Roots of Evil: The Origins of Metal

With the fiftieth anniversary of metal music around the corner, forthcoming years will witness an increase of publications dealing with the history, legacy and defining characteristics of the genre. This could finally resolve the lack of consensus that still exists regarding the definition and origins of heavy metal.

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Rest In Peace: Mark “Blaash” Michaelson


Clockwise: David Herrera, Mark “Blaash” Michelson, “Jenoside”

Mark “Blaash” Michaelson, known for Where’s My Skin zine and playing drums in Bahimiron, has died. A lively spirit imbued with a fatalistic sense of self-destruction, Michaelson was nonetheless an affirming personality who enjoyed life to the fullest and never let anyone tell him what to do. Our condolences to his family, friends, bandmates and all who were touched by his life.

I met Mark back in the early 2000s when Bahimiron was just starting up and was immediately impressed by his grasp of the spirit of metal. While for him it took a suicidal black metal type of path, he nonetheless understood the more triumphant aspects of metal and affirmed them with vicious but elegant music. He was always a good person to query about the relevance of anything going on in the community.

Celebrate his life through music:

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Watain – Reaping Death (2016)

Article by David Rosales.

I. Where is the music?

It is very rare to find a general fan of black metal today who has not at least heard of the name of Watain. The kind of fame it has attained, however, is the kind that is mostly based on peripheral affairs rather than the art which Watain is supposed to dedicate itself to. Watain is the kind of ‘entity’ (as most of these bands are now given to call themselves) that is surrounded by a nebulous aura which may at first, if one is inclined to be generous in providing the benefit of the doubt, seem like an hint of something truly profound going on. Now, whether that is the case in regards to the real, transcendent or philosophical knowledge or experience of the people behind Watain is not for the writer to say. On the other hand, the music itself does not seem to display any of the more-than-human qualities it should if one is to believe all the hype. In fact, it reveals itself as a very mundane affair when one is given to delve into a holistic examination of the music in itself, and even more so when seen in relation to the extra-musical portions of the ‘entity’.

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This Ain’t No Fantasy: A History Of Punk’s Most Iconic Band, The Misfits

cliff_burton_-_metallica_-_misfits_shirt

Metalheads tend to be wary of punk, recognizing it only for its role as an influence on metal. This attitude obscures the fact that the best of punk is worth exploring on its own terms and merits, starting with perhaps the greatest influence of punk technique and heightened aesthetics in that genre, hardcore punk‘s The Misfits.

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The Difficulties of Folk Metal

Anders_Zorn_-_Hins_Anders_(1904)

Article by Johan P.

I’ve never been overly impressed by the folk metal phenomenon, which emerged in the middle of the 1990s and began to gain popularity some years later. I do not mean to imply that there isn’t any good folk music out there. On the contrary, there’s a lot of rewarding traditional music to discover. Many musicians – metallers included – have realized that their respective countries’ folk music reservoir is a gold mine for potential ideas to integrate into more modern forms of music. It was on these premises that folk metal was born. However, if the source material is to be successfully re-animated and be brought into metal or any other genre, it requires some serious work from the composer and performer. Most folk metal bands fail at this point for a variety of reasons, with the end-result often sounding like bad heavy metal adorned with folk-melodies that have been stripped of all subtlety to fit into a rock-based harmonic and structural environment.

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Sadistic Metal Review: Blliigghhtted – Into the Cunt of the Witch (2016)

into the cunt of the witch

Article by Lance Viggiano.

Into the Cunt of the Witch is grainy fatalistic pap embellished with agonizing atonal voids where music should exist. When the haze clears just enough for a melody to become audible it possesses a character of passivity and reception but is always intensely grating in its pointlessness. The tired corpse of speed metal and heavy metal drags lethargically through chromatic sections that form the locus of this work. Lightly struck syncopated rhythms are relied too heavily upon and flatten into a sterile ticking that results in a pure time keeping effect not unlike a distraught prisoner tallying his cell wall; tracking his sentence until his song merely ends – a fair metaphor for the experience of this record. Individual songs are parts of four whole works and do not stand well on their own; ending abruptly without proper conclusions before jumping into the next section in a greater cycle. Vocals operate in two essential modes: an apathetic crooning within artificial caverns as well as a faux-distraught occult street preacher reminiscent of contemporary orthodox/occult black metal.

