Interview with Strider of Inner Society

inner_societyInner Society covers metal of the past and present both in China and the world. Strider, the editor and progenitor of this project, took a few moments to speak with us about his role in music and the strength of metal that powers the blog.

How did you become a fan of heavy metal music, and what made you decide to take the next step to being active in the community?

A net friend introduced me to Emperor, Dimmu Borgir, Burzum and other extreme metal bands during my first semester in college when I was just a mainstream alternative heavy music (like NIN and Tool) listener at the time. From then on I became a diehard metal fan.

I spent a lot of time surfing metal forums at the beginning of this process, debating about music and searching for anything I found interesting about metal. After listening to metal for about five years, and gaining skill at playing an instrument at the same time, I digested most of the big names in metal and became selective about what I heard. All those pop-song formulated and chord-based music are of little interest to me in the guidance of DLA and DMU.

At this point, I felt an urge to construct a community for all the people who like me have had enough of the dramatic modern music scene and instead want to study the heroic, narrative, anti-modernism nature of metal. Thus I created the blog.

China has been steadily increasing its numbers of metal bands. Do you think a distinct national sound is emerging? Or are there multiple national sounds (regional, like in the USA, or ethnic, like in Europe) appearing? Can you describe it, and mention how it pairs up with any belief systems that may have guided it?

Yes, bands like Zuriaake and its follower Deep Mountains had pioneered a sound that combines the Romantic side, more specifically the spirit in the Tang Dynasty poems and the landscape paintings of ancient China, with black metal.

Their usage of drumbeats are in the vein of court dances while the guitar sound resembles the overwhelming feelings of the misty Chinese mountain scenes. Together they provide a unique national metal sound that is very distinct from the average black metal bands.

But the problem is that these bands are at their core depressive or suicidal metal acts, which tosses decomposing chords and weepy riffs like an emo/screamo band would use into the songwriting mold of Burzum while lacking a valid direction. Basically they have nothing to say: they are aesthetically innovative but not transcendental.

Your blog, Inner Society, features an academic but practical look at the history of metal and its classic works. What are the advantages of this approach, in your view, relative to them more fan-based view that most sites take?

The fan-based metal sites are nightmares to me. They group all the people including the self-image-showcase hipsters into the same place in the name of metal. This lets everyone scream out their opinions no matter how foolish or worthless they are. Eventually this drowns the quality works in the sea of generic. That’s why I found DLA and DMU appealing at first place and ultimately created the counterpart in Chinese.

traditional_chinese_paintingDo you think metal music is in a slump? If so, how would it get out of this slump? What is it that makes the older metal stand out more, in the West at least, than the newer metal? Is there an idea, spirit or approach that works best?

Yes, metal music is dead at least on the surface of this planet. If it is to rise again the fans and the artists should learn to appreciate the consistency, integrity and artistic (as in classical music) approach that the older works endorse. Don’t lower standards if the music is not on par with the classic Burzum or Pestilence albums, because if we lower standards, metal will not be reborn; instead, we will get a wreck of clones and mainstream-absorbed rock star wannabes, and their popularity will drown out any quality metal that does birth itself.

What is it that makes the older metal stand out more, in the West at least, than the newer metal? Is there an idea, spirit or approach that works best?

There is an old saying in China: The times produce their heroes.

I think the same applies to the older metal bands. They had a broader space for development during the birth of underground metal. Based on the melody line oriented composition mode (the usage of movable power chords) and the barbaric image (anti-modernism) of the past metal genres, bands like Slayer, Sepultura, Possessed and Bathory simply took everything further. Ultimately, they pushed metal to a more extreme and more intricate height.

Whereas the newer bands are confronted with a highly commercialized metal scene, in which most of the people are looking for the metal version of rock music.Deep in their hearts, they know writing something as cryptic as the old classics would immediately cause them unpopular(at least it is so from the beginning). It feels like sail against the current.

In your view, is there something “ancient” about metal music that makes it so distinctive from every other pop genre? How would you characterize what you love about metal?

To me, the warlike guitar sound, orientation of melody lines and poetic structure of metal music are all inclined toward the ancient. Whereas other pop genres seems to be mostly about the celebration of modern world and modern lifestyles.

