Varathron – The Confessional of the Black Penitents (2015)

Varathron - The Confessional of the Black Penitents (2015)
As half original work (a short EP) and half live document, The Confessional of the Black Penitents seems more compilation than unified album at first glance. I wouldn’t be surprised if the live tracks were added in an attempt to increase the supposed ‘value’ of this EP, but this is one of those cases where the commercial intent of a tracklisting decision seems less important than its overall effect on how I engage with the tracks themselves.

Varathron does admittedly stick to the stereotypical “Greek” aesthetic on the original half of this EP – in this case, a combination of contemporary black metal technique and production with elements of older metal and rock. After an extended intro, the two lengthy tracks that form the core of this half tend to explore this by alternating more overtly extreme sections with slower sections similar to older works and frequently interspersed with melodic guitar leads. These tracks showcase a strength of organization and a tasteful, limited incorporation of modern metal elements in a fashion similar to that of the band’s previous album. Based on this, and compared to other bands in the Greek scene, Varathron has aged gracefully, avoiding the contrasting pitfalls of endless repetition, excess streamlining, or overextension in the name of artistic progress or even just diversity.

The live half of this recording could serve as a general survey of Varathron as reinterpreted through the band’s modern lineup, although it is lacking in the band’s 2000s output. With three of its four tracks sourced from the band’s earliest days, it showcases the often slower and sparser approach of the band’s earliest days. Even the faster, blasting components showcased on the original tracks here make some appearance, so the main difference appears to be that in their ‘classic’ era, Varathron focused more on the rhythmic and percussive elements of their music. The other live track comes from 2014’s Untrodden Corridors of Hades; this rendition does much to render it closer to the older material in sound, which helps highlight the similarity of their songwriting. The production also helps to unify these tracks – while rougher than a proper studio environment, it’s still intelligible and in some ways more polished than that of the original material.

The new studio tracks, at the very least, make The Confessional of the Black Penitents a fine purchase. Fewer will go out of their way to acquire this EP for its live component (although it is apparently Varathron’s first official live release), but it too has value, as it provides an introduction of sorts to the band’s older material.

Diesel – Unlimited Maduro 6×60 (2015)

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The Diesel Unlimited Maduro is an extension of the very popular Diesel cigar line by master blender AJ Fernandez. Mr. Fernandez has quite a dedicated following with full-bodied cigar lovers, as he is known for using potent tobaccos in his blends. Popular cigars such as the Man O’ War Ruination and the Diesel Unholy Cocktail are extremely strong, meaty and flavorful. The Diesel Unlimited Maduro follows in this tradition and is a welcome addition to his ever-growing portfolio.

The Blend:

Wrapper: Connecticut seed broadleaf maduro1
Binder: Mexican San Andreas
Filler: Nicaraguan and Honduran ligero2

Appearance and Construction:

A mottled, chocolate brown wrapper covers the cigar. It has a rustic appearance, with a slight tooth and a dull sheen of natural oils. It is firmly rolled and feels well constructed, with no lumps, hard spots or other imperfections. I’ve had many boxes of these cigars and they always seem to be a bit on the dry side. That doesn’t mean they are “dried out”, I just think that they aren’t as oily or moist as many other cigars. With that said, care must be taken when handling as the wrapper can flake or crack if you’re not too careful or apply too much heat all at once when lighting.

Pre-light Impressions:

The cigar has a fairly strong tobacco aroma along with an undertone of what can best be described as barnyard — a mixture of straw, grass, dirt and manure. This is in no way a negative — as a matter of fact the barnyard aroma harmonizes quite well with the tobacco.

Smoking Experience:

Because the cigar contains a good dose of ligero tobacco, The Diesel Unlimited Maduro benefits from a long toasting of the foot to warm up the head of the cigar. Once lit, the cigar burns even and true, with a grey flaky ash that can, at times, create a mess in your lap or on your clothes. The draw is quite good, producing a nice mouthful of smoke with each draw.

The smoke has a pleasant mouth feel to it — light and very flavorful with no off-putting qualities. What’s impressive is that although the smoke is very light in your mouth, it has a strong character to it that really makes you take notice.

