Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “Spooktober Edition” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Psycho Killer By The Talking Heads, Album: Talking Heads:77

This song takes us inside the head of a deranged murderer. It started when lead singer David Byrne decided to write something in the vein of Alice Cooper, whose shock rock was all the rage. Byrne started with the first verse, which establishes a dangerous paranoia:

I can’t seem to face up to the facts
I’m tense and nervous and I can’t relax
I can’t sleep ’cause my bed’s on fire
Don’t touch me I’m a real live wire

The rest of the lyric is even more capricious, with this guy admitting he’s a psycho killer and warning us to run. It ended up being far more introspective than most Alice Cooper songs, but just as believable: while Cooper is a completely different guy off stage (Vince Furnier), Byrne really is the socially awkward genius he portrays in performance. He’s never killed anyone (that we know of) but can convincingly inhabit the character.

This was the first Talking Heads song. It was written in 1973 at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where David Byrne and drummer Chris Frantz had a band called The Artistics. When Byrne presented the song, he explained that he wanted a Japanese section in the bridge, but when he asked a girl who spoke the language to come up with some murderous words, she understandably freaked out. Frantz’ girlfriend, Tina Weymouth, spoke French, so they had her write a French part for the bridge instead. She drew inspiration from the Norman Bates character in the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock thriller Psycho, which influenced the next verse:

You start a conversation you can’t even finish it
You’re talking a lot, but you’re not saying anything
When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed
Say something once, why say it again?

Byrne incorporated a French line into the chorus: “Qu’est-ce que c’est?” (meaning “What is this?”) and followed it with a stuttering warning:

Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-far better
Run, run, run, run, run, run, run away

The end result is one of the most famous songs about a psychopathic murderer, influenced by two touchstones of the genre: Alice Cooper and the movie Psycho.

The French section in the Bridge roughly translates to:

What I did that night
What she said that night
Realizing my hopes
I launch myself towards a glorious destiny

This reveals that the psycho killer is targeting a woman, just as Norman Bates did in Psycho.

David Byrne and Chris Frantz played this a few times in 1974 with their band The Artistics. Later that year, after Frantz and Tina Weymouth graduated from RISD (with degrees in painting), they moved in together with Byrne in a slummy apartment in New York City. Tina became their bass player, and they called their new group the Talking Heads. Starting in May 1975, they got some gigs at the club CBGB opening for the Ramones. “Psycho Killer” and a few other originals, including “Warning Sign” and “Love Goes to Building on Fire,” were in their setlist, rounded out with covers like “96 Tears.” They got the attention of various record labels and eventually signed to Sire Records. After adding guitarist Jerry Harrison to the group, they released their debut album, Talking Heads: 77, in 1977. Released as a single, “Psycho Killer” was their first chart hit, reaching #92 in March 1978.

Credited to David Byrne, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, this is the only song on the Talking Heads’ debut album that isn’t listed as a solo Byrne composition. Songwriting credits quickly became a sticking point in the band as Byrne became the focal point and gave the impression that he did all the songwriting himself. Frantz claims that he wrote the second verse to “Psycho Killer,” but Byrne has downplayed his contribution to the song, telling Mojo, “Chris and Tina helped me with some of the French stuff.”The “fa fa fa” part is redolent of the Otis Redding song “Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song).” Redding and other soul singers were a big influence on Talking Heads.

“Psycho Killer” was a turning point for David Byrne because it make him realize there was an audience for his eccentric songs. He considered it a “silly song” at the time, but there was no question it connected with audiences. The song also proved that Bryne, Frantz and Weymouth could create songs together; after writing it, Byrne and Frantz wrote “Warning Sign,” which ended up on Talking Heads’ second album.

There really was a psycho killer on the loose in the summer of 1977, months before this song was released. David Berkowitz, the “Son of Sam,” terrified New Yorkers before he was caught on August 10 after killing six people. Many suspected the song was about him, but it was written much earlier.

The 1984 Talking Heads film Stop Making Sense, directed by Jonathan Demme, opens with David Byrne entering the stage with a boombox, then performing “Psycho Killer” on acoustic guitar accompanied by the pre-recorded rhythm track from the tape. For the next song, “Heaven,” he is joined by bass player Tina Weymouth. Drummer Chris Frantz enters for “Thank You for Sending Me an Angel,” the Jerry Harrison completes the band when they do their fourth song, “Found A Job”

“Psycho Killer” also appears on their 1982 live album The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads.

At one point, producer Tony Bongiovi got a carving knife from the kitchen in the studio and asked Byrne to hold it while he sang so he could get in character. He refused.

Psychedelic Lunch

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Dee Dee Ramone and producer Daniel Rey wrote this song for the 1989 Stephen King movie Pet Sematary, which is based on his book that was published in 1983.

Stephen King is a huge Ramones fan and invited the band to his Bangor, Maine home as they played in New England. During the visit, he handed Dee Dee Ramone a copy of his Pet Sematary novel, and the bassist retreated to the basement. One hour later, Dee Dee returned with the lyrics to “Pet Sematary”. Shortly afterwards, drummer Marky Ramone said that Dee Dee’s attitude that day showed that he could achieve his plans to leave the band and attempt a career at hip hop music. He likened Dee Dee to King, saying that both wrote things people could relate to because they “penetrated to the curiosity, fears, and insecurities carried around with them and couldn’t put into words.”

Producer Daniel Rey became a co-writer by assisting with the structure of the song, while producer Jean Beauvoir of the Plasmatics helped give the song a more commercial style fit for radio play and film inclusion. As “Pet Sematary” sounded closer to the rock ballads of the period, it was a struggle for Johnny Ramone to play the arpeggios and chords, despite Dee Dee’s guidance.

