Conditions for the Proper Gestation of Metal, A Discussion

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I was listening to Antaeus’ Cut Your Flesh and Worship Satan the other day and found myself thinking “This is pretty awesome metal coming from France!”. After all, France is not a very metal country, so the surprise is not, itself, surprising. At best, that country has produced a few flukes like giants Massacra and obscure Mutiilation, a product of Les Légions Noires’ elite circle. It is my contention that true metal art loci arise in such elite circles in very particular conditions and in reaction (metal is, to a certain point, what detractors of realism in a deluded society call “contrarian”) to different but at some level similar kinds of environments in which strong and perceptive minds fight an intellectual battle against a modern, peaceful yet poisonous complacency. Therefore, we may also clarify that metal proper is not a protest music. Protest belongs to a class warfare, while metal abstracts itself from both the futility of human rejection of reality and the petty strife caused by ignorance and incomprehension of our relative place in an uncaring universe. Not an evil universe as some fairy tales say, but an indifferent universe that could only care about humans as much as we care about a microbe that dies on the surface of our skin without ever even registering in our conscience in any way.

What does it take to be infused with the primordial essence of metal? Individual paths to a certain illumination over which we do not have total control? Metal is, after all, not made of the same matter as intellectually and experimentally-driven traditions such as classical music. We may learn certain methodologies that will better focus inspiration and drive, but the metal way is the way of the mystic, the way of spiritual transcendence. As with any opposition to esoteric affairs, there will be outcries against the allusions to an ultra-physical dimension in the wording, perhaps pointing out that metal has traditionally been strictly realist to the point of nihilism. But for those who understand what it means, mystic references will carry the point home without there being any suspicion of a contradiction. The mystic way is the use of images as passageways to vantage points that are unreachable through common language and from which we can see behind the frontispiece of human constructions.

Simple statistical scans of data from bands in different countries and at different times that it is also not a the healthy “scene” that brings about excellence. Scenes bring about scenesters and poseurs, not better music. For the better part of this last week, I had been on a mission to try and discover lost gems from among Central American bands (that means Guatemala down to Panama, for the geographically impaired). The task is not so easy, but I thought I might cover a lot of ground by first heading to Metal Archives (a very useful resource worked tirelessly by the plebeian masses of metal underlings that think any third-rate metal band around the corner is worth documenting)  and looking at the entries of lists by country. Although the number of entries per country varied wildly in relation to their sizes (from 30+ in Nicaragua to almost 200 in Costa Rica), after scanning the lists and listening to songs from each of the bands in the lists, one finds out that only a similar number of bands from each country would pass the high-level standards of metal we espouse here. That our “judgement” is suitable or not is not the point and is irrelevant to this point. The point is that a comparatively huge scene like Costa Rica’s did not yield more quality music in terms of composition than the meager offerings of Nicaragua or Honduras. Costa Rica’s larger scene, in great part fomented by a larger population and improved economic conditions, boasts of many albums with European-level metal production, abundant professional musicianship and and more gifted performers. All that is for nothing, at the end of the day.

This is also true for classical music, but it will not be discussed here for it requires a little more research about its particular condition to assert anything further. Metal flourishes not from fully-formed scenes, but rather from individuals in intellectually-challenging or adverse landscapes that choose not to fight social convention or status quo as such from within, but seek to escape it altogether after recognizing how nonsensical it is to submit to human imagination is if it were reality. Our minds are innately equipped with the machinery to see things in terms of illusions, essences and constructions. In the end, it is unavoidable. But it is in the individual to decide whether the illusion will dominate him or he will use it as a tool to carve his path through the uncertainty of chaos. Scenes, as human social circles that promote tolerance for the mediocre, are completely unfit to give birth or nurture creators — only perhaps shadows of them that bring more of the same or complete nonsense that does not amount to music.

