Strijd: Black Metal Götterdämmerung

Underground metal was rapidly dying by the mid nineties. The more musically successful death and black metal bands became disenchanted with their resulting limited financial success as the hordes of poseurs poured in through the gates of Byzantium, creating commercial rock that merely imitated the tones and texture of the monumental statues of the metal greats. The more popular death metal bands tried and failed at becoming rock stars while many of the more luminous minds in Norwegian black metal bands were dead or imprisoned.

Not that this mattered. Most of the geniuses who had produced any quality material at all said all that was worth saying on their first records. Repeating themselves dumbed their ideas down the great chain of being until they hit the mall materialists and mouth-droolers. Most took this path even if hitting rock bottom took a few more years and albums. Others soldiered on but eventually the situation was quite clear around 1995 and 1996: the only noteworthy bands of the old guard still standing were Immolation and Immortal, who would themselves collapse into self-parody in the coming the 21st century.

Summoning were one of few worthwhile new bands, rapidly advancing onward from the well-done but standard black metal of early Abigor and their debut Lugburz. They wrote neo-classical black metal compositions that escaped the pitiful cargo cult imitation of the Norwegian greats on Minas Morgul and Dol Guldur. Keyboards were seamlessly integrated with the black metal tremolo-picked riffs to flow forward as a whole rather than floating atop or accentuating them like Emperor. Summoning modulated between related keys and modes, imitating classical music to produce black metal compositions that flowed ever-longer while vocals and percussion were reduced to mere staccato metronomes.

Stronghold saw Summoning quickly leave the metal genre behind almost entirely. The Austrians abandoned phrasal composition to create modern classical and progressive rock tracks where the black metal guitar riffs were almost strictly cyclical and merely another voice in compositions defined by harmony and leading vocal melodies. With Burzum renouncing guitars, Emperor wallowing in melodramatic scattered speed metal, and Demonaz leaving Immortal after Blizzard Beasts, the warlike days seemed to be over.

Sammath embraced the violence that was lost. Strijd‘s cover was Arthur Rackham’s illustration of the death of Arthur atop a mound of fallen knights. Mordred charges in to slay his father who turned his own once fertile kingdom of Camelot into a barren wasteland through melancholic neglect, happenstance, and sin. Only ritually butchering the sacred king could burn an antiquated past to the ground to fertilize the soil of civilization once more: the mythological slaying of the dying god paralleled in the Ragnarok of Norse mythology, the Fisher King, The Golden Bough, and Apocalypse Now.

Strijd took the flowing compositional style of Summoning and carved away all the fat. This minimalist meat and bones approach allowed each track to focus on a handful of memorable riffs and keyboard leads. No composition on Strijd meandered into irrelevance; the album was not sparse but laconic. Every element was hammered and fitted together to create a greater, uniform whole, charging headstrong into battle to the metronome of blasting percussion marching the clock forward toward Armageddon.

Interspered and layered with the spartan riffs inspired by early Emperor’s primitivity were keyboard leads that sounded like they were from a lost John Carpenter score for Excalibur, replacing the Wagner and Orff. Unlike those of most of Sammath’s contemporaries, these were not grossly off key or compositionally jarring. Dark age war horns ready listeners for battle while extended interludes are lamentations of how the overwhelming arrogance of mankind eventually will destroy all of the species own transcendent achievements over brief, petty desires. Ultimately the keyboard melodies provided poignancy to Sammath’s patricide; a poignancy for his musical ancestors pathetically allowing themselves and their work to wither away into a pitiful mediocrity for which they must be killed off for good.

Sammath fought Strijd with the weapons of fallen warriors of black metal’s pathetic twilight. Meeting the decrepit head on with their own overworn musical elements made the album a soundtrack for slaying them in an apocalyptic final battle, fitting the thematic ideas birth by the Arthurian cover. Strijd’s brief but everlasting artistic victory showed the glory of what once was and what could have been. Sammath’s condemnation recalls Mordred’s sneering last words in Excalibur: “Come father, let us embrace at last.”

