VENUS DECOMPOSING: From Before "Chaocracy" to After "Zoon"
...being your compiler's diary of the black unimagined highway from October 1991 to April 1996...

---written for KIA #4 by Paula O'Keefe (angelynx@spookhouse.net)
(c) Paula O'Keefe 1996-99-

It was a long walk, as long as Inanna's journey to the Dark City, and like her at every gate we lost something. Our naive expectations, our nostalgic hopes, our impatience and our closed ears, some of us our faith, some our sense of direction. We no longer knew what to expect; then we no longer knew what expecting even was.
We walked for years.

We had been two years on the road before we saw anything beyond dark sky and unfamiliar stars. "Chaocracy", presented as a sketch in progress, reached this place in the late summer of 1993. Our first stopping place, where we received all we would have to sustain us for many miles to come. And it was a shock; like learning there would be nothing to eat on the rest of our journey but cactus. The sudden thunderstorm of "Chaocracy", all racket and lightning and pulverizing force, served as emphatic advance notice that nothing was going to be as we remembered it and we might as well burn the maps then and there.

I well remember my first stunned reaction as it charged out of my speakers, bristling with metallic guitars, calling up the coming age of light and heresy and Chaos Visible with all its might. Grabbed in its brazen talons, dragged at speed through the scorching dust and thrown up against a basalt wall seven or so minutes later, I realized the scope of my predicament while counting bruises. I had agreed to write a review of "Chaocracy" for publication, the deadline was close at hand, and I had no wish to disappoint my audience, but all I could think of was that the bloody thing had scared me half to death. (I eventually wrote something slightly more lucid.) It could hardly have been made more clear that this was the new world: the old lands cleared, the old fields burned, the whole mystical dreamscape of lyric guitars and synthesizers and
deep Sumerian haze taken out with one tactical strike.

Thinking back, one remembers Carl's once-cryptic statement that Elizium had been the dream but this - his new work - would be the nightmare; "Fields of the Nephilim with the lights off," said he. One recalls as well Storm Constantine's review of one of the December 1993 German Nefilim gigs: "From the first moments we were informed, quite graphically," she wrote, "that Carl has turned vicious. The ascetic priest has transformed into a voracious warrior." Rather.

I speak honestly: it was a long time before I could say I liked it. "Heavy metal" was probably the kindest thing I called it. A roar of defiant anger, played at hammering speed and spiked with trite and noisy guitar solos, it was everything I didn't listen to. The very word "chaocracy" means "the dominion or rule of Chaos." But it was the only new Nefilim we had, our only harbinger of the future, and as we packed up our gear and headed on through the first gate I set about - of necessity - coming to terms with it.

Little by little I began to appreciate its intensity, its fury, as appropriate to an invocation of Chaos. (Which surely it is: "Let us draw substance from our shadow," chants Carl, "Chaos above me, Chaos beneath me, Chaos around me, and Chaos within me.") I gave the guardian at the gate my sense of security, and my fond hopes for the new songs, since the new terrain was clearly both unsafe and strange. But I found the thread of melody that slips through its tumult; I forgave it its unoriginalities; I reassured myself it had a niche or two where one could sit still ("--yet in despair we begin to see true light..."); we swore truce.

And a good thing we did, because sustenance on our road was hard to come by. We moved on. Rumors blew past us and were gone to the black horizon. Live tapes smuggled in from those German shows showed "Chaocracy" to be a fair but modest herald of the future; some of the new songs were even more steely sharp and violent than itself, others raised a ghost of the old beauty and grace. But all were ephemeral, offering little real news of the coming lands. With little word or reassurance, on faith alone, we walked
for two more years under the dark and ceaseless sky.

We mourned our loss; we grieved the passing of what we had loved, and the bitter fact that beauty is as mortal as anything else. We wondered - some of us, at least - why the creature beginning to stir in the silky cocoon seemed so well-armored and brimmed with rage. Probably most of us, angry or tired or sad beyond words, considered giving up once or twice. I did. And more than once or twice
- again, kinsouls, I won't lie to you -
I wished I had never promised to do this work you're holding now, because it meant the means to keep my promise was out of my hands, and I would have to wait, however long it took, for the Nefilim to do their work
before I could do mine.