Does this mean that we should stop trying to make metal as individual artists if we do not consider ourselves to be chosen? Not at all. Those we could consider somehow chosen (the patriarch Iommi, Hanneman, Quorthon, Warrior, Vikernes — frankly, I do not think death metal produced any such luminaries) were not self-referential assholes who believed themselves to be some sort of Messiah. Rather, they worked single-mindedly at their craft. While they were immersed in that and that goal remained the sole focus of their efforts, their music grew and expanded, building ever higher towers whose tops penetrated and seared the stratosphere in spite of scorching winds and burning ice. Experimentalists, retro-acts and self-professed proggers with no direction, on the other hand, kept running around in circles chasing their tails in a puddle of filth. Besting the destructive cyclones of hail that make short work of feeble-minded, the true leaders crossed boundaries and opened doors that were locked.  But these accomplishments are built on two equally important pillars. The first is the struggle in the midst of intellectual adversity. The second is tradition.

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29 thoughts on “Conditions for the Proper Gestation of Metal, A Discussion”

  1. Daniel says:

    What about Keller, Boman, Steer, Vigna, and Estby for death metal? True most of them have swayed from the golden path but Hanneman under the influence of Heineken let Slayer become an outright nu-metal band, Quorthon embraced the Manowar, and Warrior dived into the Cold Lake of female fronted doom bands.

    1. ah yes, I don’t mean to say they never waivered… But what they brought was uniquely powerful and expansive. Immolation drives itself into a corner. Metal cannot grow from Immolation’s style, it does not open a new door, as I said in the article. Like Gorguts, it is just a distortion of outer traits. Although, I would say that Immolation reaches deeper than Gorguts in its change and style.

      1. Nuclear Whore says:

        > Metal cannot grow from Immolation’s style
        Hm, with this phrase I understand more your remark about Death Metal.

        Thinking about bands that evolved… Well, no comment. I figure I am comfortable with the “live fast die young and leave a beautiful corpse” history of many lovely Death Metal bands.

        1. And they are lovely for what they are, there’s no questioning that! :)
          Deicide’s Legion… <3

      2. Corpsegrinder says:

        “Death Metal”

        Live hard.
        Die fast.
        Fuck a corpse
        in the ass.

        1. For the Homer Simpsons, perhaps. :)

    2. Dionysus says:

      Ain’t nothing wrong with embracing the Manowar.

      Very cool article, keeping your distance from the “scene” is crucial.

    3. Epidote says:

      When you say Keller, do you mean Chuck Keller from Order From Chaos? That band…has a WHOLE lot going on that people can’t understand at first because the music sounds really simple…When you look at all the stuff the band members are into and you look into it, you will see it. I don’t think that they had the aims that other Metal bands did, they were trying to teach/empower people…

      Hail Hermes Trigmegistos.

      1. Daniel says:

        Yes Order from Chaos and and now Ares Kingdom

        1. Ares Kingdom is cool. But even more meandering than The Chasm.

      2. Name says:

        Order From Chaos certainly achieved some fantastic metal in any case. It’s like slower parts of grindcore-era Carcass but with a post-apocalyptic twist and epic songwriting scope.

    4. Meek Metalhead says:

      I would be hard pressed not to mention Azagthoth even though he got distracted/manipulated pretty early on and therefore the overall drop in quality.

      1. It was a tough call. He was one of the first in my mind, but given that everything good he did were only echos and momentum of his cooperation with Mike Browning, I could not bring myself to give him a place among the others.

        1. Roger says:

          Again with the mike Browning bullshit.

          Anyone would think you are his boyfriend.

          There are two sides to history, and you are simply taking Browning’s side because you have some subjective bias towards the ‘kvultness’ of Abominations.

          You forget Blessed, and write about Covenant as though it were an ‘afterthought’ of Mike Browning’s days with Trey? On what basis do you spout such ‘facts’?! And here I mean upon what objective basis. Not upon an esotric analysis of the-forms-underlying-alters-of-madness-of-which-covenant-is-a-mere-reflection-on-the-cave-wall, please.

          Also, a purely boyish love of black metal heroes is shining through in this article.

          To say there are no comparable greats in DM is, again, just subjective. But you write as though it’s gospel.

          To simply state that failures for gods isn’t the-shit simply because ‘metal could go nowhere from here’ is pure tripe, my man. Why, may i ask, can i not simply say ‘metal could go nowhere from burzum’s 3rd album’? After all, it hasn’t. In fact, the worst of the shitty clone BM bands take their inspiration from Burzum, while Immolation’s early works remain relatively untainted by try-hards.

