Selim Lemouchi, former frontman of Dutch occult rock group The Devil’s Blood, died last week at the age of 34. I am a great fan of The Devil’s Blood, whose song “The Madness of Serpents” I chose as the music for the upcoming animated trailer for my forthcoming book, Game Magic. When Selim Lemouchi agreed to let me use the song in the trailer, I was shocked and delighted. Shocked that a rock star (however cult or niche) would respond to my message, and delighted at how courteous and easy-going he was. By all outward indications in concerts and interviews, Selim was prone to some extreme behaviors befitting his status as an occult rocker. (He decorated his apartment walls in sigils drawn in his own blood, and he once assaulted a heckler who disrupted a concert).
But for all his outward darkness and the bleak reality of his early death, Selim Lemouchi’s music is filled with joy. Songs like “The Thousandfold Epicentre” (title track off the album of the same name) and “The Madness of Serpents” course with an infernal passion. His guitar tone, which he described as “high tone, low gain” rang jubilantly through the simple, driving riffs that he wrote on his acoustic guitar. Lemouchi’s riffs resemble those of Roky Erickson, whose tuneful melodies and soulful vocals Lemouchi paid tribute to in a cover of The Erickson tune ”White Faces.” And, as with Erickson, there is far more joy than despair in Lemouchi’s music. The joy may be dark or destructive or nihilistic, but it is joy nonetheless. Aleister Crowley once composed a ritual with the line ”About me Flames my Father’s Face, the Sign of Force and Fire,” and Lemouchi’s songs burn with precisely that Force and exactly that Fire. Lemouchi and The Devil’s Blood regarded their performances as rituals, and each of their songs is a prayer to a transcendence (or anti-transcendence) that longs to reach beyond this world into another one. In one particularly rhapsodic moment, Selim’s words (sung by his sister Farida) burst out into a spontaneous lyric cry for liberation through dissolution of the phenomenal world: “Oh Pralaya, let the thousand suns disperse. Free us, free us, free us from the chains of the universe.”
It would be easy to condemn Lemouchi’s death as a consequence of his beliefs: namely, the Satanism that lead him to worship the forces of Chaos and death. While John Keats professed himself “half in love with easeful death,” Lemouchi seemed to lust actively and avidly after his own demise and the end of the created universe. But I believe that the expression of Lemouchi’s beliefs, through his songs and the passion they emanate, were keeping him alive. Lemouchi explained in an interview that prior to the founding of the Devil’s Blood he contemplated suicide, when an otherworldly voice offered him “another option”–an option whose precise nature he chose not to share because it was, in his own words, “too personal.” But the gist of the message was clear: an infernal imprimatur to make the Devil’s music in the name of the Miltonic, anti-heroic adversary and the freedom that he represented to Lemouchi. One wonders if perhaps there was a time limit attached to this bargain . . . if Lemouchi agreed to stick around this world long enough to deliver his message and no longer.
Regardless, Selim Lemouchi was and is a great inspiration to my own discovery of a personal style in every sense of the word. I mourn his passing and celebrate his life.