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Response to “Time to do away with Manhood”

A still from "The Obsolete Man"
Article by Daniel McCormick; read the original article at The Guardian

A tenet of Christian faith is the idiotic concept of original sin, whereby it is understood we are all born with sin and must be faithful servants as punishment, in order to then be made well. This is a core belief of potentially billions of credulous people all over the world who claim fellowship with Christian death cults. These untold billions demonstrate the power of an illusion, and specifically the ability of a carefully crafted lie to take root and flourish through disinformation, misrepresentation, and argumentum ad passiones. In like manner, the modern feminist recognizes the power of a seductive lie and has taken this titillating concept of original sin and hammer forged their own bastard child. Original victimhood they bemoan, whereby it is observed that man is created sick and must faithfully serve woman in order to be made well. A predictable move for a supremacist, politico-pseudo-religious, ideology, as the claim carries with it the corollary that unless prostrating in servitude man won’t merely become but literally is a nemesis and bane to social order and progress. What is worrisome then, is in considering the absolutist, fatalistic, authoritarian will from which they seek privilege, and the credulous nature of the majority they which to use to attain this privilege.
 
For a considerable length of time feminism has been generally obsolete in the US, functional but directionless. To keep the menstrual machine relevant over the last few decades, during the modern dearth of social injustice, seeds of its ideological untruths have been sown in the popular consciousness by exploiting politeness. An obvious avenue because intelligent humans tolerate free speech regardless of how it makes them feel, and this tolerance comes at a price. For behind these soft campaigns of Stalinist censorship lay a many headed beast of manufactured victimhood gnashing its teeth in hunger for the credulous. As awareness raising becomes pleas for special privilege, as misrepresented social problems become calls for political action, the beast becomes less obscured behind the crumbling facade of benevolence. Because they are not vying to improve society, nor are they battling institutional injustice. No, today they are pushing for the legislation of morality and opinion and seek to censor, slander, and demonize all that would disagree. Because what Caucasian, alpha, manly men like myself are alleged to be guilty of is not actually anything we’ve done but, as we are told, we are guilty of thought crimes, of language crimes, and guilty of simply being the gender and skin tone we happened to be. This is part of a perverted guilt complex feminists have incorporated from the religious by which feminism proclaims to be able to reeducate and save males through their revealed wisdom (e.g. Catholic flimflam). From which I can only conclude that when a person’s standard for evidence is tantamount to Inquisition grade hearsay there is little to differentiate fanatical absolutists from each other.

I realize the female gender still has some legitimate first world grievances even today: women aren’t funny, cosmetics are expensive, beauty is temporary, but these problems are not institutional. Likewise whatever problem feminism has with masculinity is also not covered by government statutes. That’s because the problems as perceived by feminist theory have become so irrational and illusory and based on perpetuated biases that they shovel their own graves. I’m reminded of an old Twilight Zone episode (06/02/1961 – “The Obsolete Man”), which is a philosophical dialogue on absolutist fanaticism, and authoritarian ruthlessness. This episode ends with the antagonist facing the same sentence he’d inflicted on others, and closing with Rod Serling addressing the viewer.
“Any state, any entity, any ideology that fails to recognize the worth, the dignity, the rights of man, that state is obsolete.”
Thus, I maintain feminism is obsolete.
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Interview with – – – 

- - -

For those who caught our review of the – – – /Dawning split some months ago, the intentional mystery behind – – –  may have created some interest. Artists disguising themselves is nothing new; all of black metal disguised themselves under pseudonyms and paint like nocturnal vigilantes. Authors such as Thomas Pynchon are famous for their reclusive refusal to be photographed or interviewed. And in occult and ambient music, the situation gets even more obscure.

– – –  create music that sounds like a heavy metal hybrid with the vaguely occult black metal of the style that Deathspell Omega made famous, but with a mix of heavy metal in the balance such as one might find from Paradise Lost or Primordial. The result floats gently through the speakers and is both familiar and highly distant. We were fortunate to gain access to the concealed personality behind – – –  for a short interview on the nature of existence, music and possibly why black metal has lost its way.

When did – – –  originate, and what can you tell us about the lineup?

