The Importance of the Hessian Ideal

The modern way of life has conditioned people to think and consider their lives a juxtaposition of ‘job’, ‘family’ and ‘hobbies’ along with ‘fun’. This is a model influenced by industrial mentality, which needs vast amount of automatons performing meaningless tasks for the sake of production itself, simply in order to protect the bottom line at the expense of individual quality and relevance. As a result, very few people, indeed an incredibly outnumbered minority, will see and live their job as a craft wherein they find aesthetic and spiritual meaning, and would rather be out the door as soon as possible as long as their salaries are not affected.

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1970s Progressive Rock for Hessians: An Introduction

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Article by Johan P.

Background

The creation of this brief introduction to some of the more prominent bands of 70s progressive rock was directly inspired by David Rosales’ shooting down of late-60s/early-70s Pink Floyd. My article should not be viewed as a polemic against the conclusions drawn from ”A Sadistic Dissection of Classic Pink Floyd”. On the contrary, many of Floyd’s recordings – not least in a prog rock for hessians context – fall short in several respects compared to fellow prog rock groups of that era. The first section of my article (”Background”) serves as a necessary bridge between David’s article and what will follow below.

To keep the potential reader in mind, Pink Floyd might not be the most compatible progressive rock band for someone whose tastes run along the lines of the music promoted by the Death Metal Underground. Therefore, I will in this series offer a brief introductory piece on the genre, followed by a presentation of classics of progressive rock in an attempt to light a spark of interest among metal enthusiasts may become acquainted with this genre that developed in parallel with heavy metal. The focus will inevitably be on artists with British heritage, since most of the more prolific bands were English. Of course this doesn’t mean that prog rock was solely a UK phenomenon. There were loads of bands hailing from all over the globe; many good enough to reach the heights of the established British bands.

Before moving on to the presentation mentioned above, it might be a good idea to study the music of Pink Floyd with the purpose to discover why this band may not be the best entry point to the genre. There are at least three major reasons that could cause disappointment when listening to even the “best” (that is, the records closest to the more adventurous and ambitious side of prog rock and metal music) of Pink Floyd: shortcomings and discrepancies regarding song structuring, musical style and concept:

Pink Floyd

First, although some Floyd tracks (e.g. “Echoes”, one of their better numbers) features extended song structures or long compositions of an episodic character, they often lack the coherent narrative present in some of the more accomplished epics of progressive rock. For example, a composition featuring an “extended song structure” could be an ordinary rock song built around the usual verse/chorus/bridge components with the addition of one or more elongated parts that are to varying degrees connected to the main song. With “compositions of an episodic character” I refer to songs that are made up of several discrete musical events that are joined into one composition. Extended song structures is more frequently used by Pink Floyd than episodic compositions, although the latter method is very common in progressive rock in general (side note: an example of episodic song structuring gone wrong in metal is Satyricon’s first album, Dark Medieval Times). Quite a few Pink Floyd songs are long alright, but they are often built around roughly three extended song structure sections: first an introduction where the band presents a main theme, followed by a middle section with (often instrumental) excursions and some experimentation (creating atmosphere through electronic effects, guitar solos which builds up tension followed by a potential release, juxtaposition of found sounds, etc.), and finally a closing part, where the main theme returns. Or, if a long Floyd track follow the episodic song template, the compositional method appears to be taking several unrelated songs/ideas and forcing them together into one piece. This last method seems to be applied most carelessly on a larger scale in whole Pink Floyd albums as well. Several of their albums contain contrasting songs placed in an apparently random order, resulting in the works at large sounding both irrational and inconsistent.

The song writing procedure described above doesn’t necessarily count as a bad compositional method, but one of the bigger pitfalls of which the Floyd succumbs to all too often is that if done without enough finesse and thoroughness, these compositions end up with not much development or connection between the different parts. In many cases not just isolated to Pink Floyd, songs of this type end up being flawed by an arbitrary and fragmentary character. It could be the case that Pink Floyd did not have any sort of epic narrative, lyrical or musical, in mind when writing many of their longer tracks – or maybe they did, but just couldn’t pull it through. But why then did they chose to record such long, meandering songs then? Maybe it was more a question of shady conceptual ideas. Parts of the psychedelic/progressive rock ideology appears to have gravitated more towards the whimsical, escapist side of romantic art. Such an outlook shouldn’t be completely dismissed as inappropriate for a progressive rock band but it can pose problems if this attitude to romanticism isn’t backed up by adequate ideas of making a coherent statement. Especially in their earlier years, Pink Floyd made several peculiar attempts at playful and dreamlike tunes, which more than once failed because they turned out to possess an unfinished and pointless character. The reason these songs didn’t turn out so well is that they suffer from a lack of adequate compositional ideas suitable for creating the intended moods and visions.

When it comes to style, Pink Floyd were an early bird among late 60s prog rockers, even pioneering some techniques in a rock music context (experimental use of synthesizers), exploring multisensorial experiences through psychedelic music, live light-shows, and drugs. As Rosales’s Pink Floyd article correctly points out, it often led to nothing but “interesting”, fragmentary, and meaningless ideas. While the band members’ lack of virtuosity doesn’t necessarily pose a problem, it’s a disadvantage that throughout their career they never dared to step too much outside the boundaries of the blues-derived rock style like so many other progressive bands did.

