As is stated in my bio, I am a passionate fan of black metal. As “exhibit A” in support of this claim, one may observe that the sixth and seventh tenets of the Tenebrous Creed contain wording inspired by Watain lyrics. And so, here’s the song in question, the band, and a few related reflections on Watain’s influence on Tenebrous Satanism…
A note to those not initiated into black metal
My past experience has been that a disproportionate number of Satanists are metalheads. What I say here won’t be news to those folks. But to those “new” to Satanic circles, still learning “what it’s all about,” a quick few words of clarification seem good to provide:
About black metal’s reputation
Black metal has a rather imposing reputation. As I often say to people who nothing about it, if you take the twenty or so most infamous black metal bands, one or more of the following typically applies:
- The band has gotten kicked off a tour, out of a venue, or out of a country, for reasons related to religious or political blasphemy and/or dead animals
- Members of the band have openly approved of burning churches
- Someone in the band has killed themselves
- Someone in the band has gone to prison – most likely for killing someone else
- If none of 1-4 apply, the Internet is bitching about how the band are posers and “not real black metal”
Does this mean that a majority of black metal fans/bands take things this far? No, it does not.
Black metal vs. Satanism
One can argue that black metal has the same problem as Satanism as a whole: a minority of infamy-seeking-dickheads make the rest look bad. In actuality though, most bands and fans draw reasonable lines between dark fantasy and reality. The vast majority of us are just “dark souls” expressing ourselves through an aesthetics that speaks to us.
This presumably accounts for why so many Satanists are fans despite black metal “distorting” Satanism.
A majority case in black metal involves bands portraying a cartoonish Hollywood sort of “devil worship.” Everyone except for sheltered Christians knows this is “not real Satanism.” Satanists may nonetheless support such bands for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they just like the music. Maybe they have dark fantasies that they have no urge to act on, yet enjoy exploring through art. Or it could be that the sublime spectacle of the performance speaks to them.
A minority case involves bands who practice esoteric forms of Satanism, and express this through their music. Leaving aside the futile complaint that this “distorts” Satanism (friendly reminder to LaVeyans and TST: your Satanism is not the only valid kind), it is inevitable that expressing this kind of thing through metal’s bombastic idiom will make it sound “worse” than it actually is. Yes, a few of these bands are either actual Order of Nine Angles members or O9A adjacent, and some have done terrible things. That doesn’t mean that a majority of such bands’ fans supports their actions.
Whether considering either the majority or minority case, the fact is that no intelligent Satanist takes all black metal lyrics at face value. At best, black metal dresses up genuine Satanism in metaphor and hyperbole, which earnest Satanists are capable of decoding. At worst, it’s just a horror-movie-like spectacle that no one is taking seriously anyway.
Either way though, there is no need to panic at the sight of blood and fire.
I just thought I should say that before presenting…
“Nuclear Alchemy” by Watain
Song and lyrics
As retrieved from darklyrics.com:
Fire at will!
Arsonists of Lucifer
Heed the flames command
Let the holocaust commence
Angel of the sulphur pit
Tread forth, from the gas cloud
We toil to fuel the fire
Such is our sacred fate
‘Til black smoke rise at heavens gate
All that was burning again now must be
Tidal wave of alkahest
Disruptions holy force
Cloaked within the darkness of the world
Cremators of the crucifix
With vitriol in heart
But first our flesh must burn
To flame our minds must turn
Until we stand erected
Perfected and prepared
Like spearheads of Satan’s host
All that was burning again now will be
By the fire of will and the will of the fire
Discussion: Watain’s influence on Tenebrous Satanism
The necessary disclaimer
Let’s first deal quickly with something I only have to say because of founding a “new” denomination of Satanism:
No, I’m NOT in favor of literal arson.
Probably didn’t need to point this out to most readers. But as you never know what audience you’ll get on the Internet, still worth saying.
Moving on to more interesting angles
Watain, to my knowledge, are Anti-Cosmic Satanists. This makes them unlike O9A in embracing a broader range of esoteric traditions, e.g. incorporating Qabalah. They are like O9A though – and, for that matter, like me – in supposing the actual existence of dark entities, and in an oppositional attitude toward existing society. On the latter front, the main difference I see between Anti-Cosmic Satanism and O9A is that the latter fixates more on the coming dawn of their new Reich, whereas the former fixates more upon apocalyptic destruction of the existing order.
