Thoughts On Bragason’s Málmhaus (2013)

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Article by David Rosales

I. Overview

While a hessian might rightful sneer at the mainstream idea of metal music being the result of unsatisfied teenagers, Ragnar Bragason has created in Málmhaus (Metalhead) an accurate depiction of the sad reality faced by many first-world kids that are emotionally neglected by their parents. It seems that there are two main elements needed to be present for an alienated teenager to turn to metal as a refuge under these conditions. The first is that metal music be available in his range of perception in one way or other. Secondly, and more often than not, the minds that are most receptive to this art of dark tones lean towards a romantic disposition1.

After portraying the death of main protagonist Hera’s older brother, Bragason proceeds to tell us how the girl takes refuge in adopting his image and diving head-first into his metal persona. As she grows into a young adult, Hera becomes increasingly conflictive, to the point that she goes out of her way to create trouble for its own sake. Most of the movie at this point is a big tantrum with a few scenes in which the main character is writing and recording some angsty rock with harsh vocals. Basically, for Bragason extreme underground metal is virtually indistinguishable from emo rock at its core and motivating sentiment.

Aside from these outsider misconceptions, Málmhaus is a pleasant movie to watch with patient pacing that does not drag, convincing acting and a desolate feeling that only Nordic (and perhaps Slavic) settings really produce and which is more than suitable as backdrop for a metal scenery. Furthermore, and unfortunately for the metal movement, this picture of the pseudo-metal emo-poser is not at odds with the reality of many would be musicians in the medium. In this respect, the movie is objectively deserving.

II. Against the Vulgarization of the Metal Ideal

You may be wondering what beef I would have with this idea if the movie is in fact revealing a truthful picture of the scene. The answer is that metal art that most accurately and authentically reflects transcendental metal ideals are those produced by strong minds with a realist mentality. The emo posers in question usually produce music that is a thin veneer of emotionally outspoken yet ultimately safe and empty hogwash. From the outside, the product of the poser mind is similar to that of the authentic metal artist, because the imitator will always try to look like their idols on the exterior, but without becoming a threat to the society it claims to oppose. A true metal artist, however, represents a threat.

True metal is not an agent of social change. It is a rejection of social norms. True metal is not protest music that seeks to “create conscience”. It is the proud sneering of nihilists who see above and beyond the trappings of human convention. However, metal does not seek to destroy traditions but rather to exalt their realist underpinnings. It is not about destroying what is, because metal is realism, but rather about getting rid of the meta-reality created by humans who need an illusion to feel safe. Safe from uncertainty, safe from evil, safe from death.

Those making deconstructionist garbage music with the excuse of “destroying conventions” miss the point altogether. Yes, metal has evolved through innovation, but in a natural away in which the newly created sound is a construction and a depuration, not a musical negation, which by definition cannot be about anything because it attempts to be about something that is not, a mere abstract and near all-encompassing generalization that can never attain a definite form. This is why metal today needs to stop trying to be new and different. This is why it also needs to stop being a mere superficial rehashing of past formulas.

To reject musical convention or imitate it has never been the point. Black Sabbath gave birth to new music as it painted a stark picture that opposed flower power through its own being, but they were not defined by the latter’s non-being. New musicians need to start creating tradition, instead of attempting to dissolve it or trying to be what something else is not. Moreover, metal today needs to continue classic metal tradition if it is to be metal at all. Rejecting said tradition would essentially imply not being metal.

Death and black metal were jewels of their own time, as movements they were one of a kind and today they are, for all intents and purposes, dead, as the conditions that created and propelled them are not present today2. This does not mean that a new generation metalheads cannot be inspired and learn from it, in fact, they should. But this is the same as being inspired by Mozart or Wagner: it never calls for a copy-paste application of their surface traits.

One could describe the climaxing trilogy of Burzum3 as a concoction of Tolkien-filtered Destruction and Dead Can Dance4. But we may clearly observe that Vikernes never sought to suppress these influences nor did he try to simply make updated versions of them; he created something completely new with ideas produced from his own digestion. Part of the beauty of Burzum is how self-contained it is despite its borrowings in technique and method. Vikernes’ successfully-achieved objective in Burzum was the mystical recreation of the experience of reaching out to the ancestral knowledge ingrained genetically within the unconscious.

Immolation may serve as a different kind of example as they come from a background in early U.S. death metal from the north-east. Some say that Immolation is deconstructionist, but this is based on superficial impressions of the music, which is mistakenly considered atonal by laymen (most metalheads) who have never even heard truly atonal music. Immolation’s music is modal, but heavily emphasizes dissonant intervals as well as diminished and augmented arpeggios. In the long haul, Immolation’s approach is pretty much standard and proper death metal5 with a very unique approach to melody and an exertion of crucial control in the rhythm section.

III. The “Understood” (Assimilated) Metalhead, the Eviscerated Soul

Towards the end of Málmhaus, Hera goes through a period of introspection and redefinition after which she is understood not only by her parents but also by her whole community. She even participates in the rebuilding the church that she burned down earlier in the movie. She is no longer a threat. She even plays an alternative rock version of her “black metal” demo for the people in her little town. The wolf has been turned into the whimpering dog.

One of the main problems faced by metal today is that it no longer boasts of the outsider status enjoyed by its predecessors. A condition that lent them a unique perspective is utterly missing from most of today’s circles. Today’s apparently most rebellious metalheads are best compared to gimmicky Marilyn Manson; those that express genuine anti-establishment ideas are ostracized by their own “fellow metalheads”. There is no extremism in extreme metal today.

Today’s metalheads conflate cowardice and sheepish compliance with maturity, while they indulge in childish vices as expressions of their “freedom”. Somewhere along the road, man-made law and society’s comforts became the reality of these assimilated metalheads, and their “rebellion” is today only an echo of leftist humanism while they support a hypocritical system that fights bigotry with bigotry while denying it. They are completely locked inside the fence–inside the cave, convinced that the shadows on the wall are real, and that Plato is talking nonsense. Only the shadows are objective, they say, the shadows we can see and measure, the “sun” that is “outside” is only an idea.

Those who wisely choose to isolate themselves from the distractions of the modern world, the banal entertainment and the “metal scene”‘s circle jerk are mockingly tagged as “kvlt” or “trve”. This in itself is a terrible sign that metal has been assimilated into a safe space that forces it to be politically correct in the worst cases and representing tongue-in-cheek darkness in the best of cases 6. Monastic devotion is ridiculed as strange fanaticism, while mediocre and inline thinking coupled with a superficial extroversion is expected. Metalheads are “normal” now. They have grown up into their accepted slavery.

The truth is that this is what lies at the root of modern metal’s sterility – its inability to produce a new tradition because its own values have been supplanted by those of an assimilated portion of the mainstream. That those creating meaningful metal are only a handful of exceptions in a time when there has never before been a larger number of self-identifying metalheads indicates that the movement is at a loss. There was promise in the idea of war metal, but with the exception of black metal – flavoured acts like Kaeck, it is largely a dead medium. Cóndor is virtually sui generis, and the likes of Graveland and Summoning are the sole survivors and curators of a dead tradition way past its heyday.

I hope you’ll excuse me for bringing Vikernes back into the conversation, but it seems to me that his movement away from metal aesthetics during the mid 1990s was only the escape of a clever sailor from a fast-sinking ship. Although we should not mix politics with the judgement of music quality, the observation that deliberate ideologies (or lack thereof, supposedly) directly affect the kind and quality of music that is produced is pretty obvious to anyone watching intently. It is therefore only honorable that Vikernes should wholly embrace the ambient aspect of his music, the side that has remained truly underground to this day.

Once black metal becomes the cash cow of sell-out clowns like Abbath or Ihsahn, it no longer represents, in the eyes of the world-perception, what Burzum was about. There is no boundlessness. There is no escape from the idiocy of modern society in black metal anymore. It is only a show, it is not dangerous because it is not real, actually, it is fun. It is obvious that there is no other option but to move away from the symbol that has become a sign for ridiculousness and poserism. A symbol is only as good as what it transmits, and an artist cannot be excluded from context as the dreamers within the ivory towers of academia think (and contradict by trying to insert politically-correct statements in their garbage modernist compositions which hold no meaning in themselves).

The solution to metal’s plight is that circles of metalheads arise who can truly think outside the constraints and mandates of what is considered “good” or “proper” by the status quo. How they achieve that is less important to metal itself than that they actually accomplish it. This is not rebelliousness for its own sake, though it could be mistaken for it, but the idea that nobody else should in control of your mind and thoughts, and that the only truth lies in our mortality, and in man’s natural multiplicity of mind which makes his reality material and psychic at once without either being more important than the other7.

It is important that metal stands outside any such constraints to be what it is, otherwise it is like a caged predator: it ceases to be one as soon as it is shackled. Furthermore, metal loses its edge if it is not under pressure, because that is its whole purpose, it is a counter culture. Without nothing to counter, it simply loses its essential raison d’être. Therefore, this is not a call to the comformist to accept extremism, to understand those few who actually step outside the bounds of what is permitted. This is an encouragement to those who would attain higher understanding and see metal come alive again to become extremist in thought themselves, because in a sick and decadent world, it is those who are healthy of mind who are willing to act insanely.


1 Anyone who is new to this idea might need some clarification here. By romantic we do not mean someone who is the perfect womanizer, but more of a neo-dark romanticist, a revivalist of 19th century romanticism with a Nietzschean twist. People in our society who are commonly referred to as such are usually not so much romantics as whiny weaklings who cannot face up to reality. Metalheads do not avoid reality, they reject the images created by the delusions of modern man, who conveniently assumes their truthfulness: his own refusal to accept life in its full-fledged manifestation and the place of MAN within it.

2 It is my contention that the capacity for almost complete isolation experienced by young musicians during the late eightees and early nineties is made void today by the effects of the Internet and inescapable (for those living in urban and suburban areas) fast-paced life.

3 Namely Det Som Engang Var, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss and Filosofem

4 The reader may refer to Destruction’s Infernal Overkill from 1985 and Dead Can Dance’s Within the Realm of a Dying Sun from 1987.

5 Both Immolation’s Close to a World Below and Obscura by Gorguts are outstanding examples of this. Also, seemingly unbeknownst to the masses, well-developed death metal falls into the category of properly progressive music, while so-called “progressive death metal” (a redundant term) outfits are surface-oriented bands that produce disparaged songs as a result of poor musical judgement. A painful example of this would be The Sound of Perseverance, Death’s final album and an awkward affair that would make anyone with ears for proper music cringe in empathic embarrassment.

6 There was tongue-in-cheekness in the past, even during the golden years, but you can trace a distinction between these clowns and the best bands who used imagery to drive points home in a non-ironic way. Sincere nihilism and non-pretentious occultism stared right out of the classic albums, while today, these concepts are flat images worn on the outside only, as musicians try to cash in on people’s expectations.

7 The young science of psychology approaches these conclusions even as its mainstream-dictated values orders it to not make these findings, to try to make void the importance of the unconscious and subjective perception and will.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYaYzIUH9yU

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A case study in wallpaper black metal and a discussion of its apologetics

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This album presents a perfect case study in wallpaper black metal and a discussion of its apologetics. The title, formed from three repetitions of the Swedish word for “holy,” incurs two different wallpaper metal infractions: pointless repetition of riffs and pointless contrasting ideas.

Pointless repetition of an entire rhythm or riff, as opposed to reusing a theme in a different context, occurs when a composer has one of several possible aims. Traditionally this has been to let the listener get familiar with an idea, to let it sink in, as some would say. The most popular aim of repetition in the more ambient-oriented black metal field is to create atmosphere. The aim of the latter is to lead the listener beyond familiarity with the riff and into a kind of stupor. The listener is taken into this state with the purpose of preparing him for something else: a deeper dream level, as it were, which would follow. But apologetics of wallpaper music claim that all ambient-oriented repetition, even the one they themselves may admit to being meaningless, achieves its goal if it brings the listener to the aforementioned state of stupor without necessary deepening of mood.

Pointless contrasting ideas serve to redirect of a musical path or modify the nature of the stupor in which the listener is in, such as from an anger-fueled one to another infused by sadness or even happiness. The use of a contrasting idea makes sense if it interacts with its context and primarily with its adjacent riff sections, much as in writing each sentence in a paragraph must relate to the topic and the sentences before and after it. When contrast lacks that purpose in context, it becomes a technique for distracting from the stupor so that the listener does not realize that the trick behind the stupor is repetition alone and it will lead nowhere, which converts a dream-state into a state of boredom in instants.

Wallpaper Music

Wallpaper is defined as: “paper that is pasted in vertical strips over the walls of a room to provide a decorative surface.” It provides a decorative surface only without reference to what surrounds it. Its context does not matter so long as it covers a blank surface and provides something to look at. It is not meant to have any meaning. The frescoes, carvings or statues of classical art, on the other hand, were meant to be both pleasing to the eye and to convey a certain meaning, inviting the visitor into a different dimension (in the mystic-spiritual metaphorical sense).