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28 thoughts on “Strijd: Black Metal Götterdämmerung”

  1. JohnnyReb says:

    Strijd is a great soundtrack to Antifa getting their faces bashed in.

    1. sSpppoO says:

      Sup. My name’s Seth Petler and I’ve been bashing people for 25 years. I’ve always been aggressive, from a fairly young age at least. I like to grab people by the scruff of the neck and headbutt them as hard as possible. My goal isn’t to hurt people but attempt to break them in as fewer hits as possible. I love to see their girlfriends screaming over a slumping, soon to be seizuring body. A lot of the time I’ll stand in the middle of a pit and just wait for the first guy to bump into me. Aged 50, I’ll take my experience and the element of surprise over the hot air of youthfulness any day. I’ve travelled throughout Europe and the Americas in search of the most violent buzz to feed my inner torment. Antifa are alright for fights, more along the weakcunt/protesty lines I guess. My favourite genres to dish out beatings to are bestial black metal, crust/crossover and hardbass. See you in the pit, dogs ;-)

      1. Heinrich DW says:

        Look, I don’t want to get into an argument over this but let me tell you, you don’t know what you’re talking about and I’ve never heard of you in any of my scenes. Any guy comes at me with that sort of arrogance, either in the pit or otherwise is going to get themselves seriously messed up. Having trained under sensei’s Stolz and Agaru in my native homeland of Germany, I’m probably considered one of the foremost authorities on pit combat worldwide. Also your comment about Antifa is just ridiculous. They are definitely not just leftist student protestors, that’s just a cover, they are a force to be reckoned, often paying specially trained riot goons for many of their operations so if you don’t know this you’re in for an unpleasant surprise.

        1. Attention Defecate Disorder says:

          great posts. excellent combo.

          1. JohnnyReb says:

            Would someone mind breaking down the excellence of these posts? Online behaviorial norms evade me.

          2. Bebe (V.O.D.D.Y) says:

            Thanks, I thought I’d try something new

        2. sSpppoO says:

          fuck you stupid kraut i’ll fuckin maim your geek ass

      2. JohnnyReb says:

        No more drugs for this man.

  2. asdfghjkl says:

    The mid 90s gets a bad rap. The daring tonality that made stuff like Darkthrone’s sophomore album sound so beautifully ugly had been left behind, but I don’t think metal was ever more shameless in trying to embody the Romantic ideal. Find me a black metal cover from the mid/late 90s that isn’t some misty landscape or forest or overhead shot of a kingdom or whatever. You probably can, but it’s slim pickings. I miss the childish imagination of that era.

    hardworking people create successful cultures, and successful cultures create decadence, laziness and over-indulgence; that’s exactly where metal was around ’95. ultimately destructive, but its pungency can be enjoyable out of context

  3. neutronhammer says:

    I quite enjoyed this, I’m more convinced than ever to check out Sammath’s work. I know they’re highly regarded in these quarters, but I’ve become so cynical of now a days BM that I can’t be bothered. The only BM I’ve listened to all year have been Graveland and Clandestine Blaze.

    I would like to see a similar exposition on viking era Bathory.

    1. Turtle trumpets says:

      Strijd is good, but their latest will explode your face.

  4. Horse Tranny Bukkake says:

    When there’s no more good new music, just review old stuff off the DLA to keep the old cog rolling, right babe?

  5. Marc Defranco says:

    I come back to this band every once in a while but still can never get into them. Something about the vocals i think

  6. Rainer Weikusat says:

    There’s an alternate narrative here, namely, that “underground metal” was rapidly dying by the mid-1980 and got finally crushed to death by an onslaught of ex-“hair metal” posers who “discovered” Morbid Angel, Deicide, enter-your-favorite “trendy” US death metal bands at the beginning of the 1990s and the existence of abominations like Pantera and all this “I’m a big guy and I’ll crush you, har har har!” shit which is with us until this day suggests that this narrative wasn’t entirely wrong.

