Extreme metal, old and new

Asteroid impact

Guest post by William Pilgrim

A reader recently posted a comment asking my opinion on modern extreme metal bands like Teitanblood and Ascension. We often take it as an article of faith that modern metal is a fallen genre that parted ways from the aspects that made the heyday of this music so glorious; indeed, it is almost a guarantee that any random second or third tier album from the early years of the genre will compare favourably with the current wave of practitioners.

But why should this be so? Forget about the intangibles for just now; elan vital, vir, passion, and spirit, as much stock as one puts in them, are ultimately amorphous, unquantifiable entities. But to the discerning ear, the very manner in which this music is played contributes greatly to the nurture and propagation of these ideas. But let’s not leave it at that even; the manner in which music is played is the result of an outlook on life and the world around us, a perspective that originates inside the mind with very distinct inspirations and goals assigned for itself. At least it should be so for the genuine musician who is willing to pay tribute to something greater than himself rather than be just another among the flock vying for whatever holds his fancy in the moment. When looked at from this angle, song writing and the musical techniques involved therein become offshoots of a state of mind. The difference between old and new then becomes the difference between states of mind that are separated by time, culture, and upbringing.

On the surface – and this is a broad generalization but it holds for the most part – new extreme metal bands lack definition and detail in riffs. Consider the most recent Teitanblood album Death and contrast it with something as universally unheralded – deservedly so in many quarters – as Krabathor’s debut Only Our Death from 1992. Teitanblood, hugely influenced as they are by the war metal of Blasphemy, attempt to paint broad swathes of atmosphere through repetition as opposed to the many-toothed, serrated approach to songwriting that Krabathor and others from that pocket of time display. The former lulls the unsuspecting listener into a trance-like state by concealing its lack of songwriting virtue through synthetic extremeness, but the second approach usually contains more thought, effort, and dynamics, and mimics the constant upturning and redressal of values that great death metal strives towards.

caspar_david_friedrich-the_wanderer_above_the_sea_of_fog

Old death metal as a combination of romanticism…

Edvard Munch - The Scream (1893)

…and expressionism

Bands like Teitanblood prioritize mood over content and coherence

Bands like Teitanblood prioritize mood over content and coherence

Borrowing terms from the schools of art and retrospectively applying them to metal, we can then say that old death metal is a curious but potent blend of romanticism and a nihilistic expressionism, on more or less equal footing: romantic in self-awareness, expressionist in revealing the horrors of the mind, and nihilistic in rejecting established values in favour of new belief systems. A band like Teitanblood, on the other hand, can be said to belong to an impressionist state of mind, the word impressionist signifying in no way any relation between Teitanblood and purveyors of that stream of thought in the arts. Instead, impressionism is used here merely to suggest the preeminence of mood over content, and the blurring of the music’s outer edges to the point of dissociation.

One might say that even undisputed classics like Darkthrone and Burzum used the repetition mentioned above to make their point, but the important thing to remember in those bands’ cases is that repetition was used as a story telling device to travel between distinctly realized book ends. Many modern bands seem to lack the roughest notion of what it means for a song to have a beginning and an end, and how islands spread across the length of the song can be used as “hooks” to hop from one spot to another, but always with the ultimate aim in mind: the song is God and everything else superfluous. Hear the song posted below from Ascension, a band many supposedly educated fans claim to be the second coming of the genre. Then contrast it with the Kvist song that immediately follows. Hear them back to back so that the dissonance stands out in stark relief.

Hear how the entire body of ‘Vettenetter’ is geared towards safeguarding the primacy of a greater idea, an idea that is directed outwards as opposed to the redundant, self-absorbed mannerisms of the Ascension track. The feelings Kvist induce in the listener can be classified as “romantic” in the truest sense of the word, a mixture of awe, beauty, human insignificance, yes, but also the perpetual struggle to understand and realize a greater meaning to our place in the world. As opposed to Kvist’s romanticism, however, bands like Ascension are entirely hedonistic, which by association implies a pathetic solipsism. The self is greater than the whole, the moment is greater than eternity, live now while you can, however you can, for who knows what tomorrow will bring?

This isn’t just abstract wool gathering; Ascension’s solipsism manifests itself in the carelessly strewn-about rock star solos, in the abrupt shifts in tone, in the complete absence of a unifying theme, and ultimately in the absurd, conceited belief that what they’re doing is in any way or form of artistic merit. Where Kvist intentionally dwarf themselves in humble tribute to the magnificent life-giving forces of nature, Ascension are like ghosts trapped between worlds, with no sense of who they are or what purpose they presently serve. Their concoction is cynically designed to appeal to Everyman, meaning the lowest common denominator in listener intelligence. A little of this, a little of that, take a potluck lunch home and you’re bound to find a bone to gnaw on. World Terror Committee, indeed.

Which of the two is the greater evil? Teitanblood’s impressionism, cheap and disoriented as it is, can be understood on some level as a honest effort from poor students of the metal genre. That is not to give it more credence than it deserves nor does it mean that it shouldn’t be called out for its many weaknesses or for its fans’ sheep-like mentality. But it’s only a matter of time before these bands are consigned to the dustbin of obscurity because of their self-devouring approach to music.

Bands like Ascension, however, work on the principle of fast-food equality, but through mechanisms subtler than what Cradle Of Filth and Dimmu Borgir employed twenty years ago. On the surface, they appear intoxicating to simpler tastes, shiny exterior, ersatz evil and all. They even go some distance in mimicking the sound of their elders, only to douse jaded listeners with buckets of icy cold water. Most listeners don’t care, however, and these pathetic tidbits are enough to guarantee the Ascensions of the world a name in the “new underground” for the foreseeable future.

The greater tragedy, however, is that these bands signify the death of the mind, and this is evidenced in the class of discussion that occurs around them and their music. To sensitive ears and minds, there is no higher emotion that a plastic, cookie-cutter band like Ascension is capable of eliciting, but by their subversive nature and by being infiltration points into this music for all the wrong elements, bands like these present the greatest danger to metal. That should no longer be considered an exaggeration, because for every new kid that discovers old treasures, ten more will flock to an Ascension and will eventually use the same strategies when they come to make music of their own, not knowing any better. After all, noise when amplified enough will always drown out quality.

