Composing Impulse – What Makes Metal Musicians Write Music?

Musicians are basically storytellers, like writers are. In literature, great works are deemed so not just for their superior arrangement of elements (i.e. how “beautiful” or “organized” a certain piece is), but by how well they tell a central message or idea which the artist tries to communicate to his audience.

Putting aside the need to earn a living, I think there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose. (…) They are:

1. Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. (…)

2. Æsthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. (…)

3. Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.

4. Political purpose.—Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.

George Orwell, Why I Write

In the above quote, the english author George Orwell indicates that writers have a special urge to fulfill their purpose, which also goes with a kind of appreciation for aesthetics that surpasses the experience of most people. All of that concentrated towards a goal: to express thoughts that go beyond the individual, a concern towards society or the world as a whole.

In an interview with another famous writer, Aldous Huxley, we can find a similar notion:

Interviewer: What would you say makes the writer different from other people?

Huxley: Well, one has the urge, first of all, to order the facts one observes and to give meaning to life; and along with that goes the love of words for their own sake and a desire to manipulate them. It’s not a matter of intelligence; some very intelligent and original people don’t have the love of words or the knack to use them effectively.

Aldous Huxley, The Art of Fiction

Both views could be summed up to 1) writers wish to satisfy a personal urge towards creating beauty and 2) through their art, they share their vision on life, the world and its direction.

Music, like literature, also focus on expressing ideas, but in a different language and with a similar care for aesthetics, or how well the elements expose that idea.

Metal is no exception:

This isn’t something we do to pay the bills, it’s not a job and it’s not a chore, its something we are truly passionate about. It is something that each one of us needs in our lives, because without it, our lives would have a huge void. It’s very hard to convey this feeling to some people, but it is like a drug, a powerful driving force that we enjoy following year after year, record after record. So this is what kills complacency, our love for what we do and our passion and drive to move it forward and improve on it.

(…)

Well, I really can’t speak for anyone else, but I would imagine and would like to think musicians use their music to express their thoughts and feelings, whether it be on religion, or just their take on the world. For us, Death Metal was the perfect vehicle for conveying our feelings, sometimes angry, bitter and sad, but ultimately to express ourselves through the music.

I don’t think musicians sharing similar views will necessarily create the same types of music, because music is an individual thing and it is personal. Our music is very aggressive and powerful with a lot of heaviness, dark melodies, and very haunting at times, and this certainly reflects what the lyrics are saying. Some bands do have something to say in their music that is real and will make people think, other bands like to go in a different direction and create lyrics that are fantasy, pure entertainment for the listener, which is also fine, and we have also incorporated some of this to drive home our point on some occasions, but I think for the most part we fall into the first category.

We usually have something to say, and we don’t like to be preachy about it, but we like to present it in such a way that it does paint a bleak picture, and I think this certainly drives home the point quicker once you understand what the point of the song is. This genre definitely has a culture AND a philosophy all of its own.

Immolation interview

For hessians, metal is beauty and order expressed in the language of fury and noise. The best works in the genre were created by people who are artists by nature, like Orwell and Huxley were and musicians like Ross Dolan are. Not everyone can become an artist and that’s why any form of art that encourages participation above all gets swamped into mediocrity.

Knowing that, hessians should think twice before giving their approval towards anything that comes their way. Be more critical. Some tips regarding that will appear in a future post.

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Dusk-Bound

The success of endeavors that carry with them the implication of development or transformation, such as the evolution of an artistic genre (without any relation to the ‘progress’ of dialectical materialism), requires the constant testing of strength, the crossing of one’s boundaries. Contrary to the beliefs of the simple minded, this does not mean that the act of crossing those lines is in itself enough for a fully-formed conclusion to be presented, although there is indeed great value in violation itself. But one could argue that the great weapons of the mind, enacted, come as a result of a full digestion and re-application of invaluable experience and information that comes from the crude testing of strength, directed towards the intuited limits of the yet unexplored.
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James Theodore Stillwell III Power Nihilism: A Case for Moral & Political Nihilism

Power Nihilism is a ruthless yet entry-level application of logic to religious, moral and political superstitions of all kinds.  Central to this exposition is the clarity given by the ‘is-ought gap’- something apparent to independent minds given to logical thought which is also commonly known to students of philosophy (themselves apparently often unable to come to this logical conclusion on their own) as Hume’s Guillotine.  The idea is basically that one cannot derive absolute ‘oughts’ from ‘facts’, since the latter are simply ‘descriptions’, while the former are ‘prescriptions’. “The only ‘oughts’ that are cogent,” argues Stillwell, are those conditioned by a formula entailing the wish of an effect based upon causes (if one wants ‘A’ to come about, then ‘B’ ought to be brought about).
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An Overview of Inquisition

 

Introduction

Known around these parts as a blackened heavy rock n’ roll band, Inquisition’s brand of black metal is produced by a high-energy application of black metal riffing with a heavy rock rhythmic sense, but within the riff salad paradigm. The result are relatively varied and outstretched songs that tend to tire the ear even though their duration is not very long. The variety of these riffs is also more apparent than effective, since they are all heavily anchored around a sense of rhythmic hooks and black metal tremolo technique, never really straying away from it.

Despite these serious technical deficiencies, we hear a band marching against wind and tide towards their evil, propaganda. Producing a music that is, to those used to bask in the consumate musical glory of Immortal, somewhat of a quaint laughing matter. Despite all of this, if even these listeners lie back and allow the music to well-up, Inquisition manage to be one of the most strongly evocative black metal acts out there today, even if exclussively by dint of the effects of their croak n’ roll black riff train without heads or tails.

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The Relevance of Obsessed by Cruelty

Article by Hereweald Cola Algar

It is not secret that old Sodom is well-respected around this part, if not at least thoroughly enjoyed, despite the precipitous downfall that the band suffered after the eighties towards an apparently never-stopping race to the lowest possible level. The reason for this attention, this admiration, for an obviously caveman affair like Sodom is that despite its used of underdeveloped riffs and its reliance on harsh rhythmic hooks, the same limitation forced the band to look for ways in which an enveloping darkness could be expressed.  The result, at the band’s highest point (arguably at Obsessed by Cruelty), are proto-labyrinthic songs that return to strong riffs, and so do not loose either drive or become lost in an overly complicated search for more material to cram.
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