The confused, fragmentary, and unfinished nature of many Pink Floyd songs stems from lack of conceptual substance. Many of their compositions leave the listener with promising impressions left unfulfilled or worse bored with the bads subtly ironic stance working as a defense against such accusations. Few were probably surprised to watch the band (especially band dictator Roger Waters) growing more and more cynical in relation to their own work, their fans, and the music industry as the years passed after their massive public and critical success with Dark Side Of The Moon.

However it would be unfortunate to end the story of progressive rock here. Even Pink Floyd managed to put worthwhile compositions together once in a while. I have a soft spot for the space-rocking live concert part of the double LP Ummagumma, where, surprisingly, there is less trace of whimsy. These compositions are allowed to breathe and linger on to reach the conclusions missing on less adventurous Floyd records. The four tracks on the first disc of Ummagumma are actually live re-workings of older songs performed with a possibly more refined sense of dynamics and texture than in their original studio forms.

Introduction

If you take a look at the more established narratives of rock history, you will learn of a horrible aberration of 70s rock called “Progressive Rock”. Presented by many rock critics as a genre made up of spoiled middle-class kids trying to impress others of the same ilk with their pseudo-high-art, when all they really produced was kitsch. These musicians’ attempts to become accepted as members of the cultural elite (or the cultural underground for that matter) were, according to “rock history”, crushed with the arrival of punk in the mid-70s. After a dark century of both stadium spectacle and general pretentiousness, people could resume enjoying down to earth authentic rock once more. Some of this might sound reasonable but in several respects, this tale doesn’t live up to reality.

First, although the creative momentum of the original movement had started to wane considerably by the mid-70s, progressive rock bands were more popular than ever among the public in this period. This is an indicator of the survival of progressive music in the aftermath of punk’s simplicity. Furthermore, as the 1980s dawned, a new generation of underground progressive groups set about revitalizing the genre. Although I would say that not much prog rock produced post-1970s can compete with the original wave, the assumption that Sex Pistols and their ilk obliterated progressive music is plain ignorant. The legacy and influence of the progressive old guard may be heard and seen in much contemporary popular music, including metal.

Critics pointing at the corporate selling out and stadium rock syndrome of the bigger progressive groups but a defense may be raised for the accused. Progressive rock interestingly differs in one important respect from most rock music. With prog it is not just a matter of smaller, more worthy bands getting overshadowed by the larger established ones, even if this surely happened. Some of the biggest bands of the genre,somehow managed to perform grand stage productions that still carried meaningful art. The established critical narrative may be a result of the situation of the music industry at the time: record labels, fat and rich thanks to the decades of explosive growth in post-war media consumption, were convinced that obscure groups playing this new form of rock music were highly marketable. Parallels may be drawn to the various metal sub-genres. Those lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time could get considerable production budgets, granting a creative freedom never experienced before in the music business.

Pinning down the characteristics of progressive rock (or any musical genre for that matter) is not the most grateful of task. Neither is this the purpose of this series. Instead, it will contain rather brief background information and descriptions of the featured bands, giving more space to the musical and conceptual content of the selected albums. Hopefully this approach will make sense and awaken an interest of discovery of a genre that I believe has a lot to offer, not least for fans of extreme metal. Some sort of framework might be needed so let’s go back to the infancy of the movement to see where it started off.

Origins

Like hard rock and heavy metal, progressive rock stems largely from the late 1960s psychedelic milieu. This was a time of experimentation with not only drugs and alternative lifestyles, but new sounds, musical ideas and approaches. With the aid of mind-altering substances, younger artists took pleasure in finding new meaning in pushing the frontiers of the staling and commodified art forms of rock ‘n’ roll and jazz. These psychedelic explorers (primarily males of European descent from an upper middle-class background, although counterexamples abound) founded groups that in the late 1960s lingered ever closer to becoming progressive rock. In addition to rock and jazz, they also brought into their bands an interest in classical, choral and folk music. However as with any historical narrative, there are of course other factors that could be addressed as well as contradictory and arbitrary information. Take Yes for example, one of the most prominent prog bands to promote virtuosic musicianship and toss classical music topes into the stew. Contrary to common assumption, their guitarist Steve Howe is a self-thought musician who never bothered with learning notes or formal music theory while their ethereal singer Jon Anderson came from a working class background.

There is another facet of progressive rock with a notable parallel in heavy metal music and culture that needs to be addressed: it’s relation to the Romantic Era. This connection is thoroughly stressed and analyzed by Edward Macan in his excellent book on progressive rock, Rocking the Classics: English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture. Macan explores not only the ideological roots of progressive rock, but manages to highlight the more crucial musical influences that helped create and crystallize the genre. He shows progressive rock’s origin in late 1960s psychedelia and what caused the music to take its particular form. As a tribute to Macan’s groundbreaking work, I will conclude this introduction with two interwove quotes from the aforementioned book:

Anyone who has even a passing familiarity with progressive rock is usually aware that it represents an attempt to harness classical forms into a rock framework, to combine the classical tradition’s sense of space and monumental scope with rock’s raw power and energy. Understanding the role classical forms have played in progressive rock, then, is essential to understanding the genre as a musical style.