Initial mouth flavors are wood, leather and straight tobacco and through the nose it’s mostly spice with a touch of bitter cocoa and black coffee. The finish is clean and very dry with lingering sweet chocolate and burnt wood notes.

This is by no means a complex cigar, as the flavors remain the same throughout — from initial light to the last inch. It never smokes too hot or too cool and provides a good hour and a half of smoking enjoyment. Its bold flavor profile and ramped-up nicotine content is not for the beginner, but veteran smokers will certainly appreciate the consistent blast of flavor and kick in the pants this smoke provides.

The Diesel Unlimited Maduro fits well into the Diesel cigar line, rounding out an already impressive grouping of smokes.

Terms:

  1. Maduro: This is a fermentation process that uses intense pressure and heat to extract more sugar from the tobacco leaf than standard tobacco aging.
  2. Ligero: The top-most part of a tobacco plant. This is the strongest type of tobacco, because it receives the most sunlight and has a higher nicotine content than other parts of the plant.

Why metal and SJWs are natural enemies

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The casual observer seeing how metalheads and SJWs, who descend more from crustfund punk and emo than metal, might ascertain that the two groups are radically different. This observer might even note how many of the “tryhard” types are in fact thinly-disguised SJWs. But at first appearance, the reason for this separation will be misunderstood.

An average person will see metal as wild and lawless, like a combination of the Wild West and medieval Europe, where SJWs are more like modern Europe: very morally righteous, sensitive and inclusive. This difference separates metalheads from SJWs, but it is not the primal reason why the two are different. It serves as a guidepost to that end however.

Black Sabbath launched themselves during the height of the hippie period. At that time, the popular narrative that people told themselves was that history from the Napoleonic Wars to 1945 was just one big mistake, and the way to defeat it was love, through people power and pacifism and universal acceptance. Apparently none of these people studied history or they would have known how frequently this trope comes up, and how it usually ends! Black Sabbath saw through what these hippies were saying an argued it was more of the same, and that humanity was in denial of reality and has been choosing various “human realities” instead of actual reality, to its doom.

In human experience, our most common error is self-delusion. When that is discovered, we usually choose another self-delusion. The classic example is the alcoholic who runs into the arms of a tent revivalist, and becomes addicted to another set of false promises. Another is the woman who flees her marriage only to find out years later that the new boyfriend she chose is a lot like the last husband. Voters run from one party to another, as they go from one cell phone company to another, thinking that “the other guy” might have answers. And he never does. The reason why is that he is also selling an illusion, because only illusions sell.

This leads us to why metal is different from rock and why it is the natural enemy of SJWs: metal is against illusions. SJWs want you to pick one illusion over others, but metal points out that whatever is popular is illusion and is wrong. We need some other way of looking at the world than what “most people” want to believe is true about it because it makes them look good, feel important and think they are unique. Humanity is basically a large organic machine for producing lies, and every group wants us to substitute their lie for the dominant lie, but all of these lies have their root in the same idea: that what we feel, judge and emote is more important than reality itself.

Look at politics. It is a wasteland. As notorious shock realist author Tom Wolfe once wrote in a letter to a friend:

The Republican Party as now constituted is obviously too stupid to survive…. What is to be done? Of course, that was Lenin’s line and the only lucid one he ever wrote. The answer is nothing. America’s position is unassailable. We are the imperial Rome of the 3rd Millennium. Our government is a CSX train on a track. People on one side (the left) yell at it, and people on the other side (the right) yell at it, but the train’s only going to go down the track. Thank God for that. That’s why I find American politics too boring to write about. Nixon is forced from office. Does a military junta rise up? Do the tanks roll? Give me a break.

Let us separate “rock music thinking” from “real world thinking.” Not in the way that our great-grandparents did, where rock was bad and work was good, but in the manner of people who recognize that popular music is entertainment which pretends to be profound, but is the opposite of art which explores profound subjects through realism. Entertainment wants you to think it has all the answers, but ultimately it is a social phenomenon, like chatting up a girl near the keg at a frat party. It says what flatters its listeners. It wants them to think they are profound, interesting, vivid, heck… it wants them to think they are the stars on the stage… because that sells rock music, and lets all these musicians and labels and journalists keep up the nice cushy lifestyle instead of the job managing a Target or 7-11 they would have had, had rock not come along.