But all that is dust now. Midway into the fifth year a shape at last loomed on the horizon...

It looked like another phantom release date, the next of too many, but this one was followed by a confirmation, and the confirmation was followed by the sighting of our next gate. On March 25th, 1996, we were met on the road by "Penetration," the first actual single release from the Nefilim. As vividly as a sting I recall the sensation of pulling it out of its overseas envelope, holding it unbelievingly in my hands, poring over its stunning, fiery Sheer Faith sleeve. I admitted to myself that I was afraid of it, that I feared the rough-cut force of "Chaocracy" would have matured into an all-out trained and brutal assault. But there it was, pyramidal eye staring unblinkingly out at me from (of course) its center, a direct and simple challenge.
I lit the red light; I pressed PLAY; I thought fleetingly of tourniquets--

--and didn't die. In fact I can say I was quite agreeably pleased...

"Xodus" was stunning, refined into virtually a different song from its live incarnation. It was thunderous, no less a juggernaut than its precursor or its live versions, but lo! the nightmare now contained a fiber of the dream; a beam of synthesizer melody, a remembrance of "Sumerland," shot through the powerful structure like a ray of light. That made all the difference to me. It gave the music continuity with its past, made it part of an ongoing process instead of a total rejection, lent it balance and internal contrast and crucial spiritual purity. My fear melted away. My defenses retracted like claws into my fingers. I leaned forward instead of back, and actually heard it. "Penetration" was less repolished, but clearer to the ear, and fracturingly powerful: "New body, new blood," indeed. Cryptic, fascinating glances of lyric and dialogue surfaced like leaves tumbling in swift water: "still we rise," "we welcome your fate," "exodus, exodus, reborn," "you have been chosen," and the unfathomable "What's happening is real, can't stop them... what'd you think, we'd just go on forever?" with a peal of bitter laughter. "24th Moment" - still an utter mystery. Choirs sing, women gasp and cry out, lines emerge from the smoke - "and we return forever...you know nothing..." Are we on the lab tables of the Sumerian Greys, undergoing strange experiments in birth and creation of which we're permitted to remember no part? Providing the earthly flesh for reincarnation of who knows what souls? "We are zoon," it breathes, or seems to breathe - unborn creations of weird science...a spin perhaps on the story we thought we knew, the Watchers as curious aliens, the Nefilim as their creatures handmade from raw protohuman materials.
We are zoon: humans were made not born. Perhaps.

Baffling, but not impossible. Uncomfortable, but listenable, and interesting, compelling enough to make its exploration worthwhile. Much, much better than I had feared.

So relieved was I, it was hard to remember that we were within one gate of the Dark City. I left my preconceptions and my fear with the gatekeeper, along with several decibels of my audio range, and we continued our journey. We were confident for the first time: if the confirmation date given for the single had proven true, the date for the LP should be true as well, and that put our third and final gate now less than a month away.

On the road, my fears alleviated and my ability to hear the lyrics considerably improved by studio recording, I began to puzzle what these new songs were about. They were as arcane as ever, certainly, but I no longer got any clear sense of context. "Ziarahs are all burning ahead, illuminating ways I've not dreamed before," growled Carl. "Eternals are inviting me in, I see images of you burn forever." Ziarahs? Were they perhaps related to the mysterious "lead me ciarah to the center of it all" on Elyzium? [Update: since writing this I've learned more. Ziarahs are brilliant solar-reflector-topped towers instrumental in the dark angel-worship of the Yezidis. See Andrew Collins' priceless From The Ashes of Angels and, believe it or not, Anton LaVey's Satanic Rituals.] --Was that first line actually "Endymion, magickal source"? And what about "Xodus"? "In the arena of light, we welcome your fate...let the dead carry the dead." We had here, I began to suspect, a McCoy advanced far enough in his magickal studies to need no more obvious references to Sumer and Cthulhu, speaking entirely in arcane imagery. And I began to suspect as well that what I would be leaving at the third gate would be my pride.

