Music serves many roles in our lives, but the one closest to our sense of well-being is a rediscovery of beauty and purpose in the world. While neither is universal, or experienced by all people, the former is closer to the objective, meaning that it concerns the world itself, and the latter is closer to subjective, in that we each find our own path and so our purpose — while a descendant of broader purpose like adaptation, excellence, or knowledge — reflects our discernment and choice of that path in the moment.
Knowing that these things are not universal, we cannot expect to decide them by consensus. Instead the music itself must be analyzed, and the best analysis taken up by those with wisdom, so that over time it becomes part of shared knowledge, in the way that human learning has always been compiled through classics of philosophy, literature, art, music and rhetoric.
Argumentum ad hominem is essentially that an argument is wrong because of who the person making the argument is, or who they are associated with, etc. When it comes to music as communication, that is, music that actually works (because music that does not transmit anything is simply noise), the same applies when a work is dismissed on the basis of who the composer is, or who the fans of said work are. Similarly, in what we could call the “positive ad hominem,” when it is assumed that a work of music is worthwhile because of who the author is or on the basis of their social standing, a leap in logic — a leap of crass faith — is necessary.
When looking at the music of the Order of Nine Angles (O9A) it becomes important to separate the music from the image around it, both as viewed by outsiders and within the organization, considering especially in the latter the fact that even organizations based around ideas have a “social” component to them. The O9A as a whole tries to escape the effect of the mundanity of positive ad hominem by setting difficult tasks in front of the individual that they must conquer irrevocably in order to attain accomplishment, and which accomplishment is its own reward in the sense of what the person has become in order to realize it.
For each of these different tasks, the Initiate trains separately: they must learn, practice and become proficient in each different area of application. Unfortunately, the tendency towards turning the artistic side of the movement into a participation event still exists, driving it into the mud by a lack of standards. There is a contradiction of the overarching O9A ethos: encourage participation but let natural selection cull the weak, using the contrast of excellence to make the relative difference between good and bad quite clear.
What makes occult music different is that it requires convergence to a state of parallel between the philosophical, artistic and metaphysical aspects of the music. Much like numerology, these are discerned from the patterns of the music and the effects these have on the nervous system not of a universal human, but of those who can receive them, such that some music will be deemed great despite being incomprehensible to the lower three-quarters of the bell curve.
Good musick — that is, music consciously intended as sorcery — must be, first and foremost, good music. Music achieves complex communication in parallel by containing a structural logic along a selection of aurally presenced mood-implications and sonic colourings brought about by an understanding and perception of tensions and timbres. There is a concrete and ordered sense to music, even if this order is not all there is to music, nor enough to decipher its nature. Music requires engagement of all faculties of the mind to be truly explored.
The λ [causal] is a progressive or linear approach; the φ [acausal] a unified or ‘wholistic’ one, and understanding of the Septenary requires both. — Naos, 128yf New Edition, Chapter IV: The Septenary System. Emphasis added, inserted notes in brackets.
Among the best O9A musick that has come to our ears is Richard Moult’s oeuvre, in general, but especially recommended is his Ethe piano-based compositions. Other than that, the recent noise album by The Mutilator, Churning Machine of Hate, provides a concrete delivery and effective experience. The O9A music-makers seem generally attracted towards the fringes of dark atmospheric music, and would benefit from a detailed exploration of an album such as Moevot Abgzoryathre, a masterpiece exemplifying all that they are looking for while clearly upholding the causal aspects of excellence as well.
On the other hand, some music is selected using the criterion of positive ad hominem, or in other words, is valued because of who produced it and their status within the organization, versus what the music is. Every organization succumbs to this form of social entropy which might be termed The Human Problem: like black metal itself, any genre or institution which becomes popular quickly becomes dominated by social concerns, and this causes an alienated from purpose, principle and quality. Through that, the organization gradually drifts into the same crowd-friendly universal acceptance as every other human endeavor, and in order to survive this, must reduce its standards and lose the purpose needed for cooperation, replacing it with a focus on people. Someone who is well-liked in a group can initiate this decline by contributing mediocre music and then encouraging their friends and allies to praise it, at which point the standard for inclusion is lowered, and soon more lower-quality music appears, since the only entrance requirement is to socialize and then insert the music into the community.