What I love about metal is that I think people can find the true beauty of our world through the abstract but reality-reflecting fantasy world that metal music creates in the absence of social pressure and the false values of our recent society. Metal culture is one of the few grounds nowadays that the hidden-reality-aware people can make use of to rebuild society from within, and that is definitely worth fighting for.

Visit Inner Society at www.innersociety.org.

Music doesn’t need to be explained.

“Things that are genuinely sublime speak for themselves.”

ideological_zombiesOnce upon a time I used to cringe whenever I read interviews with my favorite metal musicians, as no matter how well they started they would almost always lead up to the same sort of question and the same disappointing response. Something along the lines of: “What did you mean by this song/album?” followed by “It’s up to the listener to decide what it means.”

This is a stock response almost across the board in metal (from the brainless to the most inspired of bands) and it used to annoy me. After all the effort I was putting in trying to convince people that metal was a legitimate and thoughtful art-form, whose creators are both articulate and deliberate, it would all be undone in one swift blow by what sounded to me like an under-confident and poorly thought-out response.

Was it embarrassment at talking about their motivations? Or a lack of deliberation over the creative process (which just didn’t seem true at all when I listened to the music)? This kind of off-hand, Hallmark-card relativism belonged in rock & pop, where the music really is an empty vessel for the listener to paste in their own experiences and fantasies, but not in metal.

Surely metal bands didn’t believe this of their own work — that their decision to come to this outsider genre, to innovate and/or fervently uphold an enshrined sense of metalness against a society that wanted to assimilate, emasculate and repackage it, the meandering music and reference-laden lyrics — none of it had any significance outside of whatever the listener felt like, however trivial or stupid?

I now get that I was looking at it wrong. It’s not that the listener gets to choose what the work means, but that they must explore it in order to find its meaning. This is a standard approach toward learning called esotericism, which means simply that the learner advances as his or her own pace, and without that readiness in the listener, more cannot “be taught.”

What they do not need is to be told what it means and how to think about it. Long-winded explanations kill the sense of mystery that’s inherent to good metal. In the same way that reading Quorthon explain how the guitars on Blood Fire Death were recorded in the toilet of a garage kind of dampens the mythical, Viking warrior image of that album, too much talk about the background mental processes that go into any piece of art takes away from actually experiencing the art itself. Things that are genuinely sublime don’t need too much explanation, they speak for themselves.

The nerd in me will always enjoy finding out about how and why something was made the way it was. But unlike, say, cathedral architecture, metal doesn’t really have generations of pedagogical artistic and academic development behind it that a person can study and still be filled with a sense of how awesome it is that human endeavor conspired to make it possible.

Even when there is this kind of background to an art-form, it probably only benefits those of a technical mind to find out about how and why something is done. It’s a bit of a Promethean bargain, in which you lose the sense of wonderment in order to find out how to recreate or add to it. Metal is a relatively young genre of music with murky origins and a strange streak of conservatism about it, combating a world that is at various levels hostile or antithetical yet constantly influxing it with new, clueless people looking to join in and take ownership of it.

Amongst newbies misunderstandings will always abound, and whilst it could be argued that clearer explanation by bands of what their work stands for might stop some of this, the opposite might also be the case.

The inverse of metal is the modern art world, which with its aptly sterile settings (the white walls and straight, squared lines of a typical pretentious art gallery) has decided that the explanations are more important than the quality of the work. A turd in a tin can, a cow sawed in half or a semen-streaked bed can all pass as acceptable art, provided they are accompanied by an essay qualifying the artist’s ‘creative’ decisions.

This is where the likes of Liturgy are approaching metal from – a liberal arts background that name-checks all the right theories and schools, and values the backwards relationship between aesthetics and explanation espoused by modern art. Bands like this show us that some people are only ever going to be interested in using metal as window-dressing for their own social posturing, and that too much intellectual naval-gazing (of which there has been a lot over black metal, although not necessarily by the bands themselves) helps attract the sort who are interested in appearing clever without making anything clever.

Being a hessian does not necessarily mean being caveman thick when it comes to understanding or articulating the genre’s purpose and intentions; but something of metal’s primal energy definitely gets lost in too much chin-stroking, as well as in directing people too much to the source or meaning of it all.

