Rekindling the Varangian Flame (Part 1)
Rekindling the Varangian Flame is a two-part article about the pioneering musical journey of Varjagikaarti, the first Viking metal band to ever abandon their mock longship on stage and literally attempt to go a-Viking. Part 1 focuses on the band’s early history and the pervasive dysfunctionality that eventually resulted in their collective, suicidal Viking metal death-wish and subsequent decision to sail eastwards into Russia. Also covered are the band members’ opinions on the ineffectiveness of self blood-eagling, their involvement in a spoken-word black metal sound-art abomination, and their inconsistent and shifting loyalties towards various pagan deities. You may download a PDF of Part 1 here if you prefer.
“Never have I seen a more complete denouncement of the meaning of human life than that murky, yellow obscenity that hovers above the rooftops of Miklagård like a celestial plague raining its poison down upon the feeble souls below during the darkest depths of the eternal night,” Alexi Laihiala sighed heavily, his face serene despite the grimness of his statement. “It made me want to kill myself.”
Sitting beside him with an appropriately dangerous-looking acoustic axe resting on his lap was Ville Mäenpää who played a few strings and quietly hissed,
“Kiss of the death-cloud! Burning in your lungs. Kiss of the death-cloud! Now your life is done.”
Alexi twisted his neck to avoid the strands of long, dyed-black hair that the wind insisted on blowing in his face as though he were currently filming a melancholic music video and continued speaking once the short musical interlude had ended. “The infinite pointlessness of the travesty known as human life overwhelmed me, as did the vastness of all the blasphemous airborne particulate matter. I could barely breathe and thought only of slipping away into the quiet embrace of the final, black void.”
And thus began my formal introduction to Varjagikaarti, the most influential and innovative band to emerge from the underground extreme metal scene that has since come to be known as the New Wave of Finnish Varangian Metal (NWFVM). Essentially, a spin-off of its Viking and folk metal brethren, NWFVM altered the course of metal history forever when its adherents abandoned their mock long-ships and medieval war gear on stage and actually went a-Viking, thereby living out the content of their lyrics rather than just growling about them into a microphone.
I was seated with the four members of Varjagikaarti atop an eighteenth century stone wall on the island fortress of Suomenlinna watching the sun fade over Helsinki’s harbor. Alexi, the band’s enduringly pessimistic front man, sat beside me, an intense expression of forlorn hopelessness on his face as he stared at the rippling white and blue cross of the Finnish flag flying atop the nearest stone tower. Next to him sat Tuomas Laiho, the stereotypically bald drummer and beyond him were the guitarist, Ville Mäenpää, a pale, skinny guy with long blond hair and a morbid northern disposition and Jari Holopainen, the mostly silent bassist, hardcore drunkard, and creator of the bands’ epic and fantastical album cover art.
The band had granted me an exclusive interview and we had taken the ferry out to Suomenlinna because an abandoned Baltic island fortress just seemed like an appropriate place to discuss their pioneering role in NWFVM. Plus, it was a fine Finnish fall day, and the vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges of the leaves set against the gray stonework and slate blue of the harbor presented us with a dazzling backdrop. It stirred the blood deep down inside and touched on something primeval in the human genetic make-up, causing a swelling of desire to go a-Viking, right then and there. But going a-Viking is a modern-day logistical challenge and without an appropriate longship, crew to row it, and all manner of armor and medieval weaponry, completely and utterly infeasible. So, instead we supressed the urge and attempted to content ourselves with awkward conversation and some lengthy bouts of traditional Finnish silence, one of which we currently found ourselves deep in the throes of thanks to Alexi’s latest proclamation about the sub- par air quality of Miklagård—otherwise known as Istanbul to non-Old Norse speakers—and thoughts of suicide.
Our shared silence and generally depressed mood was simultaneously accentuated and alleviated by the presence of a one-liter bottle of raspberry-flavored Finlandia Vodka that we had been passing around like candy among school boys and that Jari, the bassist, was currently inhaling like a newborn baby going at his mother’s rippened red nipple. I leaned forward to watch this public display of adult suckling with an expression on my face that must have belied my inner thoughts because he uttered a barely intelligible, “Fuck you,” after swallowing and passed the bottle over to his guitar-wielding neighbor.