I wrote a lot of minimalistic music when I was about 15-16 years old. Back then I didn’t have a guitar, just an old keyboard. All the music I wrote, I wrote down with the help of some MIDI-software. I didn’t think I would do anything with the MIDI-files, I just wanted to write some music. Several years later I found all those MIDI-files (about 50-60 tracks) and thought it would be fun to add drums and some guitars. Thus was the music of – – –  born.

The lineup is just me. On some tracks a friend of mine sings.

The music you play has a lot in common with both avantgarde black metal and the type of instrumentally advanced heavy metal that Therion ventured into with its third album. What style do you identify as your own, and what are your biggest influences?

When people ask in general what music I play, I usually answer that I play heavy metal. There are so many genres in the metal corpus so just to begin answering what kind of metal one is playing is rather impossible. And if heavy metal doesn’t suffice I’d say I play dragon metal.

For the piano compositions I’ve had the great Flemish composer Wim Mertens as a big influence. Also Michael Nyman, Roberto Cacciapaglia and Ludovico Einaudi. The guitars are just buzzing tremolo melodies to accompany the piano tracks.

Much of your work seems to be based around the notion of secrets; if not outright secrets themselves, the revelation of hidden meaning. Do you think there are hidden meanings in life around us? Are these metaphysical or material?

To answer the first question: Yes, I do think there are meanings in life around us. If this meaning is hidden or not I can’t really tell. To acknowledge that there is meaning around us is in itself a great step toward a life that isn’t nihilistic and/or fatalistic. But then you’ll have to validate whether these meanings are good or bad. I’ve chosen to believe that the meanings I’ve found in life are good ones. I don’t know this by necessity and I can’t persuade anyone that this is the right path. I believe that there is a reality and that I, as a human being, am capable of knowing something about it.

Since I have to relate to a material world to even begin to grasp the metaphysics, I’d have to say “yes” on this question (I interpreted it as an inclusive disjunction). I don’t think any materialistic substance can hold a Principle (of something higher). We interact bodily with the materialistic world and with our mind (soul), through the study of metaphysics, the Principles (how to know the meanings epistemologically).

Why did you choose the name “- – – “?

I used to name my music project files that way. And then the name stuck.

As – – –  goes on, do you think you have “matured” or “improved”? Is there a difference?

Maybe lyrically, but not musically. I still use the old MIDI-files I wrote several years ago.

Where will you go next with – – – ? Will there be more recordings, a change in style or a different look at things?

I have no idea. I think I will try to write something new from scratch. It will probably not sound exactly the same.

What personally attracted you about underground metal, and keeps you bonded to it twenty years past its glory days?

Probably the creativity. There are a lot of interesting bands that have a genuine sound or have really talented musicians. There is always something new and fresh that you can find in the great sea of underground bands. You don’t see the same creativity around the big names in metal.

Are your songs based around symbolism from which riffs are created, or do you base them around riffs and layer symbolism on top of those?

If by symbolism you mean the lyrics then: yes. I usually have some tracks ready when I begin writing the lyrics. Then I puzzle them all together.

If by symbolism you mean that I have a clear idea about what the tracks is going to be about, then: no. The lyrics are written separately from the music.

If someone wanted to find out more — but not too much — about – – – , where should they look?

Look toward where the sunrise, and in to the names of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite’s divine. Otherwise you should try google: “- – – “.

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Analyze it to Life: Black Sabbath – Master of Reality

black_sabbath-master_of_reality

The resurgence of Black Sabbath following the success of their new album 13 presents an ironic success when compared with the more substantial legacy of their earlier work. Without the first five albums, metal as we now know it would not exist. And on one album in particular, Black Sabbath laid the groundwork for three subgenres — stoner metal, thrash metal and doom metal — such that future generations could pick up the hint and fully develop these new alloys of the raw metal that Black Sabbath forged forty years ago.

