Dante’s Inferno

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Art by Klaudia Bezak

 

Journey with us into Dante’s Inferno!

The story behind our “Pass the Gates EP” & “INFERNO” Album.

 

Greetings friend, guessing you’ve heard of Dante’s Inferno? It’s a Masterpiece, and is widely considered to be one of the greatest works of world literature. It was written between 1308-1320 by ‘the supreme poet’ Dante Alighieri. Being a lover of history and all things dark this book was on my radar for some time and soon became the inspiration and topic for 2nd album “INFERNO” & the Prequel EP “Pass the Gates”. The goal was to create another conceptual album and give Dante’s Inferno a Soundtrack, a song for each level (circle) of the Inferno! An ambitious undertaking, but we love a challenge…

We used Dante’s Inferno as the source material and then added in some of the Dungeons & Dragons interpretation of hell, with the various archdukes & archduchesses, to add some personality and depth to the lyrics and story. In the game, the rulers of hell follow a strict hierarchy. As a disclaimer, since we are treading into a very dark and foreboding realm; we are not a Satanic band, we just love dark literature, medieval history and fantasy gaming. Ok, now that’s out of the way let’s approach the gates!

Dante, like most Florentines of his day, was embroiled in the Guelph vs Ghibelline political conflict. Because of that, Dante was exiled from Florence, Italy on punishment of being burned at the stake, he never returned. In fact, Florence eventually came to regret Dante’s exile, and the city made repeated requests for the return of his remains. Nonetheless, a tomb was built for him in Florence in 1829, but remains empty.

 

Dante Alighieri, Fresco by Luca Signorelli

Dante’s journey into hell is guided by the Roman poet Virgil. The Story is about the state of the souls after death, which are dealt divine justice and due punishment for various sins. Allegorically, the Inferno represents the Christian soul seeing sin for what it really is. A heavy subject to tackle and I believe it’s a wonder Dante didn’t end up getting charged with Heresy for writing about such a forbidden topic! Luckily he was favored by Pope Boniface VIII, and was asked to reside in Rome after his exile from Florence.

So now that the background is set, let’s get right into it and talk about the different layers of the Inferno, the sins, punishments and why we choose to give Inferno a soundtrack.

 

Welcome to the Inferno:

“Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

 

The Gates of Hell – the gates are engraved with the description. “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Words to fear indeed. This is the inspiration for our EP “Pass the Gates” which includes our first ever acoustic versions of songs. The EP also contains a spoken narrative, over sacred choral music, (very goth) great for a gaming session!

Venetian Woodcut C.1520

 

I. Limbo – (Avernus) the first layer. This is the circle of Hell for the unbaptized and virtuous pagans, not sinful enough to warrant damnation. This is where Dante’s guide, the poet Virgil resides; as do the great Greek philosopher Aristotle, Socrates and Plato. Here the guiltless damned, lacking the hope for something greater than rational minds can conceive; are punished by living in a deficient form of Heaven. In Dungeons & Dragons the 1st level is called Avernus, and is the home of the Queen of all evil dragons ‘Tiamat’!

 

The Cult of Tiamat, by Wayne Reynolds

II. Lust – (Dis) The 2nd layer is where the punishments of Hell begin. Here the Judge of Hell ‘Minos’, sentences souls to the various levels of Hell due to their sins. The specific level is signified by the number of times his serpentine tail coils. For those who are condemned to the 2nd level, due to their uncontrolled carnal desires; are eternally buffeted back and forth by the terrible winds of a violent storm without rest. This symbolizes the power of lust to blow needlessly and aimlessly. In the Dungeons & Dragons interpretation this is where the Iron city of Dis resides, ruled by the Arch-devil Dispater.

III. Gluttony – (Minauros) Guarded by the three headed beast Cerberus, the Third layer is where the gluttonous wallow in vile bogs and pools of putrid muck, slime and filth. If that wasn’t bad enough, the atmosphere rains down a torrent of rusty chucks of iron. In dungeons & dragons the Archduke of this level is the obese Mammon, in his city of chains.