Tags: , , , , , ,

60 thoughts on “Extreme metal, old and new”

  1. Daniel Maarat says:

    Teitanblood are equally offensive. They’re untalented idiots who wish death metal were noise rock and throw in some random crust riffs so people can hit each other for a few verses. The album even came with a sticker proclaiming “The second Teitanblood album corrects the misconception about death metal being music.”

  2. The Nameless Arcana says:

    More music made by more people who don’t live. If you want to make Metal, why not go to a morgue and look at dead bodies, or watch maggots eat away at a dead animal? Why not observe Vultures eating a corpse? Why not study serial killers and past civilizations? All this stuff is more important than being a musician, you need to make yourself into an instrument of EVIL…

  3. Dualist says:

    This is one of the most intelligent articles I’ve read about the difference in musical attitude between the old and the new bands. It’s something we can all hear but is difficult to describe in words; though the comparison between the Ascension song and Kvist’s is conclusive on its own.

    I do wonder whether Ascension fans REALLY enjoy the music, let alone get anything else from it. What actually goes through Kim Kelly’s mind as she listens to Teitanblood albums on repeat?

    1. Ara says:

      What I’ve realized about people today, especially Americans, is that they either no longer can hear melody or structure or lack the patience to appreciate them. People can hear “loud” “fast” “heavy” “slow” and “evil,” the latter being tied less to melody and more to production value today.

      1. What I’ve realized about people today, especially Americans, is that they either no longer can hear melody or structure or lack the patience to appreciate them.

        I agree. They see surface traits, not the composition.

        I wrote about this some years ago, but I have something called “the kazoo test,” which states that good music will be discernible even if played on a kazoo.

        Slayer holds up under that. So does Mozart. Also the best of grindcore, although it’s hard to keep in time.

        1. Dualist says:

          Yes, I remember you posted a video of The Trooper being played on a harp on the old site. It’s a great test for quality of composition – the only test, in fact.

          But it’s easy to underestimate the effect of texture and timbre on what we ‘hear’, escpecially in BM. I saw an old program from the 50’s once were Leonard Bernstein looked at Beethoven’s old manuscript notes for his 5th symphony. He had changed the orchestration many times over the years, though leaving the actual notes played the same. And, believe it or not, even the particularly simple opening theme sounded TOTALLY different – nowhere near as good as one he finally decided on.

          But you’re right. Although the overdrive/distortion/low-fi recording can add great effect, often producing the pulsating techno-like ‘beat’ you’ve mentioned before (a la Transylvanian Hunger), none of this can make bad composition into good music.

  4. Can you survive the blitzkrieg says:

    Kvist are really good, thanks for sharing. This is also a damn fine article, but don’t cut some great new bands shirt like Desecresy, Blaspherion, & Cruciamentum. It’s not completely over but the lemming hype I’ve seen around Teitanblood show me that’s NYDM substandard tard death follweres have “matured” by going “weird” in the most childish obvious way. And I mean I’ve seen it in real life not a Facebook post. The loudmouth of hype will always win over the easily distracted while those who are more observant will naturally gravitate towards quality after much searching. I am tired of this faux arty death metal.

    1. fenrir says:

      The thing with the three “new” bands you mentioned is that they are basically echoes of the old music. Lesser manifestations of then-original expression. Their quality is good, but by no means do they signify a living continuation. They are merely preservers.

      1. The thing with the three “new” bands you mentioned is that they are basically echoes of the old music.

        Taking that further, perhaps… all things are created of cause and effect. There was a cause, a mental state and awareness as well as desire for a certain type of mental clarity, behind the original music. With the re-runs, the cause is that older music, and the cause of that music — and thus its meaning — is forgotten. Insert a list of your least favorite nu-black, nu-war and nu-death metal here.

  5. Anthony says:

    That Ascension song gave me hives, it was so frustrating to listen to. Every time something mildly interesting happened, they would choke the idea out with some stupid Deathspell Omega bullshit. “They even go some distance in mimicking the sound of their elders, only to douse jaded listeners with buckets of icy cold water.” This sentence describes their sound very well.

    There are some modern bands that develop their ideas and have proper bookends, but they’re few and far between nowadays. More damning is the fact that most metalheads can’t seem to distinguish the coherent bands from the wacky ones. Everything gets lost in a soupy mess of “This approximates the aesthetics of what I like, therefore it must be good.”

    Some decent stuff:
    Cauldron Black Ram – Atop a Fiery Steed
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gXkRfyE7yOw
    One of those lost in the shuffle-type bands, they seem to understand songwriting better than most. They know how to properly transition between riffsets, and the riffs themselves are both memorable and versatile enough to go through some interesting recombinations over the course of the song. Their albums are also different enough from each other that they each warrant repeated listens, but I think the first is probably my favorite.

    Kaeck – Afgod
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-lXm3dBhvRs
    These guys know how to properly do the black metal layering and repetition that Ascension and their predecessors suck so badly at. I actually think they might be a little better than Sammath or Kjeld. The repetition allows the different layers breathing space to interact with each other, and when the song does shift, it does so in a way that is very natural but also very forceful and heavy, like a continental plate moving. Check out 1:50 through 2:15-ish from an example.

    House of Atreus – The River Black
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HVaHGND1ig
    This band is high quality around, but this song in particular sticks out as an effective one-two punch in terms of songwriting. The layered tremolo melodies of the beginning give way to a more percussive section around 2:48 that acts as a wonderful bridge to the speed metally riff at 3:14 which gains an interesting melodic “tail” end at around 3:30 when both guitars double up on the riff. The head and tail sections of that riffset go through a series of subtle variations to close out the song. More bands should try doing stuff like that.