          1. I am not saying Trey did nothing new that was good. But it was echo of what he had done with Mike Browning.
            He started departing from it in Covenant.

            But perhaps you are right, he may deserve to be there after all. He did purify the vision of Morbid Angel, taken it to its peak in Blessed Are the Sick. He did do that: attempt to get a better picture of the style again and again. Covenant was the “after classic”. And then what follows next is downhill.

  2. Epidote says:

    MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS!!!!! This site is really touching on some stuff now! :)

    Okay, let me share something.

    David, there is a reason for why the different scenes yield the same amount of good Metal.

    A pyramid.

    Look at the pyramid on the dollar bill.

    The pyramid represents the organization of life.

    Figure out what the pyramid means on the pack of a dollar bill, then you will understand.

    Hail Hermes Trigmegistos.

    1. Thanks, will think about what that means exactly…
      This is another thing that in my haste to write and publish this I failed to mention.
      I believe that the best stuff to come out of Honduras, for instance Horgkomostropus, was liked more to the underground circle extending from Mexico. Which is why they tower noticeably over everything else from the country. The rest of the stuff there, even some classic and solid releases, is just pumped heavy metal.
      The same is true of Guatemala. Rather than being products of the “local” scene, those best releases, seem to be, come from their connection to elite groups at long distances. Anything above C-grade metal to come out of Central America has an explanation like this.

      1. Epidote says:

        David, you mentioned that the best stuff came from “elite groups that were distant”…

        Look at the pyramid on the dollar bill.

        Notice that the capstone at the top.

        Do you understand why it is floating above the rest of the pyramid and not touching it?

        AS ABOVE SO BELOW.

  3. Epidote says:

    Death Metal is a dead end because it focuses on one aspect of a process and just zooms in on it or breaks it down so you can see it. Black Metal is a better base to start with because it has a Holistic view. In order to create, you have to be able to see things that are unseen. Unless you have a holistic way of thinking, you cannot apply imagination and “As Above, So Below” because you don’t have THE correct reference point. When you have The correct reference point and your imagination comes under the control of Reason you can create Whole things. All the crappy bands now don’t have THE correct reference point and Reason controlled Imagination and Death Metal didn’t create from that reference point, they just saw a little piece of what came from THE reference point and created from that. Black Metal is more powerful than Death Metal because of it’s Holism.

    Hail Hermes Trigmegistos.
    Hail Satan.

  4. Ara says:

    Petrified from France but out a good bizarre death metal EP called Layers of Despair in 2000. I think I’ll dig that back up.

    1. freudian says:

      This song sounds like generic Unique Leader records fare from that time.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=draUI3BBBQU

      1. Ara says:

        I haven’t listened to it since I got it back then, but I’ll have to revisit to to see for myself. I am guilty of liking the old Unique Leader stuff, however.

  5. Name says:

    I have my problems with the execution and especially vocal delivery, but you can’t deny the compositional merit of SMRC. Same goes for Kenose. Has ANUS not outgrown hating Deathspell Omega?

    Vorkreist is very good on Sabbathical Flesh Possession.

    Bekhira are fantastic.

    SVEST is worth some attention is well for some very convincing, vaguely “psychedelic” soundscapes.

    There you go, off the top of my head, some worthy metal from France. It’s quite the metal country actually.

    1. “outgrown hating Deathspell Omega”

      You say it as if it were a matter of maturity.
      Anyone who understand music composition can see what a fiasco that band is.
      We do not hate it, we just find it clownish and ultimately just really poorly put together. But with gimmicks and excuses.

      And I think you are very confused about my impression on France and metal. Also, those bands aren’t very good. We are talking A and B class good. I am not inclined to put more thought after you defend Deathspell Omega, it says a lot about your discernment in music.

      I’ve thought about puting a detailed article tearing apart late Deathspell Omega from the technical and musical side, arrangement, coherence, etc. But frankly, of all poser bands, that is the least worthy of spending time on. I explored their music thinking i would find something mediocre posing at being revolutionary. What I found was a huge heap of garbage. Far worse than I imagined, even lower than my lowest expectations. A really clownish act.

