Interview: Lord Imperial (Krieg)

Krieg emerged at a time when few New World black metal bands had made a name for themselves, and none had come up with an iconic style to match the distinctively “Scandinavian” attributes of the founders. Raw and reckless, chaotic and vitriolic, early Krieg was like a fusion between primitive black metal and noise, but over time the band has matured and gotten closer to its shoegaze and drone-rock roots. Frontman Imperial gave us the skinny on life, the evolution of Krieg, and metal as an art form in this exclusive interview from his Western New Jersey headquarters, a former Nike missile site that’s now a converted studio and hydroponics lab.

How did you get involved in playing music?

When I was much younger I decided I didn’t really have the usual interests of cars, sports and television that the majority of American kids had so I started getting deeper and deeper into music. Both of my parents were very deeply into music and literature though neither of them played any sort of instrument that I know (they’re both dead so I can’t call and ask). I picked up the guitar around age 14, the same time death and black metal swiftly entered and controlled my life. I guess in the sense that the ’77 British movement said “if you think you can do better, start your own band” I had a similar mindset and started an early primitive project called Impaled which recorded a demo that would make Anal Cunt seem musical. After this I helped form Abominus which was a death metal band that with enough rehearsing could’ve sounded like Belial’s Never Again and Krieg’s first draft Imperial.

What got you into metal?

I always liked guitar oriented music and being a child in the 1980s it was either that or the tail end of the New Romantic movement which I didn’t like or understand. Deeper appreciation grew once I hit high school and discovered a college station that had a lot of harsher metal which opened a lot of doors for me mentally. I still vividly remember hearing Darkthrone and Samael for the first time through this show as a sophomore.

If you could identify your primary influences, what would those be?

It changes a lot. I soak up a lot of influence from the music I constantly listen to but I guess I’d say in the beginning it was mostly Beherit, Profanatica, Darkthrone, Forgotten Woods and the first few Demoncy records. These recordings still get a lot of play around my house. Judas Iscariot obviously became a strong reference point for me in the late 90s and since then I’ve added a lot of stuff like Black Flag, Public Image Ltd and The Velvet Underground into the writing.

Have the values and sound of metal music changed from the 1980s? How and why?

There seems to be more of an intellectual awakening amongst a majority of bands. The 1980s created the foundation and I guess stuff like Municipal Waste never really grew out of that. I want to say that something like the late 80s/early 90s indie and Sub Pop scene helped change a bit of that but a majority of metalheads abhor that stuff but you can clearly hear it in some of the newer bands that utilize more rock and roll or shoegaze soundscapes. Values have changed in that I feel a lot of the vapid ideas of the 1980s are disintegrating, people want more meaning out of their art and entertainment (though this is just a small grouping, this theory is obviously proved wrong via Hollywood, MTV and pop music which views art as commodity-an extension of the 1980s “Me Generation” that’s fucked things up for the rest of us). I personally think a lot of the US metal bands are starting to show this sort of introspection or are at least reaching for new heights with it.

Can you give us a run-down of your history as a musician?

I guess I’ll try to do it chronologically as best as I can: The early 1990s I spent failing at learning guitar and bass, which is obvious in my early records. I was a member of Abominus (94-97) Imperial/Krieg (95-current) Devotee (98-00) AngelKunt(00-02) Twilight (04-current) March Into the Sea (06-08) and N.i.l (06-current). These are all the projects I had something to do with the musical writing side of things. I’ve done lyrics and session work for several other bands as well.

Was early Krieg material actually improvised in the studio?

About 75% of it. The Imperial demo stuff was written beforehand but Rise of the Imperial Hordes we recorded without a drummer or a label. These were added later. Destruction Ritual, except for the older songs on the record, was all improvised in studio. Originally we did it because we didn’t know what to really do in a studio environment that wasn’t a 4 or 8 track. Destruction Ritual was just meant to be unlistenable and punishing.

Do you believe black metal is still a viable form of music?

Difficult question. With the advent of Myspace and computer recording you have a deluge of bullshit meaningless noise, moreso than the days of mp3.com and the initial CD-R craze. But there are still plenty of artists out there whom write and record with thoughtful intentions and sincerity, even if I don’t personally find their music interesting I still respect anyone dedicated truly to their art. You’ll always have throwaway bands who form clubs with other throwaway people and that exists in any genre of music. One man’s unlistenable derivative garbage is another’s kult ebay record. I don’t think black metal will ever be a shocking or culturally substantial form of expression to the multitudes since we have such a desensitized and moral society. Plus it’s still a fad to some kids who’ll move on to EBM or the Dave Mathews Band a few months later.

What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you in your loneliest loneliness and say to you: “This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence– even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!”

Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: “You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.” If this thought gained possession of you, it would change you as you are or perhaps crush you. The question in each and every thing, “Do you desire this once more, and innumerable times more?” would lie upon your actions as the greatest weight. Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?

– F.W. Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1882)

What distinguishes great music from bad? Can it be distilled into technique, or is it something less easily defined?

Technique is for school and Dream Theater. Some people find that sort of “note note note note solo note etc” music to be the greatest thing since the Fleshlight but I define great music as something that emotionally moves me, captivates me and forces repeated attention. Anyone can learn to play well, not everyone can write something worth hearing. We all learn to read and write but not everyone is Charles Bukowski or Knut Hamsun. Same goes for all art form.

Can a heavy metal culture augment or express aspects of a parent culture (like say, “American culture”), and have you seen examples of this?

I don’t know. Metal is an outsider thing for the most part, only recently has black metal spread outside its confines and a lot of that has to do with ironic hipsters and curiosity seekers. It seems metal goes two ways: one is that it expresses the “American dream” if you will, of loud music, lots of girls, alcoholism and patriotism which is normal American behavior (loud music turns to loud Bruce Springsteen, girls to either being a dead beat dad or responsible parent, alcoholism to your uncle who gets smashed at Thanksgiving and hits on the 15 year olds, patriotism to a belief that goverment is always correct = American as fucking McDonalds) or the other way which is an absolute rejection of societal norms, creativity not taught or nurtured at (public) schools and, if stuck with, a lot of interesting ideas and art which could one day channel into a real movement for change.

Did you ever study music theory or take lessons? Did this help you or slow you down in achieving your musical goals?

I’m horrible with math so theory always confused me. I did try lessons when I was younger and long time listeners see how that went. I’m more of the idea that self teaching and free form idealizing without the aid of constriction breeds the most challenging and interesting art and could lead to innovation. It also leads to horrible Myspace bands so this is more of a personal experience for me.

Some have said that rock music is about individualism, or escaping the rules of society and nature to do whatever the individual wants to do. However, some have also said that heavy metal breaks with that tradition with its “epic” and impersonal view of life. Where do you fit on the scale?

No one is still swinging hammers at invaders inside their castle walls. I’m more of the philosophy implied by the 1970s rock critics like Griel Marcus or Lester Bangs that rock (which all metal is derived from) should be more of a personal introspective experience. This is why a band like Amebix will always greatly fascinate me more than say Crass (which is a weak example but the first to come to mind) in that it’s more personal than collective. I have enough mental problems that don’t see to be going away anytime soon regardless of what new medicine my doctor switches me to every few months to keep my writing process outside of the open sphere of religious icons and impending doom for a long time. This wasn’t always the case since Rise of the Imperial Hordes and my demos were more based on traditional war topics, but I was only fucking 17 at the time.

When Hellhammer said, “Only Death is Real,” it launched legions of death metal and grindcore bands who showed us through sickness, misery and sudden doom (in their lyrics) that life is short, manipulations are false, and we need to get back to reality. Where should the genre go from there?

I don’t think that’s a bad thing to be fixated on. Looking at the majority of philosophy books in any chain store and you’ll see this topic isn’t restricted to metal alone and is something that will never be answered. I’d like to see the genre go into more of a intelligent approach but certain subgenres don’t allow that. Plus a lot of people would be at a loss if they couldn’t sing about goats.

Is there a relationship between how an artist sees the world, and the type of music he or she will then make? Do people who see the world in similar ways make similar music?

I think some of it has to do with age. When you’re young you are more rebellious and questioning and angry. Whether this subsides once life lines up for you with a mate, employment and house can say a lot about if an artist will even continue to create. Now once you’ve got that out of the way (or if it never lined up for you in the first place) and you still have those emotions and see the world the same (or if your worldview has grown with you and disgusts you ever more once you know more about it) then it definitely affects the way you make music. Personally in my close circle of friends who see the world in a similar grey light, we all tend to gravitate towards the same kind of ideas and music hence Twilight’s reformation or my strong involvement with certain people. Is this universal? I’m not sure, isn’t it how scenes are created?

Your music seems to attempt to be ritual music, where a play or ceremony shapes the transitions in each song. Did you have a ceremony in mind?

Emotional disrupting. Even more so now that I’m working with different time changes and unexpected stop/starts. The ritual of discomfort.

Within the tiny space occupied by a note or a colour in the sound- or colour-continuum, which corresponds to the identity-card for the note or the colour, timbre or nuance introduce a sort of infinity, the indeterminacy of the harmonics within the frame determined by this identity. Nunance or timbre are the distress and despair of the exact division and thus the clear composition of sounds and colours according to graded scales and harmonic temperaments…The matter I’m talking about is ‘immaterial,’ anobjectable, because it can only ‘take place’ or find its occasion at the price of suspending these active powres of mind. I’d say that it suspends them for at least ‘an instant.’ However, this instant in turn cannot be counted, since in order to count this time, even the time of an instant, the mind must be active.

So we must suggest that there is a state of mind which is a prey to a ‘presence’ (a presence which is in no way present in the sense of here-and-now, i.e. like that which is designated by the deictics of presentation), a mindless state of mind, which is required of mind not for matter to be perceived or conceived, given or grasped, but so that there be some something. And I use ‘matter’ to designate this ‘that there is’, this quod, because this presence in the absence of the active mind is and is never other than timbre, tone, nuance in one or other of the dispositions of sensibility, in one or other of the sensoria, in one or other of the passibilities through which mind is accessible to the material event, can be ‘touched’ by it: a singular, incomparable quality – unforgettable and immediately forgotten – of the grain of a skin or a piece of wood, the fragrance of an aroma, the savour of a secretion or a piece of flesh, as well as a timbre or a nuance. All these terms are interchangeable. They designate the event of a passion, a passibility for whih the mind will not have been prepared, which will hvae unsettled it, and of which it conserves only the feeling – anguish and jubilation – of an obscure debt.

