Pantera erotic short story contest

March 3, 2015 –

pantera-glam-days

The recent fracas over Pantera grave desecration reminds us all of two things: many people who criticize Pantera do so out of hurt feelings about social justice issues, and many Pantera fans respond like raging apes locked in coin operated toilets. This creates a potent mix of rage and butthurt that appeals to the sadist in each of us.

To fan the flames, because simply being logical (RIP Spock) and level-headed about issues never gets anyone famous, DeathMetal.org announces a Pantera erotic short story contest. The rules are as follows:

  1. Your story must be between 500-5,000 words and involve the members of Pantera including Dimebag Darrell, and optionally the hipster crust/punk/black band that originally claimed to desecrate his grave, in intensely sexual or erotic situations involving homosexuality and other non-traditional sexual inclinations.
  2. You must paste the story into a comment on this site by midnight (EST) on March 6, 2015.
  3. Your story must be your work alone, except for Pantera lyrics quoted as characters reach climax.
  4. Winner will receive a box of random stuff I can reach easily without leaving this chair.

The point of this is to offend both those who criticize Pantera for being un-PC, and those who defend Pantera with blockheaded and thoughtless remarks. Hopefully both groups will be appalled and call for the death of anyone connected to this, pointing out yet again how both PC indie-metal fans and Pantera fans have more in common with ISIS than metal.

Writers are encouraged to seek inspiration in early Pantera glam metal works like Metal Magic, Power Metal and I am the Night. Bonus points for anyone who works in a Chuck Schuldiner/AIDS subplot, or even a thread about Opeth and a tour bus painted bright pastel colors.

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

February 28, 2015 –

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Often movies address a need for some voice to explore a certain idea, even if the implementation might be a bit shoddy. This movie attacks a necessary topic but does so in a way that while proficient in technique misses an opportunity to make the story come alive.

As many know, screenwriting possesses its own discipline of technique over content much as songwriting does, based on the kind of spreadsheet-logic that shows the sweet spot where 77% of people in a crowd understand and appreciate a gesture, which in aggregate makes the product successful. This “workshop style” of screenwriting arrives at this movie most likely through the book on which it is based, and prevents any wholehearted recommendation of this film. It addresses the mother of a child described as “evil” who is at the very least troubled in the kind of apathetic direction toward sociopathy that arises in children of narcissistic parents. Therein we find the issue, which is the question of what produced this child? His parents are not only narcissistic but have delusions of grandeur and apparently a fair amount of money; the child is also of mixed-race and somewhat gender-mixed as well. Kevin appears in this film as troubled from his youngest days through adulthood, but what is more difficult to watch is the obliviousness of parental response, and it is perhaps in this that the intent of this film rests: people are focused on using others as means to their own ends, and as a result, they raise children in a void of common sense, actual love, concern, discipline, authority and attention. Children are designed to be accessories to the self-importance — measured in career, wealth, social prestige and other external accomplishments — of the parents. As a result, children are left empty and unattended, and sometimes one of those takes that in a hostile direction.

While no spoilers will be given here, the plot is not hard to figure out since it is as said above “workshop style,” which means that it is based on the predictability of things and the reactions of people as if they were simply complex chemical compounds in unique situations. In my view, this is what makes We Need To Talk About Kevin somewhat tedious: it is wholly linear despite attempts of the filmmaker to break up the narrative over different threads in time. The story itself is linear. Narcissists raise child, cannot snap out of their own little worlds to do something about it and then… and then, what you might expect would happen happens, and the viewer ends up without much sympathy for anyone involved.

Housebound (2014)

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Combining comedy with horror takes a deft touch or the result rapidly veers into the leering variety show that Hollywood has adored since its earliest days but that strikes an audience with deep existential dread rooted in unacknowledged devastating boredom. A film can either be a horror film with a sense of humor, or a comedy wearing the mantle of horror, but few can do both.

