You may be familiar with SickTanicK from his track “Path of Initiation” on the very first anthology album, Magick, Music and Ritual 1, back in Dec 2011. What you may not know is that he is the owner of and producer behind Serial Killin Records, an internationally known record label, and has been a great help to me personally with both advice and help preparing the physical releases of the Hermetic Library Albums from the Anthology Project. I have had a chance to listen to previews of his new album in order to get a taste, but was sent a copy of the entire work, for the Reading Room, to check out.
work that is not only informed by an actual and authentic esoteric practice, but that encourages the same in others
Prior to the release, SickTanicK developed a month long ritual which he sent out to people that had pre-ordered particular combo offers. What SickTanicK created was written as a self-initiatory ritual, and a chance to experience actual ritual work, for those who wanted to participate. This is art that attempts to engage with the audience with a particular ceremonial work for a particular period of time. That’s a taste of the magical oath one might make to undertake a particular personal esoteric practice which is something quite interesting to see part of a commercially released collection of music. It is perhaps easy to become jaded about the state of not only the general Western culture of passive consumption, but also how most entertainments which purport to be esoteric or occult really offer only the forms and trappings instead of something authentic. Here’s an artist who is developing work that is not only informed by an actual and authentic esoteric practice, but that encourages the same in others. I find this invitation to a real world practice both compelling and refreshing. This is an album release that is not just something to passively listen to but is something that suggests that there is a real current of actual esoteric work in which the listener and audience is invited to take part.
calls out the Horrorcore genre, sideshow barkers and those who wanna-appear-to-be
There’s a difference between seemingly prevalent and pervasive stage occultism and what is going on here. I think stage occultism is a form of play that tends to take itself too seriously, when it seems so obviously ridiculous. But it would be a mistake to see the work of SickTanicK in general and this album in specific in the same light. What I see here is someone who is a serious and active practitioner taking a genre and twisting it into something self-consciously over the top in order to both criticize the work of stage occultism but also to have a raucous load of fun exploring music and words inspired by actual occult practice. The highest expression of this here is the track “Occult Rap” which even points out this is “a step beyond theatrics” and calls out the Horrorcore genre, sideshow barkers and those who wanna-appear-to-be. It also recognizes an ongoing process of personal development, which is more self-aware than one would expect from the overall genre.
I also recall a personal anecdote that SickTanicK posted about how he ritualized the intense work of recording the tracks on this album. SickTanicK has posted in the past a bit about how he prepares to record these by anointing himself with Abramelin oil, including his lips; that the burning sharpness of the oil on his lips helps to intensify the work of recording the lyrics. This album is not only the work of an active ritualist, but is the product of an extended personal ritual operation. This album is itself a magickal working by an active and authentic ceremonial magician.
That’s engaging not only with a personal practice of occultism, but also with the community. It’s a kind of hard work, personal integrity and public outreach that should be recognized, encouraged and participated in.
I’m not saying there’s no showmanship here. There’s definitely showmanship. I’m just saying that what may appear to be the same superficial showmanship seen from others is here rather more than that. This is someone playing around seriously, not merely hiding behind or making fun of the superficial and of stereotypes. SickTanicK, while reveling in them, is reclaiming and transmuting them into a kind of sacrament … or at least an appetizer to whet the appetite for those who may have a taste for more and to amuse those who are already in the know.
Okay, okay, look, there’s plenty of genre braggadocio here, and I have to admit that rap is not nearly my own genre of choice. In fact, I’ve struggled on occasion to appreciate the rap genre at all. But I’ve come to realize aspects of rap culture that are timeless and cross-cultural. Performative and antagonistic poetry throughout history has often been a kind of battle in another venue, part of the guest-host relationship within the bonds of hospitality. An interesting exploration of the place of the performance of poetry within the culture of hospitality can be found in Calvert Watkins’ How To Kill A Dragon. You may be interested in the diverse examples of bardic battles, which you may have previously experienced or could explore an easily accessible comparative cinema survey through Beowulf, 8 Mile and Paris Is Burning. There is a form of competitive poetry in many cultures through time, from the past to the current day. This is as much to say, you may want to consider rap in general, and this album in specific, even if you have not appreciated the genre in the past. This work may be relevant to you if you are an esotericist and, if like me, you’ve had trouble approaching rap in general, it may just change your mind, even a little bit, about the genre overall. The work of SickTanicK is not only good, but, in this way, perhaps also good for you.
an authenticity of voice and a depth of feeling
This album seems to me to have a diversity of structure, tempo and construction that one might not find on an album by another artist in the overall genre. This is not a monotone monolith of one-hit consumerism, but offers a varied presentation from a mature and confident genre artist. Stylistically, the album ranges quite a bit. For example there’s a kind of electronica dance beat in the track “Antithetical”. There’s digital samples in some. There’s straight up rap. This variety keeps the work from becoming a monotone riot by building in changes of beat, tone and style; within certain obvious limits. As you might expect this work is charged with religious, sexual and violent imagery; but, this is not entirely for its own sake but rather is in service to the whole. This is definitely within the overall genre, however it has an authenticity of voice and a depth of feeling that make it more than mere commercial artistry. This is clearly a work of intentional and very personal art.
Themes in SickTanicK’s Chapter 3 seem to me to be quite heavily inspired and a personal response to both chapter 3 of the Book of the Law, where there are themes of war and conflict with slave religions, and to an experience of the third degree in initiatory system of Ordo Templi Orientis, which Aleister Crowley writes in Magick without Tears is where one “experiences Death” on the Path in Eternity. SickTanicK seems to be expressing a great deal of self-interrogation and exploring that journey here in his music.