The music video for “Pet Sematary” was filmed at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in the eponymous New York village. Shot on a cold night in January 1989, the video features black and white shots of the Ramones walking through the graveyard, as well as color footage of the band and various others miming to the song alongside an open grave. The video ends with the band playing on a hydraulic platform placed inside the open grave, which is gradually lowered until a group of undertakers cover the grave with a headstone that reads “The Ramones.” It was the last video featuring Dee Dee Ramone, who would depart the band and be replaced with C. J. Ramone. The video features cameos by Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie, as well as members of The Dead Boys. An alternate edit of the video features the aforementioned scenes interspersed with scenes from the film, with the opening footage of the band walking through the graveyard now appearing in color.

Another Ramones song, “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker,” also appears in the film.

The Ramones never had a major impact on MTV, but their video for this song got some airtime on the network. Set in a graveyard, the video was directed by Bill Fishman, who also helmed their clip for “I Wanna Be Sedated.”

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Dead Skin Mask By Slayer, Album: Seasons in the Abyss 1990

This song is about serial killer Ed Gein, who skinned his dead victims and wore their skins as suits, hence the name “Dead Skin Mask.” At the end of the song, a voice can be heard saying things like, “I don’t want to play anymore, Mr. Gein.” and “LET ME OUT!”

Edward Theodore Gein August 27, 1906 – July 26, 1984), also known as the Butcher of Plainfield or the Plainfield Ghoul, was an American convicted murderer and body snatcher. Gein’s crimes, committed around his hometown of Plainfield, Wisconsin, gathered widespread notoriety in 1957 after authorities discovered he had exhumed corpses from local graveyards and fashioned trophies and keepsakes from their bones and skin. Gein also confessed to killing two women: tavern owner Mary Hogan in 1954 and hardware store owner Bernice Worden in 1957.

Slayer’s first two albums with producer Rick Rubin saw the band take their uncompromising thrash to new levels of high-speed hate (Reign in Blood) and doomy evil (South of Heaven). They closed their definitive trilogy with 1990’s Seasons in the Abyss, which followed the slower, moodier direction of its predecessor to an even darker, more malevolent place with songs like the title cut and “Dead Skin Mask.” It also led Slayer to one of their biggest tours, dubbed the Clash of the Titans, as well as to the end of their classic lineup, following drummer Dave Lombardo’s departure in 1992.

JEFF HANNEMAN told Revolver Magazine that he feels Seasons is just an extension of South of Heaven. We were still in that frame of mind after South. “Dead Skin Mask” is definitely my favorite song on that record — the riff is just haunting.

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Totengott By Celtic Frost, Album: Monotheist 2006

I chose the song Totengott for todays Spooktober edition because of its disturbing sound and haunting lyrics. While the band doesn’t host a myriad of tragedy in their past they do posses an interesting history, originality and collective talent.

The influence of Celtic Frost (/ˈkɛltɪk frɒst/) on the extreme metal scene is undeniable. Since forming, the Zürich band – led by Thomas Gabriel Fischer (then opting for the surname Warrior) – released six albums and two EPs.

Celtic Frost and their primordial predecessor, Hellhammer, have long been an immutable part of early extreme metal’s most unholy triumvirate (alongside Bathory and Venom). From the earliest, messiest days of Hellhammer up to and including the band’s weighty final statement, Monotheist, Celtic Frost consistently and fearlessly seared their black mark upon rock ‘n’ roll history. Whether they were busily introducing the avant-garde to metal or simply hammering out one of those goddamn riffs, it may sound hyperbolic to say, but there’s no denying it: Celtic Frost changed the world.

Contrary to popular belief, Hellhammer never changed its name to Celtic Frost, even though the band formed very quickly after Hellhammer’s demise.

The classic Celtic Frost lineup circa 2006.

They first disbanded in 1987 but six months later Warrior reformed the band. When they reformed in 2001, they founded their own record label called Prowling Death Records and their own publishing imprint called Diktatur des Kapitals, to gain absolute control over their music. Later, Celtic Frost and Prowling Death Records signed a worldwide licensing deal with Century Media Records, so the rights for their new material is their own and is released by Century Media.

A demo tape called Prototype exists. Among other tracks, it contains two Apollyon Sun tracks, “Relinquished Body” and “Deep Inside”.

Cold Lake is largely different from anything else they have ever recorded. The band has repeatedly disowned this release and attribute the shocking change in style to pressure from the record company.

Singer and guitarist Tom Gabriel Fischer announced his departure from Celtic Frost on 9th of April 2008, due to “the unresolvable, severe erosion of the personal basis so urgently required to collaborate within a band so unique, volatile, and ambitious.” It was confirmed in a joint statement by Fischer and Martin Ain in September of that year that Celtic Frost had disbanded again. Fischer later founded a new band called Triptykon and Ain planned to carry on with a new project with drummer Franco Sesa.

Monotheist is the fifth and final studio album by the Swiss extreme metal band Celtic Frost. The album was released in May 2006 and was the first new recording released by the band in sixteen years. Upon its release, the album was met with critical acclaim.

Celtic Frost’s earlier work melded elements of thrash metal and black metal. The sound of Monotheist has been described as difficult to reduce to specifics, as the songs vary from doom metal to “blackened thrash” to gothic metal to symphonic metal. The result is a wide-ranging but very dark heavy metal experience. Don Kaye at Blabbermouth called it “a monstrously heavy and oppressive slab of metal” which goes “into even heavier, blacker territory” than previous albums. Adrien Begrand of PopMatters said that the album was nearly a masterpiece of “brutally heavy” metal, “completely devoid of light.” Eduardo Rivadavia of AllMusic noted more subtle touches such as the “instantaneously infectious melody” of “A Dying God Coming into Human Flesh”, and the “haunting female voices” heard in duet with bandleader Tom Warrior on “Drown in Ashes”.