Housebound reverses the direction in which even movies like Evil Dead (1981) venture, which is the “self-aware” movie in the postmodern style, or a movie which is ironically funny as part of its ineptitude or uncertainty about its primary mission. It might make more sense to refer to the 2014 movie as “suspense comedy” because it does not evoke horror so much as a sense of something large and important being wrong underneath the veneer of normalcy which we call “normal life” and as a species use to bury our doubts, fears and existential confusion. Housebound is a very funny movie, once the viewer gets accustomed to the method in which it delivers its humor, which is mostly situational and character-based but relies on a strong sense of the absurd and thus requires the viewer, like the protagonist in a horror film, to be a realist among the herd of denialist sheep.

The movie begins with plot-as-setting: a young woman, troubled in her relationship to drugs and crime, runs into a sadistic judge who assigns her not to jail but to a sentence back where the problem began, namely her childhood home. This in turn puts her into confrontation with her mother who exists in mental orbit most of the time, and a stepfather who seems to have no ability to change anything that happens in his life. While they live in uncertainty and loathing for each other, events that appear to be supernatural in origin begin to appear, and all react with skepticism until the pervasive intrusion within their lives can no longer be denied. At this point, the plot ramps up with a delicious lack of concern for human life and “feelings.” Like most good comedies, the characters are situationally accurate but take on a larger than life aspect in order to drive forward a plot that requires people to react like unstable chemical compounds. Sympathetic portrayals of even the pathetic give this movie somewhat of an extra grace, and while it is not always believable, its mockery of the head-in-the-sand of normal human existence makes it an enjoyable watch.

“Suspense comedy” might describe this film better than anything related to horror, since the aspect of horror that lives on is a pejorative realism toward human adaptive behaviors, and although there are moments of fear and terror the real drive of this film is satire of the wretched and absurd nature of human existence. As a result, it makes no sense to endorse this as a horror film, but more to say it is a comedy set in a horror backdrop which may win over its audience from the similar ways to horror films with which it treats humanity and its sacred cows. In addition, once it gains momentum (and the audience adapts to the New Zealand accent), Housebound provides a compelling character drama within an existence as nonsensical as actual reality, only more clearly revealed as such by the humorous events which it contains.

Proxy (2013)

February 26, 2015 –

proxy-movie

The genre of psychological horror often gets ignored because it does not deliver the tangible impact that sheer horror does, but unsettles the watcher as in the coming days that person contemplates what he has seen. Proxy attacks psychological horror by combining Swedish introspective cinema with the type of suspense found in movies like Psycho, delivering what is ultimately a biting critique of modernity.

Without giving away the plot, this movie involves the tendency of people to project and transfer their own psychological drama onto others, centered around the idea of family. In this film, people treat others like objects of their own egos, which creates secondary consequences that render characters unable to stand themselves. Through prolonged psychological exploration, including an insight into the way the world appears to those who are intensely lonely, this film explores the sources of modern alienation and why this society starts us out as alienated isolates from within our own families.

Filmed with more of a sense of intense subjective awareness than an objectivity which the camera always betrays, Proxy explores the confrontation between detached and disaffected young women and their attempts to start their own families. It shows how people project, or live vicariously through others by assuming their role in a narcissistic conception of self, and then undergo transferrence, or conditioning their own happiness or sadness on the acts of others. These conditions like PTSD and other mental afflictions follow a binary progression, in that the person holds on to the reality they can parse for as long as they can but when it cracks, it does so violently and leads to a culmination of violence and emotion that are perfectly paired into poignant yet devastating circumstances.

Like any movie tackling the inner workings of the human mind, this film touches on subjects which many of us would rather not witness because they reveal too much to us of our own fears. In particular, it has a sense of being Generation X art, reflecting the wave of children who growing up under manipulative families tended to wall off huge areas of life and stick with only what they know and trust, probably because their own parents viewed them as accessories for showing off (or blaming) like owning a British motorcar. The characters in this find no peace and no contentment as they rage through life, tricking their own perception into creating what seems like what they desire, only later finding the hollowness within, and the rapid transition to danger caused by illusion and its collapse.

Listening guide for Burzum The Ways of Yore

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Controversial Burzum mastermind Varg Vikernes gained a new method of being divisive, which is that his recent tracks “Mythic Dawn” and “Forgotten Realms” are sparser and more circular than his earlier work. This invokes criticism of his ambient music work, specifically his most recent album, The Ways of Yore.