The album does reveal a kind of narrative progression with themes that build and thread through from track to track. This narrative cohesion is especially strong in the first half of the album. The lyrics throughout are heavily inspired by apocalyptic imagery, with both inspirations from Revelations and, as one might expect, Liber AL vel Legis and Thelema.
charged with religious, sexual and violent imagery
There is cathedral of the mind created here, but it is the a diorama of a bombed out church, a fiery apocalyptic scene of conflict. Elements of this structure are mentioned across various tracks, such as the steeple, stained glass, and so forth. This imaginary place of ruin is evoked throughout, and we are, in a way, given a tour of the physical and ideological wreckage; and perhaps challenged to decide what to do next. Can you, will you survive on your own ability and merits in this new landscape? This work is charged with religious, sexual and violent imagery; and a there is a constant sense of a challenge being given. There are consistent themes that weave through this work, foreshadowing subsequent and echoing previous tracks, of religion, war, sex, violence and the identity of the Occult Rap genre.
The first track “Prelude to War” is a vocal invocation, a the marker that signals the ritual has begun, we’ve entered the liminal space where the experience will take place. “Sign of Hate” features a voice processed as if in a old time mic, on the bandstand, at a rally where the so-far silent crowd gathers. The beat of a gothic organ creates a distinctly religious sense of place. “Now is the time” confirms that the ritual space has been created, and the lyric speaks of purity necessary to continue. Once the circle is cast, this is a banishing. SickTanick speaks of forsaking the listener, and that the listener must stand on their own, a recurring theme, especially in the beginning, of struggle for liberty and freedom for self. This language of religious autonomy and purity leads to the track “Hericide”, which jumps into what appears the track most strongly inspired by another chapter 3, that of Liber Al vel Legis; calling for the abandonment of the old religions, in particularly violent and charged lyrics, the religions of the slave gods. This is a kind of inversion that speaks strongly to one of the more difficult aspects of Liber Legis, one that most people struggle with, but is an essential aspect of the Thelemic current.
Tracks like “Hericide”, “No God But Man”, “Sic Semper Tryannis”, “Salvation” and many others have themes of the divinity of man and iconoclasm toward the past, other religions. “No God But Man” continues the warlike theme with a marching drum, and a ghastly echoing chorus, with direct quotes from Liber AL vel Legis. “Sic Semper Tyrannis” has a glitchy noise beat and imagines a tough new world for those who have passed the test of the previous track with themes of life and death. Many tracks like “Promised Land” speak of opposition to slave religions. With a slightly industrial beat, this track speaks of Jerusalem and the temple. From the church to the priest, “Edict of Grace” and many early tracks are call to action against religions of the past, with a slightly industrial beat, sliding into a bit of glitch.
For me two of the stand out tracks are “Antithetical” and “Occult Rap” which are thematically linked in creating an identity for the genre Occult Rap. “Antithetical”‘s electronica beat underscores lyrics which seem heavily inspired by Revelations, and a litany, almost a negative confession, of identity; and it is probably this track’s lyrics which grabbed my attention most on my first listen to this album. Then, “Occult Rap”, a key track on this album, speaks directly to the identity formation for the sub-genre Occult Rap. There are hints of this theme in other tracks as well, so this is a strong one through the entire work. But this track is the primary place where the performative and combative poetry of rap seems most clearly represented. SickTanicK is creating the identity of a sub-genre here in parallax.
At first, with the track “I AM” I thought this was going to be a dialogue with an archaic idea of God and busted up laughing at “without your mother around” as an indictment over the loss of divine feminine in Christianity. Of course, one can always explore interpretations and allegory, but this track turns out primarily to be a dialogue of self with past self. Interrogating the self is an incredibly important part of the process of progress in any endeavour, but is a practical and particular aspect of keeping a record of one’s magical work. The call to examine one’s past is to engage in the process of initiation, to become a “new creation”. In this Western culture we tend to do a lot of comparison of our progress, status and state to that of others, essentially enacting and internalizing a competition with others. However, there’s an important place for reflective practice. There’s a comparison of the self with the self through time, and in a modern practice one place that is embodied is in the practice of magical journal, a journal which can be reviewed for patterns and changes over and through time. In part, this track reminds me of that reflective practice of looking back and comparing the self to the self.
The first video for this album is the track “Faust”, a about yearning for understanding, and sacrifice for answers, with a bit of a twist on the typical Faustian narrative. Especially strong as a track, the video is also worth checking out as an example of visuals being associated with the lyrics.
There are quite a few tracks here and some interesting diversity can be found. To point out a few others, “Final Graven Kiss” is a peculiar song of love and devotion, with plenty of sex and hate, but still; “AmeriCUNT” is a libertarian commentary on self-indulgent socioeconomics and politics; and there’s even a cover of “Wish” from Nine Inch Nails as the final track to round out the album.
SickTanicK is the Illuminati’s own Aesop Rock
As I’ve listened to the entire album, I’ve found even the tracks that at first seemed not quite to my taste have something about them that strikes me as compelling. There’s something in each track that catches me, brings me back to an appreciation for the track and the whole. Primarily and consistently this is through a particular lyric that grabs my attention back. Even on my least favourite track there’s some lyric with language that makes me giddy. This album offers something unique and has a variety of production, all of which injects something new into the genre. Which is as much to say this album could very well be SickTanicK’s Bazooka Tooth and that perhaps SickTanicK is the Illuminati’s own Aesop Rock.