Now the following question assails us, would someone completely unfamiliar with Western art become induced into the mental state that the authors of such art intended? Not necessarily. The degree to which that person’s reaction to art approaches that which was intended depends directly on the similarity of the background in culture and experience of the subject to that whence the artwork sprung from. This, like context, comprises the memories that give a new musical figure meaning.

In fact, herein lies our key to reverse engineering intention (of the author) and/or purpose (which may be independent of the author’s conscious intent) in music. This key is context. Let us be clear here that this does not refer to Epistemic Contextualism, which does not lead to a discussion on inherent meaning arising from some original intention but to that of attributed meaning as interpreted in any situation, even alien contexts to that which gave rise to the original product. The intended meaning of context in this article is precisely the conventional one described in the previously linked article as:

…certain features of the putative subject of knowledge (his/her evidence, history, other beliefs, etc.) or his/her objective situation (what is true/false, which alternatives to what is believed are likely to obtain, etc.)…

This allows us to appreciate the sense and coherence of a work independently of if we agree with its tenets. On a separate but related note, it is also from this vantage point that its connection to a more transcendent nature can be gauged, since the particular context, that which is temporal, is known.

Analyses, use, limitations and power

Perceiving context in a particular way and analyzing a problem in the real world is the subject of studies that produce methods to approach them. Everything that is perceived is subjective in the sense that depending on our experience and background we may highlight and give importance to different factors. After that, methods are devised to point out objective qualities that are pertinent to the aspects we want to analyze. This is true of mathematical analysis, and even of scientific analyses in chemistry and physics.

Of course, there is a catch here. The complexity, in terms of scope, of what is being analyzed matters in no small measure to the objectivity of the results. In the case of the sciences, the scope is reduced to what is known while assumptions are made about what is not known and then, given the reduced and strictly defined boundaries of what is being analyzed (which is usually not the whole system but rather a model of the system), completely objective results are obtained in the context of the reduced-system model. As a more knowledgeable person in the field would put it:

The larger the scope of the analysis of a system becomes, the more assumptions regarding the conditions that enable the system to behave in a certain way become present. Sometimes these assumptions are made deliberately, but sometimes they are present unknowingly. This is due to the complexity associated with an increasing scope of analysis, which makes it unfeasible to obtain a straightforward solution. Furthermore, complexity is associated with the relationship among the different factors (variables) and the system/phenomena being observed. — L. Garrido

The error factor grows alongside this scope and it may even become unmeasurable if we do not know how to precisely quantify a particular element like purpose or intention. Which is precisely why they are not included in the scope of any scientific analysis. It must also be clarified that the error factor of a problem does not represent its concrete error, but the maximum magnitude of all possible errors. Meaning our analysis could indeed be perfect, although this is unlikely.

Analysis in Music

In music, a very wide scope must be admitted into its analysis. This is necessarily so since we acknowledge that music is much more than the notes themselves, than the organization of these notes alone, than the context in which they are perceived, or the intentions of the artist. Musical quality encompasses all of them at the same time and, in a Renascentist-Magical holistic view, ultimately engenders a separate entity altogether which is none of these elements and is rather born from all of them. Any music analysis consists on the breaking of music down to its components with the aim of understanding how they function as parts of a greater whole.

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One of the most intriguing techniques for the analysis of “conventional” tonal Western music is called Schenkerian analysis. This was a system named after the theorist who devised it, Heinrich Schenker (1868-1935). It consists of demonstrating how music can be divided into a hierarchy of notes which range from background indispensable notes to more those of a more “auxiliary” nature, although the terms “neighboring” and “passing” are more suitable since they do not carry such a strong connotation of these notes being less part of the music. Before him came Arnold Bernhard Marx (1795-1866) whose revolutionary way of analysing music included judging the purpose, character and direction in music independently of the composer’s conscious awareness through the subdivision of sections until one finds indivisible components. These can belong to one of two kinds: the self-sufficient and assertive Satz or the motion-oriented, forward-moving Gang. Schenker’s method is, in a way, a formalization of the more intuitive process of Marx, who used a more holistic approach (and a wider scope, more assumptions), into a more mechanical approach — though still subjective to a certain degree.

Despite wild claims by detractors of this way of analyzing music which want to reduce Schenkerian analysis to subjective make-believe so as to dismiss any objective value in it, an argument is to be made in favor of its objective and logic and characteristics. The user of this analysis at his best can be compared to a detective following clues. The best detectives are not clueless idiots blindly following a manual. Detectives first take note of context, use psychology and decipher motives and even subconscious processes that the criminal himself might not be aware of. There is a lot of guessing involved, but educated guessing, which while being subjective interpretation cannot just be dismissed as simple opinion (in the passive-derogative and dismissive sense) since it follows a method based on objective points. It is important, of course, to point out that the detective also relies heavily on experience.

It is here that we turn again to the idea of context. The ideas of direction, stability and instability, and character inherent to these style of analyses is born out of concrete knowledge of the development of music during the Common Practice Period (roughly 1600s up to 1900). These are “concrete” in the sense that they were not just an archaeological approach to understanding the past, in which the theorist is separated from the data in question and is always forced to look at it from the outside. Rather, the theorists who developed these analyses were part of the musical “subculture” (and the culture at large which encases it and is an audience to it) which engendered the music they studied. So their subjective views and experience are, in my opinion, validated as relevant by that same fact that places them as insiders.

The reader might rightly question this last claim denouncing that this in itself cannot possibly give the theorists and historical critics license to judge the music at the subjective levels previously mentioned. I will address this by calling attention to the music theory “standard”, or rather a “musical language”, that came into being in the first half of the 17th century thus producing what we know now as the Common Practice Period. This language is based on harmony that is built by contrapuntal norms, avoids certain musical effects and favors a narrative style. From its very beginning up until the 19th century, a certain significance, as meaning in a spoken language, was attributed to musical phrases, melody direction and movement, harmonic tension or instability, together with rhythm. What is relevant about this is not that these beliefs existed, but that they were part of the music education and culture of that time. The rules and conventions (even the ones relating to extra-musical implications) by which these theorists and critics measured and judged music were the same that the composers themselves ascribed to. This does mean that some of the less talented critics would see superficial aspects as set in stone, but this was not true of A.B. Marx who saw music as an everflowing, ever-evolving transformation of styles whose steps beyond what he knew in his time were only as visible as vague shapes in the horizon.

Is the application of Western European analysis and philosophy to metal music really justified?

Now, if this analysis belongs to the Common Practice Period, would it be fair to apply it to metal music? After all, the processes that produced Metal music are different. It would not make sense to apply the same analysis to Iranian or Indian music which follow their own systems whose musical constructions have inextricable spiritual and religious significance in the culture that engendered it. Neither would we thus judge jazz, which is the result of African-American music borrowing European art music notions to produce a language and a more sensual purpose of its own. My opinion is that we can say jazz gets excused because the ultimate product is more African-American than European.

When taking a look at music and judging its “coherence” one can metaphorically refer to it as its logic. When taking a look at a logical argument, we first take look at the premises or assumptions and from there follow it through its process. If the argument fails to make sense based on its premises we can say it has failed. The same applies to music. We can judge musical construction according to the premises it sets for itself. The style it chooses, yes, but more importantly, the general music language (Iranian classical music has different harmonic notions and goals, for example, as does jazz) it chooses for itself.

Metal starts with Black Sabbath taking rock-based music (which itself subscribes to the use of Common Practice Period harmony, but used in a more mechanical way to produce simple verse-chorus music) and bringing back the more theme-based approach of horror movie soundtracks. Soundtracks which were themselves inspired on 19th-century Romantic music. From then on metal develops as this rock-and-dark-Romantic musical hybrid and at different points borrows elements from other music genres but always distinguishing itself as Metal by always keeping an entrenched Romantic music orientation. One can then distinguish deserters who fled to the rock camp by abandoning of this orientation (Metallica is a clear example). The more the genre evolved the more marked the difference between rock defectors and those who remained metal became. This is because the latter would try to distinguish themselves more from the rock element which was so prominent in the former. This is the process that originally gave rise to the terms sell-out and underground. It must be clarified that what is meant here is not that the rock element in any music is bound to produce poor music.

The only constant at the heart of metal then, is the Romantic sense of theme-based music with a serious and heavy character. From this point it follows that the “premises” that metal has chosen for itself stem directly from the Common Practice Period in general. This does not mean that we should try to read metal music as we would read a Beethoven symphony — at least not on the surface. The characteristics that metal has borrowed from classical music affected the genre at multiple levels and thus surfaces in different bands in different ways and to different degrees. We cannot judge all metal in the same way either because just as different musical genres choose different languages (different premises for their arguments), so it is that different bands choose dialects of their own which require us to understand them and part from there on. But they must be seen as precisely that: dialects of the broader language of metal. Thus they still fall under the umbrella of our discussion (Ildjarn would be a particularly interesting case to discuss as its surface and the first impression it gives one leaves no room for obvious comparison to Romantic traits).

One understands the intense repetition of some black metal as stemming from the same purpose it has in electronic music. Black metal remains metal because it still ascribes to the dark-Romantic principles metal is defined by. Part of this is tonality and how harmony is used to create movement, which along with rhythm creates pulse and is tied by theme and the large-scale interplay of sections. Part of it is the more complex interpretation of how the character of each section and song speaks out and relates to the other sections or songs.

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This character was an important trait during the Common Practice Period and it plays an important role in metal. When it goes unchecked, even if the outer technical aspects of music were all carefully crafted, the inner sense is perceived to be empty or messy. This thinking was very evident in the thoughts of both great composers and historical critics from the Romantic period such as Philipp Spitta (1841-1894) whose biography of Johann Sebastian Bach reveals extensive discussion, analysis and critique that encompasses everything from historical context and evolution of genres along with their influence over the German master, to detailed score analysis and explicit separation of what he refers to as “inside” and “outside” musical traits. The latter being musical expression itself, the structures, and the former being the character/aura/personality of not only the music pieces themselves but also of individual sections and their relation to the whole.

Modern metal unknowingly fails catastrophically by trying to create interest out of pure contrast. Still, some of the best modern bands keep a constant style and even use theme to tie a song together, but little or no evident thought is put into the aura of each section of a song and its balance with the rest of the song (see Fallujah).

The modern variety of metal bands which identify as “technical” (as opposed to Atheist, Immolation or Gorguts which were dubbed so after the fact) try to create interest by approaching this as if it were a textbook exercise, playing with the theme, placing it in different contexts, creating smart texture changes and witty variations. Since all that was cared about was the technical correctness of the piece, the evocation power of the music is negligible as it is not born out of Idea, but out of technical exploration (see Ara). The apologist comes in at this point and says that “emotion” is also in the process and that all parts are judged by passing them through this emotional filter. This is never denied here. But this statement would actually reinforce the notion that this music follows a backwards process: outside to inside, rather than inside to outside. The writer of purely technical music uses hard logic to drive his music creation and then judges it from an emotional vantage point. This works for science, but it spells out death for art.

Whereas in all productive men instinct is the truly creative and affirming power, and consciousness acts as a critical and cautioning reaction, in Socrates the instinct becomes the critic, consciousness becomes the creator — truly a monstrous defect. — Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, Chapter 13

This general idea has been understood in the European classical music traditions for centuries and awareness of it has given the world some of the most refined and whole works of art music. It is only in our post-modern era that we erroneously want to strip everything away from its original meaning and validate poor art by arguing that all that matters is the writer’s own intentions, which nobody can guess or question.

Defenses for Wallpaper Music

The most stalwart wallpaper music apologist is bound at this point to support the previous statement by stating the fact that our modern culture (and even more specifically, that our metal subculture) is very different from that which engendered classical Romantic music. While I consider this argument to be debatable, I will concentrate on the biggest issue that comes out as a result of this reasoning as a whole. This is the idea that because modern artists are free to choose how to express themselves they can pick from any musical-philosophical camp and just smash it together, twist it around in whatever way they see fit or their limited organizational skills and inspiration allows them to, with little or no justification other than their “need” or “right” to express individuality.

Allowing that artists are, indeed, free to choose their means of expression, their music can be rubbish in the context of the language they choose if they attempt to use it in ways it was not meant to be used. Can a previous “musical alphabet” give rise to a new “musical language”? Yes, and this is precisely what jazz and metal (separately and in very different directions, the former separating itself far more from a philosophical perspective while the latter remained akin in spirit) have done with Common Practice Period theoretical knowledge or general concepts.

A “smart” wallpaper apologist remark here is that we at DMU “fetishize” the European classical music outlook. But we do not ask bands to ascribe to the metal language which has explicit ties to that European tradition. If a band does not want to be judged from this perspective, then choose a different set of premises, a different language to speak. I would be very interested in witnessing attempts at using metal instrumentation to play music built on the principles of traditional Indian music. It would not be metal, but it would be a thing of its own with coherent expression.

