The sound of the Maryland rock outfit Clutch has been characterized as stoner rock, hard rock, funk metal, alternative metal, Southern rock, blues, and probably a host of other descriptions. They've been likened to classic rock outfits such as Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Cream in addition to more recent acts such as Faith No More and the Queens of the Stone Age. In truth, they don't sound very much like any of these acts beyond a faint echo, but the echoes are just strong enough to give their sound a certain timeless quality. Clutch would be considered a great heavy rock band in practically any era.
While singer and sometimes rhythm guitarist Neil Fallon's lyrics were initially somewhat juvenile they would grow increasingly witty and surreal with each album, featuring allusions to mythology, the occult, pop culture, and history. Beginning with 2001's Pure Rock Fury they would also become increasingly socially conscious. And then came 2004's Blast Tyrant, an album superficially overflowing with angry political lyrics directed towards the Bush administration and the War on Terror, amongst other topics. But there was an even deeper meaning behind the album, as its full title indicates: Blast Tyrant's Atlas of the Invisible World including Illustrations of Strange Beasts and Phantoms.
The album's inner art work features depictions of various mythological beings and events such as Cerberus, Diana, and Ragnarok as though they were extraterrestrial demons from other dimensions. Blast Tyrant evokes not just a struggle against the War on Terror, the War on Drugs, imperialism and the police state, but also a struggle against forces from beyond, which seem to be working in tandem their human counterparts. It is the Iliad for twenty-first century metalheads in which a pointless and endless war is waged by human beings under the auspices of powerful beings lurking in the shadows.
Recluse was especially struck by how many themes that have been chronicled on this blog, especially those concerning Sirius and entheogens, were addressed on Blast Tyrant when he dug it up again a few months ago. The stage is set by the opening track, "Mercury," where singer Neil Fallon proclaims,
"Daedalus together with Hermes symbolizes ingenuity, but in his case the accent is upon technical rather than commercial skills. He built the labyrinth... in which people lost themselves, and the artificial wings with which Icarus was enabled to escape by flight, but which ultimately brought his destruction. As the builder of the labyrinth, symbol of the subconscious, he might well... stand for the misuse of technology and for 'intellectual perversion, the power of thought deprived of its affective function so as to lose clarity and become quixotic and trapped in its own creation, the subconscious...' However, his achievements may just as well be conscious and motivated by an ambition which, because it is uncontrolled, leads to disaster. The legendary Daedalus is a symbol of the technocrat, of the sorcerer's apprentice with an engineering degree. He does not know the limitations of his power, although he represents 'practical intelligence and skill in execution...' and is 'the archetypal thruster, by turns architect, sculptor and mechanical inventor...' The living statues which he is supposed to have invented remind us of Leonardo da Vinci's automata: like his successor, Daedalus had as little luck with the princes whom he served."(Dictionary of Symbols, Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, pg. 272)
|Daedalus and Icarus|
He also name drops Roman gods that are extremely important to the occult. The first of these is Mercury, also known as Hermes in his Greek form. While most commonly known as the messenger of the gods, Mercury was also the protector of shepherds and thieves, a patron of boundaries and travelers and the supreme god of commerce, from which we get such words as merchant, merchandise, and mercenary. But most important, for our purposes, Mercury was also the god of magic.
"Cheth is the number Eight, which is the Seal of Hermes-Thoth-Mercury, the God of Magick. The figure 8 is, by shape, the Caduceus of Mercury and the emblem of Infinity...
"Magick is spelled with a 'k' because Cheth, its Hebrew equivalent, is the number of the Great Work, and the letter of Hermes, or Hermetic Science."
(The Magical Revival, pg. 22, Kenneth Grant)
Mercury/Hermes is also related to the Sirius, of which I've written more on here and here. Another figure linked to the Sirius tradition, who is also name checked in "Mercury," is the goddess Diana, also known as Artemis in her Greek form. As to her link with Sirius, Robert Temple writes:
"Aktaion happened to see the goddess Artemis (known to the Romans by her Latin name of Diana) of the silver bow bathing naked. Artemis then hunted down, with fifty hounds, transformed him into a stag, and killed him with her bow (not only are hounds connected with the Dog Star, but the bow is a familiar symbol connected also with Sirius, which was so often known in ancient times also as the Bow Star)...
