02/22/2024

Undead Goathead

Dedicated to metal, music, and mischief.

Lyrical Analysis: Æther Realm – The Devil

Tarot is a concept album released in 2017 by Æther Realm, a melodic death metal band from Greenville, NC.

Intro:

Whelp, it finally happened. I crashed and burned, just like I predicted I would. A few months ago, my (now ex) boyfriend broke up with me, immediately after several family members died, and just a few days before my birthday. But then someone stole my brand new Louis Vuitton purse, there was a fire in my apartment complex, someone broke into my car, my boss yelled at me at work, I’ve been arguing with my landlords, you name it. Anything and everything that could possibly go wrong, absolutely did.

I lost many prized possessions during my move from Santa Fe to Albuquerque, including an unopened deck of tarot cards. Still, I have at least three other decks, but even these cards turned against me. Every reading, in every spread, no matter how I shuffled, always resulted in The Tower, The Hanged Man, Death, and especially, The Devil. A symbol of greed, guilt, lust, craving, addiction, and bad habits. I also stumbled across other bad omens, such as a decapitated dove on the sidewalk. I lost my keys on the day of the solar eclipse, the same day that I happened across an old weatherworn page of the Bible – The Book of Samuel, to be precise- half-hidden under layers of dirt and mud. It was Creepy. Freaky.

I was trapped in a feedback loop, a broken record, an insufferable cycle of sleep deprivation, dehydration, malnutrition, and general self-neglect. This was my normal for the past year or so. And apparently, everyone else thought this was normal for me too. But I can’t exactly blame them. I’m a grown ass adult; y’all ain’t my keepers. Besides, like most addicts, I tried to keep the truth on the down low, or played it off as a joke. But then again, maybe they knew I was messed up, but they were too scared to say anything, because they (correctly) assumed that I would just get defensive and angry and probably try to smash their face in with a half empty bottle of Jack. (Or half full, if you want to be an optimist!) Thankfully, I’ve been able to cut down significantly, but damn, is it ever difficult! All things in moderation… Including moderation!

Lyrics:

Your Obsession will swallow you whole

Ah, yes. The unhealthy cathexis of addiction. A pain and shame that I know all too well.

My love affair with alcohol started at the age of 15. I had a few sips at a slumber party sleep over, as we played party games and watched anime. At first, I was such a wuss that I actually needed chaser for beer, following each tiny sip of cheap domestic swill, with a huge chug of orange juice. Even the lightest of lagers was too bitter for me! Even with a sweet chaser, it took me all night to finish one can!

Then, two years later, at the age of 17, one fateful night, I met some friends at the Cross of the Martyrs. They gave me vodka and limeade. It was sweet and sour, with a slightly burning aftertaste. I loved it. I felt woozy. I felt just like myself, only more so. More impulsive. Less inhibited. I liked the way the stairs wobbled and the world spun. I was hooked.

I was truly head over heels for sweet lady liquor in my early 20s. I had dropped out of college, my dad had died of an aneurysm, I jumped from one  toxic relationship to the next, I was hanging out with drug addicts who committed violent crimes and threatened to hurt me so I couldn’t tell anyone, I was suicidally depressed… The only light I saw at the end of the tunnel, was at the bottom of a bottle.

The Chill of Death clings heavy
And the Stench of Blood still strong
Can the Gnawing of Guilt of your Blunder
Drive you to Face the Devil you spawned?

My vices can be lethal in the wrong hands. Some people have emptied their bank accounts and gone into debt over gambling or impulse shopping. Many drank or smoked their lives away. Sometimes I’m ashamed of how much I indulge. But apparently I’ll never feel bad enough to stop! After all… I didn’t die tho!

But my love affair is just that: An affair. Booze ain’t wifey material. She’s nothing but an ice cold heartless hoe. The hateful bitch never even loved me back. And she cast the same spell, played her same tricks, and won her same game,  on billions of other simps just like me. But bro, she’s a stupid skanky slut, a bleary eyed floozy! We can do better, bros.

His pallid Skin hangs loosely,
With a Chaos in his Wake
A Harbringer of Sorrow, Fear,
Of Pestilence and Plague

This reminds me of The Pale Man from Pans Labyrinth. A gross, ashy monster with saggy flesh. A cruel beast who hurts people for the sake of hurting people. Biblical reference to rapture, Armageddon, and the apocalypse.