Does it mean that everyone making music has to subscribe to already-existing musical languages and that there is nothing new to be had so that we can only indulge in superficial variations? This is what post-modern short-sightedness would have us believe and in doing so somehow justify the trivial superficiality of the so-called experimental bands. But then you can turn to great composers such as Arnold Schoenberg(1874-1951) and Olivier Messiaen(1908 – 1992) who effectively created brand new musical systems for them to express the music they wanted. They were both world-renowned advanced composition professors, which says a lot about how difficult it is to single-handedly accomplish such a task. Furthermore, as Uri O’Reilly’s article Developmental variation and underground metal implies, defined constraints and limits that guide genres and the languages they speak do not themselves imply a prison for the mind or shackles for creativity, but rather a tool much like a sniper rifle’s scope to reach precise and far-off targets. Bands that build incoherent music out of disparate musical languages or fail to use their chosen language effectively and expect the listener to submit to the purely emotional shock of the music, or worse, listen to exuses and rationalizations to “explain” the art, have missed the point: context is meant to be referred to, much as we expect language to have consistent approximate meaning. To ignore that meaning is communicate with no one, whether in music or the written word.

Defenders of wallpaper music will react in a populist manner and say that all that matters is that one likes the music, and ask rhetorically and spuriously who is to judge music otherwise. To assume that art should have meaning is to judge one subjective experience over another, they say. Some might say that in that case, anything deemed to be wallpaper from a point of view might be seen as meaningful from another. While this may be theoretically true, in application it is the same as claiming that spewing random syllables cannot be labeled as gibberish since they may, in fact, mean something in some hypothetical human language. The next wallpaper apologist complaint here would consist of pointing out that while language has hard and precise meanings (which is actually, not entirely true), music appeals to general emotions and moods and so, if the work accused of being wallpaper achieves some sort of reaction in the listener that produces coherent thought, then it has “meaning”. But this, again, is just the same as the random syllables reminding anyone of something in his own language and thereby acquiring a meaning provided from the outside.

 

Return to Chalice of Blood Heilig, Heilig, Heilig

Just like Romantic-era critics with knowledgeable background and cultural familiarity with their genres allowed them to make criticisms not only of technical construction (outer traits) but also of character and sense (inner traits) of the classical music of their time, so is the educated metal critic who understands the objective nature and origins of metal endowed with the same capacity to dissect metal music.
A track by track approach to Chalic of Blood Heilig, Heilig, Heilig will illustrate the concept of wallpaper music and reveal its failing as a method of artistic communication.

We start off with “Hoor-Paar-Kraat”, which, if seen as a song or independent piece fails immediately as it consists of a chord progression in four bars in standard time signature played through 1:39 minutes with no variation besides different pick-up and ending percussion patterns, and a background guitar strumming the same chord progression in different ways (more sparsely here, more vehemently there). One is then tempted to see it as just an introduction, a sort of prelude to what is to come.

It is then that we face “Nightside Serpent” whose structure consists of an introductory or main riff followed by two distinct verse riffs. The riffs talk to each other convincingly in their contrast and similarity. They clash against each other in a way that makes one think of the classic of classics, “Transilvanian Hunger”. But while Darkthrone used as little as two riffs per song in that album to create whole sections with functions ranging from intro, to verse to a sort of ramp into meditative climax, only to bring us back to its initial aura, Chalice of Blood’s song is simply that: a main riff, a verse, a second verse. This is simply played two times and brought to an abrupt and meaningless end at the 3:19 minute mark. It is here that we start to suspect that the presumed introductory track may just be a taste of the incompleteness and vacuity of this music.

The third track goes by the title of “Shemot.” It can easily be divided in four parts. The pick-up measures are soft and consist of a strummed chord bent by a whammy bar which applies vibrato at the same time. Then the first of these parts is a Darkthrone-intense section with use of the raw energy of hard-picked tremolo and fast Immortal blast beats. This section dissipates into the second. The texture changes drastically into sparsely strummed chords and mid-paced double-bass drums to the beat of a snare in duple time. We then climb back to the intense texture shown in the second section as a way of climaxing that brings back the riding first riff to function as outro as well. This all happens in 3:18 minutes. The focus here is how much “atmospheric black metal” riffs can they use contrastingly to create shock. Other than that, there is little eloquence to this.

“The Communicants” is probably the most deplorable song in this album with the most obvious wallpaper thinking displayed. The whole song is built by repeating the same slow-moving chord progression of 8 measures from beginning to end. The only thing that signals different points in the piece are the drum patterns and the presence or absence of the vocals. This repeating chord progression is not used as one would see one of the German master composers create vast amounts of content through clever variations and chaconnes, but it literally consists of repeating the exact same music ad nauseam. Or ad 7:11 minutes, to be precise.

Finally, we reach the last inconsequential, empty track named “Transcend the Endless.” In here we are presented with 3:30 minutes worth of the same minimalist black metal approach sans substance.

Albums such as these remind us how little understood monuments such as Transilvanian Hunger really are. The greatness of the classic lies in the careful use of the least number of riffs in arrangements that together with voice and drums created complex structures with cleverly placed articulation points. The minimalism of Darkthrone’s masterpiece is only in how little tools and riffs they used. It is not a minimalism of complexity of thought or construction.

A blatantly simple music which expects emotional shock and some consistency in style to do all its work, Chalice of Blood Helig Helig Helig gives us almost twenty minutes of essentially nothing. Nothing except transient noise.

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July 16th, 2011 – A Day of Death, Buffalo NY

When the stars are right, when the planets of alien coordinates align in perfect syzygy, when the arcane progress of dark matter warps the cosmos into gravitations of sinister consequence, the Dead Gods may once again rise from their eonian slumber… but only if the proper rites are set in motion by those giftedly prescient of mortals. Chainsaw Abortion-ist Brian Pattison was one such a prophet who had succeeded before in the act: 1990′s Day of Death, an atrocity survived by none but a fanatical few, and the tale obscurely recounted within the scripture known as Glorious Times. Now 21 earth-years after that most notorious of receptions in the death metal saga, a wiser but no less maniacal Pattison determined the time was ripe for another extra-dimensional conjuration, with no less a death-god than Kam Lee in mind as his ultimate summoned entity. Naturally, the Buffalo territory of New York would again provide the setting, with the chosen temple for this installment being the rather profoundly-named Club Infinity.

An unprecedentedly cavernous venue, Club Infinity can house up to 500 or so bacchants before it becomes a legal deathtrap — yet attendance for the day must have been less than half of that numeral. Apparently, the local Buffalonians who would normally haunt the premises for their fix of alcohol and loud noises had absconded to a different corner of the land, lured up and away by the promise of an outdoor barbeque/live music festival of some sort. As it were, only the blackest-hearted diehards heeded the call to this cursed slice of suburbia, where memories from beyond time would once again climax in a lurid celebration of the horrific, the macabre, the rapacious and warfaring facets of existence from which fleeting mortality truly derives its meaning. Our lives — and indeed our deaths — would bear the distinct and indelible imprint of this Day as a scar that never heals, and whose free-flowing ichor blazes a sanguinary trail across ages…

Lethal Aggression: New Jersey’s crossover-thrash godfathers themselves had been the honorary headliners for the pre-Day of Death celebration, which of course had been successfully realized the previous Friday night; but for Saturday’s Day of Death proper, Lethal Aggression actually re-emerged from their dens — bleary-eyed and wracked with raging katzenjammer — at an ungodly brunch hour to be the very-fucking-first band in the proceedings, which was a display of tenacity mostly lost on the scant gathering of earlybirds. What followed was a forthright little blitzkrieg of their trademarked “drugcore” anti-anthems, which was made all the more special for the occasion with the return of classic-era guitarist Dave Gutierrez (though he may have been initially unrecognizable due to his new blue-dyed and bespiked hair), who additionally was commendable for drawing the wicked Lovecraft-inspired design for the Day of Death T-shirts. Towards the end of their timeslot, though, it became clear that vocalist John Saltz had most anticipated getting to the last song on the list — “No Scene” — as he had accidently launched into that whole vocal line during the beginning of penultimate song “Spooge”, causing the band to screech to a stop and start all over. In retrospect, the mixup should not have been too surprising, as the apathy-decrying, poseur-scourging lyric matter (the key verse being, “All you do is come to shows, sit around and stare”) was uncomfortably relevant enough to boil our blood. And this was an absolutely necessary kick-in-the-ass to start everything off on the right track.

Hubris: Being the first of four local bands to open up a 13-band procession is a task about as unpleasant as serving in the infantry during a foray into an uphill battle, and yet the cadre known as Hubris still mobilized for their set like the hungriest of mercenaries — corpse paint, wicked demeanors and all. Though they are a relatively new constellation in our Northern skies (to wit, all of their embryonic recordings thus far feature a drum machine because they could not, until recently, secure a faithful skinsman) Hubris’ style of black metal extrapolates directly from the most abrasive entries in the classical Scandinavian school, falling into a nebulous scape between Marduk’s Opus Nocturne and Immortal during their soulraping halcyon years with Demonaz. But at 4 p.m. in a sun-baked, poorly ventilated enclosure, the band’s blizzarding invocations of carnage-strewn battlefields and holocausted settlements were all but guaranteed to a tepid reception. Frontman Hellskald vehemently refused to let the standers-by off easily, however, and at numerous intervals demanded choruses of quasi-fascistic fistpumping from every slouched, beer-nursing figure in the near and far vicinity. It would be difficult to not be impressed by the young band’s charisma, and Hellskald’s exiting exhortation to “Rape angels! Drink their blood! Castrate God!” would basically set the tone for the remainder of the rituals to follow.

Seplophile: Attribute it to that everflowing stream of youthful vigor if you will, if that would most efficiently explain how Seplophile had the mettle to burn through one of their own setfuls of brutal death, just a few hours before they would entirely re-animate the godlike monolith of morbidity ‘From Beyond’ with living legend Kam Lee. Despite Seplophile’s ostensible “newcomer” status, they are a band that follows “The Old School Spirit” as their unshifting lodestar, and their drive is incited by memories of the vital role that the Buffalo scene had once taken in the death metal genesis (that is, before everyone and their grandparents emigrated to Florida). Their discography to date apparently features none but a single demo ‘…And Death Shall Have His Dominion’, so the boys did not exactly have a hell of a lot of material to choose over, but their formulas exhibit a certain potency of form and execution that echoes the advanced blastations formerly mastered by the early incarnations of Cannibal Corpse and Cryptopsy. If anything, the set was a reassurance that this fledgling local band had talent in abundance for the daunting role of Kam Lee’s backing band, and that would only further whet our bloodlusts for the Massacre to come.

Resist Control: Reportedly one of the all-time favorite newer Buffalonian bands of Brian Pattison himself, Resist Control followed swiftly on Seplophile’s heels with high-octane, classic hardcore-thrash madness that veers more towards the vehicle of purposeful, distinct narrative rather than uncontrolled paroxysms of angered words and misplaced epithets. This is the type of band that would incite violent, all-consuming pits amongst any gathering of punks and skins on a normal night, but of course since Resist Control were haplessly saddled on the first quarter of a 12-hour-long engagement, they were mostly just gawked at by those who weren’t caught up at the bar or the merchandise tables with all the luminous death metal celebrities. Still, the band gave voice to outrage as sonorously as a good “canary in a coalmine” ought, and it would be well-off if they could soon branch forth from their hometown Buffalo circuit and reach more disenchanted ears out in the rest of the Amerikan wasteland.

Sam Biles: Caught in similar circumstances with antihero-of-the-day Kam Lee, Sam Biles is an illustrious frontman who for some reason or other stands separated from his classic backing band — Hideous Mangleus, in this case — and so performed his best-loved songs at Day of Death eponymously, with the aid of youthful and capable hired hands. Somehow, Biles had managed to secure and implausibly import a star-crossed trio of Texan luminaries to stand in as his henchmen: on guitar, Francisco of HRA; on bass, Dave of PLF; and on the drumthrone, Matt of Blaspherian. This ad-hoc convocation had actually never before rehearsed with Biles, and yet their set for the evening came together with such natural beauty that a blind man would no less envision the old gang of Feev and the Brothers Bonde back at their respective spots (except — dare we say it — with tighter musicianship?). Preposterously outfitted with all of cast-iron armbands, leather pants and a fucking Ratt T-shirt, Biles prowled the peripheries of the stage like a caged beast whilst animating every disturbingly hilarious lyric with guttural prowess — and of course, the Tejas Squadron behind him did not once skip a stroke, faithfully re-enacting the catchiest death-throes behind material like “Question Your Motives” and “Burning Children” (“Remember kids, don’t play with matches! Aaaaaargh!“). If the audience gathered for the night had any doubts about Biles’ solo appearance, their apprehensions were completely quashed before the first song even ended; and by way of analogy, it could be correctly assumed that Kam Lee wouldn’t need Rick Rozz, Terry Butler or Bill Andrews to pull off the old Massacre songs with masterful [dis]grace.