For musicians of the late 1960s who wished to continue with instrumental music – and these were increasingly drawn to the emerging progressive rock, jazz-rock, and heavy metal styles – the question became how to bring a sense of organization, variety, and climax to the music without completely destroying the spontaneity and sense of timelessness which characterized the best psychedelic jams.
The musicians who pioneered progressive rock found their answer in limiting the role of improvisation to one or two sections of a piece, and carefully organizing the rest of the material along the lines of nineteenth-century symphonic forms. […] Nineteenth-century music and psychedelic music are both Romantic in the fullest sense of the word, sharing the same cosmic outlook, the same preoccupation with the infinite and otherwordly, the same fondness for monumental statement (often conveyed through very long pieces), and the concern with expressing epic conflicts.

Stay tuned to this series for the successive revelation and discussion of some of the best and genre defining albums of progressive rock!

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The first Hessian event: Heavy Metal Day (May 29, 1983)

heavy_metal_day_1983_u_s_festivalI wasn’t old enough to have figured it out at the time, but according to this entertaining report, Steve Wozniak of Apple fame cobbled together a festival in 1983 whose goal was to showcase new styles of music, and in the process, showcased metal blowing away the willowy music of the previous ten years.

This isn’t to say I dislike New Wave or any of those other styles. They have their place. But in 1983, metal was raging to take over. The Cold War was in full nuclear terror of instant radioactive death, the world was unstable and conservative, and as a result most people were getting ready to go into full kumbaya mode. Metal to the rescue, with warfare, doom, death, disease, horror and hedonism!

Heavy Metal Day featured Judas Priest, Van Halen, Triumph, Motley Crue, Quiet Riot, Scorpions and Ozzy Osbourne raging across a massive stage with spectacular amplification. In short, it was the MTV metal of the day, or the stuff you’d see on the then-new invention of MTV with its music video channels, and that meant it wasn’t as extreme as what we have now, but for then, it was like a giant backlash against the gradual creeping “love will save us” mentality of 1970s music. With metal, war was back, and it was angry!

The ever-pointed Vine Neil of Motley Crue told one reporter that the significance of Heavy Metal Day was that “It was the day new wave died and rock ‘n’ roll took over.” 670,000 people attended the event, but over half of them came for Heavy Metal Day alone. The power of metal was established, and would only rise from this point onward as the world waited for the wavebreak of Slayer, Metallica, Bathory, and Hellhammer which was about to come crashing down about its ears.

Perhaps May 29 should be remembered as the day metal rose up in power and struck down the opposition to assert itself.

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Hessian Studies

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The Hessian Studies Center was founded in late 1994 for the purpose of creating an atmosphere for study and respect of the Hessian tradition, folk art, and philosophical background. Over the next year it struggled off and on with authenticity and funding but eventually opted to remain underground because of the freedom given to respect metal’s traditions as independent, rather than integrated, with the western world’s containers for those philosophical and political entities. Additionally, the liberal policies of the Center regarding drug use caused ostracism and exile from the benevolent gaze of the herd.

The work of the Hessian Studies Center consists primarily of materials acquisition and content authorship, as well as think tank work in the continued architecture of Hessian history. Its members have authored numerous documents for this and related political efforts and continue their efforts to this day, striving for an independent Hessian state and the corresponding benefits of legal power (decriminalized recreational substances, an end to loudness ordinances, legalized crime).

The following is a reproduction of the original Hessian Studies flyer that kicked off the chaos back in 1994:

What is Hessian Studies?

Hessian Studies is the academic study of Hessians, Bangers, Metallians, Metalheads, death rockers, and other adherents to the genres of metal and grindcore. The Hessian Studies Department believes that any truly diverse multicultural population will contain representatives of this world-wide underground culture, with its rich and spanning historical and social contributions.

What are the aims of the Hessian Studies Department?

The Hessian Studies Department seeks to establish a presence of Hessians on campus and in campus events, as well as to create a comfortable environment at The College that suits the specific needs of Hessians at a small liberal-arts college. To this end, we have presented a List of Demands to the Administration:

  1. That there be Hessians hired to faculty and staff positions, and that all hair length rules and any form of drug policy regarding Hessians hired be abrogated, as Hessians have a religious need for some currently-regulated substances.
  2. That there be a Hessian Studies Center, complete with both audio and textual libraries and lounge area, for the study and advancement of Hessians.
  3. That the community radio station play more music favorable to the tastes of Hessians during prime-time shows.
  4. That the inscription at the gate of the college be changed to either “Fuckin’ Groovin'” or “You Suffer (But Why?)”.
  5. That discrimination against Hessians as a group of drug-addicted, drunken, long-haired incompetent losers destined for parole at best be eradicated from campus literature and mindset.
  6. That there be Hessian cultural events on campus, including concerts by noted Hessian bands and festivals related to various organic products enjoyed by Hessians.
  7. That the Hessian Studies Center be funded to provide late-night pizza and beer snack breaks.
  8. That Hessians be given equal time to speak at multicultural events, and the right to develop their own curriculum of Hessian Studies Courses.