So whether you will survive,
will be for you to decide
Can you break the Cycle of Madness
Festering deep inside of your Mind?

Vicious cycles are damn nigh impossible to break. It’s like trying to defy gravity. However, to quote Bad Religion, “If pigs could fly then surely so could I”. That’s right: I just did a lyrical analysis, within a lyrical analysis! A dream within a dream! Lyric-ception!

But seriously, the day I truly beat my cravings, will be the day that hell freezes over. But then again, according to Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, the deepest layer of hell in the seventh circle is a frozen lake of ice, over which Satan himself presides. So perhaps my judgement day has already come? I feel like I am in the deepest darkest coldest pit of the underworld, a literal rock bottom in every sense of the term.

You can read the Scrolls and consult the Tomes
That the ancient Ones laid down

I’ve dabbled in occultism. Most of it is harmless nonsense and superstition. Pentagrams and tarot cards have no intrinsic power, they are just symbols. Much like the Bible is just ink on paper. Like a Rorsharch blot test, what you see in the ink, says more about you, than it does about the symbol itself.

That said, some things should not be meddled with. Don’t play with fire. Let’s just say, I there was some fucking around, and, subsequently, there was some finding out. Whether the demonic energy that torments me is a literal spirit from the depths of hell, or a figment of my imagination, makes no practical difference. For all intents and purposes,  my mental anguish and psychological despair are just as real, regardless.

And you may find a Way to sever the Bond
Or you may find the Solution’s
Only total self Annihilation

My self destructive tendencies are just a force of habit at this point. I’ve been this way for so long that I couldn’t even imagine any sort of alternative. Or at least, that’s how it felt for several months. I think I’m at the midway point, where I’m not quite out of the woods yet, but at least I’m doing a hell of a lot better than I used to be! The occasional relapse does not invalidate the progress that you’ve made.

This will cause your Name to mean Traitor
And the Accusation rings True
You see, you blindly lusted for Power
And then you gave the Devil his Due

The name “Satan” is derived from the Hebrew word for “adversary”. One of the only Biblical mentions of this proverbial adversary, is in the book of Job. You know, the one where God punishes his most loyal devotee as a test of his faith.

So God basically ruined the life, of his best and most pious mortal servant, on a freaking dare.

Satan: “Hey homie, if you’re so almighty and omnipotent, I bet your stan Job only loves you because you blessed his life and he has it so easy.’

God: “Nuh-uh! Job will still totally simp for me even if I kill his wife, kill his kids, burn his house down, and lose his career! Hold my beer, bro!”

Old Testament was brutal, man. Humans were just pawns in a divine game of chess.

The Circle drawn, the Blood released
That Ritual performed
And then the Awe replaced by Horror
As you beheld the terrible Form

Again, this reinforces the danger of messing around with ghosts, demons, spirits, etc. You can literally curse or hex  yourself. If you think it’s all in my head, good for you for never experiencing an actual living hell, or waking nightmare. Must be nice. I wouldn’t know, though. Technically, my depression is all in my head too. But that obviously doesn’t make it hurt any less, does it?

So when the Smoke begins to rise
Over Ashes of your Kind
It’s only then you’ll know the Cost
Reach inside, expose it all to the Light

Aether Realm is so awesome! I love the cinematic cadence of their choruses. You can tell by the epic orchestration, that the stakes have never been higher. Human souls are on the line. It’s not only a matter of life and death, but also eternal damnation versus spiritual salvation.

This Task won’t fulfill you,
It might even kill you
But the Choosing is easy
If you don’t have a Choice

Again, this reminds me of lyrics from another song, namely, Free Will by Rush. However, that song was optimistic and liberating, while this one is dejected and forlorn. Is free will a delusional? Is it only the illusion of choice? Does the hand of fate force our own hands?

I usually love words, but I suddenly felt a wave of existential dread wash over me when I realized that there are only so many letters in the English language, and I felt hopelessly oppressed by the limitations. The same way I get bored with music, because I’ve heard all these chord progressions before, I get bored with reading books because there are only a finite amount of tropes, same with other hobbies and interests like TV, movies, and video games. Nothing was fun anymore. Hell, not even sex, smoking and drinking! Those are the true loves of my life, so you know my mental state is bad when I lose interest in those!