    The album doesn’t seem too bad but the “various electronic key instruments” give it an air of prog rock I don’t really like (this extends to Emperor and Enslaved in all incarnations): Metal may be intelligently composed music sometimes but it shouldn’t sound like an elaborate brainfart. And the drum machine pretty much ruins it completely: This should be the heartbeat of the music, not the click-track that’s Completely Out Of Control™.

    1. Linus Moreballz says:

      Rainer,

      Every other comment of yours has some allusion to how big dumb meatheads bully you around ’cause you’re a small and weak social outsider. What do you expect us to do with that information? Commiserate with you about how unfair the world is and affirm your bitterness-fueled equivocation of physical superiority with deficiency of intellect? No dude, that’s gay and that’s why everyone here says you’re an autistic cuck.

      There is a solution to this: LOG OFF OF LINUX, GET A GYM MEMBERSHIP, AND START MOVING SOME FUCKIN STEEL!!!

      with sincere respect,

      A platonic admirer

        1. Rainer Weikusat says:

          I’ve bought a compete Conan edition recently at some ridicolous price (as mock leather-bound hardcover) and it was sort-of fun to read. Howard was doubtlessly a gifted story teller. OTOH, he was also the guy who lived with his parents until he shot himself the day before his mother’s death, leaving his father alone to struggle on as good as he could and this shines through in the some of the more repetitive plot details.

          IMHO, Beyond the River is the best of these stories, not the least because it does away with the running gag of the incredibly beautiful woman the hero always bags as prize for his superhuman feats. That’s someone rendering his own phantasies about this in a fairly wooden way.

          There’s also a full dose of “OMG! Getting old!!”-whining taking place in the stories about Conan’s later career, especially the reconquering of the throne of Aquilonia. And this is completely un-germanic in an unpleasant way. Something like they grey-bearded Wate von Stuermen who was already old by the time her father married ravaging the evil king’s castle and killing everyone in sight at the end of Gudrun is much nicer.

          Didn’t read any of this for a while, but I think the Kane stories/ novels (Karl Edward Wagner) are better.

          1. Dr. Khan says:

            Shut up pussy. Your Conan review is pathetic and serves as an accidental autobiography, where we see “I am Rainer Weikusat and I am a big pussy” as the defining theme. Your review reminds me of the “reviews” given to Howard’s Conan stories by women and gentle male feminists.

            I mean here you are complaining about hot babes being a “prize for superhuman feats” and this just reveals
            “someone rendering his own phantasies about this in a fairly wooden way.” I have news for you: in real life, the prize for superhuman feats a la Conan is hot big titty bitches.

            The original Conan stories reveal to us the essence of andreia (that’s a greek word, pussy — look it up). If you fail to recognize this, it means you are not a man.

            1. Rainer Weikusat says:

              The defining theme of everything you see is always your (pre-conceived) phantasies about the author, combined with your lack of the subject matter (no wonder, given your general non-interest in subject matters). I could have quoted someone else here,

              In the November 1934 Weird Tales, the following letter appeared in ‘The Eyrie’: I am awfully tired of poor old Conan the Cluck, who for the past fifteen issues has every month slain a new wizard, tackled a new monster, come to a violent and sudden end that was averted (incredibly enough) in just the nick of time, and won a new girl-friend […]

              I don’t see this as critical as the author of this letter, but the endless sucession of single-use women does become repetitive over the course of a few stories read in a row, as that’s just the same “sex sells” idea repeated over and over again, and Howard’s complete lack of real-world experience in this area doesn’t help with creating a realistic narrative in this respect.

