Raised on the music of UK two-tone groups like The Specials and Madness, Mephiskapheles was a New York City-based ska band with in interesting gimmick: Satanic Ska. They weren't really devil worshipers but decided to go with this theme after coming up with their first song: "Doomsday."
Written by guitarist Brendog Tween and lead singer Andre Worrell ("The Nubian Nightmare"), the song came about during a jam session. Drummer Mikal Reich thought it sounded foreboding, so he suggested calling it "Doomsday." Worrell wrote the lyrics to match the title, starting with a spoken line, "Hey, what's this button for?" implying a nuclear catastrophe. The rest of the lyric sounds like something from a Black Sabbath song. Here's a sample:
In the bright blue skies feathered spectres fly
Hear the people and cry and it makes you wonder
The band name emerged out of this song; it's a play on "Mephistopheles" (the Devil), and "Ska." It's not to be taken seriously. "That whole Satanic thing is just rock and roll," Andre Worrell said in Skaboom! An American Ska And Reggae Oral History. "No one is murdering anyone. People were really superstitious, and some people definitely had a negative reaction, and probably will continue to do so. But I really don’t care. It was a really smart, original idea."
Mephiskapheles made a video for this song on the cheap using a 16mm camera and filming in and around New York City clubs where they played. Remarkably, MTV played it, giving it airtime on their alternative music show 120 Minutes. The network is based in New York and was motivated to play it by a New York Times article on the burgeoning ska scene in the city that mentioned Mephiskapheles.
Ska was just starting to make inroads in America when "Doomsday" was released in 1994 (the video came out in 1995). Over the next few years, acts like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Reel Big Fish took off, but Mephiskapheles wasn't invited to the party - naming their debut album God Bless Satan probably didn't help.