Is Satanism In Metal As Scary As It Once Was?
Metal has grown up quite a bit in the last few years, and while much of the imagery has remained the same, even if it has gotten increasingly refined, some of the belief systems have started to gradually shift. One thing that we have increasingly missed is Satanism, especially the down and dirty filthy Satanism that defined so much of the 80s Satanic Panic (Dear commenters, I know that W.A.S.P were not actual Satanists, don't worry.) While there still are a lot of metalheads who identify as Satanists, the imagery and culture behind it seems to be a lot less shocking now. With the gradual mainstreaming of satanist ideologies, one has to wonder about Satan's place in metal in 2016.
I think that a large part of this is due to a changing perception of Satan in popular culture. Where formerly, He was reviled and hated, as a society, we have started to fall in love with Satan and Satanic imagery. In the subconscious, Satan has gone from being evil personified and instead become something of a cosmic rebel. There is something distinctly 'cool' about Satan, especially when we give him a Paradise Lost-esque spin on his persona. As Satan has become a more accepted part of society, and decidedly non metal bands start to feel comfortable using more Satanic imagery, that which was once special to metal heads is now much less so.
Meanwhile in metal, while Satan still has a prominent place it is often either hyper intellectualized o made into a joke. For example in the Goatwhore song FBS, Ben Falgoust's immortal cry of “Fucked! By! Satan!” is clearly at least a little bit tongue in cheek. Saint Vitus Bar features a shirt which says, “Satan Is Great, Whiskey Is Super” which I live, but I mean, come on. At the same time, Behemoth's The Satanist is a monumental work by any measure and it proves that even mainstream metal is coming to have a much more mature view of the place of Satan in our lives and the common cosmology. Even as Satan's terror starts to fade away it seems like more and more are starting to find the peace that his affiliated ideologies can provide.
Satanism does not imply being a metalhead, nor does being a metalhead imply being a Satanist. Given our previous points, I think it would make sense to say that metalheads as a whole have a much more mature relationship with Satan because they have been cultivating it for a good bit longer than most of their peers. Because of this long term relationship I think we've seen a normalization of Satan in metal and this has consequently led to a reduction of usage of that sort of imagery. When's the last time you saw cover art featuring Baphomet that wasn't a little kitschy? Metal is not over its relationship with Satanism, Satan has merely become something of an old friend to the metal community.
The idea of Satan as an old friend actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it. He's kind of always been around, your parents didn't like him at first but now probably have come to terms with Him and the things He used to do that freaked you out have either become normal or no longer faze you. He taught you a lot throughout the years, oftentimes without you realizing it. Now that you're all grown up you realize that you don't know where you would be without him. Sure, your relationship changed to stupid jokes and super serious conversations, but something about him still resonated back to your teenage years. He is in many ways our number one dude, the de facto godfather of the heavy metal world.
I'm not a Satanist by any stretch of the imagination, though I certainly sympathize with the ideology. I have always found Satan's changing role in metal, even since I joined up in the scene a few years ago, to be fascinating. Now we find ourselves perhaps embracing His Infernal Majesty's true and ultimate role in the metal scene. He has become an all penetrating force and one whose influence is impossible to underestimate. Satanism will never be over in metal, since Satan is such a huge part of what makes this thing move forward. The two are inextricably linked, and for the first time I can fully embrace that.