Black Sabbath is widely acknowledged by critics and fans as the beginning of heavy metal. From the eerie tri-tone chills of “Black Sabbath” to the menacing crawl of “Electric Funeral,” from the sludge of “Cornucopia” to the pop sensibility of “Killing Yourself to Live,” the black stamp of Black Sabbath radiates forward into the future, culminating in a reprise of their career (including post-Ozzy line-ups) in 13. Ranking the first five Black Sabbath works on a scale of one to five, a convincing argument could be made for either chronological sequence going from best to least. It’s a toss-up for fans and critics alike. Paranoid garners most of the nods as the most influential album from all corners, and many fans cite Vol. 4 as their favorite. Numerous others consider Sabbath Bloody Sabbath the salvation of Black Sabbath, bringing a newer sound to the band

But whichever direction you go, Master of Reality stands in the center. It is the first, and maybe the last, Black Sabbath album from the Ozzy-era (and perhaps from the entire canon) to purge extraneous elements and render a pure metal, so pure that other alloys — especially stoner metal, thrash metal, and doom metal –- would not exist without it. While seeds of different genres surely exist on the other four albums mentioned, I will be arguing that Master of Reality not only undergirds these three subgenres of heavy metal but may well be the finest classic Black Sabbath album.

From start to finish, Master of Reality casts a dark, heavy, menacing, and philosophical spell on the listener. Perhaps “uncompromising” describes it best. As an artifact judged solely on its own composition and delivery, Master of Reality may be the first metal album conceived of as a metal album. While the first two Black Sabbath albums undeniably forge many elements of heavy metal, each deviates at certain points. Black Sabbath has numerous forays into jazz and blues. It’s heavy when it’s heavy, but an almost exploratory vibe pervades about one-third of the album. Paranoid, while certainly heavier overall and much more consistent than Black Sabbath, retains blues and jazz elements that do not appear on Master of Reality. The first two albums stand as classics of the genre, and valid arguments for their status as primordial metal albums absolutely exist. However, the unity and purposefulness of Master of Reality indicate that these albums were like drafts of an essay, brimming with good ideas and clever phrases but ultimately collections of elements rather than unified wholes. Master of Reality starts heavy, grows heavier, and finishes heaviest. As the analysis below will demonstrate, the thematic consistency of this album far exceeds that of its predecessors. The lyrical expression of the themes reflects a deeper and more reasoned understanding of the issues involved. Musically, the songs are tighter and more direct. While the free-form jams of the first two albums are quite interesting and in my opinion as good as anything of the era, they reflect yet again a collection of elements. Master of Reality offers much more stylistic consistency, indicating a more holistic approach to the project.

The opening track, “Sweet Leaf” stands as a blueprint for stoner metal. The lyrics celebrate marijuana as a window to another dimension only the enlightened perceive: “Straight people don’t know what you’re about / They put you down and shut you out / You gave to me a new belief / And soon the world will love you sweet leaf.” The plodding riff that dominates the song permeates the descendant genre. Then the break from around 2:35-3:25 shifts into a proto-thrash mode (especially evident in Bill Ward’s drumming) that will show up again and again on this record. The song concludes with the stoner plodding that begins it.

“After Forever” and “Children of the Grave” carry the proto-thrash elements to the next level. While many critics have begun to agree that “Symptom of the Universe” off Sabotage inaugurates proto-thrash, one hearing of Master of Reality should be adequate evidence that the thrash style was being perfected, not invented, by the time “Symptom” was pressed into vinyl. Taking on religion (and ironically deciding in its favor, saying “They should realize before they criticize / That God is the only way to love”), the shouted lyrics of “After Forever” offer a direct exploration of the question of the soul versus the institutionalized mechanisms that supposedly provide for its sustenance. Both of these themes persist into thrash metal. The up-tempo opening and subsequent power chord extravaganza stand as a stark contrast with the opening track. “Children of the Grave” is pure thrash. Again featuring a shouted vocal, the song amplifies lyrics that challenge war and societal manipulation with verses like “Show the world that love is still alive you must be brave / Or your children of today are children of the grave.” The lyrics of this song presage two of the most prominent themes in thrash metal. Like “Paranoid” before it, “Children of the Grave” chugs forward, adding sustained chord progressions above it. The break from 2:10-2:20 proves itself worthy thrash to this day. Bill Ward’s work heralds the prominence of drums in thrash. Taken together, these two songs form the blueprint for thrash metal.

