The Devil's Bleeding Crown
When I was growing up in the 1980s, controversies about whether a certain band was glorifying the devil—either intentionally or accidentally—erupted pretty regularly. Whether they were talking about AC/DC or Mötley Crüe, Slayer or Iron Maiden or Black Sabbath (or others), conservative cultural observers raised questions about lyrics that seemed to have demonic references or allusions. Concerned critics—often hailing from a Christian background—wondered to what extent such songs might influence or even encourage young listeners to explore occult ideas they'd never been exposed to before.
I suspect those cultural gatekeepers would have had a field day with "The Devil's Bleeding Crown" today. It's the latest hit from the Danish metal act Volbeat. The devil shows up here, as do specific references to other occult entities. And in the end, the devil seems to get the upper hand … or perhaps hoof, as we'll see.
A Different Kind of Spiritual Warfare
Volbeat lead singer Michael Poulsen begins this song with a description of demonic entities' expulsion from heaven: "Falling from the sky, they're cast out from the heaven's light." That dramatic opening line isn't too far removed from similar descriptions of Satan and his minions being booted from heaven in Luke 10:18 and Revelation 12:9.
But that's where any clear correlation to an orthodox scriptural narrative comes to a halt. From here on, Volbeat's story becomes one of the devil losing a battle … but then apparently winning against the faithful in the end.
At first, it seems like we've got good news—at least, it's good if you think demons are bad. "The devil's spawn no longer breathes," we hear in the first full verse. "Descending angels and fallen kings/Raise your hands, what do you hold?/The devil's bleeding crown."
OK. Honestly, that's not much to go on here, other than to note that the offspring of the devil at least momentarily seem vanquished.
But, wait. Not so fast.
The second verse sounds as if it could have come right out of a horror movie. A group of people huddle fearfully near a church, and they hear something scratching beneath them. "They gathered all the children outside the church/ … Close the door and hear all the angels scream/'Oh mercy, mercy, mercy, oh mercy, please!'" Then we get this chilling narration: "Down, down, down/Down below you can hear his hoof digging through the ground/Oh lord, oh lord/The horned one is back, and he wants his crown."
I think it's safe to say things aren't going to go well for those at the church.
Of Goddesses, Demons and Unhealthy Curiosity
Sandwiched between those verses is a bridge that mentions two other occult beings. "Call upon its father, bless the goat, the womanizer," we hear. "Take him to Astaroth, Inanna's temple of Uruk."
Now, unless you're a demonology and Sumerian history buff, my guess is that the names Astaroth and Inanna aren't going to have a lot of resonance for you.
But herein lies one of the problems with songs like these. Volbeat isn't content "just" to sing about a vengeful devil (plus his spawn) getting hurled from heaven, crawling up beneath a church and wreaking vengeance on the fearful faithful. Instead, the band goes a step further and names mythical beings that might prompt the curious to go in search of more information.
I confess it gave me a bit of a shiver just to do some basic research on the names I mentioned above. Looking up the background on a demon and a Sumerian goddess, respectively, (which is all I'll say here) opens a door to images and ideas that, frankly, I don't need in my head.
That's the concern that was voiced back in the '80s—that music like this possibly stirs up curiosity in dark spiritual things. And for a few folks, at least, their exploration may not stop there. In Christian parlance, it's just not fruitful curiosity.
But They Don't Really Believe in That Stuff, Right?
So are the guys in Volbeat fans of the devil? I don't know, but I'm pretty doubtful they'd describe themselves that way. Frontman Poulsen told Billboard magazine that the band's latest album, Seal the Deal & Let's Boogie, could be described as "spiritual with sarcasm."
In other words, perhaps they see these demonic and mythological characters as just "cool" stuff to build crazy heavy metal stories on. Which is exactly what many of those bands back in the '80s would have said, too. (Elsewhere on the album this track hails from, it should be noted, we get repeated references to voodoo practitioners in New Orleans and other mentions of gods and goddesses from Babylonian mythology.)
I don't know why the guys in Volbeat are fixated on digging devils and Mesopotamian mythology. But even if it's all just a dramatic story to them, it still has the possibility of stirring up unhealthy curiosity among undiscerning listeners, those who dive into these ideas deeper than guys in the band themselves do.
So even if the band thinks it's all just a fictional construct, we need to use more discernment and recognize that the spiritual subjects Volbeat is singing about here are serious.
An 'Eerie' Video
As for the song's video, it features the band performing in one room of a dilapidated house to cheering, singing fans. Other rooms in the house feature people engaged in a variety of disparate activities. We see a man training a boxer. There's a group of guys smoking, drinking and playing cards. Another room features scantily clad woman gyrating acrobatically on a stripper pole. In the garage we see classic old cars and a group of women and men dressed as if they've just beamed in from the late '50s. A voodoo practictioner ambles around as well, his face painted like a skull, as he ominously carries and strokes a chicken.
Through all these scenes wanders a shirtless young man … with horns. Eventually, he finds a crown and sets it atop his head, with everyone around him apparently oblivious to the fact that the devil meanders among them.
Billboard described the video as "downright eerie."
I'd have to agree.