The Satanic Mass is, in many ways, the true first explosion of Satanic thought, wisdom and magic on an unsuspecting public. Thanks to all the press for the first Satanic wedding, baptism and funeral in 1967, people knew about Anton LaVey and his Church devoted to the Devil. They’d heard audio snippets of his congregation shouting “Hail Satan!” LaVey’s liberating philosophy had been discussed in the interviews he’d given in print, on the radio and via television. But through this recording, Satanism was finally being presented by Satanists, and it was, potentially, a shot heard round the world. No one felt this as strongly as LaVey, who wanted the album out there, and fast.
In June of 1968, after considerable discussion, Anton LaVey signed a contract with Aardvark Recording, a small, unknown record company that was owned and operated by Al Mayle and Fred Kanzaki; their names appear on the album cover for the original vinyl pressing. It can be supposed that in order to keep whatever other business they were conducting separate from their association with Satanism, Mayle and Kanzaki decided to bring out The Satanic Mass LP under the label, Murgenstrumm Records. The recordings were made in the ritual chamber at the original Black House in San Francisco on Friday, the 13th of September; the second issue of the Church of Satan newsletter, before it was named “The Cloven Hoof,” announced that the record would be available by Halloween. However, ordering information for Church members didn’t appear until the February 1969 issue—as with most shoestring projects, customer fulfillment was probably a few months late.
To LaVey’s chagrin, wider distribution via record stores, and national publicity through magazine reviews and radio play, were even farther off. While Murgenstrumm did create promotional material that mentions Hector Distributing in New York, NY, there seems little evidence that the album was distributed beyond a handful of specialty stores.
In October of 1969, the eighth issue of the Church of Satan newsletter, titled “The Cloven Hoof” for the very first time, appeared with an exciting announcement. Anton LaVey would be presenting a very special recital at his mighty Hammond organ, leading the attendees through a series of carefully-selected compositions that would illustrate the power music has over our emotions. “The generation of emotion, being known as the formative force in ritual magic, is in no way produced more strongly than through the universal language of music. The very rhythm and meter of life itself is reflected in basic sounds which, when properly joined together, produce music. In this way music can become, in itself, the very substance of a magical ceremony.” This evening was to be a ritual, lecture and concert all in one, and LaVey’s enthusiasm for the idea was evidenced by the assurance that it was only the first, “in a series of magical infusions.” Here’s the tempting invitation to the event:
“The High Priest knows the sounds and their proper placement in order to produce such a working. On Wednesday, November 19th, at 9:00 pm, he will conduct the first in a series of magical infusions utilizing music as a vehicle for the transference of Satanic power. Dr. LaVey will select a series of musical compositions, arrange them as to their proper placement relative to certain situations and events, and through the medium of the Church’s specially designed Hammond organ, bring forth the music. Ranging from the celestial limits of sweet serenity to the grossest trumpetings of tyrants, the purpose will be to evoke the necessary emotions to open the gate onto varying existing frequencies. Do not expect a staid and brittle organ ‘recital,’ as this is not a ‘musicale.’ Expect to hear mergings of corny old popular music with Strauss waltzes, Mussorgsky with Sousa, the organ grinder with his monkey and the tigers crashing through the bush, the undulating pelvis of the burlesque stripper and the court of Louis XIV, the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer and the Plaza de Toros, a child leaving its toys for a journey to slumberland and the Circus Maximus, Harry Lauder and the Shadow, the entry of the Gods into Valhalla, and the barbershop quartet. In short, experience the magic of Orpheus! Dr. LaVey knows well the magic of Orpheus, and Apollonius, and Pygmalion, and this is the real magic!”
Unfortunately, this wonderful event never happened. And The Satanic Mass, while being sold to Church members via mail order, was still not available in stores.
It was November 19th, 1969; the musical presentation was scheduled to take place that evening. Anton LaVey opened a letter from a longtime friend containing a clipping from a current issue of Variety. Scrawled across the top of the clipping were the enthusiastic words, “You Are Very IN!” It was a column covering recent record releases with occult themes. Vincent Price’s “Witchcraft and Magic” is mentioned with its “history of the black arts,” as well as the Coven album with which every Satanist is familiar. The latter includes a “Satanic Mass,” with instructions, and this was really what made LaVey see red—because his album was not included in Variety’s column:
“ROCK ROLLING INTO OCCULT AS DISKS, NITERIES YEN THAT OL’ BLACK MAGIC.
“The recent batch of astrology records is only the beginning of a rock & roll journey into the occult. With Halloween as an incentive, the star-gazing craze has mushroomed into disks on witchcraft and spawned niteries with supernatural themes.
“The extension was logical. Astrology and fortune telling have been closely linked. For the latter, mystical tarot cards are often dealt to determine one’s fate. Naturally, then Tarot recently opened in New York’s Union Square as a new night spot, the uniforms and decor were tailored to create an atmosphere akin to a camp of gypsies.
“One room at Tarot houses a light machine designed to cast spells. Hypnotic patterns whirl around the room while slides of mysterious ladies with glowing eyes pop out of nowhere, all put to a pounding rock beat by live bands and records.