I was in one of those weird moods where it felt like the universe is just a massive mechanical machine, and I’m just another cog in it. Forlorn, I would stare at maps for hours, sighing with quiet resignation, as I realized that all of these mountains, valleys, rivers, roads, and entire cities, were formed over centuries of erosion and civilization and other factors much bigger than myself. It’s difficult to explain, but it’s like, if I have no control over the past, then I probably can’t control the present or future either.

It’s time, to kneel to the Floor
And savor that last sweet Breath
As you’re sharpening the Blade
You will use to extinguish the Inferno made Flesh
All it took was a Drop of your Blood

Ah, yes. The Devil will promise you everything you ever wanted and more. All he wants in return, is a piece of yourself. After all, what’s a single drop of blood in the grand scheme of things?

But that’s the scary thing about casting spells. The Devil is in the details. Quite literally. The smaller and more obscure, the better (or, technically, the worse!). In my experience, even if you get what you thought you wanted, the cost is so great that the victory is pyrrhic, at best. Let’s say that you cast a love spell. That you would give up anything and everything to be with that one person. Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it! If you really want the spell to work, if you’re willing to make any sacrifice, the universe hears your pleas, and responds in kind. Do you want romance more than you want your job? Family? Friends? Pets? Limbs? One or more of your 5 senses? Your self respect? Your sanity? Because if you’re willing and able to lose it all, that includes the things that you take for granted. Even your very mind, body, and soul.

And it was summoned from the fiery Plane
But you know the Incantation weakens over time,
You only have yourself to blame
To send it back from whence it came

I don’t just want it; I want to want it! Desiring something can be more fun than actually having it. The deadly sins of lust, gluttony, pride, and envy can all be distilled into desire. Similarly, the Buddhists say that attachment is the root of all suffering. Of course, deep down, I know that they are probably right. And yet I resent those bitches for trying to deprive me of the many things I crave!

You will bleed yourself until you’re barely clinging onto Life
Not enough, you’re gonna need another Pint

I can quit anytime I want! One more for the road! Just one fix!  Famous last words… These cravings will eat you alive and devour you from the inside out, like the cordyceps mushroom hijacking a bug’s brain and turning it into a zombie. Or perhaps, instead of you needing yet another pint of beer, this line is about The Devil needing yet another pint of your blood!

So draw your Sigil, thumb the Blade now meant for you
In your Heart you’ve always known what you must do
Raise that Knife above your Head and drive it down

Okay, this is a pretty obvious reference to self harm, or self destructive tendencies in general. It could be as straightforward as literal self mutilation such as cutting, or as pernicious as long term lifestyle choices of self sabotage and self neglect.

So twist the Knife into my Side,
it’s through that Pain I feel alive
I want the World to know I threw it all away

I know exactly how this feels. To be so emotionally and mentally numb, that you physically can’t process anything other than negative sensations. Or when your addictions get the best of you, to the point where being hungover or going through withdrawals feels “normal”. I also know what it’s like to feel such white hot blinding rage that you fuck up your own life with an epic temper tantrum, which, of course, only serves to  exponentially compounds your impotent frustration and helplessness!

It sucks to be so consumed by sorrow that nothing inspires or excites you anymore. Writing, music, entertainment, fun, and even romance had lost all meaning. I felt an impending sense of dread, like everything is set in stone and preordained and I have no control over my own choices and actions, let alone anyone else’s. The world is screwed, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

And yet… Despite the overwhelming despair, numbness, and apathy… I still listen to songs and write about them, even if I don’t particularly enjoy it as much as I should. Again, old habits die hard. Even if it’s true (and that’s a pretty big “if”) that humanity is insignificant and nothing matters, I might as well cling to what little semblance of joy I have left, since it supposedly doesn’t make a difference anyway. And even though my ex is constantly on my mind, I’m still trying to move on and have a normal, healthy, happy dating life. Ghosting someone you used to love is just like quitting a drug cold turkey.

He to the World appeared to die
But in his Heart he felt divine
He wants the World to know
To heed to the Call

Can we all just take a moment to appreciate the sexy Spanish guitar solo after this verse? Hot damn, baby! That’s spicy! That said, I feel like this particular stanza is a paraphrasing of the old motto: “The Greatest trick the devil ever pulled, was convincing the world that he doesn’t exist.” But Satan preys on the vulnerable, weaponizing their own vanity and self-pity against them, all under the guise of “helping” them. Wolves in sheep’s clothing!

