The concept of the devil in popular music has been around at least as far back as early blues legend Robert Johnson, who was of course reputed to have made a faustian pact with the devil to become famous.
But I’m not going to go back that far here, instead looking at how the devil has insinuated him/herself within all kinds of popular music, from Black Metal to Country to Electronic to Industrial to Jazz. No, really. (Some additional songs that didn’t make the ten are on the Spotify playlist)
As Above, So Below
Speaking of Jazz, ex-Magazine bassist Barry Adamson has lent himself to various other bands, but his own work has a cinematic, jazzy feel that is a modern take on a genre that has been around for decades. This track takes it to the logical extreme, perhaps, with a sardonic sense of humour that sounds ultra-serious to begin with. The story goes something like this – Barry goes to Heaven, gets turned round at the gates, goes to Hell, and gets sent back to terra firma as…the Jazz Devil. And ends up having, or trying to have, a whale of a time. Musically it riffs on Film Noir, jazz, and sounds utterly glorious – proof, if any were needed – much like the rest of this list – that the Devil has the best tunes.
The Night The Devil Came To Me
El President EP
One suggested by Daisy, this, an obscure B-side that is pretty much impossible to find on the internet. A slinky, sexy lament where singer Isabel Monteiro apparently falls in love with the devil – although I suspect it is more likely to be a metaphor for a lover who is bad, very bad. But it kinda helps to set the scene here this week – songs involving or invoking the devil and hell are hardly laments very often, instead celebrations of carnality, booze, drugs, misbehaviour, death, or all of the above.
A rather different take on a similar subject comes from Anna Calvi’s flamboyant, unusual debut album (that I couldn’t stop listening to for months). In this song in particular, she comes across all Jeff Buckley, with a similar guitar sound and soaring vocals, wherein the words themselves are not that important (and indeed for the most part, aside from the titular refrain, are perhaps deliberately indistinct)…it is the feel of the song. This is a dark night song, one of burning desire and passion, waiting for the Devil to come.
Surely the band who would have the best chance of being Satan’s house band, if only they’d stop partying and baiting Christians long enough. Anyway, they are currently celebrating twenty-five years of being the sleaziest, shlockiest industrial band of them all, so let us celebrate with them in the form of the bonkers industrial-swing of one of their early masterpieces, where the core sample is from – of all things – Divorce Court (no, really, this actually exists, and has done for years). Also, the weird and wonderful world of said devil bunnies in image form, which surprisingly enough is worksafe.
“By the way, when your mom calls – be sure to tell her SATANSATANSATAN…” Yeah, ok, so not a great deal to tie this in with this week’s Tuesday Ten aside from the title and sample, but it is such an awesome use of sampling that I couldn’t not use it. Oh, that and the fact that it is that bit heavier, nastier and groovier than much of Orbital’s other work. Also to note: that glorious opening sample comes from the deeply fucked up Sweat Loaf by the Butthole Surfers… Now, hands up who ever thought any of their work would ever make it even close to the mainstream…?
The Devil’s Sweepstakes
One of the most truly fucking odd bands to come out of the nu-metal era, don’t let the various inputs of members of Korn and Limp Bizkit that litter the album put you off. On the tracks where they are not involved, Ty Elam and his band explore the odd corners of industrial, electronics and metal with strange time signatures, creepy, hissing vocals and wheezing electronic effects that result in a really quite unsettling atmosphere. Pick of the bunch, as it happens, is this drilling, rhythmic attack that brings to mind Skinny Puppy on some really, really bad acid, as the trip leads you down to hell.
Conspiracy With The Devil
Bind, Torture, Kill
Talking of industrial, my one foray into thundering industrial (dancefloor) beats in the list this week is this – one of Johan Van Roy’s best tracks of his second decade by a country mile or two. Yeah, it doesn’t deviate much from the template much (bruising rhythms, lyrics about killing), but it is done with such style and directness that it could teach some of the pretenders to his throne a thing or two. The devil here, by the way, appears to be a serial killer (as the album was broadly themed around them), and this track was one of the few tracks to really sparkle in a lacklustre set at Infest last month.
Gothic Electronic Anthems
As the Thrill Kill Kult have already proven, this subject does not have to be all that serious. And despite their doomy, gothy sound and image, there is a hell of a lot more in the way of humour here than it first appears. This glorious, industrial-rock anthem (from an album that actually lives up to it’s rather presumptious title!) blitzes past in the style of Marilyn Manson but a million times better, all the while gleefully revelling in the idea of introducing the devil…
The Devil Went Down To Georgia
Levelling The Land (Re-issue)
Yes, I know that it is originally by Charlie Daniels Band, but as far as I’m concerned this track is one of those where the cover transcends the original, particularly in the live environment where this track is utterly extraordinary (and in the fiddle player, it isn’t hard to imagine sparks from his bow as he plays the really quite difficult-sounding solo). Probably one song that is closer than just about any other in subject to the original deal with the devil, but it does it with a devilish (pun intended) grin.
An intriguing twist on the above song was performed at a gig I saw recently (by A.P. Clarke, it is the first track called Camden Town), which saw Johnny transplanted to Camden, via Colchester, and rather than playing the guitar better than the devil…he drinks more than him instead!
De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
I did try and avoid going into the realms of Black Metal – but to be fair ignoring the one genre most closely associated with Satan/ism wasn’t really possible with this list. And more than anything, this band, and particularly this album, are indelibly associated with the dark arts. The tale behind this album, that took seven years to eventually release, involved suicide, murder, alleged cannibalism, alleged terrorism and alleged church burning. The latin title broadly translates to “the mysteries of Lord Satan”, and that pretty much sums up the cold, searing black metal that makes up this album, one where it truly is difficult to seperate out the music and the story behind it.