A Smaller God – PNR Music Appreciation

“A Smaller God” by Darling Violetta
Album Parlour (2003)

Darling Violetta Parlour album cover

Parlour, 2003

Music in the key of paranormal romance is in shorter supply than other genres, but a few gems abound. To begin, let’s look at my favorite epic erotic vampire song: “A Smaller God” by Darling Violetta.

Darling Violetta’s PNR credentials are strong, starting with the fact that they took their name from the greeting famed vampire actor Bela Lugosi used in correspondence to his mistress. They went on to provide music for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show before creating the theme song to its spin-off Angel. And according to the Buffyverse Wiki:

Darling Violetta was the band that played at The Bronze the night Faith arrived in Sunnydale. They played the songs Blue Sun and Cure from their EP’s The Kill You EP and Bath-Water-Flowers.

Today’s song, “Smaller God,” became the signature track for the Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines game, although many other artists contributed to that soundtrack and I’d like to talk about that entire album in another post. For now, one song.

“Smaller God” begins with a tsunami of sound that mixes guitars, synthesizers, and lyrics. It’s a wall of wailing guitars, half high school garage band and adolescent tribute. The other half is worldly, vampire distance. This is not pop terrain, this is flannel Seattle alt-Goth cigarette kids territory, but it’s not quite the dissonance of a Sonic Youth or Nirvana; a melody kicks in, downplaying the dissonant wail, breaking us into a true story.

And what a tale it is: a woman’s love affair with an immortal lover.

One thing to adore about this song is the smart, savvy, and vivid lyrics. As a writer, it’s natural to focus on a singer and their lyrics and filter in or out depending on whether they make sense, are overrun with cliches, or can even be understood.

No worries in this case. This is evocative, erotic free verse that chronicles one woman’s obsession with her lover:

In the violent silence
Of a dream within a dream
You fill my soul with beauty
You’re my shiny man machine

In line one, you must love that jarring near-rhyme that highlights a seeming oxymoron: how can a silence be violent? That creates a heightened awareness, a vivid sense of tension.

In the next couple lines, ‘dream’, ‘soul’, and ‘beauty’ are far more generic love song words, but that’s okay. She’s establishing that yes, this is a love song, after all, or at least a lust song—that the words are in synch with the driving beat.

“Shiny man machine” is both objectifying the male partner but it’s liberating in its objectification, because ninety-nine percent of the time, such comparisons are made by male singers reducing women to sex objects. Here, initially, as we’ve not yet established an emotional bond, she has a sexual link to this guy. He’s as powerful as her vibrator (her “shiny man machine”).

But he gets deeper, pun intended.

I’m sinking in the roses
Falling down to fade away
The velvet blade of apathy
Makes the crush so bittersweet

Warning: it’s about to get even more sexual.

“Sinking in the roses” is an apt metaphor for wanton desire, yet in the third line she’s hinting at the tenuous character of their relationship: she’s hooked on him, sinking to her knees, has a crush on him, but his stiffness is indifferent, she’s not sure.

“Falling down to fade away” is exquisite both in its alliteration, assonance, and consonance, and its linkage to the rest of the song.

And I, I could have died last night
But I heard the voice of a smaller god

That sex was so intense she almost died until God talked to her!

This is a clever play on the old-fashioned literary trope of la petit-mort, or the little death, which is the French term for sexual orgasm, obviously equating it with handed-down tradition of the brain’s endorphin rush of bliss upon experiencing death.

The ‘smaller god’ is his penis, calling her back to Earth, to this reality, this world. Lyrically, in terms of poetry, this is stellar. Compare to this to the vacant content of most pop songs, and we’re on firmer ground. This is the sweet spot of literary lyrics, sensual wordplay, playfully driving beats, and erotic rapture.

The chorus of this song is its Nirvana: the sex is so good, she’s experiencing that incredibly compressed reality that both transcends and dwells in the moment and which I’ve never experienced outside of singular sexual experiences, rare drug instances, lucid dreaming, or rapturous writing. She’s knocking on the doors of our reality here.

But there’s trouble in paradise!

Your presence is the morning
Your absence is the night
I’m searching your dark hallways
Trying to find the light

This is an emotive, simple, four-sentence sketch of the nature of their relationship. She’s seeking him, he’s not always there. His mind is in ‘dark hallways’ and she’s seeking the light. Creatures of the night (or even just men) aren’t always present, or available, or even thinking the same way as our narrator.

Does this sound melancholy? Swimming in a sad ocean? Do the failures of relationships in this world hint at the tantalizing possibility of the maybe-we hope-immortality promised after death? What is closer to immortality than love? Why do we want it so?

Swimming your sad ocean
I’m drowning in your sea
This will all be over soon
And we’ll learn to live again

Vampire fiction is nothing but a melancholy love story. In an innocent love story, one falls in love, meets the perfect partner, and lives happily ever after. But in reality, and in vampire fiction, there is no happily-ever-after. Nobody lives forever. Death surrounds us, always.

That is the truth paranormal romance presents, that any romance tinged with horror does not shy away from: Even Love Dies. That is a secret fear built into the vampire trope in its core: We are all going to die. The vampire’s false promise of immortality plays against that but ultimately cannot escape it. We all die. Your lover will die. Prince Charming will die. The Earth will die. The Sun will die. This Universe will die.

Love and death are the only truths. Darling Violetta makes that a testament in this spectacular song.


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