The devil doesn’t appear to you as a mischievous imp with a pointy tail and a pitchfork. He’ll come to you disguised as everything you’ve ever wanted. Besides, most of the times that I’ve been hurt, it wasn’t some supernatural monster with red horns and cloven hooves. It was almost always… Just some guy… Or random chicks, the girl next door, hiding wicked secrets. That’s the truly terrifying part. Every normal human being, including you and me, has the capacity for cruelty.

So twist the Knife into my Side,
It’s through that Pain I feel alive
I want the World to know I threw it all away

You ever feel so dirty inside that you just want to chug a gallon of bleach? Or hate yourself so much that you project your low esteem onto the world at large with bitter misanthropy? I had become the very type of person that I despise: Lazy, complacent, an edgelord doomer, whiny, negative, sometimes even violent. No wonder I didn’t like myself!

In order to break the vicious cycle of hating yourself for being a bad person, and vice versa, being a bad person because you hate yourself, there are two possibilities. Either love yourself unconditionally, flaws and all, and then better behavior will eventually be the result of improved self image. Or, alternatively, be a good person unconditionally, even if you feel like shit, and eventually you will feel better about yourself, and not have any more valid reasons to wallow in self loathing. Either way, the process is slow, gradual, and painful. The road to recovery is long and winding.

He to the World appeared to die
But in his Heart he felt divine
He wants the World to know
To heed to the Call

People think I’m a bad person for a variety of reasons, some more valid than others. We all judge each other for our physical appearance, our misguided actions, our problematic opinions, the food we eat, and even the media we consume. Hell, someone, somewhere, is probably losing their shit over the fact that I enjoy heavy metal, or that I wrote this very article in the first place! But I’m going to keep being me. It’s not like I have any other options.

But then again… maybe I don’t wanna be me! Sometimes I wonder how it would feel to be someone else, or to be myself, but different, if that makes sense. What if I was tall instead of short, with blue eyes instead of brown, and a blonde pixie cut instead of long brunette hair? What if I hated rock music, and non-ironically watched Jersey Shore and Keeping up with the Kardashians? What if my favorite color was, say, turquoise instead of purple? What if I was a man instead of a woman? What if I was born in the distant past, or in the far future? What if I was born in a different place entirely? Would I even be the same person? What makes me…me?!?

I wish I knew. I don’t even know who the hell I am anymore. I can’t remember myself.

You feel the Fear consume you cold as Ice
A wretched Token of your Sacrifice

Themes of fear, cold, and sacrifice rear their ugly heads yet again. These lines are uncomfortable, evoking pain and suffering, like  damned sinners tortured for all eternity.

Bind your Souls and cast them down
To save your Kind before you find
Why should I cast my Soul away for a World that never cared for me?

In order to “bind your souls”, “cast them down”, and “save your kind”, I think this means that human beings have to put aside all of our selfish bickering and vindictive revenge, put all of our egos aside, in order to come together as a community. Society is greater than the sum of its parts. The entire history of civilization was built on a foundation of trust and cooperation. Since prehistoric times, our kind had to learn to work together as a group in order to survive.

In this case, the “world that never cared for me” is this earthly plane of existence. Sure, there is an abundance of beauty in nature, as well as inspiring moments of the human capacity for kindness and compassion. But these are more the exception than the rule. The world is also full of pollution, capitalist factories, corporate greed, political corruption, harm, and suffering. Sure, I used to enjoy the pleasures of this world, creature comforts such as binge drinking, chain smoking, impulse shopping, etc. But it got to the point where it wasn’t even fun anymore. I was just going through the motions out of sheer inertia and muscle memory. So why should I literally or figuratively sell my soul for these worthless trinkets? They never have, and never will, truly fulfill me.

And yet… The temptation remains. Idle hands do The Devil’s work!

Outro

This song reminded me of dozens of other songs, as well as books, poetry, art, classic cinema, etc. Just like Satan himself weasels his way into every aspect of life. Again, I envy those who think that this is all a delusional hallucination. Trust me, it’s all too real, whether you believe me or not.