    1. Daniel Maarat says:

      Sammath is black death. I would say Godless Arrogance > Stormkult > most of the wankier earlier Sammath which is still good. I’m a huge Immortal fan though so Godless Arrogance is the black metal album I’ve been waiting for since Blizzard Beasts. Through the Filth and Remains of Man!
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ka_9ORSTm5Q

    2. Phil says:

      House of Atreus sounds like Arch Enemy.

      1. Anthony says:

        I’d call you out on your flippant and uninformed assessment, but someone had already done that before you even posted.
        “What I’ve realized about people today is that they either no longer can hear melody or structure or lack the patience to appreciate them. People can hear ‘loud’ ‘fast’ ‘heavy’ ‘slow’ and ‘evil,’ the latter being tied less to melody and more to production value today.”
        House of Atreus songs are structured so differently from the average Arch Enemy abortion that they might well be considered a different genre of music altogether. Enjoy your caverncore!

        1. militant says:

          pt 1
          starts off like a burzum tune with jenked up drums. a couple riffs repeat w variations
          jazz solo
          repeat
          pt 2
          repeats again but this time through an iron maiden filter with heavier vocals for whatever reason. i thought they were alluding to death metal via later at the gates. top kek
          another jazz solo
          same shit

          very wow
          much structured

          maybe i missed something. give anal(ysis).

          1. Daniel Maarat says:

            House of Atreus is Arghoslent if written by core bros who moved on from metalcore as “it’s fuckin’ edgy bro” instead of by Mercyful Fate and Running Wild obsessed death metal trolls.

  6. Nathan Metric says:

    Teitanblood have potential, but they got to write shorter more conclusive songs and get rid of the gimmicky ritualistic parts that are the black metal equivalent of breakdowns. Genuinely good music NEVER breaks down. It builds up energy.

    I also disagree that Teitanblood represents the equivalent of Impressionism. I think the author has it backwards. I thought it represented the equivalent of Realism. That is it tries to portray evil in a realistic disconcerting fashion rather than tap into the metalhead’s subjective conception of evil.

    1. LordKrumb says:

      The author explained that Teitanblood is not a whole equivalent of Impressionism (the art movement):

      “Instead, impressionism is used here merely to suggest the preeminence of mood over content…”

    2. Cynical says:

      Try the Teitanblood demo. Less bullshit “ambient” interludes, less “noise for the sake of making noise”, tightly focused songs and more actual songwriting than the full lengths have.

    3. fenrir says:

      I had this initial reaction as well, but when you look deeper and read the author’s descriptions again, it makes sense. But you should avoid drawing direct parallels with the art movement.

      Yes, expressionism was, in theory, more “pure feelings”, but it was about getting to the point. Impressionism was about taking a superficial impression and highlighting whatever seemed appealing or cool to you.

      1. Nathan Metric says:

        I have the Teitanblood demo compilation. Carnivore Eucharist FTW! What short Teitanblood song since then was more quintessentially evil?

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEkok4hZZJc

  7. Nathan Metric says:

    If you hate Teitanblood, you might like Evilwar from Greece.

  8. I blew my head off like Per Ohlin says:

    I played both Ascension and Kvist at the same time and whilst I like both, I noticed Ascension has too much clutter as opposed to the clarity in Kvist.

  9. Viranesir says:

    I like teitanblood because I put it on on the metro and read, it is the perfect book reading music. Does not disrupt my mind while cancelling out all external sounds. I try the same with for example dissection and stuff like that, but I get too distracted by the music. They are right in saying that they do not create music, it is more like soundscapes made with rock music instrumentation.

  10. Belisario says:

    Very good article and point, but I would like to read a list of actually good/interesting bands chosen by the author, like the one Anthony did on his comment. I think it would be meaningful as a counterpoint to the modern not so good bands reviewed. Is everything lost or is there still something of value nowadays?

    1. LordKrumb says:

      “Is everything lost or is there still something of value nowadays?”

      One could make an educated guess that maybe ~5% of underground metal released 20-25 years ago was excellent; the rest was good for its time but not good enough to endure forever, or it was rubbish.

      Nowadays, a similar guess would be that maybe ~0.05% of underground metal released in recent times is good enough to endure.

      Apply your own percentage estimates to both eras, but I expect we’d all agree that the percentage was significantly higher 20-25 years ago and conclude that excellent bands/artists/releases are an endangered breed heading for extinction.

      Even when taking into account that there’s far more new bands now than there was in the late 80s and early 90s, such a low percentage of talented artists apparently results in almost zero potential future classics being released each year now.

      This prediction is compounded by the reality that even the excellent bands/artists (from then, or now) can only produce one or a few enduring works of art before running out of ideas, giving in to commercial trends or quitting.

      This last point puzzles me. Why is it that the best composers from the past (notably the classical & romantic eras) seem to be so prolific and were able to create many pieces of excellent, enduring music over a period of several decades? Was it because they were primarily writers of music, rather than performers, and therefore more focussed? Was it simply because of their extensive formal education in music theory, combined with their natural talent and vision? Do good metal musicians have only a brief period of brilliance when they rely heavily on their natural instincts, then run out of ideas for expression because of a lack of education in music theory? Or is it simply because the typical subject matter of metal is too narrow for any talented musician to thrive off for more than a few years?

      1. Dualist says:

        The answer to why only classical composers produced great work over several decades you’ve answered yourself – last 3 out of the 4 you gave are certainly the reasons.

        But I’m not sure I agree that only 5% of bands from 89-94 were great. I’ve posted this before:

        http://www.carnagedeathmetal.de/carnage/oldschool/studios/SunlightStudio.html

        It seems to be higher than 5%. If we look at BM in Norway 91-93 it seems like almost every band making albums produced classics. Remember, as well as meaning ‘objectively brilliant’, ‘classic’ also carries the connotation of being canonical, bands who are the progenitors of the standards we measure by today. This is why all of today’s bands, even if they compose well, are always going to be esteemed lower than the originals.

