Yesterday’s Saints “Generation of Vipers”
I need to start this off by saying that Yesterday’s Saints “Generation of Vipers” is ambitious concept album to say the least. It attempts to cover some of the most interesting stories found in the Bible and attempts to do this from the point of view of one of the greatest villains in literature – Lucifer Satan. This is a topic that some have spent years in seminary (or years of literary study for that matter) in order to understand and it’s still not without its controversy – even as an allegory. I say all of this to also point out that we haven’t even gotten to the part where people consider what’s inside the Bible as truth yet. However what Yesterday’s Saints is attempting to do in this particular concept album is ask the question (it seems) from an honest place. Who or what is Satan and more importantly does this, ultimately, make him a hero or a villain? That’s what makes this an interesting album to explore because it presents some tough questions for believers and nonbelievers alike. I wouldn’t consider it canon, but I like how it considers some of the Biblical mythology either found in other narratives from writers like Milton, who penned “Paradise Lost” or other texts as a jumping off point to begin this discussion. If nothing else, this is definitely an epic attempt to continue the narrative – even for metal.
The album begins with the war in heaven where Lucifer is cast out of heaven. This part comes straight out of the book of Isaiah where Satan and a third of the angels are cast out of heaven in a battle that was the result, at least in part, from what is known as Lucifer’s five “I will” statements in which Lucifer declares the following, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” The band covers this and adds the idea that Satan not only desires to ascend, but to ascend with malice using the Latin “I am coming for you” as a lyrical cry for war. When you dig deeper, the idea of what causes the fall of a third of the angels is a fascinating story to say the least and lead vocalist/lyricist Matt Rice begs us to do our own research on this too (which I have). Trust me when I say that the story is much more complicated than even this Yesterday’s Saints album can capture in three acts though I applaud their efforts just the same. If you like melodic doom metal, act one (and the rest of the album) is a sonic treat and takes us on a ride down the rabbit hole that even gives a slight nod to a similar concept-like album effort by Venom back in the eighties.
Act II is where the album takes a few liberties that aren’t exactly biblical in origin, but fascinating in its attempt to explain that the origin of Satan’s seed may have come from a union between Eve and Satan resulting in Cain. In case you’ve ever wondered where this idea comes from, it was taken in part from the Gnostic Gospel of Philip, which first appears around the 3rd Century AD and the idea is also presented in Jewish Midrashic texts much later. Regardless of what you might think you know about this topic, this is the leaping off point and Rice suggests that being Satan’s seed might be why Cain’s temperament and ambitions as some of the reasons why he would kill his brother. Regardless, some of these acts would lead to why he is banished into the wasteland by God. It certainly isn’t word for word what’s presented in the books of Genesis (or even the Biblically endorsed books of Enoch, The Book of Jubilees or The Book of Jasher) but it’s worth exploring – if only to understand how to follow the narrative of this particular album into Act III. After all, where would the seed come from, how would they survive and why does this even matter?
Act III is by far the most intriguing part about this album. Act III explores not just how evil survives, but how that seed (of evil) has survived throughout history. Act III does jump around and assumes the previous logic of how Satan’s seed survives the flood by possessing serpents and surviving the flood by hiding in the earth. It even presumes that seed is recognizable as John the Baptist calls them out by name as “vipers.” Satan also survives in literature and as Rice also asserts in the hearts and minds of figures in history from Templars, Kings (Vlad the Impaler) and seers (like Nostradamus). Apparently Rice suggests that all of this resonates as man continues to dream about ascension into the heavens. Thematically and eerily similar to Lucifer’s original declaration of his five I wills. “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” It might be Rice’s theory that Mankind continues to dream Lucifer’s dream even today. I would say the ideas in this album are worth exploring and even worth a listen. After all, it might be a good way to begin the discussion about God, the Devil and Mankind and how those ideas might still be relevant in the modern era.