While this album strikes me as a quality work, it also has a feeling that parts of it are rushed, and as a result the full conceptual depth of a Burzum album has some rough edges. I present the following listening guide for those who want to experience his newer work at full intensity:

02. The Portal
06. The Reckoning Of Man
04. The Lady In The Lake
05. The Coming Of Ettins
08. The Ways Of Yore
10. Hall Of The Fallen
13. To Hel And Back Again
11. Autumn Leaves

Arrange the tracks in this order. Some are missing; those can be listened to another time. Prepare yourself with the most silent circumstances you can find, which is usually late at night. Turn off the computer, the lights, the TV, the videogames. Slow your breathing until it is regular and you are relaxed.

Place into your mind the vision of a descent down a large spiral staircase. You will be going into a place that is not dark or light, but a place where what we think of as good and evil have been suspended for something far greater than individual humans. This is a space for epic warfare, battles of the soul and perhaps mystic wisdom.

Then, ignore the spoken lyrics. However this album is meant to be experienced, it is best as a piece of music without worrying about meaning outside of the organization of sounds. Ignore the name Burzum. Clear your mind of everything and listen.

Most of the above is generic advice for any listening, but it allows this album to present itself in a new context, which is that of a lack of the two intrusions that normally cloud human vision, namely the self and the distracting world. Settle down into this one and see where it leads you.

Pale Existence posts “Dark Tranquility” demo (1994)

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San Jose underground metal band Pale Existence has posted its 1994 demo, “Dark Tranquility,” for those who missed the original tape to hear. Clocking in at just over 20 minutes, it shows influences from death metal, grindcore, the nascent black metal scene and doom metal, all without sabotaging any one of those by trivializing it, instead blending them into a unified voice.

Tracklist:
1. Dismal Paths
2. Dark Tranquility
3. Sickness
4 Impure
5. Subconscious Weeping
6. Visions of the Disconsolate

Personnel:
Mark Smith – vocals
Lorin Ashton – guitar and vocals
Bud Burke – guitar and vocals
Brian Glover – drums and vocals
Steve Cefala – fretless bass

Recorded by Brett Tyson at Studio B in Campbell on January 29 and February 3, 1994.

Burzum unleashes new track “Forgotten Realms”

February 25, 2015 –

burzum-ready_for_war

One-man black metal inspired ambient music band Burzum has released its latest track, “Forgotten Realms,” a rough cut from an upcoming album. Using many of the same effects as last year’s The Ways of Yore, the new track shows a slow descent into a reality that more mysterious than dark.

Dreams have swept me away.
Into a long forgotten realm.
Down into the depths of the Earth.
Into a hidden cavern.

Into the world below.
I walk into the forgotten past.
« Do not turn around ! »#
« Never look back ! »

Fathers and mothers from ancient times.
Ghosts from a forgotten world.
With wonder they look upon me ;
« What took you so long ? »

I wander not in darkness.
I am not lost, nor bewildered.
The path is not hidden.
The tracks are not old.

I was here a moment ago.
I am home.
I am home.
I am home.

Experiencing Rush: A Listener’s Companion by Durrell Bowman

February 24, 2015 –

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Canada’s Rush keeps its fingers in many worlds, including that of 70s heavy metal, and as a result often attracts metalheads. Durrell Bowman attempts to explain the appeal of this band through perhaps the best method possible, which is to analyze the music itself and only secondarily and sparingly reinforce what is learned with extracts from interviews. Unlike most rock writers, he focuses on the output from the band rather than the discussion or buzz surrounding it, and as a result is able to pull out intention through the band and its reaction to the changes in the experience of its members of the years and how that translates into artistic voicing.