– Jean-François Lyotard, The Inhuman (1991)

When you write your music, how do you avoid repeating the past 15 years of black metal?

I just don’t pay attention to it. I experiment with riffs and keep what I feel represents me as a whole. If someone feels it’s derivative or cliché it’s not my problem and they can go listen to something else. I havent bought any new black metal in close to a year outside of the new Urfaust and Vohlahn.

When you write songs, do you start with a visual concept, or a riff, or something else?

Overall I start with a visual idea of how I want to feel through what I’m writing. Mostly colours which explains the last two album names. Sometimes I’ll have a phrase in mind and I try to put the emotion behind the phrase to use through the guitar and if that doesn’t work I’ve regressed to using my power electronics setup to try to create a background that I can build a suitable song structure through. If that doesn’t work I get up, smoke a cigarette and find some coffee, sit down and start over again. There have been times when I’ve dreamt of ideas and had to rush out of bed at 4 am down to my rehearsal area and put it to work. Lyrics are done in a similar fashion though I generally these days write pages and pages of lyrics then using the cut up method piece them together into some sort of abstraction that may not make sense to others but perfectly suits what I’m thinking.

How has Krieg changed over the years? You as an artist have changed as well — can you give us a rundown on your newer projects, and what you’re attempting to do with each?

There has been three phases of Krieg: 1995-2002 which was more of a primitive beginning forged into a noise ending ala Whitehouse if they were a black metal band. Patrick Bateman was the end of this phase in which I felt I could do no better with creating harsh sounds. 2002-05 which might have been the busiest time for me was when I figured I could write emotive pieces but my guitar skills were lacking so I employed friends to help bring these visions to light.

Riffwise not a lot changed between Destruction Ritual and Black House, it’s just that with a full band and decent recording the music became its own new form. My interests in other music like the 1970s NYC art scene came pouring in and I stopped limiting myself to traditional black metal topics and focused on what was important to me. By 2005 I was an emotional wreck, ruined my label and reputation and went out in a drink fueled bang at Under the Black Sun. 07-now is phase three which is a melding of ugliness and beauty so far. I’ve only recorded two songs, the track for the split with Caina and a cover of the 1980s noise/punk band Flipper. We plan to record in 2010 depending on when the label is ready to announce shit and get the ball rolling.

Other projects: The only active ones are N.i.l which just finished recording a 3-song MCD which we’re shopping to labels once it’s mixed. Our first record came out on Battle Kommand in 2007 and I think a lot of people missed the point that we were actively emulating Strid and My Bloody Valentine. Most people thought it was just too simple or monotonous but that was the intention: it was more of a trance record than something to play at parties. We did get to play live with Profanatica last year but sound problems fucked up a bit of the show. Ledney and Gelso dug it though and that was important.

I’ve also just finished vocals and a majority of the lyrics for the new Twilight record which is worlds beyond our first effort. This time it was done in a real studio and the writing was mostly Blake Judd, Wrest and myself musically and lyrically. Vocally I’ll be a pretentious asshole and say it’s the best I’ve ever done.

I’m also doing vocals for John Gelso’s project Royal Arche Blaspheme which I’ve done three songs for so far. I think I’m still involved with The Red Cathedral which is myself and Andrew from Caina plus some others but it’s sporadic at best. Should be interesting when it’s completed.

I’m also working on Apothecary.Sound.Lodge which is power electronics and black metal but it’s taking forever and due to finances being what they are probably will take even longer.

What are the goals of your art? Is there a goal to art itself?

To keep me from killing myself. Artists may say their goal is to improve humanity’s thoughts and ideas but the cynic in me thinks it’s because they want something of theirs to remain when they’re dead. True immortality.

Jim Morrison (The Doors) sang and wrote repeatedly of a “frontier,” or a chaotic no man’s land where danger was everywhere, but it was also possible to get away from rules and fears. How does this apply to music like death metal, which seems to accept death and disease as a normal part of life?

I don’t think a lot of people who sing about this subject really desire it to be a normal part of life because they wouldn’t know how to deal with it. Everyone desires security to some extent (though I can’t speak for everyone) and to have that taken away, I don’t know how they would handle it. Jim Morrison on the other hand obviously lived this and died for it, proving that there are people living this idea. Utopia is just a manmade idea to try to comfort you when you’re going to sleep. Only desperate people really live to experience this idea.

Like in the late 1970s, metal feels to many people like it has lost direction and become hollow. Is a change in direction needed, and if so, will that come from within metal?

The late 70s also brought the creation of punk, post punk and some interesting literature and art. But this is different now with things like MTV reality TV and other forms of cheap entertainment to keep people from growing and realizing what a fucked up world they live in. The recession might spur some change in ideas but I’m afraid that in Western culture we might be too deeply embedded in instant gratification and plastic living to really benefit from such a shift in life’s paradigm. I think much of the world thought with last year’s presidential election we’d have some kind of light shed on us telling us where to go but this shit takes time.

I read an interesting essay a few weeks back about how people who are unemployed or poverty stricken (just above lower middle class, this obviously won’t account for homeless people or those on social support) should take this time to do what they truly love in life, start painting or writing like they always dreamt. It’s a beautiful sentiment but we as a culture are so dependent on building our DVD collection and buying a fucking hi def TV that we’re more concerned with that outlook.

I’ve strayed a bit from topic; will metal help change this? It gives people an outlet to express their rage at things they cannot control at a constructive level rather than turning to the bottle or needle. It can also help them look at things from a different perspective. Christ that’s a lot of positivity from me.

It seems obvious to me, when all factors are added up, that our society is in decline. However, this opinion is not widely shared. Why do you think this is?

To keep the suicide rate down so the IRS can collect more money.

William Blake says, in perhaps his most memorable line, “The cut worm forgives the plow.” What does this mean to you?

Sounds like turning the other cheek to me. In 9 out of 10 cases this is a worthless idea. There’s some specific people who rightfully deserve to knock my teeth out and there’s a few who deserve it from me. Forgiveness is a mostly outdated idea unless in minor cases, like someone accidentally broke something minor of yours or got drunk and said something they regret. I see no virtue in forgiving someone who robbed you, fucked your wife or killed your animals.

How has Krieg changed over the years? Is interest still high, and in what era of your material? What’s next for you and Krieg?

It’s evolved like I have. My writing style is still very similar and my aesthetic visually hasn’t changed. Interest I suppose is still strong though I haven’t paid much attention. We’ve done about 8 shows since reforming and some have been amazingly excellent events like our shows in Brooklyn and Rhode Island this past winter, others have been poorly put together messes like the fest we did over the summer. It seems people either love Black House/Blue Miasma or hate that and only want to hear Destruction Ritual. After close to 15 years you can’t really please everyone and it’s not my intent to do so. I’ve always done Krieg because it’s something I’m driven to do and I don’t see that drive going away soon.

Besides the aforementioned split 7 inch with Caina we’ve recorded songs for splits with Gravecode Nebula, an excellent doom band, and Shining. There have been two unofficial LP releases of Black House and Blue Miasma but the official Blue Miasma with bonus tracks, original artwork and linear notes will come from Hammer of Hate (FI) and we’re signed for our next record The Isolationist though the official announcement hasn’t been released yet. We have some shows coming up in the US and maybe in 2010 we’ll go back to Europe. Since these splits will be the last split releases we’re able to do, I’ll probably concentrate on other projects during the downtime between albums.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us.

As always thanks for the support!

Making time public does not occur occasionally and subsequently. Rather, since Da-sein is always already disclosed as ecstatic and temporal and because understanding and interpretation belong to existence, time has also already made itself public in taking care. One orients oneself toward it, so that it must somehow be available for everyone.

– Martin Heidegger, Being and Time (1926)

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Interview: Omid (Fearless Iranians From Hell)

Some artists like to tell you what to think, and others make you meet them halfway. These provocateurs are both more artistic and more realistic than the others, who are usually using those bold political opinions to mask a lack of direction otherwise. Of the metal-influenced genres to exist, thrash (crossover between hardcore punk and metal) was the most playfull provocative, and of all the thrash bands, the Fearless Iranians From Hell were the arch-jesters of making people think. During their reign in the 1980s, America freshly smarting from the OPEC debacle of the 1970s was convinced its next big enemy was Islamic fundamentalism while at the same time becoming more politically fundamentalist itself; it took some balls to tweak that self-righteous outlook by the nose, and even more to do so by mocking the American vision of democracy, justice and history — by appearing to endorse Islamic fundamentalism from within America’s borders. We were fortunate enough to catch Omid (drums, guitar, art direction, producer, and co-writer of both music and lyrics) while he was cleaning his gold-plated AK-47 in San Antonio, Texas.

Rumor has it that members of the Fearless Iranians From Hell were in an early thrash band called The Marching Plague. Was your interest always in thrash and extreme hardcore, or did you get introduced to music through other genres?

Check out the Texas hardcore compilation that Gibby Haynes (Butthole Surfers) released in the 80’s called Cottage Cheese from the Lips of Death, and the harder-to-find punk compilation on Matako Mazuri Records that Jeff Smith (The Hickoids) released called Metal Moo Cow. You’ll find all of Fearless Iranians From Hell’s members previous bands there: The first Fearless Iranians From Hell line-up consisted of members of The Marching Plague and the future lead guitarist for the band Toejam (on bass). The Fearless Iranians From Hell line-up that recorded for Boner Records was comprised of ex-members of The Marching Plague, The Butthole Surfers, Prenatal Lust, and Toejam.

The members of Fearless Iranians From Hell grew up listening to all kinds of music: pop, punk, synth, industrial, avant-garde, reggae, rap, classical, and especially disco. Many a disco party was held at Fearless Iranians From Hell headquarters. In fact, Fearless Iranians From Hell recorded, but never officially released a disco record called Dance for Allah. It’s pretty hard to find, though there are a few warbly cassette copies of it floating around out there. Although Fearless Iranians From Hell’s guitars are loud and often out of tune, and the vocals are shouted, you can still hear that pop sensibility in the songs.