According to Fischer, some of the lyrics were influenced by the writings of the English occultist Aleister Crowley. This influence manifests itself in tracks such as “Os Abysmi Vel Daath”, which is the partial name of one of Crowley’s books.

In an interview with Louder Sound, Fischer would speak in detail on the culmination of the album based on artistic merit and the “spark” to close out their career on a high note:

“Celtic Frost eventually dissolved in the early 1990s and I think both Martin and I felt that on the one hand we didn’t want to have anything to do with Celtic Frost at the time because of the way that it ended, but at the same time, given that these last two albums of Celtic Frost were such failures, we always felt that not everything had been said. We always said, this cannot be how Celtic Frost ends. I think we always carried that little spark in ourselves. We always knew that one day we would probably have to talk about it, whether it should be the end or whether we should attempt to resurrect that. But we weren’t in the mood throughout the 1990s, and that was a good thing. We received sometimes incredibly lucrative offers to reform the band for certain festivals. There was this one offer particularly that was monstrously big, and Martin and I talked about it and we decided we were not going to reform Celtic Frost for money. If we ever reform it, it has to be for artistic reasons, and I’m very proud we did this. So we waited a few more years, but eventually in 2001 we met for dinner in Zürich, and we just said, look, we have to attempt at least to provide some kind of artistic conclusion to Celtic Frost that is worth the name. That’s really when Monotheist became a reality from having been in the back of our minds as a concept for many years, but that’s when it became a reality.

“It’s the album that should have followed Into The Pandemonium really. To me it’s different from the other Celtic Frost albums, but then every album is different to the other Celtic Frost albums, that is why it’s a Celtic Frost album. And to me, Monotheist counts as one of the important Celtic Frost albums. To me, there are four albums that Celtic Frost did that are crucial to the band’s history and those are the first three and Monotheist. And I’m extremely glad that we have the guts to do this and we had the patience to work for five-and-a-half years on that album to make it right.”

— Thomas Gabriel Fischer, Louder Sound

On 15 September 2006, Century Media released a music video for “A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh”. 

What would follow would be the band’s most extensive touring cycle of their entire career, with over 120 shows spanning over the course of two years. Even more notable is the band managing to perform more live shows in these two years than in the entirety of their initial run.

Adrian Winkler and a team of camera crew followed the band on these tours, filming for a documentary entitled Celtic Frost – A Dying God. The documentary aired on Sunday, 16 November 2008 on Swiss national TV station SF1 (After the band’s demise.)

In May 2008 Fischer would form a new band in Triptykon with former Freitod bassist Vanja Slajh, Dark Fortress guitarist V. Santura and former Celtic Frost drummer Reed St. Mark (though he would be replaced the same year). This new band would evoke a similar sound as to what was displayed on Monotheist, with the band also performing classic Celtic Frost and Hellhammer songs live.

This new band has two studio albums and an EP released to date with a third on the way.

Notably in 2018 Fischer would begin involvement in two new musical projects: Niryth (A triple-bass project whose music has yet to be revealed and thus “Unclassifiable”.) and Triumph of Death (A Hellhammer tribute band with a host of festival appearances set for 2019.)

Martin Eric Ain stopped actively playing music entirely and owns a DVD shop and a bar in Zurich called Acapulco. He is also a co-owner of the music club Mascotte, which has become well known for hosting upcoming international bands. He would however perform spoken word on occasion and contribute his voice to a handful of releases. Ain would pass away from a heart attack on 21 October 2017.

On 30 March 2010 Bazillion Points Publishing would release a book of Hellhammer and early Celtic Frost entitled Only Death Is Real: An Illustrated History of Hellhammer and Early Celtic Frost 1981–1985, featuring an introduction by Nocturno Culto of Darkthrone and a foreword by author Joel McIver. Two follow-up books have since been announced in the works: A revised version of Are You Morbid? detailing the entirety of the band’s first run and a book detailing the band’s reunion and Triptykon.

In the fall of 2016 BMG would acquire the Noise Records catalog with plans to do expanded reissues of many classic albums among the label, with Celtic Frost being among those artists. BMG would approach Fischer about participation in the reissue project to which he would contribute to it, including unheard bonus tracks, new liner notes, photos and a re-mastering by Fischer and V. Santura. Cold Lake would once again be omitted as Fischer considers it “an abomination”. However on 17 May 2017 Fischer would announce that due to censoring and editing of proposed liner notes he would no longer endorse the reissues.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “Spooktober Edition” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

In honor of Spooctober I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up the old tales of Norway’s notorious black metal scene. Creepier than most Hollywood horror films because these stories are real life.

Before I continue I must warn you of the mature subject matter which may be triggering to some containing murder, suicide, desecration of animal corpses, self mutilation and church burnings. With that said, you have been warned. Happy Reading!

For many people, their knowledge of extreme metal mainly springs from the activities of a small group of Norwegian black metal musicians.

In the early 90s, Norway’s black metal scene turned into a satanic cult as musicians burned churches, self-harmed and killed. There was even a film, “Lords of Chaos” released about it.

In 1993, Varg Vikernes from the band Burzum was convicted of stabbing Euronymous, guitarist from rival band Mayhem to death 23 times. Euronymous was stabbed two to the head, five to the neck, and 16 to the back. Various other musicians associated with the scene were also implicated in murders, assaults and rapes, while others committed suicide. And, most notoriously of all, black metal musicians were involved in – and openly encouraged – the burning of churches, up to 20 of which were torched between 1992 and 1996. In terms of musicians walking it like they talked it, these were unprecedented acts, unmatched before or since.