Avulsion: The final of the local marauders to be showcased for the Day, Avulsion are elder guardians (est. ’92) of the Buffalo death metal tradition, though their essence is thoroughly imbued with eclectic dosages of hardcore and grind. Shrewdly tongue-in-cheek yet convicted in their anti-humanist manifestos, this band effectively mimics the torments of alienation through truncated songs patched together from ambiguously buzzing tremolo riffs. But perhaps their most distinctive asset is the uncanny throat-power of their frontman, who is able to switch so rapidly between a strident punk shout and a rattling growl that it was easy to be fooled into believing there was more than one lead vocalist at work. After completing a formidable listing of original compositions in record time, Avulsion thought well enough to conclude their set with a cover of Carcass’ “Empathological Necroticism”, which certainly tweaked the ears of all those yakkers in the vicinity who were only half-listening otherwise.

Goatcraft: The horned and cloven-hooved brainchild of keyboardist Jason “Lonegoat” Kiss, Goatcraft is purest piano metal unbounded from the conventional backdrop of screaming strings and timekeeping clangor, essentially comprising foreshortened sonatas that weave narratives and paint airs with bleak minimalism — obviously, this performance would be the one looked upon as the “oddball” on the bill by a large portion of the audience, if only for their bewilderment over aesthetics! Matters were not made much more agreeable due to the fact that The Lonegoat did not have access to his personal keyboard for the night, and thus had to make do with a rented piece of junk that would hiss and sputter at loathsomely frequent intervals. Though the technical difficulties as well as the piss-drunken interjections of certain audiencemembers shot through any semblance of good ambiance for this listening session, the one-man-band remained steadfastly transfixed at his post, only uttering a few words of exposition when necessary, or still more rarely betraying a glare from beneath a heavily corpsepainted and bloodsoaked brow. It may be a sad inevitability that those few ambitious souls who elect to play solo, ambient Metal in a concert setting will never have the right kind of audience, as people who walk the hessian path between Classical and Metal appreciations are still unmercifully uncommon, especially in regards to the U.S front. But for any matter, Goatcraft is still a promising work in progress; expect to hear more from this satyrid maestro in further compositions both personal and collaborative.

Druid Lord: The newest creative vehicle of former Acheron axemen Tony Blakk and Pete Slate, as well as their skin-hammering Equinox comrade Stephen Spillers, Druid Lord is a death/doom affair that draws its most prominent tributaries from the sludge-tainted fountainheads of Winter’s Into Darkness and Autopsy’s Mental Funeral, with perhaps the faintest hints of vintage Cathedral coursing noxiously through the solution. But whatever feeble combinations of band names one chooses for describing Druid Lord, it remains that this band gathers its purpose in delineating true imageries and sensations of Horror: the same inspiration for all music branching from the germinal genius of Black Sabbath. For their Day of Death appearance, Druid Lord had driven up north nonstop from their vantage point in the opposite pole of the country (Orlando, Florida), which might have added an honest dimension of bodily-excruciation to their already torturous live show. Though their 2010 LP Hymns for the Wicked lists Druid Lord as being a three-piece, they have since added Ben Ross as a rhythm guitarist, allowing The Great Slate to solo to his evil heart’s content whilst dense riffing frequencies are maintained. Bassist/vocalist Tony Blakk, already bedecked with plenty of frontman’s credentials for his years in Equinox, was practically thespian here in his snarled descantations of grisly fates. But for the song “All Hallows Evil”, he stepped aside to allow Kam Lee to take over on vocals — a very honorary guest appearance that would only be shared for the night by Derketa. Speaking of which…

Derketa: As of late, reunions in classic death metal have occurred on such a frequent scale that even the over-sanguine among us are becoming rather desensitized; an entity like Derketa, however, is so improbable a phoenix to rise from the ash that only the ignorant could fail to take notice. Formulated in the foundational ’80s era by Sharon Bascovsky and Terri Heggen, Derketa holds historical leverage alone for being the first female death metal band; of course, they earned their musical leverage by their demo recordings and the ‘Premature Burial’ EP, which featured decelerated-tempo, incredibly growly songs that sounded somewhere deep within the realms of Hellhammer and Nihilist. But the immediate intrigue that the band’s output garnered seemed to cause the very pressure that broke them apart, although Bascovsky put forth several honest attempts to keep Derketa’s name alive over the years, finally succeeding in a full reunion by 2006. Only five years later did the revitalized cult feel strong enough to begin live outings: the first three in their native Pittsburgh, and the forth to be Buffalo’s Day of Death 2011 — significantly, the girls (minus current bassist Robin Mazen, who was busy with Demonomacy back in Florida) had been in the audience for the fest’s 1990 edition. When it was finally time for Derketa to commence with their first out-of-state appearance and the opening sequence for “Premature Burial” was sounded, practically the whole fan-populace in the venue came flying to crush in front of the stage. Guitars sounded appropriately huge and menacing (although in the beginning only Sharon and Robin could be heard, as Mary Bielich’s distortion pedal had shorted out), and it’s apparent that over the years Sharon has trained her vocals to be even more fearsome. It was especially uplifting, though, to see Terri reprise her role as the original female death metal drummer — still the rarissimus avis of the genre — and as she was able to borrow Rottrevore’s massive drum kit, her blows were as sonorous as they could be. A brand new song called “Rest in Peace” (dedicated to Seth Putnam and others in a growing list of “dead metal guys”) was showcased: it could be the most doom-influenced track they’ve composed yet, which probably hints a lot at the overall aesthetic to expect on the imminent debut LP, In Death We Meet. And, as mentioned before, Kam Lee made one more guest appearance for the song ‘Last Rites’, growling along with his brightest female disciple for what must have been a very high point in the band’s lifespan.

Rottrevore: After Derketa and Sam Biles-technically-Hideous Mangleus, Rottrevore were the last in a series of revitalized Pennsylvanian cults to preside over Day of Death with their characteristically Northeastern, bowel-wrenching odes to the evil in man. Known best amongst the underground for their solitary full-length opus Iniquitous — an onerous, eldritch epitaph crafted after the most primeval echoes of the Stockholm and New York schools — the band almost inexplicably vanished from the scene shortly after the release, issuing no signs whatsoever from under their official banner save for the ‘Disembodied’ compilation pressed by Necroharmonic some time ago. This being so, their sudden resurgence back into action this year — signing with Spain’s Xtreem Music, dusting off unreleased songs, logging studio time with Erik Rutan for a new EP — is more than remarkable, and Day of Death would be honored with the first Rottrevore performance in nearly two decades. Frontman Chris Weber did not at all contrive much fanfare and flamboyance about the distinction, however, and preferred to be businesslike in his dispensation of aural punishment. Their set of course included all the choicest bits from Iniquitous (this humble narrator was partial to ‘Unanimous Approval’ and ‘Incompetent Secondary’, but everything honestly sounded true-to-form), and there was also a peppering of the new material which sounded to be very close in spirit to the classics, which is a very good thing indeed. This reunion show turned out to be a success in any respect, and the fact that it was all only a preview of what is to come can only confer the best of prospects.

Deceased: Who could have imagined that our most beloved Virginian bizarro-deathmeisters Deceased would be the only holdovers from the first incarnation of Day of Death? Granted, in the 21 years that have elapsed since then, the band has metamorphosed into an almost entirely different beast: the latest album Surreal Overdose features a tightly-crafted continuation of the ripping speed metal that has become their standard since the mid-’90s; and of course, King Fowley now vocalizes at the helm rather than behind the drumkit, backed by a quartet of mostly drafted-for-the-live-show mercenaries (including, for the very first time, guitarist Danzo of New York City-area hilaritythrashers Vermefüg). With a varied listing of the old savage classics mingled with everything up to the newborn creations, Deceased had a canonical time-travelling drama to offer their audience, although their stage time had to be disconcertedly hurried along due to some fascist schedule-policing on the venue’s part. This constraint was especially bogus for a born raconteur like King, who barely had an adequate moment to address his audience between songs, yet he still strived for those full Deceased theatrics we’ve all come to expect, complete with fucked-up monster masks and all such related tomfoolery. Perhaps, in recognition of the spirit of Day of Death, Deceased should have traded out some of their later-period songs for more selections off the early milestone ‘Luck of the Corpse’ and so on, since the audience was uniformly comprised of old-school hessians hellbent on tradition. But whatever the case, it was gratifying to have one of the original fest participants return for the second incarnation — and how many bands other than Deceased truly demonstrate the longevity of the underground death metal practice?

Insanity: It would not at all be a droll exaggeration to nominate San Francisco’s Insanity as the least fortunate band in all of death metal, following from their absurdly tragical biography as the one-time most promising vanguards of the newly developing extreme style, poised at the very cusp of self-realization yet cruelly denied their seat in the pantheon due to terminal illnesses, crippling accidents, and the ever shifting sands of label-backed patronage. Fate is a bitch, as superhumanly tenacious frontman Dave Gorsuch knows only so well at this point, and Her cantankerous whims sure enough wrought hell on Insanity’s maiden voyage across the Northeast. The very first tour date in Toronto had to be cancelled due to issues with bordercrossing policies, and during that same time bassist Falko Bolte was sniffed out for drug possession and was summarily locked away in a local jail, for as long as it would take for his sentence to be issued. Shaved down to a trio with no low-end support, Insanity nonetheless soldiered onward to Club Infinity intent on following through on the warpath they had carved. Guitarist Ivan Munguia took over Falko’s vocal duties on the spot, and both guitarists turned up the bass on their amplifiers with the hopes of plastering up the frequency gap in their wall of sound. It was evident then that failure was decisively averted once the opening strains of ‘Attack of the Archangels’ sounded out across the hall, electrifying the East Coastal audience who had before only dreamed of bearing witness to California’s most mythical entity. Since Insanity’s complex, many-riffed compositions emphasize guitar theatrics over everything else, the lack of Falko did not distract too much from the live reenactments, and the normally-silent Ivan’s backup growls turned out to be commendably feral, especially for the newer material which draws more than usual from call-and-response vocal forms. But the high point had to be marked by the song “Fire Death Fate”, which might be declared the most well-known of all Insanity songs if mostly for the fact that Napalm Death did a cover of it on their ‘Leaders Not Followers’ tribute album: a rather late piece of evidence concerning the remarkably deep-rooted influence that Insanity exerted on British extreme metal. In all, Insanity’s appearance was laudable in spite of the hindrances that seem to perennially plague them, and your humble narrator would go on to follow the band for two more dates of the tour, which were similarly sublime beyond all belief and yet met with shockingly low turnout. But that, friends, is a story for another odd time and place…

Nokturnel: After Goatcraft and Sam Biles’ One-Off Backing Band, Nokturnel were the last of the fiends who flew up from Texas to play a set — although, most old-schoolers remember the band from when they were still based in their native New Jersey, rattling out an intriguingly odd permutation of Voivodian death-thrash on the oft-overlooked opus Nothing But Hatred (another lamentable victim of the doomstruck vessel that was JL America Records). But sadly, nothing at all from the back catalogue was to be on the menu for the night: Nokturnel were quite literally debuting a new drummer and it was simply not in their longterm interest to teach him anything other than their contemporary songs, which are structured and conceptualized out of a much different mindset than the ’90s fare. It was a let-down for the diehards — come to think of it, *everyone* who was gathered for Day of Death was essentially a diehard in some way (especially that magnificent bastard who adamantly demanded to hear “Nuke Seattle”: may you have Satan’s blessings) — but sets will be sets, and it was still fun to watch Tom Stevens shred like a maniac (until his guitar strap came flying off its peg in the middle of everything). We were, however, treated to some completely new material: “Demonic Supremacy” and “Ancestral Calling”, the latter of which was astonishingly pulled off despite the drummer’s inexperience of ever rehearsing it. But at the end of it all, when Tom and the gang were packing it up, the restless energy in the room very palpably spiked to the critical mass: with Nokturnel down, the strike of the fatal hour was fast approaching with the grand finale…

