The Sin and Sacrifice of Christian Death
February 28, 2015
Being the Misfits fans we were, you would not expect Dr. Filth to get drunk and forget about the Samhain reunion show in Philly. I bought the tickets, he was going to drive. I did my part weeks in advance. He did forget, and no amount of phone calls could rouse him from slumber. He had the better car at the moment, and when I attempted to make the journey solo, all sort of rattle and light flashed across my dash. As an apology, he offered to drive to any show of my choosing and pay for the tickets. He expected me to pick Fear, who was playing in Albany with Blood For Blood the following month. We’d missed roughly 75% of the band who wrote “November Coming Fire” on stage together for the first time in decades. Dr. Filth needed to suffer. I made him go see Christian Death at the Trocadero, the very same club where we could have seen Danzig, Samhain, and AFI instead. Neither of us are old enough to have enjoyed Christian Death in those fanciful days of Rozz Williams and Eva O. We were happily playing with our Transformers and had barely discovered Weird Al at the time Williams was leaving Christian Death in 1985. I was searching for something when I drifted into Goth. I loved Heavy Metal before puberty, and I was a dedicated, leather-clad punk. The Misfits were the perfect blend of Punk and Metal in sound and image, and I wanted Goth to be like the Misfits. I bought a couple Cleopatra compilations with Goth’s coldest bands. The art was right, and some of the bands were okay, but I struggled to come up with any Goth bands worth listening to. Nosferatu were my favorite, but as cliche and predictable as could be, and were really just a poor-man’s Damned. Rosetta Stone wasn’t bad, and the only Goth album I still have and still listen to is their “Friends and Executioners.” Christian Death was everything I wanted a Goth band to be. They were irreverent, sacrilegious, anti-Christian, and leaning on the Metal side of music. The first Christian Death album I had was 1994’s “Sexy Death God,” followed by 1996’s “Prophecies.” Both were several years old, and I had 2000’s “Pornographic Messiah” not long after. That was the tour Dr. Filth was honor-bound to accompany me. In Europe, that tour was with Cradle of Filth, who Doc loved. In the US, Christian Death was the headliner, and the opening act was a goblin named Mortiis.
Mortiis is what got Doc to agree to the show in the first place. He had a strong Norwegian Black Metal phase, and knew Mortiis from his time in Emperor. Black Metal was long regarded as the most extreme form of Heavy Metal through the 90’s and into the 2000’s, but most of the OG bands were at least a little bit White Power, so I could never stomach much. However, we were both REALLY into Satan, and Black Metal loves Satan like nobody’s business.
Mortiis is at least partially goblin, and is possibly on the same family tree as Ted Cruz and Blix from “Labyrinth.” Mortiis is pronounced ‘MORT-is,’ but I prefer to say “Mor-TEES,” with a little bit of a hiss at the end. It sounds more appropriate that way. I can easily say Mortiis is the band I’m the biggest fan of without actually listening to the music. From pictures, it appears Mortiis have gone through several musical incarnations including punk and metal, but after seeing him live, I was never interested in listening to any of it. The version I saw was a strange ambient noise project where Mortiis stood nearly motionless on stage for half an hour, then pretended to murder a woman and throwing her blood all around. It would have gone longer, but the sound guy shut him off and refused to let him play another song. Mortiis was not amused. He flipped a bird to the sound guy and left the stage. Håvard Ellefsen is the only constant member of the band, the man behind the Mortiis mask he no longer wears. Until recently, Mortiis was the character that led the band. This makes me fear even Oderus Urungus would have eventually transformed fully into Dave Brockie had he been given another ten years. It was not always ambient weirdness for Mortiis. Ellefsen once played bass for Emperor, and was part of the infamous Norwegian Black Metal scene. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote an excellent series detailing the church burnings and murder perpetrated by members of Mayhem, Emperor, and other members of the “Black Metal Inner Circle.” It all fell apart after Count Grishnackh of Burzum doth slew Euronymous of Emperor in 1993. Mortiis, however, appears to have just been in it for the music. He left Emperor in 1992 around the time Grishnackh and Euronymous were committing the arsons. In the last years of the 90’s, the Internet was finally starting to catch on. Band websites were a new thing, and I’d check Misfits.com every few hours for up-to-the-minute details on new songs, or lists of band members that had quit or joined the band. The Mortiis website contained everything that would become staple to a band website: tour listings, performance photos, samples of music, and a contact page. It