Exploring Metal Music Through Active Imagination Techniques

Active Imagination is one of the pillars of Jungian therapy[1] , and simply consists in engaging with the symbols of the mind in a way that allows us to contemplate them or even engage with them. Outside the stale therapeutic environment of clinical psychologists, we can discover emotions, situations and characters inside of our minds (and presumably in the collective mind) by using the same technique in a slightly more unhinged and less sanitizing direction. We can use the musical, lyrical and visual contents of metal albums which are more often than not intended to be mythical, and are thus a great source for archetypal projections.

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Several different approaches can be taken when we attempt to engage metal albums in an exercise of Active Imagination. We may either focus of the music, the cover art or the words written. Or we may decide to involve any combination of these at the same time or in sequence. In any of the modalities, we recommend reducing all unnecessary sensory input. If we wished to concentrate solely on the music (having seen the artwork before but not concentrating on it), we could use headphones with some manner of isolation, and cover our eyes to prevent light stimuli from distracting us.

A simple process for Active Imagination to explore metal albums could go like this:

  1. Sit/lie in a comfortable position and relax by focusing on your breath while observing the album artwork. Keep your mind focused on breathing deeply and your eyes on the image, exploring its details, letting impressions and emotions surge without following any of them. Your mind does not follow anything but the inhaling and exhaling of air from your lungs. Do this for as long as it feels right, or until you cannot wait to listen to the music.
  2. Put your (noise-cancellation) headphones on, press play, and cover your eyes with a piece of cloth or eye mask. The music will begin and you must remember to take a back seat to your impressions, emotions and mental images that arise, letting them coalesce on their own. A note to those more technically inclined: there is no excuse for not being able to do this with some practice, you can overcome your impulse to analysis by learning restraint through calm.
  3. After you have finished listening to the whole album and you have allowed yourself a moment, uncover your eyes and bring out the lyrics for the album, if any. As you slowly read each line, wait for the effect of each verse wash over you like a rolling wave. Move on towards the end and listen to the music again now, with or without headphones, with or without covering your eyes.
  4. Write an account of the world visited, characters seen and events witnessed, & send it in any form (raw, embellished, sanitized, sadistically enhanced, etc.) you see fit to editor@deathmetal.org.

Notes

[1] http://www.jungiantherapist.net/jungian-therapy-101-active-imagination/

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Did Rock & Metal Engineer Societal Destruction?

What do Jonathan Davis, Corey Taylor, and Scott Weiland have in common?  Answering the question “90 Hard Rock singers” would not be incorrect, but there’s something darker beneath the surface – all three men are rape victims.  Davis even documents the experience in graphic detail in a platinum selling album from his band, and many of Taylors lyrics are riddled with sexual abuse.

Why were the executives of the murder industry so keen on pushing rape victims as the new face of rock n’ roll?  Furthermore, why were the most popular genres of rock and metal so lyrically obsessed with self destruction?  From Grunge “morality is useless and life is hopeless” to Nu Metal “I’m a freak and everyone hates me” to Emo and Screamo “I’m lonely and will never be loved” to indie (soy) metal and rock “We failed to be what we should have been” the message of mainstream rock and metal music has constantly be one of self destruction.  This trend is mirrored by a 25% increase in American suicides in American suicides since the 1990s:

Suicide rates increased by 25% across the United States over nearly two decades ending in 2016, according to research published Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty-five states experienced a rise in suicides by more than 30%, the government report finds.

More than half of those who died by suicide had not been diagnosed with a mental health condition, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the CDC.

“These findings are disturbing. Suicide is one of the top 10 causes of death in the US right now, and it’s one of three causes that is actually increasing recently, so we do consider it a public health problem — and something that is all around us,” Schuchat said. The other two top 10 causes of death that are on the rise are Alzheimer’s disease and drug overdoses, she noted.

With statistics like this, it’s absolutely time to panic: our society is being marred by growing influences- intentional or not – to destroy ourselves.  Let’s examine music’s relationship to this now obvious horror and see if we can determine why this is happening.

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On The Ending Of American Psycho (2000)

The classic film portrayal of Bret Easton Ellis’s viciously dark novel American psycho has an incredibly open-ended ending that ultimately leaves the film’s conclusion up to the viewers. Chronicling the growing insanity of Christian Bale’s outstanding Patrick Bateman character, the film never makes a firm establishment of how real any of what we were seeing actually was. After eluding what seemed like certain doom in the form of confessing a massive killing spree to his lawyer, Bateman himself wonders if his murders really did happen.

This leaves the opportunity to make a case for three different theories:

  1. Bateman committed none of the murders, all of them happened inside of his mind.
  2. Bateman committed some of the murders, but hallucinated the others.
  3. Bateman committed all of the murders.

My belief was always the least popular of these three theories, but before I elaborate let’s take a moment to examine the other two.

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Analysis of Dissection’s “A Land Forlorn”

 

Dissection was one of the last bands to be associated with violence and action in metal. Jon Nodveidt, a true Hessian who rejected the modern world,  committed various acts that most will consider morally reprehensible yet they embodied his personal philosophy and the ideology of his music.  Barring the third album, Dissection display a penchant for ambitious composition within a framework of heavy/death and black metal.  The second outing reached too far and ended up sounding almost confused from the virtuosity of the musicians and the wide number of techniques at their disposal without the vision to streamline all these ideas. The Somberlain is a lot more focused in its inspirations by sticking closer to the source material and more structured arrangements.

