Tom G. Warrior agrees with our review of Triptykon – Melana Chasmata

April 22, 2014 –

tom_g_warrior-triptykon

As always, Warrior is self-deprecating and honest to a fault:

At any rate, I, too, think Melana Chasmata might be the most deficient post-Celtic Frost reunion album I have been involved in. I have made uncounted such statements within the band during the extended time we were working on the album, and there exists a long string of very unambiguous mails to this effect, addressed to the band’s management and to our partners at Century Media.

Melana Chasmata was an exceedingly difficult and complex album to make, and that is never a good sign. There were reasons for these difficulties, and they were far from superficial, on more than just one level. In the end, I couldn’t have worked on this album for even one more day, even though I seriously pondered at least a remix, if not far more drastic revisions. But I eventually felt I needed to wrap it up and thus also conclude the entire emotional landscape attached to it.

Frankly, I personally am utterly puzzled by the extremely favourable opinions the album has garnered from most in our audience as well as from reviewers, record company, management, and fellow band members. My own stance is far, far more critical, and I have so far been unable to listen to the album as a whole. The faint light on the horizon, for me, is that I felt the same way about To Mega Therion in late 1985. Only a few years down the road did I begin to digest that album and its production, eventually enabling me to think of it as one of Celtic Frost’s most significant albums.

The difference perhaps is that To Mega Therion encapsulated what many were feeling but did not yet know how to say, where Melana Chasmata encapsulates what many are saying, but not what they are feeling.

Call for papers for Modern Heavy Metal: Markets, Practices, Cultures conference

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The international academic research conference Modern Heavy Metal: Markets, Practices, Cultures has issued a “call for papers” or request that those of you with something to write on this topic announce your thesis and send in your paper(s). This conference is hosted by the Aalto School of Business in conjunction with the International Society for Metal Music Studies and will occur from June 8-12, 2015.

According to its description, the conference focuses on this nexus of metal’s growth: “The evolution of metal, as any other music genre, is impacted by the technological and economic revolution that has radically reshaped the forms of music production, delivery, consumption and culture – let alone the role of social media in communication, community building and fandom. Altogether, metal is embracing new fans and markets, creating new practices, forming new cultures, while treasuring the strong and polymorphous legacy of the genre.” To address this, the conference participants plan to analyze and explicate “the current standing of metal; the plethora of its forms, cultures, practices, and markets.”

For those who have an opinion on metal-as-industry as it has come about in the post-1994 years when it left underground and transitioned to being aboveground but a recognized “niche market,” much like in the 1970s, this conference is an excellent time to record those thoughts in orderly and studious fashion and present them to an audience of not just fellow metalheads but also academics and industry. The organizers invite input of many forms:

We are particularly interested in contributions shedding light on the markets, practices and cultures, faced by the metal practitioners and fans in the current multifaceted and global expression of heavy metal and its countless forms and sub-genres. The event is open not only for academics focusing on metal studies (in business studies, cultural studies, social sciences, humanities, musicology, arts, and other fields) but also for scholars from the wide range of popular music and popular culture studies. We warmly welcome also views from “the outside” to discuss and compare metal with other genres and cultural forms and helps in positioning metal in the bigger picture of cultural production and consumption.

The suggested themes include (but are not limited to):

  • Metal music industry and markets; global and local views, formation and structure of markets, entertainment and cultural industries
  • Metal management; strategic thinking, branding, visual communication in metal, metal export/import, leadership and roles, creative management
  • Metal practices; music, production, technology, performance, delivery
  • Metal cultures; fandom and fan communities, local communities, transnational/global communities, tribalism metal and social media, mainstream and subcultures, metal generations, gender and metal, artistic identity
  • Form and philosophy of the metal genre
  • Sound and structure of metal music
  • Metal narratives, lyrics, and storytelling
  • Metal and belief systems, metal and religion
  • Politics, ethics and moral of metal
  • Artistic and aesthetic considerations; metal (in) art, metal representations, aesthetic experience, bodily experience
  • History, present and future of metal; transformations of the genre
  • Scope and methods of metal studies
  • Metal on the borderline; positions and connections of metal within the popular music and popular culture context
  • Various topics exploring the phenomena and representations of metal and related genres.

