Monday, 21 June 2010

"Who's rocking the cradle, if he is not?"

Apropos of things Satanic, metaphysical and whatnot... Last week while I was writing my post, I put on Bruce Dickinson's album The Chemical Wedding from 1998 for inspirational purposes, and this week I figured I would spend a few lines on that album. After all, that album and I do have a history.

For some reason or another, I was never really an Iron Maiden fan in my youth (I am one since a little more than a decade, but that is slightly beside the point), in fact, I don't think I had properly crossed paths with their music and therefore I had no real in-depth idea of who Bruce Dickinson was when a good friend introduced me to The Chemical Wedding late in 1998 or early in 1999. However, I took to the album instantly. Heavily influenced by William Blake (a poet whose work I really enjoy), Dickinson's lyrics drew me in and captured my full attention, introducing me to one of the best vocal powerhouses in the metal field in the process.

In fact, it was Dickinson's rejoining Maiden in spring 1999 and my joining my friend for the Göteborg leg of the ensuing tour that lay the foundation for my huge appreciation for Iron Maiden's music. I followed the voice, as it were, and it has not disappointed me thus far.

But I digress. While a long-standing relationship to both Dickinson's and Maiden's music would follow, I had no idea of that at the time, and last week's umpteenth revisit to this little musical and lyrical world (while typing away at "Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell"), which has prompted this week's session, sent me back to those early days in some ways (as so often). Because, of course, as I confessed last week, I do appreciate Satanic literature and what Dickinson does on this album, lyrically speaking, definitely (at least in part) qualifies within a tradition of Satanic poetry, walking in Blake's literary (and metaphysical) footsteps as it were.

While I like the album as a whole, there is one song especially which stands out in terms of literary Satanism, and that is "Killing Floor" with its haunting opening lines:
So this is dreamtime, and all is quiet
So this is dreamtime, and all is night
You've never been held by the hand of God
Who's rocking the cradle, if he is not?
The second stanza (or verse if you want to use musical terminology rather than literary) then in some sense answers this question posed at the end of the first one:
He turned the oil into his blood
Panzer divisions burning in the mud
The stain of freedom, he's washed it out
Who's rocking the cradle, I have no doubt
Satanic? I would say so. There is something disturbing (in a nigh metaphorical sense, I stress, as I reiterate my secular stance, taken in the preceding post) going on here, displacing the notion of divine authority and replacing it with something else.

The following stanzas (bridge and chorus, musically speaking) almost complete the lyric in terms of contents (textually and musically everything except the answering second stanza is repeated); I say almost because there are some subtle, yet important, changes to the first two lines of the first stanza when they are repeated (shifting "So this is dreamtime, and all is quiet / So this is dreamtime, and all is night" into "So now it's dreamtime for you tonight / So now it's dreamtime, and all is quiet" (emphases mine)). Most importantly the remaining stanzas bring up a sense of "The darker side of ecstasy" and the fact that "Satan has left his killing floor" (presumably Hell) and that "his fires burn no more," suggesting to me a Satan free from Hell and loose on earth. Yet also, given the first two stanzas, perhaps it is also a statement that this is the only (faux) authoritative presence the world has to offer (in a metaphysical sense).

Perhaps this in itself is merely a metaphysical or existential re-conceptualisation of what the Bard once wrote as part of another rather (albeit faux) Satanic speech: "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, / But in ourselves" (Julius Caesar, Act I, Scene ii: 140-141).

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