Kam Lee/Seplophile: Primogenitor, mastermind, chieftain, elder god — in death metal, these honorary titles can only officially be coronated onto one Kam Lee. As vocalist for the overwhelmingly foundational bands Death and Massacre, it was Kam who devised the guttural vocal approach closest associated with the genre; and — as is only natural for a Samhain-born son — it was also Kam’s profound knowledge of literary and cinematic Horror, as well as the darker facets of world history that gave concept and soul to an artistic movement. Though his deathgrowls became the stuff of legend early on in the ’80s tapetrading network, his best known contribution is arguably the full-length Massacre album From Beyond, and the fact that this meisterwerk would be fully re-concerted for Day of Death [or should it have been called “Asscrack-of-Morning of Death” at this point?] imparted a dizzying sense of disbelief on the intimate, rabid crowd clinging in front of the stage. But indeed, it wasn’t a collective delusion: the familiar hearkening of “Dawn of Eternity” resonated true through us all, and surely enough Kam Lee stepped forth from the shadows, with Seplophile’s instrumentalists trailing close behind. Previously, Kam had worn a Bone Gnawer shirt for lounging around with his fans and peers off-stage, but for this set he switched to one bearing a “Herbert West: Reanimator” logo — of course, very appropriately referring to the film based on the Lovecraft novella of the same name, with its central theme of profligate science hideously inverting the laws behind life and death. What followed was a set that went by a true-to-album, track-by-track order of those nine anthems we all know better and love better than family; Kam’s live execution captured the full, terrifying intensity of the recordings of his youth, and his ribald yet quickwitted banter in between is always prime entertainment. All the while, the axemen of Seplophile darted to and fro across the stage like winged nightgaunts, and considering how the band had only three rehearsals with Kam to prepare for the night, their performance was almost too good to be true. When “Corpse Grinder” finally ground everything to a halt, Kam and the boys made a hasty exit… but everyone knew the slaughter couldn’t possibly be over yet! And in no time, of course, the spotlights flickered back on and Kam had indeed returned with a few bonuses in store. There was “Provoked Accurser” from the fabled single of the same name, a cover of Impetigo‘s “Boneyard”, a ridiculously fun cover of “Skulls” by the Misfits (which Kam introduced with a paean to punk’s crucial relation to death metal’s genealogy), and finally the ‘Inhuman Condition’ EP’s cover of Venom’s “Warhead” (similarly introduced with reverent words for the Newcastle trio, and how they were responsible for Kam’s fateful crossover from punkship to metaldom). Kam also took advantage of his stagetime to relate some news concerning future exploits: apparently, he has rekindled his alliance with veteran Massacre/Obituary guitarist Allen West, and the duo are in the midst of a scheme Kam has decided to name “Corpse Rot” — a portmanteau of the Massacre song “Corpse Grinder” and the Obituary song “Slowly We Rot”… naturally! And with that, the stars again shifted into benign coordinates and the glorious spell was broken, yet the harrowing tale would be scribed immortally within the Necronomicon of death metal’s saga. For this Day would surely be the last Day that Kam Lee would perform those classic Massacre songs live in concert, and those who missed it, have missed it for all eternity.  

-Thanatotron-

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Interview: Sanguine A. Nocturne and Wrath Satariel Diabolus (Averse Sefira)

Among the bands who originate from areas outside of Northern Europe, there are few as controversial and yet artistically rewarding as Austin, TX’s Averse Sefira. Having their genesis in the era before credulous emulators gagged the black metal community with sound-alike hardcore music dressed up as black metal, Averse Sefira create black metal art in the older style, inspired by Norse and Brazilian black metal from the late 1980s and early 1990s, which puts them at odds with most of their contemporaries who like to make the more generic, less musically-complex “black metal” that has become popular in the years since 1999. Undaunted, the warriors of Averse Sefira have forged ahead on a path of creating mystical, sublime, and unrepentantly vicious metal music which is closer to its influences than competitors.

Additional guest interview questions here, courtesy of Tyler Gebar.

What drew you to black metal and not jazz or punk or ambient or baroque, or more properly stated, what drew you to black metal more than these other forms (thus forced a decision)?

SANGUINE: I have always felt called to Metal and I have always had a sound in my head that I have pursued since I was able that became clearer to me, held meaning and expression the closer I came to Black Metal. It was a journey through the initial fallout of the Genrefication, a journey through Thrash Metal and Speed Metal, Death Metal and Grindcore until one day I was played Black Metal. Then it became clear, an epiphany if you will. I understood the Sound. As I immersed myself in the Sound I began to read and understand the meaning contained within the Sound. That meaning was what I had within me my whole life. Nothing else in music that I have explored has ever merged the Within and the Sound in such union. Classical, ambient and industrial for me are close runner-ups in achieving the union, but there are mindsets within those forms that I find alien and incomprehensible, just as devotees from those camps often never understand the Hessian completely.

Averse Sefira is one of a half-handful of north american bands who create something other than three-chord punk disguised as black metal. What drives you to take a mental vision and project it through music, instead of creating a variant on known musical patterns? How did you collaborate on this vision, and what was the course of its evolution?

WRATH: In regards to initial architecture very little was based on anything else besides instinct. Sanguine and I were ardent followers of metal in general and accordingly we endeavored in what seemed correct and effective at the time. Very often people ask about our affinity for Voivod, which I find interesting considering they were not an influence at all. Most listeners hear an odd timing structure or a false stop in metal and they immediately reference the more technical bands when in truth our chief influence was Immolation in regards to structures. Even with that in mind I do not feel we share a sound in common. Sanguine learned to play traditional folk guitar long before he played extreme music, and both of us had an affinity for classical music as well. I think our decision to draw upon a wide palette of influences rather than aspire to be a variant of one specific band our style gave us a foundation that allowed for continuing innovation and exploration. I don’t quite understand the desire to be a band that is a blatant reiteration of another established act whose work will always remain superior. Why not just be a cover band? It involves less initial planning and more immediate gratification (such as it is). I savour the idea that we are rarely dismissed as sounding like any one band. If you read our reviews, we are compared to Immortal, Voivod, Marduk, Immolation, and everything in between. To address the “three-chord punk” aspect, this seems to be a symptom of minimalism being mistaken for an elementary approach. The two are anything but synonymous yet it opens the door for uninspired amateurism, most of which is thankfully and quickly ignored and abandoned.

How was the energy that inspired you to become formative in Averse Sefira different from other energies you had felt?

SANGUINE: Black Metal is like lightning striking you, the resultant chemical and electrical disruptions alter perceptions and break down barriers between the Terrestrial, the Celestial and the Void. Averse Sefira being an eruptive living presence is a magnification of these disruptions. It becomes a symbiotic relationship sometimes guiding, sometimes being guided.

When did you first get into music, and what are your memories of what attracted you to it? Also, when did you first hear metal and what did you like about it? What was the progress of your moving from outside to inside the genre, as first a fan and then a musician?

WRATH: My first interest in music was classical, from when I was about three years of age. Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bare Mountain” was a genius work that first sparked my appetite for “evil” music. Beethoven and Mozart were also standards, along with Alice Cooper. By about 1986, however, I was anxious to find something more—by this point I was an angry, hyperactive, hormone-addled youth who still wasn’t even old enough to drive. This was the point when Metallica, DRI, Anthrax, Celtic Frost, Slayer, Sodom, Bathory, and Iron Maiden began to match much of “the noise inside my head” (to paraphrase our ever-trenchant guitarist). Here was music that had spirit, conviction, aggression, and, oddly enough, hope. Thus I discovered a paradigm that became a soundtrack for the years ahead, years which continue forward even now. I was a mere fan until I was fifteen, and then I took the plunge and began to learn guitar. Our first band formed before any of us were truly proficient but there was much in the way of raw talent.

In time every moment is conditioned by the previous one. Here the ground or reason of being, as the law of succession, is so simple because time has only one dimension; consequently in it there cannot be any diversity or multiplicity of relations. Every moment is conditioned by the previous one; only through that predecessor can this moment be reached. It is only insofar as that other was and has elapsed. All counting depends on this nexus of the parts of time, and its words serve merelyt o mark the single stages of succession; consequently, the whole of arithmetic depends on it, a science that teaches absolutely nothing but methodical abbreviations of counting. Each number presupposes the preceding numbers as the grounds or reasons of its being; I can reach ten only by going through all the preceding numbers; and only by virtue of this insight into the ground of being, do I know where there are ten, so are there eight, six, four.

– Arthur Schopenhauer, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason

What music besides black metal inspires you most profoundly?

SANGUINE: Primitive chants from earlier times and Classical music. At extremes, these two forms are radical expressions of the Void. Music is a sensual and encompassing experience. The most meaningful displays of it envelop the listener causing a bubble of separate reality to form. This subset of reality wires into every fibre of being and folds the dimensions of existence until the intersection of the mundane intrudes at the end.

What attracts you to a band first – is it instrumental aspects, textural aspects (vocals, tone) or structural?

WRATH: It really depends. Often it is a combination of the elements, though I am quite a seeker of unique and convincing vocal styles. This is how I got into Antaeus, Old Wainds, Funeral Mist (the vocals on their latest are unreal), and even Immortal actually. I like bands that right upon first listen come across as a sum of their parts. This is in the end how ensemble music is intended.

What do you believe is the root of artistic conception? (examples: some say it is simply recontextualizing two forms not normally superimposed upon one another, and that this is the root of all creativity; others say it is simply a sound; some argue the mechanism is understood first; all may be explaining their own phenomenon without getting close to an objective theory)

SANGUINE: For me the root of artistic conception is the expression of the DDIIVVIINNEE. For those who cannot get around such a word being used, insert “the Void.” The artist is called or taps into the Void and finds continual ways to channel and express it. This expression can come in the form of straight religious contextualization or it can be channeled through ideology; although there is much evidence to support a feedback loop between the two (ideology vectoring religion, religion vectoring ideology.)

Music is formed of sound, art of visual impulse, warfare of the physical and words of the abstract; what realization impelled you to join all four disciplines in your artistic concept?

WRATH: From the band’s inception it seemed that total committal and immersion in the art was the only option. We have always prided ourselves in our conceptual completeness. Different facets of this paradigm are expressed in different venues as the visual design and auditory aspects predominate the albums themselves, while the physical component only writhes and poisons in a live setting. This is a form of psychic alchemy; we combine the needed elements to devise something precious and otherwise unattainable.

In music, does the recognition of signal define form, or does form define signal? Could this be a matter of approach, or is it hardwired into human consciousness?

SANGUINE: The answer lies somewhere in between. Developing children across the world will exhibit “music making” or “songwriting” occurrences in an informal manner. They explore rhythm making and melody often without initiation by the parent or group or exposure to more formal musical induction. At some point, all that is naturally occurring within our primal systems, gets written over when someone sits us down and says “this is what music is.” The conditionings leafed over what exists within us takes over and for the most part we become dependant on approach.

In chaos theory we speak of dimensionality as levels of abstraction of repetition of detail; it works in a similar way to computer compression algorithms, which note repeated patterns and assign them a token which takes up less space than the original pattern. Usually the patterns being compressed or abstracted are organized around divisions into two, as for every recognizable thing it can fragment into two halves or recombine a self and an other. How do you think this applies to methods in black metal songwriting for getting closer to a dominant theme or melody without repeating it?

SANGUINE: Humans individually exist within an internal matrix of approaches, thoughts, attitudes, and emotions, all converging and swirling at different points, creating strange relationships and associations along the way. (Not to mention how the act in groups or modify their behaviour based on who they are in contact with at any given moment.) They seem to gravitate towards twos and fours. This might explain the confusing numbers of meat attracted to the binary morality of desert religions. There is something internally pleasing about these even numbers. Conventional 2/4, 4/4 time signatures dominate most song structures and are easily grasped by the Passives and is easily wielded by those seeking conveyance on as broad a band (even if selective) as possible. Perhaps it forms a silent mnemonic system that reinforces the themes?

Music writing seems to be tied inextricably to Newton, in that if something goes up, it must come down (or vice versa.) There is also a high instance of “riff A goes three times and on the fourth time put in riff B.” The only beings that have come near to writing music interwoven with Quantum Physics are Acerbus. I am amazed that people are even able to write music at all, and I have no idea how they do it. I operate with modular components that I call “sets.” A set is usually two or more riffs that compliment each other in somewhat of a logical fashion, there is a great deal of the process based on that great unquantifable: “feeling.” Being modular, these components can be dropped in anywhere in a song and form the basic themes for the composition. They can repeat any number of times with variation imposed as required, say when the song is approaching summation, set A returns, but is played backwards, lower, whathaveyou.

I also think of the songs relative to the shapes that the themes form around. Things like StiGr.39s or the distorted bones of a skinned xtain, celestials on fire, these images are evocative in translation to musical form. One thing I am experimenting with is structuring sets akin to DNA constructions: riff sets on the guitar forming one helical half combining with riff sets on the bass forming the other helical half and the drums acting as sugars linking it all together. Perhaps the construction of an automaton or golem is also an appropriate metaphor: part is bone, part is muscle, part is flesh and part is the electricity powering it. Something that the occult bands often aspire to, or should, is to try and capture in music the essence of what they are summoning/conjuring/opening, not just play Rock and say that it is the embodiment of ritual. Although again, that would explain the obsession with twos and fours… Black Metal is after all, Black Magic but music.

The first time I came to men I committed the folly of hermits, the great folly: I stood in the market place. And as I spoke to all, I spoke to none. But in the evening, tightrope walkers and corpses were my companions; and I myself was almost a corpse. But with the new morning a new truth came to me: I learned to say, “Of what concern to me are market and mob and mob noise and long mob ears?”