        That doesn’t mean they can’t make great music, of course. There must be 20 000 death/black bands about in the past 20 years. If 1% of them made great music we would have had 200 great bands in this period. Most people on this site would not agree we have seen this. So there are only 2 realistic possibilities:

        1/ It’s us who are wrong and we’re just kidding ourselves when we claim to write off most of these bands for purely objective reasons and we really don’t like them for other reasons (eg. band members look too hipster.) I think the Acscension track above largely discounts this idea.

        Or: 2/ A large proportion of the musical ideas have been used up, meaning any new band either sounds just like the old ones or else have to produce something that we reject as not being black metal. Many disagree with me on this but I feel most musicologists would conclude the necessarily restrictive form of DM/BM makes this inevitable.

        Let me put it this way, also bringing in your point about classical composers: Look at all of Mozart’s music. Some of his themes, phrases and motifs are epic, arch or sombre. Some were whimisical, certainly light-hearted. Dare I say it, throwaway?. He wrote Sonatas, Symphonies, and Serenades, for all instruments.

        On the other hand we have black metal – 3-8 minute pieces, all of fast tempos composed for 1 or 2 instruments. But, much more importantly, how many of Mozart’s phrases would be ‘admissible’ in a BM song? If he restricted himself, like Darkthrone did on Soulside Journey (at least), to producing ‘riffs’ that when slowed down sounded like they could be from horror-film soundtracks, he would have ran out of ideas even in his short life.

        This isn’t denigrating the founders’ work, by the way. Because, for one, I’m not explaining WHY they chose to compose such music in the first place. Brett’s 2nd comment above is relevant if we are to answer this.

        1. If we look at BM in Norway 91-93 it seems like almost every band making albums produced classics.

          Also important: bands making quality demos were encouraged to continue. That does not happen today, because most of the scene is more concerned with its own mediocre bands and will push down anything better to give its own failure a better chance at success.

          1. Nuclear Whore says:

            Now I don’t remember who told this: it even could have been you!

            Demos were a first filter for quality (and something for a good price)
            7’EP the 2nd (the same, before Internet 7’EP was the best format to discover new bands)
            The album, at last.

            Now, people goes to the album directly. Zero filter. And the album isn’t cheap. And due to to many reasons I cannot tell why, the 7’EP and the demos are expensive! Seven euros a 7’EP?? Sorry but you have to be really good. Sell me a CD-R with a nice xeroxed paper, make a paper case for the record, whatever, bands! Be tasteful!

        2. LordKrumb says:

          The estimate of 5% is just a guess I made while contemplating the high quality metal I still listen to from the old days vs. all the mediocre/rubbish I used to get via tape trades and blind purchases from record shops. Maybe I was unlucky! There are many bands on that list you posted whose names I recognise but I’ve still not heard any of their music.

          I take your point about Mozart and other great classical composers. Compared to death/black metal, they had far fewer constraints for choice of keys/scales, tempos, orchestration, etc. which they could use to convey a wide spectrum of moods and feelings.

          Regarding the current situation, another reason why bands such as Teitanblood and Ascension get undue praise from so many people is because most of those people are constantly buying new music. They’ve amassed far too many records for one person to ever listen to properly. No wonder that the shallowness of these bands goes unnoticed. Before they get bored of last week’s releases, the postman knocks on the door with another box of fast-food metal to tuck in to.

  11. Willy Milano says:

    @ WILLIAM PILGRIM

    So would you recommend that Krabathor álbum? Is it any different than the speed-death of the day? To me it sounds like a speed metal band like Germany’s Protector trying to do some early Death material.

    1. William Pilgrim says:

      Not particularly. I just used Krabathor as a random example of an average album from the early 90s to compare with what’s happening today. As it turns out, even middling DM from then has more structure and development than current bands.

      A point I would’ve liked to touch on in this post is that in the case of most good extreme metal songs, you can trace a way back to the overall theme of the song from whichever point in its trajectory you may currently be occupying. David Rosales had a post on something related to this under the heading Developmental Variation, and it goes beyond simply staying in the same key, following chords, etc. Vetteneter is a good example of this, despite the significant change towards the end; so is Gorgoroth’s Måneskyggens slave. The cause needs to inhere in the effect, tenuous though it may seem, for a song to be coherent.

      1. LordKrumb says:

        I remember that article that David Rosales wrote – very interesting. I must re-read it.

        On a side-note: much of the best content on DMU, like this post, is published in the Articles category. Why not add an ‘Articles’ link to the main site navigation, next to the ‘Reviews’ and ‘Interviews’ links? It would be handy for new and regular DMU readers alike to have easier access to these posts.

        1. Gabe Kagan says:

          I personally like this idea and will see what I can do to implement it.

  12. The Nameless Arcana says:

    I blame Anton LaVey and Venom for all of this.

    When Anton LaVey created “Satanism” he chose the Mendes Goat sigil to be the logo. But there was another symbol that went with it that had an upward pentacle with it. The two symbols had an association with the Tree of Life, the first symbol had a man looking upwards in an upturned pentacle with “Adam” and “Eve” written inside, The Mendes goat had a downturned pentacle with the goat with “Lilith” and “Samael” written inside and “Leviathan” written in hebrew on the outside.

    The pentagram is a 5 pointed star, and the number 5 in bibilcal numerology means inspiration. The man in the upwards pentacle is getting inspiration from Kether in the Tree of Life which is like god because it is said to be “perfect” like god is. The goat in the downwards pentacle is getting inspiration from Malkuth, with is said to be averse and evil because it represents the world that WE live in. Leviathan is the deep sea serpent that lives in the deep, the sea is the SEA OF CONSCIOUSNESS (consciousness is life, life is consciousness) that we are swimming in. The bible says that the world we live in is EVIL because it is “material”. I say that EVIL is the lifesblood of existance. The bible says that we need to strive to get to Kether from Malkuth. You see the connections?

