Black Metal Legends of Profanatica Still Hate God | Westword

Black-Metal Legends of Profanatica Still Hate God

Profantica brings its black mass to Globe Hall on Tuesday with local opener Helleborus.
Blasphemous U.S. black metal originators Profanatica isn't a band you'd take home to meet your mother.
Blasphemous U.S. black metal originators Profanatica isn't a band you'd take home to meet your mother. Courtesy David Parham
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Paul Ledney doesn’t believe in the Christian concept of predestination — or any divine doctrine, for that matter — so he’s not too keen on the idea that it was his fate to front one of the most blasphemous American black-metal bands, Profanatica. He's had a long history of questioning and downright disrespecting religion.

“If I try to do another style of music, I really feel like this shit would come creeping in, and I’d try to inject it," the 53-year-old drummer and vocalist says of his black-metal penchant. "I think it’s so wrong with me that it’s part of me now.”

Growing up in New York, a young Ledney made a habit of getting kicked out of Sunday school for challenging his teachers and the biblical subject matter they preached. It’s still a point of pride so many years later; none of the supposed facts he learned sat right with him back then, or now.

“My mom taught religion class when I was a kid. It wasn’t really pushed on us, but I was thrown out of every single religion class that I’ve ever been in. I wasn’t talking shit or causing trouble, I was just asking normal, simple questions,” he says. “I would just look at the material and be like, ‘This is not true.’ Besides logic, I don’t like these double standards at all. I’ll fight until the day I die against that shit. It’s a business, and it’s a hell of a business and a real force to be reckoned with, but that’s all it is at the end of the day.”

Underground metal music provided Ledney with the perfect auditory outlet to vent his frustrations about the wicked ways of organized faith. He helped form seminal New York death-metal band Incantation (also heavy on anti-Christianity) in 1989, but left a year later to start Profanatica — the godless forefather of cross-crushing American black metal.

Over the years, which includes a nine-year hiatus from 1992 to 2001, the cloaked unholy trinity, which currently includes guitarist Adam Besserer and bassist Pat Davies, hasn’t been shy about spreading sacrilegious gospel with such album titles as Disgusting Blasphemies Against God (2010) and Thy Kingdom Cum (2013). The band's upcoming record, Cruz Simplex (releasing September 22 via Season of Mist), mocks the stations of the cross, a Catholic tradition that chronicles Jesus's last day on Earth. The first single from the album, “Take Up the Cross,” is inspired by the second station and Jesus being forced to carrying the cross he’d eventually die on.

“I know the stations of the cross well,” Ledney says, adding that Cruz Simplex is “like a small look into what” the band’s sound “could be” moving forward, including “drier” guitar tones while remaining “as brutal as possible.”

Profanatica is busy visiting pulpits across the country while on tour with Panzerfaust. The black mass happens in Denver on Tuesday, July 18, at Globe Hall with local opener Helleborus.

While he clearly doesn't shy away from anti-religious tendencies, Ledney admits he’s never been a fan of the European black-metal subgenre, particularly the scandalous Scandinavian bands of the 1990s that burned churches. He feels the U.S. style is “more authentic, because we believe in what we’re doing way more than they believe in what they’re doing.”

A drummer in former GG Allin backing band Connecticut Cocksuckers, Ledney has been called the “GG Allin of black metal” for his inherent influence on the stateside black-metal scene, particularly his punk-infused drumming.

“I think that there’s a couple D-beats that we’ll throw in. In my opinion, U.S. black metal has punk roots already built into it — not so much as an influence, but it’s already there,” he explains. “Not having that in U.S. black metal is like saying I want this car, but I don’t want any tires on it. It’s not either-or, it’s more of a yes-and. That punk feel and attitude is already part of it.”

With such outwardly offensive imagery and music, it’s a little surprising that Profanatica hasn’t regularly come under fire from religious zealots as other acts in the scene have. Ledney can’t recall any protests or trouble getting gigs in the past three decades, but if someone did try to disrupt what the band does, “I would question them to death, and they’d be like, ‘We have to get out of here,’” he says, adding that he’s experienced the opposite at shows.

“We played in New York, and this old dude was in the front screaming, ‘Christ cock ejaculate!’” he continues. “We finished our set and are taking our robes off, and the bass player said, ‘Can you imagine how long that dude’s been holding that in? When else is he going to have the opportunity to scream that?’”

But the most unsettling aspect of Profanatica might be that Ledney believes the group hasn’t reached its full potential yet.

“There’s plenty more to explore. This is going to sound strange, but I don’t think this, I know this: We haven’t hit our prime yet,” he says, adding that he’ll continue “pushing the boundaries” of blasphemy.

“As of right now," Ledney says, "I’m just scratching the surface.”

Profanatica, 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 18, Globe Hall, 4483 Logan Street. Tickets are $28.
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