Alongside with more traditional research papers, novel and creative approaches to research are strongly encouraged. Theoretical reviews, practical case studies, conceptual studies, methodological papers, ethnographical reports, lyrical and visual analyses, qualitative and quantitative approaches, and various other forms and approaches are supported. With the long abstract and paper process, we hope that many new studies get ignited and completed for the conference.

Please note that the paper review process comprises two stages: abstract and full paper. Final acceptance is based on the full paper.

For more information, see the Call for Papers announcement.

Another take on the Hellfest porn angle

April 18, 2014 –

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By now, you’ve probably heard that France’s Hellfest had been planning to team up with a porn site to provide entertainment at the show. Naturally, two sides have formed, the pro side who think either this might be cool or it should be allowed, and the con side which thinks it’s a bad idea.

I’m going to join the con side at a meta level by saying that I think we should be very careful about involving any industry with metal, including the “metal industry” (which should be an oxymoron) itself. Industry wants the opposite of music quality; it wants a tractable fan-base that will buy whatever comes out so long as it has some “new” quality, like using a trombone or a different singer.

Pornography is many things. There’s a moral argument against it from conservatives, which is that it debases the family; there’s also a moral argument against it from liberals, which is that it degrades women. Probably both are true to some degree, but it’s also true that women and men both voluntarily join up to participate both in the films and in purchasing the eventual product. Either it’s not debasing/degrading, or some people want that experience or at least don’t mind it.

But the real issue here is economic. People are already leery of Toyota’s Scion imprint sponsoring metal shows, or past sponsorship deals with alcohol companies. There’s no reason we should be less skeptical here just because porn is an “underground” industry (like the “metal industry”). It will still try to infiltrate and use you for its own ends, metal fans, because to it you represent dollar signs. Does the money go into the music, or the… ah… you know?

Explore alternative religion: Hail Satan

rosemarys_baby

One of our readers sent this in, and in the interest of exposing our readers to alternative religions and expanding all of our horizons and being open-minded, we present this manifesto:

Bathed in the Black Sun – An Initiation

Welcome to the gateway of The Grotto of the Ibex Glade, a group of Satanists that celebrate the entropic gift of life for its own reason alone. Here we have a conglomerate of positive humanistic convictions that we assert, but in respect of the individual reserve for suggested option to our members. Our primary goal is distinctively humanistic, in that we support the isolate, psyche-centric convictions and growth that covers all domains of the individual. Such love for freedom has been damned by religious organization, within and without, for too long of a time. Though our philosophical meta-theology may cover a portion of needs, the way of Satan will always boil down to the elemental responsibility of yourself to yourself.
I would refer to our specific branch of Satanism as “Atavistic Satanism,” in that we oftentimes revert to our ancestral roots of the Black Arts. We launch from a paradigm that is paleo-Pagan in approach, since Satan is far older than the Christianity and Judaism that we all know so well. Throughout the ages of man, the adversary has been the nucleus of all mythic tales that revolve around the will of man breaking the bonds of tyranny. Since reflexively we can judge that the organized structures of man are counter-stratified, rewarding the least merited with wealth and hierarchy, we can view the adversary, and its effect on man in a purified, atavistic sense within the context of these tales- the maxim of elevated mythic study has always viewed the trickster as the culture hero. A full etymology would be inappropriate in this introduction, therefore we will reserve that for a separate piece of writing.
The world was born from the primal soup of the chaotic void, and before the orphic cosmogenesis of the cross-cultural creation, it was this power, this Dark and Balancing Force of Chaos that is Nature that called itself into order- and for what purpose? Satanism is concerned with life. Life itself can loosely be defined as movement, going against the grain and flux. The heart pumps the blood, and the neurons fire in the brain – we can observe life. Satan is life, and Satan is death. Satan is the Dark and Balancing Force in Nature. Therefore, we as Atavistic Satanists actively work to destroy all useless and programmed philosophic binaries, including light/dark, good/evil, life/death. We all must share in the experience, since death is a process in life – it is unavoidable, and therefore not separate.
The Grotto of the Ibex Glade relies heavily on the writings of Anton LaVey, specifically with The Satanic Bible being our primary doctrine. The reason we are not affiliated with The Church of Satan is because the atmosphere and scene in the Church of Satan has changed with nearly every decade, in that its original purpose seems too far different from its current approach. We however do not discourage membership in the Church of Satan. We are highly appreciative of its historical function, and recognize many figures in its priesthood, including its current High Priest, as highly intelligent, influential key-players in the culture of Satanism. We do not restrict dual-membership with any other group, inside or outside of The Grotto of the Ibex Glade. This is a cabal of like-minded elites that are courageous enough to view life as the great adventure- which is the self-identified function of the trans-folkish culture hero- Satan.
We refuse to subject our members to masonic degrees of recognition. A simple, uncomplicated admission of nature and man’s cooperative office is all that is necessary to view Satan within a favorable light, cogniscent or not of its symbolism. We offer a Left-Hand Path oriented program of a heavy occult praxis, in active and passive currents. Though our system is influenced by Kabbalah, the Thelema of Aleister Crowley and the Witch Cult of Western Europe, we are uniquely and unabashedly Satanic above all other adjectives in magical expression, regardless of how hermetic and pagan our theology goes.
Our teachings come free, and at no cost other than your own willingness to dedicate yourself to the Left-Hand Path. By following the Left-Hand Path you are by proxy serving yourself and mankind as a whole. If you’d like further information of how to get involved, contact the Satanist who has been assigned for public relations in your geographic area listed below.