    So when LaVey took the Mendes goat, which represented SPIRITUAL CONCEPTS and used it for his indivdualistic, materialistic religion, (and also told people that he created it, which was a lie just like all the other stuff he lied about) he took it completely OUT OF CONTEXT. A similar thing happened with the image of BAPHOMET.

    When you consider the spiritual significance of the Mendes goat and you look at the Romantic interpretations of SATAN in literature and see that METAL draws from that, and you look at all the bullshit LaVey started, it makes sense…VENOM was Anton Lavey’s music. Slayer/The Europeans put the spirituality back into it because they were inspired by Malkuth, which is said to be the world that WE live in. They were swimmers in the SEA OF CONSCIOUSNESS with LEVIATHAN.

    The best are inspired by Malkuth, which comes from Kether itself. The rest from LaVey/Venom.

    This is why I say LIFE has EVERYTHING in it, it’s THE ONLY TRUE CONTEXT in which ANYTHING can be created.
    LaVey and Venom are out of context. If you want to know anything or create anything, you need to LIVE. christian modern society strives to keep us from LIVING, because if we just live they lose control over everything.

    Keep in mind that in a Traditionalist society, someone like LaVey would of NEVER been able to see the Mendes Goat and Venom would have NEVER been able to start a band…Neither one of them would of been in the correct CASTE to do so…

    HAIL SATAN

    1. Dualist says:

      Do you believe that all of existence is composed of ‘material’? Even the infinity of thoughts?

      A couple of points: The bible is not against ‘the world’ BECAUSE it is material; it DOES teach that immortal spiritual things are superior to transient ‘material’ things. And it’s always ridiculous when people try to make out Christianity is a means of obtaining power for those of the ‘sacerdotal instinct’, as Nietzsche puts it (though he argues this extremely forcefully in The Antichrist, his arguements all have behind them the tacit assumption that God does not exist.) For the first 300 hundred years, during which all the fundamental dogma crystallised, Christians (all of whom had the option to recant) quickly ended up staring at wild beasts in the stadia.

      Do your beliefs give you strength like THAT?

      Answer me this: Do you believe the devil has an existence outside of the symbolic? I’d like to know before I say any more….

      1. Do you believe that all of existence is composed of ‘material’?

        No. However, it’s important to note that whatever else is out there will be consistent with what we see in the material world. Dualism is… another form of materialism.

        Do your beliefs give you strength like THAT?

        This is not a good argument, in my view. The 9/11 hijackers sacrificed, but so did thousands of atheist Vietcong and other ideological zombies.

        1. Dualist says:

          The only problem with trying to answer you points is that making a case for either side will involve discussing the whole of the Western philosophical tradition, including modern physics. Though I must admit I’ve been wanting to debate these issues with you for quite some time now so I’ll have a go. I’m going to take the liberty of asking you a few questions first along with a couple of assertions that I more-or-less agree with (I don’t KNOW anything…) However, I also appreciate that we’re both busy so just feel free to answer any you fancy – even a couple will give me an idea were your heads at, so to speak.

          When you talk of existence do you mean the observable universe? We don’t KNOW anything about what Aristotle would have called the substance of the universe. Or do we?

          What form of existence do you believe mathematics, or any universals, have?

          What do you believe then, is the connection between mathematics and the ‘material world’, if you believe that there is a world?

          Even if we just narrow our horizons down to modern physics, does not explaining nature via quantum field theory make even talk of ‘material’ nonsense?

          Contrary to what you said there is no a priori reason that any other realities that have being, in any sense, must be consistent with ‘what we see’ or understand. Even without considering any philosophies concerning pure spirit, can we not conceive of, though not imagine, universes with different Logics to our ‘own’?

          The earth doesn’t move around the sun because at each point it is thinking ‘I must follow the inverse square law of gravity’. It just DOES. We have no idea WHY. We can just say roughly WHAT it will do next (with a fundamental limit placed on that an approximation). The theories that we form about it only exist in our minds. What is a mind?

          One neuron isn’t conscious. Ten neurons aren’t conscious. How can the movements of salts in a bag of water possibly explain consciousness?

          Consciousness is fundamentally different to all other substances/ideas because all other such things only subsist INSIDE a consciousness. What are the implications of this last statement?

          As for your second point, I could argue that all the examples you gave were of people inflicting suffering on others in the name of some earthly cause, whereas the Christian martyrs, and we could include the Carthusian and Trappist monks in their slow earthly deaths, are examples of people who have risen above the profane as a pure spiritual offering of themselves. But I wasn’t really thinking that at the time so I’ll concede it wasn’t the best point.

          But here’s something for you to think about. I read an article of yours on Amerika once, in the last year I think. I can’t remember its bloody name now and you deleted it soon after, regrettably. It was one of the most moving pieces I’ve read about the south of America, and your love for it. The one were you used phrases like ‘the place that loved you when I couldn’t love myself’ or something similar. Look at all that made that America great, especially the pre-60’s south, and ask yourself this: how many of the things you loved about it would have existed if it were not by the work generations of men living Christian values over the past thousand years. Anything? Now also consider this: everything that is happening to destroy it today is the work of godless men.

          I think if you gave the Summa Theologica a go you may find Christianity is not quite what you may think it is, espeically if you judge by the mindless evangelical Christians you must see so much of in the States. Don’t back yourself into a corner and completely reject the richness of Christian thought just because you have a predilection for black metal. As a man who prides himself on being a follower of Truth you should try to find out what Christianity actually is before you reject it.

          1. William Pilgrim says:

            If I may answer a couple, as these things have fascinated me for a long time also:

            What form of existence do you believe mathematics, or any universals, have?

            What do you believe then, is the connection between mathematics and the ‘material world’, if you believe that there is a world?

            I personally believe that something like math arises out of the concept of unity. We have a tendency to look at what is the end result of this process, which can be very complex indeed and seemingly impossible to relate to with empirical evidence. But really, all you need is a crude and coarse point of origin, a unity, for the mind to begin its work of building and expanding and joining things to one another; and the mind is very adroit at doing this. A line can be broken down to a single point; once you have a point, it’s only a matter of time before you get to a line and beyond.

