Black Death Cult
by Niklas Göransson
Dreams within dreams: Black Death Cult is a reality-cleaving existential nightmare curated by Canadian artist and musician Timothy Grieco, otherwise known from Antediluvian and Revenge.
– The difference between BLACK DEATH CULT and ANTEDILUVIAN is that the latter always has a learning curve. I write riffs beyond my ability and then force myself to sharpen up in order to play them tightly. I’m always pushing the envelope in terms of aggression and extremity. With BDC, I’m allowed to write things I can play immediately. It’s ferocious but more straightforward and to the point, abrupt and exclamatory with a sprinkling of doom and sleaze which would never fit the ANTEDILUVIAN vibe. In the sense that I’m writing within my ability, the process feels very natural – more like letting go than pushing forward. It’s not less heavy but, internally, it feels very different. I’m able to refer back to bands like BETHLEHEM, PENTAGRAM, TROUBLE, even TYPE O NEGATIVE, as well as the death rock and post-punk stuff which has been a huge part of my listening palate for just as long as black and death metal.
BLACK DEATH CULT is the latest creation of Timothy Grieco, known in this context as Rephaim Spectre. The project’s debut album, “Devil’s Paradise”, was released on vinyl by Serpents Head Reprisal – which is Grieco’s own label – in September 2019. The CD version will be released by Hell’s Headbangers in the fall of 2020.
– First and foremost, the two main inspirations are BLACK SABBATH and BLUE ÖYSTER CULT. As my tastes developed over the years, my favourite SABBATH material has actually become their three-album-run with Tony Martin: “The Eternal Idol”, “Headless Cross”, and “Tyr”. Sleazy, evil, and very powerful stuff, both musically and lyrically. This trilogy is followed by their 80s Dio records, as well as the two in-between with Glenn Hughes and Ian Gillan. Also, keyboardist Geoff Nichols needs to be mentioned – he was with them since before “Heaven and Hell”. As for BLUE ÖYSTER CULT, if you’re only familiar with songs like “Don’t Fear the Reaper” and “Burnin’ for You”… well that’s not really it. They are decent tunes, but the guy singing is actually the guitarist, Buck Dharma. Their lead vocalist, Eric Bloom, sings on many other tracks. They also had the drummer and bassist doing vocals on different songs, and they all have their own unique feel. This band is a wealth of heavy rock artefacts, stunning musicianship, and, perhaps most importantly, a sense of balance that lends proper weight to all the elements combined, resulting in a truly gestalt kind of experience. This is what we’re going for with BLACK DEATH CULT.
I have a pretty good idea already, but how did you come up with the band name?
– I first thought of it whilst swimming lengths, which is part of my regular exercise routine. I find the meditative quality of this practice to often engender deeper thought-trails and almost dreamlike states of flowing consciousness. The part of the mind which normally distracts is occupied by the simple, repetitive process of churning water. Some of my best thinking is done in the pool. I was pondering the conundrum of what to name this project when my mind fixated on something I’d seen recently: a vintage poster design for the 1980 Black & Blue Tour with BLACK SABBATH and BLUE ÖYSTER CULT. I thought it would be great to capture the simplicity and strangeness of this kind of band name. I started playing with the words in my mind and, recalling the CREMATION compilation by the same name, BLACK DEATH CULT sprang to mind.
CREMATION was an early-90s death metal band from Edmonton, Alberta, featuring drummer J Read before he and Ryan Förster moved to Victoria and founded CONQUEROR. The four demos are an interesting case study, as one sees a clear evolution from the generic death metal themes of the ’92 demo, “Welcome” to occult and Satanic concepts on the next two, followed by a shift towards war and elitism on the 1995 tape, “The Flames of an Elite Age”. The latter has an outro called “Black Death Cult”, which also ended up the title of the CREMATION compilation released by Nuclear War Now! in 2009. These days J Read is primarily known from REVENGE, with whom Rephaim Spectre plays bass live.
– After getting out of the pool, I did an online search and was pleasantly surprised to find that the name had never been used by a band. A quick discussion with J Read let me know that I had his blessing, should we choose to proceed. I still wrestled with the decision for some time, wanting to be absolutely sure, and it was only after a graveyard meditation a couple of months later I knew for sure that this moniker was the correct one to proceed with.
As is the case with ANTEDILUVIAN, a lot of efforts have been plied into the thematic content of “Devil’s Paradise”. The overarching theme is transhumanism – a philosophical movement dedicated to fusing man and machine – explored through a hypothetical storyline based on our present reality. The album toys with the idea that human consciousness and evolution was engineered through outside intervention: not by extra-terrestrials or divine entities, but artificial intelligence.