You higher men, learn this from me: in the market place nobody believes in higher men. And if you want to speak there, very well! But the mob blinks: “We are all equal.”

“You higher men” – thus blinks the mob – “there are no higher men, we are all equal, man is man; before God we are all equal.”

Before God! But now this god has died. And before the mob we do not want to be equal. You higher men, go away from the market place!

– F.W. Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Do you think that the pre-1996 (Nordic) blackmetal bands held this view? If so, was it their primary view – a summation of their beliefs – or one of the symbols they used to communicate their beliefs?

WRATH: In the time of their greatness, I believe the seminal acts of the region followed these ideals indeed. Regardless, it was their promotion of such things that spoke to us and inspired us to make our own bid as a band. I agree that much of the message was symbolic. The traditional idea of music in general is using art to convey meaning. At their best, the “black circle” bands were very effective in marrying these elements. It is the model under which we have laboured since our inception- symbols standing for greater motives.

How does nature respond to change, in your broad and esoteric experience?

SANGUINE: Nature adapts and ultimately overcomes and destroys, albeit very slowly. Witness the grass growing up from underneath sidewalks, or the tree that has grown over the gravestone. Nature has a much longer longevity than humanity and thus can act at its leisure. Humanity is doomed to scurry around trying to kill immortality in pursuit of its own immortality.

Why are there suddenly so many black metal bands? (this question dates from 1998)

WRATH: The simplest answer seems to be that it has become a trend, though I think a more accurate answer is that more than ever people justify themselves by the attention they get from others. We live in a society full of reality TV shows and we watch complete morons blunder into pseudo-celebrity. A large problem with the current underground (and again I refer mostly to the internet scene) is that everyone claims to be a society-loathing misanthrope who has no interest in the world at large, but then an alarming majority of these people demonstrate just how much the culture they deride has gotten to them. I am constantly amazed at how often I encounter christianized mentalities and the thin rationalizations used to justify them. Getting back to the main point, nobody in metal is interested in making music for oneself anymore. It becomes a process of picking a recombinant band name, writing some recombinant songs, then imploring people to buy a copy of your brand new CD-R. As a side note, I would really be impressed to see a new Black Metal band who went to the trouble to print cassettes and include an inlay card if anything because it would prove that they cared about making an effort.

Although Mayhem’s “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” is arguably more musically conventional than Darkthrone’s “Transylvanian Hunger,” both possess a spirit that is difficult to quantify in the typing that allows us to divide genre and lineage in popular music. What is this essential quality and why is it that some bands have it and others do not, to varying degrees?

SANGUINE: The Void calls to some and the others simply see what the chosen do and mimic it thinking that they bear truth as well. Both albums represent the moment of death for Black Metal in triumphant explosion, an attempt to shut off Black Metal from those who would soil what it offers. The gate was never fully sealed and Black Metal and the Void continue to call and pull a select few to it. There are those that hear the call more clearly, it remains one of those “unquantifiables.”

The bottom line is that bands with severity of conviction are closer to the Void than bands that want conviction or claim to have it because someone else says they do. The “I don’t know what art is but I know what I like” argument raises its head, although in this case it becomes something along the lines of “explaining why one band channels the Void and another one does not is difficult to quantify, the surety lies in the listen, how the space between the solar plexus feels when the album begins to turn.” Once again, “feeling” is important. Feeling and conviction. To borrow from MkM, what is projected in your art must come from every fibre of you being, it has to be your essence, you have to vomit it out for all to see.

The philosopher F.W. Nietzsche posited that western society is collapsing under a wave of liberalization that began with the adoption of Christianity by the Roman empire, a wave that has continued into the secular sector. Where do you think the original black metal impetus in Norway stood in regards to this issue, and where does black metal now stand regarding it? What is your personal view of Nietzsche’s summation?

WRATH: So few people are savvy enough to recognize that christianity is a way of thinking, now more than ever. One can still be christianized and never say a prayer, set foot in a church, or even believe in Jehova. It is christian to demand that everyone be treated with the same regard and merit even when it is unwarranted. It is christian to rationalize behavior that stands in flagrant opposition with professed beliefs, the most common example in the underground being anti-christian yet having a christian significant other (most guys take what they can get without question). It is christian to compromise even when it is clear that the ends will not justify the means. Whether or not the Norse bands were truly adherent in their ideals, their music and words stood firmly against this. Too few really read Euronymous’ mission statement and understood its intent. The Norwegian movement was meant to put a stop to the open door policy of the current scene and implement a new variation that was not intended for everyone. Here again we return to the idea of elitism and why it is so necessary. As previously addressed, the traditional underground still holds these values closely for good or ill, as it is often rigorous to do so when glad-handing scensters continue to get in the way. I agree with Nietzsche’s outlook in this regard; it is particularly true in the US where christian sentiments have long subverted more sensible and functional means and values. Things here no longer run smoothly, as “being fair” or worrying about “people’s feelings” undermines common sense when it comes to getting anything accomplished. Conversely, the whole model is illusory in that so few who enforce these conventions truly believe in them. They assume the person next to them does, however, and thus they adopt a position that will ensure the least amount of judgment or sanctions. This, in its most rudimentary sense, is Christianity- servility for the promise of a nebulous reward.

You were one of the first people in America to embrace black metal, at a time when most metalheads still referred to black metal as “faggot music.” What vision did you grasp that others could not see?

WRATH: More correctly, I like to think I was part of a handful of people in the US to first tout Black Metal in a public forum, mine being a radio show. I did indeed hear many “faggot music” comments (and still do, interestingly enough). As we have since established in this discourse, what enthralled me was a combination of the projected ethos, the aesthetic, and the overall atmosphere that permeated the classic recordings. I saw it as a new renaissance, a step forward, and our best hope for revitalizing a stagnant underground (which, for what it’s worth, happened to a point) . Then again, I always preferred Deicide and Morbid Angel to Suffocation or Cannibal Corpse so it is fair to say that conviction and innovation always got my attention.

I know you’re aware of occult, philosophical and musical leanings of many cultures. In your cross-cultural studies, what common threads have you found that are most applicable to the formation of human ideals?

SANGUINE: There are universal occurrences of a pantheon of gods tied to the cycles of Nature and the machinations of the Universe. There are many universal occurrences of guidelines for living, set up along the lines of balancing “virtues” and “taboos;” these idealy would ensure the survival of the society if adhered to. Societies themselves almost universally had classes for priests, classes for warriors, classes for merchants and artisans, farmers and so on. Everyone had a place and was essential to maintaining continuance. If you were not part of the society, you were the sacrifice that kept the sun rising and the next cycle beginning. These days, society is not going to collapse if you eat pork, or foods that are specially prepared. These days, there is not always a place for people. These days the divisions between tribes are being purposely blurred so that everyone thinks that everyone is the same, everyone can be anything they want. These days everyone seems content to be useless.

What do you think is the major difference between first-wave Norwegian black metal and the current crop of worldwide “BM”?

WRATH: When the Norwegian scene was unearthed they were not a part of a worldwide movement or an internet community. It was a question of standing on merit, talent, and vision. Very few of the bands forming now have this spirit, but then again they no longer need it. Black Metal, particularly in the states, has become a very tolerant and coddling entity. Ten years ago, legitimacy was not about how long one had been visiting a metal message board. At this point it is simpler for someone to simply announce that he has a band and wait for the accolades to roll in, rather than working towards something that stands as an accomplishment unto itself. The Emperor wears no clothes, and has not for some time now. Many would be surprised at my involvement with other projects, bands, and entities in the underground. My name is always present but there is no need to call additional attention to myself. I am proud of what I contribute and this is more than enough, and if there are praises to receive then I want to know I have rightly earned them rather than assume I deserved them before the fact.

The one most relevant [cultural factor] here is language. In general, scientific discourse adopts as its ideal univocality — one word, one meaning. Closely related to this goal is the belief that a language exists, or can be forged, that is purely instrumental. Clearly and unambiguously, it will communicate to the world what the speaker or writer intends to say. Roland Barthes (Rustle) has ironically called this the belief that science can own a slave language, docile and obedient to its demands. Anyone who has seriously studied how language works is aware, however, that it shapes even as it articulates thought. There is now an impressive body of work exploring how metaphors, narrative patterns, rhetorical structures, syntax, and semantic fields affect scientific discourse and thought…language is not a passive instrument but an active engagement with a vital medium that has its own currents, resistances, subversions, enablings, pathways, blockages. As soon as discovery is communicated through language, it is also constituted by language.

– N. Katherine Hayles, Complex Dynamics in Literature and Science p. 5 (1991)

Backing up a bit, in the mid-1980s Bathory and Celtic Frost stunned the world with a form of metal that was both the simplest yet created, in terms of its basic and grinding power chord riffs, and most complex, in that it staged itself like an opera, unifying a visual presentation with a concept with a musical form. This is similar to the use of music in ancient Greece, where it was believed that music by itself, without an accompanying storyline and theatrical presentation, was only partially complete. What do you think brought this view back into the intellectual currency of the West?

WRATH: It seems that those individuals grew up with a healthy fascination for their origins and heritage and quickly realized that this existence was no longer within reach as it had been long-erased industry and judeo-christian mores. What better way to resurrect mythos and wonder than by projecting it through infectious yet markedly aggressive music? For our brand of art to carry any real value it must convey meaning. In our case, the personas and music we have devised are much larger than ourselves; Averse Sefira is an entity in its own right. Immersion is what makes the music live, what makes a spindly guy in a bullet belt into a fire-breathing demon called Quorthon or a tow-headed nice guy longhair into a guitar-shredding grunt machine called Tom G. Warrior. Art is meaning, anything else is just entertainment. The earliest purveyors of this genre understood this and they insisted on creating something that transcended the workaday existence and the conventions of the world they were forced into despite their desires for more and better ways of being. This is why Averse Sefira will always appear in paint and spikes, we will always strive for involved design and presentation, we will always be all-inclusive in our presentation. Music is the foundation but in Black Metal aesthetic will always be important, no matter how minimalist it may be. Those who claim to play Black Metal but still don’t understand this paradigm should form AC/DC tribute bands and play onstage in street clothes.

I understand that unlike many black metallers, you embrace both higher education and a personal sense of honor. How does this jive with the post-1996 attitude of many fans and third-string musicians that black metal should be about “total darkness and hate, and total suicidal agony”?

WRATH: Black Metal should be about total darkness and hate, etc, etc, but perhaps not in such absolute terms. It is fine to tout such ideas assuming one understands why it matters. The problem is that most of the individuals who are quick to assert these concepts do so in lieu of anything productive or artistic. Any coward and/or moron can regurgitate “widely accepted” platitudes as an excuse to not bring anything useful to the table. Fatalism is easy because it negates accountability, and in the interim ideals like honor, fortitude, imagination, conviction, and solidarity fall by the wayside. The result is that those who speak loud and offer little have begun to overrun the movement. They have plenty of empty rhetoric, and somehow this saves them from being singled out and isolated from the beginning. It is a symptom of the 21st century that the lowest common denominator defines the trajectory of things, and it seems that Black Metal is not immune. For our part, the aforementioned “strength and honor” aspects of this music are what make it worthwhile. Those we know and respect in this movement also believe and practice within this paradigm, and accordingly they are the ones we call allies. All others should be honest with themselves and return to listening to hardcore.

What was the best part of college?

SANGUINE: I think the best part of college is the appreciation one gains ex post facto for how much was truly useless and how they would do things differently. It is kind of bittersweet, the experience. I enjoyed it but in hindsight it was not unlike a rodeo with textbooks. There is a great destruction involved on many levels.

It seems to me that death metal started with grand ambitions (Altars Of Madness, Legion) and then lapsed into the same mindless three-chord bashing that has always characterized bad metal bands; black metal was a breath of fresh air, but now so many of these bands have adopted the cloak of “Transilvanian Hunger” and are doing the same thing. What engenders this cycle? Should it be “stopped”?

WRATH: It seems so many people have looked at a band like Darkthrone and believed that the key to the music was to keep it one-dimensional. They never realized that in minimalism it is often implication that completes intent. Why is “Transylvanian Hunger” brilliant while some other three-chord album is not? This is when the esoteric takes hold and makes what would have otherwise been a repetitive and poorly produced album into a seminal work. However, when other bands ape this approach the results are transparent and poorly produced albums, period. You will not encounter many individuals who are willing to invest the time in finding their own voices and sharpening their crafts. We live in a twenty-four hour society where everything must be fast-tracked and brought to market while the commodities are hot, hot, hot! Thus we witness and endless parade of idiots who think that they need to commit their Black Metal band to CD-R tomorrow, and Darkthrone isn’t hard to mimic, so why not do that? Our drummer actually summed it up best when he observed that while most everything on the first Deicide album is easy to play, he never could have thought up any of it. It’s no surprise that Emperor turned around and alienated all the aspiring imitators with “Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk”. They wanted to be sure to shut the door on that kind of thing. So, for a short answer yes it should be stopped. I also think Darkthrone should stop grandstanding and find something else to do.