            Is the concept of unity a priori? I believe Kant said that conceptions, as abstract as they may appear to us, ultimately have to tally with perception for them to have transcendental truth or objective reality. If you take that line of reasoning then it isn’t hard to imagine how we can come to the cognition of unity through experience/synthesis in nature.

          2. Viranesir says:

            You say: One neuron isn’t conscious. Ten neurons aren’t conscious. How can the movements of salts in a bag of water possibly explain consciousness?

            Consciousness is fundamentally different to all other substances/ideas because all other such things only subsist INSIDE a consciousness.

            Very good point about consciousness(‘)! One interesting thing in regard to this that I want to point out in light of theological-mythological connection here, when Prometheus brought fire to humans/Kingu’s blood was used to make humans/Lucifer has shown human traits (hence giving humans the “light”/motivating them to strive to be god) humans were given the difference from any other being, which some occultists call the black flame. Pragmatically, this can be explained to the non-believer as a myth for the human mind-subconscious in relation to other observable beings. In light of the known/unknown duality/singularity debate that has been going on, it can be said that we bear the longing/curiousity for the unknown/singularity, hence different from other beings in that regard.

            1. Consciousness is fundamentally different to all other substances/ideas because all other such things only subsist INSIDE a consciousness.

              Or: consciousness shares properties with the organization of both information and matter that suggest an underlying, thought-like state.

              1. Dualist says:

                William Pilgrim – The connection between our intuitions and maths is one of the most vexing of all. But even if we accept that elementary arithmetic and Euclidean geometry is encoded in us, in some sense, isn’t it strange that we (actually, about 1/10 000 of the population) are capable of generalising these basic ideas to totally abstract algebras, non-Euclidean geometries, topologies, LOGICS etc. Roger Penrose seems to have proved that some of the operations the human mind performs in formulating new mathematical theorems is not explainable as an act of computation. And the even stranger thing – maybe 50 years later we find that the behaviour of quantum fields and space-time appears to follow patterns describable by these series of logical statements we call mathematics. It’s sublime, uncanny.

                If you know any maths, here’s one of the most remarkable volumes produced in recent years:
                http://www.amazon.co.uk/ZERO-INFINITY-FOUNDATIONS-PHYSICS-Everything/dp/9812709142/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1443647398&sr=1-1&keywords=from+zero+to+infinity+rowlands

                Viranesir – Maybe, but that goes nowere to explain what consciouness IS.

                Brett – its difficult to see how such things could ever EXPLAIN consciousness, though. We have no idea how information is fundamentally organised. Matter can be organised in myriad forms. Atoms move totally chaotically. Yet their random interaction has produced the stupendous forms and systems we see in cell biology and then physiology. But saying the organisation of neurons, even of their firing patterns, has something in common with consciousness simply begs the question. And even if they do ‘share properties’ how does that specifically help us in trying to explain consciousness. It’s not as if anybody has even SUGGESTED a possible explanation for the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness by saying anything like ‘if neurons could fire in this manner, or compute in this manner, then this would ‘explain’ the subjective experiences we all feel. Nobody even has any idea where to start. Like I say, it’s a fundamentally different question to all others.

                Now, when you mention an underlying mental state I’m not sure if this is what you meant but if you’re referring to reality itself then what you say is roughly the Christian position. The material world is simply the objectified thought of God. It exists simply because He, the Logos, wills it to. He has given a certain section of it, humanity, the ability to self-reflect: thought reflecting on thought. But this Orthodox position is not to be confused with pantheism. Where Spinoza, your old namesake, went wrong was to argue that there only existed one substance with an infinite number of attributes.

                1. Viranesir says:

                  Dear dualist, where did you get the idea that I was trying to explain what consciousness is? or more to the point, that I believe in a “consciousness” that IS. I just made some points about how theology differentiates people from other beings through what they call to be black light, which is a sort of “expanded consciousness” and its releation to the so called “consciousness”, not to make a merriam-webster paragraph.

      2. The Nameless Arcana says:

        “Do you believe that all of existence is composed of ‘material’? Even the infinity of thoughts?”

        No.

        “A couple of points: The bible is not against ‘the world’ BECAUSE it is material; it DOES teach that immortal spiritual things are superior to transient ‘material’ things.”

        But the material and the spiritual are the same thing in different degrees. Transient material things are a representation of spiritual things. Separating them is incorrect. That is my issue with christianity, they are telling you to separate spirit from matter, when spirit IS matter and matter IS spirit. Consciousness is more important, and heaven cannot be real in any way.

        “For the first 300 hundred years, during which all the fundamental dogma crystallised, Christians (all of whom had the option to recant) quickly ended up staring at wild beasts in the stadia.”

        That doesn’t mean anything because people get attacked for far less than what god they worship. Look at the SJW’s for example.

        “Do your beliefs give you strength like THAT?”

        Yes, they do. Hermetic Mental Transmutation.

        “Answer me this: Do you believe the devil has an existence outside of the symbolic? I’d like to know before I say any more….”

        No, but it is a very useful symbol/form for me to use to represent concepts with. What concepts? I see “good” as whatever you like and “evil” as whatever you don’t like. I see that life only really has meaning because of things happening that you don’t like. When things are too good, you need evil to change things up and keep it going. Too much evil, you need good again. No evil at all? Nothing happens. So I see evil as what propels life. So I see that as Satan. You need it.

        “When you talk of existence do you mean the observable universe?”

        No, all of it. There are alot of things that we can’t sense in this world on our own (we need technology, etc.), but they are still there and it goes by the same rules: “good” -> “evil” -> “good” -> “evil”. In their case, I’m not sure if you want to use the terms “good” and “evil” but I’m sure you can understand what I mean. Do you know of Alchemy?

        “What form of existence do you believe mathematics, or any universals, have?”
        What do you believe then, is the connection between mathematics and the ‘material world’, if you believe that there is a world?”

