As stated in my bio, I am a passionate fan of black metal and similar genres of dark music. Therefore, from time to time, I like to share songs that I think especially capture the spirit of Tenebrous Satanism. “With Hearts Toward None II,” by Mgla, is one such song. What I find striking about this song is how vividly it conjures up a vision of a totally malign divinity. If such a being truly exists, how can one nonetheless live in affirmation of life? I find the sheer bleakness of this song compelling to meditate upon, because of the confrontation it forces with this question.
Mgla is a black metal band from Poland. According to Encyclopaedia Metallum, they formed in 2000 as a studio project, but only played shows from 2012 onward. Two things they are especially known-for are having nihilistic, misanthropic lyrics, and pioneering the “faceless black hoods” aesthetic.
Now, as a Uada fan who also likes Mgla, I can’t not address the stupid controversy entailing those two bands. The fact is, Mgla was the four-letter-band-name black-hooded-nihilist band who came first. Therefore, folks reason, Uada, who came later but shares those features, “must” be a Mgla rip-off.
To me, however, the two bands are clearly distinguishable on the following bases:
- Mgla sounds more like “pure” black metal. Uada claims influences from more mainstream metal and even goth, and you can tell this both from riffs & song structure.
- Mgla has a much higher percentage of lyrics whose basic sentiment is “humans suck.” Uada has their apocalyptic moments, but I never got the impression they hated humans specifically to the same extent.
- Mgla gives a much stronger impression that something is wrong with the world because of humans sucking. Uada does not seem to make this connection; rather existence just is dominated by Darkness inherently.
- Mgla’s predominant mood is despondent hopelessness. Uada has moments of that, but juxtaposed with a dark exultation. Or put another way: compare both bands to Dissection, and Uada is significantly closer to their sound and sentiments than Mgla is.
Now, I do think Mgla’s With Hearts Toward None and Uada’s Cult of a Dying Sun were the closest point of convergence between the two bands. No doubt a factor in why I like this Mgla album the best. They’re both great bands, though. So why not quit the pointless dick-measuring and just like both?
Song and lyrics
From liner notes:
For the LORD has risen, high and proud
His chariot drawn by rats and vultures
And adorned with heads of skeptics
Yes! The LORD is on the prowl tonight
The LORD will be diligent
For there are many to be smitten
And the LORD loves holocausts
The hand of the LORD
Is eager to bestow
Yes, the LORD will bestow his grace
Until you pray for the fall
He shall distress the weary
Disgrace the meek
He shall rip out the eyes of the lame
And he shall cripple the blind
Repent! Praise! Repent!
Praise the LORD of hosts,
Of bestial and human filth
Blistering gangrene and crawling carnage
Of death, piled upon death
The great sower descends to reap the crops
Discussion: the malign divinity of Mgla
First, let’s talk about what I don’t endorse with in this song.
I do not believe in “the LORD.” Probably there exists an entity named Jehovah, but he’s no more inherently lord-over-all than any other god.
I do not think it’s “good” to have more evil in the world rather than less. We ought to seek our own flourishing, and imitating Darkness’ ruthless amorality is not an effective means toward that.
I do not identify either Satan or the Abyssal Void of Darkness as “God.” Darkness is “the Ultimate” to me, but I see it like Brahman in Hinduism: indeterminate between theistic and non-theistic, leaning toward the latter. Vs. given connotations the Abrahamic religions project upon “God,” I do not find that name appropriate in a Tenebrous context.
I am not in favor of “holocausts.” If you’ve been around this website much at all, you’ll know why I feel compelled to point this out explicitly.
Why the fascination?
Take a look at another song I find strongly evocative of Darkness, and you’ll see more differences than similarities vs. the song above. Why do I nonetheless find what Mgla describes here to be strangely compelling? Because it evokes the following sentiments I have as a Tenebrous Satanist:
First verse: Rebuke of arrogant atheism
The presence of the carrion-eaters makes clear that this is not the being of light typically designated by “God.” What if the true face of the Ultimate is something horrible like this, though? Countless religions go out of their way to deny such a possibility. But what if it is so?
What if even atheism is thus just a coping mechanism, no less than religion is? What if the atheist believes in a lack of order in the universe and death as a final end, only to deny the more-terrible possibility of an alien order and an inability to ever escape existence completely?
The “heads of skeptics” line appeals to me precisely because I personally see atheism as too optimistic on this front.
Second verse: Rejection of omnibenevolence
For a large portion of my life, few things have annoyed me more than people claiming “the universe is love.” My instinctual rejoinder is, bitch, are you paying even the slightest attention to reality? Have you seriously not noticed the extent of frustration, suffering and death haunting all creatures continually? I thus find it less insulting to one’s intelligence to believe in a malevolent God than a well-meaning one. Doing so simply strikes me as fitting the facts better.