Hessian Studies Center

Hessian studies is academic analysis of the international subculture of alienated heavy metal listeners and followers of intense music and noise of destruction. Our vision includes tolerance for all people and the right to individual autonomous direction and an end to compulsion and normative behavior.

Since its inception in 1994, the Hessian Studies Center has supported the international metal subculture through collection, analysis, and dissemination of the music and philosophy of thrashers, metallions, headbangers, metalheads, Hessians, longhairs, cruisers, piledrivers and others who comprise a virtual ethnicity of people inspired by the power of heavy metal, speed metal, black metal and death metal music worldwide. We achieve our ends through peaceful and herbological methods.

In addition to supporting the pantheon of academic and cultural programs above, the Hessian Studies Center aids with time and equipment as well as money the Dark Legions Archive, a repository of analysis concerning the music of the worldwide metal community. Headbangers, metallions, metalheads, longhairs, stoners, and other social rejects apply through means of this email link.

The United Hessian Front

The United Hessian Front exists as an extension of the Hessian Studies Center that seeks to find adherents to the subculture of heavy metal music and philosophy internationally and unify their voices in a forum for communication about future generations of metalion thought. Our goals are to acquire and disseminate information about the Hessian subculture in this process while reinforcing its objectives through our actions and treatment of others.

In order for Hessian culture to accelerate its own growth toward the future it must be aware of its past as well as the likely environment into which it will develop. As the world spirals closer to oblivion, entropy, and genocidal apocalypse, the vast suicide cult that is modern society seeks further methods of denying darkness, chaos, and destruction. Hessians exist so that this may not be so.

The objectives of the UHF are as follows:

  • Establishment of an Independent Hessian State.
    To ensure freedom for Hessian development and minimal intrusion from normals, sober people, and authority figures the creation of an independent and autonomous Hessian zone under self-rule is a primary objective of the UHF.
  • Religious Freedom and Controlled Substances
    The complex sociomystical structures behind the art, aesthetic and mindset of a modern Hessian lifestyle requires the stabilizing influence of chaos-generating psychoactive substances in order to remain efficient and content.
  • Equal Air Time for Nonconventional Music
    Current media tendencies exclude all but the most soothingly inane and simplistically melodic, leaving a void of contemporary music for the intellectual connoisseur or musician, generally attenuating the intellectual readiness of the population; for this reason alone we request more air time for metal and other non-mainstream forms of music.
  • Injunction Against the Christian Right
    Given the evidentiary state within science that concludes that so far agents of discreet brainwashing have not been found to be able to influence humans to extreme behaviors such as suicide, assault, or murder through the simple method of stereophonic amplification, it’s time to call off the Christian right from attacking metal and rap as “promoting violence and depravity.”
  • Flier for Public Distribution and Chaos
    Our reprehensibly straightforward and dissonant fliers bring all of the alienation and some of the isolation home to those you can dupe into reading them, as well as providing hours of family topics for discussion. Spread this bad news everywhere to deconstruct society the networked way!

Our vision is of a world where Hessians can be recognized as a virtual nation of headbangers, metalheads, and thrashers and will eventually be treated with respect to their specific needs and inclinations. Through mutual tolerance we can live together or we will surely die together.

Hessian Life

Introduction
Hessians come from the tradition of subculture, or resistant counter-culture embedded within a much larger cultural container. They have been spotted in almost every country in the world where electricity and a relative amount of personal music technology have been distributed. Most cultures have learned to recognize them and write them off — at their essential nature, they are a pacifistic culture of alienated and/or intellectualized rockers looking for truth in extremity.

Social Conception
Society encompasses their culture, but they treat it with dissonant indifference, realizing that its actions are beyond their control and are mostly ignorant attempts at control or manipulative, fearful and destructive compulsions to duty. The desperate impulse that is afraid of silence (as in silence one must think within) drives normal social activities to be centered around events and to aim at providing comfort. Hessians reject these ideals and instead favor indirection, mayhem, destruction and other chaotic acts in their free (not enslaved by school/job) time. Often they can be found gathered around a bong for interpersonal time, or gathered in small groups to become intoxicated and raise some hell. The heavy party culture that underlies all rock carries its extremities also in the extreme rock arena, where brutal concert violence and fastidious drug abuse are signs of successful interaction.

Philosophical Worldview
Beneath this fury of strange behavior a philosophical foundation supports but does not attempt to justify these acts. The naturalistic philosophy of the Hessians prioritizes justice and ideal at the same time it encourages chaotic fantasy; its essential communication is to live well through freedom from the clutches of neurotic thought, and to spend time in whatever liberating activities can be fashioned from the elements available. The nature of this in the trapped, suffocating world of commercial society (narcotic of the one true herd) is a relative overemphasis on intoxication and freedom from plans, morals, karma, memory, or the will of other people; the consequence is often an overindulgence in rebellion without a clear direction for self-preservation. However, Hessian philosophy as revealed by the metaphors within the music reveal a fascination with information, with fantasy, with power, with destruction, and an obsession with honesty and spiritual power to speak the apocalyptic truth.