In politics, we usually hear about The Other of some form or another being a threat to our way of life. Rock music has traditionally grasped for “authenticity” by identifying itself with an other, whether African-Americans, drug users, gender-ambiguous individuals or criminality/gangsters. The Fearless Iranians From Hell seem to have inverted this formula, by embracing a larger-than-life vision of The Other in order to show us more about ourselves. How did you hit on this doubly ironic technique?

We were influenced by The Martial Arts. Seriously. It was a Judo strategy: Turning your enemies’ power against themselves.

How do you feel when you turn on CNN or your favorite news service, and see headlines that could well have come straight from Fearless Iranians From Hell lyrics?

Not suprised, unfortunately. While the band was still together, we had the ultimate punk PR man: The Ayatollah Khomeini. Every time you opened the paper, or turned on the news, there he was, stirring up the shit. World News doubled as advertisments for our band.

You were appearing to endorse the Ayatollah Khomeini, radical Islam and jihad against Americans during the Reagan 1980s in the heart of Texas. How did people react? Were there differences based on their alignment in the political spectrum? Do people still react the same way?

How do you think they reacted? Hahahaha! They HATED us. Especially in the South. The more intelligent people figured out it was political satire, and that what we were doing was ridiculously over-the-top. But we were banking on the more thick-headed ones getting it wrong, being offended, thus drawing more attention to the band. We were attacked by police, protesters, skinheads, right-wing radio hosts, left-wing college boy bands who were too caught up in their seriousness to get what we were doing, gangs, religious organizations, promoters…hell, Fearless Iranians From Hell album covers were even featured in PTA slide-shows portraying the evils of rock ‘n’ roll. Mission accomplished.

Political views varied between our band members, but Fearless Iranians From Hell didn’t have a specific political agenda. We did however have a common creative agenda. We purposefully garbled political rhetoric, so it was confusing to all ends of the spectrum. The band refused to do interviews at the time, which helped further the misinformation and confusion + there was no internet, so it was a lot harder for people to get the facts straight about who we were and where we were coming from.

We eventually went on tour, and did a few radio interviews in ’88 and ’89, and thought we had let the cat out of the bag. However, it appears many have remained uninformed. For instance, just a couple of years ago, some idiot posted a bounty on the heads of the band members on his web page. One of our lawyers had the site removed.

How did the fearless Iranians in your mythos (the world of characters created by your lyrics and cover art) end up being hash-smoking maniacs? Is this part of a satire of American artists who endorse drugs in their music?

The song “Iranian Hash” is a reference to Hassan-i Sabbah, who founded a group known as the Hashshashin. Hassan-i Sabbah was a Persian Nizari Isma’ili missionary who converted a northern Iran community in the late 11th century. Part of his indoctrination technique was to keep his young assassins stoned out of their minds on hashish. Of course, it’s also a jab at Reagan’s “War on Drugs”…a turn-of-the phrase, as the Hashshashin literally went to war on drugs.

You had four releases: a self-titled EP, the Die For Allah LP, Holy War LP and Foolish Americans LP. What were the differences between them, how did they “progress” if at all, and which is your favorite?

The 7″ EP was more mid-tempo punk. Lyrically, it was an almost rap-like introduction to the band, and featured the horrifyingly prophetic “Blow up the Embassy.” The first album, Die For Allah, was like a soundtrack to a movie. Much harder hitting, and faster-paced. The second album, Holy War, was the most raw and explosive. Having played live together for a couple of years at that point, the band were at the top of our game and were pushing everything to its extreme both musically and lyrically.

The third album was more studio-fied, verged on heavy metal at times, and along with the usual outrageous lyrics, contains some “serious” non-tongue-and cheek songs like “A Martyr in Every Home.” The band went into the recording studio knowing it was going to be our last album, planning to break up before we started repeating ourselves. Amir’s Farsi-spoken vocals on the last song, “Decade” were decidedly our final words to the world. No favorites. I look at all the albums as one single body of work, to be listened to in order.

Evolution of life, and the emergence of man, is a natural process in which chance, failure, waste, disorder and death will ultimately prevail. The entire destiny of the upsurge of life and all of its efforts have been enshrouded, from the beginning, by a cloak of “heat-death,” which, one day, will cut off the source of life — the sun. The very air we breathe is drawn from a thin film of atmosphere which hovers precariously over the seas and mountains and praises that have been pushed up for us to stand on.

– Raymond Nogar, The Lord of the Absurd (1966)

In an interview, you talked about an important concept — not “taking music at face value.” Face value, we assume, is what the music projects; are you saying that little in this world matches up to what it projects, or that its actual causes are different than what it tells you are its causes?

Americans, as a whole, have an underdeveloped sense of irony.

How did you get involved in playing and writing music?

We all came from different levels of musical appreciation and education. Our lead guitarist always had to tune our rhythm guitarist’s axe, because he never learned how. But that didn’t matter, because the music we were into at the time favored creative ideas over virtuousity. The Sex Pistols playing in our hometown, San Antonio, and the DIY punk aesthetic are what brought it all together.

How did the members of the Fearless Iranians From Hell meet?

Fearless Iranians From Hell’s first singer, Amir, moved to Texas with his family after the fall of the Shah of Iran, to flee the reign of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Amir made friends with the other outcasts in his American high-school, punk rockers who were in a band called The Plague. The Plague rotated lead vocalists a few times ( Amir may have even been the singer for a show or two ) before settling on a line-up and changing their name to The Marching Plague. The lead singer for The Marching Plague appeared as the voice of Anus Presley on the first Butthole Surfers EP ( the tracks “The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey’s Grave” and “The Revenge of Anus Presley” ) and, after joking with Amir that he should have his own punk band, wrote the first Fearless Iranians From Hell songs.

The first Fearless Iranians From Hell line-up, comprised mainly of Marching Plague members, would wear ski masks to both enhance the terror-rock concept, and so they could open for The Marching Plague without the audience knowing they were watching the same band twice. This line-up recorded “Burn the Books” for the “Metal Moo Cow” compilation, with Amir on lead vocals. Around this time, The Marching Plague, having released an EP chock full of notorius, made-to-offend lyrics, took an about-face, and influenced by the more positive DC scene, headed in an emo direction. Shortly thereafter, the Marching Plague’s lead singer left the band, devoting his full attention to Fearless Iranians From Hell, calling on ex-members of Prenatal Lust and Toejam to fill out the roles of his ex-bandmates.

Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll magazine’s Tim Yohannan, who hated The Marching Plague’s un-PC lyrics, actually loved the live Fearless Iranians From Hell demo sent to him for review and recommended, “Get thee to a studio, or off with thy hands”. Fearless Iranians From Hell obliged, securing a record deal with the California label, Boner Records, home of Fang, The Melvins, Tales of Terror, etc. Before Fearless Iranians From Hell entered the studio, Amir suggested he be replaced by a more capable lead vocalist. Amir stayed on board as a songwriter, manager, information source, and spokesman. Amir also contributed vocals (the ones that were sung in Farsi) to the 1st and 3rd album. Before recording our debut album, the bassist who played on the Fearless Iranians From Hell 7″ was replaced by the Butthole Surfer’s first bass player.

How do you think our society uses icons like the Ayatollah Khomeini to make us live in fear, how does it benefit from that, and how does using those icons in over-the-top satire (like Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal) change how things are done?

It’s the age-old cult tactic of making people feel that they are in imminent danger. It’s an instrument of control, and an insult to our intelligence. The Ayatollah Khomeini was bad news. No doubt about it. But the danger is in mimicking his behavior in our own free country, villianizing an entire race, and simplifying complex issues into a battle between “good” and “evil.” I’m not quite sure if “A Modest Proposal” or Die For Allah actually changed anything, or if we were just preaching to, and entertaining, the choir. You’ll have to find some Fearless converts out there to answer that one.

Do you feel genre is important, and that specific genres have specific conventions that make them distinct from others? What genre would you identify as that which encloses the Fearless Iranians From Hell? Did you call yourselves skatethrash, thrash, crossover punk or punk hardcore, or something else?

Conforming to a particular genre can be a good starting point…taking advantage of a popular movement to get people’s initial attention, but from that point you have to carve out your own identity, and leave the genre behind. When Fearless Iranians From Hell emerged, the flavor-of-the-day was hardcore punk. It’s arguable that we were an art-rock band, but we definitely wouldn’t have classified ourselves as that at the time.

Though I didn’t consider us skatethrash, half of the band were actually skateboarders, and our record label worked out a deal with Thrasher Magazine where you’d get a free Fearless Iranians From Hell album when you bought a subscription. We thought that was pretty funny: Fearless Iranians coming to America, getting infected by capitalism and selling out. It added to the confusion.

Did thrash music, which is what I’m calling the metal/punk hybrids like DRI and CRYPTIC SLAUGHTER, have its own style and val, ues that were separate from its “ingredients,” both metal and punk?

Living in San Antonio, which is known as “The Heavy Metal Capital of the World”, there was no escaping the influence of Heavy Metal. Being fairly isolated, the Texas punks took whatever info we could get on punk rock and often played it using the Metal musical vocabulary we were raised on, quite often parodying metal at the same time ( as on the Marching Plague EP, “Rock and Roll Asshole”). So it was kind of a love-hate thing.

Early Fearless Iranians From Hell, much like early DRI (circa The Dirty Rotten EP) didn’t have as much an obvious metal influence, but the Judas Priest-style riffing is still there. At the outset of Texas punk, the Punks, the Jocks and the Metalheads were all opposed to each other. I’m not sure if the fusion of the two genres/audiences was a good or bad thing. Maybe a bit of both, as Crossover brought people together, but resulted in a generic, cookie-cutter playing style for many bands.

What distinguishes art from entertainment, and if they overlap, is there a difference in goals between the two?

Funny you should mention that. At the time of the band, I was getting my degree in fine art, and approached Fearless Iranians From Hell as a work of art, so here’s the party line: Art can be entertainment, and entertainment can be art, but ultimately, art serves a greater purpose…well, at least that’s what the artist will tell you!

