Tuesday, 28 March 2017

The Case Against Satan / Beyond The Black Crack

Nine years before William Peter Blatty's novel, The Excorcist there was this, Ray Russell's The Case Against Satan. The latter will be less well-known, which is a shame because it's a damned good book. I'd be surprised if Russell didn't try suing Blatty; perhaps he did. His novel does, after all, feature a young girl possessed by Satan, exorcism by two priests and some extreme vomiting. There's also the conflicted younger priest who does not really doubt his belief in God but has trouble taking the idea of his horned nemesis seriously which, as the older priest points out, inherently raises questions about his faith in God. So the theological battle plays out. Possible incest, anti-Catholicism, the Freudian aspect of post-confessional behaviour by a priest and suspicion of murder are all features of Russell's lean but deep forerunner to it's big hit offspring (and film). I've not read Blatty's novel but I highly recommend this one.

From a fictional priest to Reverend Dwight Frizzell, musician, film maker, Doctor of Metaphysics and minister in the Universal Church of Life. Just what kind of 'church' that was I don't know, but from the sounds on Beyond The Black Crack I'd guess it was the kind of crazy alternative religion that sprung up in the 60s as a result of the need for belief of some kind, perhaps in UFOs, LSD a guru from India...or all three under one roof.

These tracks were recorded between 1974 and 1976 and they all display a bonkers attitude towards music-making, but a healthy one (to these ears) as opposed to the excess of drug-addled indulgence that plagued the late-60 into the 70s. There's no easy way to describe the opener, Black Crack And The Sole Survivors...so I'll just say it's something like a bizarre tribal ritual of whip-cracking, horn-squalling, drone...and vocal telling us 'No, man, we gotta go through the black crack'. Is the black crack a metaphor for some gateway to cosmic consciousness...'the crack of perception'? Who knows. Get It Out Of Your System starts as a jaunty, off-kilter marching band number before whirling off into barely organised chaos. There's a section devoted to turtles, featuring Nocturnal, a particularly effective, atmospheric piece in which the bubbling liquid may well be that of a mad sound professor in his lab. A freewheeling, daft, diverse and anarchic romp through the outer limits.

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