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When Music Conjures the Devil: Satanic Heavy Metal

Summoning the Dark Lord...

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  • Ghost live in UtrechtPhoto Credit: Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

Heavy metal and the Devil go hand in hand. For every outfit looking to shock listeners with Satanic imagery, there’s a band that will gladly lean into ritualistic practices in their lyrics. For most bands, it’s all part of the performance, in the same vein that many bands accentuate their dissonance with growls and screams. However, it’s worth looking past genre conventions, the surface level of imagery, and live performance, and you’ll find that there’s something there, something far more sinister and genuine.

If you thought bands like Cradle of Filth, Marilyn Manson, or Slipknot conjured the devil, bet you haven’t heard of these bands!


ghost band
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  • Ghost band

Okay, most have probably heard of Ghost. The Swedish rock band was formed in the early 2000s and quickly turned heads for their open worship of Satan. Though less authentic in their approach than some of the other projects on this list, Ghost became one of the most visible and successful due to their live performances. The band consists of anonymous members, all of them “Nameless Ghouls,” wearing masks to make them seem like acolytes for the Devil.

Up until 2017, their frontman donned the role of “Papa Emeritus,” a Pope-like figure with a skull mask and a full getup that made him seem like one of Satan’s alter egos. A lawsuit filed by some project members resulted in the reveal that Emeritus was none other than Swedish musician, Tobias Forge. Still, to this day, Ghost operates with a flagrant “Satanic” image where much of their lyrical content and stage show involves the Devil and all that is “666.”

Burzum / Varg Vikernes

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  • Burzum

From fashionable to a foundational belief system, we need to talk about Varg Vikernes of Burzum. Vikernes was part of the first wave of Norwegian Black Metal alongside bands like Mayhem, Emperor, and Gorgoroth. What set Vikernes and his Burzum project apart were his adamant willingness to inflict harm and full adoption of devilish practices that go beyond fashionable, bordering into the realm of adopted belief systems.

The murder of Mayhem guitarist Euronymous and his various crimes built around his music were chronicled in the film Lords of Chaos. It’s clear that Vikernes practiced what he preached. Over the decades since committing manslaughter, Vikernes has continued to write and promote his political and religious views. Much of his work has firmly cast him as one of the most alarming and infamous musicians. 


HIM band
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  • HIM band

Lightening it up a little, the Finnish band HIM (His Infernal Majesty) is a gothic rock band that conjures the Devil in a manner similar to the aforementioned Ghost. The band released their first album, Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666 back in 1997 which firmly painted the formula from which the band would continue in subsequent albums like Razorblade Romance and Love Metal.

Ville Valo, vocalist, and frontman of the band, sings with confidence and bravado, the lyrics to many a song, including early hit, “Join Me in Death,” leaning heavily into the pairing of sexual intimacy and Devil worship. Though the band moved away from it in later years, HIM’s choice to conjure the Devil was every bit a stylistic choice and one done as equally a throwback to 80s goth like The Cure. 


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  • Marduk

So more black metal in this list is a given and one band in particular deserves mention. Marduk is a Swedish black metal band designed from day one to push the boundaries of blasphemy. When you make the choice to put out records with titles like Fuck Me Jesus, you know what you’re getting into.

Marduk’s lyrical content readily doses listeners with the pinnacle of black metal Satanic imagery, offering anti-Christian concepts and a constant thread of Devil worship that causes a listener to look into their advocacy towards their underlying beliefs. Whether that is true or not, the band’s satanic strides have led the band on their own controversial career path, so much so that the band has been banned from ever setting foot in entire countries (particularly Guatemala). 

The Electric Hellfire Club

The Electric Hellfire Club
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  • The Electric Hellfire Club

The Wisconsin-based Electric Hellfire Club was one of the first projects to reveal that “extreme” music doesn’t need to be inherently blast beats, death metal growls, and outlandish attire. Fronted by ex-My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult member Thomas Thorn, the Electric Hellfire Club built itself around electronic hymns with sinister undertones. The band was openly Satanic, worshipping and conjuring the Devil throughout every song and live performance. I mean, one of their releases is called Satan’s Little Helpers.

Though they have since called it quits, Electric Hellfire Club was among the first projects that pushed the Devil beyond mere fashion that did not come from the dark halls of black metal. In many ways, the project was a pioneer for the work of Satanic shock like Rammstein and yeah, even nu metal bands like Slipknot, Rob Zombie, and Coal Chamber.

Infant Annihilator 

infant annihilator
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  • Infant Annihilator

And then you have Infant Annihilator, the deathcore band that pushes Devil imagery to the brink, so much that it becomes spectacle and parody. Just take a look at their video for the song “Blasphemian,” and it’ll make complete sense. Encountering the band’s work, you can expect to walk into the sort of devilish concepts and subject material like murder, religion, the Catholic Church, and mass hysteria. Still, Infant Annihilator must be commended for the sheer creativity of their musicianship and high-caliber writing, particularly the boundary-pushing vocalwork of Dickie Allen, who has conceived of new aggressive vocal techniques formerly unheard of. The band was built to provoke and to experiment with new sounds. You could say that other bands walked so that Infant Annihilator could run rampant with the Devil.