Do you believe music should be mimetic, or reflect what’s found in life, or ludic, and show a playfulness with life that encourages us to experience it in depth? Do the two ever cross over?

All of the above. Music should have no boundries in purpose, style, or subject matter. No rules.

In one interview, you say your goal is to insult every last person and every nation on earth; what do you hope to achieve with this act?

We did it for our own amusement.

The modern propaganda of commodities and the good life has sanctioned impulse gratification and made it unncessary for the id to apologize for its wishes or disguise their grandiose proportions. But this same propaganda has made failure and loss unsupportable. When it finally occurs to the new Narcissus that he can “live not only without fame but without self, live and die without ever having had one’s fellows conscious of the microscopic space one occupies upon this planet,” he experiences this discovery not merely as a disappointment but as a shattering blow to his sense of selfhood. “The thought almost overcame me,” Exley writes, “and I could not dwell upon it without becoming unutterably depressed.

– Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism (1979)

Should people be less ready to get offended? Are you trying to innoculate them against being offended?

Good point. Maybe so. Perhaps people should become more aware of their “buttons,” and how easily they can be pushed, so they won’t be manipulated by the button pushers.

Do you think Muslims and Westerners share any values, and are they misunderstanding each other? Is fundamentalism more of a religion than the specific religion it inhabits, or is it just another way of saying “conservative interpretation”?

Though there are obvious differences, I think we share more values than we’re often led to believe, however, it is convenient for many, particularly those seeking some kind of power, to perpetuate our misunderstanding of each other.

Did you ever study music theory or take lessons? Did this help you or slow you down in achieving your musical goals?

Our lead guitarist was taking Music Theory in college at the time. I had some formal training on guitar, but was a self-taught drummer. Our singer had piano training. The rest of the band were 100% self-taught. Since Fearless Iranians From Hell had both trained and self-taught musicians, there was always a tug-of-war between being a bit brainy, and keeping it simple. I think that yielded interesting results. Our basic concept was that any kid who picked up a guitar for the first time should be able to bang out one of our songs. The idea being that if you could play one of our songs on your guitar, you instantly related to our band, and felt like an insider.

Some have said that rock music is about individualism, or escaping the rules of society and nature to do whatever the individual wants to do. However, some have also said that heavy metal breaks with that tradition with its “epic” and impersonal view of life. Where do you fit on the scale?

Our goal was to tip the scale over on both sides.

Will Fearless Iranians From Hell ever re-unite to play shows, tour or write more material?

Do we really need to re-unite? I’ve received emails from several modern punk groups with 100% Iranian-American membership who claim that we inspired them to start their own hardcore bands. Some of them even cover our songs. But, hey…you never know! We’ve been offered some pretty good money to re-unite, but at the moment, we really don’t need the money. We’ve become business owners (you’d NEVER guess which businesses), teachers (That’s right, PTA, the Fearless Iranians From Hell have now infiltrated your educational system and are directly influencing YOUR children), and doctors (hey, our lyrics still hold true: Your life IS in our hands!).

Personally, I’m not a big fan of reunions. Especially punk band reunions. Who wants to see a punk “oldies-but-goodies show”? To me, it’s a contradiction of the punk aesthetic. Reunions are for bands like The Eagles. Fearless Iranians From Hell are a band from a certain time of history, about a certain time of history, but as you hinted at earlier, history keeps repeating itself, so our albums are still relevant today. Maybe even moreso than when they came out. Also, even though they deal with serious subject matter, the records have a sense of humor, and that has kept fans coming back to them over the years, as well as creating new fans.

Are you going to release the Fearless Iranians From Hell EP as well? Will the compilation of the 3 LPs stay in print?

Although Boner Records has not been putting out any new albums by new artists, it has continued to re-issue several of its top-sellers, so our first three albums can still be purchased on CD. For how long? — I guess as long as they keep selling. All three albums and the Fearless Iranians From Hell EP can be purchased in MP3 format from iTunes, etc. Also an album of Fearless Iranians From Hell demos and outtakes called Peace Through Power has just been released, and is now available from CD Baby and iTunes. Although there’s no talk of writing or recording any new material at the moment, there have been discussions about starting up an official Fearless Iranians From Hell website and selling t-shirts and other merch online.

Any plans to write books or articles about your experiences as the Fearless Iranians From Hell?

We’re being approached more and more often these days about doing interviews and telling our story, so who knows, if there’s enough interest maybe someday there’ll be an “I Was a Fearless Iranian” tell-all book…available at Wal-Mart! Stranger things have happened.

Open your chest welcoming death in the path of God and utter your prayer seconds before you go to your target. Let your last words be, “There is no God but God and Mohammad is His messenger.” Then, inshallah, you will be in heavens.

– Osama bin Laden

We are grateful to the Fearless Iranians From Hell for this interview. From the internet archives, we’ve pulled fragments of other interviews to keep alive the spirit of this iconic band. The text of those interviews follows.

SOUNDS magazine April 23, 1988

“Sam King talks terrorism with hardcore fanatics, FEARLESS IRANIANS FROM HELL”

The pop prophets of Fleet Street, ever anxious for a true story, appear to have found a new bete noire.

Fearless Iranians From Hell, an aggressive American hardcore band from San Antonio, are the latest victims of the Street’s pop pundits, having tastefully titled their debut LP “Die For Allah” and released it just in time for the recent hijack.

The band aren’t doing themselves any favours. Song titles include the title track, ‘Ultraviolence’, and ‘Blow Up The Embassy’. Lyrically, too, it’s hot, with lines like, “You will see that terrorism is the key” and “I’m going to hijack a plane / Won’t do it for glory or fame / when they catch me they’ll say I’m insane.”

Are FIFH provocateurs or just plain insensitive? Amir Mamori, an Iranian exile and the band’s singer, explains

“We want to show the Americans just how foolish they are. They want to see Iranians in a specific way and we’re taking their bigotry and stupidity and spitting it back in their faces.

“We may inadvertently be doing a lot of harm to the image of ordinary Iranians, by sticking so closely to the American stereotypical vision of them, but I’m not that worried. I have higher goals to consider.”

Do you feel driven to this?

“Definitely, I’m driven in the sense that there are points which I have to make. The funny thing is that people seem to think that we’re not really serious. In fact, we could hardly be more serious. At the moment there’s no bigotry in America that comes close to their feelings about Iran. Americans can’t understand or cope with the Iranian fanaticism and so they’re afraid of it.”

What about lines like “Terrorism is the key”?

“I don’t think terrorism is the answer, but I would say that I think it goes on on both sides. Innocent people are killed all the time.

“But if all people believe that all Iranians are beasts, then we will give them their ridiculous stereotypes and sit back and watch them make fools of themselves.”

NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS magazine April 30, 1988

“Gulf Balls”

NME kinda wondered if there’s anything you can do to help us with regard to Mr Terry Waite’s continued captivity in the Lebanon?

“I suppose”, muses the slightly foreign accent across the transatlantic phone-static, “We could do a benefit gig for him…in Beirut.”

Whaaaat??

Something’s gone sadly awry here. I rang Amir (main mullah of San Antonio’s FEARLESS IRANIANS FROM HELL) fully expecting to be scorched by a Koran – crazed, hostage eating psycho-child of the Ayatollah – and now the bugger’s gurgling about bloody charity shows!…

The source of this confusion is the Fearless Iranians’ LP which Big Takeover Records have just released on an unsuspecting Europe. Its cover is dominated by the glowering features of the Khomeini-monster and the unambiguous command / title ‘Die For Allah’.

The record itself — a procession of hardcore grunges with names like ‘Deathwish’, ‘Iranians On Bikes’, ‘Ultraviolence’ and ‘Blow Up The Embassy’ — crystallizes the worst nightmares of Ronnie’s America; wave upon relentless wave of death-defying Iranians traversing the USA (on bikes and in “Turbo Trans-Ams”), exploding in a ceaseless orgy of fanatical hatred and terrorism. It’s both mad and hilarious.

Could these guys, I trembled after a single hearing, be serious? Amir, Iran-born but US-educated, hoses down my wilder imaginings:

“Our stuff is not to be taken at face value. It’s designed to let an audience react in the predictable ways, to make fools of themselves.”

So you’re not the mad-eyed blood-caked Yank-slayers suggested by the record? Not even a teeny bit?

“No, not at all. We love what we do, but we don’t take it too seriously.”

Other people, however, most certainly do. A brief over-the-phone recitation of some of some of the choicer Fearless Iranian lyrics ( “Nuke the people / Kill’em dead / Come on, Ronnie / Give me head !” ) elicited a frothing reaction from Tory MP Harry Greenway : “They’re sick!…It’s an obscenity!…We don’t want them spreading their filth in Britain…”

Same story with something called the National Movement Of The Iranian Resistance: “To find a so-called pop group promoting terrorism is just appalling and revolting. If they were ever allowed into this country, we’d seriously consider picketing concert venues.”

Amir sniggers sheepishly down the phone: “So it sticks up people’s ass – that’s good. We have trouble over here, too – Americans are just so stupid. The Marine-types think we’re insulting their country and their president: the liberals think we’re insulting Iranians!”

So what’s the point of it all?

“Our ultimate aim is to insult every last person, and nation, in the world.”

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Man and Technics

The Hessian guide to the proper care and maintenance of your records and sound equipment.

Part I – Digital

Throughout the years, I have met many hessians that, despite the passion for metal music that is so common among them, haven’t yet learned how to take care of their records and sound equipment of which they depend so much.
Being part of a culture means, among many other things, maintaining the material manifestations of that culture. We get stronger, as individuals and as a culture, by learning good habits and applying our energies towards the preservation of the things that we care the most.

So it is imperative for us at the Hessian Studies Center, in our efforts to improve the well-being of metalheads worldwide, that we provide our readers with a comprehensive guide to the proper care of your music records and reproduction system.

CDs

Compact discs are by far the recording medium of preference for hessians of all ages and inclinations, and it is easy to see why: it is small, so it’s easily transportable and manageable, provides great, clean sound, and doesn’t degrade with use since the reproduction of sound doesn’t involve the constant friction of a needle or a cassette tape head. Of course, this medium has its detractors, and much more in the metal culture than other music-oriented human groups, for reasons we’ll explain later on.