“Lord of this World,” “Solitude,” and “Into the Void” constitute a “doom suite.” As Osbourne’s plaintive wail pierces our eardrums, evil, demonic possession, psychological instability, and societal collapse penetrate our consciousness like a needle pushing a drug under the skin. The lyrics reflect a pessimism only hinted at in the preceding songs. The song titles themselves indicate a doom ethos. Try to imagine a darker or doomier final song than “Into the Void.” With the exception of a break in “Into the Void,” the tempos, riffs, and rhythms slow to a sometimes mechanistic, sometimes mournful, sometimes throbbing, always menacing procession of deliberate despair. The churning “Lord of this World” offers a view of demonic influence based not on Satan’s assiduity but human apathy: “You made me master of the world where you exist / The soul I took from you was not even missed.” The naysayers vilified in “After Forever” have won, and the dim hope that “God is the only way to love” offered in “After Forever” is snuffed out like a candle after a mass. “Solitude,” a slower, softer song expresses the ennui of a person suffering from self-directed pessimism. Ostensibly about a woman, the lyrics also sustain an interpretation of addiction or perhaps depression: “Crying and thinking is all that I do / Memories I have remind me of you.” The theme of hopelessness would become a staple of doom metal. “Into the Void” comprises interesting movements and perhaps one of the best introductory and main body riffs in all of Black Sabbath. The theme of contradictory practices, probably based on the co-occurrence of the Apollo missions and the Vietnam War, ultimately rests on the fact that hope is an illusion and the only peace that exists comes from journeying into the void — not on a rocket ship but in a grave on a planet “left to Satan and his slaves.” Again, the hope expressed in “After Forever” falls to the psychological manipulation of the children of the grave. The thematic consistency across the album is summarized and re-presented as a void that ultimately becomes the only option: a dark, heavy, menacing, and philosophical elaboration of the pessimism that will come to characterize heavy metal.

Master of Reality presents an overall coherence and depth reflective of a band that has realized its vision. Working out the details during the production of their first two records, Black Sabbath tempered that vision with experience. The musical, lyrical, and thematic sophistication of this album leads to an even heavier sound than had existed before. While it may be that down-tuning contributed to a darker sound, the beauty of this album emerges not from lower notes but from higher understanding. Some may suggest that Vol. 4 goes the next step further, but I would argue that it is the first step down-less consistent, less profound (although of Vol. 4 possesses a rather remarkable lyrical finesse). Sabbath Bloody Sabbath seems in the main a different enterprise than the first four albums (though it does elaborate some of the elements started on Vol. 4.) Some may suggest that Black Sabbath was an almost miraculous first outing, therefore making it best. I would agree that it laid the foundation for the genre but lacks the unity and purpose of Master of Reality, which is the album that confirmed the genre. Some may suggest the commercial success and exposure of Paranoid makes it the best expression of Black Sabbath’s ethos. Paranoid ranks as one of the greatest albums in the Sabbath canon, and many arguments could be made about the songs on Paranoid being their best work. But this analysis seeks to determine the best album. And Paranoid lacks the lyrical, thematic, and musical consistency of Master of Reality. In fact, from my perspective this level of excellence does not reappear until Heaven and Hell. But that album resulted from a new line-up and a new vision. In the end, I have to choose Master of Reality over Heaven and Hell.

A true testament to the importance of this album appears in the track list for 1997’s live collection Reunion. If we accept the postulate that Black Sabbath intended this collection to be a compendium representing the legacy of the Ozzy era as it stood at that time, the importance of Master of Reality becomes clear. Only four songs from the final five albums of the era are included. Only three are chosen from the eponymous first album. That leaves five songs each from Paranoid and Master of Reality (I’ll concede that “Orchid” is less important than any of the songs from Paranoid, yet there it is). With many fine tunes available from the final five albums, Black Sabbath included two-thirds of Master of Reality (four of six full-length songs). Surely they would not have featured so much of this album (and so little of the final five) if they did not want it to represent their legacy.

At the very least, Master of Reality caps the most important three-album sequence in the history of heavy metal. Although the first two albums present fierce, fatalistic, and fear-laden songs, songs with symphonic sensibilities and fusion-based energy, Master of Reality far exceeds both of them as a holistic project. The musical consistency and thematic pessimism of this album refines the ethos and aesthetic of the first two albums into a tighter work of art, at once more controlled and more innovative, perhaps because of the greater degree of precision and planning. Further, the variety of styles and increasing darkness of the themes and lyrics as the album progresses create the design signatures for the stoner, thrash, and doom metal of today, making it more influential than a cursory understanding would indicate. As a result Master of Reality reigns as the finest Black Sabbath album.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRKGKXL1seE

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