Drugs and Mysticism
Hessians tend to believe in both the psychological/mystical power of drugs as well as the spiritual power of their music, although this belief is not shared by all. Often Hessians can be found gathered around a stereo consuming large quantities of marijuana, hashish, or other less-refined forms of drug. By liberating the mind in intoxication the Hessians believe they achieve a stable plane of nihilistic consciousness, where they are closer to the dark gods of winter and more able to comprehend the profundity of death. In this morbid ritual metalheads develop a comprehension of reality that supersedes all other methods of processing life and frees them from the drug of mainstream life, fear and consumption. In this more spiritual state they feel they can comprehend the complex messages transmitted through rhythm and metaphor in the music. Other parts of this ritual involve simple spreading of chaos in the fertile order of society, a mystical act of supreme rebellion and refreshing spiritual heresy.

Freedom Manifesto

Conventional social ideals would cast aside the non-ideal, the non-quantifiable and stay with the symmetrical and symbolic, fearing the ambiguous world of obscurity and metaphor. Double meanings, they say, balking in horror like the sheep they are. But what does the Hessian say?

The Hessian rejects insecurity and underconfidence and plunges ahead no matter how insane the project in conventional ideals. By denying the doubt of the people around them and aiming for loftier ideals than the simple “feed thyself” command of society’s trough, Hessians have created some of the most extreme and beautiful music ever to hit planet earth.

Their rejection of neurosis and mocking anti-idolization of society’s scapegoats make them a terror to the unstable and fragile balance of deception that allows our modern society to function.

“Turn off that fucking noise!” — every Hessian that has ever lived has heard it. Many people every day seem not to think about how unoriginal their comments are and tear into the usual insult of how Hessian music is “noise” and not music because it does not fit conventional classifications. The wily Hessian only laughs, and mocks back with even ruder noise — for the Hessian knows that human boundaries are only impositions of human understanding, and not inherent to the outside world — a place known for its nihilism and aggressive destruction as well as its nurturing instinct.

Through their addiction to noise Hessians have discovered a method of chaotic, spiritual, dark and naturalistic living that rejects the distinction between music and noise as it rejects government, religion, control and commodity as frivolous arbitrary containers of human invention for the purposes of competitive success. Who knows why humans think that way? But the Hessian only blasts louder, breaking down distinctions as his music breaks down assumptions and suggests a darker vision for art than the kitsch and design of mainstream consumer tastes.

The anarchistic views of Hessians rest in their fundamental choice to have will, rather than reaction, as their response to life. To be informed and to be of mental presence to make decisions, they say, is a fundamental part of the valuable capacity of being alive. Society is here to make room for the individual to create and to be, they say, not to glorify the process of society and to make it more demanding, more greedily afraid of its own destruction.

Through the needs of our industrial machinery we have enslaved ourselves to bureaucracy and the weakness of human need in the power-deprived state of an anonymous modern individual. We have seen, they say, the order of our grandparents and parents grow stronger every day to enforce its arcane social restrictions yet it cannot stop the problems it bemoans, but only makes them stronger as symbols against its rule. We have seen how soon all was suspect, and anything outside the norm became fearful — we have seen also how easily the scared will run to this strong will of order, begging for their dose of power from the dominatrix, doubt.

A civilization that worships fear is nothing to us, they say, as we like the ancients choose a broader, faster, freer life. We choose our will and our dreams over fear.

Naturally this runs against the order of society: sit down and be sensible, provide for yourself or you might become lost (sheep without pension must retire in poverty, and sheep without property may be beaten by the sheepdogs of the herd). For this reason to most in society Hessiandom is an Icaran falling into the abyss of fire, consumption by internal angst (although most of the inner tension is caused by the external internalized), but to Hessians it is the freedom in the one honest voice they hear, which affirms the nihilism of survival, the degraded state of the human race, the victory of destruction over life, and the uselessness of civilization as conditions of existence.

More than the violence of punk rock or the dissidence of political music, this scares the public because of its ambiguous but menacing message of deconstruction. But ineffective control has led to anarchy anyway, an anarchy of a different sort: the equal response to suppression is rebellious destruction; the power of denial cannot file this off the walls of our memory. And so metal is denied, as it has not yet been broken down into enough of a mainstream consciousness to be accepted as anything other than aesthetic.

In the shadow of this denial Hessians have had to find a new way of understanding their existence, when it is not often acknowledged and never given any credit for being as intelligent and architected as it is. This enforced internalization has reached its peak in the romantic but morbid subgenre of Black Metal, which encourages a fascistic love of self and misanthropic hatred toward the world. Alas, Hessians in this world are tainted by its virus, and this over-extension is sometimes as much reaction as independent direction. However their metaphor speaks its truth plainly, and rebellious deconstructs any rules or beliefs that it can lay a hand upon.

But were there only silence, the spirit of the Hessian would continue, in the same proclamation that life makes oblivious of its communication, a nihilistic acceptance and aspiration toward the light as if to become the world rather than consume it. This translates, through the voices of memory and individual personality, to a universal level of thought that refines to a simple message and harmonizes in the medium of chaos. In this arena, the medium delivers the message: with no order, it is free, and it has proclaimed itself so with the organic complexity of chaotic recombinance.