IV. Greed – (Phlegethos) Those with a love of material goods and miserly in wealth, including many clergymen, popes and cardinals, who hoarded possessions, and those who squandered them. The hoarders and spendthrifts must joust and battle for eternity, using enormous weights of gold, as weapons, straining their chest in the conflict. An exhausting and unending struggle. In Dungeons & Dragons this is the stereotypical fiery plane of Hell. Ruled by Belial and his duplicitous daughter the Archduchess Fierna (Best friend of Archduchess Glasya!)

V. Wrath – (Stygia) Here the swampy, stinking waters of the river Styx are most notable. The wrathful actively fight each other viciously with tooth & nail in the dark slimy river. While those sullen and choked with rage, lie beneath the foul water in self- frustration, endlessly gurgling and bubbling below the surface, enraged beyond action. In D&D Geryon is the ruler of this plane. Geryon later gives Dante and Virgil a ride on his back, to the next layer of the Inferno!

Dante & Virgil by Stradanus

VI. Heresy – (Malbolge) – Heresy is any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs, in particular the accepted beliefs of a church. A rejection of faith! An example would be those who say “the soul dies with the body” or “there is no Soul.” The heretics are trapped in flaming tombs to scorch and roast for eternity. According to D&D, Glasya is the Archduchess of the 6th circle. Glasya is the personification of elegance, simplicity and beautiful. She is our favorite personality of the Hells, as she seeks to recruit worshipers to her Cult. She is the topic of our Halloween Premier Music Video “Glasya’s Heresy”! This song is our 1st acoustic power ballad, see Glasya in action! You won’t be disappointed…

Glasya’s Heresy – Music Video (Click here to watch)

VII. Violence – (Maladomini) – the three rings of this layer include. 1) Violence against their neighbors, murderers, war-makers, plunderers, and tyrants are immersed in a river of boiling blood and fire. 2) Suicide: those who commit suicide are transformed into gnarled, thorny trees that are fed upon by the Harpies. 3) Violence against God, art & nature: These souls must endlessly travel across a great Plain of Burning Sand, to endure being scorched by flakes of flame falling slowly down from the sky. In D&D the ruler of Maladomini is Baalzebul, an arch-devil of renowned vanity and great power.

 

(1832-1883); engraving ‘The Vision of Hell’ by Gustave Dore

VIII. Fraud – (Cania) – For the fraudulent & malicious. The Eighth Circle is a large funnel of stone, shaped like an amphitheater of ten concentric trenches. To include, Corrupt politicians (the elite permanent political class), seducers, sorcerers, hypocrites, fraudulent advisers, evil counselors, falsifiers, and sowers of discord, who are hacked and mutilated for all eternity by a large devil wielding a razor sharp sword, as they walk around the circular trenches. In D&D the ruler of Cania is Mephistopheles, Hells’ most powerful Wizard.

IX. Treachery – (Nessus) – This final, deepest level of hell is reserved for traitors, betrayers and oath breakers. Considered the worst of all sins. This central well is guarded by Biblical sized Giants. Inside the final pit is the frozen lake Cocytus, where the sinners guilty of treachery against those with whom they had special relationships, are trapped in ice. Cain, Judas and Ptolemy are inhabitants of this final pit. Here resides the Devil incarnate! It is here that Virgil and Dante escape past the Devil and out of the Inferno through a hidden passage. It was important to us to describe this escape from the Inferno, so we did so with a Sacred Choral Narrative, “Escape the Pit” read by Ravensea and is only available on our “Pass the Gates” EP.

Inferno 1612 – Jacques Callot

 

Whew, that was a lot of work! Well there you go, a comprehensive guide to the Inferno, both by Dante and in Dungeons & Dragons terms! As always, we would love to hear your take about the above! Have you read Dante’s Inferno? Adventure there in a D&D campaign? Please leave a comment below…

 

 

 

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