Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Going to Hell

As the final day of 2014 fades to black the word black reminds me of the ever popular 1980 ACDC album Back in Black. The term “fading to black” reminds me of death which makes me think of hell, which I don’t believe in except in a metaphorical sense or as an idiom such as, “You’re going to hell for that.” The state of “being back in black” makes me think of a badass which is what one could describe the speaker in the song “Hell’s Bells” which is the first track on the ACDC album Back in Black. However, in the case of ACDC, the term “back in black” may be a double entendre referring to the band members still being in mourning for their former lead singer, Bon Scott, who had recently died an untimely and tragic death. Even the album cover art resembles a headstone.

This song, as well as the title of the album is absolutely loaded with gothic elements. Once the gothic tolling of the bells diminish and the kick-ass music begins gothic elements drip from the lyrics like fresh blood from an open vain. Right at the start the lyrics describe an apparent sidekick of Satan as a raging storm. He’s going to kill all and drag them down to hell unless they’re as evil as he is, because he considers other appreciators of evil as friends.

The song describes an overpowering aggressive monster that promises to blow through the world, tear up the sky like a raging storm, gather up all the corpses he creates and spirit them down to hell and ring the bells to let Satan know that all have arrived. Perhaps the speaker in the song refers to the alcohol poisoning that took Bon Scott’s life.

Death Lesson: Doom and Gloom on a Bright Sunny Day?

Photo by Stephanie Fish. Ye Olde Burial Ground New London, CT
We’re all going to die. The only question is when. When your time is up, that’s when. It could be fifty years from now or fifty minutes from now. It’s going to happen to all of us and to everyone we love. Yet we like to pretend it will never happen. Seriously, I can’t imagine life without me. Can you imagine life without you? Is death the end of life? For that matter, is birth the beginning of life?
Until my father died over a decade ago (I was in my early 40s) I had no personal experience with death and loss as it happens in the real world, only in gothic fiction. These questions had never occurred to me much before then. Even though my father had been suffering from an incurable lung disease, I completely denied the reality that he would gradually worsen and finally succumb to it. My mother would race him to the ER when he’d be unable to catch his breath but he always rallied and returned home. 

Until the final time when he didn’t.

 Even during his final hospital stay when he was moved to intensive care, I still believed he would overcome this setback and live on until my mother called my sister and me and suggested we say goodbye to him for the last time. After saying our brave goodbyes (Dad hated displays of emotion unless it was laughter) I drove out of the hospital parking lot and pulled over to the side of the road to cry. A funny thing happened, although it wasn’t funny at the time. I finally accepted that my father was dying, I’d never see him again, yet the sun was so bright I needed sunglasses even though it was a chilly December day in New England! Where was the raging thunder storm that was always thrashing the landscape during times of tragedy and horror in the movies and gothic novels? Why weren’t big old trees being blown over, blocking the road as I struggled past the obstacles toward the safety of my home? Why wasn’t the water crashing up and over the sea walls dragging the soft silky sand out to sea? 

My father was dying

My life was facing a horrible tragedy that would devastate my world forever! How could that woman on the sidewalk just walk her little dog as though it were a normal day? Where was the death imagery and the dark symbolism? I removed my sunglasses to dry my eyes and confusedly drove home to make dinner for my family. Life keeps going on.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Who is Your Favorite Gothic Musical Artist?

My original copy of Master of Reality. The title has black raised lettering which makes it almost impossible to read in this picture.
In the fall of 1972 I started 7th grade which was the first year of middle school where I grew up. During art class one day a smart-ass kid trying to annoy the teacher who had given us permission to bring in records to play during class, put on a record which began with a strange echoing coughing sound. Some of the boys snickered (probably hoping for the teacher to be shocked and embarrassed or something to that effect) and I wondered what was going on when the most AWESOME guitar I had ever heard began to play and I don’t remember the other kids’ reactions. All I remember was a feeling of rapture and joy as I experienced a musical awakening I’d never known before. I was eleven without the benefit of older siblings to introduce me to these things. I hadn’t heard much more music than my mother’s Sinatra or my aunt’s Beach Boys. I didn’t know what Sweet Leaf referred to until a few years later. I was so excited about my new found favorite band I asked all the kids I knew if they liked them as well and was surprised at the negative reactions. In fact, I didn’t meet any girls who liked Black Sabbath until the 80s. Most people I asked responded by accusing me of listening to satanic music which really annoyed me because none of the lyrics on that album give any reference to being in league with Satan! Well, OK, “Lord of This World” has a single line (“The soul I took from you was not even missed”), so I suppose that could be interpreted as the speaker being Satan, but it could be any evil being! Come on! In fact, “After Forever” could be classified as Christian Rock.

I was thrilled to find that Master of Reality was their 3rd album giving me two other albums to behold and consume-or have them consume me. As unaware as I was what Sweet Leaf referred to, it, of course, didn’t occur to me that the song titles “Children of the Grave,” “After Forever,” and “Orchid,” are all gothic references. Even the band’s name, Black Sabbath, didn’t ring (or toll) a bell in my mind that this was anything but a gloriously superb new sound ravishing my virgin ears. 

Black Sabbath remains my favorite band and Master of Reality is still my favorite album. What is your favorite gothic band, album and song?