Rock music thinking is advertising. It wants you to think that you can be all the cool in the world for just this one next purchase, whether a tshirt or CD. It needs to offer you highly dumbed-down and simplified ideas that make you feel like you are in control of the world. Why get into the nuances of international politics and millennium-long analyzes of the health of empires? Just say “love is the answer.” All the people will flock to that, not so much as they are idiots — although most of them are — but because they are self-deluding. They want that easy, convenient answer because it makes them feel in control.

SJWs are part of rock music thinking. They have gone from “love is the answer” to “tolerance is the answer,” forgetting that like so many Utopian quests this one will involve denying human nature and human needs, and as a result will require increasing degrees of force to make it work. They also ignore the somewhat banal reality that people mostly do not like each other and tend to associate in groups of people like themselves as a barrier to the broader world. In consequence, what SJWs preach is illusion just like the other illusions. Look at them all.

The public conservatives in this world are arch-dumbshits who think that if they adopt liberal ideas about equality, but keep industry and war going on, we will somehow turn out OK. Their great fiction is that if you just go to a job and spend all of your life there, and then manage your affairs responsibly, society will somehow follow your lead. Actually, they never think that far, because they are dumbshits, as mentioned above.

Liberals also fit in the dumbshit category. They think that if every person is just “free” and “equal,” society will magically self-organize into a permanent Burning Man of love and happiness. They ignore the fact that most people are inveterate liars who avoid the truth compulsively, and that what makes happy societies is forcing those stupid fucks to obey reality instead of their own neurotic, fruity minds. Liberals also like to give away things for free, taking from the useful and giving to the useless and spending themselves out of money, at which point their societies collapse. Europe and the USA are about to collapse from this phenomenon. More dumbshits.

Nazis — and I really don’t want to get into splitting hairs about who’s a fascist, a neo-Nazi, a white nationalist, a racialist or just a bigot — are also in the arch-dumbshit camp. They are SJWs of the far-right. Where SJWs think that tolerance is the answer, Nazis think that intolerance is the answer, and that if we just remove the mud races and Eternal Jews everything will be OK. This ignores the problem that most white people are stupid as bricks and dishonest as whores, and that our society needs a redesign from the top-down not bottom-up. I think Nazis more resemble Communists than they want to think. They are right in that diversity has never worked throughout history, but wrong in who they blame, which joins them in the dumbshit camp.

The far-left might be even stupider. None of them realize that the ideas they are chasing are from 1789 and 1867, but go back even farther to the religious fanatics of the 1500s. They are claiming very old and debunked ideas as a “new way” that will somehow magically avoid all the problems that human society has known since the dawn of time. If we all just went vegan, listened to posi-techno, and gave everyone free money, they think, all causes for conflict would be eliminated. But life is a cause of conflict because that is how it negotiates change so that the more realistic prevails over the self-deluding. Humans don’t want to be reminded of that, because it points out that Darwinistic natural selection (DNS) might take our lives at any moment if we delude ourselves, yet self-delusion is our nature. I see the far-left as overgrown children trying to pretend life is not happening to them.

Libertarians are like Nazis: extreme dogmatics who do not realize the leftist roots of their own philosophy. The idea of the free market I get and support because it allows better products and services to become available without some bureaucrat giving them the rubber-stamp. In fact, the libertarian idea of replacing most of society with a market has merit. The problem is that then we’re back at conservative anarchism where we assume that magically, the tiny group of people doing the right thing will win out over the self-deluding herd. Ain’t gonna happen. Libertarianism is another form of voting where the good people neutralize themselves by never, ever stooping so low as to tell others what to do, and then the masses roll right over them on their way to the Budweiser, light cigarettes and sugary cheeseburgers.