Alexi chose this moment to expound further on his personal evaluation of Istanbul’s air quality. “The ephemeral mucus lining the tender passages of my nasal cavity turned black with the stench of diesel-death and man-made toxicity,” he sighed. “Life has no meaning.”
I stared at the cobblestones on the path below us and tried to think of something constructive to say. “So…uh, why was it that you even bothered to go there then?”
I thought it seemed like a reasonable question, plus it was about all that I could muster. On the one hand, I’m a pretty shitty journalist. On the other hand, I’m not good at dealing with people, especially people who express emotion of any sort, be it of the positive variety like we generally goad on to the point of irresponsible and reckless phoniness in the US, or the negative variety which is much more endemic to the Nordic condition.
“To die,” Alexi answered after a moment’s silence. “We went to Miklagård to die.”
And then silence engulfed us once again only to be broken by the squawk of a seagull in the distance and some harsh gutteral noises being made by a group of obnoxious German tourists walking nearby. When it became apparent that Alexi had no intention of elaborating on his last remark of his own accord, I took the bait and asked the obvious follow-up question.
“Because life has no meaning,” he answered. “The pointlessness of life is as vast and deep as the murky oceans that engulf this waste of a planet. We are nothing more than tiny specks of self- consumed insignificance cowering under the might of the infinite cosmos.”
“But, hey you know, the thing is, dying on an adventure in Miklagård would have been just so much more epic and brutal than, like, jumping off a bridge or drinking bleach or something like that,” Tuomas, the bald drummer, chimed in. He spoke with a light-pitched, quirky accent that reminded me of Canada and Canadians. “Most of the suicides that happen here in Helsinki, they aren’t very epic, you know.”
“Yeah, but, I mean, why did you guys all want to die in the first place?” I didn’t get it. “Were you all depressed or something?”
“Yes,” stated Alexi matter of factly over Tuomas who had also begun to voice his own response at the exact same moment.
The two eyed one another disapprovingly as Tuomas began to speak once more. “Well, it was really only Alexi here who was depressed or whatever. The rest of us just thought going a- Viking would be really cool and informative since we had been taking the band in a Viking metal direction anyway. What other metal band has ever actually gone a-Viking before?”
I just sat there and looked at him.
“Okay, so the thing is,” Tuomas continued. “We were having a lot of disagreements as a band at that time, you know? And most bands break up when that happens, just creative differences or whatever that guys can’t get over and so they just want to go their own separate ways. And we came close to breaking up too, but then we had this idea to go a-Viking together first, as sort of like a last ditch effort to resolve our differences, so we thought, hey, it’s at least worth giving it a shot, right?”
“And just how would going a-Viking resolve your guys’ differences?” It still didn’t really make any sense to me.
“Well, we thought it would at least kinda get us all on the same page with a common vision for the band’s direction,” Tuomas answered. “Ville, Jari, and me, we just wanted to go a-Viking because it’d give us some creative insights for our music and just be cool, like I said. I mean, no other band had ever actually gone a-Viking before, so we would be the first. We didn’t really want to die, except for Alexi here who kept saying he did, if you can believe him. But either way, you can get yourself killed pretty easily when you go a-Viking, so this idea, it offered something for all of us to be happy with.”
“Death by a-Viking…” Alexi muttered with a hint of approval in his voice. “…is truly a man’s way out.”
While I fully understood that going a-Viking has always offered an abundance of means and methods by which one could get oneself killed, I was still baffled about the band’s decision to actually engage in the pursuit of Vikings themselves. The bald drummer, Tuomas, seemed to be much more willing to share useful insights than Alexi, so I looked at him and asked, “So how bad were the band’s differences that you guys actually had to go a-Viking just to fix them? I mean, they had to have been pretty bad, right?”
“Oh, totally,” Tuomas admitted. “We were in really bad shape as a band at that point. So the three of us—“ he pointed to himself, Ville, and Jari “—we were all basically on the same page about being a Viking metal band with everything that goes along with that, you know. But then for some reason Alexi had gotten to be all about the most darkest blackened blackest black metal of eternal blackness of all time. I mean, we’d go do a gig and the audience, they’d see the three of us wearing our medieval tunics and leather pants and runic necklaces and whatnot as we took up our positions up on stage and then Alexi would come out wearing all black with an inverted cross around his neck and have white corpse paint all over his face and pig blood spattered and dripping around his mouth. I mean, sometimes, he even took it so far that he refused to stand in the spot light because he was philosophically opposed to it and preferred to stand back in the shadows.”