Music although underpinned by logical systems is not an entirely rational process, but a visceral one; which is not to diminish rationalizing things, but to say that ultimately art needs to be this way in order to work as it does – it needs the sense of release from talking about stuff in order to express that which is both inexpressible and more than the sum of the parts.

Similarly, life as a whole is more like a journey than an exam study session; the motives and end-point are never always clear, but the actual act of going on the adventure and finding for oneself how to place things within their context is much more fulfilling than being told by someone else what it’s all supposed to mean.

Deceased to release new album Deadlywhite in 2013

deceased_live_at_maryland_death_fest

Underground vanguards Deceased have announced plans to release the follow up to 2011’s Surreal Overdose late in 2013 through Hell’s Headbangers Records.

Deadlywhite will consist of the Iron Maiden-infused death-thrash that Deceased have been exploring since 1997’s Fearless Undead Machines; however frontman King Fowley has revealed the inclusion of a few new elements to their sound:

“A few songs will be lengthy tracks, including a 15 minute ride. Fitting interludes will lock in the actual tracks and little jolts of madness will also rear their ugly heads from time to time. This is a musical adventure we’ve been waiting to take and now’s the time.

If we do what we are setting out to do, it will ooze of dark melody without forgetting the rough aggressive edges and catchiness in the songwriting that we’ve kept in our sound since day one,” said Fowley on Deceased’s official site.

Surreal Overdose was one of the stand-out albums of last year, genuinely matching up to the quality and ferocity of their earlier work without showing the least signs of the band becoming jaded. Any change or development is almost sure to be within the bounds of faithful enhancement of their influences.

Abhorrence reform to play Tuska Open Air

abhorrence

Finnish old school death metal trailblazers Abhorrence have reformed to play a handful of shows, the first of which will be Tuska Open Air on 28 June 2013.

Perhaps most widely known as the precursor to another notable Finnish death metal band, Amorphis, Abhorrence took the sound of old Nihilist and Bolt Thrower and reduced it to the most crepuscular and nightmarish elements, forming the basis of what would be Finland’s idiosyncratically menacing regional sound.

Following on from the release earlier this year of Completely Vulgar, a compilation of all their early recordings through Svart Records, the band intend to play a small number of gigs for those newer fans that never had the chance to see the original incarnation, before disbanding once again.

According to the band’s Facebook page, the reunion will likely consist of all original members excepting drummer.

Best of Sweden

Quorthon of Bathory with Swedish flagAccording to Blabbermouth, the editors of Sweden Rock Magazine have named the 100 greatest Swedish Hard rock and Metal bands of all time, with Candlemass, Entombed and Europe topping the list.

Candlemass and Entombed were both highly influential (I actually even liked Clandestine for its goofy humour), but SRM’s list inevitably provokes a (short) DMU list.

In no specific order, I consider the following as a Top 6:

Bathory — The passionate Satanic hardcore punk band, blasting its way through the Heavens with Wagnerian leitmotifs. Totally worthy of its legendary status.

At the Gates — Mix the depressing avenues of Gothenburg with these fellows’ beautiful minds and you get the ultra-melodic, twisted art showcased on Gardens of Grief and The Red in the Sky is Ours.

Dismember — Their first album (and their demos) may have been their only worthy contribution (all right, Pieces is definitely not bad), but it takes them a long way. Like an axe-wielding ballet dancer, its impact is relentless yet sensual.

Therion — At first listen, Beyond Sanctorum may sounds like a random rock album, but pretty soon you’ll realize you’ve stumbled upon one of Metal music’s most magical releases, with riff upon riff flowing like an endless stream of imagination.

Unleashed — Described as “an exercise in the rhythms and textures of the battlefield in musical form” this anti-psychological, windswept creation might very well be the soundtrack of any ancient Norse saga (and, yes, we’re talking about the first two albums).

Carbonized — An almost forgotten side project. Their first two albums and their early demos are excellent. While For the Security paints a nightmarish world of  the Swedish welfare state (or so I assume), Disharmonization flies into space forging its own interesting world. Like some Hamlet, it may seem insane on the surface.