Mayhem’s “classic” lineup in 1990: (left to right) Dead, Hellhammer, Euronymous and Necrobutcher

Mayhem and the growing Norwegian black metal scene distinguished themselves by railing against religion. Myriad belief systems underpinned the movement, from paganism to Aarseth’s fervent communism, but Christianity was public enemy No 1. “Christianity never suited Norway,” says Dolk, founder of the band Kampfar. “It never belonged here. The black metal scene reacted to that. Norwegians are an introverted kind of people.” The starkness and coldness of Norway itself is embedded in the bones of Norwegian black metal.

Mayhem declared themselves satanists, not because they worshipped the devil, but because the creed promoted individualism, riled Christians – and got attention. They pioneered an unforgiving sound: demonic wails; hostile, pulsating riffs; a trance-inducing wall of noise. The more primitive the production, the better.

Looking for musical opportunities Dead contacted the members of Mayhem, sending them a package which contained a demo tape, a letter and a crucified mouse. Weeks later, in the spring of 1988, Dead moved to Norway and became the band’s vocalist. During his time with Mayhem, Dead’s mental state worsened considerably as he became more and more obsessed with death and dying. Reflecting his decaying mental health, Dead’s behavior degenerated as well, becoming more and more extreme, especially on stage.

Dead started wearing corpsepaint, a style of black and white makeup meant to make the wearer appear demonic and corpselike. While other musicians have utilized makeup before, like Alice Cooper and the members of KISS, Dead’s corpsepaint was different and original. According to Mayhem bassist Necrobutcher:

It wasn’t anything to do with the way KISS and Alice Cooper used makeup. Dead actually wanted to look like a corpse. He didn’t do it to look cool.”

Drummer Hellhammer claimed that Dead “was the first black metal musician to use corpsepaint”, thus being the originator of the most identifiable aspect of the black metal aesthetic.

To further shape his ghoulish image, before shows Dead began burying his clothes days or weeks before a live performance so that they could start to rot and get that grave scent. He was a corpse on a stage, only digging them up hours before the show. On one occasion he even asked his band mates to bury him alive before a concert so he can look more like a corpse while on stage. In the words of Hellhammer:

Dead also carried dead, decomposing birds with him while on tour, keeping them in plastic bags. Before a concert, he would inhale the rotting miasma so that he may perform “with the stench of death in his nostrils.” Morbid props, like mutilated pig heads impaled on pikes, adorned the stage for Mayhem performances and Dead made a habit of hurling pig heads at the crowd. He also began cutting himself, slashing his arms with hunting knives and broken bottles while singing. Dead explained in an interview that all this was meant to scare away the “posers”:

“We had some impaled pig heads, and I cut my arms with a weird knife and a crushed coke bottle. That wasn’t brutal enough! Most of the people in there were wimps and I don‘t want them to watch our gigs! Before we began to play there was a crowd of about 300 in there, but in the second song “Necro Lust” we began to throw around those pig heads. Only 50 were left, I liked that!”

Dead’s Suicide

“Dead didn’t see himself as human; he saw himself as a creature from another world. He said he had many visions that his blood has frozen in his veins, that he was dead. That is the reason he took that name. He knew he would die.”

One of Dead’s many drawings depicting a goat-man with a scythe in the Carpathian Mountains.

In time, Dead became just as deranged off-stage as he was onstage during performances. He started to self-mutilate during rehearsals and even when he was just spending time with his band mates and friends. He kept rotting, dead birds and other small animals under his bed and barely left his room; he starved himself intentionally to become skinny and pale, to look like a corpse. Dead often told his friends that he is not human, that he is a creature from another world, that the blood in his veins is frozen or coagulated, and that he is dead.

Most of Dead’s friends were alarmed by his increasingly erratic behavior. Hellhammer described him as a “very strange personality” who suffered from crippling depression. Others, like Euronymous, the founder of Mayhem, thought Dead was insane:

” I honestly think Dead is mentally insane. Which other way can you describe a guy who does not eat, in order to get starving wounds? Or who has a t-shirt with funeral announcements on it?”

Years after Dead committed suicide, black metal drummer and convicted murderer Faust talked about Dead in an interview. Recollecting his memories, he said that:

“He wasn’t a guy you could know very well. I think even the other guys in Mayhem didn’t know him very well. He was hard to get close to. I met him two weeks before he died. I’d met him maybe six to eight times, in all. He had lots of weird ideas. I remember Aarseth (Euronymous) was talking about him and said he did not have any humor. He did, but it was very obscure. Honestly, I don’t think he was enjoying living in this world, which of course resulted in the suicide.”

Euronymous became fascinated with Dead’s suicidal tendencies and precarious mental health, and started encouraging him to end his life. Dead did so on April 8, 1991. At the time he was living together with Euronymous and Hellhammer in a house located in the woods near Kråkstad. When Hellhammer went to visit his parents, Euronymous deliberately left Dead alone in the house to kill himself.

Dead slit his throat and his wrists with a knife and then shot himself in the head with a shotgun. When Euronymous returned to the house he discovered a bloody mess, and Dead’s corpse with its brain leaking out of the shattered skull.

He left a note behind that read:

Please excuse the blood, but I have slit my wrists and neck. It was the intention that I would die in the woods so that it would take a few days before I was possibly found. I belong in the woods and have always done so. No one will understand the reason for this anyway. To give some semblance of an explanation I’m not a human, this is just a dream and soon I will awake. It was too cold and the blood was coagulating all the time, plus my new knife is too dull. If I don’t succeed dying to the knife I will blow all the shit out of my skull. Yet I do not know. I left all my lyrics by “Let the good times roll” — plus the rest of the money. Whoever finds it gets the fucking thing. As a last salutation may I present “Life Eternal”. Do whatever you want with the fucking thing. / Pelle.