The dark nihilistic rage of the winter gods of thunder presents the looming possibility of spring, of death beyond life and life beyond the living death of modern society. In the combination of musics at modernistic minimalism and romantic construction, metal brings forth a future that may offer more answers and less emptiness than our current adaptation of our collective existence.

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Hessian Studies becomes real: hate-crime protection for metalheads

heavy_metal_subcultureAccording to UPI, the police in Manchester, UK have decided to extend hate crime protection to “subcultures such as punk rockers, Goths and heavy metal fans.”

This is the realization of one aspect of Hessian Studies, the concept dreamed up during the PC early 1990s to give the metal subculture the same respect, study and attention given to other cultures. Recent years have seen acceptance of metal as a religion, as a disability and as a topic for academic study.

Now, with recognition of metal as a sub-culture becoming formalized, metal faces both the greatest success and greatest risk of its 40-year lifespan. The success is that mainstream society has adopted it and legitimized its viewpoint; the danger is that modern society will project its own viewpoint onto metal as a pre-requisite to adopting it. As we all know, the easiest way to accept something strange is to make it into a version of the same old stuff we see everyday, like Chinese Take-Out and Italian Microwave Dinners.

“We are able to officially recognize that people who wish to express their alternative subculture identity freely should not have to tolerate hate crime — something that many people have to endure on a daily basis,” said Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan.

Apparently, this act was spurred by the assaults on Sophie Lancaster, a 20-year-old Goth who was attacked as she walked through a park and never regained consciousness. As a result, the courts and police are expanding the list of protected groups from “religion, ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation” to also include subculture status such as that experienced by metallers, punkers and Goths.

Hessian Studies, a movement begun in 1994 and thriving throughout the 1990s, hoped to achieve this kind of recognition for metal and acceptance of its validity as a subculture. Apparently, the dream is coming true.

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Schools ban sacred Hessian symbol as “resembling a gun”

Grand Island, NE — Hunter Spanjer is deaf, and uses a sign language symbol for his name that some school administrators say resembles a handgun.

More accurately, it’s the Hessian “devil horns” symbol, which teachers have been trying to ban since the early 1980s. Hessian activist Seamus Israel in Omaha offered the following analysis: “Teachers ban first, then look for a reason why they were right. Now they’re using fear of violence to discriminate against Hessians.”

Hessians, or metalheads, heshers, threshers, bangers and headbangers, is a term used to refer to those who are not only fans of heavy metal music but incorporate its values, imagery and outlook into their personal lives. “It’s a culture like any other,” said Israel. “Just because you weren’t born into it but found it later doesn’t make it any less legitimate than being French, Inuit, Maori, Jewish or a Wall Street economist.”

During the 1980s, American teachers banned symbols and behaviors they saw as associated with “Satanism” and sent students home. These included wearing all black, wearing Slayer t-shirts, wearing symbols like the ankh or yin-yang, displaying the “horns” symbol and reading H.P. Lovecraft at lunch when they should have been playing basketball or watching TV.

Used by Hessians worldwide, the “devil horns” symbol is formed by extending the forefinger and pinkie while tucking the other fingers and thumb into the palm of the hand. It is considered the sacred symbol of Hessian unity and allegiance to the ancient powers of darkness that existed before Christianity, humanism, democracy, reality TV and dubstep, said Hessian Reverend Vijay Prozak. “The devil horn symbol is our most sacred rite, similar to ritual dances or meditative breathing in other cultures.”

Protests continued at the campus on Wednesday. “This deaf child is paying the price for decades of American anti-Hessian bigotry,” said Israel. “In the rush to demonize the horns, and heavy metal music, teachers are now discriminating against deaf kids so that they can find ways to ban heavy metal from the campus.”

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Hessians Unite

Music is sound that resembles life. It reveals not only the experience of life, but the emotions and ideas that the musician has in response to life. Heavy metal music sounds like a certain way of life, because a similar thought process is required to become a heavy metal musician. For this reason, heavy metal is more than a style; it’s a culture.

The metal genre does not fit into the easy categories used for modern music. While it sounds modern, it champions the values of older times, such as honor, bloodlust, aggression, emotion and passion. It denies the plastic modern existence and insists on meaning being found in experience, not ownership. For this reason, heavy metal is a cross between ancient ideas and modern methods. Our utilitarian contemporary society has no words for what this is.

Since heavy metal isn’t on the radar for mainstream civilization, they write it off and claim that people listen to metal for the sole purpose of irritating their parents. They deny its musical value, explain away its artistic value, and brush it aside by assuming it is not serious and worthy of study. For this reason, Hessians, or those who are part of the heavy metal culture, are one of the most marginalized groups in modern society today.

We have all seen varying ethnic and religious groups fight for their right to be recognized as unique and to have special rights and privileges. If at the “modern” university we have a Black Studies Department, and an Asian Studies Department, why not a Hessian Studies Department? Hessian culture has in the years since 1969 been a fundamental force in shaping our society, and remains one of its most persistent critics, all while developing its own way of existing.

