TWIN TEMPLE: Satanic doo-wop duo face bible-bashers with most blasphemous album yet | Revolver

TWIN TEMPLE: Satanic doo-wop duo face bible-bashers with most blasphemous album yet

Hit with Christian backlash and even death threats, Alexandra and Zachary James double down on sinfulness
twin temple main image 2023 1600x900, Travis Shinn
Twin Temple
photograph by Travis Shinn

"It's safe to say we've turned even further away from the light, and our souls are as damned as ever."

Twin Temple vocalist Alexandra James is explaining her and husband/guitarist Zachary James' steadfast devotion to the devil. Given the hatred the self-proclaimed Satanic doo-wop duo has experienced at the hands of a hard-line Christian community since forming the band in 2016, can you blame them?

Twin Temple vertical 2023 uncropped, Travis Shinn
photograph by Travis Shinn

When detractors first targeted Twin Temple a few years ago, zealots started sending stacks of Bibles to their Los Angeles doorstep — perhaps as a warning, or maybe in the misguided hope of "rescuing" the James' souls from eternal hellfire.

Less obtusely, Alexandra explains that death threats routinely started coming their way through email and over social media; she adds that online extremists discussed mobilizing at their concerts, armed. This is all to say that rock & roll is still a dangerous game, at least when you're Twin Temple.

"Since we started, we've received a lot of relentless moralizing, attempts to save our souls, religious fervor and backlash — even people questioning our sincerity, as far as if we're really who we say we are [as Satanists]," Alexandra explains of the extreme reactions their music has provoked.

"As a kid, growing up seeing my heroes really challenge the status quo, I always thought, That's so cool, these pioneers of rock & roll are laying their lives down on the line for this. When we experienced it, it definitely gave me a whole new perspective."

What's sure is early Twin Temple songs like "Lucifer, My Love" and "I Know How to Hex You" — between their lush, orchestral pop presentations and devilish wordplay — have struck a chord across musical and ideological spectrums, for better or for worse.

While clearly playing well for folks that vibe with early '60s R&B and the golden age of rock & roll, Twin Temple's love for the dark arts has also made converts out of heavy-metal fanatics — as well as earned them endorsements from famous appreciators of the occult, including Glenn Danzig and Ghost.

On the other side of things, haters are literally looking to hurt the band over their beliefs. While some would shrink in the face of such violent, virulent adversity, Christian condemnation has only strengthened Twin Temple's resolve.

"We just wanted to make the most brutally blasphemous record that we could," Alexandra says in relation to the group's scintillating, and obviously sacrilegious, sophomore full-length, God Is Dead.

"We definitely wanted to up the blasphemy, and give some of the best black-metal records a run for the money, in terms of the themes."

True to their word, God Is Dead doubles down on Twin Temple's established anti-Christian aesthetic. Its album cover finds the couple locking eyes like lovers do — blood dripping out their mouths — as they hover over a burning church.

Above some of the sweetest throwback soul sounds imaginable, Alexandra sings of torching scripture ("Burn Your Bible"), going down on demons ("Let's Have a Satanic Orgy") and just generally being "the baddest witch on the block" ("Spellbreaker"); while God Is Dead's title track is likely the most joyous ode to deicide you'll hear this year.

That's the thing with Twin Temple: They're fun as hell. Despite the hate they've faced, they're still reveling in their love of Lucifer, and each other. Alexandra notes the band wanted God Is Dead to take a stronger romantic tack than 2019's Twin Temple (Bring You Their Signature Sound…. Satanic Doo-Wop).

That's clearly the case with "Two Sinners," a cursed bop about happily heading straight to hell with your betrothed. "Doesn't everyone want someone who makes them more depraved than they were before," Alexandra poses, rhetorically.

"I think it's really romantic to break holy laws with someone, [or to] be nailed to a single cross. Like, I want to be buried in the same grave as Zach. So, I was just writing a love song about that."

Both Zachary and Alexandra spent time in the California punk scene before linking up, but they're scant on the details of how they met — at least the 21st century incarnations of themselves. Whether playing up the camp or protecting themselves post-doxxing, they do suggest an introduction was made several past lives ago, all the way back in 1666.

As if part of a finely honed vaudeville routine, Alexandra starts up that she was "burned on the cross" next to Zachary. "I was a witchfinder, actually," the guitarist clarifies, as Alexandra shoots back: "I thought you were the woman [being burned] next to me!"

This kind of gallows humor goes a long way to understanding Twin Temple. Sonically, their sound reveals a great reverence for the trailblazers of pop and rock & roll, Alexandra's brimstone-smoky vibrato reverberating against a Wall of Sound-style aesthetic. The band's lively, blood-spilling, ritual dagger-wielding stage show harkens back to the days of Fifties shock-rock pioneer Screamin' Jay Hawkins.

Naturally, it's made them thick as thieves with the horns-raising metal community — leading to tours with Ghost, Danzig and others. It's all part of the same rock & roll continuum, Zachary argues, with Twin Temple perhaps acting as a bridge between the subversive-ness of Little Richard and extreme-metal vanguards like recent tourmates Behemoth — whose vocalist, Adam Nergal Darski, is also no stranger to offending the church.

 "We didn't make [our music] for anyone other than ourselves, from day one, and we continue to do that," Zachary says. "It just happens that, philosophically, the blasphemy resonates with a lot of metal fans. And obviously the visuals resonate because we're all lovers of horror."

The culture jam continues with God Is Dead, a release that includes the Latin-grooved "Let's Have a Satanic Orgy," a song the band had also recorded in Spanish as "Tengamos la Orgía Satánica." Both versions report on a sex party taking place at the Witches' Sabbath, full-moon revelers grinding it out near a "magick circle."

Rhythmically, it's a standout number in the Twin Temple catalog; playfully, it caps with a chant of "666," rather than a traditional "cha cha cha." God Is Dead's tour cycle will find the James' debuting new stage attire inspired by the song: baby pink finery embroidered with carnal scenes of demons and succubi getting it on.

Like the single, Alexandra says the stage wear was inspired by "some of the better orgies we've been to in recent memory" — while also paying homage to country great Hank Williams' ornate nudie suits, and the pastel color palette of Hollywood starlet Jayne Mansfield's Pink Palace mansion.

But before all that, Twin Temple tell Revolver they have to take care of some business back at home. While wrapping up the call, Alexandra reports that the rest of their afternoon will include blood sacrifices and an exorcising session.

"There's a grave I meant to tell you about that looks real ripe for digging," she says to Zachary. Without missing a beat, her partner in holy crime deadpans of the day's proposed desecration, "Just the usual."