Despite its advantages, CDs are very easy to damage if mistreated, so you must take the following cautions:

  • Never touch the readable surface of the CD. Grab the discs by its edges, never by the middle. It could get fingerprints on it, resulting in bad playback.
  • Always keep the CD in a protective jewelcase if you ain’t playing it. Other storing devices, such as wallets and cakeboxes, are not recommended since they could easily scratch the discs. Make sure that you have the inner tray of the CD case as clean as possible, removing all particles of dust, before storing the CD.
  • If the CD gets some dirt or dust on it, clean with a dry cloth, gently so that you barely touch the surface of the CD.
  • Keep your CDs away from humidity or high temperatures. If your CD gets splashed with water, gently dry it with a soft cloth, from center to edge, in a careful fashion so that you don’t scratch it.
  • Never use solvents or liquids of the sort to clean the CD, save for those cleaning kits available in commerce. Better yet, Just try your best to keep your CDs from getting dirt on them and they’ll be fine.
  • If your CD ever gets scratched, and those aren’t too deep into the surface, you can try one of those machines that refinish the readable surface, meaning they remove the scratches by polishing the acrylic plastic that is the transparent layer of the CD. If the scratch is too deep, or in the label side of the disc, it probably damaged the silver layer (where the audio is recorded). In that case you’re screwed. Repair kits aren’t too efective, so I wouldn’t mind with them if I’m you. DVD renting or used CD stores usually keep one of the aforementioned machines handy, and charge a small fee for the repair of a disc or several.

Also, keep in mind that straight scratches from the center to the edge of the CD are much less likely to cause your CD to malfunction when compared to scratches paralel to the circumference of the disc, for obvious reasons – a CD reproduction system can afford to lose one or a few bits without any problems, but not several of them, in which case the information (audio) might be impossible to read by the equipment.

CDRs

To record a sample from your recordings, compilations and rare albums you know you won’t easily get otherwise, CDRs are very practical. They are also cheaper than they were years ago, but the average in price have lowered in great part because of cheap quality CDRs flooding the market. In choosing your recording medium, pick a good brand of CDR: Sony, Zykon, Kodak, Mitsui. Buying the CDRs in packs of 20, 25 or 50 is cheaper in the long term as well (less value per unit).

Make sure you buy a good brand of CD burner. Favorites among the public are Asus, Sony, Samsung, LG and AOpen.

For recording, use a good software such as Nero Burning Room 9. Always record your CDRs at the lowest speed possible. Preferably, you should never burn the disc faster than 4x of speed.

The bad combination of low quality CDs, cheap CD burner equipment and excessive burning speed may cause your CDRs to fail to reproduce on the short or the long term, so be sure to spend a little more and be a bit more patient. That way your burned CDRs will last for a long time (+5 years, at least, if you pick a good brand).

For storing the CDRs, you can use either a jewelcase or a slim case, the latter tending to be more practical if you have way too many CDRs. In the last case, it is also a good idea to have an Excel sheet of all your recorded CDs so you can find them, since you can’t easily label the side of slim cases.

Care tips for CDs are equally applicable to the recorded sort. Another thing that should be considered, though, is the damage that heat can produce to the special chemical properties particular to a CDR. So, you should never place a CDR in direct sunlight. More info here.

To label your CDRs, use a water-based marker with a non-sharp tip.

Digital formats

Not much to say here. Preferred audio formats for PC playback are mp3 and FLAC. The latter allows one to keep a CD quality, lossless reproduction of the recording, with its downside being a lot heavier in individual file size than mp3. Other formats, such as .ogg, are also preferred by certain digital audio aficionados.

One thing that should be mentioned, though: if you keep a large collection of digitalized music, it is convenient to store them on a separate external hard drive in case your computer crashes or fails, like they do so often these days.

Some links on the subject you may find useful:

  • Foobar 2000 – best damn audio playback software for your computer with lots of different options for amateur and expert audio freaks.
  • FLAC codec home – to download the program/codec that allows your PC to reproduce and burn FLAC files. It includes a coding/decoding software that is light and easy to use.
  • Fraunhofer mp3 audio codec – One of the best mp3 encoders, allows to get a better quality or definition of sound.

Part II – Analog

Members of the metal culture have a natural preference for analog formats, such as tape and vinyl. Other musical subcultures share this inclination with headbangers, whether out of audio resolution considerations (electronica fans seem to be of this camp) or simply out of an indescribable mystic feel that the listener captures out of enjoying or simply owning an album on analog format. I’ve seen that most hessians prefer this for the last consideration, that is, the special aura it invokes.

Not that there aren’t any practical considerations for preferring analog over digital formats. Tapes, for example, are sturdier than CDs, which give them an advantage on physical resistance. Besides, tapes permit multiple recordings as long as its sound quality lasts (which depends on the type of cassette…more about that later).

As you all most know, the main disadvantage of analog formats is their weariness. Since sound reproduction in their case involves the use of either a head or needle which is mechanically attached to the source of the recording, the latter slowly experiences a wearing of the surface layer where the audio is recorded, resulting all of this in a progressive loss of sound quality.

Yet, as with CDs, there are certain tips that can help increase the lifespan of your tapes and CDs in order for them to provide the maximal amount of listening time and enjoyment.

Tapes

Tapes were (and still are, for some) tremendously practical for the active listener, in great part due to its portability and endurance. Besides, who didn’t start out on its metal journey without a Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden cassette on one’s walkman? Few, I guess.

  • First of all, keep your tapes from extreme temperature and humidity conditions. The recommended range is within 59 and 77° F and 40% to 60% relative humidity (that is, not wet, but not too dry either).
  • Keep your tapes away from any sort of magnetic field. Those include not only magnets, but also home appliances such as refrigerators, speakers and anything containing an electric motor.
  • Keep your tapes evenly wound, otherwise they get easily stuck on their casing and it may bring problems to sound reproduction, screwing with the tape itself and your deck as well! If your tape has a see-through casing, you should easily see uneven woundings in the rolled tape. If not, then try to roll the tape by hand to check if it presents difficulties or if it gets stuck. Solve the problem by fully rewinding your tape several times until it gets looser. If the tape is stuck in the casing, it would be better to do the process by hand, carefully so that you don’t break it. Also, be sure to rewind tapes completely after each use to maintain high performance.
  • Don’t leave your tapes in the car or other places where they may get direct sunlight or excessive heat. Remember the first tip.
  • It’s recommendable that you make quality copies of an original so that the latter lasts as long as it possibly can.

Vinyl

The LP and EP formats are a favorite for hessians and the one that carries most “mystique”. A lot of it has to do, in great part, with nostalgy: after all, in the classic era of metal the LP was THE format for albums that got released at the time, and most cover art was done specifically to fir into the large sleeves of LPs: if you want examples, you should look into Iron Maiden’s, Morbid Angel, Carnage, Dio and many, many others…the list goes on and on.

However, this particular medium requieres a lot more care to it, as vinyl is a very delicate material and the discs have some significant weaknesses that, with the arrival of the compact disc, were no longer an issue for listeners.

  • First things first: clean your records thoroughly. That is by far the most important detail you should think about. Not only the disc’s lifespan depends on it, but also its sound quality. Playing dirty records can eventually cause permanent damage to the disc, not to mention that the stylus on your record player wears more rapidly. Distilled water is recommended by many sources to be ideal for cleansing of the plastic in the record, it being a non-abrasive liquid, doesn’t leave any residues and the bottle is inexpensive. Besides, it disperses static charges and counteracts the increased conductivity from the pick-up of salt deposits form finger prints. Nonetheless, water isn’t enough. Surfactants are used as additives to enable water to be a grease solvent. Clean with a soft, anti-static cloth. Discs should be cleaned before and after each performance for the best results.
  • Handle your vinyl records as follows: keep finger contact with the edge and the labeled surface of the disc, never with the grooved surface. Remove the record from the jacket with the inner dust sleeve by bowing the jacket open by holding it against the body and applying a slight pressure with a hand. Hold a corner of the inner dust sleeve and pull the record out. Avoid pressing down onto the disc with the fingers as any dust caught between the sleeve and the disc will be pressed into the grooves. Remove the disc from the inner sleeve by bowing the sleeve and letting it slip gradually into an open hand so that the edge falls on the inside of the thumb knuckle. The middle finger should reach for the center label. Never reach into the sleeve.
  • Use inner sleeves made of polyethylene. Do not use record sleeves made of PVC. Paper made sleeves may scratch the surface of records.

Part III – Sound Equipment and Storage

We won’t stop here to review all kind of sound reproduction systems available in the market, for that would take many lines of text. A general rule that can be said about sound equipment shall, instead, be mentioned: that is, when you buy a new piece of equipment, give it a try at the store. Bring one of your CDs and check for the following:

  • Bass and mids response.
  • Speaker response @ full volume, although many stores won’t be so enthusiast about that test.

The ideal would be for you to buy one of those multi-unit hi-fi equipments that can be mounted on top of each other. Those usually are the best, for the reason that you can buy each unit from different sources and assemble your own, personalized system.

Your system needs to be dusted periodically, optimally once a day, to prevent particles of dust to reach any delicate part of the equipment, such as the lens from the CD player or the tape head. I’ve found that keeping a disc inside the CD player and a tape inside the deck while not using the stereo prevents this, in part. Also, be sure to put a piece of cardbox on top of the ventilation holes of the equipment so that dust and others don’t penetrate through them. Just make sure that you take the cardbox out when you’re using the stereo! Those ventilation holes are there for a reason, and if you obstruct them, your system may malfunction out of the heating of the components.

Your CD unit should be cleaned periodically. Electronics stores sell a kind of special CDs with little brushes on them that are made specially for the task of cleaning the lens of the unit. Using those with a once-a-month frequency can greatly augment the lifespan of the CD player.