Not all Hessians are alike. Some care about nothing and will not understand this web page at all. The few who believe in life and in the heavy metal lifestyle will find that Hessian culture is something they have sought for years, perhaps without knowing it at all. For Hessians, hessian.org is a reference material of their own society within an outer society. For those of you who are outsiders to Hessiandom, this is a chance to broaden your “diversity” and learn about an entirely singular culture that thrives among the things you consider normal, but will never bow down and join them.

http://www.hessian.org/

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Why I’m a Hessian and not a metalhead

hessian_goat

There are many books, movies and CDs that float through our lives.

When we really like many of a certain type, we may identify with them. “I like Romance novels! I like disco!”

If you like the music, you’re a metalhead. You like to buy certain things and listen to them.

If you like the ideas behind the music — the lifestyle, the worldview, the imagery and most importantly, the spirit — you need to use a word that means you are more than a consumer of metal music.

You’re a Hessian. Derived from California slang from the time when Slayer were starting out, this term refers to the mercenaries who fought for both sides during the Revolutionary War — from Hesse, in Germany, they had long hair and fought like demons.

Obviously, this term belongs with the person who loves the abstract ideals of metal!

Anyone can be a metalhead. For under $100 you can get a starter collection, and if you hit the thrift stores, you can pick up some classic ironic metal tshirts for under ten bucks.

If you really want to appear extreme, you can go the ‘kvlt’ route and buy up classic releases on ebay, then refuse to like anything that has more than two chords.

Or you can be an Opeth fan and talk about how profound and progressive your music is.

Either way, you’ve bought yourself an identity with your cash and time.

But is that really a commitment? Nope, because you can whip that identity off in 30 seconds. Put the CDs back on ebay (where they seem to recycle; wonder why). Give the tshirts to Goodwill (same situation). Take the posters off your walls, buy a Miles Davis CD and a beret and you’ve got a new lifestyle.

But to be a Hessian means you identify with the ideas and have made them your own, just like when you find a philosopher who answers part of the question of life for you. You become a Schopenhauerian, or Nietzscheian, or Kantian — perhaps all at the same time.

Being a metalhead is just too easy. Being a Hessian takes commitment. I don’t begrudge those who want to pass through metal on their way somewhere else, and in fact cheer them on if they recognize this fact. But it’s the Hessians who always impress me.

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The Ugly Side of Life is Pure Beauty for the Hessian

There’s a very nice short story from the booklet of Burzum’s album Filosofem that reminds me a lot of the misunderstood path that the hessian chooses as life:

Creeping And Crawling, Rustling And Fluttering

There are two natural lights in this world, the sun and the moon. The first distorts the appearance of the other, often until it is unrecognizable. The sun gives us colour, warmth and clarity, while the moon gives us no colour, coldness and unclarity. We live in the sunlight, and we make artificial sunlight, after Arvakr and Alsvinnr, send by Sol, have drawn down the sun in sea in the West, because we like colour, warmth and clarity. The starting-point of our reality lies in this light; when Naglfaris’ wife, Night, comes, our world disappears in a certain way. She is illuminated by a light, that we don’t like, the colourless, cold and indistinct moonlight. Strange beings show themselves in the woods and the people draw back into their reliable, small houses. Out there, only the forces of darkness reign, yes, in the most true meaning of the word. The world becomes a total different one, for some the world becomes a place worth living. For those, who want to challenge these giants, who are brought to us by the moon in the shape of uncontrollable powers of nature, the world finally becomes a place really worth living in.

Booklet of Filosofem (English translation), Burzum.org

We live in a world where light and darkness interact with each other to conform the whole of the universe with both its living and inanimated elements.

Most people in our modern era would like to see only the light and forget about the other side of the coin. In this way, humans become self-centered and irresponsible as we mentally split from any notion that would seem scary or unconfortable. Hell, we don’t even watch the killing that takes place to put steaks on our table. Hence, most of us fail to see any connection(s) between our actions and the ensuing negative consequences towards our world. Ever wondered why human society is so fucked up, like the lyrics of Napalm Death, Morbid Angel, Slayer and countless other acts have been telling us throughout the years? Because society is essentially an undifferentiated mass of people that agree on very few things, many of them childish and self-destructive, like this mentality.

That’s what metal sought to fight by offering a morbid, depressing and yet very real view of the negative side that our enlightened, yet pussified society tries so pathetically to hide from: war, plague, death, blood, guts, natural selection, Satan, witchcraft, environmental death, stupid religions, stupid secular beliefs and so on and on, the purpose of it impeled by this one thought: that the only way to live sanely is to recognize both sides of the coin and embrace them as equal parts of existence.

That’s a perspective that has been from the very beginning of the metal genre. Even its forefathers had this very death metal view of life:

We’ve all got this opinion about the world today, you see. We’re aware that, at some time, a big change is going to come. With SAD WINGS OF DESTINY, we’re telling people to enjoy life, but at the same time be prepared for something that could happen. Tracks like ‘Genocide’, ‘Tyrant’, ‘Epitaph’ and ‘Prelude’ seem to us to follow this idea through – they act as possible preludes to this change…

(…)

We don’t want to be set up as prophets or disciples; we’re just five aware guys stuck in the middle of a lot of complacent people. Now everybody enjoys life, but we think it should be brought to people’s attention that, at any moment, we could all be wiped out… We’re far from being pessimists.