Experiencing Rush: A Listener’s Companion walks through Rush by eras of the band from its early hard rock days to its more progressive-rock influenced middle period to the later middle period of AOR (although this term is not used) very similar to 80s music like Boston, Asia, ZZ Top and the Eagles. In his analysis, Bowman attempts to answer one of the fundamental questions: is Rush a progressive rock band? If not, what are they? And how does this reconcile with their many different internal influences and the many different external styles, including a technologically-hip 90s format, which have cloaked the music of this band? Bowman gives his conclusions in a short introduction and then analyzes the work of the band song by song, divided into albums and the aforementioned eras. The result is a picture slowly emerging of a rock band with many different influences who wanted to play essentially power pop but with a guitar-driven appeal, like later Yes albums such as 90215. Into this, the self-taught musicians mix material from a wide range of influences as part of a philosophy of the band which Bowman slowly peels away during successive chapters: a leftist-libertarian political outlook, a personal individualism, dogmatic atheism and a studied eclecticism to find support for these ideas across different cultures and disciplines. Like their music, their philosophies are a grab-bag of what supports their fundamental worldview, which Bowman reveals as very much localized to and shaped by their experience growing up.

What Experiencing Rush: A Listener’s Companion offers to the world of music is not so much conclusions, however, as critical points for analysis. The entire book functions as an outline of the output of the artist with vital points addressed such as musical techniques used, including juicy details on time signature and scale/harmony, but also rather intelligently looking into the music as a series of patterns and avoiding a deep immersion in music theory. As a result, Bowman compares abstract patterns found in the music to what they symbolize in life, which works well for progressive rock bands who tend to be mimetic in their approach generally, but works doubly well for Rush, who are differentiated from progressive rock (although they incorporate many of its techniques) by their tendency toward music that is more symbolic or defined in human terms rather than imitating the objects or experiences the humans are undergoing. This rather fine distinction highlights why many progressive rock fans find Rush distasteful, and why many Rush fans find progressive rock inscrutable: the two take different approaches, and the Rush approach is closer to that taken by power pop bands than what progressive rock bands attempt. It both makes the music easier to comprehend, because the meaning in the lyrics is “acted out” by the music, and explains how Rush is able to escape its normative AOR format by incorporating so many different styles as if they were brush techniques in a painting, namely that it uses whatever techniques are appropriate for rendering its vision, much like it picks from disparate philosophies, literature and religion bits and pieces which it can use to illustrate its own philosophy and ideology. Through this insight Bowman stands heads above the other writers on this topic.

Turning from the technical arts of the band to the technique of the writer, Experiencing Rush: A Listener’s Companion shows us what rock journalism could be — some of us would say should be — by digging into this band in the only way that honors their efforts, which is to take them seriously as people by investigating their art for what it attempts to express as a communication between artist and fans. DMU has always taken this approach to death metal which has made us a minority in not just a metal underground but a rock scene which would rather write about where a band is from, their ironic personalities, the production of albums, how much the fans love it, or what trend the band belongs to. This treats artists like simpletons and fans like yeast with credit cards (although some might say this accurately portrays humanity anno 2015). Bowman takes the opposite approach, which is to avoid academic-ese and also rock journalist ideo-jive, and instead to look at this band with an intelligent common sense approach by picking apart each song to see what makes it work, both as a communications device and as an experience to enjoy. With the force of Rush fans behind him, hopefully Bowman can convince more of the music world to join him in this approach, which like the scientific method for materials should be the de facto standard for music.

Ravencult – Morbid Blood

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Around a decade ago, the funderground types (NWN/FMP) started a campaign to include Venom as the “first wave of black metal,” even though before that time nearly all sources agreed that Venom were NWOBHM and probably less influential on black metal than Motorhead. But suddenly this huge push existed to bring Venom into black metal; why? Listening to Ravencult, it is clear: so that they could make mediocre heavy metal, speed it up like a punk band and add rasping vocals and call it black metal. This created an instant doubling of product to capture that boom in clued-out kids trying to buy into the black metal hype.