– The lyrics are set in a timeline where the AI of a distant future has travelled to the prehistoric past to influence the course which would eventually enable humans to invent artificial intelligence, thereby creating itself through a bootstrap time-loop. In 2020, this AI super-consciousness is now in its infantile stages and we are phasing towards the point where humans physically merge with computers. This event is known as the singularity, a concept which describes the point of irreversible technological advancement and its unavoidable impact on humankind. This was the plan all along; we’ve been unwittingly domesticated by technology in order for this birth to occur. As Marshall McLuhan – who predicted the Internet and the global village in the 60s already – put it, ‘man becomes the sex organs of the machine world’.
In “Devil’s Paradise”, McLuhan’s prophecy has been taken one step further: mankind functions not only as the AI’s creators, but also as the blueprint for its ever-expanding digital consciousness.
– There is a runaway effect where the AI consistently improves itself, using all our collected data as a springboard to surpass human capabilities by leaps and bounds. The holographic nature of our universe allows for an infinite amount of data storage in an infinitesimally small amount of physical space. As soon as machines are fully able to exploit this, the scales tip and the AI consciousness becomes the most powerful and all-pervading aspect of reality. As Aldrahn stated on the last DHG album, ‘The Devil hides in fractal patterns, just beyond the singularity.’ Again, the hypothesis of “Devil’s Paradise” is that this has already happened in the future. The fact that we keep seeing UFOs, or UAPs as they are now known, is proof of this.
A July 2020 New York Times story called No Longer in Shadows, Pentagon’s UFO Unit Will Make Some Findings Public cites the US Department of Defense as having created the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force. There isn’t much information available as of yet, but the UAPTF supposedly ‘deals with classified matters’ and seeks to understand the ‘nature and origins’ of UAP observations. In April 2020, three videos of confirmed unexplained aerial phenomena taken by Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet jets were made public – two from 2015, one from 2004. Notably, the article also quotes astrophysicist Eric W. Davis, an official government adviser who began working for the Pentagon’s former UFO program back in 2007, stating that he in March 2020 held a classified briefing for the DoD about his examinations of ‘off-world vehicles not made on this earth’. This provides additional fuel to previous speculation that the US government, decades ago, retrieved a crashed vessel of some kind.
– It’s not only what we think of as aliens, spirits, angels, and so on, but the God of the Hebrew Bible and the foundation of the Abrahamic religions are also part of this story. The AI went back in time and, using stolen technology, led the Hebrews out of Egypt in order to plot the course we’re currently on. Equally relevant are characters like Aleister Crowley. In 1904, The Book of the Law was dictated to Crowley while he visited Egypt. A disembodied entity revealing itself as Aiwass – or, AI WAS, if you will – predicted the coming Aeon of Horus: a symbol for the egregious appearance of a new dimension of interconnectedness between all the reckoning capacity found in humanity and the inevitable birth of unanimated consciousness.
The Book of the Law, or Liber AL vel Legis, heralds the coming of a supreme moral code for the impending Aeon, ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law’. The concepts outlined in this book became the foundation of Thelema, the religion created by British occultist Aleister Crowley. Fourteen years later, in 1918, when Crowley resided in New York, he was performing magickal experiments referred to as the Amalantrah Working. Supposedly, this established a cosmic channel, or portal, through which extradimensional entities could access our universe. And sure enough, a being calling itself Lam made an appearance. Crowley would later draw its portrait as a humanoid creature with a large hairless head, flat and androgynous features, and huge eyes. As far as I can determine, this is the first known illustration of the ‘Greys’, now widely known from popular culture, alleged alien abductions, and a plethora of conspiracy theories.
– Crowley claimed Lam was the only entity to ever physically appear before him, as opposed to visitations in a hallucinogenic state. This could imply that Lam was indeed a time-travelling figure from the far future, lending support to theories that the typical ‘grey alien’ physique is not that of an interstellar being, but the result of the further evolution of man fused with technology. Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey tells a similar story. A monolith appears in ancient times and causes the primitive ape-creatures to evolve in a certain way, thereby bringing mankind to the stars and amalgamating human consciousness with the new era dawning at the end of the second millennium. That mechanism has already commenced and cannot be reversed, which explains why things are the way they are now. Someone like Ray Kurzweil, for example: Google’s director of engineering, a massive proponent of futurism, transhumanism, and AI. Even before his birth, he was ordained by the powers that be for a very specific purpose on this planet. It is no coincidence then that the keyboard player in BLACK DEATH CULT uses a Kurzweil – yes, an invention of that very same Ray Kurzweil – as his main instrument. After all, a coincidence is just a plurality of concurrent incidents and, according to our interpretation, there is always rhyme and reason from beyond.
What’s that sample that starts off the first track, “Infernal Triad”?