In nomine Dei nostri Satanas Luciferi excelsi!

Contact: SigLaufeyJarson@gmail.com

In his spare time, Sig Laufey Jarson composes for Bacchanal:

Documentary Lone Survivor – Paul Speckmann and the story of Master soliciting funds

April 17, 2014 –

paul_speckmann-lone_survivor

Way back in the early 1980s, a band in the Chicago area began making the transition from speed metal to a proto-death metal style. It transitioned through punk and oddly retained a lot of elements of 1960s rock, but was part of the formative path toward death metal along with Bathory, Slayer, Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, Sepultura and Sodom before Death or Morbid Angel had ever recorded.

Three decades after that rocky start, two metal journalists are attempting to record the life and times of Paul Speckmann with a documentary entitled Lone Survivor – Paul Speckmann and the story of Master. The filmmakers bill the film as not just a Speckmann history, but “the story of anyone who has chased a dream and endured the victories and defeats that come with the journey.”

Filmmakers Jeff Tandy and Will Wulff are tackling this project from a zero-budget start. Wulff is a UC Irvine film graduate who attracted the attention of Paul Speckmann with a graduate project short film. Tandy is a 20-year music veteran and freelance metal journalist with extensive experience in the death metal field.

Record Store Day 2014

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International Record Store Day, an attempt at preservation by celebration for the category of independent record stores, kicks off this week on April 19. The general idea is that indie record stores offer up some vinyl and rarities on sale and hope for higher attendance.

Some of the participating stores are offering metal (such as Vinal Edge Records in the Heights, above). If you don’t mind fending off the hipsters with a machete and elbowing aside diehards (nostalgia buffs), you might be able to find some good deals and fight back against the digital encroachment on record collecting at the same time.

Interview with - - - 

April 13, 2014 –

- - -

For those who caught our review of the - - - /Dawning split some months ago, the intentional mystery behind - - -  may have created some interest. Artists disguising themselves is nothing new; all of black metal disguised themselves under pseudonyms and paint like nocturnal vigilantes. Authors such as Thomas Pynchon are famous for their reclusive refusal to be photographed or interviewed. And in occult and ambient music, the situation gets even more obscure.

- - -  create music that sounds like a heavy metal hybrid with the vaguely occult black metal of the style that Deathspell Omega made famous, but with a mix of heavy metal in the balance such as one might find from Paradise Lost or Primordial. The result floats gently through the speakers and is both familiar and highly distant. We were fortunate to gain access to the concealed personality behind - - -  for a short interview on the nature of existence, music and possibly why black metal has lost its way.