"Not only were the hounds of Hades who chased Aktaion fifty in number, but Robert Graves tells us 'Actaeon was, it seems, a sacred king of the pre-Hellenic stag cult, torn to pieces at the end of his reign of fifty months, namely a Great Year...' Note the application of the number 'fifty' here to a period of time. The orbit of Sirius B around Sirius A is fifty years; the reign of a sacred stag-king was fifty months."
(The Sirius Mystery, pg. 150)
The significance of the number 50 to the Sirius tradition will be mentioned again over the course of this examination, so keep it in mind. But for the time being, back to the huntress. Diana/Artemis is a goddess neither the Greeks or the Romans ever seemed entirely comfortable with. She is primarily known now as the goddess of the hunt and of the moon. Like virtually all of the goddesses, she is breathtakingly beautiful, yet she steadfastly remains a virgin and dealt quite harshly with men drawn to her feminine charms, as the tale of Actaeon implies. In the album artwork for Blast Tyrant she is referred to as 'the Huntress.' She also has links to the labyrinth, which shed some light on her more sinister origins, which may have involved human sacrifice.
"The excavation of Knossos led to further discoveries on Crete and the islands of the Cyclades and elsewhere, from which a clear notion of the Mother Goddess in the Greek lands has emerged. Since she is the original deity from whom the women on Olympus evolved, through the assimilation of the Minoan religion by the Mycenaean Greeks, it is essential to grasp certain aspects of her symbolism.
"She is the Lady of the Pillar, whom we have already met at the entrance to the citadel of Mycenae. She is the mainstay of the enclosed space, for which the Labyrinth is one manifestation. When flanked by beasts, as in the Lion Gate, she has been dubbed the Potnia Theron or 'Mistress of Beasts.' The phrase is a quotation from the Homeric epic tradition, where it describes the Olympian goddess Artemis as a huntress. But she was a huntress only after her incorporation into that family as a daughter of Zeus, with her twin brother Apollo...
"The Lady of Beasts was never a huntress amongst the Minoans. She and the male deity who would later become her twin brother were originally Lady and Consort, Rulers of the Labyrinth, and their fearful and sinister identities as recipients of human victims there required the most strenuous evolution of myth to isolate the two of them from their Minoan pasts and to remodel them both into their Classical identities as the most perfect exemplars of Greek female and male pubescent youthfulness. Artemis, despite her sexual maturity, was even made into a perpetual virgin, denied forever her former role as Mother."
(The World of Classical Myth, Carl A.P. Ruck & Danny Staples, pgs. 30-32)
As a whole, "Doom" seems to be a put down of the Christian fundamentalist movement. The song makes multiple references to mysticism, even in addressing the origins of Americans themselves. Fallon bellows:
Track three is one of the better-known Clutch songs (not that that's saying much), called "The Mob Goes Wild." Its an all out attack on the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Fallon contrasts the corporate patriotism that bombarded America in the wake on 9/11 ("Streets on fire/The mob goes wild!") versus the harsh realities of the wars for those actually involved:
"The fifty hounds of hell who pursued Actacon have a counterpart in Cerberus, the hound of hell who had fifty heads in the earlier tradition. These fifty heads were later discarded in the tradition, like Gilgamesh's original fifty companions, and Cerberus was said to have three heads. But originally he had fifty, as Hesiod describes him. This thus yet another dog-motif connected with fifty (Sirius being the Dog Star), and linked to Sirius in various ways, such as through the goddess Hekate as an underworld version of Sirius..."(The Sirius Mystery, pgs. 159-160)
|Cerberus as commonly depicted with three heads|
As we have already seen ample references to the Sirius tradition in Blast Tyrant I do not think that it is much of a stretch to associate Clutch's 50 eyed beast with Cerberus, especially as the number 50 is crucial to the Sirius tradition (it takes Sirius B 50 years to orbit around Sirius A). It would certainly be in keeping with the other occult imagery invoked on Tyrant.