For the tape deck, regular cleansing of the head with isopropyl alcohol is recommended. Buy a box of cotton buds and use it to apply a small amount of alcohol on the playback and recording heads. If there’s oxide, apply the cotton tip until it is removed. Give it a few seconds to dry out. Also, in the same way clean the tape guides and capstan (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, refer to this diagram). The pinch roller should also be cleaned in the same manner, this time using a mixture of water with a pinch of washing-up liquid. Do not use alcohol for the pinch roller, as it is made of rubber.

Demagnetizing the tape decks is also recommended. With use, the tape heads and guides tend to accumulate a magnetic charge that not only can interfere with the appropiate playback of the cassette, but an also destroy its high frequency content (remember what we learned about the sour relationship between tapes and magnets?). There are cassette-shaped, battery-powered demagnetisers available in commerce. Those should be applied to your decks once a month.

On vinyl record players, the following tips should be followed:

  • The stylus should be cleaned with a special kind of brush. This should be applied along the cantilever, in the direction pointed by the stylus (see here).
  • As stylus wears out, it eventually needs to be replaced. Have yours checked once a year by a specialist – usually someone who sells record players and related equipment. He will tell you if your stylus needs to be changed.
  • Place your record player on a stable, solid surface.
  • Dust it every once in a while.

Storage

This one is simple: keep your vinyl, CDs and tapes in their respective cases, and always store and stack them vertically, that way you avoid the deformation of the cases and the disc itself, in the case of vinyl. Obviously, the environment in which you store your records should have respectable temperature and humidity rates and be as clean as possible.

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Rembrandt – The Anatomy Lesson

Metal isn’t the only artform in history to portray sick imagery. Back in the “good old days” (18th century and below), when people were less afraid of seeing all sides of reality, even the most uncomfortable, genius artists made artworks like our pick of today: Rembrandt van Rijn’s “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp”.

Fitting as the insert of an Autopsy or a Carcass album, this painting shows the artist’s preference for the contrast between dark and light, with the latter only to draw more attention to the former (like metal does). The image itself portrays the urge to study the morbid in order to bring more health (again, like metal does). Its exquisite aesthetic details are carefully crafted to further draw us onto the imagery, even if we could initially feel repelled by such, and when the contemplation ends we finally see the subject as a normal, natural thing (metal’s best albums tend to do that as well).

Besides, it looks fucking metal, what else could you possibly want from it?

More info.

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Black Sheep Bred in Turbulent Times – On Metal, Hardcore Punk and Industrial

At all times, the function of art is to bring its audience as close to reality as possible, whether that reality is circumscribed to a certain group, in which its particular culture connects the group to a larger living frame, or by looking at that frame directly, not as members of race, nation or even as humans, but as conscious beings wishing to be more aware of the structure of the universe.

In healthy times, art is seen as necessary for the purpose described above. In sick, decadent times, on the other hand, the situation is drastically different. In times that are ruled by delusion and deception, true art is seen as dangerous, albeit the craft that could potentially create true works of art still exist. Such craft, however, doesn’t reach such heights in most cases, and generally the result is as empty as the values of the time the works were created.

In other words: false art is universally preferred and recognized over true art.

Three genres of music were, at least on their origins and their respective better days, not only true to the strict definition of what art is, but were created as a reaction to the present situation. Those genres are hardcore punk, industrial and heavy metal. These initially were the vehicles in which discontented youngsters with artistic talent and a sharper consciousness which allowed them to view the world in a more realistic fashion could pour their ideas and frustration in sonic form. Hardcore punk took a public-friendly style crafted by marketing and deconstructed it, making it more violent, minimalistic and less rigidly enclosed into a singular form. In the same way, industrial took mainstream music, mixed it with electronically generated sounds and turn that combination into a harsh and cold environment which reminded the listener of the monotonous sound of the industrial machinery that defines our times.

Metal was born into the industrial settings of England by taking rock music and injecting a strong dose of fatalism into it, influenced no doubt by the bleak and dehumanizing surroundings that the first metal heroes experienced. With time, the genre made gigantic leaps, evolving into a nihilistic, naturalistic and romantic artform which splitted from the mainstream forms (the “craft”) from which it initially developed.

Consequentially, those three genres of music are the most hated and ridiculed by the majority of people in today’s society. The fight against these was not only limited to finger pointing, but as a process of assimilation in which the spineless crowd filling the pockets of the mainstream music industry attempted to streamline the genres to make them more tame and accessible.

So, as much as there is false and true art, there is also false metal, false punk, and false industrial, with the proportion of true and false having a certain ratio to it. The struggle for each hessian, then, is to know the true from the false, and how? Easy: recognize that only a modest percentage of metal is worthy of your time; skew the rest; don’t listen to hipsters and other social manipulators; listen and buy only the music you most closely connect to; stay away from scenes: most are dens of manipulation in which the social takes precedence over the artistic, and you will waste valuable time listening to the drivel those people will shove down your throat, so you can be either as “open minded” or “elite” as them.

Lastly, remember the golden rule: if something (music, ideas) is hated with an irrational passion, give it a chance. It may probably be worth something. Be brave, and go against the grain, and you will reach for the best.

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Virgil – The Aeneid

Among the superb examples of classic literature produced by the once rich and productive european culture; amidst the works of a fecund civilization that have left a permanent mark on the subsequent generations, proving their relevance in all eras of human history; touching topics that are so eternal and defining of our humanity, such as the neverending strife for life on all levels; among all those works, very few pieces of writing (and art) can reach the heights of Virgil’s masterwork, the culmination of a lifetime of work and self-improving in the field of the written word.

The intention with this review, less than providing a synthesis of the book’s argument, which can be found anywhere else on the Internet, is to give the reader what we believe is the central message of such a story in a short and concise manner so you can pick the book and explore the depths of its message for yourself.

The main subject of the story is the overcoming of difficulties and the strife for better conditions of living, or a better future. In the example of a group of survivors from the destruction of the legendary Troy, them lead by the fearless and noble warrior Aeneas, as they go through a series of awful calamities one after the other, with nothing but the promise of a bright future that the mentioned group of people won’t even see for themselves, but which will be enjoyed by their descendants, the future patricians that would build the greatest civilization known to man, Virgil gives us the best example of the glory and the rewards of reaching new heights by conquering difficulties.

It is this argument that best reflects that condition of human life that modern people try so hard to hide or run away from: the unescapable fact that, if we want the good things in life, we need to make some effort to get them. Not just some meager effort, but a serious one, since calamities, the only sure things in life, and the ones that come most easily, will get in the way of our dreams. Such calamities may come in many forms: the death of a close one, the sabotage made on us by envious people, the crash of the financial market, or a meteor falling through your roof and into your room – it doesn’t matter. They are as real as the air you breath (“only death is real”, indeed) and you will need to face and go through many of them if you want to get some of the sweet fruits that the tree of life offers.

Despite the universality of its message, I feel this book applies specially to hessians and the hard path in life they choose to take. As modern warriors, wandering as misunderstood entities in the maelstrom of modern life, the analogy with the wandering trojans is self-evident. So, even thought this story doesn’t depict long haired dudes with beer guts, it fits the metalhead persona like a glove.

Grab this and learn the joy of surviving the brutal game of life, the hessian way.

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Motifs and Leitmotifs in Metal

The use of motifs and leitmotifs is very frequent in the musical genres of classical and opera, but we can also find some examples of their use in that furious contemporary “classical” brand of sound making we known as heavy metal. Here we’ll explain what they are and their application in metal music.

The Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary defines “leitmotif” as follows:

Leitmotif
(LITE-moe-teef)
[Ger., leading motif]

A recurring motif in a composition (usually an opera) which represents a specific person, idea, or emotion. This term was first applied to the operas of Richard Wagner.

(…)

Motif
(moe-TEEF)
[Fr.]

A short tune or musical figure that characterizes and unifies a composition. It can be of any length, but is usually only a few notes long. A motif can be a melodic, harmonic or rhythmic pattern that is easily recognizable throughout the composition.

Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary

A motif (without the “leit-” attached ot it) can be either melodic, rhythmic or harmonic, it doesn’t matter. It must be short in duration, though, and it must contain some importance for the structure of the composition, if not providing the backbone itself. It is not just a casual riff, but a memorable mini-tune around which parts or the whole of the composition depend on.

Motifs have been used in metal music for all of its existence. In fact, the first motif in the history of the genre is the universally recognizable three-note sequence which is the main riff of the song “Black Sabbath” by the band of the same name. What would the rest of the song be without it? Like this transcendental example, motifs are the norm, rather than the exception, in metal.

Leitmotifs, on the other hand, are motifs that are recurrent in an entire composition or album, and serve to return our minds to a particular feeling or idea. As such, these are not restricted to a single song, but frequently reappear on an album or entire work to reminds us of the object the motif evokes. An entire composition structured around leitmotifs is, then, rather than a collection of individual songs, a unit, or a large song composed itself of songs.

Leitmotifs are famously associated with opera composer Richard Wagner. Its use in metal isn’t much of a recurring happening, nor its full potential been exploited so far, but I can name a few examples of its use that will immediately ring the bell of any devoted hessian:

The acoustic short piece used as both intro and outro of Iron Maiden’s “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” album.

– Listen to the album’s intro on mp3: Moonchild (Intro)

– Listen to the album’s outro on mp3: Only The Good Die Young (Outro)

Notice that both differ solely on interpretation. The piece as the outro to the album is played slower and in a more tired fashion compared to the intro. Leitmotifs don’t have to reappear on a composition at exactly the same way all the time – rather the subtle variation between them can create a contrast, which in turn give the listener a feeling that a narration is taking place. Iron Maiden’s 1988 album is a concept work which tells the life of a clairvoyant from birth to death and it makes sense that the outro, with its more dragging mood represents the end of the life of such person.

Another example from the same album are the intro sequences to the title track and the last track. Both are strikingly similar, except that the first is slower and ominous while the second is more upbeat. Notice that the lyrics on the last track of the album show a man resigned to his fate and happy despite of it, so the altered use of the riff from the title track (which could very well be the seventh son’s main motif) makes sense from this standpoint.