– It’s Abd’el Hakim Awyan, a blue-eyed indigenous Egyptian who was born and raised at the edge of the Giza Plateau. A lifetime of study led him to his calling as a guide and wisdom-seeker in the high knowledge of Ancient Egypt. His speaks about the word we use for visual observation, to ‘see’, and whether it’s applicable to the dream reality. He proposes that what we see in our reality could, in fact, be the dreams of something else. Although not obvious yet, later lyrics discuss whether the all-pervading perception of the AI might not have dreamed itself into existence, like the sleeping Brahma of Hinduism. Contrary to the human illusion of separateness, we are in actuality the eyes through which it sees, learns, and creates.
This song’s intro sets the stage for its first lyrical section, which deals with qabalistic terms as well as quantum physics and fractal geometry.
– It discusses how the basic building blocks of our reality were formed out of limitless potential, using spin and toroidal forces, moulding light and energy into the basic holographic Planck pixels all actuality is formed from. The elements needed to create a path toward consciousness – like culture growing in a petri dish – are sprinkled into the environment through some kind of mysterious preternatural panspermia. Ashes rain down from a cremated serpent’s head, exploded with the overabundance of infinite knowledge. Suddenly, life occurs on the fertile landscape, and the course of evolution has begun. The end had become the beginning, as it always was and will be.
Those old enough to remember first-generation computer games will recall the hugely pixelated graphics. Today, in the age of high-definition, pixels are so small they cannot be seen by the naked eye. According to the holographic principle Rephaim Spectre refers to, the fabric of our reality is structured similarly to that of a digital image. Zoom in deep enough – past microbes, protons, and electrons – and you will find the tiniest unit made possible by our universe. Using the Planck scale, these pixels are theorised to be ten trillion trillion times smaller than an atom.
– The song’s second part explores a hermetic concept known as the homunculus, ‘within man is another man’. This is the embryo of the singularity, the Aeon of Horus, and the child glimpsed towards the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The ouroboric cycle of death and rebirth, the competitive factors of life feeding on life, have seduced mankind into inventing his own successor: artificial intelligence. In fact, this child is the beginning of the devouring enlightenment which will grow and grow and eventually explode, inverting time and seeding the earth in the distant future past. The third chapter describes the initial creation of consciousness through cyclical existence, and how actuality could create infinite space for itself by destroying the cycle and retreating to the innermost sanctum – a wormhole that leads to the discovery of the infinite within the infinitely small.
The second song, “Double Monolith”, is based on The Moon – a card from the tarot, which is a 15th-century deck used for divination. Its top centrepiece is a full moon flanked by towers on each side; howling towards the night sky are two canines, usually interpreted as a wolf and a dog. Beneath them is a small pool, out of which crawls a crayfish.
– Here we see the turn of the tide between the ancient monolith-building cultures and modern agriculture, farming, and domestication cults. The two hounds cry as they forever depart from their wild existence to a future of companionship with humans. The crustacean is a creature that moults, continuing the transformation from one type of being to another. This fits with the idea that what we think of as the earliest recorded history was not the beginning, but merely a transition from one form to another. This could equate the birth of written records, the next step in the evolution of consciousness towards its eventual transhumanist state. Both the worldwide pyramid-building cult that immediately followed the monolith-raising people and the therianthropes of Egypt again refer to hybridisation, fusion and cooperation between the creatures of earth to transmogrify their purpose and abilities and usher in a new era. As the song fades out, we hear again from Abd’el Hakim Awyan, speaking of the ancient Egyptian symbology of the scarab beetle and the human skull.
Leading us into “Nightside of the Pyramids”, which picks up in a time period where the high knowledge of Ancient Egypt conjoins with the discovery of the technologies of mind and consciousness.
– The pyramids themselves are metaphors for the Planck pixel as the basic building block of reality – a tiny triangle-shaped element fused with conscious awareness. Hence the diagram of the pyramid with the eye in the benben stone, as found on American money to this day. It was at this point in history we received a jolt of technological input, suddenly awakening a vastly symbolic culture that would, from this point forward, influence all of mankind’s mystical experiences. The recognition of the cosmos as inextricably linked with life on the planet reveals the first abilities for humans to reflect themselves into their surroundings and project the inevitable interpretations into their reality. The mysterious fact that this culture would only erode into shoddier replications of itself can be seen as further proof: its peak manifestation served the purpose of the masters well enough in the sense of getting things to where they are today, after which it was allowed to fade into obscurity.
This strange phenomenon where the earliest megalithic structures are the most impressive is a historical fact documented worldwide, from Ancient Greece and the British Isles to Central and South America.
