Occultism is defined as the belief or study of supernatural powers. The latin version being occultus which means hidden or secret. This has led many to easily associate it with psychic powers and the supernatural. Over time, it is no surprise to see occultism then being linked to black magic and demon worship. It has always been the case that we do have an appetite for this subject, and probably even more today, with numerology, movies like The Vatican Tapes (2015), The Conspiracy (2012), The Omen (2006) and Hellraiser(1987), games like Which Witch by mFortune and music, more specifically heavy metal.
Many people attribute the occult in heavy metal music originating from the debut album by Black Sabbath. Black Sabbath, who originated from Birmingham and featured band members such as Ozzy Osbourne, dropped their self-titled album on Friday, February 13th, 1970. The first track on the album, also called Black Sabbath, indicated what direction their music would go in, with church bells, a thunderstorm and drums playing a key part on the track.
Satan and Lucifer featured in the lyrics of Black Sabbath, while the album cover told you everything you needed to know, as black metal started to take hold. While many saw these bands as satanic, Black Sabbath wasn’t one of them, but they did provide inspiration for many bands and artists to begin creating music which represented the so-called dark side. In so doing, the band’s image became even more important in representing the occult.
It was in the 1980s where black metal and the occult started to take hold, with more bands taking things a lot more seriously. Venom, for example, used a lot of symbols in their album artwork to represent Satan, these included goat’s heads and pentagrams. Bathory, who’s name was taken from a countess said to have murdered young women to bathe in their blood, brought black metal to Scandinavia. It infiltrated the US too with a black metal group going by the name of Possessed representing occultism.
You could head back to the pre-Black Sabbath days to find other bands who were serious about the occult in their music, but they were lesser known and had a smaller impact in many respects. British bands Iron Maiden and Black Widow aligned themselves with the occult in their lyrics, with the former writing about all things evil such as satanic rituals. These groups weren’t as heavy in sound as Black Sabbath, but they were heavy where their lyrics were concerned.
You can head even further back in time to discover an American band who went and still go by the name of Coven. They developed a reputation for using occult lyrics in their music, with their debut album “Witchcraft Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls” displaying an image of the band making horn signs. They also made use of inverted crosses too, while their track titles left nothing to the imagination. You get the impression that the occult and satanism was all part of the act for many, but for Coven it was very much real.
While occultism had infiltrated music pre-Black Sabbath, they were seen by many as the driving force and the inspiration in many respects. Coven, who took the whole thing more seriously than others, split upon 1975 but have since reformed. Their latest piece of work hints that occultism is still very much alive in their music, and in heavy metal itself, with the band having a strong following around the world.