Cloven Hoof – “Song of Orpheus”

The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is duly famous both as a classic ‘katabasis’ (heroic descent into the underworld) and as a cautionary tale whose moral is that there cannot be love without trust. Son of Calliope, one of the 9 Muses, Orpheus was naturally a master poet and musician, and also a fitting husband for a daughter of the poet-god Apollo, Eurydice. Their relationship as a couple was as strong as it was tragic, for on their wedding day Eurydice met a premature death by accidentally stepping on a venomous snake. Orpheus simply could not accept her fate, and descended into the Underworld to bring her back. Thanks to the power of his music, he overcame even the King and Queen of the Underworld, Hades and Persephone themselves, and persuaded them to let Eurydice go…on one condition. She must follow behind Orpheus on the re-ascent, but Orpheus must not look behind at her before they exit into the world of the living above. As we know, this was easier said than done. Just before reaching the threshold to the upper world, Orpheus gave in to temptation and looked behind, only to see Eurydice dragged back into the darkest depths. No second chances.

The British heavy metal band Cloven Hoof draw inspiration from the original master musician on this second track from their most recent album, 2017’s Who Mourns for the Morning Star. This song uses Orpheus’ example to express the (literal) depth of one’s devotion to their beloved. It opens with an apologetic line and reaffirmation of love: “I wasn’t there today, but I’ll be there tomorrow.” Orpheus could not rescue Eurydice from the serpent, but he’ll redeem himself by rescuing her from the house of death itself. The song converts the plot of the myth into metaphorical language: “I’ll walk through fire for you…straight into the jaws of hell, I would risk it all for you.” The lyrics border on desperation as the lover struggles to find a way to prove their devotion and guarantee that their beloved will remain with them forever. By the end the lover hits upon the solution: “make a deal with the devil,” much as Orpheus did with Hades. On the surface, the song seems confident this diabolical plan will come to fruition. Yet the very title of the song, as well as the Faustian phrase the ends it, betrays the tragic subtext. Though the seeds of doom are sown, we must decide whether it is better to love and lose than not to have loved at all.

I wasn’t there today
But I’ll be there tomorrow
Things we didn’t say
Don’t leave me to my sorrow

You want it all
I’ll walk through fire for you
And when you call
I’ll run like you want me to

Straight into the jaws of hell
I would risk it all for you
Straight into the jaws of hell
Bring you back the devil his due

The veil took away
The only thing I treasure
I’ve got to find some way
You must be mine forever

I’ll take the fall
You mean just everything
I’d face the wall
Of death and chance anything

Straight into the jaws of hell
Reached the point of no return
Straight into the jaws of hell
Play with fire and then you’ll burn

Life’s so worth fighting for
Who knows what’s in store?

Straight into the jaws of hell
I would risk it all for you
Straight into the jaws of hell
Bring you back the devil his due

Straight into the jaws of hell
Reached the point of no return
Straight into the jaws of hell
Play with fire and then you’ll burn

Make a deal with the devil!
Make a deal with the devil!
Make a deal with the devil!
Make a deal with the devil!

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