“The Sanctuary, in midtown Manhattan, was set up as a church of Satan. Plastic statues of fallen angels and flashing red lights simulate an inferno in the disco that was once a genuine church. The danse macabre continued at a Black Sabbath Bash at L’Etoile last Thursday when deejay Jerry King spun disks for patrons disguised as famous sinners, witches and other bizarre characters.
“Long associated with supernatural films, Vincent Price is now breaking into the disk market. He narrated a double-disk album for Capitol Records entitled ‘Witchcraft - Magic.’ The newly-released set contains a history of the black arts and hints for do-it-yourself spellcasters.
“A group of homebrewed witches and warlocks known as Coven now have a rock LP on Mercury, ‘Witchcraft - Destroys Minds and Reaps Souls.’ One side of the disk has various rock terms dealing with the occult, and the other has a 13-minute black mass.
“The text of the ‘Satanic Mass’ is printed on the dust jacket, along with instructions that warn against its use by ‘anyone not thoroughly studied in Black Magic and not aware of the risks and dangers involved.’ A few titles from the LP are ‘Dignitaries of Hell’ and ‘Choke, Thirst, Die.’ The combo, which features a femme singer named Jinx, has practiced witchcraft for four years.”
LaVey had done his best to get review copies sent out to larger record companies, their distributors and some radio stations, but felt strongly that the professionals he’d engaged to produce the LP had fallen down on the job and failed to respond to his own sense of enthusiasm and urgency. In magic, timing is everything—and the Variety column made it clear that they’d missed the boat. The last thing he wanted to hear was that he was “very IN;” he would have been satisfied with the assertion that he was leading a trend, but never wanted to be seen as following one. Anton LaVey was furious.
He immediately cancelled the musical event. In these pre-Internet days, this entailed calling each member who had reserved a space for this incredible opportunity, but this was also prior to home answering machines, so people would be showing up at the Black House from near and far and they deserved an explanation. What follows is from a handout Central made available to those who had to deal with the disappointment of this cancellation.
“TONIGHT’S SPECIAL MUSIC RITUAL IS CANCELLED.
“The attached clipping from VARIETY will give reasons why our special ritual scheduled for tonight has been cancelled. Over a year ago our recording, THE SATANIC MASS, was completed and ready for distribution. Before that time there had never been such a recording, and members of the Church of Satan felt much pride in knowing Dr. LaVey had once again created a ‘first.’ As it now stands, our recording still cannot be bought in stores — but there has been sufficient publicity on it, due to Dr. LaVey’s conscientious and enthusiastic promotion at every opportunity. OTHERS whose braggadocio far outweighs their talents, have been shrewd enough to pick up on his idea and have employed dynamic promoters to sell and distribute their inferior recordings. Incidentally, the ‘Satanic Mass’ and the ‘church of Satan’ [mentioned in VARIETY] refer not to us, but [to] others who have picked our brains. Many people worked long and hard on THE SATANIC MASS, which was done entirely as a Church project...
“...We are certain you who read this feel resentful that credit which should have been given to your Church is now going to others. But your exasperation is infinitesimal compared with our High Priest’s. Considering the nature of the class scheduled for this evening, we know you will understand that Dr. LaVey could hardly bring himself to perform a magical ritual which was to have included parts contained in THE SATANIC MASS, as well as many obscure and bizarre pieces. The procrastination of those responsible for distribution are also responsible for the cancellation of tonight’s special ritual. Most would attest to Dr. LaVey’s patience, consideration, ability to ‘roll with the punches’ and turn an otherwise disadvantage into an advantageous situation. And some may criticize him for lack of magical ability in this instance. But as you know, before magic can be employed, all logical, physical means must first be exhausted. In this case he placed the importance of his loyalty to those involved above his desire to see the recording succeed. There have been many confrontations in which it has been asked why the recording had not yet been distributed...and there were always excuses which he kindly accepted. Rather than admit to himself that those involved would let him (and the Church) down, he pushed it out of his mind and waited patiently. Dr. LaVey is not a machine and this has been most disheartening to him. Therefore, we trust you will understand and excuse any inconvenience this cancellation may have caused you.
“There is not much that can be done to repair the damage that has been done. And it’s unfortunate that this great a disappointment may well lead to a calloused attitude on the part of Dr. LaVey when it next comes time for him to to illustrate the patience and consideration which in the past has been known to you all.”