Wrangling Furtwängler

“…after having learned the art of conducting with second class orchestras, he became a reputed conductor from 1922. But the nazi era imposed him to make a choice : Furtwängler stayed in Berlin, but as an exiled in his own country, as he used to say. With the end of the war, he was given the opportunity to come back at the head of European musical culture, promoting humanity in music. But times were changing, and he was perceived more than ever as distant from “modernity”, as this concept was understood then.” – www.furtwangler.org

Furtwängler believed that he captured the time signatures that the composers intended. Though, not as popular as Karajan and others, the unique standpoint which Wilhelm Furtwängler displayed shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Anti-Christ Mass XIV

HOD liveFor the past 13 years, Adversary Productions have held an annual showcase of their extreme metal productions in Houston, Texas — Anti-Christ Mass. On December 22, 2012, the fourteenth instalment will feature the following bands:

Perdition Temple (Tampa, FL) – first time in Texas
Blasphemic Cruelty (Tampa, FL)
Funeral Rites (Houston, TX)
Hod (San Antonio, TX)
Blaspherian (Houston, TX)
Demonical Genuflection (Houston, TX)
Burial Shroud (San Antonio, TX)
Legion (Houston, TX)

Hell is unleashed from 6:00 p.m. until 2:00 a.m. in CST.

Location:
Walters [map]
1120 Naylor St.
Houston, TX 77002

Sponsored by:

The Adversary
Ossuary Industries
Ikon Customs

Demilich merchandise re-printed and available

From Antti Boman:

You once requested to be notified when new Demilich stuff is available. Well, a new batch of Demilich shirts is ready for sale at Record Shop X ( http://www.recordshopx.com/artist/demilich/ ). Currently there’s the classic design in T-shirt, long-sleeve, and for the first time also in zipper hoodie! When the sales start rolling, I’ll also order more of the other styles, and patches + other shit.

This also means Demilich stuff moves from An Entity Shop to Record Shop X, completely. The good thing is that you’ll be getting your stuff a lot quicker, the bad thing is that it costs more now. I’ll try to keep the prices as low as possible, though.

If you want to get info on the future Demilich releases (new merchandise and the compilation CD/LP), please add your email address at http://www.anentity.com/demilich/merchandise.php

If you don’t want to hear the news, just ignore this. I won’t be using these email addresses again, unless you signed for notifications on the compilation CD/LP at http://www.anentity.com/demilich/discography.php .

It’s hard not to love this progressive death metal band from way before this was a trend. Ignored for most of the 1990s and early 2000s, the band experienced a renaissance in 2005-2008 and has been returning slowly to the fore ever since. Frontman Antti Boman now plays with Jess and the Ancient Ones.

Hipster Whale Metal is Not Metal

The days of acceptance to bulk should be forgotten. Bulk is excess. Excess leads to destruction (not the destruction which infuriates society), but rather an influx of estrogen that supports cute things. Cute things are cute, but not part of the spirit of metal.

What metal captured was something desolate, isolated, and most importantly; realized.

As most Romantic art captured the joys and fears of life, our society tends to suckle on the opposite. Quick fixes for a quick stimuli, with no real objective. Actually, there is an objective. It’s money and acceptance.

Art is meant to challenge, which an abyss would. We could attribute art to the abyss.

Say no to Hipster Whale Metal.

New Carcass album in early 2013

After 17 years of silence, English grindcore pioneers Carcass are to release a new studio album early next year. According to an interview earlier this month, original members Jeff Walker and Bill Steer are at it again together with new drummer Daniel Wilding.

Carcass made metal history with their debut album Reek of Putrefaction (1988) and their masterpiece Symphonies of Sickness (1989) and hopes are of course that the band will revive some of the spirit from those days. On a more pessimistic note, the band’s last offering was Swansong

Walker himself says the new album “sounds almost like the missing link between the third and [fourth] albums but with some groove in there”. The attitude seems about right anyhow:

We’ve done this recording firstly for ourselves—there’s no label backing even as you read this—in fact me and Bill have spent a small fortune out of our pocket to see this through—it’s more of an artistic/personal statement than anything.