– Listen to the intro riff to “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” on mp3: Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son (Intro)

– Listen to the intro riff to “Only the Good Die Young” on mp3: Only The Good Die Young (Intro)

Bathory, in its viking era, used a number of leitmotifs in its music and particularly in the “Twilight of the Gods” album. Here is but one example:

– Listen to the intro sequence of “Through Blood by Thunder” on mp3: Through Blood by Thunder (Intro)

– Listen to the intro sequence of “Blood and Iron” on mp3: Blood and Iron (Intro)

Two different intros with the same motif attached to them. If you have the album, you can also notice how the intro to “Blood and Iron” further develops until it turns into the main motif of the song, which carries it to its end. It is not unusual to slowly turn one motif into another – Wagner did that on his operas, particularly in the transition between scenes 1 and 2 of “Das Rheingold”.

– Listen to the previous motif developing into the main motif of “Blood and Iron” on mp3: Through Blood by Thunder (Motif Development)

A small example of an implied leitmotif that gets displayed on its full extension later on the album is to be found on Rotting Christ’s “Non Serviam”.

– Listen to an excerpt from “Mephesis Of Black Crystal” on mp3 (the implied leitmotif):

– Listen to an excerpt from “Saturn Unlock Avey’s Son” on mp3 (the full leitmotif):

These were only a few examples. Notice that the use of leitmotifs isn’t just restricted to concept albums. See how many more you can find on your CDs.

To learn more about leitmotifs, visit this excellent link: Leitmotifs in Der Ring des Nibelungen – an introduction.

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A year in Norwegian metal – a purgatory of recombinations

Mord – Necrosodomic Abyss
Satyricon – The Age of Nero
Throne of Katarsis – Helvete – Det Iskalde Mørket
Aura Noir – Hades Rises
Celestial Bloodshed – Cursed, Scarred and Forever Possessed
Keep of Kalessin – Kolosus
Blood Red Throne – Souls of Damnation
1349 – Revelations of the Black Flame
Mare – Throne of the Thirteenth Witch EP

Mord – Necrosodomic Abyss

The new Osmose recruits Mord seem to have been actually born in Poland, then relocated to near Kristiansand, which is remembered as the location of a violent death metal sect in support of Varg Vikernes back in 1991 and the origin of Tchort (Blood Red Throne, Emperor, Green Carnation). Not quite living up to the bloody and progressive traditions of the area, Mord specializes in a cold, modern, thrashed-out black metal sound that could scientifically have been developed in a norsecore factory to create an endless amount of productive clones. Maybe because they are originally from Poland, they do seem to possess a better grasp of what makes Nordic black metal good than most Scandinavians around exhibit. They keep the album vile and to the point, imitating the blasphemous rhythm guitar of, besides Euronymous, Ivar Bjørnson during the phase of Enslaved when they dropped most of their classical influence and switched to riff rock. Later Ancient springs to mind in tracks such as “Opus II” which is essentially is a meeting of pop and black metal in a graveyard infested with drunked teenagers who wear makeup and like to flash stupid expressions in photos. It may sound bad but in fact, as guitar rock or something, it excels. It is simply lacking in the Romantic nature worship, warrior ideology and mysticism of Burzum, Ildjarn and the other greats. So while musically this has potential for an above average Norwegian black metal album (even though these ideas are 15 years late) it ends up as one more relic that brings black metal closer to mainstream acceptance and youth culture phenomena today, and no-one will remember it in ten years.

Satyricon – The Age of Nero

It should be obvious to anyone with even the slightest exposure to black metal music and ideas that while it’s arguable that he ever was a genius, for the last decade Satyricon has really gone far out of his way to create the most crowd pleasing, catchy, insipid rock’n’roll version of black metal. It sounds quite redundant to say in 2009 that this kind of music is abhorrent to “Euronymous’ ideals” or the Weltanschauung of the scene that existed in 1991-95 but I can’t help it. This is simply so far from anything that was great in old Norwegian black metal, what made me and so many others interested and follow the events and music with awe inspired by mystique. In this music there is no trace of passion, only of pure professional approach to musicianship and studio production, not even oriented to mastery of the style (in jazz sense) but to a desire to make money and gain profit. This sort of capitalist black metal makes for a new genre in itself. Mechanical, vapid and outdated, it mostly sounds like a collection of random groove metal tunes given a superficial black metal treatment (raped by the half beaten corpse of norsecore) for the mainstream listeners who want to get a piece of black metal’s evil but refuse to go all the way to possession. Precise riffs and metronomic drumming approach Rammstein-like monotony as they are arranged into the laziest sequence and development imaginable. Frost’s sometimes interesting drumscapes have been lost to the adult contemporary studio values and his fans are probably better off listening to 1349 or one of the other bands he plays/played in. Satyr is not trying to play Voivod riffs anymore (as he was doing in Rebel Extravaganza) nor can he duplicate the fast thrashy parts of Nemesis Divina – these new riffs by Satyr have a habit of getting old before the song is over.

Throne of Katarsis – Helvete – Det Iskalde Mørket

While the gloomy shroud of 21st century black metal clichés weighs like lead upon Throne of Katarsis, a sense of ambition and greatness, the carefully followed tread of frozen melody including an airy vastness copied from In the Nightside Eclipse or early Taake and some elegant and progressive forms makes this rise above the level of total weakness. Like Isvind and Tsjuder, Throne of Katarsis explore the melodic territory in between Darkthrone and Emperor in an effort to replicate the impression of transcendent evil boiling in the depths. Fast percussion underlies the sonic depression of dubiously plodding, soaring but monotone and unenergetic low production (Grieghallen copy) guitars repeating spherical themes (rotating the minor chords “De Mysteriis” style during the slow parts over and over again to give the melancholic feeling) over to vastness. The best of the musical ideas are hidden by the desire to create a standard black metal album, as they probably succumbed to creating an album too quickly and thinking that it’s enough to put out cold and intensity-devouring two-penny riffs that have been overused for 20 years – bulk Norwegian black metal in good and bad.

Aura Noir – Hades Rise

I do remember the Apollyon/Aggressor duo Aura Noir as a high-energy, motor powered and tradition respecting black metal cult from the days of the bewitching “Dreams Like Deserts” MCD, never afraid to rock out nor experiment with unusual guitar and drum techniques – even cross-quoting with Ved Buens Ende material. Something really devastating has happened and I don’t know if it has to do with Aggressor’s falling down from a balcony or something, but they sound totally drunk, tired and old on this album. I mean, if you think that Darkthrone nowadays sounds like a lazy beer-swilling band from the pub, try this one! I can hear they are trying to play like Sodom, but I can’t hear any Germanic “raaaaaah!” mania. I can hear Autopsy, but I can’t hear the stinking amputated corpses rising all around to wreak their vengeance upon the societies of the living. I can hear hardcore, but I can’t hear the decisive violent power of wrath against conformity. So, what is there left? It sounds a bit Southern Lord-y – you know, ironic old metal fan hipster who likes to get stoned out of his mind and listen to feel-good old-times metal. By the way, the drum production sounds like MIDI – utter failure. If you want real speed/black metal power, go for the originals, this one is a weak joke.

Celestial Bloodshed – Cursed, Scarred and Forever Possessed

It would be quite interesting to see if someone, somewhere in Norway, has during the year released black metal or death metal which does not a) try to duplicate the old Grieghallen soundscape with in the most generic no-sense-of-style manner, b) fill their album with a load of budget riffs called depressive black metal by the kids (which is actually C, D, E minor again… and again…). Anyway, while Celestial Bloodshed has ripped off these ideas from better bands, they are 50% better in their songcraft than Watain, Funeral Mist and other generic black metal of the era. Also, they have been able to create inner beauty towards the realization of the music in melodic intensity. Additionally, the fullness of the soundscape and the implications of the structure make this release more grim, oppressive and grinding than the mainsteam manipulations of Norwegian metal which can not be but a good thing. After a beautiful intro which sounds somewhat like one of the demos from Equimanthorn (Absu members’ ritual project) the album pounds into a lexicon of guitar techniques borrowed from a range of musicians from Mayhem to Enslaved, with a dynamic range from slow romantic soulseeking to blasphemous speeds, sometimes bridged with jarring changes, while death metal influenced vicious, likeable and personal (down to some insistent mannerisms) vocals pace like hammer upon an anvil the grim predictions of mortal future and the drummer operates battery like Faust and Hellhammer used to in the early 90′s. While all of this is not fully developed yet into pure communication, it speaks with instant, amazed, satanic impressions of life facing the darkness of Infinity – Celestial Bloodshed has replicated the old school with care, honesty and vicious intent.

Keep of Kalessin – Kolosus

Keep of Kalessin arouse my interest during their demo days, as 1997′s “Skygger av Sorg” repeated the style of old Satyricon in a series of simple, emotional song fragments that revealed a sad beauty lying underneath the grim soundscape. I had heard some less interesting newer material but it is truly shocking what they have submerged into now – an arrogant, over-produced tribute to the honor of Greek warriors through quasi-talented commercial death metal. Synth washes and expressive vocals (in the vein of Nergal when he’s really pissed off in the later Behemoth albums) fill this piece of plastic because they want to sound big and they want to play on a stadium. I am convinced that someone with their musicianship should be able to create a listenable and consistent album, but these super fast blastbeats and commercial heavy metal oriented song dynamics from quiet to loud make this just a faux extreme version of something like Spearhead or Deströyer 666, made worse by the angry shouter vocalist. The people interested only in dry technique and production standards will love this for being an emphatic and empty opera of sharp drumwork and the constantly shifting death metal type fast guitars and entertainment value. They are also happy that it lacks the primal natural force of old Norwegian metal, because it might be distrubing. The sense of space created should be one of a studio or a big venue, instead of a woodland crypt, right? This amount of polishing emphasizes the superficiality of the entire composure, down to metalcore action computer game synchronized by MIDI in Kolossus, where accurate but inconsequential fast drum beats follow cheap-ass tremolo melodies from the pits of norsecore Hell and the vocalist sounds angry at people at the nearby mall and emo pop chorus in “Ascendant” which doesn’t even fit the music underneath. Likewise the arabic solos in the middle part of “Kolossus” don’t seem to have anything to do with the metal riffs, nor do the “300″ soundtrack reminiscent bits with synths and tablas. Whoever has produced this must be a commercial minded jerk.