While LaVey was not in the mood to run this event or socialize that night, he did sit down and pen some notes, possibly for use in the above cancellation, and vented on the situation. This excerpt gives us a rare view into his thought process as it pertains to the movement he created. People sometimes ask how he dared found a Church devoted to Satan, how he summoned the energy and drive to keep it going. As you’ll see below, he never doubted himself or his sense of timing:
“Nine months ago I sat talking to a small group of people. What I had to say was predicated upon what I KNEW at the time to be magically correct. I suggested that copies of the Satanic Mass be sent to every magazine that had a record review column, for potential inclusion. I suggested that recording companies be sent copies. I suggested that trade papers be sent copies. In short, I suggested that ALL persons in a position to play, promote, review and/or talk about the record be sent copies. I was then informed that ‘You can’t do that because then all the people will come into the stores to buy the record and there won’t be any records in stock. We must wait until we get the right distribution. We must wait until we have a large enough stock of records to interest a big distributor.’ I bickered and argued and harangued for the better part of four hours over my point: that the most important thing to be done was to let the world know that such a record existed! THEN THE DEMAND FOR SUCH A RECORD WOULD NECESSITATE ITS VERY EXISTENCE! I suppose that now it will be said that I should have reasonably said or written what I am now doing and those concerned would have ‘understood.’ I knew every bit as well what I was doing THEN as I do NOW! The only difference is that others are prepared to listen and heed what I say now, where they weren’t then! This is what is commonly referred to as closing the barn door after the horse runs away! Now there are several new recordings on the market which relate directly to what we had done over a year ago, as a totally exclusive undertaking. It is to be automatically assumed that the public, if and when OUR recording hits the stores, will think we are jumping on the bandwagon. If I were a believer in astrology I would scream that my Aries pioneering nature was being submitted to the greatest of all possible affronts, by this total lack of recognition for that which I had spawned. Not being a star-gazer, however, I can only take great umbrage knowing that had I been heeded, had I thrown a tantrum, had I insisted that things were to be done MY way — WE WOULD HAVE A RECORDING ON THE MARKET AND HAVE BEEN RECOGNIZED AS THE FIRST! If this had failed to come about, then I would have had no one to blame but myself...and needless to say we would have been no worse off than we are now! The copies of the record that were sent to PLAYBOY, MYSTIC ARTS, and any others which bore fruition were those which I had to single out, insist on being sent, and in general spoonfeed like pablum in order to get them into the hands of the aforementioned. Why were copies not sent to EVERY major recording company? At least if they did nothing but copy us, we would have proof of having placed the purloined material in their hands. Under the circumstances, I truly feel that the record would have been sold to a major company, had it been handled with a fair amount of business acumen. I feel as I imagine I would have if the Satanic Bible were to be printed and bound and sitting around in some warehouse for over a year while everyone else published Satanic Bibles. Then after someone in the outfit found the key to the warehouse, allowing for the public release of the books, the public would say upon viewing MY Satanic Bible: ‘Well, it looks like LaVey has finally decided to print one about his church.’ There is no time to talk. There is only time to act. The post offices are still in business. The mail still goes through (at least occasionally). I want EVERY conceivable agency involved in media to have a copy of the Satanic Mass!”
I wouldn’t have wanted to be Mayle or Kanzaki that night. But as you can see from the references to the album producers, LaVey refrained from naming them or getting very personal with his anger. In fact, I’d say he was more angry with himself, for not pushing for his own agenda, for not insisting on his own vision of how the record was to be promoted. It should be remembered that this was all happening one short month before the release of The Satanic Bible. I’m sure LaVey was on edge about that, too; other references confirm how impatient he was for the book to appear.
After this bump in the road, LaVey’s association with Murgenstrumm continued on a friendly and businesslike basis. Contrary to popular fiction, Murgenstrumm didn’t originate as LaVey’s “private label” and the producers enjoyed their share of the profits from the album until signing over ownership of the company and its only title to LaVey in June of 1976. But The Satanic Mass album was never a runaway seller. After an initial pressing of 1,875 copies, an additional 1,000 copies were pressed every year for the next three years, for a total of 4,875. LaVey was probably right about the delay in widely publicizing the album:
“...the possible sales of our recording have diminished considerably compared to what they would have been when ours was the first and only thing of its kind.”
If you own a copy of the original Murgenstrumm vinyl, take a careful look at LaVey’s biography on the back cover. If it says he was a “physical researcher” (as opposed to psychical), then you have one of the original pressings.
Despite all this, The Satanic Mass album was always highly prized by Satanists and collectors, and new old stock found its way to occult emporiums where it did better than it would have in record stores. Herman Slater sold some copies at The Magickal Childe and when he ran out, negotiated with Central to collaborate on a cassette release for sale through his store and catalog, but this never came to fruition. In 1994, a compact disc version was engineered and released by Amarillo Records; a bonus cut, LaVey playing the “Hymn of the Satanic Empire, or The Battle Hymn of the Apocalypse,” was included on this version. Reptilian Records and Mephisto Media took the title over in 2001, initially releasing 1,000 copies on CD, and promoting it through Radio Free Satan. Adversary Recordings was born from this project, and moved The Satanic Mass to this label for subsequent pressings. They designed a vinyl picture disc and released it on Halloween, 2005, with a limited run of 999 copies. These later versions are now collectors items as well. The Satanic Mass CD went out of production sometime in 2009.
While the liner notes on later versions cite the influence this album had on heavy metal bands, their imagery and lyrics, there is no rock music here. It’s old-timey music, classical music, carnival music. It’s LaVey’s music, and it’s there to support and enhance the ritual texts. The original pressing admonishes the listener to darken the room, burn black candles, envision the celebrants as the Mass is performed. This album was meant as an experience as well as a revelation about the true nature of Satanism. Like the philosophy that spawned it, it works only for a select few. It would have never been a chart buster or top of the pops. But it did change the world.