What do you think is the lineage of black metal, and what are its major influences outside of the genre (or even outside music)?

SANGUINE: Do you remember the time, before the Great Generefication, when it was ALL METAL? At some point, someone said, “THAT’s Speed Metal, THAT’s Death Metal, THAT’s Thrash Metal, this new stuff’s called Grindcore,” and in the murky depths of fanzinedom, some one said, “Sodom, Venom, Bathory, Sarcofago, Pentagram, Beherit, Blasphemy, Mystifier, Master’s Hammer, These guys are BLACK METAL! (Well, these are the guys that were doing Black Metal originally; Immortal, Darkthrone, Bvrzvm, Emporer, Mayhem, THESE guys are {True!} BLACK METAL!”

“Why is this Black Metal? What makes it so?” the Incredulous asked.

“Because it’s SATANIC!” the Generifier said.

“So that makes Decide, Morbid Angel, Incantation, ad nauseum, Black Metal bands.”

“Oh no! They are Death Metal bands! They have a more chromatic chord base, double bass blasts and low, growling vocals.”

“Ah! So what make these new bands (that are Satanic/coming out of Scandinavia) Black Metal?”

“The guitars are more melodic, they blast with a single kick, and the vocals are pitched higher. And they have paint and spikes and burn churches some of them. The Death Metal guys wear jeans and sneakers, ‘jogging suits’ and look like everybody at shows”

“I see, so it is an aesthetics and form delineation that makes something Black Metal and not Death Metal.”

“No, it is also their ideology, these guys are warring against Christianity, they are searching for their lost Viking roots, blah, blah, blah.”

“So how can you play Black Metal then Don Diego?”

“Because I and my band are hailing Satan and writing songs about Satan’s triumph over the Earth and killing christians.”

And so on. I agree with that theory: that what everyone initially agreed quantified and qualified a band as Black Metal was a Satanic theme, concept or aesthetic. When the whole Norway/Sweden/Finland “scenes” erupted, that same Satanic element was very strong. At some point this split and fractured; varicose offshoots running amok touting National Socialism, Medieval Satanism, Paganism, Vampirism, Genocide, Nihilism, Forests, Misty Fog, etc; one could graph the ebbs and flows. Some of these arteries have hardened and with every form, conventions solidify and one can now safely describe bands by “they sound like.”

And at this point it all really matters not at all. The lineage of Black Metal is well known as legend with even the wettest behind the ears able quote from “Lords of Chaos:”

“Once upon a time, there was Euronymous, Dead and Count Grishnack. Dead begat the germ that is Black Metal. Euronymous became jealous and killed Dead for this germ [er, ah he committed suicide.] Count Grishnack killed Euronymous for, well perhaps just to get the next phase going.”

IF that is so and Grishnack burned the chruches to wake up Norwegians, perhaps Euronymous’ death was to awaken Hessians, get them thinking about what this is really about.

The great majority of them, the ones that “made the Metal community at large aware of Black Metal,” I still want to feel that they believed in something, that they adhered to an ideology. I want to think that they weren’t just doing it as a joke and now they can go back to their Nine Inch Nails. Many have abandoned what they initially raised high banners in the name of, and many still raise high banners so long as they look right and play music that sounds ‘just like _____!’ It seems like so many have lost their faith, for Metal has its religious qualities, that one can wonder sometimes if there has ever been any meaning to this music, this form. The fact that there are some adherents, some faithful still out there, that to me will point to a common truth wherefrom this movement sprang from. The lineage of Black Metal is now legend, and I feel that it is served better in this manner. Where it is going, what is done with it to keep it vital, thriving and mutating, is of the utmost importance.

Movements pushing ideologies have crept in through Metal, the fanbase appearing as an untapped resource that many would like to exploit, be it financial, material, physical, political, religious. Movements within Metal have arisen and now seek to creep outward, to effect and depose the JCI society that seeks to ruin and despoil what is being accomplished. There is a great war of hearts and minds being waged by those who want to keep Metal regarded as “frivolous.”

There are important leaps in meta-philosophy and meta-culture being made by enclaves of Hessian think tanks. I say it “meta-” because unfortunately such efforts will never be recognized as “legitimate” by the current JCI society. Hessians, as a meta-culture, truly global and post-moral, operate in a closed system making plans for what should promise to be a better future; unfortunately, this knowledge will always be suppressed and disregarded, “the rants and ravings of fringe elements and radicals.” Such accusations are made still, mostly by an unwashed mass with the mean age of 20. The potential within these nay-sayers is still there but still suffer from the conditioned thought of the society around us. Ten plus years ago, I think that Hessians were not as accomplished thinkers as they are today. Ten plus years ago, the message put forth was “Party! Let’s get out our aggression {until we cave to society’s demands!} Oh shit, there might be nuclear war! That’s bad!” Today, the message has changed: “Society is broken and must be set on fire. From the ashes we can rebuild and move forward in a more productive manner, but doing so requires the fetters and fears that bind us be cast aside so that we can act beyond the constraints of morality, act unhindered.”

American society has never fully accepted evolution as a theory, where Europe seems more scientific in outlook. Does this affect cultural and personal views of metal music, art and how to make it?

WRATH: American society has never fully evolved either, so how would we begin to grasp such theories? Of course our remedial culture stunts creation of art just as European culture propagates it. If you look around you, the American underground has all but succeeded in turning US Black Metal right back into Death Metal. What does that tell you? This is why the European bands and their mentality appeal to us. We have further cultivated a sense of this in our travels and travails in that region, and sometimes I cannot believe we are still on the same planet. Some have asserted that we wish we were a European band and all I can say is that they have been paying attention.

360.00 Universe itself is simultaneously unthinkable. You cannot think about the Universe sum-totally except as a scenario. Therefore, for further examination and comprehension, you need a thinkable set, or first subdivision of Universe, into our systems.
362.00 Our original definition of Universe is a finite but nonsimultaneously occurring aggregate of all human experiences, which is, therefore, a nonceptual total Universe. It is logical to proceed from this definition to discover the patterning characteristics of the first conceptual division of Universe into a structural system. After we subdivide Universe into systems, we will make further reductions into basic even experiences and to quantum units. We will then come to the realization that all structuring can be identified in terms of tetrahedra and of topology.

– Buckminster Fuller, Synergetics

Do you watch television and/or movies?

SANGUINE: No TV. I would like to still watch movies, but I feel great pressure from within to make better use of my time and life’s energy, so I generally abstain.

People have accused you of being an elitist. How do you answer that? Also, what is your feeling on the similarities and differences between “musical elitism,” or really elitist meritocracy based on personal artistic output, and an enlightened sense of anti-social Darwinism?

WRATH: Those who feel I am an elitist are usually standards-bereft bottom feeders who are beneath me. Is this not for what Black Metal was intended? The modern iteration of this genre was a reaction to Death Metal’s increasing lack of ethos and liberalized sensibilities. Decrying elitism is yet another facet of our tailspin into the lowest common denominator. Musically and socially, elitism is more necessary than ever yet there are so few genuine adherents to this mindset. Most people would prefer to be hypocrites or apologists rather than invest in the rigors of aspiring to something better. It is not a question of perfection, it is a question of consistency. It is no coincidence that as a band our appeal is selective, as this is what elitism requires. Pleasing everyone is for the MP3 bands of the world.

What technological development of the last 30 years do you fear the most?

SANGUINE: Microwaves, anything that disrupts the body’s electrical systems.

How does religion and/or popular social views affect the composition of music?

WRATH: It seems to drive quite a few bands to trivial output. Again, as mentioned previously the biggest problem with the metal underground right now is the social aspect. Bands want attention and validation more than they want to set artistic goals these days. This is definitely putting the cart before the horse, but that is to be expected in the post-MTV generation. Simply having a band is never enough. When we began Averse Sefira, we never had the slightest inkling that it would become something about which anyone beside ourselves would care. Witness the fact that we ultimately released our first album on our own after rejecting a few thin label offers. For us it was never about acceptance or popularity, and even now we are often surprised and even skeptical of the response we get from listeners. Purely artistic goals are increasingly uncommon in metal, and in part I would agree that society is to blame. In terms of religion’s effect, please refer to my earlier comments on chrisitianized people in metal.

Do you think digital computers provide any models, fragmentary or mimetic, of human consciousness?

SANGUINE: Yes, in that they both have to be programmed and once programmed, there is a great chance for corruption, viruses and crashing.

Some have said the Christian vision of the “soul” is nothing more than the ego yearning to assert itself despite mortality. Do you think this is true? The ego is also paradoxical, in that it is both useful and, if too much of it occurs, destructive. Is there a general principle that can be derived from this?

WRATH: I think the soul is the navigator of the physical body, but as such when the physical meets the end the navigator is extinguished as well. Were this not true then we would not grieve so when those close to us die. What difference does it make if there is an afterlife or not- we are here now. All I know is that dualists forever debunk their own assertions in their failure to deal with death in ways that do not involve fear or grief. What is there to mourn if another life directly awaits on the other side?

The soul seems to be the sum of its parts, both tangible and intangible. One part cannot exist without the other. In terms of ego, you are correct that it is both an asset and a liability. I myself have ego to spare and I find it can lead to garnering great friends as well as bitter (if completely ineffective) enemies. In the more traditional sense, too much responding to drives, desires, and needs leads to both excess and even chaos. Chaos is sometimes good and necessary, but it is well advised to be aware of your own role in its midst.

As humanity poisons Earth, it may be necessary to engage in space travel where individuals will not only be cut off from the world for journeys taking most of their natural lives, but also will be cut off from any kind of parent culture as it disintegrates while they are in space. If these space travelers wrote philosophy or music, what ideas do you think would be emphasized?

SANGUINE: Unfortunately I think they would try to keep the ideal of “goD” going as long as they could. There would also be a biological push to replicate in as many and different combinations as possible so as to ensure genetic existence. To this, all conventions of matriarchy/patriarchy would have to dissolve and notions of conventional pair bonds would have to be cast aside. Everyone would have to breed with everyone else, the idea being that “the best and brightest” have been evaluated and chosen as such “the species” (or amalgamation thereof) would survive and promulgate. Given the limited supplies and space restrictions of a space going vessel, birth cycles would have to be regulated. A new culture would rise and the aspects of it, philosophy, music, etc, would have to revolve on the axis of breeding, “what are we going to do when we land?” and Christmas…

In many ways, Americans are shown by media archetypes how to grow up very quickly on the outside, leaving the structure behind emotions and logic relatively unformed. What do you think are the benefits of this form of extended youth?

SANGUINE: On one hand, delayed development benefits those that will have a greater purpose the close Geburah comes. These will be prepared to pilot the new society towards the halls of tomorrow. Extended youth on the other hand hinders those that embrace the nailed son of monkeys and pigs, for these, there is constant forward pressure into the meatgrinder of JCI society. Things of status are sought and warred over, devotion becomes measured by the material. They squander their youth early in a mad rush for adulthood and when they arrive, they have transfusions of bitterness, guilt, and hate to replace all that once was within them.

Nietzsche also spoke of “eternal return,” or the concept that our lives are lived once and a representation of eternity in the human consciousness would be a perpetual cycling of the memories of that life — this vision was offered in direct contrast to the christian vision of a single life followed by an eternal life of stasis in pleasure. In this writing, the battlelines were drawn between those who believed in another world – the dualists – and those who believed the present was all that existed and thus real-world achievements were more important than symbolic or religious assertions. Do you think this is accurate and on which side of the equation do you fall?

SANGUINE: If we reoccur eternally along the same path, with everything up to the revelation being eternally fixed and immutable, would it matter? The transition between cessation and genesis would necessarily cause the memories and experiences of the same former existence to be wiped away; there would be no acknowledgement of what is already known. The burden of such retention would begin to wear upon the bearer to the point that and endless suicide loop could very well mutate. Nature after all abhors not only vacuums, but closed systems. Until it breaks however, it would be fantastic.

WRATH: I would agree this is fairly accurate, discounting the idiots who say, “well I dunno” when confronted with questions about the meaning of life. I fall very strictly into the latter category, in that I believe the only guarantee we have in the course of existence is that we are living on this plane and we have a certain limited amount of time to make the most of it. This is a shared idea within the band, which is why we do things like abandon gainful employment in the name of touring, etc. I believe one simply cannot put a price on life experience.

Do you believe in the soul?

SANGUINE: After a fashion, yes. I also believe in a spirit. I think these are component parts that make humanity somewhat different from other meat. Not better, but different.

Do any higher powers exist for you?

SANGUINE: Sometimes.