I’m not sure there are any other philosophies in politics worth considering. Anarchism is fun because in small groups, people who know and like each other can collaborate, but it falls apart after that. Communitarianism and distributism and all those other hybrids are ways to try to make socialism work within some kind of cultural context, but those fall apart because the idea of getting free stuff beats out any conditions placed on it. Traditionalism is interesting, but it’s basically Nietzsche for Christians, which makes it less useful, and the idea that religion can substitute for the structure of society — which is generally culture, leadership and religion, informed by economics — is laughable in itself. Same for Rastafarians and atheists I suppose.

Delusionists want to ignore the obvious: this world is hell. We have made a disaster out of civilization and are leading ourselves to collapse. There is no escape from the end, at least until we stop our fundamental error, which is assuming that delusion can substitute for realism, which is just like the alcoholic insisting that he’ll be OK if he only drinks clear liquors, or the tent revivalist telling you that all will be okay if you just believe and ignore the world around you (including the hand in your pocket). Humans tend toward self-deception because it flatters us that we are in control. Politics reflects this with many varieties of denial.

The point I make in insulting every political group that I can think of is this: metal wants to end human delusion, and everyone else wants their type of human delusion to be “validated” by everyone else. This is why metal hates SJWs; SJWs are apologists for our current society because they believe that with just a little tweak to our delusion, we make make the illusion work, when metal reminds us that we are the new Roman Empire falling because we have introduced too much internal conflict and lack a shared purpose. You can only have a shared purpose if you are focused on reality, and as human societies grow and become wealthy, they empower their people to deny reality and become self-deluding. Metal wins over all these silly varieties of illusion.

What does it take to destroy metal?

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People think like they eat, so when someone talks about heavy metal being destroyed, they envision it being completely consumed like a donut before coffee. In reality, destruction is more like tainting, namely that if I spill a thousandth of a drop of nerve gas on your donut, you won’t want to eat it, ever.

Heavy metal can be destroyed if enough of it becomes hogwash that the smart people flee. Someone would say that has already happened, but I go for the more cheerful “in progress” designation. When a certain amount — say, 20% — of people surrounding metal are the same idiots that one finds everywhere else, or worse highly specialized types of idiots like hipsters, then the good people abandon the genre and it becomes swallowed up by people who do not understand it. They quickly convert it into the Same Old Thing the way they do to every genre and soon it sounds a lot like regular rock music with some heavy distortion and a metal riff now and again. It “lives on” in a different form, but for practical purposes, it is dead.

With revelations emerging that SJWs in punk bands who banned Disma from the Netherlands Deathfest wanted to go after another band first, but when they couldn’t find an excuse for a beatdown there had to attack Disma instead, it has become clear to metalheads that they are under attack. Because of the way SJWs behave, you can no longer not take a side; you are either with the SJWs, or their enemy, in their view. This is driving many metalheads to the anti-censorship side because, independent of political view, we realize that allowing bully gangs to form lynch mobs to witch hunt “bad” thought will result in the destruction of metal.

These incursions are part of a larger pattern. When Mastodon gets shamed and forced to apologize for having scantily-clad women in their hard rock videos, and then Metalgate was launched when SJWs tried to censor non-SJWs on metal mailing lists, it seemed that it was a cluster of events. Then we saw SJWs faking the news and a series of new attacks on actual metal bands by these pretenders. There’s a list of articles published since AD 2000 in which journalists and their lackeys in certain hipster bands and labels push for guilt that leads to censorship. In their view, there is one good way to be, and everyone else is pure bad. Like a light switch: it’s either set to “Full SJW” or it is off, and you should feel bad.

What is frightening about this is how easily SJWs can succeed. Different groups have been trying to take over heavy metal for years because heavy metal is a media signal for rebellion that cannot be bought out with ready cash money like every other “movement” in our time. We’re used to politicians pretending to regulate a group when they are in fact working for that group, or journalists representing entrenched political interests while pretending to be objective. When the FBI talks about corruption threatening the soul and fabric of the US, this — in part — is what they mean. It is relatively easy to take over a genre, turn it into a megaphone for political views, and then discard it when the trend is over. Christians, the far-right, the far-left, and other groups have tried to assimilate metal in this way.