        Numbers give spirit it’s material form. Mathematics are a way to see how reality works because everything can be broken down into numbers. Why? Because reality runs by CODES. This is so because the world is HOLISTIC meaning everything is connected and relates to each other on some level. The christians took the word “holy” from holistic and then said that spirit and matter are separate, which is wrong.

        “Contrary to what you said there is no a priori reason that any other realities that have being, in any sense, must be consistent with ‘what we see’ or understand. Even without considering any philosophies concerning pure spirit, can we not conceive of, though not imagine, universes with different Logics to our ‘own’?”

        Everything comes from one, everything relates to each other, so how could heaven be real? You can have multiple people do/see/etc. the exact same things and they will have different outcomes due to their OWN CONSCIOUSNESSES, not because they are in different worlds. If you look at the 3rd world and the 1st world, they are totally different from each other based on the consciousnesses of THE PEOPLE IN THEM even though they are in the same reality, and the 1st feels like heaven compared to the 3rd.

        christianity says that you need to become pure to get to heaven, they say heaven is some kind of separate world. Esoteric christianity says it’s a state of mind that can be reached that is “like heaven”. Both are wrong because if you live at all, there WILL be “evil” that you will have to deal with. You just have to change how you deal with it and that lies within your CONSCIOUSNESS, not being in another world. It’s the people what make what a place will be like, not the logos, because the logos HAS to be consistent.

        “The earth doesn’t move around the sun because at each point it is thinking ‘I must follow the inverse square law of gravity’. It just DOES. We have no idea WHY. We can just say roughly WHAT it will do next (with a fundamental limit placed on that an approximation). The theories that we form about it only exist in our minds. What is a mind?”

        It is possible to figure it out with mathematics, the scientists would never tell us though because then “modern society” would crumble.

        A mind is a drop of water in the SEA OF CONSCIOUSNESS.

        “One neuron isn’t conscious. Ten neurons aren’t conscious. How can the movements of salts in a bag of water possibly explain consciousness?”

        Because of the fact that there is salt and it’s moving. That may sound crazy to you for me to say that, this is how the ANCIENTS thought, and when you test out what they say, it ends up being correct…

        This is a nice exchange, I like this. :)

        1. Dualist says:

          ‘Transient material things are a representation of spiritual things.’

          Can you explain this some more?

          ‘That doesn’t mean anything because people get attacked for far less than what god they worship. ‘

          Yes, but that’s completely irrelevant to what I said. I was saying their first 300 years of history proves that Christianity had nothing of the power-hungry about it (though, of course, many of its adherents later on became very worldly they were not acting in the spirit of Christianity when they did so and this trend was almost totally reversed anyway.)

          ‘Too much evil, you need good again. No evil at all? Nothing happens. So I see evil as what propels life.’

          The same argument could be said to prove that Good is what ‘propels life’. I disagree that without HUMAN evil nothing happens. The best societies are the ones that have dealt with evil better than others have. Though it cannot completely be defeated (as Christian eschatology predicts it will be at ‘the end of time’) by man’s actions alone.

          ‘Everything comes from one, everything relates to each other, so how could heaven be real?’

          I’m not sure the last statement follows from the first two,

          ‘christianity says that you need to become pure to get to heaven, they say heaven is some kind of separate world.’

          Not necessarily separate but it should be clear that if God is perfect in all perfections then He is certainly more than the sum total of the physical reality we ‘see’. We are subsumed ‘within’ Him, in some sense.

          ‘It is possible to figure it out with mathematics, the scientists would never tell us though because then “modern society” would crumble.’

          I am one of those scientists. It’s not QUITE like that….

    2. Slayer/The Europeans put the spirituality back into it because they were inspired by Malkuth, which is said to be the world that WE live in.

      The world, not the social world. I think Venom would agree.

    3. Viranesir says:

      When the issue is Satan, I have to interfere. If we are talking in purely theological and historical terms here(leaving out the personal interpretation factor) Satan is chaos (primordial) which means it is out of this life. Leviathan is the serpent embodiment of CHAOS and the SUBconsciouss (as opposed to Cosmos, consciousness or life). It (Satan, Apep, Leviathan, Typhoon, Angra Mainyu) represents everything that is not this life, threatens this life and strives to reduce this life into chaos. Upside down pentacle can be interpreted as many things, so as right side up one, but the main difference is that the upside down one is a representation of unrest, because it will not stay upside down in a gravitational (cosmic/causal) system. Its power comes from the fact that it will fall as much there is gravity (cosmos), and as less gravity and causal the “realm” becomes (sea, outer space, beyond event horizon) it will presumably stay upside down for longer periods of time. Upside down pentacle is the symbol (reminder) that all elements will fall back into CHAOS. Since the beginning of religions, chaos was where the demons reigned, and it is OUT of cosmos, the only interference it has with cosmos is when it tries to attack it (famine, drought, war, debauchery, witchcraft, perversion, poverty, sickness, torture) and those attacks are the subject matter of metal music. The beauty of Satan is that it can (and should) mean different things for everyone, but it is actually you who is taking it out of its historical-theological context here. Having said that, I actually agree with what you say about what we should do, which is to live, and it is that very thing that they do not want us to do as xtians, muslims, jews, governments, feminists and all the workers of cosmos. In my opinion, the light of Satan is the knowing and deep acceptation of Chaos(death) hence, I think the artists working with death are actually the ones that are really living, hence DEATH metal.

      1. Dualist says:

        Oh my God, you’re mental.

        1. Viranesir says:

          history is mental, not me.

          1. 90% of humanity is mental in non-interesting ways. That includes past, present and future (although we could reduce that number somewhat by making civilization as a whole less insane).

            1. Viranesir says:

              What is insanity?

    4. Nuclear Whore says:

      If someone had forced me to name Death Metal before it was baptized, I would have told “Nature Metal”, that storms and heavy clouds, that wind, rain, that is romanticism, heh heh (Romans 1:20)

      And remembrance of death in Death Metal lyrics is a good reminder of our current situation (Ecclesiastes)

      1. Viranesir says:

        Death Metal started out to work with forces of chaos (war,death,famine,torture…), not nature. Certain makers of Black Metal went on to the nature path, iLdjarn-Nidhogg, Striborg, Burzum bla bla bla. But the ever encompassing theme has always been forces of chaos, even in the ones dealing with so called nature.