When did - - -  originate, and what can you tell us about the lineup?

I wrote a lot of minimalistic music when I was about 15-16 years old. Back then I didn’t have a guitar, just an old keyboard. All the music I wrote, I wrote down with the help of some MIDI-software. I didn’t think I would do anything with the MIDI-files, I just wanted to write some music. Several years later I found all those MIDI-files (about 50-60 tracks) and thought it would be fun to add drums and some guitars. Thus was the music of - - -  born.

The lineup is just me. On some tracks a friend of mine sings.

The music you play has a lot in common with both avantgarde black metal and the type of instrumentally advanced heavy metal that Therion ventured into with its third album. What style do you identify as your own, and what are your biggest influences?

When people ask in general what music I play, I usually answer that I play heavy metal. There are so many genres in the metal corpus so just to begin answering what kind of metal one is playing is rather impossible. And if heavy metal doesn’t suffice I’d say I play dragon metal.

For the piano compositions I’ve had the great Flemish composer Wim Mertens as a big influence. Also Michael Nyman, Roberto Cacciapaglia and Ludovico Einaudi. The guitars are just buzzing tremolo melodies to accompany the piano tracks.

Much of your work seems to be based around the notion of secrets; if not outright secrets themselves, the revelation of hidden meaning. Do you think there are hidden meanings in life around us? Are these metaphysical or material?

To answer the first question: Yes, I do think there are meanings in life around us. If this meaning is hidden or not I can’t really tell. To acknowledge that there is meaning around us is in itself a great step toward a life that isn’t nihilistic and/or fatalistic. But then you’ll have to validate whether these meanings are good or bad. I’ve chosen to believe that the meanings I’ve found in life are good ones. I don’t know this by necessity and I can’t persuade anyone that this is the right path. I believe that there is a reality and that I, as a human being, am capable of knowing something about it.

Since I have to relate to a material world to even begin to grasp the metaphysics, I’d have to say “yes” on this question (I interpreted it as an inclusive disjunction). I don’t think any materialistic substance can hold a Principle (of something higher). We interact bodily with the materialistic world and with our mind (soul), through the study of metaphysics, the Principles (how to know the meanings epistemologically).

Why did you choose the name “- - - “?

I used to name my music project files that way. And then the name stuck.

As - - -  goes on, do you think you have “matured” or “improved”? Is there a difference?

Maybe lyrically, but not musically. I still use the old MIDI-files I wrote several years ago.

Where will you go next with - - - ? Will there be more recordings, a change in style or a different look at things?

I have no idea. I think I will try to write something new from scratch. It will probably not sound exactly the same.

What personally attracted you about underground metal, and keeps you bonded to it twenty years past its glory days?

Probably the creativity. There are a lot of interesting bands that have a genuine sound or have really talented musicians. There is always something new and fresh that you can find in the great sea of underground bands. You don’t see the same creativity around the big names in metal.

Are your songs based around symbolism from which riffs are created, or do you base them around riffs and layer symbolism on top of those?

If by symbolism you mean the lyrics then: yes. I usually have some tracks ready when I begin writing the lyrics. Then I puzzle them all together.

If by symbolism you mean that I have a clear idea about what the tracks is going to be about, then: no. The lyrics are written separately from the music.

If someone wanted to find out more — but not too much — about - - - , where should they look?

Look toward where the sunrise, and in to the names of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite’s divine. Otherwise you should try google: “- - - “.

Goatcraft – The Blasphemer

April 12, 2014 –

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While dark ambient provides a set of moods that metal listeners can relate to, it generally aims for simpler instrumentation than metal fans are accustomed to, and falls short of the dark yet violent atmosphere of death metal. Goatcraft merges horror movie soundtracks and dark ambient into “necroclassical,” a form of music created with a digital piano as its leading voice that creates a dense texture of melodic development underneath the soaring and expanding moods of dark ambient.