              Wagner does this significantly better. His stories are also certainly no more pleasant to “women and gentle male feminists” as Kane is entirely amoral instead of a knight-disguised-as-barbarian saving the damsels in distress. Eg, one of the stories, “Undertow”, features a women Kane keeps as precious piece of property despite he long lost any other interest in her who tries to escape from him by enticing a “young barbarian” to aid her in exchange for sex who is then slain by the protagonist. Somewhat later, she tries same again with the captain of a ship supposed to leave the harbour in the early morning but once again, Kane’s evil magic enables him to trace them down. In a more quirky mood, he leaves the new would-be knight alive after defeating him. When the captain wakes up in his cabin in the morning, he finds that’s he’s embracing the rotten corpse of a women as the lady had actually tried to escape from her master by committing suicide a long time ago, but Kane recovered her dead body from the morgue, brought her back to life and then kept her alive through black magic for his own amusement.

              But don’t let this piece of uncalled for reality distract you from your holy mission to demonstrate that everything in the world is exactly as your lack of imagination dictates you.

            2. Rainer Weikusat says:

              I have news for you: in real life, the prize for superhuman feats a la Conan is hot big titty bitches.

              Some random story about this: “Once upon a time in the past”, I entered the basement of a tower building I was living in at that time and found three “tall and smart looking” guys I vaguely knew and a three seated sofa there. As it turned out to be, the wanted to get sofa up into a room on the 10th floor but it didn’t fit into the elevator and they couldn’t quite get themselve to start carrying it up using the stairs. I then talked them into doing this “come on, guys, this ain’t so difficult, let’s just carry it” and thus ended up carrying the front-end of the sofa upstairs all ten flights while the three others took turns carrying the other behind me. Upon arriving at the destination, a swarm somewhat beautiful young ladies broke from a couple of rooms to dance around and cheer there heroes for this grandiose feat who obviously didn’t even spare a look for me.

              And that’s how this kind of stuff works out “in real life” [SCNR].

              1. Dr. Khan says:

                Cool thanks for your “poor me, chicks dont like me” story. Carrying a couch up stairs is not a superhuman feat, pussy. Why do you think that should earn you the affection of big titty bitches? Any dumb ogre can do it.

                The comments section of this website is not your diary, isn’t there a better place to go whine about the unfairness of life?

                Go back and REALLY read Howard’s Conan stories. Don’t be a pussy about it. Embrace the barbarian within. Embody Conan in your own life. And you will get more big titty bitches than you can handle.

      1. Rainer Weikusat says:

        You could perhaps just stop reading nonsense into texts I write.

        I was thinking about two things here:

        1) The lamentable death of the moshpit. Last time I saw something like this in the wild was during a Napalm Death show in 2011. Dead Congregation was sort-of ok but the grabbing and tearing got tiresome fairly quickly. Anything else since than was pretty much DOA due to (typically preciously few) people mistaking this as a great opportunity to pose in front of the so-called fairer sex by displaying their superior brawling skills. It’s sometimes possible to get such an idiot back under control if he realizes that he’s among a crowd of people who are not in the mood of taking shit from him but this needs a crowd to begin with.

        2) As far as I could determine, a guy named Per Ohlin was once beaten up up so badly by a gang of his ‘school mates’ that his spleen ruptured and he ended up being revived in hospital.

        Friendly piece of advice: If you’re alone, you’ll always find yourself in the middle of a lost cause. Firstly, you body is vulnerable from more than one side and secondly (and much more importantly), in the aftermath, you’ll find yourself in opposition of “a band of brothers” who’ll tell whatever lies it takes to get you in the dock and not them. Honour is in short supply in these times.

        Apart from that, I can probably run rings around you blindly, I just wouldn’t want to waste this ability on something as useless and unfunny as ‘needlessly intefering with other people’.

        1. neutronhammer says:

          Hör auf mit den Drogen!

        2. Attention Defecate Disorder says:

          Start your own zine and sign me up man.

  7. Yuzerneigm says:

    The vocals are always annoying to me as is the case with most BM but the music is very interesting especially Godless Arrogance.

  8. G says:

    Great old photo of Kruitwagen

    1. True says:

      Indeed, look at the texture of the background behind him

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