Industry is backing the SJW incursion because it will allow them to make a lot of money in the short term and then transition into selling rock music, which is what they do best because it is easy to make a lot of it and if no stronger option, like metal, exists, to sell a lot of it to an audience bored with pop. Like the Republicans, rock and especially heavy rock are the controlled opposition to sugar-pop but if the industry has its way, will not be really all that different. Media supports industry. Apparently, so do the metalfests. We are seeing a situation where once again metal stands alone, hated by all, but this time our enemies are using passive-aggression to try to take over metal, instead of trying to outright ban it.

Those who love metal will be standing up to protect it. Unlike SJWs, the anti-censorship side does not demand that you adopt a political orthodoxy. It simply says that we need to stop pre-filtering music by whether it has the “correct” political outlook, and need to start being more open-minded. Mention any group and you have immediately assumed they are all the same; not all Democrats or all Republicans are identical. Among there, some interpretations of those belief systems are in fact more advanced than others. Having free speech allows, much like natural selection, better ideas to rise to the top, and this means that we all benefit from clearer information. It’s questionable why anyone would want to stop that — well, unless they want to control your minds through music, of course.

The Heavy Metal Book Club

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The term “educated” has become such a weasel phrase in our time that it is worthy of attack. It implies that some are just better than others, and have gone through a rigorous program, and we should listen to them first because they know stuff. Implied in that is the idea that they are smarter and more successful than the rest of us and we should just bow down before their degrees. It is not politically correct to say outright that someone is smarter or wiser, because not everyone can equally access those things. But education? If you sit through the right classes, and memorize the right stuff, you too — whoever you are — can be “educated.”

This trope has the unfortunate effect (which is fully desired by those who use it) of silencing people by attacking their self-esteem. If they do not have the degree(s) required for public acceptance of their education, they are expected to remain silent while those with degrees and titles dictate to them what they should think, despite the quality of education having plummeted and degrees themselves meaning less now than before. Those without “education” are styled as ignorant hicks and basement-dwellers, when many of them are in fact too impatient and not compliant enough for our regimented, memorization-based educational system.

I have met smart people in every walk of life and every area of the world. They tend to hide themselves, having been aware since an early age of how retibutive this world is against the honestly intelligent. Usually they focus their energies on practical things, but because of the stigma of “education” as a social status, they shy away from some of the greatest things that our cultures have to offer, namely books. Not every book; like metal bands, books come in varying degrees of quality, and most are mediocre gibberish, especially some of the most popular. But even in that flood of inanity there are books worth spending time to understand.

For this reason, I suggest a heavy metal book club. Goals would be modest: select a book every month, read it and discuss it. Then figure out a thumbs up or thumbs down, and have someone write a review. The book does not have to be metal-related, but some of those might be fun too. It would require someone to organize it through a mailing list or this blog, and we’re taking volunteers now :)

Summoning’s Minas Morgul turns 20 this week

Summoning - Minas Morgul (2015)
On October 16th, 1995, Napalm Records released Summoning’s second album, Minas Morgul; it is arguably the first release by the band to showcase their signature sound. Minas Morgul is heavy on repetition, ambiance, and cheap keyboards, but in spite of its minimalist elements (or perhaps because of them), it’s a surprisingly sophisticated work. On full display here is Summoning’s ability to convey an overarching mood or idea without resorting to extreme aesthetic shifts or overstuffing their tracks. In the process, Summoning often leaves behind conventional black metal technique but never abandons the themes at the core of their music – war, wandering, fantasy, triumph, and so forth. The band’s next album (Dol Guldur) refines much of the technique and production surrounding this approach, but Minas Morgul is still an excellent album 20 years after its debut.

Announcing the Opeth erotic short story contest

Promotional picture of Opeth from 2014
A while back, DMU ran an erotic fanfiction contest in response to a small incident involving Pantera and the community around them, much to our fans’ joy and pleasure. As part of our initiative to grow the site (and because of the potential for controversy), we’re going to try our hands at another.