“The false illumination of the unnatural stage spot-lighting is for the weak of heart and even weaker of mind.” Alexi pontificated. “How few of us realize that we’re all just sitting idly by, trapped on a one-way express train rushing headlong towards a final destination 6-feet below ground. Our bags are packed, the doors are sealed, and the tickets are non-refundable.”
“You see what I mean?” Tuomas looked directly at me as he said this. “So, like he’d just stand there in the back corner of the stage where it was all very dark and no one could see him and then he’d start screeching about bathing in the blood of newborn infants in the Winter Palace during the October Revolution or whatever and we’d all be like, ‘Okay, so what the fuck ever happened to the lyrics about Thor’s goats?’”
“That’s pretty fucked up.” It just sort of slipped out, but I recovered quickly, albeit without grace: “But, uh, why were you guys even together as a band in the first place? I mean, isn’t it usually pretty important for band members to all pretty much be on the same page about this type of thing?”
“Well, we started out as a Motörhead cover band, so back at the very beginning we were all on the same page,” Tuomas answered.
“Lemmy rules!” Jari, the alcoholic bassist, blurted out between gulps of raspberry vodka.
“But you know, with time, our tastes and interests evolved,” Tuomas continued, undeterred by his bandmate’s slurred outburst. “So yeah, we all started out really into Motörhead obviously, but also all the old standbys like Maiden and Ozzy and the big 4 of course but then we all started getting more and more into the harder, heavier, more extreme stuff and pretty soon we were listenting to bands like Bathory and At the Gates and Entombed, that type of thing. So really, all four of us still had similar tastes and interests in those days, but then Ville and Jari and me all started getting more and more into the Viking/folk metal thing. We were listening to tons of Enslaved and Thyrfing and of course the stuff put out by our Finnish brothers in Moonsorrow and Ensiferum too, along with all the others. But then Alexi was going in another direction entirely and started listening to nothing but Norwegian bands from the second wave of black metal, and then he joined a Satanic study group. That’s when the problems really started.”
“So why didn’t the rest of you just kick him out and get a new frontman?” I asked. “I mean, this is Finland, right? Don’t metal frontmen just kinda fall from the trees around here?”
“Eh…maybe,” Tuomas replied. “But thing is, back in those days, we all still lived with our parents and Alexi’s dad had a cabin out in the woods where we could practice and get drunk together. None of the rest of us had anything like that. So if we had gotten rid of Alexi, not only would we have had to go searching for a new frontman, but we’d also lose such an awesome place to practice and drink. We could have always rented out a rehearsel practice room or whatever but who wants to do that when you have a nice cabin in the woods surrounded by dark forests and lakes?”
Alexi looked from Tuomas to me and back to Tuomas, a displeased frown stamped across his face. I suspected this topic of conversation has been a sore spot for him ever since the troubles in the band had first reared its ugly corpse-painted head.
“Eh, so you know, we were trying to make it work,” Tuomas continued. “But it just kept getting more and more difficult to keep it all together. It eventually reached the point where our cover art didn’t make any sense for the song titles and lyrics that we had on the album. And Jari here—“ he pointed at the silent bassist who was still suckling the raspberry vodka bottle like his life depended on it “—he’s always been a really, really good artist and so he always does our cover art but then we ended up with this one album that he did cover art for and it showed the forging of the sampo—“
“Yes! The sampo. The all-powerful magical artifact of ancient Finnish mythology. That was on the cover, and we had all agreed that it would be a concept album, all about the sampo of course. But then Alexi showed up with his lyrics and all the songs were named things like ‘Embracing the Long Silent Desire for the Rotting Blackness of the Eternal Grave’ or ‘Murder Death Suicide Satan’ and about things like murdering everyone you care about and then slitting your own wrists as you float out into the middle of a huge Finnish lake in a sinking rowboat to drown and no songs that were actually about the sampo or Viking voyages or anything.”
“We had ‘Blood-Eagle Suicide’ on the sampo album,” Alexi said flatly, a small measure of self-defense apparent in his tone.
“Yeah, but Alexi, that has nothing to do with the sampo!” Tuomas retorted. “That song doesn’t even make sense. You can’t cut the blood-eagle on yourself.”