Created by the mastermind behind some of the music of After Death and other post-death metal projects, Goatcraft expands on the style of its previous work All For Naught with a greater tendency toward melodic development and more distinctive songs. This in itself is a great achievement, since solo piano is somewhat limited in that a certain number of techniques must be repeated to maintain the rhythmic clarity that fans are accustomed to from drum-commanded genres. But where All For Naught attempted to hammer out a death metal-like rhythm, on The Blasphemer Goatcraft shows greater enmeshing of the eerie melodies that could underscore a horror movie and the sustained atmospheres of the darker side of electronic music such as Danzig’s Black Aria or Dead Can Dance.

What makes Goatcraft compelling is that it ventures beyond the somewhat static loops of dark ambient and the more pop/rock-oriented music of electronica. The artist has stopped trying to translate rock and metal into a piano sound, and instead is seeking his own voice. While technique is often very similar, melodies diverge greatly which gives each song its own distinctive feel. These melodies also grow and develop beyond the circularity of most radio music which repeats everything twice and then reformulates it, developing instead more like the scenes of movie of futile and suicidal battle. To keep the level of ambiguity high, Goatcraft often develops its songs to a peak and then recapitulates its themes in a new direction before fading away, stating less rather than more and gesturing toward what exists behind the curtain of time.

The Blasphemer represents a maturation of the approach of All For Naught with new songs that take greater advantage of the musical prowess of its progenitor. In this more distinctive voice, Goatcraft is able to get beyond technique and aim more toward the crafting of melodies to fit a situation, which is why this concept album based on the paintings of William Blake stands out. If Goatcraft has a new frontier, it is to continue developing technique alongside melody to make songs even more distinct, but the band has shaped “necroclassical” into a unique and distinctive style in the process of its own growth. While much of this material sounds straight out of an occult horror movie centered in misty graveyards, the more aggressive and pummeling piano attack underscores these dark themes with a more physical presence, grafting onto them a menace that most dark keyboard music cannot provide. It will be interesting to see how this band refines itself further in the future.

GOATCRAFT began as a vision of frustration. Occult music had died a crass death, imitated into candy piece fragments of its original vision. Death metal had been absorbed by the insatiable obese monster that is rock music and had lost its spirit of tempestuous power, replaced instead by lite jazz and creeling self-pitying children. Even the rising dark ambient and neoclassical scenes seemed afloat on a river of fast food grease; sweltering in their own indirection.

With this massive failure pressing on his nerves like a forgotten shell fragment from a war long lost, GOATCRAFT’s sole member Lonegoat decided in 2010 to overcome doubts and re-double the attack. What was at first a keyboard attack to rival the sonic intensity of death metal quickly became layers of neoclassical piano centering on dark concepts, and later, with the addition of soundtrack-like dark ambient lush atmosphere, an entirely new type of music, baptized by Lonegoat himself as Necroclassical.

After the underground success of GOATCRAFT’s 2013 debut All For Naught, Lonegoat is back with its best and most mature work to date: The Blasphemer, a concept album themed around the works of the famous English painter and poet William Blake.

“Written and recorded from July to November 2013 under the influence of William Blake’s paintings and theological observations, the album represents my quest to reconcile the mystical side of GOATCRAFT with its nihilistic side.” sole-member Lonegoat explains.

Sinister plans release of The Post-Apocalyptic Servant in May 2014

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Thunderous Dutch death metal assailants Sinister return with a new album entitled The Post-Apocalyptic Servant which is slated for release in May 2014. The album will be released on Massacre Records and includes covers of songs by Morbid Angel, Agent Steel and Paradise Lost.

Sinister have released a sample track, “The Burden of Mayhem” in advance of the album’s entry into the market. The band made its name in the early death metal years with Cross the Styx which combined the percussive and fast tremolo sounds with an underpinning of melody, creating a mood between the aggressive darkness of American death metal and the melancholic emptiness of its European cousins.