Opeth has long been one of our prominent targets for their inept aping of progressive rock forms in a paper-thin guise of death metal. Their popularity seems to have waned in recent years as they lapsed more overtly into ’70s prog worship, but that doesn’t mean we can’t give them the occasional dose of mockery to lighten up their mood and possibly incite them to heights of passion that might lead to better songwriting if we’re enormously fortunate. Thusly, Death Metal Underground’s second erotic fanfiction contest is going to be about Opeth and its members.

The rules are similar to those of the previous contest.

  1. Your story must be between 500-5,000 words and involve the members of Opeth in intensely sexual and/or erotic situations. It’s up to you to determine which perversions and fetishes you want to involve, but the more depraved, the better.
  2. References to bandmembers’ side projects (like Steel and Bloodbath) are permitted, as well as references to other bands appealing to a similar demographic. However, your work must primarily be about Opeth.
  3. Your story must be your own work. You are allowed to quote Opeth lyrics for effect, but don’t crutch yourself too badly by overusing them, lest your work be rendered underwhelming.

Submit your entries as comments on this post. You have until 11:59 PM EST on November 30th, 2015 (we extended it) to write a story for this content, so let your imagination and libido run wild.

Megiddo returns with The Holocaust Messiah

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Canadian one-man band Megiddo, who back in the late 1990s ushered in the transition of black metal to a war, black, death and speed metal hybrid, have returned with a new album The Holocaust Messiah to be released on Iron Pegasus Records for Halloween, October 31, 2015.

Sounding much like old Sodom, Blasphemy and Profanatica in a blender but built around the rhythms of punk and simpler song structures of older speed metal, Megiddo burst forth in the middle to late 1990s with two demos, “Hymns to the Apocalypse” and “The Heretic,” which have now been re-issued by Iron Pegasus as Hymns to the Apocalypse / The Heretic.

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In addition, you can read the writings of composer and lyricist Chorazaim in our archive of Larm: The Fourth Reich of Reviews, a review site which popped up a few years after the DLA and covered black metal releases that were current at the time with an inimitable style.

https//www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwjUVkccKdM

SJW war on metal heats up

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Following the banning of Disma from the Netherlands Deathfest by SJWs, those cuddly political fanatics have attacked again by setting fire to a black metal club in Germany.

As reported in local news, the entrance to the club — originally a tiki-themed club now repurposed to be one of the most important black metal venues in Germany — was set ablaze in the night by SJWs who identified with “Antifa,” originally an anti-fascist organization that now works alongside other SJW groups. These groups publicly claimed responsibility for the attack and issued the ominous statement, “This fall we have some catching up what was missed in the last few years!”

Interestingly, Blackland Club was not a Nazi club. It allowed black metal bands to play there and by all accounts, most of the bands who performed at the club were not political in any way. SJWs attacked under the excuse that it provided a platform for Nazi bands, ignoring the fact that most black metal bands have extremist philosophies that make the Nazis look like Williamsburg Democrats. The club became a target because it did not adopt the SJW line that those who do not expressly reject certain beliefs must be destroyed. Some of the “evidence” compiled by SJWs includes that people there wear Burzum tshirts.

This type of phenomenon — a witch hunt organized by an internet hate mob motivated by SJW ideals — was last seen in the Disma debacle where SJWs pushed Disma to apologize for possible pro-Nazi statements by one member. The point of the apology is that it humiliates the person, and shows everyone else a broken and contrite citizen who acknowledges that he has been disciplined, which instills fear in the rest of us of the same happening to us. That is the point of all this SJW scene policing: to create fear and through that, compliance and control. SJWs have made their demands clear: support our ideology or we will destroy your career. This is the power of having an internet lynch mob to deploy against non-conformists.