The blood-eagle was among the most gruesome of documented medieval Viking torture- murder methods. Its performance involved the victorious Viking violently slashing open the back of his defeated enemy, breaking through his victims’ rib cage, and finally pulling the lungs out and letting them flop on the ground to look like wings. The demented beauty of all of this was that the victim was still alive while it happened.
“That’s because no one has ever had the courage to actually try it before. If only I weren’t such a feeble coward…”
“But Alexi, it wouldn’t work! How many times have I told you, it is not possible to cut the blood eagle on yourself!”
“So you guys just went ahead and recorded the sampo concept album with Alexi’s evil black metal lyrics anyway?” I didn’t want the conversation to devolve into a bunch of bickering about the logistics and physical limitations of medieval torture methods between bandmates so I did the stereotypical American thing and verbally interjected when not asked to do so. I also wondered whether any record company had ever actually released any of these early albums that they were talking about, but I didn’t want to provoke the guys any further, plus I didn’t really care. Besides, the early releases were probably just a bunch self-published EPs anyway.
Neither Tuomas nor Alexi said anything at first, so I attempted to dig a little deeper, “Didn’t you even practice the songs first?”
Fortunately, Tuomas took the bait and started to explain why the band had used Alexi’s black metal vocals and lyrics about things like the grandeur of genocide, eternal misanthropy, and Russian roulette on their otherwise epic Viking metal early albums, “Oh yeah, we practiced the songs before we recorded them, but we never had that much lead-up time once we’d finished writing before we were scheduled for our slot at the recording studio, and we always did the writing independently of Alexi since he refused to participate. And we had already reserved and paid for our time in the studio in advance, you know? So then Alexi wasn’t ever willing to budge on the lyrics, and the rest of us weren’t willing to budge on the instrumentals or album concept, so we just powered through it and made the best of it. Tensions were really starting to rise but we got through it, but things only continued to get worse after that. At this one show in Espoo, Alexi not only went into the dark, back corner of the stage to perform but instead of growling lyrics about death and being evil and worshipping the Antichrist or whatever while the rest of us marched around on stage dressed as Vikings, as we totally expected him to do at this point, he instead just sort of launched into this really weird stream-of-consciousness spoken word thing about his philosophical beliefs on the meaninglessness of life and the need for chaos to overthrow order in the world.”
“It was later released as a solo sound-art album on my own label,” Alexi explained in a pitch even lower than his usual tone. “You can download it on itunes and listen to it while you kill yourself. It’s called, ‘Soundtrack to Your Suicide: Standing at the Edge of Oblivion with Satan’s Hand on Your Shoulder.’ It’s a bit of a long title but really captures the essence of what the album is all about.”
“Anyway, that finally pushed us to the point where we were on the verge of breaking up,” Tuomas elaborated. “We didn’t want to have to go looking for a new frontman and place to practice but we were like, ‘Fuck Alexi, that guy’s a jerk and he’s ruining the band.’”
I couldn’t help but smirk just a little as he said this right in front of Alexi, whose face continued to remain completely expressionless.
Tuomas continued, “But then Ville there had the brilliant idea to combine Vikings with suicide, death, and evilness.”
As if on cue Ville Mäenpää chose this moment to launch into a no-holds-barred acoustic solo. His fingers blazed along the fretboard and several of the German tourists who had come closer stopped on the path in front of us to watch this display of majestic virtuosity. Ville faced downwards for the better part of a minute, long locks of hair obscuring his face, before tilting his head up towards to the heavens, eyes closed and hair now fluttering in the wind as he let the final, ear- melting note ring out through the cool and calm evening air. One of the tourists mumbled something in their guttural language before they continued on their way.
I assumed I shouldn’t clap and instead glanced back at Tuomas.