Blood Red Throne – Souls of Damnation

Tchort from Kristiansand was a newcomer to the death metal scene with his band Green Carnation right when the genre went out of fashion because of Euronymous’ hatefulness towards it and while that name was resurrected for Tchort’s progressive metal project he formed the neo-death metal group Blood Red Throne at the end of the millennium. While not having heard the early Green Carnation material, it’s easy to hear from this that some trace of early influence from excellent bands like Grave and Cadaver does exist, but none of their ability to turn basic riff structures into progressive and morbid magic. This type of song construction mostly resembles Cannibal Corpse and Deicide during the latter’s worst days of In Torment In Hell, filling songs with groovy mosh parts, faux-brutal growls and the drummer and bass player (from Deeds of Flesh) insisting wimpily on always playing to the beat of the riff. If this is the king on Norway’s death metal throne since Cadaver disbanded, it is quite sad actually. Most good (death) metal is memorable from its melodies, however convoluted and vicious they may be, but Souls of Damnation is mostly simple rhythmic phrases like guitar exercise patterns for introducing mechanical creation technique for sub-Florida death metal. Like all boring death metal, it severely underestimates its audience. I mean, many listeners do like death metal that sounds like basic no-frills brutal grind, but this worthless chugging goes too far. It seems like the whole album lacks even one interesting melody part or arrangement.

1349 – Revelations of the Black Flame

One of the newer Oslo bands mostly known from relentless and uncompromising fast black metal, 1349 surprise with their latest effort in refusing to conform to the rules of the flock. This time conjuring echoes of Samael’s Ceremony of Opposites and later Mayhem, 1349 composes suffocated, devilish and industrial tinged black metal sounds which despite being somewhat predictable, retain the doomy beauty of an industry of inferno. The loneliness of space as described in Moorcock’s trippy novel “The Black Corridor” and the classic fantasy movie “Alien” fill this Gigerian landscape of planets, threats and biomechanical blasphemies. Bodies twitch into contorted positions in a sea of light. The psychedelic feel is enhanced by a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Set the Controls for the Heart of Sun” featuring Tom G. Warrior. Several tracks use minutes to unfold submerged ambient and experimental soundscapes, while there is some Red Harvest type digital manipulation featured in many of the metal songs too. The arrangement is dramatic and regal, with Frost’s drumming skills put to good use. Multiple vocal styles herald the theatrical nature. Some interesting lead guitars add desperate wails to the background. Some parts are in their wicked minimalism close to what one could also expect to, say, Beherit to compose if he were in a more commercial high budget recording project, making this one of the more worthwhile efforts from Norway last year in producing new vistas of black metal.

Mare – Throne of the Thirteenth Witch EP

This little EP from Mare, one of the infamous Trondheim cults tends to sound a bit like Live in Leipzig era Mayhem recording in a sewer infested with rats and worms and the decrepit and rotten soundscape makes this one an aesthetically more attractive listen than most of the studio produced turds. Intuitively they grasp the idea of structuring long songs in the old Emperor vein so that while the bits and pieces are redundant, it is a journey through minimalist music themes into the realization and acceptance of the power of darkness. Slow, crawling, anti-logical repetition of simple melody (where the keyboards add a tasteful of old Enslaved) make it a bit of an un-musical experience – the composition seems to be mostly oriented to the fans of droning soundscape whereas the planning and calculation in the overstated reverb, vocal sound (while Kvitrim is good at pacing) and lack of invention in the riffs suggest seem to be aimed for the black metal consumer. But it is deconstructive, degenerate and deceitful music – for pure ideas, about as good as the best of the bunch reviewed here. An ambience and sense of space is reached, the Faustian concept of man as a warrior who travels and explores the universe, only to relinquish his individuality to the higher natural order – in death and rebirth.

Written by Devamitra

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The Ugly Side of Life is Pure Beauty for the Hessian

There’s a very nice short story from the booklet of Burzum’s album Filosofem that reminds me a lot of the misunderstood path that the hessian chooses as life:

Creeping And Crawling, Rustling And Fluttering

There are two natural lights in this world, the sun and the moon. The first distorts the appearance of the other, often until it is unrecognizable. The sun gives us colour, warmth and clarity, while the moon gives us no colour, coldness and unclarity. We live in the sunlight, and we make artificial sunlight, after Arvakr and Alsvinnr, send by Sol, have drawn down the sun in sea in the West, because we like colour, warmth and clarity. The starting-point of our reality lies in this light; when Naglfaris’ wife, Night, comes, our world disappears in a certain way. She is illuminated by a light, that we don’t like, the colourless, cold and indistinct moonlight. Strange beings show themselves in the woods and the people draw back into their reliable, small houses. Out there, only the forces of darkness reign, yes, in the most true meaning of the word. The world becomes a total different one, for some the world becomes a place worth living. For those, who want to challenge these giants, who are brought to us by the moon in the shape of uncontrollable powers of nature, the world finally becomes a place really worth living in.

Booklet of Filosofem (English translation), Burzum.org

We live in a world where light and darkness interact with each other to conform the whole of the universe with both its living and inanimated elements.

Most people in our modern era would like to see only the light and forget about the other side of the coin. In this way, humans become self-centered and irresponsible as we mentally split from any notion that would seem scary or unconfortable. Hell, we don’t even watch the killing that takes place to put steaks on our table. Hence, most of us fail to see any connection(s) between our actions and the ensuing negative consequences towards our world. Ever wondered why human society is so fucked up, like the lyrics of Napalm Death, Morbid Angel, Slayer and countless other acts have been telling us throughout the years? Because society is essentially an undifferentiated mass of people that agree on very few things, many of them childish and self-destructive, like this mentality.

That’s what metal sought to fight by offering a morbid, depressing and yet very real view of the negative side that our enlightened, yet pussified society tries so pathetically to hide from: war, plague, death, blood, guts, natural selection, Satan, witchcraft, environmental death, stupid religions, stupid secular beliefs and so on and on, the purpose of it impeled by this one thought: that the only way to live sanely is to recognize both sides of the coin and embrace them as equal parts of existence.

That’s a perspective that has been from the very beginning of the metal genre. Even its forefathers had this very death metal view of life:

We’ve all got this opinion about the world today, you see. We’re aware that, at some time, a big change is going to come. With SAD WINGS OF DESTINY, we’re telling people to enjoy life, but at the same time be prepared for something that could happen. Tracks like ‘Genocide’, ‘Tyrant’, ‘Epitaph’ and ‘Prelude’ seem to us to follow this idea through – they act as possible preludes to this change…

(…)

We don’t want to be set up as prophets or disciples; we’re just five aware guys stuck in the middle of a lot of complacent people. Now everybody enjoys life, but we think it should be brought to people’s attention that, at any moment, we could all be wiped out… We’re far from being pessimists.

Judas Priest’s interview with Sounds Magazine (May 8, 1976), Judas Priest Info Pages

Like the music they love, hessians firmly believe on the crude realities of individual mortality and the potential collective doom that could be triggered by our stupidity, irresponsibility and delusional beliefs: these are the strange beings that show themselves in the woods at night. Only instead of retreating to our comfy houses and pretend they don’t exist, we choose to face them.

It’s for this reason that hessians like to live their lives on the edge of things, sometimes by doing a lot of reckless behaviour, but mostly by having beliefs that are considered taboo by the majority of people. We embrace those taboos joyfully because they give life their meaning. Denying them is to deny life itself, and in this process we kill our souls and become faceless drones fighting for political power, money and other delusions given by the shadows cast by the fire in the chimneys of our warm, small and reliable houses.

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Varg Gets out of the Can – Our Views and Thoughts

The release of Burzum’s mastermind Varg Vikernes from jail after fulfilling his sentence for the killing of his former friend and band partner Øystein Aarseth has raised a literal thunderstorm on the ethereal world of the net. The aforementioned phenomenon is not unusual if one knows the Internet and the people who frequent it, and was therefore easily predicted.

After all, the profile of someone like Varg – a convicted murderer (killing another human being is always bad, kids, remember that) with extreme political and racial views that don’t make him the most likeable person, at least for most people, and who gave many bogus declarations in the past (the ratio of truth vs. bullshit being relative depending on whether you’re talking with an admirer or a detractor) – is not the most favorable for a person with the truest intention to be left alone, but makes for great talking on message boards.

The thing about all the talking and bloviating is that, save for a small few who either don’t care or outright hate Varg’s music, most detractors will readily admit that the works under the Burzum moniker are worthy of consideration, and even of admiration. It’s like people still have a problem separating the person from his works.

But I’ll leave that well alone. The man’s release still needs to be commented because of the newest declarations made by Vikernes. Apparently, he will not completely shut himself from the world and will try to rekindle his music and writing careers.

After the years of continuous reunions from older, legendary bands being most of them complete flops and dissapointments, yours truly had virtually lost all faith in this phenomenon, until certain albums by certain bands like Celtic Frost and Beherit showed that reunions weren’t just mere vehicles to regain a fame and name that should have been better kept under wraps. The aforementioned acts actually showed a concern for metal’s artistic decadence and came back to prove how it’s really done (the tag of most reunions out there, but this time they really accomplished that).

Like Beherit’s, Burzum’s musical comeback should be taken with initial skepticism – after all, reunions and the like haven’t lost their essentially gimmicky nature -, but I really hope, having faith on the man’s talent and how it has maintained itself through the years, that he will be able to make an artistically honest effort that would contribute bringing metal back to life like Engram was.

In any case, one should also expect much on his future writing career, a topic that isn’t much talked about since Varg isn’t really famous for being a writer, having his music and all of the norwegian soap opera taken the forefront. It’s unfair, really, given that, despite the fact that Vikernes wasn’t a born writer, like his clumsy early essays prove, he has, throughout the years, developed an engaging style and it will be worthwhile to see what it results from that. That said, a book elaborating on scandinavian and related mythos, expanding on the short stories of Filosofem, for example, could be quite something. But, like life roughly teaches us, we should not get ahead of things and instead wait patiently.

A new Burzum album and one or two books worth considering is what’s on the future for Mr. Vikernes and the ones who might care. Oh, and there’s also a movie, but we won’t get into that…

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