As political instability in the US and Europe accelerates, we are likely to see more of these clashes as SJWs attempt to unify their ranks. This reveals SJWs are involved in metal only incidentally because their actual purpose is to be involved in politics, and they want to use heavy metal as a propaganda weapon in that fight. This is why their increasingly shrill, intolerant and dogmatic voices are infesting metal, punk and rock as happened when record label Run For Cover Records cut ties with band Whirr over “transphobic” — meaning not fully approving of transsexualism — messages on Twitter:

Last night, the Bay Area band Whirr posted a series of negative tweets about G.L.O.S.S., a punk band whose lead singer is a transgender woman. (The tweets have since been deleted, but an archive can be found at Stereogum.) Among other things, they tweeted, “g.l.o.s.s. Is just a bunch of boys running around in panties making shitty music,” and compared G.L.O.S.S. to the Buffalo Bill character from The Silence of The Lambs.

While this is clearly vitriolic, it is not any more vitriolic than what is regularly posted on metal bulletin boards on the internet. But it does provide an opportunity for SJWs to create a “teachable moment” in which they destroy someone’s life to remind the rest of us to toe the line or we, too, will be on the chopping block. One label created a religion out of this division, and said, “We have zero interest in working w/ hateful people.” That they have in turn created a hateful echo chamber seems like too much thinking for them, but the result is that the metal/punk scenes are polarizing: there are those who are SJW, and there are those who SJWs consider their enemies for not being SJW.

This behavior is not specific to SJWs in metal. Everywhere they go, the commandment is the same: Destroy the unbelievers. If you deny their ideology in public, they will seek you out not to disagree with you, but to try to get you fired and otherwise socially ostracized. It is their one weapon, the threat that they will declare you something the media thinks is bad (“Nazi,” “racist,” “sexist,” “transphobic”) whether or not there is any truth to it, and you will be unable to participate in our liberal-leaning society as a result.

In the meantime, refuting a recent SJW attack which claimed that folk metal was plagued by “sexism” and “racism” but never quite showed how that was true, some sources have begun posting an extended list of folk metal bands that are not white, male and pointed toward European mythos:

Amocualli – Aztec folk metal from Mexico
Arkan – Islamic folk/death metal from France
Kartykeia – Hindu/Vedic folk/death metal from Russia
Melechesh – Mesopotamian folk/black metal from Israel (ethnically Assyrian and Armenian) now based in the Netherlands
Myrath – Oriental folk/progressive metal from Tunisia
Rudra – Hindu/Vedic death metal
Skinflint – folk metal from Botswana
Tengger Cavalry – Mongolian folk metal from China

As usual, the SJW story does not add up because SJWs are ideological fanatics and not realistic members of society. Western Civilization continues crashing into the abyss and no one will do anything about that, so they focus on nice low-hanging fruit like convincing all of us to support the right of transsexuals to listen to black metal too, even though no one had ever attempted to deny them that ability. The best way to combat this is to end the perception that SJWs speak in any way about whether someone is “good” or not, and see them for what they are: lonely fanatics in their lonely apartments, raging at the world for not granting them more power.

In praise of plugs

Images courtesy of StLuisRey.

Images courtesy of StLuisRey.

Modern society is addicted to convenience. Let me expand on that: over time, as anything succeeds, its challenges decrease and it focuses on absolute convenience so it can bore itself to death. Old companies, stale friend groups, even churches and heavy metal bands fall prey to this. At some point, everything becomes easy and everyone becomes bored, and quality plummets. Life is an existential process after all that benefits from the search for pleasure, adventure and intensity (“a repo man is always intense”) more than stability, convenience and the other stuff that goes into Excel spreadsheets when users answer surveys.

For pure convenience, nothing beats the cigarette. Buy a pack and a lighter, then throw them out when consumed. The more intrepid seek a greater intensity of flavor from cigars and pipes which burn cooler and are absorbed through the cheeks instead of the lungs, so require a bit of a slower pace. Even with those fields a variety of conveniences exist. Some cigars are designed to burn evenly over any other factor, and many pipe tobaccos are meant to target the holy trinity of easy lighting, mild flavor and cool burning. For those who seek to push past all barriers, and to exceed past sensations, the more difficult realm of flakes, twists and plugs awaits. These were traditionally tobaccos for those who smoked pipes as away of avoiding expensive cigarettes, and who were busy with their hands and bodies and so were not sitting comfortably in an easy chair sipping on a pipe. They smoked all day, and they liked tobacco like their lives: rough, durable and strong. Coincidentally they usually had at least one pocketknife on their persons and were accustomed to using manual dexterity at a moment’s notice. For such a person, dragging an aged twist from an inner pocket, brushing off the lint and slicing it into shreds was a matter of course.

