Just about every major rock band, from The Beatles to Led Zeppelin to AC/DC has been accused of hiding subliminal, satanic messages in their music. Meant to corrupt listeners and allow the forces of darkness to rule the masses, most of these backmasking accusations have been disproved or shown to exhibit no real tendency to turn listeners into Lucifer’s minions
But what if a record actually could? That’s the trouble John Constantine faces in “The Devil’s Vinyl,” which may be the first episode to actually indicate what this show will look like each week. “Vinyl” sticks to the case-of-the-week formula without really moving John’s plight from the pilot forward, but the introduction of Papa Midnite (Michael James Shaw) fleshes out the show’s world while helping to solidify John and Zed’s dynamic.
Before getting to the central duo, however, Constantine introduces a woman who seeks out a record, the Acetate, in an ancient book lost among the ruins of a disgusting abandoned recording studio in Chicago. She brings the album to a music producer to examine it, but tells him not to listen to it. Where would the fun in listening to the rules be, though? So he decides to play the album back, and, as luck would have it, the recording drives him to kill himself.
In cheery old Atlanta, Zed has discovered John and Chas’ hideout while “his satanic majesty,” as Chas nicknames John, is learning a spell, babbling and convulsing in the buff, save for the blood poured on his body, while “I Wanna Be Sedated” blares around him. He cleans up for his new guest and introduces her to the latest mission–that music producer who died, Bernie, was a friend of John’s. The demonologist has a sneaking suspicion of supernatural involvement. Before Zed even has time to register her latest psychic vision–the smell of jasmine and a cold sensation–John whisks her away to the Windy City.
Visiting the morgue where Bernie’s body rests, John uses a Hand of Glory to bring the dead back to life for a short period. (I’ll admit, the bodies thrashing around John and Zed did give me a good jump scare. The show is hitting a quota of one of those per episode.) All John gleans from his raising the dead routine is the name of the Acetate and the word “moonrise,” but it’s enough to discover moonrise is the name of a studio that belonged to a still-living man, Marcus Mooney.
Putting on his best (a.k.a. most transparently fake) southern accent, John infiltrates Mooney’s nursing facility using an enchanted playing card. Once inside, he and Zed learn of the Acetate’s curse. The musician recorded on it, Willie Cole, sold his soul to the devil in the 1930s, and the dark lord came to collect while Willie was mid-song. Cue another gruesome, bloody death, and the vinyl captures more than just Willie’s screams. It records a bit of the evil force that came to kill him.
Mooney also lets slip that the album was sold to someone with the name of “Fell,” a name that leads John to a musician Bernie produced, Ian Fell. John confronts Ian at his home, claiming Ian sold his soul to achieve the fame and fortune he’s amassed. But he didn’t. It was his wife, whose name, as Zed originally smelled, is Jasmine Fell. Jasmine sacrificed her soul to a soul broker to save Ian from cancer, and her time is almost up. So she made another deal–hand over the Acetate, and her original pact will be broken.
Smelling something suspicious, John goes off to meet with the soul broker. The real brains behind his operation is revealed to be Papa Midnite, a newcomer to the show but someone certainly not new to John. Midnite is an imposing voodoo priest chasing the Acetate for his own use. To make sure John doesn’t obstruct his goals, he chains John to a metal grate outside, slices open his arm, and leaves him to bleed out.
NEXT: Anarchy on the radio