The theme of the Apocalypse is abundant in the fields of literature, film, and music. The end times pervade our modern culture as deeply as Christianity does; the human race seems to have a fascination with the end of itself, whether it be violent or passive. As I sought a topic for my Revelation allusion, I turned to the popular culture I had been immersed in. What I found was nestled away in my music collection; for this week’s blog, I chose to write about an album produced by the psychedelic/progressive art rock band Aphrodite’s Child entitled 666.
This controversial, nearly blasphemous album was released in 1972, only to be highly censored and banned from radio play (Vangelis Lyrics). This entire album is a musical adaptation of the Book of Revelation, with song titles such as Seven Bowls, Babylon, The Beast, The Battle of the Locusts, and Seven Trumpets. I figured I would break down two songs from the twenty-four track album.
Track four on the first cd is entitled “The Four Horsemen,” most obviously a reference to the four horsemen in Revelation 6. The lyrics mention the lamb (Jesus) opening the first four seals and the corresponding horseman to each seal.
The lyrics from the first verse, “I saw the first horse / The horseman held a bow,” references Rev 6:2 or, “And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow…”
The next verse mentions, “I saw the second horse / the horseman held his sword,” which is an obvious reference to Rev 6:4, “And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider…was given a great sword.”
The third verse’s lyrics include “I saw the third horse / The horseman had a balance,” referencing Rev 6:5, “…and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand…”
The final and fourth verse references Rev 6:8, “…and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death….given authority…with pestilence…” which the song interprets as “I saw the fourth horse / The horseman was the pest.”
The final lyrical interpretation of Revelation worth mentioning is a direct statement of each horseman in the chorus: “The leading horse is white / the second horse is red / the third one is a black / the last one is a green.” Obviously, in Revelation, each horse’s colour is listed, being white, red and black; traditionally, the final horseman, Death, is known for his pale horse, which can be translated from pale to a ghastly, sickly green.
Track six on the first cd, entitled “The Seventh Seal”, references the latter portion of Revelation 6, or verses 9-17. It features the lamb again (Jesus) as opening seals five, six and seven, and the consequences that correspond with each seal.
The first verse focuses on the fifth seal. The lamb opens them, and “We saw the souls / we saw the martyrs / we heard them crying / we heard them shouting / they were dressed in white / they’d been told to wait.” This first part of lyrics mentions white robed martyrs that had been told to wait even though they cried. Revelation 6:9-11 covers this imagery perfectly as it describes “the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God…each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer…” as they had “cried out with a loud voice.”
The second verse describes the various physical aspects that will come with the sixth seal. It describes a black sun, a red moon, falling stars, a trembling earth, and a population seeking refuge from hunger and thirst. Revelation 6:12-17 is the basis for this imagery: “There was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth…everyone, slave and free, hid themselves…calling to the mountains and rocks…‘hide us from the…wrath of the Lamb…’”
The final reference to point out about Revelation that Aphrodite’s Child used for this album is the title, 666. Known as the mark of the beast, the number 666 is listed in Revelation 13:18, “This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.” This exact quote can be found on the interior design of the vinyl album’s sleeve. In addition, at the very bottom of the quote, in parentheses, the actual book of Revelation is cited by its alternate name: The Apocalypse of John.
The more one listens to this album, the more one realizes how fascinating the book of Revelation truly is. Its imagery is so easily translatable to any medium, and it leaves a lasting impression upon its observer. Aphrodite’s Child did a fantastic job of capturing the spirit of Revelation, and one would not be able to understand the entirety of the album without having read Revelation first.