Bombastic hyperbole aside though, I find plenty that works for Tenebrous Satanism here:
- Attacking and destroying the existing order? Yes, please – see the Second Key. I do NOT think literal violence is the best method to achieve this – as stated in this entry. Metaphorically though, yes, stifling dogma needs to be reduced to ashes, so that the world can move forward.
- Re: the preceding point, I especially like the lines “Cloaked within the darkness of the world / burst forth!” It brings to mind the vast horde of people I know who are tired of certain aspects of contemporary politics, and my connected hope of a forthcoming intellectual backlash.
- References to toil, to burning flesh, and minds turning to flame, are metaphors that evoke dynamic striving, as opposed to indolent self-indulgence. Tenebrous Satanism affirms ongoing self-evolution, refinement of character through adversity, and appreciation for difficult achievements.
- Rebirth through destruction (alkahest being a universal solvent in alchemy) is a theme that recurs in several stages of Tenebrous initiation. Furthermore, Tenebrous initiation as a whole takes the symbolic form of an alchemical process.
Will/fire: the central point of interest
A key concept that I find this song expresses effectively is the nature of cooperation between the sorcerer and acausal forces. On one hand, the sheer power difference between human and Sinistral (i.e. abyssal spirit) inherently renders the sorcerer a vessel and instrument of Darkness. On the other hand though, it is only because of the preceding purification of the sorcerer’s will that such a relationship is possible. The ethos and practices of Satanism bring about this purification, separating the sorcerer from counterproductive desires and herd mentality.
Esoteric Satanism is readily misperceived as espousing the domination of human beings by supernatural entities. It is also readily misperceived as training sorcerers to be power-tripping assholes – both over demons that they order around, and other humans who they seek to control. Really though, these are both too-simplistic perspectives. It is more accurate to think of the causal being (human sorcerer) and acausal one (supernatural entity) as one-and-the-same energy, acting on different levels. Both seek the overthrow of constriction.
This is why I so like the reversibility inherent in Watain’s phrasing, re: “The Fire of the Will / the Will of the Fire.” Theistic Satanism is not just “let’s turn Christianity on its head and grovel to the Devil instead of to Jesus.” It is, instead, a valid thread of the broader Satanic tradition of self-empowerment. This may not be evident to an outsider, but quickly becomes evident to all insightful walkers of the Sinister Path.
I do not claim that Watain’s interpretation of their own lyrics will match mine. Nonetheless, I do think we are similar in presupposing that Dark forces exist, that these forces want the same thing human Satanists do, and that it is desirable – from a Satanic perspective, at least – for the two to cooperate in the unleashing of transgressive forces of evolution.
What to expect re: “Hymns of the Abyss”
Since this entry is the first in its category, and I expect to post about music fairly often, a few words about that:
Inspiration from “dark” music has had a significant influence on both my artistic/spiritual pursuits specifically, and my life generally. And whatever has inspired me a lot, I have the urge to share with others.
When I do so, I do it without intending any implicit claims other than “I enjoy this specific thing, in and of itself – and hope you might as well.”
If there is something interesting to say about the band’s background, I may do so. But I think it is incredibly foolhardy how, nowadays, people will instantly read all kinds of unwarranted things into a music post. “Liking this band automatically means that you also support their politics,” or “Enjoying this guy’s music inherently means you are OK with him being a rapist,” etc. Because liking the music couldn’t possibly mean that… you just like the music?
As someone who personally finds that bands’ politics, personal lives, etc. have zero impact upon to what extent I enjoy their music, I find this mentality hard to understand. It suggests to me that people have been brainwashed into thinking they are only allowed to like what the Herd likes, rather than consulting their own instincts re: what do they themselves honestly and spontaneously enjoy?
Personally, I feel that if you enjoy a song, but then say you don’t because the band is ideologically-problematic, you are, in effect, lying to yourself for social approval. That does not strike me as psychologically healthy.
Point: If I encounter, say, a cool song about the Nekalah, I am not going to suppress my spontaneous emotional reaction to said song (e.g. finding it inspiring, moving, etc.) just because there are “problematic” O9A-associated individuals in the band. Readers concerned about such things are free to not engage, to not support such bands, etc. But I am not interested in coddling or catering to such people.
Just wanted to say that up front, so that we all know where we stand around here.
This post received some minor edits to wording, links and images on Jun 18/23. Additional minor edits to tags and article structure were made on Aug 13/23.