He continued, “And so, you know, of course we were drinking pretty heavily when Ville came up with this idea and I think Jari had already even blacked out on the couch by then since he’s such a lush, but we thought, hey you know, most metal bands choose to focus on just one thing whether it be on Vikings or evilness or scantily clad muscular body building or something else entirely, but none of those things are ever usually combined. And the Viking metal bands, none of them ever actually act out the lyrics of their songs. I mean just look at Amon Amarth for example, or even Quorthon himself—even though those guys are or were all really into Vikings, none of them have ever actually attempted to go a-Viking, but then at the same time they aren’t really completely fixated on death either, even if everyone dies during Ragnarok, that’s just sort of incidental to the whole Viking thing. But then on the flip side just look at Mayhem. Here’s a classic band that had all these violent incidents, so they kinda lived up to the content of their lyrics, you know? I mean maybe not in a super literal sense but all that stuff with the church burnings and Pelle Ohlin’s suicide and Øystein Aarseth’s murder and all, they did put their money where their mouths were, but none of it ever had anything at all to do with Vikings. It was just death and evilness and chaos that they were about. So we thought you know, maybe we could be some real innovators with this idea and do something completely new that no other metal guys had ever done before. And it resolved our problems too, you know. Alexi would get the chance to die in a gruesome way, possibly even while attempting to do something really, really evil, depending on how badly things went on our journey, and the rest of us would get the chance to live out our own fantasies as Vikings. Maybe we would die too, or maybe not, but it would be so epic. But of course, in order to go a-Viking, we had to leave Helsinki. That’s the whole premise of going a-Viking. You have to leave the northlands, otherwise you’re just a plain Norseman or maybe a pirate or raider or something but not a true fucking Viking. So our master plan was to join the Varangian Guard and fight for the emperor in the east, unless we died along the way first, which all of us actually condoned at the time, since we were drunk.”
1000 years ago the Varangian Guard had been the elite warrior corps comprised of Scandinavians who had traveled the old Varangian routes to reach the Byzantine Empire and serve as the emperor’s personal body guard in the city known by the various names of Miklagård, Constantinople, and Istanbul. To this day the term Varangian itself has retained an implication of specificity: only those medieval Vikings who traveled eastwards through Russia to Greece and the orient were considered Varangians. At the time the Finns were not considered actual Scandinavians because they had (and still have) a completely different language, customs, and mythology, but after hundreds of years of Swedish colonization and domination over Finland, it only seemed natural that these metalhead Finns would choose to follow in the same footsteps as the ancient Varangians.
And despite the increduilty of the situation, it was all finally starting to make some sense.
“So what happened?” I asked. “Did you all at least make it to Miklagård? You’re obviously not dead.”
“We are the essence of mediocrity,” Alexi answered, with a deep and somber sigh.
By this point the vodka bottle had made its way back down the line to Tuomas who took a heavy gulp and handed it over to Alexi. Alexi sat staring at the reindeer emblem embossed on its surface, deep in thought, before hoisting it to his lips and tossing back its contents in a steady, undisturbed stream of raspberry-tinted, redemption-granting alcoholic lucidity.
He swallowed and handed the bottle to me, saying, “We are utter failures in all that we endevour. Had we won favor with Lucifer, perhaps we wouldn’t be here now. But wishful dreams are the laughing-stock of the cosmos.”
I took a quick swig, tried to forget about the germs that might have been lurking on the rim after having already swallowed, and then passed the bottle on as Tuomas resumed the story, “Well you see, we actually had many chances to die on our journey—so many chances. And we thought, eh you know, maybe we’ll make some great metal as our ship sinks in a frightening gale or something, but no, nothing like that ever happened.”
“So you got a ship?” I asked.
“Oh yes, we got a ship, and it really was quite a nice ship,” Tuomas answered. “It used to be a Viking-themed tour boat that sailed around Stockholm harbor before someone set it on fire, so we got it for almost nothing. Making it seaworthy again took some time and money but we never bothered to fix the way it looked, which made it all the more brutal. A Viking longship sailing out of the mist with horrible burn marks all over it strikes fear into the heart of anyone who sees it.”
“Do you still have this ship? Can I see it?”
“Oh no, it never made it back from Miklagård. We got a Volvo though if you want to see that.”
I didn’t, but neither was I surprised by the revelation. “So you guys got this ship ready and then you just sailed off?”
“Indeed. But first I prayed to his infernal majesty that he would deliver us unto evil and a slow and agonizing death,” Alexi added. “I performed a proper Satanic ritual with candles and a pentagram and the blood of the innocent that I ordered off of ebay. But he did not answer, that goat- fucking whore of a devil. Or maybe I should blame the ebay seller; maybe he deceived me in an even more divine form of service to the twisted one. But he did have one of the best approval ratings on the whole damn site. I’ll never know if that blood of the innocent was authentic or not.”