A Land Forlorn impressively bridges multiple approaches to metal.

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Thrift Store Alert! Judas Iscariot to Get the Re-Release Treatment

Of all of the bands and all of the musicians that have come out of retirement in attempt to cash in on their past, Judas Iscariot’s Akhenetan (Andrew Harris) has been one rare exception who has truly vanished into the depths of obscurity for good.  Responsible for starting the careers of both Moribund Records and Krieg, Harris’s Judas Iscariot was once the most popular American black metal band.  Formed in the days where Euronymous was still alive, JI played in the long-form Darkthrone style and memorably used (albeit poorly understood) Nietzsche Nilisist lyrics.  But after a celebrated career of mediocre black metal was capped off with a wild family campaign scandal in 2002 (more on that in a moment), Akhenetan laid down his axe and disappeared forever.

But in an age where metal thrift-stores like Nuclear War Now! and their cronies will resell whatever refurbished sonic garbage they can find, Ascension Monuments Media has decided to dig up the rotted corpse of Judas Iscariot for another dose of record store necrophilia.  Run by none other than Nachtmystium’s Blake Judd (oh shit! hide your wallets!), AMM is re-releasing tons of old Judas Iscariot vinyls and a super secret, unreleased (rejected) album called An Ancient Starry Sky.

While Akhenetan himself remains in long board room meetings with corporate banker swine, Judd and his label have successfully wrestled away the rights to almost all the music not released by Moribund (whose royalty rights are locked away in a chest in Odin Thompson’s basement).  So how does this material hold up nearly 20 years later, to a scene and a world that’s turned completely upside down?  What can we expect from this latest endeavor of hipster metal mania?  And just why did the most popular American black metal musician of the 90’s go into complete exile, never to return?

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Concert Review: Metalmania 2018

On  7th  April, another edition of a long standing Polish festival Metalmania took place. One day, two stages, twenty four bands. It was the second one organized after a recent reactivation. The original Metalmania was an early big metal event in that part of the Europe – quite a feat given Polish Communist and post-Communist realities. Then, due to various reasons, the festival was gradually losing its relevance, dwindling and finally went into hiatus for 8 years. There is no sense, however, to cling to its bygone local importance or whatever glorious past. So how does it look now? 

While too much reliance on more mainstream gothic and heavy contributed to a collapse of previous incarnation of the festival, and now it was death and black oriented, the music on the big scene is rather consistently aimed at straight metal through all of its generations and styles, ending with bands like Dead Congregation or Blaze of Perdition and with some of the more modern sounds on a small scene. On a downside, the fest resurfacing mainly as a stage for classic bands may be reflecting the actual state of metal, indicating that the newer bands are unable to fill the void with something equally strong to their predecessors. 

The festival was obviously rough around the edges (and surprisingly violent – I almost got caught into two different fights just from where I was standing) and the sound was uneven and average overall. It was organized better than in the past, but still perceptibly within Polish standards, that is crudely and with lack of imagination or simply negligence in some areas (although Martin van Drunen said on stage that the organization was great!). Perhaps a very fortunate by-product of these characteristics, which may contribute to the positive reception of this festival, is how – I dare to say – conservative it is, both in terms of lineup and general spirit. With Napalm Death and (I suppose) liberal speed metallers on one side and sort of crypto-nazis on the other, who always find a way to show up in some form, the fest also covered broadest ideological spectrum that is possible for a mainstream event. 

As of 2018 this festival is yet to experience types of modern degeneracy, often coming from outside, which can be seen on festivals elsewhere. There were some obligatory side attractions, like exhibition of works of Christophe Szpajdel (who actually speaks Polish fluently), meet-up with the bands and lots of merch, but nothing delving too much into a fan idiocy or really not related to metal. Very few freaks, zero exotic people, no random participants, just fairly traditional metalheads, mostly in the 90s style, as it should be, world without end. However, those spoiled by abundance of propositions and by big festivals in Germany or Czech Republic will probably miss out on some of these modest qualities. 

And then there’s the surreal, sci-fi sight at the arrival – a monumental, Communistic “The Saucer” occupied by nothing but a tribe of long haired, black clad drunks… 

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Analysis of Immolation’s “Christ’s Cage”

Immolation are legends in Death metal and rightfully so, though their heydays were after the initial burst that characterized the NYDM scene and have cemented their place with the likes of Cryptopsy and Immortal for prolonging the lifespan of that classic period of metal. Longevity seems to be the forte of the band’s centerpieces Dolan and Vigna and while they released a few decent albums, none of them quite hold up to Here in After. Black Sabbath and Slayer stretched the palette for what was possible in metal and introduced endless possibilities whereas Immolation took one closed approach and pushed it to its limit on this album. Though Close To A World Below took experimentation further, the whole was not as cohesive or powerful. Let us look as the closing track which truly concludes the album.

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