hail Satan”) to what became metal culture. In addition, releasing their first album in 1969, they likely also were the first band to overtly use occult and satanic themes across an entire album – including an entire, thirteen minute Satanic Mass to close it – and certainly laid down a marker that countless bands have used since for good or ill.
That said, their music sounds closer to psych-rock of the time to me, than metal, but I can see where the influences passed forward. This song is about the legend and spirit of Annie Palmer in Jamaica, a much-embellished and disagreed story, it seems, around a white orphan who was adopted by a nanny and taught the ways of Voodoo, later killing a number of people including her husband and then killed herself, and haunting the area for evermore…
Talking Heads had long had a fascination with African music – Brian Eno introduced them to the work of Fela Kuti, among others, and they relatively quickly began to introduce such Afrobeat rhythms in particular to frankly spectacular effect – so perhaps it wasn’t especially surprising that at some point, they’d begin to explore African legends too. Papa Legba is a song that perhaps sounds like none other in the band’s backcatalogue either, a lengthy track that has little of the fierce energy of their best-known songs – instead slowing things down to a humid, drum-led crawl. A plea for understanding and change, which fits with Legba acting as the conduit and communicator between humans and the spirit world.
GHOST are one of those bands that really divide opinion. Their sound is basically seventies-esque hard rock with deeply occult and satanic themes (and prompted my wife, when she first heard them, to ask “is that it? I thought they’d sound much better than that…”), but live they are a band on another level entirely, as they take an image of faceless band fronted by an evil Pope – and they sound incredible onstage.
The hard-rock riffage – and giant, anthemic chorus – of Ritual has remained a fan favourite since release on their debut for a good reason, and is basically a call to come together to summon their “master” (Satan, in other words), as they prepare the ritual to do so. It’s not especially surprising, then, that some religious groups have protested their shows, such as in Texas…
Electric Wizard take the idea of stoner doom to the extremes, really – both of volume, heaviness and just being, well, out there. As might be expected from a band that has changed members an awful lot (Wiki records twelve different members), with vocalist/guitarist Jus Oborn the only continuous member, they’ve also changed their style a bit over time. After their initial stage, which culminated with the extraordinary Dopethrone and then the rather messy Let Us Prey, what followed took a more…retro route. Witchcult Today (2007) was deeply into getting stoned and watching classic, kitschy horror flicks (there are direct references to at least four films or literary works).
The opening, title track, though – over monstrous, rolling riffage – sees Oborn calling witches to the sabbath for some form of satanic, evil ritual – with all the usual clichés (nakedness, black goats, black magic, drugs) providing a gloriously hammy atmosphere.
/Hopkins (The Witchfinder General)
/The Carnival Bizarre
Talking of hammy, here’s Cathedral, with Lee Dorrian at his wild best. Liberally sampling and leaning upon Vincent Price’s Hammer Horror turn as the Witchfinder General, this marvellous anthem plays up to everything that you might expect, celebrating the “witches” before introducing Matthew Hopkins. In reality he was a Puritan in the East of England during the Civil War era, who in just a few years had more people – mostly women, of course – put to death for Witchcraft than had been in the previous century. In effect previous directives had made allegations of Witchcraft broadly as heresy against God, so unbelievers would be at serious risk, and the power of the “Witch-Hunters” and their ability to whip up hysteria would be enough for a “conviction”.
The last “witch” in Salem’s witch trials was pardoned earlier this year, just 329 years too late, while in Scotland, a posthumous apology was offered at Holyrood, “to all those accused, convicted, vilified or executed under the Witchcraft Act 1563” – although a pardon is still being pushed for as far as I can tell.
/Siouxsie and The Banshees
Juju has a number of meanings: that of music among the Yoruba in Nigeria, marijuana, or that of good and/or bad spirits, and I can’t help but feel that the meaning here was the latter, such was the dark tone and esoteric leanings of so many of the songs. That the album opens with this remarkable song is quite the statement. Budgie’s ferocious drumming (was he ever better than on this song?), John McGeoch’s taut guitar-work, and of course Siouxsie’s whirling dervish delivery of vocals, as the song coils and spins around your ears for three glorious minutes: there’s no doubt that by the dramatic percussive close of the song, that the band have you well and truly under their spell – and judging on the regularity that I still hear this song in clubs and at festivals, it’s a spell that still works wonders forty-one years (!!!) later.