We Watchers to the Dark City came on April 22nd. Earth Day, but also the eve of St. George's Day, a sweep of wild license for dark creatures prior to the celebration of the famous dragon slayer of old Britain. Surely, no uninformed coincidence for the children of Great Tiamat ... The great doors so long under construction opened on the foretold date, and at the third gate we met not Neti or Ninghizzida but Zoon.

Zoon; from the Greek zoion, "animal," as in zoology and zodiac.
A creature produced from a single egg. Its plural is zoa: ZO-ah.
More precisely: a zoon (pronounced ZOH-on) is "one of the perfectly developed individuals of a compound animal; the asexually produced progeny of a sexually produced individual."

(A homunculus, perhaps -- a creation outside the cycle of sex and birth and death. A living thing born from the interstice of magick and science. It has been said that the deities of Sumer - who some say were actually alien intelligences -created humankind through genetic experimentation. It has as well been said that these gods or aliens were one with, and the same as, the angelic Watchers of Nephilim lore.)

Another beautiful, deeply-layered set of Sheer Faith artworks presented Zoon to us, and our first sight was the ritual-robed Aleister Crowley, making the Harpocrates sign of silence. The Age of Horus, the Crowned and Conquering Child...one is reminded that we stand in the fiftieth year since Jack Parsons performed the Babalon Working that was to hasten the new aeon. (and the album is dedicated to Scarlett, a name of no small significance.) So much material one can't read at once, at least not with one's conscious mind: bones, runes, rank upon rank of sigils and Enochian text, the OUTA and Watchman talismen, Sheer Faith's familiar pentagrammatic seal.

Again, with trepidation but now no fear, we lit the red light and pressed PLAY. By now the massive sound was no further surprise. Stormy, powerful, metallic hard rock, propelled by gunfire drumming, with growled and rumbled vocals harking back to Dawnrazor. The rumors of Slayer and Sepultura influence are
seemingly borne out.

Pulling the threads together as best I can, walking the halls of this Dark City, thinking and listening and remembering. Indeed it's my pride I'll leave when I leave this gate, because I've been proud of my studies and my understanding, and they're useless now. Little I knew or thought I knew about this music as it was, has relevance to what it has become. My work was maps and legends of a country that's now far away - the same maps that we burned at the first gate, years ago, because they were no use here. It's gone on beyond me,
and I can't follow it.
So what does follow is the best I can do.

(Inanna passes through the final gate and confronts her dread sister, the Queen of the Dead.)
"Xodus" is expanded and deepened from the single version. A soundbite (there are dozens of those) overrules the chant of "Rise, rise, rise," a male voice declaring authoritatively "We shall crush you down to a point from which there is no coming back; things will happen to you from which you could not recover if you lived a thousand years," but is answered by a triumphal roar, "Still we rise!" "I dream when I'm awake," it cries, proudly bringing its psychic gifts to bear against the tyrant - "exit rites, new altered states; in the arena of light we welcome your fate." It cannot be repressed, and comes forth: "we're born again...rise and change!" (Such is my bias: can't help but think of Jehovah, the banished Watchers and drowned Nefilim, the gifted, half-angel souls wandering the earth discarnate but immortal....)

(Inanna has no fear of the terrible Ereshkigal. Perhaps she knows why she is here.)
("we'll always be together, forever," a woman's voice whispers. And so they will.)
"Shine," a standout on the live tapes, is stoppingly beautiful: a beacon of black light, a mirror of ice, a hypnotic wintry paean to the Old Goddess raising Her to awesome but beloved acceptance. A cold and fearsome darkness yet a salvator from the soul's frozen misery ("Shine, enlighten me; shine, awaken me; shine for all your suffering, shine") - magick's ancient mistress receives the one who struggles through terror and the shadow of death to reach Her. "Bow before Hecate...She's gonna reach for the hearts of all of you," the song prophesies, but soothes darkly: "Be not afraid of the ways She brings; no, I'm not afraid of the way She shines."