Although it was legendary for Cross the Styx, Sinister probably peaked with 1996′s Hate, which combined the best riffology of percussive death metal (Suffocation, Pyrexia) with the type of unsettling melodies previously only found in black metal. The Post-Apocalyptic Servant (which is hopefully about Satan as the cover hints) will contain the following tracks:

  1. The Science Of Prophecy
  2. The Macabre God
  3. The Sculpture Of Insanity
  4. The End Of All That Conquers
  5. The Masquerade Of An Angel
  6. The Dome Of Pleasure
  7. The Post-Apocalyptic Servant
  8. The Art Of Skin Decoration
  9. The Saviour
  10. The Burden Of Mayhem
  11. Fall From Grace (Morbid Angel)
  12. Deadly Inner Sense (Paradise Lost)
  13. Unstoppable Force (Agent Steel)

The difference between metal and punk, rock: it’s not literal

April 10, 2014 –

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As author of The Heavy Metal FAQ, I have wrestled with the question of how to define metal over the years. Since it uses the same techniques as any other form of music, but used in different proportions and combinations, I have always focused on the idea that unites these uses which makes metal so obviously distinct from rock, punk and other forms of music.

To this I’d like to add another idea: metal is not literal. That is, metal tends to view the world through a symbolic or mythological lens. It does so to reflect our inward sensations about what is going on, plus a historical viewpoint which requires a more high-level view. The details don’t matter as much as the form, in metal, and we pay attention to the form and then put it in a folk-wisdom format.

Archetypal examples of this can be found in classic metal like “War Pigs” (Black Sabbath), “Hardening of the Arteries” (Slayer), “Painkiller” (Judas Priest) and “My Journey to the Stars” (Burzum). In these songs, mythological forces clash to reveal a truth of everyday life. They inform us about our time and put us into a symbolic and emotional framework with it in which we want to fight it out, fix it, struggle and win.

In contrast, most music is either sensuality-based or protest music. Sensuality-based music is exemplified by stuff like Shakira. Protest music really exploded in the 1960s, but reformed itself with punk, which took a more abstract and yet earthy view. Where the 60s bands sang about politics, punks sang about everyday life and the insanity of existence. This finally culminated in thrash, which used hints of metal’s mythology to make the personal into the universal, as in “Give My Taxes Back” (DRI), “M.A.D.” (Cryptic Slaughter), “Minds are Controlled” (COC) and “Man Unkind” (DRI).

Metal does go wrong sometimes and get literal. The worst of these are the ego-based songs, as in Pantera, or the songs about being metal and going to shows and the like, which are generally just dumb. It is not surprising that these are not favorites of the genre because they drop away from that 30,000-foot view and instead become more personal drama like the rest of our society, which explains why its institutions don’t function and its ideas are corrupt.

Interestingly, other genres are not literal either. Progressive rock was famous for songs about weird adventures in fantasy worlds that had striking parallels to our own (compare to JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis). Classical music tends toward fantastic descriptions from literature and history. These are genres of the weighty and impersonal, not the direct and immediate and personal. They have a different scope and internal language.

Jazz is the outlier. When sung, it tends toward protest and sensual lyrics. When instrumental, the sound of it suggests a combination of the two: a kind of secular (no meaning greater than the material and immediate) version of imagination, but applied to literal experience, such that it forms a kind of texture without a unifying core. It communicates the loneliness of modern isolation and a retreat into the personal complexity of the mind.

Where metal stands out among modern genres is that it still embraces this viewpoint, or at least did until the nu/mod-metal started appearing. Part of what makes such a viewpoint necessary is that metal, despite being about killer riffs, is not about the riff. It’s about many riffs stitched together to make an experience so that when the killer riff comes out, it has a meaning in context that makes it heavy. No song is heavy from just one riff. It’s heavy because when you get to that super-heavy riff, everything else has set it up to resonate.

This in part explains the audience of metal. Mythology, historical significance and topics of philosophy do not inspire the honor students, who are busy working on their careers (and the obedience-profitability nexus that these entail), or the average student, who is busy in a world of his/her own pleasures and delights. They do however appeal to the outliers, the dreamers and dissidents, who might find class boring because they find society boring and purposeless, and instead turn toward fantasy and a bigger, more abstract realism to express themselves.