As I write in Nine Keys of Abyssal Darkness:
The cynic, meanwhile, observes that God, needing nothing, nonetheless created the world solely so that he could marvel at himself; God subsequently disliked the reflection he beheld and ordered his creations to improve themselves to please him better; God is thus a self-absorbed masochist, endlessly toiling to fix a self-created problem.
Such pretzel-logic is how traditional religion sounds to me when it tries to reconcile evil with God’s “goodness.”
Again, I don’t tend to literally identify the Abyssal Void of Darkness as “God.” I thus don’t literally think that it’s intentionally predatory and cruel any more than it’s intentionally caring and loving. In the course of pursuing diversity, novelty and the overcoming of adversity, though, Darkness is careless with individual lives. To these, it cannot help seeming like there are, indeed, “many to be smitten” amid an enthusiasm for “holocausts.” I don’t particularly “like” that it’s that way. Nonetheless, to me, that’s just how it seems to be!
Third and fourth verses: Absence of fairness
There’s a thundering rejection of “God only ever gives you what you can handle” in this part of the song. I find that refreshingly blunt. In fact, life can always make things horrifically worse in all kinds of unexpected ways. And no, it is not “fair.” Argue that it is, and you wind up lying to yourself, blaming victims, and generally coming off as an asshole. Humans and other beings have unbearable situations inflicted upon them all the time. Why else do you think suicide is a thing?
I am always at pains to reiterate: I do not say things like this because I “like” life being this way. According to my personal ethos, though, it is incumbent upon the honest to look such things dead in the eye. Every dysfunctional ideology is dysfunctional in large part because it refuses to adequately acknowledge certain aspects of reality. Hence, the more unpleasant reality you can stomach, the less likely you will fall prey to ideological delusions.
I blame no one who would prefer to shy away from this. I merely conclude that their path then must not lie with Tenebrous Satanism – and that is fine!
Fifth verse: life as grotesque meat-grinder
Most of this verse is oriented toward enumerating especially-unpleasant facets of existence in the flesh. Filth, corruption, agony and ruin are obvious factors causing some to prefer to “ascend” from this world. The gist of the final line, however, is that the thing that set all this into motion is untroubled. To the contrary, from its perspective, everything is going exactly according to plan. On the macro level, it reaps diversity, novelty and the overcoming of adversity. If the micro level perceives the self-same experience as confounding, unfair and torturous, too bad!
This relates to a contention of my book, that all methods of “escape” from the flesh are ultimately futile. Sooner or later, you will come back – and continue from there to evolve. Or, something built out of your recycled energies will come back, without the benefits of your past experiences, and restart its evolution “from the bottom.” To my thinking, the former possibility is self-evidently superior to the latter. I therefore encourage persistence – but not without empathy for those who nonetheless prefer release.
Lastly, to address a concern about malign divinity…
Now, if one were to have previously read this entry about the Nekalah, and to reflect upon it in connection with the current entry, one might wonder: do Sinistrals who became identified with Darkness behave sometimes not unlike the entity in this song? And I would respond, absolutely, they do – this one in particular. The current song is not so much his aesthetic, as he’s more, for lack of a better word, cheerful. (Yes, I grasp this bears on the Uada vs. Mgla thing in probably a funny way…) He absolutely does embody the same amorality of Darkness, though. More specifically, he embodies it with much the same mirth and malice as Lovecraft’s Nyarlathotep. So yeah… drive your rat-and-vulture-pulled cart over the bones of the dead, to paraphrase William Blake…
I do not hesitate to admit: when unsophisticated and dysfunctional minds venerate such beings, real-world atrocities are a predictable result. Hence, the Order of Nine Angles (ONA/O9A). When understood as an expression of the terror that attends life, though, instead of an endorsement of that terror, one arrives at compassion instead of terrorism. Hence, Tenebrous Satanism.
Yes, we venerate the same entities as O9A. But we are not by any means the same in our goals and ethos beyond that.
Previous black metal songs I’ve highlighted have tended to be “more constructive than typical black metal.” The current one, by contrast, is probably a bit more typical of the genre’s infamous embrace of pure negativity. I do like a wide range within black metal, though. It is by far the music genre that’s influenced me the most broadly regarding all things Tenebrous Satanism -related.
Got any musical recommendations to share, given what you see here of my tastes? If so, let me know in the comments.
This post received minor edits for stylistic consistency on Aug 24/23, as well as a new title image and updates to the excerpt from Nine Keys of Abyssal Darkness to reflect final revisions.