(Ereshkigal fixes the Eye of Death upon Inanna, who is instantly transformed into a corpse -
"a piece of rotting meat" - and hung upon a hook in the wall)

"Melt," a strange, slow surge of dissolution, shapeshifting, Spare-inspired atavism ("as she crawls from my hands...her features cease to be traced...") with darkly whispered vocals-- transformation from flesh to spirit. (Inanna loses her identity, her very physical integrity, becomes not at all. Even Ereshkigal is shocked at what she's done, even she, and asks forgiveness.) Life and death are trodden alike, passion is raised and transcended. Lovers seem to trade bodies, mask themselves in each other's faces, give birth to each other, draw each other from lifetime to lifetime. "There's a stillness between the light and me, nothing but dreams and decay," the lyric barely breathes, "and the angel whose wounds are my lamentation...just melts away..."

(Ereshkigal contemplates her exquisite sister, the Holy Priestess of Heaven and Queen of All Lands, suspended in horrible death before her)
"Venus (Decomposing)": The central piece of the album, spoken directly in character as Ereshkigal drinks in her sister's death: "Venus decomposing here in front of me, close to me.." She circles Inanna in a fascination part disbelief, part possessive jealousy ("you are mine!"), part awestruck wonder ("she feels...still warm..." --one almost sees her breathing in this impossible sensation in her cold city of dust) -- in complete power over her yet already merging with her. The half-heard opening lines give us "forgive me as I have become betrayal...we are two souls in one temple...as we reach out I hold your breath of life..." Neither Inanna nor Ereshkigal consciously knew why Inanna had come to the Dark City, yet once she is struck dead their transformation begins immediately: "dreams made flesh," their souls joining into one, the Dark Queen becoming pregnant with the spirit of the Morning Star. "Dreams I will bleed from your heart," croons Carl as the Dark Lady absorbs the light of her sister's life, the room grows colder, they slowly, irresistably merge into one..."No invocation called me as I reached her from inside/love could have killed her just the same," she insists - nothing compelled her sister's death but their own inner need for wholeness, and she gives her half gladly as she drops from consciousness - "know my name!" They always have been the halves of each other - the erotic but innocent, radiant Maid of Heaven, and the haunted, withdrawn Lady of the Dark City - now they become halves joined together, each drawing from the other.

("Who has sent an angel for our requiem?"... as in the previous track angel = Inanna..)
(and there's a buzzing sound...)

Enki sends two messengers in insect form to the underworld to save Inanna.)
"Pazuzu," which was called "Black Rain" in the live sets, is darker and clearer than ever, a chilling, post-apocalyptic speedmetal snarl of rage at a decadent civilization, a corrupt religion and a "rain that eats the heart"; "black priests, black gods...a world of fucking hypocrites and liars!" spits Carl. Our old acquaintance Pazuzu, a Sumero-Babylonian demon of storm and pestilence [and the only such creature ever to become a star in Hollywood, being the possessing demon in the Exorcist movies. You may recall the very evocative scene early in the first film, where Father Merrin's archaeological team unearths a statuette of Pazuzu. As a sudden dust storm rages, Merrin, realizing something has come, stands up and faces a four-winged apparation heralded by the snarls and quarrelling of dogs and a rising wind. That's Pazuzu himself - the statuette used is exactly like genuine ones from antiquity, and the manifestation is quite what would be expected of him. Fine work.] rightly invoked to deliver deathly radioactive rains to a dying world. --He's almost welcome, so familiar is he in this black wilderness without sign. The cities drowning as "the rain like blood falls" have forgotten "the meaning of our minds", bowing to a Satanic (read: man-centered, man-made) god; there's a strong sense that they'll pay dearly for it. It wraps with Carl's favorite quotation from the "Chaldean Oracles of Zoroaster" --
"stoop not down to the dark infested world" - another familiar friend.

