Get thee behind me Satan, for here is a playlist straight from the mouth of Hell itself! Well, sort of. Lucien Greaves first co-founded The Satanic Temple back in 2013. Not to be confused with the Church of Satan, Greaves’ much younger outfit is far more reasonable in its outlook. Nontheistic in its beliefs, The Satanic Temple uses satanic imagery to promote egalitarianism, social justice and “to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people”. Don’t worry though, they’re still well into their devil’s horns and ritual ceremonies. Just without the sacrifice and bloody murder you see Satanists getting up to in the movies. Shame, really.
As Greaves hits cinema screens in Hail, Satan? — the Sundance-screened documentary about the Temple — NME sat down with the social activist to talk all things music. Here’s what he had to say about his favourite satanic songs, some of our favourite satanic songs and, just for the hell of it, some songs that simply have devil in the title…
Zeal & Ardor — ‘The Devil Is Fine’
“They’re a recent act that makes Satanic gospel music with an old school twist. A lot of it is very metal-based but it’s a mix of genres that you wouldn’t expect to work well together.
“If I understand correctly, the notion behind their latest album is historical: what if American slaves had embraced Satan instead of Jesus? They tried to explore that concept and I think it was done very well. It sounds like old chain gangs working.”
ohGr — ‘Mind Made God’
“Originally from Canada, ohGr is a side project of some of the guys in Skinny Puppy. They have a kind of avant-pop sound and their lyrics veer into the satanic and the radical. This track is a great example of that. One of the band members was part of our National Council for a while, but now he’s helping us to develop our online presence. They’ve put together a good soundtrack to the Satanic Revolution.”
The Rolling Stones — ‘Sympathy For The Devil’
“Recently, I walked into a small shop and the person behind the counter didn’t say anything but was smiling oddly at me. Then he went and changed the music to ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ by The Rolling Stones. It actually made me feel a bit uncomfortable because the person didn’t try to speak to me but was scrutinising me anyway. I’m not sure what his motivation was.
“Anyway, the history of this song is rooted in Mick Jagger having read ‘The Master and Margarita’ by Bulgakov, a Russian author who dealt with Judeo-Christian themes. It’s a really interesting, creative book and also a commentary on Stalinism. A beautiful novel — and I think it should be required reading for the modern satanist.”
Iron Maiden — ‘The Number of the Beast’
“This harkens back to the Satanic Panic era, where there was a real fear of bands that embraced this kind of mythic cult of Satanism. For some of those groups, like Iron Maiden, there was a hysteria that arose from claims that they were causing suicide and driving children to commit murder. For some, I think that was the real appeal of the music.”
In Slaughter Natives — ‘Plague Walk My Earth’
“One of the best acts that make what you could call traditional satanic ritual music. They’re Scandinavian and have been around since the early ’90s. At first, they were a kind of an industrial metal act, but then their music became more atmospheric and almost more soundtrack-y. Even if you’re not into Satanism, I think the music is incredible and really under recognised for the art that it is.”
Johnny Cash — ‘The Devil To Pay’
“I’m a big fan of Johnny Cash. He touched on a lot of interesting themes, for his time, and I believe it was Quentin Tarantino who called him ‘the original gangster rapper’. There’s a certain truth to that and it was interesting to see at the end of his life that he was willing to indulge in cover songs by bands that went against his general ethic. I like that he opened his mind a bit more. Very well done.”
Beck — ‘Devil’s Haircut’
“I don’t really know what haircut the devil would have. I can’t even decide if it would be a haircut to emulate or one to run away from. I guess that’s the great art and mystery of the music…”
Hail, Satan? is in cinemas and on demand now.