Most self-described O9A music purports to be musick but manages only to offer “ick”: airy, ungraspable music about nothing. This is usually the aural portrayal of vague and repetitive landscapes where a similar kind of tension is maintained, an obvious attempt at reproducing or representing a state of trance. What gives it significance is the claim, the tag and the association with the O9A, with Satanism or with “the Occult” in general. The effect is one of conceptual sympathy while the music intrinsically is devoid of the means to communication, of structure, and thus, of content.
Such criticism never puts into question the veracity of the experiences of the people behind the music, nor does it belittle their accomplishments in the real world. But if music is to communicate, it has to inherently contain the means to reproduce a set of states or, more realistically, represent an analogue of the journey and fluctuations that took place within or around the assumed Initiate or Adept. I, as a mere listener of an audio file, do not share in the inner experience of anyone simply by listening to the utterings or creations of this person while in that state. They must communicate that conditions necessary to create that state through art, or they have merely created a unique form of sonic wallpaper.
“Ick” is produced when someone is focusing on the idea of being or belonging, chasing after an image, while ignoring the reasons that first begat the object of their obsession. The same happened to most post-1995 black metal, as it became obsessed with the idea of being (or participating in) black metal, rather than understanding the reasons that gave rise to it, which would have given those musicians a direct line to the authentic motivator that would translate into inspired music. Many a black metal hoodie revels in this idea of belonging, of “simply being part of the scene.” And so image and words, as well as “total support” became important, rather than the essence (that confluence of causal and acausal, of logic and inspiration that transmit the means to evolving experience) of art and the necessity of scourging elitism at every level to reach excellence.
Real action, not the action of a self-deluding “being dark/evil” that is reduced to saying and believing to be so, but that which puts one in contact with concrete reality, is what engenders great works. In the case of music, this is also a case of digging under and managing the means that concretely achieve this communication beyond the merely sensual — and so, subjective — and which confusion with the real deal is simply an egotistic mirage. Similarly, but perhaps for different reasons than the mundane, a majority of O9A music artistry seems intent on the appearance of a magickal aura or presentation, on filling certain characteristics of style or ‘mood’; the actual content as composition goes by ignored, for whatever reason.
While “ick” describes an unusually large portion of O9A artistry, when compared with other virtual communities, there is also a good deal of “in the middle” going on: artists who first and foremost participate, their accomplishment goes as far as the fact that they produced something that can be classified among a certain style, genre and character of music. The problem with the middle-walkers is that they are not as obviously disconnected from the reality of music as the “ick,” but they do not actually provide value in the music itself, and so they practically become the bulk of distracting fodder. Where “ick” usually consists of ambient soothing sounds that relax the author of the music while he may or may not be in a ritual state of mind, “in the middle” music is the imitation of styles from the inside out and with a regard for superficialities but not toward the development of coherent content.
One of the very, very few notable O9A “black metal” works from around the turn of the century arose from the mentality that metal can be made by collecting a set of riffs played with the correct technique and fitting the genre. Its treatment of the music was relatively generic while the actual result was amorphous and directionless. It was a series of moments that sounded like something like black metal was being played in the background, and after which no notable impression remained other than the vague impression that something like black metal had been played, though it could all have been a trick of the imagination.
The most solid offerings by self-described O9A artists in recent years in the metal camp could be generally described as suffering from similar afflictions. As someone else recently stated with respect to the overall self-described O9A “musick,” it looks a social event, not an artistic one. On the ambient side, most appears to fall too easily into the “ick” box. Perhaps what is needed is for these self-described O9A would-be artists is to start treating music with the attention and study it requires in order to produce the kind of works of excellence that come only once every decade, and not simply the odd, eventually irrelevant album from a band “expressing themselves and their ideals.”
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