Between hymn and horror film: How do we listen to cradle of filth?

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God is dead, Satan lives, Hail Satan! O mighty lord of the night… forever wilt I praise thy dreaded name. The two foregoing quotations are not dissimilar in their basic thrust. Indeed we might be hard pressed to determine, at first blush, which of these pledges to the forces of evil would prove more objectionable to the fuzzily Judeo-Christian western moral mainstream. In this case, however, context is everything. The first passage is spoken by a lackluster cadre of late-middle-aged Satanists at the climax of Roman Polanski's 1968 film Rosemary's Baby. Thus these words are received by the great majority of twenty-first-century viewers as harmless role-playing. If cinematic representations of evil may once have enjoyed a veneer of genuine moral transgression, those days have largely passed; the controversy surrounding William Friedkin's The Exorcist (1973) had died out before most present-day movie-goers were born, and has not been repeated. The second quotation is a different story. These lines occur in the 1994 song, “Inno a Satana” (“Hymn to Satan”), by one of the leading creative forces in Norway's black metal explosion of the 1990s, the band Emperor. Emerging first as an impulse within the thrash metal scene of the 1980s—through the work of Venom, Mayhem, Hellhammer, Merciful Fate, and others—black metal crystallized through the next decade into a genre bent on pressing heavy metal's persistent fascination with the dark side to a distinctive extreme. Poetically, black metal is largely defined through its orientation around apocalyptic conflicts in which the forces of good, generally Christian ones, are proved powerless to save humanity from the grim designs of alternative cosmic agents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Lure of the Dark Side: Satan and Western Demonology in Popular Culture
Subtitle of host publicationSatanism and Western Demonology in Popular Culture
EditorsEric Christianson, Christopher Partridge
Place of PublicationLondon, UK
PublisherEquinox Publishing Ltd
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)9781845537388, 9781845533090
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013


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