Judas Priest’s interview with Sounds Magazine (May 8, 1976), Judas Priest Info Pages

Like the music they love, hessians firmly believe on the crude realities of individual mortality and the potential collective doom that could be triggered by our stupidity, irresponsibility and delusional beliefs: these are the strange beings that show themselves in the woods at night. Only instead of retreating to our comfy houses and pretend they don’t exist, we choose to face them.

It’s for this reason that hessians like to live their lives on the edge of things, sometimes by doing a lot of reckless behaviour, but mostly by having beliefs that are considered taboo by the majority of people. We embrace those taboos joyfully because they give life their meaning. Denying them is to deny life itself, and in this process we kill our souls and become faceless drones fighting for political power, money and other delusions given by the shadows cast by the fire in the chimneys of our warm, small and reliable houses.

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Madison hessian slay-in for IDoS – report and pics

Thanks to “Jim Necroslaughter” we now have photos and a full report of the hessian slay-in that took place in Madison, Wisconsin, this past June 6th for International Day of Slayer:

Saturday June 6th, 2009, was a rainy, overcast day in Madison, Wisconsin. Appropriate for the Inter-National Day of Slayer, I suppose. While the rain may have deterred some people (flaky Madison liberals) from showing up that day, the proud few stuck out the rain from 10 AM to 4 PM at Library Mall, in the heart of downtown Madison.

Within 15 minutes of setting up, a random, street-urchin type, riding a bike, stopped by and offered me a hit off the glass pipe he had hidden in his hand – “this is the green, right here,” he said. In the right situation I would partake, but I figured this wasn’t the time or the place, so I passed. I found it funny that this was the first time in my life that a complete random offered me weed – in public, no less. The IDoS brings good karma I guess.

After about an hour, a completely unassuming 20-something year old, came up and asked me, “Is it REALLY the National Day of Slayer!?” We talked for 15 minutes about the best Slayer album (I told him South of Heaven), and metal, in general. I gave him a flyer and mentioned anus.com a few times. He was extremely fun to talk to – a balding, “conservatively” dressed young man that actually knew quite a bit about metal. He was really excited about the fact that it was the National Day of Slayer, and it was clear that he wasn’t taking the holiday as a joke or with a sense of irony.

At one point, early on, I remember two University of Wisconsin campus tours being forced to walk by us – haha! These tours are essentially for high-school kids and their parents who are trying to decide on where to go to college next fall. I’m pretty sure Reign in Blood was playing at that point – perfect!

The next person I remember talking to was a very old man. He was looking at our signs and came up to me and in a thick German accent, he said “June 6th is also D-Day.” I told him we knew that, and he told me a great story about how he was 14 and living in Nazi Germany on D-Day (so I guess that would make him 79, today). He asked me, “What is this ‘metal,’ is it the music you listen to?” I confirmed that it was, and I told him I also listen to classical. He asked me, who is your favorite composer? I told him Beethoven. He seemed very pleased with my answer, and said something to the effect of: “Beethoven makes you think that the entire universe was created just so that Beethoven could exist.” The old man was a pleasure to talk to, especially with Hell Awaits blasting in the background!

Let’s see. I remember an older woman (must have been 40) coming up and taking a flyer. I remember an older couple (around 40 or 50) coming up and hanging out for about 10 minutes – the wife seemed to know her Slayer pretty well, all things considered. A group of young African-American men and women stopped by for a few minutes and chatted us up, took a few flyers, and seemed pretty amused about the whole thing. There was a church about 100 yards away and sure enough, there was a wedding that day. A few of the groomsmen walked by at one point and raised a beer. At one point, I remember explaining to a man why Slayer was the perfect spokesband for metal – they are popular, but not total sell-outs, essentially. Nat’l Day of Darkthrone is too obscure, but Nat’l Day of Metallica is too HIV positive.

The best group of people that stopped by was a German family (more Germans!). They all had accents but they essentially spoke perfect English, I gathered that they live in America or visit it a lot. Anyway, the mom and dad stood back and had huge smiles on their face. The two sons and daughter were REALLY excited about our set-up! They said this was the best thing they had seen in months, they loved our signs (the daughter especially liked the “No Hipsters” sign), and took a bunch of pictures. We talked for probably 20 minutes; the one son really knew his black metal – he opened up his wallet and showed me his old I.D. from Deutschland. He said, “this was when I was 15 and had long hair – I used to be a sinner!” Pretty good line, I thought.

All in all I was pretty surprised at how we attracted a pretty diverse crowd – men, women, black, white, German, young, old, long hair, balding, street-urchins, groomsmen. At the end of the day, I realize that some people who stopped by probably thought we were being ironic, and to some extent, I know that we attracted some hipster-types. But I know I made some contact with some authentic people who will hopefully, ultimately, check out anus.com.

Improvements for next year:

– Red dye for the fountain in the middle of Library Mall.

– A goat chained to a tree

– A bigger/louder stereo!

And some pictures of the gathering (click to enlarge):

We at the Hessian Studies Center would like to congratulate the few, but brave ones that took this initiative for activism and showed local people that hessians are a group aware of themselves and that metal is a valid subculture. We also thanks Jim for his detailed report on the gathering and extend our kudos to the old man for his profound saying on Beethoven‘s music.

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