Historically, metal gets a bad rap when it comes to spiritual matters.
From the misunderstood Christian allegories of early Black Sabbath through the satanic panic of the 1980s and beyond, headbangers have been painted as theological boogeymen. Sure, a big part of the metal aesthetic is based in “evil” imagery and lyrics, but this is more often than not rooted in satire and rebellion against polite society. Theological Satanists do exist, but even that is a personal religious belief. By and large, nobody is sacrificing anybody to anything. If anything, the prevalent metal dogma is an encouragement to think for yourself.
More than other subgenres, death metal usually gets the shit end of the stick as far as spiritual misconceptions go. Because of a penchant for extremes, fans and musicians are regular targets of opportunistic politicians and pearl-clutching parents. When not aggressively demonized, the death metal community is often written off as a gaggle of idiots.
Morbid Angel’s legendary axeman Trey Azagthoth is anything but a senselessly evil dummy. Though he usually prefers to let his guitar do the talking (unless the subject is Sailor Moon or the video game Doom), on the rare occasions where he does open up he displays an acute understanding of the human condition and a deeply considered worldview on all matters spiritual.
In an interview with Sauli Vuoti of Imhotep, Trey elaborates on his philosophy (via BraveWords):
Q: In the past your ideas were connected to H.P. Lovecraft and such, but aren’t your beliefs actually derived from the Kabbala?
A: “It wasn’t so much HP Lovecraft, I was interested in the Necronomicon, but this was all more of Dave Vincent’s stuff. I was myself more into magic. HP’s stuff was fiction and stories, whereas I wanted to study Kabbalas, Indian mysticism, witchcraft, etc. But I was studying the foundation of these things, because there is something in common with all these things, there is something in common that really makes these things work, if they even work at all! I was only studying for that, and because of that, it gome some attention among our fans.”
Q: Could you explain more about what you feel about various religions?
A: “For me it isn’t so much about the name of the god or the religion, but rather the background and if you believe in it. It is about belief. It starts with believing and having no doubt, which makes your imagination and drive work together, and work together for some design, something we much believe in. When you put all that effort and power into something, it is going to eventually manifest. Our thinking is like an act or energy towards manifestation, so whatever we think starts to shape in eventually.
So I do think we create our own worlds, even if it might not be knowingly and absolutely wanting to do so, we might well be thinking about some other peoples thoughts and manifesting them. The interpretation of something being good or bad, for example, doesn’t apply to some certain event, because the reality is inside our heads, there is no outer reality. Even nowadays there are institutions that try to take advantage of you by telling what is wrong and what is right, but no one can really determine it. When we start to think ourselves, we use our gift, we have this energy inside our heart, and that energy is linked with all the energy in the world so we have a possibility to do whatever we want. It has to go through our mind though, because our mind is like a filter. Like, we have this energy, but our minds have to punch it flowing. Our negative thoughts can enhance the energy and defuse it or distort it in some way and produce unwanted results, but this is just basic Kabbala stuff. That’s what I have studied, not HP Lovecraft. The essence of creating our own worlds is what interests me, because it isn’t so much that things are happening to us, rather we are making this all ourselves.”
Q: Do you believe in reincarnation?
A: “Sure, I do. We put together our own vision of things, but the details are however defused so there’s no use talking about it, but the point is that I believe in the same things, but just in my own personal way and that is important. If we think about chemistry, there is no wasted stuff in the universe. There is nothing that would perish or diminish, it just changes form. It can all be broken down to energy. All that is living is of that great spirit, as I like to think.
Let’s say the universe is an ocean. And when we are born, it is just like a cup of water. Even if our minds give the illusion of separation, we are still solid, we are still of the same ocean. So I would go even further beyond reincarnation and say that the energy never changes, the spirit is always continuous. Our body perishes, but the spirit lives on.”
Q: I guess there are some differences in terms of your religious views inside the band, but how do you make everything work?
A: “Everybody’s doing their part, and when that happens, the totality works. We all think the same at least on some levels, so things work… Our concepts work with poems and stuff like that, existence and other related issues. Devil worship doesn’t stand anything else to me than breaking out of these paradigms, it is like rebellion, being free. What should we break free from? Like there isn’t something physical we have to break free from. The environment molds our thoughts, so we might think so, even if it is not true. Sin is not real, it is invented by man. No one needs to always wear some kind of burden. We are put here to experience, to create, there is no meaning to anything. Somebody can feel guilt because they have been falsely made to think so, so to get rid of it, they need to ridicule it, and that’s why they turn to Satanism and Satan. But they actually don’t need to feel guilt about anything. When you tear down all the bullshit, you can build stuff. I wanna build, not to rebel against anything.”