“And while Alexi was off praying to the devil for death or whatever, the rest of us were praying to our gods, too, in proper modern folk metal fashion,” Tuomas said. “And even though we accepted the notion that we might die, we didn’t want to, we wanted glory, so we prayed for fair
winds, safe waters, and super lax border patrols in the countries we would be going through. And for this, we prayed to Rán, the Norse goddess of the sea, and to Ukko, since we like him. But we also figured it might be a good idea to have the White Christ on our side too, so we prayed to him as well.”
“Ukko blows!” Jari decided to make himself heard again after Tuomas mentioned the ancient god. Ukko was the old Finnish god of thunder, similar to Thor, but more serious, and I had no idea if he blew or not, metaphorically or literally, but suspected Jari must have some valid reason for not being overly fond of the deity.
“So you guys mixed and matched the gods you prayed to?” I asked.
“No. Only Satan. All hail.” Alexi’s comment was counterproductive and not really directed to anyone but himself.
Ignoring him, Tuomas answered, “Yes, of course. With gods, the more the merrier, right? We wanted whoever we could get to be on our side.”
Although he was often violently forced upon the native Scandinavian population by missionaries 1000 years ago, Jesus was also sometimes initially adopted as just another new member of the Norse pantheon. Tuomas wasn’t speaking specifically of the Norse pantheon, as his self-proclaimed worship involved at least one Finnish pagan god, but his strategy of appealing to multiple deities from multiple cultures and religions nonetheless maintains a certain consistency and logic from a historical perspective. Furthermore, the Scandinavians as a whole are not a particularly devout bunch, so new interpretations of and deviations from traditional religious teachings are nothing particularly new for the region. The Nordic nations have experienced a general decline among their common Lutheran faith in recent decades and in the year 2000 Sweden, being the progressive nation that it is, even went so far as to finally institute an official separation of church and state, but by then the native black and death metal musicians had already chosen to deviate from the state-approved doctrine and follow various alternate, left-hand paths of their own. In this light, it is not especially surprising that a bizarrely blasphemous and highly unorthodox, modern- day blending of the old heathen ways with selective, medieval elements of Christianity might develop among band members on the outermost fringe of the Finnish metal scene.
“And our gods were mightier than Alexi’s devil on that day as nothing happened when our hate-crew death-rolled on out all the way across the Gulf of Finland with no incidents, other than the time when Jari accidentally dropped the vodka bottle overboard and then jumped in after it and we had to fish him out.”
“So, what if the norns had, you know, determined that one of you other than Alexi should die in some sort of non-Viking type of way while you were on this journey?” I asked. “Like maybe that could have happened with Jari if you guys had just let him drown?”
“Well, you know, our fates were woven long ago, so it’s not something we ever really had any control over one way or the other.” The last rays of the day’s sunlight had started to glisten off the silky smooth surface of Tuomas’ scalp. “But if some magnificent storm conjured up by Rán or some other god or godess sank all of us together in one full swoop out in the open water but left Alexi alive, then I guess that would have been kinda ironic, right? But nothing like that happened and we’re all still here.”
“Regretfully alive,” Alexi lamented. “And thus I have truly become one with sorrow.”
“Eh, yeah but Alexi, you’ve always been one for sorrow.”
“Our four pitiful souls were destined to failure, right from the start. And now here I sit, devoid of faith and bereft of hope.”
Tuomas shook his head and looked back at me, “Now he’s just quoting another band’s lyrics. He starts doing this whenever he’s really depressed and runs out of ideas of his own.”
“I am but a shell of a man, condemned to a world of resentment.”
“Eh, whatever,” Tuomas made no effort to hide his apathy towards Alexi’s melodramatic moanings. “So we survived the Baltic and it was on the crossing of the Gulf of Finland that we wrote our song, ‘Baltic Seabed Bottom Blues,’ which turned out pretty good, right? I mean we put it as the opener on our ‘Buried in a Cold Miklagårdian Grave’ album which as you know was our big breakthrough. But eventually we arrived and docked in St. Petersburg and that first night, we got super drunk on cheap Russian vodka and nearly burned our entire ship to ashes which was already pretty badly fire-damaged in appearance as it was.”
“Lucifer must truly hate me,” Alexi uttered his frustration with the errant enemy of Christ. “He passed his judgement, on me—on all of us—and it was not favorable. The only thing worse than being sentenced to death is being sentenced to life.”
To be continued… tune in next week for Part 2!