There are a great many matrices and states (altered or not, conscious and unconscious) that interconnect and overlap within and without a single human at any given time. At least there are for myself. Think about how often there are three songs playing in your head while you are driving almost from rote while mentally composing an essay or letter and carrying out a conversation, all on three hours of sleep. And you still marvel at sunlight drifting through clouds. There are multiple attitudes and thoughts you have towards a group of people or a single person, friend, enemy that you have when alone. These same orbits change when interacting with that person or when you are part of your own circle. They change again when you are forced into a job and a group of people that you have nothing in common with, save civility. All this to say that there are many levels of existence, the stark material cannot be the sole.

Egalitarianism and the soul are argued by some to be necessarily codependent concepts. can you explain your views on this subject?

SANGUINE: They want all things to be equal because they want everyone’s soul to be equal, important, and matter just as much as everyone else’s. The glorious truth is that not everyone makes an equal contribution, not even those who contribute a great deal, thinking that it is quality not quantity that matters, makes them a “better” person (but only to themselves, not in the sense that they are above anyone else!). The glorious truth is that not everyone matters. The glorious truth is that 5.9 billion souls are in need of immediate harvesting and those that are left will just have to figure out how it really works.

Many have for years stereotyped metalheads to me as angry, socially abusive people obsessed with negativity and rejection, usually from reasons of low self-esteem. Another variant of this behavior is that at a party, often the loudest people are the ones with the greatest need to make their presence known. I never believed this, although I noted many people who fit this description in the metal community; however, it seemed that post-1998 this percentage exploded and most of the smart people attracted by the promise of early modern black metal (1990-1996 Scandinavia) left the genre. Is this consistent with your experience? Why do you think this trend has come about?

WRATH: I wouldn’t say the smart people are all gone, they just have better things to do than argue about Sabbat with tech-school dropouts. I think one of the most damaging aspects to the genre was the way nearly all of the Norwegian front-runner bands managed about two worthwhile albums apiece and then launched into tangential bids for commercial success. Credibility was compromised, populism took hold, and kids who wanted something more radical than mallcore crept in. At this point it seems that we have too many people who were supposed to have been listening to Iron Maiden and playing Dungeons & Dragons coming in and acting as self-appointed authorities on all things black and evil. Most of them are wounded, stupid, aimless, talentless, or all of the aforementioned. Refer to my comments about not qualifying oneself before demanding patronage. This doesn’t apply to the European scene as much — their dead weight is harder to readily identify and a few among them have proven to be ingenious frauds. At least they try harder.

What Texas bands do you enjoy?

SANGUINE: Acerbus and Absu. I also enjoy former greats such as deadhorse, Rigor Mortis and Pain Teens.

Our entire historical cycle comes many years after the fragmentation of the Greco-Roman empires, but if looked at in the whole, is a progression from simple melodic lines to a sense of absolute melodic freedom; if looked at from a meta-level, it is a progression from music being symbolic of an artistic process (e.g. applied in theatre as did the Greeks) to music being symbolic of itself, at which point it communicates nothing other than what is inherent in the notes themselves. Clearly to the Greeks this would have been degenerate; the question is whether the cycle comes around to what they discovered, in which musical devices are fully known and thus the only question is how to use music as a language – which of course, requires the language _describe something_. How do you think black metal fits into this?

WRATH: It seems that much of Black Metal, indeed in the way our band crafts songs, falls into the “dissonant, smaller pieces” category. In our work, the music is definitely treated as language, though I don’t agree that all bands have a handle on this aspect of the creative process and as such we have the degenerate examples of music that is symbolic of itself. It is no coincidence that we are forever asked, “What are your lyrics about? What is the concept about?” Our goal from day one was to commute ideas through musical structures otherwise what is the point? It is not unlike the difference between talking simply to do so or talking to communicate an idea. In Black Metal the wheat is easily separated from the chaff when a band is asked in an interview to discuss their message or intent. When the answer is the standard vulgar, all-capitals diatribe against christians, society, and any band with musical value then it is clear they are not about communicating actual ideas. This is serviceable for the purposes of novelty but it will not endure, nor will it garner the type of audience worth having. I think that at its best Black Metal communicates volumes of ideas, both universal and esoteric. Consider a song like “I am the Black Wizards” and its portent; this genre offers so much opportunity for transcendent ideas and ways to express them. The palette is incredibly broad and thus ideas of alienation, misanthropy, aspiration, passion, hatred, and wonder have been aired in ways unheard of in any other musical form. The important commonality is that all the best bands set out to communicate. Think about Emperor at the end of their career- what is it that they were trying to say then, other than they wanted to cease? The Greeks definitely knew what made art significant, to be sure.

If you could fight in any war, which would it be?

SANGUINE: I am torn between WWII and Vietnam. WWII was the last great war of the old ways; the heroic ideal as I identify it today was at its peak in so far as its iteration in that age. Vietnam is the first modern war and there is still much to be learned from it. Vietnam was the war that reminded Amerika of its guerilla warfare heritage still struggling to implement lessons learned in a recent past. WWII hearkens back to better times; Vietnam can teach lessons for our current paths.

Do you believe the universe created itself, emerged from a precursor state or was synthesized by a mechanism not describable in causal states of any kind thus far known?

SANGUINE: The recent detection of polarized echoes from the Big Bang seem to indicate that the Universe was born out of an indescribable mechanism, however there had to be some sort of existence of the raw potentials for such genesis. Endless feedback and circular scenarios.

What do you think is next for black metal: will it continue on essentially a linear developmental curve, or will it mutate into another genre? Will it ever reclaim its original intensity?

WRATH: That is a truly difficult question. The issue at hand is that there are two undergrounds- the traditional and genuine, and then the loud and posturing popularity contest that has risen to the surface like a bloated corpse. With this disparity in mind, it becomes hard to predict much of anything. Many bands are still holding the banner of the “old ways” high, and these are the bands with whom we align ourselves. Perhaps the illegitimate side will mutate, considering their brand of “black metal” is effectively old death metal and NWOBHM. The simplest way to describe it all is that the underground went back underground, and as such the intensity and passion was never truly lost. It has become more incumbent upon us all to keep the best our genre has to offer away from those who would malign and misappropriate it. These days I hesitate to discuss bands I enjoy in public forums as I fear it further spoon-feeds the novelty-seekers and arrivists.

For some, there are two kinds of art: one that describes or laments the current world, and another that brings forth a heroic spirit of change and/or rearrangement of mental processing through which the user then sees the world. Which of these is your preferred mode of artistic cognition?

SANGUINE: That which inspires transformations within and without. There is too much “art” that is just “there;” purposeless, useless but for the mercy of the meat that embraces it as “valuable.” To them, everything is equal.

Black metal has become redundant both ideologically and musically in recent years. Many would say that ideology, or perhaps the pretentious portrayal of a facade, has become more important to black metal musicians than injecting the true spirit of their unique perceptions into the raw force of music that they craft. Do you believe that this is true, and if so, to what do you attribute this decline?

WRATH: I would say this is as true as not. That is a slippery idea because it is subjective. Some bands present with concepts and music that demonstrate their lack of understanding, but at the same time they believe in it so would that count as a facade? My standing complaint is that only a small portion of bands bother to fully understand the nature of the art before forming their own bands and then propagating their mistaken interpretations. Sanguine and I were metalheads since the mid-80s and still we took our time in forming Averse Sefira because we wanted to do it right and not have an early career that was riddled with missteps. So in regards to this decline you mention it seems that the urgency of getting on the bandwagon is probably the biggest culprit.

The song structure of your music often bears similarities to the thematic writing of classical composers. Do you enjoy classical and romanticist composers, and how do they influence your work?

We enjoy it very much. Classical music was some of the first music to which I ever actively listened, starting at about age three. Sanguine is actually an even more avid fan than I, and he attends concerts regularly (which is something I need to get back to doing myself). He also listens to a lot of film soundtracks that have orchestral arrangements. Beethoven, Wagner, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, and Mozart are all part of our musical landscape. Much of our arrangements, particularly on the last two albums, have been written with this paradigm in mind. It seems that black metal draws upon classical much more than other forms of extreme music.

I have read in past interviews that your albums “Homecoming’s March” and “Battle’s Clarion” form a complex narration of mysticism inspired by material found in Kabbalic mythology. The albums seemed to interpret the exile of certain sefira from the realm of god, who rebelled against their creator in the ultimate act of attaining freedom (correct me if I am dead wrong on this). To be honest, I have yet to discover how “Tetragrammatical Astygmata “and “Advent Parallax” fit into this plot line. Do these albums continue the conceptual leanings of your early releases?

Interesting question, I’ve been wondering the same thing myself. For one interpretation of the first two albums, I don’t think you’re wrong. Initially, all the albums were to fall under an umbrella of themes, with multiple trails of thought weaving together (linked together songs, placement of songs, embedded shallow numerology) to allow every song to have a place in a “correct order.” As evolution has occurred, progression taken place and gateways passed through, old forms have been shed in favor of a refinement of original purpose.

Conceptually, the key themes from the first two albums are the same as the key themes of the latter two albums, just dressed differently. Creation springs from destruction in an endless cycle until the cycle is broken. The celestial becomes the terrestrial as the flesh melts away and becomes spirit. The “I” at whatever level of consciousness(es), must come to grips with the process of change and the consequences of transformation. Shaatialn.

Whereas “Tetragrammatical Astygmata” found beauty in the roar of the infernal; the dissonance seems to have been restrained upon “Advent Parallax”. However, the anthemic melodies paint broader strokes, and are much more pronounced. Was this a calculated progression, or did the change occur naturally?

The vibrations of “Tetragrammatical Astygmata” reflected the flesh while describing the spirit. “Advent Parallax” vibrates the spirit while reflecting the flesh. There was hidden purpose in the intertwining of these frequencies, a purpose not yet revealed. There was a natural calculation that produced progression. It’s all part of chasing the dragon. The dragon is either caught and the last seal of understanding is broken and there is nothing left to accomplish or the pursuer is broken in the pursuit, devoured by the dragon and there is nothing left to accomplish. In the end, there is only the void. Only death is real. Thyapihlon.

What particular forces introduced you to the metal genre, and what were your initial reactions to it?

I was driven by “the noise inside my head” as Sanguine has always called it. I started at post-infancy with a fixation on bombastic classical music and Alice Cooper (more for his aesthetic than anything else) and then moved on to progressively louder and scarier things. Actually, I was still very young when Motley Crue broke out with “Shout at the Devil”, and I flatly rejected it because they looked like ugly girls and it struck me as gross and stupid. Thrash and proto-death/black reached me more immediately, however, and so I quickly became an adherent to all the well-known acts like Sodom, Celtic Frost, Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Voivod, etc. Right about this time I realized that this music was all I really ever wanted out of life. It was not just music but a way of being. I have a lot more to show for myself than just metal, but without it my reality would be a much blander and unexciting one.

Several people seem to recognize that the filth of the human race is clogging the pores of our land, and in effect devouring the environment at an agonizing pace. How do you feel about environmental concerns, and those who advocate major change in order to stabilize the planet? Also, do you feel a deeper bond with nature than most around you?

Eliminating two-thirds of humankind from the globe would be a good start. I myself refuse to breed and I wish more people felt the same. I have an appreciation for nature, yes, though I would be lying if I said I had a deeper bond. I spend most of my time in cities as this is where most of my necessary doings occur.

A splurge question, if I may. Reality is said to be the perception of your surroundings through your senses. However, the same stimulus can be interpreted in a vastly different manner by the individual than that of their peers. Do you believe that what the senses experience is subjective, that these experiences define reality, and if so, how do you believe one must measure the validity of their actions?

I suppose due to our exploration of metaphysics Averse Sefira invites many existential questions. I believe in the idea of a consensus reality where everyone can agree on certain perceptions that are known to be true- the sky is blue, the sun is hot, we need air to breathe, etc. Of course past this consensus there are many vastly different realities in which people live, some to their own delusion and detriment. But I would not agree that reality is wholly subjective any more than its governing factors of time and space.

In conclusion, are there any particular words of wisdom or notification that you would like to impart upon your fans who frequent this website?

I’ll take the opportunity to announce that “Advent Parallax” will soon be out on LP through The Ajna Offensive. Support this excellent label. Also, www.josasmith.com is where one should go to see the works of Jos A. Smith, as his work adorns the cover of “Advent Parallax”.

The Egyptian Culture is an embodiment of care – which is the spiritual counterpoise of distance – care for the future expressed in the choice of granite or basalt as the craftsman’s materials, in the chiselled archives, in the elaborate administrative system, in the net of irrigation works.

Contrast with this the fact, symbolically of the highest importance and unparalleled in art-history, that the Hellenes, thought they had before their eyes the works of the Mycenaen Age and their land was only too rich in stone, deliberately reverted to wood; hence the absence of architectural remains of the period 1200-600. The Egyptian plant-column was from the outset of stone, whereas the Doric column was wooden, a clear indication of the intense antipathy of the Classical soul towards duration.

– Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West

All photos copyright © Averse Sefira and Noektrymn.de.

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