        1. What society calls good is bad.

          What society calls chaos is order.

          What society calls order is entropy.

          Nature calls nothing. It merely is.

          1. Viranesir says:

            You call what society calls good is bad.

            You call what society calls chaos is order.

            You call what society calls order is entropy

            You call nature calls nothing.

        2. Nuclear Whore says:

          The relation with nature I was expressing is regarding music, not lyrics. Because Death Metal is powerful and beautiful. Like nature!

          The relation with the war famine etc aspects you mention (in lyrics) is not exclusive to Death Metal. Decay is, as an example.

          Hope this serves to clarify my previous message…

          Disclaimer: when I say Death Metal I only refer to Death Metal. Black is OK, but not my cup of lovely beverages…

          1. Nuclear Whore says:

            Disclaimer 2: when I say Death Metal look it through the Deathmetal.org POV, it’s amazing that we have so much similar tastes

  13. vOddy says:

    Thank you for this interesting article. I want to comment on the first comparison, the one between Teitanblood and Krabathor.
    I started listening to music somewhat late, around 2006. Casually at first, but more serious as time went by. So I had not heard either Teitanblood nor Krabathor before reading this article.

    I listened to Teitanblood first, and while it didn’t blow my mind, I think that it is not completely without merit. It seems genuine. What I mean by that, is that it seems like it was created by an individual with a sincere mindset. He didn’t create it to appease other people. He did it for himself.
    The drums were somewhat interesting, because they moved around the riffs in a fluid way.
    But other than that, I don’t have much good to say about it. Maybe a loss less CD quality listen would change my mind, but from what I managed to make out, there weren’t very many interesting relations between the various elements. I could barely hear the bass. The second guitar was dormant for most of the music. The drums, while fluid, did not synergize with other instruments particularly well. And perhaps most importantly, I don’t know what the music is expressing. I tried to figure it out, but I honestly could not. I can name traits of the music – it was a bit chaotic, which is interesting. But what chaotic part of reality was it expressing? Insanity? Uncertainty of purpose? I don’t know.

    Then I listened to Krabathor. I was immediately greeted by two guitars which were both audible at the same time, producing a pleasant harmony. There was synergy between them.
    I also heard the base. Even when all string instruments played the same thing, it was cool to listen to, because they harmonized well with each other.

    For the first minute, the drums fit neatly and simply in to the riffs. They come in at 1, 2, 3, and 4, or 2 and 4, etc. But at 1:20, the guitar plays something that can either be viewed as a really really long riff, or an alternating of two similar (same tones) riffs with different length. However, the drums continue in 4 / 4 time, marking 1 2 3 and 4. But because of what the guitar is playing at the same time, there is no simple one way to view the relationship between the drums and the guitar. Where is the end and beginning of the drum loop in relation to the guitar?
    This is much more interesting to me than any thing I heard on the Teitanblood track.
    Furthermore, it expressed something to me. The music sounded like preparing for battle. Not a battle against another nation to save ones culture and people, but against a serial killer who is breaking down his barriacade. There is no escape, and in the mind of the victim who is about to fight for his life, are thoughts and feelings like this music.

    I can even interpret this music in a way that creates a narrative.
    In the beginning, the victim is scared, but in good fighting spirits. He awaits his enemy and prepares. At this point, the music has pleasant harmonies, but is structurally simple. The string instruments play the same thing, and the drums fit neatly and simply in to them.

    As the killer starts breaking down the barricade, the victim realizes that he is not ready for this. That he may be outmatched. That he may indeed die. This uncertainty is the part that begins at 1:20.

    However, once the battle begins, all thoughts are discarded. The victim, though still scared, is no longer uncertain. He is not anxiously awaiting. Towards the end, the 1:20 riff returns, but in contrast to the more jumpy, changing, and fluid nature of the middle section of the music, it sounds orderly and repetitive, which represents his state of mind.

    Those are my thoughts. There are many other narratives that would also work. Maybe even other thoughts and feelings that this music could convey. But to me, it sounds like a certain kind of fear, in the wake of murder – from the victim’s perspective, not the killers.
    I apologize for the sloppy attempt at describing the music’s structure. I’m not educated, and it’s 3 in the morning. I’ve only looked up how to read notes on the internet, which I can time consumingly do. That is as far as my education goes. For now.

    1. vOddy says:

      I just listened to the Ascension track. It didn’t make me feel much. I thought hard about what it could be conveying, and the best I could come with was a vague idea of unavoidable ruin or doom.

      After starting to play the Kvist track, I IMMEDIATELY was swarmed with visions. A person rose to his feet during Autumn dusk. He indulged in the fresh air around him. He moved around on the lightly vegetated mountain top which was only slightly higher than the ocean of tree tops below him.

      I continued listening until 44 seconds of the track had paused. I then paused it to write this.
      During those seconds, more visions were inspired in me. Not only did he appreciate his serene environment, the way that one appreciates a long known pleasure, like a person drinking a fine ale for the 500th time, and appreciating it just as much every time, but this person, who’s state of mind the music expresses, had recently been cast out of a social circle for doing what he knew was true to his values. He had thought of the decision to go against his social circle’s values, and had done it with dignity, knowing fully that the consequence would be banishment.

      He knows that his old friends will not welcome him in their homes. He knows that his elders are disappointed in him. But he regrets nothing, as he basks in the majesty of the Autumn dusk. In fact, he feels that he was recently cleansed. Cleansed of having to pretend and to conform. Now he is free.

      1. vOddy says:

        Thanks a lot for showing me Kvist. I assume that most frequenters here already knew them, but I didn’t (I’m new here). I’m going to buy their albums, because that track was excellent.

Comments are closed.