Instead of calling the police, Euronymous rushed to town to buy a camera and take pictures of the gruesome scene. He even tampered with the potential forensic evidence by rearranging the weapons and other items in order to get a “better shot”. One of these pictures was later used as the cover for Mayhem’s bootleg live album Dawn of the Black Hearts, which was released in 1995 (two years after Euronymous was murdered by the infamous Varg Vikerners of Burzum). Euronymous also collected fragments of Dead’s skull and made necklaces out of them. He gave these necklaces to other black metal musicians whom he deemed “worthy”, such as Faust of Emperor and Evil of Marduk.

The 1993 murder of Norwegian black metal “inner circle” leader Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth by Mayhem band mate, Burzum’s Varg Vikernes, is one of the most notorious crimes in the history of metal.

The incident put the underground sub genre of black metal on the map.

Metal is already a hard sell for most people, given that it is a genre that likes to push boundaries. As the name suggests, in extreme metal, taking something as far as possible, further than before, whether sonically, lyrically or visually, is what musicians aspire to. Given that this can mean confronting some of society’s taboos head-on, extreme metal can seem threatening and frightening.

Why did Varg Vikernes kill Euronymous?

The whole thing is still a matter of controversy.

Many say it was after a woman, but the most believed fact is that Varg Vikernes had a kind of rivalry with Euronymous.

To clear this up, Euronymous was the pivotal figure in the Norwegian Black Metal. Around the late 80s, hell of a lot of Norwegian bands were playing the old school death metal, but Mayhem was one of the bands that was emerging as a brutal black metal band in the underground, the sound heavily influenced by Bathory and Celtic Frost.

Mayhem released Deathcrush in 1987, something I would describe as a horrible album depicting Hell at its finest. Horrible because the album was extremely poorly produced, and you could hardly understand what the vocalist was saying.

It was around 1991 that Euronymous basically ‘converted’ all the Norwegian death metal bands into black metal. Oslo’s Black Death, which had already released a full-length called Soulside Journey, became Darkthrone. Bergen’s Old Funeral became Immortal, and Old Funeral’s guitarist Kristian Vikernes formed his own project called Burzum.

Euronymous then took Vikernes, five years his junior under his wing.

But then Dead committed suicide in 1992, and Necrobutcher left Mayhem, so Euronymous decided to offer Vikernes the spot of the bassist. Attila Csihar joined Mayhem as the vocalist. Csihar, who was a vegetarian, was disgusted by Mayhem’s stage antics, because of all those pig heads and blood used in their gigs.

In the interviews printed in the 1998 book Lords of Chaos, Vikernes discusses his background and childhood. Lords of Chaos also includes an interview with his mother, Helene Bore (the book and a newspaper depicted there refer to her with the given name Lene, whereas Vikernes’ own website uses the name Helene. In a 2004 interview, Vikernes said his mother was “working in a large oil company”. His father is an electronics engineer, and his older brother is a civil engineer.

In the Lords of Chaos interview, Vikernes recalls that when he was 6 years old, the family moved for about a year to Baghdad, Iraq, because Vikernes’ “father was working for Saddam Hussein” developing a computer program. Since there were no places available in the English school in Baghdad, the young Vikernes went to an Iraqi elementary school during this time. According to his interview, Vikernes here became “aware of racial matters”. Corporal punishment was not uncommon in the school, and on one occasion, Vikernes had a “quarrel” with a teacher and called him “a monkey”. But as Vikernes perceived it the teachers “didn’t dare to hit me because I was white”. Vikernes’ mother also recalls how they “spent a year in Iraq” and that “the other children in his class would get slapped by their teachers; he would not”. She mentions that this created problems, but generally she “has no good explanation” of how Varg developed his views.

When asked about his father, Vikernes states that he “had a swastika flag at home.” However, Vikernes feels that his father was a hypocrite because he was worried about Vikernes “being a Nazi”, whereas he too was “pissed about all the colored people he saw in town”. About his mother, Vikernes states that she was “very race conscious”, in the sense that she was afraid that Vikernes “was going to come home with a black girl!” At the time of the 1995 Lords of Chaos interview, Vikernes still had a positive relationship with his mother but “very little contact” with his father. He also stated that his parents are divorced; Vikernes’ father is said to have “left about 10 years ago”, which would have been 1985, when Vikernes was 11 or 12.

The Encyclopedia of White Power and historian Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke have both alleged that Vikernes was part of the neo-Nazi skinhead culture as an adolescent. When asked in the Lords of Chaos interview whether he hung out with skinheads in Bergen, Vikernes said that: “there were no skinheads in Bergen.”

A fan of classical music as a child, Tchaikovsky in particular, Vikernes started listening to heavy metal at 12, citing Iron Maiden as his biggest inspiration. Later he discovered other metal bands whose sound would be influential on his own band, such as Kreator, Celtic Frost, Bathory, Destruction, Megadeth, Slayer, Pestilence, Deicide and Von. Although Venom are widely considered the primary influence on black metal, Vikernes has always denied to be influenced by them, as well as defining the band as “a joke”. He once wore a T-shirt of Venom’s Black Metal to promote the genre but stated he later regretted doing that.

Burzum released three albums from 1992 to 1994, but the problem was probably because Euronymous had delayed the release of the albums.

Plus, after Dead’s suicide, Euronymous had gone insane and was considering himself as a God figure. That was probably the reason why Vikernes was fed up of Euronymous’ antics.

In early 1993, animosity arose between Euronymous and Vikernes. After the Bergens Tidende episode, Euronymous decided to shut Helvete as it began to draw the attention of the police and media.