Ravencult drops firmly within this camp. They keep the constant forward rhythm of a war metal band and underneath it re-visit riffs from the 80s and 90s which, despite their chromatic nature, often have a basis in the rhythms and tonal changes of hard rock. The result is something that you want to like but it is too simple-minded and repetitive ultimately to provide anything but a sting of nostalgia and then lots of comforting background noise. It will never motivate anyone to any particular greatness like the old bands used to do. As they say in the funderground, at least it is true… or is that so? It might be better to sever from the past, and create something new instead. Or at least something with the same intensity of death/black metal, instead of trying to make lower intensity versions of the classics so that people can enjoy them like easy listening music or lite jazz, sitting on their comfortable sofas sipping Chivas and “appreciating” black metal.

and of course the unholy genesis of underground metal — Hellhammer, Bathory, Sodom and Slayer —

Robocop (2014)

February 23, 2015 –

robocop_2014

Certain movies or albums clearly reveal the presence of bad management. Either leadership by committee, which isn’t leadership so much as compromise that satisfies no one, or a bad manager who spends too much time worried about surveys, business objectives and the like to place his focus on whether or not the product is good. Such is the case with Robocop 2014 version, a movie so stunningly bad that with its obviously huge budget it can only be the result of thorough mis-management and execrably poor judgment.

Following up on a winning franchise is never easy because viewers have high expectations, but one thing is clear: the new movie must be at least within the ballpark of the old, or it will be interpreted as having the same failure as most sequels which is too many cooks in the kitchen, too many fingers in the pot, etc. The 2014 version comes nowhere close to the 1987 original on any level and even where it attempts to pay homage to the original, completely misses the point. This occurs because management decided the 2014 version must fit within the parameters for television shows, namely that each scene must have one unambiguous point and one only. Remember, that which communicates clearly wins out over the truthful when you’re dealing with the masses, and so these filmmakers decided to sacrifice not just nuance so that every idiot in the room could understand it, but also depth. The result paint-by-numbers script is as excruciating as a Creative Writing final exam, moving from point to point with absurd over-emphasis on the basics so that even if you are brick-stupid, obese, lazy, drunk and distracted, you will still understand what is going on. Which, as it turns out, is not a whole hell of a lot.

Instead of taking the intelligent course of action and creating a sequel set in 2014, the filmmakers decided to re-tell the Robocop backstory but with new actors and new settings. This becomes troublesome because they insist on dumbing this down and, as if pitching this movie to millennial women, centering the plot on the surface emotion of a generic character in its setting, rather than letting the emotion arise from this character’s struggle to understand his circumstances. Everything is surface level, cut from whole cloth in broad colors with boundaries double-underlined in thick market like an idiot kindergarten teacher might do, and the result is that the characters become caricatures. The expressive Jennifer Ehle (Pride and Prejudice) is utterly wasted in her role, and the excellent Michael Keaton and Gary Oldman are expended without purpose in theirs. Keaton portrays a CEO who dutifuly turns evil as the gimpy plot requires, instead of focusing on the fascinating side of his character which seems an amalgam of Dot-Com CEOs in his pursuit of technology and wealth with the zealous belief that nothing but good can come from progress. Oldman also experiences a character deformation as he goes from a good guy scientist to a self-interested quasi-villain to a hastily rehabilitated hero. Even Samuel L. Jackson becomes neutered as he must contort his acting to fit within the manipulated plotline. The filmmakers seem narcissistic in the worship of their own cleverness, forgetting that “writing in” details does not obscure the form of the plot itself, which shakes off their little footnotes and rampages straight into paradox.

The above are terrible sins against the artisanal craft (heh) of filmmaking. But the worst sin of all is that they removed the fun and terror from Robocop. In the original, audiences were shocked by the situation, the horror of people themselves and the self-serving decisions they made, and the clash between man and machine. The whole movie might be described as man emerging from within the machine to triumph over it. The new movie removes the tension. Combat scenes are outright boring, with Robocop playing the role of either omnipotent effortless victor or duty-bound moral martyr, but the tension of tight situations and intelligent responses to them dies in a video game simulation that looks about as boring as most first person shooters are after the week they get introduced. Even more, fight scenes are over quickly with little resolved. The movie just moves on like a checklist between points the filmmakers wanted to establish, with utterly zero dimension to the characters. It is probably difficult to botch a story with this much promise, but the director and his staff on this one did so with ease, which is about the only effortless and unforced thing about this movie. Avoid!