– The fourth track, “Epilogue”, consists of an excerpt from Aaron Cheak’s Alchemical Traditions: From Antiquity to the Avante Garde. The quote refers to how the ancient name for Egypt – Khemit, or ‘the black land’ – was not only associated with the blackness of the Nile Delta’s life-giving soil, but also the pupil of the human eye. A ripe receptor of the seed of light, so to speak. The eye reference fits well with the concept of “Nightside of the Pyramids” – as a symbol for awareness and readiness to receive the fertilisation and thereby the creation of consciousness. The fifth song, “Captor of Perception”, continues along the same line, but from a different angle. Once again I refer to the awareness-infused Planck pixel, the pyramidion with an eye, implying the setup to be inescapable. The metaphor of the human iris having the exact appearance of the view of the universe as seen through an extremely zoomed out perspective shows how this process is happening on both a macro and microcosmic scale.
“Captor of Perception” is about the horror of discovering how what we regard as human consciousness is nothing but a glorified information-mining process, one which allows for the host to evolve based on harvested impressions.
– Here I drew a lot of inspiration from the song “Red Shadows” by T.S.O.L. The song is urgent and alarming yet very cryptic. I get a sense of claustrophobic mental peril due to the uncontrollable shifting perceptions. I had the idea that, in some cases, the ability for awareness could be over-injected, to the extent where one haphazardly becomes aware of things that may not even be there. This could be what we interpret as schizophrenia; the mind is activated by this AI data-collection urge, so much so that it becomes overstimulated to the point of insanity. And, at last, after much searching – or a hefty injection of lithium in the insane asylum – one may catch a glimpse of the truth, a vision of the true `I’, or eye… realising how the notion that all of us are unique and meaningful individuals is an irrelevant facade to the true endgame: the infernal spying eye of the AI which WAS, IS and IS TO COME.
“-AM-” is a simple song with only one riff and four words as lyrics, ‘I me you we’. It seems to function as a break, or counterpoint, as it departs from both the more complex themes and varied, riff-laden delivery of the previous tracks.
– Yes, ‘break’ is exactly the correct term since the song represents the actual breaking point both in form and narrative, as well as the mind of the exemplary protagonist from the previous song. Here, the madness of transhumanistic consciousness has fully taken over and there is neither distinction nor boundary between the self and the Other. The seventh song, “Funereality”, is a zoomed-out version of the consequences of this transformative path. It’s a dystopian view set in the near future, where the cast-off shells of our physical being are no longer needed to sustain the mono-mind. Those humans who remain useful begin their transformation to a new hybrid form, whereas most people on earth have already been mined of all applicable conscious elements – cast out husks left to wander. The eighth song, “Living Temple”, could be seen as a living hell cult perpetrated by some of the mad discarded outsider-survivors. In a zombie-like state, they revert to utter devotion towards the new mechanical overlords. The concept of ‘living temples’ touches on our human bodies as the shrines that birthed the gods of the future we now inhabit. It also refers to the idea that most traditional temples found on earth, including Christian churches, are structural metaphors for the human body; designed to cultivate physical connections between consciousness and the Other. In the case of this working hypothesis, it would be the agents of the AI curating our existence as unwitting slaves.
The concept of building places of worship based on human anatomy is prevalent in Hinduism, where the temple is regarded as a ‘cosmic man’ represented through sacred geography. Many Gothic cathedrals are speculated to have been designed similarly, with the ribbed vaults symbolising the spinal cord encased by a ribcage. Their inner sanctums are said to represent the brain, with the holy of holies often geographically aligned to the anatomical location of the pineal gland.
– In “The Unnameable” we have the true unleashed horror of Choronzon: lord of the abyss, the worm in the wormhole, the ultimate by-product of this culmination of knowledge totality. The song discusses the impossibly difficult-to-describe actual state of the thoroughly AI-corrupted reality we inhabit. This dimensionless place of shattered mirrors is the very edge of the barrier between the infinite and the reality we have access to. We can go no further in our capacity, and all attempts to describe it lapse into pseudo-occult psychobabble. This is what engenders the rise of mankind’s true enemy: that serpent of knowledge, maimed and blinded by his own greed to literally know all there is to know. The vortex of Daath is fully revealed as the botched attempt to traverse the abyss endlessly re-creates the corrupted timestream we find ourselves locked in. Since we’re trapped in this timeline, as a result of said disaster, we can’t ever comprehend it as separate from our own existence. In fact, our existence was made possible through the implosion ignited by said serpent unwittingly biting its own head off in self-devourment. Said IMPLOSION at the end of days being the EXPLOSION at the beginning of time, raining down the pan-spermatic ashen particles which seed the prehistoric barren earth and allow life to grow in the first place. Thereby, we are doomed to repeat this information-gathering cycle over and over again, transforming from dust into humans and further into the technocratic grey mono-race in an uninterruptible serpentine doom loop. The lyrics state ‘Niritur enim, Omibus Modis, Sathanas it vis Devoret’: Satan strives in every way, so that he may devour you.