Dead (left) and Euronymous (right)

On the night of the murder, Vikernes and Snorre “Blackthorn” Ruch drove from Bergen to Euronymous’ apartment at Tøyengata in Oslo. Blackthorn allegedly stood in the stairwell smoking while Vikernes went to Euronymous’ apartment on the fourth floor. Vikernes said he met Euronymous at the door to hand him the signed contract, but when he stepped forward and confronted Euronymous, Euronymous “panicked” and kicked him in the chest. Vikernes claims Euronymous ran into the kitchen to fetch a knife. The two got into a struggle and Vikernes stabbed Euronymous to death. His body was found in the stairwell on the first floor with 23 stab wounds—two to the head, five to the neck, and 16 to the back. Vikernes claims his final stab to the skull was so powerful the knife remained stuck in Euronymous’ skull, but no physical evidence or bodily injuries support his claim. Vikernes contends that most of Euronymous’ wounds were caused by broken glass he had fallen on during the struggle. After the murder, Vikernes and Blackthorn drove back to Bergen. On the way, they stopped at a lake where Vikernes disposed of his bloodstained clothes. This claim of self-defense is doubted by Emperor drummer Faust, but Mayhem bassist Necrobutcher believes Vikernes killed Euronymous due to multiple death threats he received from him and the rest is history.

Varg Vikernes’ was sentenced to prison in 1994 for murder as well as the infamous Norwegian church-burnings. The fourth Burzum album, which was recorded in 1993, would be released in 1996. Varg recorded a couple dark ambient albums from prison before deciding to give up on music for a while and focus on his political views, which some would describe as “those of a Nazi sympathizer.” So before even listening to the music of Burzum, we have here an arsonist, murderer, neo-Nazi who spent his time recording abrasive lo-fi black metal albums. He was released from prison in 2009, after which he resumed his Burzum project by releasing more black metal albums and more dark ambient albums while living with his family in France. But don’t think he’s stayed out of trouble since then. He was arrested earlier for supposedly plotting a terrorist attack with his wife, who have both since been acquitted due to lack of evidence. Need I even say anything about his music, which does happen to be quite terrifying (especially if you’re unfamiliar with black metal)?

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “Spooktober Edition” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Witchcraft By Frank Sinatra. Album: All the Way (1957)

Ive decided to go back in time with an old classic sung by an American singer, actor and producer who was one of the most popular and influential musical artists of the 20th century. He is also one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 150 million records worldwide, Francis Albert Sinatra.

The lyrics for the verse makes it clear at the outset that “Witchcraft” is about seduction, seduction that is devilish, poisonous and untrustworthy, seduction that should not be submitted to but is irresistible:

Shades of old Lucretia Borgia!
There’s a devil in you tonight,
‘N’ although my heart adores ya,
My head says it ain’t right.
Right to let you make advances, oh no!
Under normal circumstances, I’d go,
But oh!

The refrain then delivers the specifics of the seduction and what makes it irresistible.

Those fingers in my hair, That sly come-hither stare…

Finally, the onus is removed when at the end of the song, the singer admits or rationalizes his inability to resist by asserting, “There’s no nicer witch than you.” –And don’t forget to appreciate The wicked rhyme of “Borgia” with “adores Ya.”

Will The Real “Witchcraft” Please Stand Up

The origins of “Witchcraft” are a bit murky It’s not a problem of who wrote the standard. The music comes from Cy Coleman; the words from Carolyn Leigh. And they wrote it early in 1957, not long after Coleman suggested to Leigh that they get together to write and she agreed. David Ewen in his article on Coleman and Leigh in his book American Songwriters (1987), says they wrote their first song together, “A Moment of Madness,” recorded by Sammy Davis, Jr., only two days after Coleman asked her to collaborate; and pretty quickly the pair found some success writing at least four other songs in ’57, one of which was “Witchcraft,” the only big hit, as recorded by Sinatra, of that first bunch.

The conventional wisdom regarding the origins of “Witchcraft,” (the song featured on this page) as related on many websites and in some print sources, is that it was introduced by Gerry Matthews in the 1957 Julius Monk revue Take Five and was then recorded by Frank Sinatra and released later in 1957 reaching #20 on the charts. This sequence is wrong. There was, in fact, a song in Take Five titled “Witchcraft” and it was sung by Gerry Mathews but it is a completely different song than the one with music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Carolyn Leigh that Sinatra later made famous. 

The Witchcraft” in Take Five is a completely different song written by Michael Brown.

The incorrect notion that the song from Take Five is the same song as recorded by Sinatra has been promulgated on many websites and a few books because there is a considerable amount of circumstantial evidence to support that case: Both songs have the same title; Both songs originally appeared in 1957; the lyrics for one of the songs in the Julius Monk revue Take Five, titled “Westport,” were in fact written by Carolyn Leigh the lyricist for Sinatra’s “Witchcraft”; Leigh also wrote lyrics for the 1958 Julius Monk revue Demi-Dozen, one song from which, “You Fascinate Me So” was written with her then new songwriting partner Cy Coleman, the composer of the Sinatra “Witchcraft.” Nevertheless, despite all of this circumstantial evidence, the two “Witchcrafts” are not even close to being the same song. Some people, of course, knew this all along; for example David Jenness and Don Velsey in their book discuss “Witchcraft” (It has “a fine boogie-like vamp and bass” and “shows Leigh’s ability to use colloquial language that remains just a little obscure: ‘It’s such an ancien pitch / But one I wouldn’t switch. . . .’ also state quite matter-of-factly that “Another good song named ‘Witchcraft’ from the same ears, is by Michael Brown.”

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Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “Spooktober Edition” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Season Of The Witch By Donovan, Album: Sunshine Superman 1966

One of the first songs to fit the “psychedelic” genre, Donovan recorded it in May 1966, shortly before his highly publicized arrest for possession of marijuana.

The genesis of this song goes back to an evening at folk music notable Bert Jansch’s house in north London, when fellow acoustic master John Renbourn showed Donovan a D ninth chord. From that Donovan built up a riff that, according to the memories of those present, he then played solidly for the next seven hours.