The next track, "Cypress Grove," (featuring the best riff on the whole album IMO) further reinforces the Sirius imagery. This track is blatantly about Diana/Artemis as the title indicates. Cypress was sacred to her while early worship to this deity often occurred in groves. Clutch re imagine Diana as a kind of stoner witch/drug runner in the ridiculously catchy and ever-changing chorus.
But things ultimately don't end well for unfortunate visitors to Cypress Grove, as the death of Sheriff Jackson and the final line about a "black plastic bag in the back of jacked up Ford" allude to. I think Cypress Grove is meant to represent the underground occult scene that has flourished in America since at least the 1960s and probably much longer. What's more, I think the 'Holy Diver' thing that opens each chorus is in reference to the legendary Dio track of the same name. Metalheads sometimes refer to themselves as holy diver in tribute to the Dio song. In the context of "Cypress Grove" the holy diver is thus a metalhead(s) that wonders into the occult underground and finds it to be a lot more serious than he expected. Fallon seems to confirm this interpretation in the final verse.
If the character of "Worm Drink" experiences a true revelation, then it stands in polar opposite to the figures described in the next track, "Army of Bono." Here, the media circus that turns politicians and celebrities into larger than life beings seemingly endowed with mystical abilities is thoroughly mocked.
Track 10, "(In the Wake of) The Swollen Goat," brings together the Sirius tradition and Bush-era fascism. It begins with Fallon sketching a pristine land that's ripe for the plucking.
It is believed by some scholars that the Mystery cult of Dionysus used a hidden entheogen in their rites."Like the ram, the he-goat symbolizes the powers of procreation, the life force, the libido, and fertility, but at times this becomes the likeness of opposites since the ram is a solar creature of the day while the goat, more often than not, is a lunar creature of the night. The goat is also the animal of tragedy since... the creature has given its name to an art form. Tragedy means, in Greek, 'goat-song,' and it was originally the hymn sung ritually during the sacrifice of a goat at Dionysiac festivals. Dionysos was the god whom goats were especially sacred and who made them his chosen victims... It should not be forgotten that sacrifice involves a whole process of identification. Dionysos himself being metamorphosed into a goat-god whom the Greeks called Pan. In them, the temple slaves prostituted their bodies to goats in ritual identification with the procreative forces of nature and with the powerful drive of life force."(Dictionary of Symbols, Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, pg. 435)
"The great mystery cults that coexisted in the ancient Greek world of the fourth century B.C., which we call Dionysian and Eleusinian, were the last frail outposts in the west of a tradition of using psychoactive plants to dissolve personal boundaries, and to gain access to gnosis; true knowledge of the nature of things, that was many thousands of years old."
(Food of the Gods, Terence McKenna, pg. 125)
The cult of Dionysus, as a mystery school, is the kind of secret order I was referring to above. They closely guarded the sacrament of their most sacred rites so that few in the ancient world experienced this sacrament, or fully understood what it was when exposed through the process of initiation. In the context of "...The Swollen Goat," we seem to see Clutch hint at the return of this secret brotherhood, with one of its key objectives being the suppression of entheogens, or the 'worm drink,' as Blast Tyrant refers to them. Black water rising, indeed.
"(Notes from the Trial of) La Curandera," the second to last song on Blast Tyrant, and the final one to feature lyrics, brings the albums entheogein themes out into the open. 'La Curandera' roughly translates to 'the shaman.' As the title implies, the song describes a trail for a female shaman.
The song lyrics strongly indicate 'La Curandera' was venturing to the 'other side,' most likely with the aid of entheogens. Entheogens have been alleged to be a means of communication with nonhuman beings for centuries, as I've chronicled before here. This would certainly be in keeping with entheogenic themes of Blast Tyrant.
And it is here that I shall wrap things up with a few final thoughts. In essence, I see the Blast Tyrant album as a concept album chronicling the return of the Sirius tradition and the attempts of its priesthood to suppress entheogens in a bid for world domination. As the song "Worm Drink" indicates, the kind of direct spiritual experience entheogens can produce in individuals is a grave threat to the Cryptocracy and their mechanical, manufactured 'miracles' that blind the masses. If people we focused on an inner spiritual journey, would they still be obsessed with TV and big box stores? Would they still be good soldiers and consumers? Blast Tyrant's answer seems to be a resounding 'no.'