Peter Bebergal’s Season of the Witch is the latest book that utilizes fonts, colors, and images that look like they could be on a cover of Creem magazine or a concert at the Filmore East (think Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl and The Second Sex by Michael Robbins) to come out this year, and probably the most appropriate considering the book is about the occult’s relationship with rock music. It’s a topic you’ve probably read about a few times before, usually either the stories about Led Zeppelin dabbling in Satan worshiping, the Christian Right taking on metal in the 1980s, or the famous story of Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil in exchange for a boatload of talent. All of these things fit into Bebergal’s book, but his background as both a rock fan and a Harvard Divinity School student make Season of the Witch more interesting than your cut and dry (emphasis on the dry) rock and roll history that connects the dots from early American history to the counterculture, to the present day where he talks about Sunn O))):
Their presentation, both in the titles of their mostly instrumental songs–such as “A Shaving of the Horn That Speared You” and “Candlewolf of the Golden Chalice”– and their mysterious stage shows, has invited speculation of all sorts regarding their supposed occult proclivities, and they have been accused of staging a Black Mass on orders from the Church of Satan.
Either by sheer coincidence or some bit of black magic conjured up by Bebergal’s book, I read that part just as I started listening to Sunn O)))’s new collaborative album with Scott Walker, Soused. It was my second time giving the record a spin, since I learned with Sunn O)))’s 2006 collaboration with Boris, Altar, that you have to let these kinds of records sink in. You listen once or twice to hear them, but you’ve really got to sit on albums like Soused for a bit, then go back and put it on, try to ignore it, and see what happens.
The only problem is that Soused is impossible to ignore. Walker’s voice is as lonely and haunting as ever, but it’s the horror house of sounds Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson make behind him, going from lo-fi slasher flick sounds to their brand of drone, and the sounds of machines slowly dying thrown in for good measure. Listening to it close to a dozen times now, I’m worn out. The whole thing is like this horrifying opera, hellish from start to finish. And although I’ve never thought or cared about Stephen O’Malley or Greg Anderson “supposed occult proclivities” that Bebergal mentions in his book, this record is perfect for any black mass or ritual you might have coming up.