      1. Name says:

        I write music myself and have been doing so for a very long time. I know a thing or two.

        Compositionally, SMRC is on par with Immortal on Pure Holocaust or even Emperor on Nightside. You hear a song like Sola Fide I, Jubilate Deo or Hetoimasia and you think “poseur”? Really? For example the mentioned Hetoimasia, past the slow intro riff. Listen to the careful mood shift between those handful of riffs and the grand buildup of hysteria. Then the effortless reversion back to the first riff that gets to shine in new light — I believe the original joker who wrote ANUS reviews would call that “recontextualization” or whatever. Then that riff grows into it’s original promise by sliding into the slow central bridge theme augmented by a fantastic lead melody (far more coherent than any Immolation lead for that matter). Full stop and the part of the original stack of hysterical riffs is back — their basic shape at least, though this time around things are more intense and the triplet “main riff” is gone. This is because things are now condensed to their essence and building towards something different. The concluding riff is the apex of the storm and contains the entirety of melodic tendencies of the song (le motif meme) condensed into a short and definite statement.

        And better yet, it’s not like, say, Graveland on Thousand Swords where they just verbatim repeat a two~three minute song twice and call it a 6 minute work. You’re lucky to get an outro there so you at least know why you didn’t press fast-forward when the original loop finished.

        There’s an entire motherfucker musical story here and that goes perfectly in line with the “narrative songwriting” shtick you guys jack off to. Now let me be a dick for a moment and make an observation — if there’s any problem here, I think it’s that when DSO were in vogue, you guys were in your nationalist stage and the satanic death-mongering deal didn’t ring well with you. In fact, it was kind of in direct opposition because DSO raped the thesaurus just as hard as ANUS did, so it’s like a douche stealing your girl by using the same moves you did.

        SMRC suffers from relatively flat performances, drunk vocalist who doesn’t know what he’s doing and a confused production job. At it’s heart though, it’s very well thought-out and deserves praise. Shouldn’t let politics influence conclusions here.

        1. 1. Defend dso with emotional impressions… ok we can leave that for another conversation, it deserves looking into
          2. Diss graveland in thousand swords. Well someties a well made knife is considered better than an overly complex and faulty intricate gadget whose that boasts more functionsthat are impaired by a lousy design
          3.i dont respond for what anus writers did or didnt do before.

          1. Name says:

            “Defend dso with emotional impressions”

            In this case, it’s the easiest way of explaining how the individual parts of the song interact with each other. Adjectives and colorful impressions set aside, it definitely is the old metal craft, most closely resembling Immortal on Pure Holocaust and Battles in the North.

            “Diss graveland in thousand swords. Well someties a well made knife is considered better than an overly complex and faulty intricate gadget whose that boasts more functionsthat are impaired by a lousy design”

            It’s funny you should say that since Graveland themselves are in a way “overly complex” in their insistence on needless repetition. Put simply, there’s more than needs to be, which dulls the knife. Rob aimed at the sense of epic, but the insistence on needless restatement of grand themes results in an overload of bombast.

            And as for DSO on SMRC, there’s nothing overy complex going on — these are classic black metal riffs of the norse variety. Songs are rarely smothered with excess of any kind.

            1. “It’s funny you should say that since Graveland themselves are in a way “overly complex” in their insistence on needless repetition. ”

              Oh, boy are we goinng to differ here. Repetition is the simplest device there is to extend a song.

              Later DsO has nothing traditional about it. Only, messiness. I don’t think they are truly complex, if that is what you understood. What i mean is that they TRY to appear being complex, when they are just messy.

        2. And better yet, it’s not like, say, Graveland on Thousand Swords where they just verbatim repeat a two~three minute song twice and call it a 6 minute work.

          I agree with this notice of the weakness of that album.

          In fact, it was kind of in direct opposition because DSO raped the thesaurus just as hard as ANUS did, so it’s like a douche stealing your girl by using the same moves you did.

          ANUS never used a thesaurus.

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