In our current time, convenience (and entropy) has just about won out, as has the belief that jobs which involve sitting inside cubicles in the glow of multiple screens are the desired lifestyle. When we can smoke, it is in our homes away from the prying eyes of society and the databases of law enforcement and health insurance (many of us smoke with our rifles and tricorner hats close at hand for this reason). Tobacco blends have kept up with this and now come mostly in tins with elegant labels and fine cuts. While those have their place as well, and are very enjoyable, many of us are turning toward the older forms of twists and plugs for the power of that form. Not only are they stronger, reminding us that smoking like life is a struggle against the forces of nature, but they bring back the ritual of an older time. The focus, dexterity and precision are as much a part of this as any other aspect. Slicing layers of pressed tobacco, then rubbing it into strips, and packing a pipe not for an armchair smoke but for walking around in the world, interacting with it and moving with purpose, this provides a different sort of enjoyment.

Take for instance the Peterson Peterson’s Perfect Plug. Easily available across North America and Europe, it is relatively low-cost owing to the predominance of the Peterson brand, which is currently manufactured by Mac Baren. This makes it a great plug to start with since it is neither exotic nor unduly expensive and in its abundance, allows enough material to experiment with. The plug comes in a tin, beneath a layer of cardboard surrounded by a ruff of tissue paper, and is then sealed inside a plastic bag. Slicing apart the bag and tossing the cardboard, one finds a brick of pressed tobacco leaf which resembles a very dense brownie. Since the tobacco is layered, the plug is sliced in thin flakes from the end, much as flake tobacco is made with much larger plugs at the factory. You control the width of this flake and that is where some of the magic of plugs originates:

  • Slice it thin for a lighter and shorter smoke with more sweetness. If you cut to the width of a postcard or narrower, the soft feathers of tobacco rub out into something closer to a shag which burns quickly, delivering predominantly the notes of sweeter tobaccos with more natural sugar like Virginias.
  • Cut it thicker for a dense-burning long smoke that emphasizes the savory flavors. This lets it smoulder and melds the nuttier flavors of the Burley with the denser flavors of Virginias that come out with aging and slow burning.
  • If you want to experience the toppings alongside the slower flavors, since this plug is lightly flavored with a fruit and anise mixture, cut thick flakes and then cut them the opposite direction into 1/4 inch cubes. Rub those slightly, let them dry and pile them in the pipe for a long-burning melange of flavors.

It is my feeling that the original smokers of plugs used them in each one of these different ways. They sliced thin for the first smoke of the day to wake themselves up, and cut rough during the day for hourlong pipes while they worked on whatever they did, and may have done a variation on the two or a cube-cut on weekends and after work to wind down. The versatility of the plug enabled it to be many tobaccos at once by emphasizing different flavors, speeds and volume of smoke. Being familiar with mechanics and some chemistry, the original smokers of the plug naturally adapted to this usage, in addition to enjoying a hardy piece of tobacco that could be tucked in a pocket alongside a knife for a no-frills but slightly inconvenient use.

Thanks to the resurrection of pipe smoking by the internet and its ability to join scattered people into groups, pipe smoking has experienced a revival and with it many old blends have returned as new ones have sprouted like the flowers of spring. This audience rewards intensity as it is united not by the convenience of the local tobacco store and friends to smoke with, but interest in something that is more than a hobby and less than an addiction. It is both a fascination and a lifestyle choice, a relaxation and intensification of life at the same time it is a way of dispensing with modern habits to gain appreciation for the timeless. One way to spin it faster is to go back to the revered and cherished form of pipe tobacco, the plug. Naturally, that adventure goes best with the music of open frontiers and wars in the heavens, Celtic Frost.