“There was a feeling, even then, that all was not perfect in the Garden of Eden,” he said of the song in an interview with Mojo magazine June 2011. “Dealers were moving into bohemia and hard drugs were on the fringes. The song was also prophetic. It was about the bust, although of course I couldn’t know that then.”

During Led Zeppelin’s soundchecks, they often warmed up by playing this. The song allows for lots of jamming when played live, which makes it a popular cover for many bands.

This song is ideal for long jams. The two main chords (A and D) are played during the verses, and during the chorus there are three chords (A, D and E). In Mojomagazine, January 2005, Donovan said: “Season of the Witch’ continues to be a perennial influence because it allows a jam – not a 12-bar or Latin groove, but a very modern jam. Led Zeppelin used to warm up every day to it on the road during the soundcheck. It makes me very proud that I’ve created certain forms that other bands can get off on, to explore, be experimental, or just break the rules.”

Donovan’s producer was Mickie Most, an interesting character who oversaw many hit records in the ’60s and ’70s (for more on Mickie, see our interview with Alan Merrill of The Arrows).

In the same Mojo interview, Donovan said: “I remember the bass line going down and Mickie saying, ‘We’ve got a problem. The engineers are saying that they can’t turn the bass up.’ I said, Why? They said, ‘Well, it’s going into the red.’ And so he said to the engineers, ‘Look, you go into the red, I’m giving you permission. Go in the red! That’s the bass sound I want. Very, very loud.’ And they said, ‘Well, we’ll have to have a meeting.’ So they went upstairs and had a meeting about whether the bass should go into the red. And they came down, they said, ‘No, I’m sorry, the equipment can’t stand it.’ So Mickie Most said, ‘Look, I’ve just made a record deal with your boss Clive Davis for $5 million and seven bands. And he’s given me $1m right now. So do you think if I phone him up, you’d give me a little bit more bass?’ And they looked at each other, and immediately realized that their jobs were on the line. They said, ‘OK, you’ve got more bass.’ We got more bass the needle went into the red, the equipment didn’t blow up. I guess next time they made that needle, they did that thing by just moving the red bit a bit farther to the right, like in Spinal Tap: ‘My amp goes up to 11!'”This song was covered by Al Kooper (Blood Sweat & Tears, The Blues Project) and Stephen Stills (Buffalo Springfield, Crosby Stills Nash & Young) on the historically significant 1968 album Super Session. That gives us an excuse to tell a fun story: Stills was brought in midway through recording the album to replace Mike Bloomfield (Butterfield Band, Electric Flag). Now, Kooper was originally enthusiastic to play with Bloomfield, but Bloomfield had a habit of ditching at the worst possible time. So when he showed up at Al Kooper’s house, Bloomfield complained of an infected toe, then proceeded to use the most expensive crystal bowl in the house to soak his toe in.

A photo of this (the toe) ended up on the back cover of the Super Session album. Then Mike Bloomfield simply disappeared in the morning, leaving only a note saying that he’d had insomnia. It wouldn’t even be the last time he stood up Al Kooper!

In his memoir Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards, Al Kooper mentions that he’s been moved to cover this song after a trip to London, when he’d heard Donovan’s “Season of the Witch” coming out of every shop on King’s Road.

“Fast” Eddie Hoh played drums on this song. He also played drums on the Super Session cover. Eddie Hoh also played percussion for The Mamas & The Papas, The Monkees, and dozens of other acts.

Other covers of this very portable song include Vanilla Fudge on a 1960s single and several of their 2000s albums, Luna on a 1996 single, and Joan Jett on her Naked album of 2004.

Many came across the song for the first time in late 2010 after it was used in an ad for Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7.

This song plays during a pivotal scene in the 1973 George Romero film, Season of the Witch. The film is about a conservative Catholic woman who gets drawn into the ’70s occult craze.

Lana Del Rey recorded a spooky cover for the soundtrack of the 2019 horror movie Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “Spooktober Edition” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

American Witch By Rob Zombie, Album: Educated Horses 2006

This song is about the Salem Witch Trials in 1692, when women suspected of performing witchcraft were burned alive. When Zombie sings about “20 innocent,” he is referring to the 20 people who died during the witch trials.

Depiction of the Salem witch trials c 1692
(Library of Congress)

Robert Bartleh Cummings a.k.a. Rob Zombie has made his career by combining Texas Chainsaw Massacre-style theatrics (think: deformed hillbillies) and commercially accessible heavy-metal/industrial musical style, sometimes referred to as part of the genre of “shock rock,” of which Marilyn Manson is an example. With a love of horror movies, Zombie’s songs are like listening to an episode of Supernatural or Buffy the Vampire Slayer in three-and-a-half minutes. Zombie’s vision has extended into the realm of cinema in recent years, where he has directed six of his own satirical and highly-enjoyable horror films (think: same deformed hillbillies doing an improvised performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show to a great soundtrack).

Zombie’s retelling of the events surrounding the Salem Witch Trials in “American Witch,” a song from his third solo album entitled Educated Horses (2006), is just one of many interpretations. First dramatized in Arthur Miller’s seminal work The Crucible, released on Broadway in 1953, this horror story began when two little girls, cousins Abigail and Betty Parris, began to act very strangely, possibly after having eaten bread made from ergot-infected rye. By that I mean: bad LSD. Their behaviour had all the hallmarks of a bum trip; writhing around in pain, pricked by invisible forces, trying to climb up the chimney… Substantive scientific evidence supports this theory, and ergot poisoning was not at all uncommon in areas conducive to its growth, Massachusetts being a prime example. This fungus, from which Albert Hoffman first extracted this notorious psychedelic in the 1950s, was known for its ability to produce strange behaviour in subjects if ingested, as well as paranoia, hallucinations, immune-system dysfunction, and even death in some cases (it has been linked with large drops in the populations of affected areas). 