(Inanna returns to her beloved husband Dumuzi but finds that, unlike her sons and servants, he has been in no distress over her disappearandce into the underworld...)
"Zoon 1&2 - Saturation": the first movement is unearthly lovely, a moonflower vine in the charred waste, a haunting love song for adepts and telepaths: "I've been waiting for you, you're lonely/I've been watching you control me...I'm here with you, you know, no need to hide/lay your head in mine, just close your eyes." There's a sense of human trust and poignant tenderness in the midst of terrible, soul-threatening dangers. (But Inanna is changed: . "You're here with me again; out of nowhere/we've known my name/never ever be the same.." --reborn by mitosis between her sister and herself, reborn of herself, a zoon herself in fact.) The voice drops to a growl of indefinable threat/comfort: "I'm always with you when you fall asleep." Love turns to anger turns to hatred--

And "Zoon 2" comes up in a wave of Latinate chants, crunches, pistons pounding; filled with, crackling with, scorn and condemnation for fear. "You could have been, you could have been, the colour of your anger, your lust for life..." but instead you're known only by the fear in your heart. (Dumuzi --a smug, powerful lord in her absence-- stares at the apparition of his dead wife, a naked, ravaged goddess, surrounded by those who have come from the Dark City with her; the starkly terrible Annunaki, the Judges of the Dead, and the pack of galla demons who are there to carry out their sentence. She had the courage to face her dark otherself, die and rot to know her whole nature, yet all he feels is dumb terror...) "You only fear me -- tear you apart!" McCoy snarls venomously; and at Inanna's condemning word the galla demons leap to rip Dumuzi limb from limb...
(Inanna mourns Dumuzi's loss; with his sister, Geshtinanna, she strikes a bargain with the galla demons and Ereshkigal...)
"Zoon 3 - Wake World" is this album's "And There Will Your Heart Be Also," a resonant summation, strong and radiant, sung with rich purity. "As we begin the end, let us close the wound this time, my friend." A bond unbroken and unbreakable, a perfect world of perfect vision and pleasure. "We live together, forever -- every breath that you will take, I'll be... My name, my face, my spirit; I will live again, till it hurts to be me..." Incarnation in its pain is resisted, can hardly be faced; but "Zoon" slides into the closing track "Coma"
("--no pain, no feeling; and it endureth forever, those whose end cannot be.") - technical noises, as of a hospital or a laboratory, with a rising wind, and a door that slams shut with years of echo.

Ideas it suggests:
Incarnation. The nature of life experience; how it physically shapes form. Love, strangely enough. Souls not so much Gnostically trapped in their embodying flesh as traveling formlessly from body to body, shapes becoming fluid, experiences changing accordingly. Immortality. Spirits in flesh, and transformation from flesh to spirit. Maybe the Nephilim, maybe what they represent. Transcendence, certainly, vengeance possibly, and triumph over tyranny. Disembodied entities, thought to be stripped of all power, triumphantly reincarnate and roam the world, finding it darkly changed; they move in a current of powerful magick as we do in air; they make their pact with Hecate, queen goddess (like Erishkigal) of the Land of the Dead, to overcome the ravages of death; and lay themselves to rest in a comatose suspended state, determined not to lose bodily form again.
"That is not dead which can eternal lie."

But far more certain, far more important, overshining any of these trifling notions:
"The Descent of Inanna." The great transformational myth of Sumer and the Lady.

(Do I leave the Dark City now? I do; I'm finished here.)
(Who can I leave in the Dark City in my place? Paula-Isabelle, who I am no more.)
(What will I hear on the long road to the surface?
--The birds of a new morning.)

And now we are concluded....


Reference: INANNA: QUEEN OF HEAVEN AND EARTH, Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer
Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer, Harper Colophon paperback, 1983
Thanks and acknowledgements:
Bea John --for so many reasons, and she knows what they are
Andrew Collins --for the news
I couldn't have done this without you.

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