also contained possibly the very first example of a musician Internet meltdown. Mortiis had scoured messageboards for any negative mention of him or his story and collected them on his page in a section called “Rumors about Mortiis.” The site (probably Geocities) is long-gone, but the results can still be easily found with a Google search. Keeping wolves as pets and having sex with wolves are fairly predictable rumors to rise about a character like Mortiis. Same with eating children, and even the part about living in a castle in Norway. I can see why he would downplay gossip claiming he quit Emperor because his mom wouldn’t let him play in a black metal band. By his own hand Mortiis immortalized these whisperings that he once gave birth to a person’s grandmother. We should thank him for making sure we remember his real name is Bobo Trinkles, he has 13 toes and, possibly as a result, is a king on the dance floor. Valor Kand joined Christian Death with Gitane Demone in 1982 after Rozz Williams broke up the original band due to drug abuse and infighting. Rozz Williams left the band in 1985, and Kand took the reigns. Allegedly, he was supposed to change the name of the band. The first album is credited to “The Sin and Sacrifice of Christian Death.” But all later releases bear the shortened, original name. Demone split with Kand and Christian Death in 1989. Williams and his wife, Eva O, also formed a group they toured with as “Christian Death.” After a vicious court battle with Kand, Williams was forced to change his band to “Christian Death Featuring Rozz Williams.” The singer committed suicide not long after. Maitri joined Kand in 1992 to play bass and vocals. She and Kand have remained the consistent lineup of Christian Death ever since. I saw Gitane Demone at the Haunt in Ithaca, NY. Until Dan Smalls came along, the Haunt was the most recognizable name in Ithaca entertainment. It remains to this day an institution on the outskirts of town where the shows can be loud. This is not the original Haunt though. Gitane Demone was one of the last artists to grace the stage of the original Haunt on the Ithaca Commons. The bar was narrow and cramped, but the best acts came through. Dr. Filth saw Fear Factory open for Obituary years before Fear Factory’s popularity exploded. I saw Dave Brockie play without the Oderus costume in his solo band, DBX (featuring GWAR’s Mike Derks and Brad Roberts as his backup band, using GWAR’s equipment and notoriety to play a collection of mostly classic GWAR songs, but were not in fact GWAR). Every Saturday night was the best 80’s Dance Party in Central New York, every Sunday was Goth night. This is how Goth I was: I went there wearing black clothes, big boots, and pleather pants, drank rum & cokes and wrote poetry in my notebooks. I didn’t talk to anyone, I didn’t dance. I almost never made eye contact. One night, instead of Goth Night, Gitane Demone played instead. I’d already seen the “real” Christian Death by then, so I had comparison factor. Gitane was on top of her game. I don’t like describing a female performer by her appearance, but Gitane was hot and she knew it, dressed all in black vinyl. The Haunt was packed shoulder to shoulder. At the show in Philly, when Christian Death took the stage, Valor was dressed as a unicorn. It seems an understatement to say he looked absurd. There were maybe 20 people in attendance, and most were sitting at the tables around the dance floor. I made Dr. Filth stand in the center. I danced and sang along. He crossed his arms and stood motionless. They played some songs I knew, played some songs I didn’t know. Some could have been Rozz Williams songs, but I didn’t know any then, and don’t want to know any now. The internet was not what it is today. There was no Wikipedia for me to learn the complete history of every garage band to ever release a 7″. I always thought Rozz Williams’s Christian Death was boring. Until much later, I didn’t know about the bitter hate classic fans held for Kand’s work. I tried listening to Christian Death while writing this story. In the past, it helped me rekindle memories, ignited my love for the band all over again. I haven’t been able to stop listening to the Murder City Devils. Def Leppard received similar treatment. That did not happen with Christian Death. I haven’t owned any Christian Death albums in a decade at least. “Heresy” was the only song I could remember liking, and I found it on YouTube. It was awful. Goth for me was a passing phase, more about the image than the music. I still love the Punk Rock bands I loved when I was a teenager. I don’t listen to death metal anymore, but when Deicide or Malevolent Creation come up on shuffle, I still remember the words enough to sing along. My throat can’t handle the growl for more than a few verses. I still love Slayer, and I still love Metal. I don’t feel the same about Goth. I gave up on Goth and never thought twice. I already had the Misfits. The Misfits were everything I wanted Goth to be, and I didn’t have to listen to any boring Goth music to get it.