After examining Abigail and Betty, the local physician was stumped and could not find any medical cause for their ailments. Witchcraft always came in handy in those days as a spare medical diagnosis in situations where the common cold wouldn’t suffice, so he suggested that. It was not long before other women in the village began to exhibit similar behaviour, and arrests started taking place. The two little girls made the first accusations, which started a shock-wave of accusations throughout Salem and surrounds. A year later, over 150 people had become implicated, and some had been hanged on Gallows Hill, referred to by Zombie as the “20 innocents.”

Judge Corwin “Witch House” in Salem

In “American Witch,” Zombie uses Salem during the witch trials as a context in which to place the listener, a starting point for his MacBeth-ian description of the experience of being a witch in this place, barely stopping short of “Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn, and cauldron bubble.” He combines rich traditional black-magic imagery interspersed with vague social-commentary.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “Spooktober Edition” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

“Every Day is Halloween” By Ministry Band, Album: Twitch 1986

The Man Who Celebrates Halloween Every Day

All Day” and “(Every Day Is) Halloween” are songs by American band Ministry, both written and produced by Al Jourgensen. These were originally released by Wax Trax! Records in 1984 as Ministry’s “comeback” single following their departure from Arista Records, 78 with “All Day” on the A-side and “(Every Day Is) Halloween” on the B-side, respectively. In 1987, these were included on Ministry’s compilation Twelve Inch Singles (1981–1984). The remixed version of “All Day”, titled “All Day Remix”, was featured on Ministry’s 1986 album Twitch. “(Every Day Is) Halloween” has been featured in the 1998 Rhino Records compilation Just Can’t Get Enough: New Wave Halloween.

Ministry first made noise as a synthpop band, then evolved into an innovative industrial act, and soon after became a punishing industrial metal group. Along the way Jourgensen had numerous side-projects and a huge club hit with “(Every Day Is) Halloween.” His journey is chronicled in his autobiography Ministry: The Lost Gospels According To Al Jourgensen(Da Capo Press)

As told to writer Jon Wiederhorn, the book is a warts-and-all tale of music, excess, and addiction with a rogue’s gallery of bold names (Courtney Love, Madonna) that is hilarious and tantalizing.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “Spooktober Edition” where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

“All Hallows Eve” By Type O Negative, Album: World Coming Down 1999

As with the band’s previous album, October Rust, this album also has a ‘joke intro’: in this case, “Skip It”, 11 seconds of staccato band noise, is meant to sound as if the listener’s CD player is skipping. Cassette versions had the noise of a tape being ‘eaten’ by the tape player, whilst the vinyl version begins as if the record is damaged and stuck in a locked groove during the intro of “White Slavery”. The track ends with the band’s guitarist, Kenny Hickey, shouting “Sucker!”

The first song, “White Slavery”, deals with cocaine addiction. Discussing his dalliance with the drug and inspiration behind the song in a 1999 Kerrang! interview, Steele recalled: “There were a handful of times that were fucking horrible, but one night in particular was really bad, and that’s when I stopped doing it. I was really depressed and homesick, and the worst part is when you’re coming down from it. It’s five in the morning and there’s no one to talk to, you’re on a tour bus doing 80mph and you look out the window and it looks like you’re on Mars. All I could think about was jumping out of the bus while it was moving, but that would have made too many people happy.”

Two other songs, “Everyone I Love Is Dead” and “Everything Dies”, touch on the difficulties of watching family members and loved ones die. Another track, “Who Will Save the Sane?”, which deals with mental illness and psychiatry, incorporates, among other oddities, Peter Steele reciting the number pi to 9 decimal places (3.141592653).

The album contains three “soundscape” tracks, which are named after internal organs, as segues between songs. Each of these songs is intended to suggest the possibilities of the deaths the members of the band may have suffered at the time: “Sinus” as death from cocaine use, “Liver” as death through alcohol abuse and “Lung” as death from smoking. In an ironic foreboding, Steele once told a close friend that he could not bear to listen to “Sinus” after it was mixed and completed, because the sound of the heartbeat escalating to its furious pace after the cocaine-snorting sound effect actually drove him to the point of an anxiety attack because of its realism.

Also included at the end of the album is a cover song, a medley of three Beatles songs. An additional song recorded during the album sessions, “12 Black Rainbows,” was issued as the B-side for the “Everything Dies” single; later, it was included on the compilation album The Least Worst Of with two other unreleased tracks from the same sessions (“It’s Never Enough” and “Stay Out of My Dreams”).

The reversed vocal technique of backmasking is used in several places on the album; some segments are more audibly apparent than others. In particular, backmasking during the intro section of “Creepy Green Light”, which was originally titled “Spooky Green Light”, refers to a third-person “spell” of a friend’s intention to be reunited with a dead spouse.

Following its release the members of Type O Negative had mixed opinions about the music on World Coming Down. Keyboardist and producer Josh Silver felt that the music was strong, while vocalist, bass guitarist and principal songwriter Peter Steele said the songs were too strongly connected to an uncomfortable period in his life. Live shows performed since the initial tour to support World Coming Down usually had very few, if any, selections from the album in the set list. However, the band often played the song “World Coming Down” in its entirety during the Dead Again tour.

The album cover features a photo of the Brooklyn Bridge.

All Hallows Eve” is a song related to “Creepy Green Light” in some ways, including lyrically. According to Simple Anime reviewing WCD. This song is about Steele making a pact with the devil who’ll give Pete a spell in return used to bring back his girlfriend from the dead. Hearing this song makes fans wish they had ability to bring back loved ones.

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