Why Thurston Moore is right about black metal

September 18, 2014 –

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Most people believe that “trolling” happens on the internet and that trolls are a group like organized crime. Instead trolling is a method and trolls are any who troll, such as when Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore trolled black metal fans recently.

Having been around media and rock fans alike — two groups heavily invested in the pretense of self-styled self-image — Moore spotted a good mark for a brutal troll when he saw one. Thus with an offhanded comment, he lit the rage-fires of ten thousand fedora-blessed basements.

Black Metal is music made by pussies of the lowest order, and we felt it was necessary to investigate this aberrant anti-music behavior. We feel like the sound and attitude of black metal is a loss of self, life, light and desire in a way where it becomes so negative that a whole new bliss arrives where we become super pussy.

The guitarist elaborated later:

Black metal, it doesn’t even consider itself music. In fact, it doesn’t want to be confused with any kind of music because it’s something else entirely. It’s a voided concept from its start [laughs]. It’s all about complete disintegration of existence. It’s a music that uses the elements of rock instrumentation but it’s so anti-everything that, for me, it doesn’t matter what you say about it because it doesn’t exist. I figured I would just write something ridiculous about it. And boy, did black-metal devotees get really upset by it. You’re not supposed to be alive, so why are you getting upset?

We know that his first statement is a troll because it was the only statement included in the press release, and more importantly, it makes us of a dual meaning in the term “pussy” to wind up the angry denizens of vans down by the river. Moore has been around the alternative rock scene too long to be anything but scrupulously politically correct, so it is dubious he would ever use the term “pussy” in a sexist manner, but that does not prohibit him from playing off the common usage of the term in the metal community to mean (roughly) wimp or weenie.

It seems to me that Moore is having a bit of fun with the term and is distilling it back to its more Victorian usage where it refers to housecats as distinctive from street cats. Meaning that black metal fans are sleek, well-fed, pampered and most likely neutered. Domesticated. Not a threat to anything, probably not even mice, despite the face paint.

Black metal deserves this attack in 2014. From 1989-1994, the genre thrived amidst murder, politically incorrect statements and church arsons, but also some really excellent music. Since that time, much like modern Western civilization, black metal has been cruising on the wealth of the past. With a few exceptions like Demoncy, Beherit and Sammath black metal has fallen so far short of its historical peak that it resembles a collapsed civilization. Among the ruins of an ancient past of greatness, the remnants of a broken social experiment play and achieve nothing of any importance, but when challenged in a pub, they are quick to remind us all that they were Romans, once.

The usual crowd of poseur wannabes at the FMP and NWN forums have been cruising on the reputation of black metal for two decades now. They act like the worst street toughs ever and remind us that not only were they Romans, but once they burned churches and murdered people. However, they are most likely to come home from their jobs as Facebook consultants and hang around their loft apartments drinking craft beer and arguing over the minutiae of which indistinguishably bland “black metal” band has more “atmosphere” than the others, when in fact all post-1994 black metal sounds the same because none of it is written about anything. It is all variants on an aesthetic, and nothing more. The guts of it are gone; it has abolished itself.

Black metal was born as a reaction — both to and against death metal, which was experiencing a rare period of commercial success in the early ’90s — and thus, it had a rigid definition before it even had a body….Euronymous’s Helvete was to Norwegian black metal what MacDougal Street was to the ’60s Greenwich Village folk scene, and his views were considered gospel. Death metal was “trendy” and “fun,” said Euronymous; well, black metal rejected trends and fun…For Euronymous, the primary essential element for music to be defined as “black metal” was Satanism. “If a band cultivates and worships Satan, it’s black metal,” he said. “What’s important is that it’s Satanic; that’s what makes it black metal.”

Moore keyed into this pointlessness. When a genre can easily merge with indie rock and heroin and form a “supergroup” like Twilight, and when droning nobodies like Deafheaven and Wolves in the Throne Room are accepted as normal parts of the genre, it is dead and buried. It has lost its sense of “genre,” or having artistic purpose, and now is just another shade of wallpaper in which we can drape the usual thoughtless rock music so that it can be sold to a new generation of domesticated rebels.

Black metal had relevance when it was a movement of artists who felt Western civilization had gone down a bad path and had a suggestion of how to reform it: remove its morality of protecting the individual, which translated into protecting the vast herd of anonymous people who fear that someone might wake up and discover that all of society built on morality is a shame. It rejected all that was “good,” and embraced all that was functional yet “bad,” building on 300 years of Romanticism which encouraged the same. As an artistic movement, it had purpose, which meant that not everyone could participate. As soon as they could, the Hot Topic generation seized hold of this music and turned it into a neutered, tame and compliant version of itself so that it would not offend their personal pretense or make them actually controversial, although they gladly accepted the appearance of the same.

As guitarist for Sonic Youth, Moore knows this well. He made his career by dressing up the dissonant protest rock of the 1960s in the veil of distortion inspired by the Ramones, and essentially carries on every trait of the most-played out decade of music ever in a new form. Like a salesman, he finds a way to make you buy the same ugly vacuum cleaner in a new color because now it has a gizmo that winds up the cord faster. But he also knows music, and he is right to bash black metal. It is a pussycat, fat and perched on a luxuriant sofa, which hisses and holds out a trembling claw as we approach, reminding us that it was a tiger, once.

h/t I.O. Kirkwood / Metal Descent

Satanist group allows Florida children to explore alternative religion

September 17, 2014 –

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Religion and its opposition exist in uneasy tension in our democracy. Some years ago, it was decided that instead of making religion mandatory in schools, government should allow religious organizations to submit materials for use by students.

Recently, someone called their bluff. In particular, The Satanic Temple wants to supply religious pamphlets about Satanism to students, much as other religions do for their respective beliefs. According to the organization, they are trying to stay competitive with other religions:

“If a public school board is going to allow religious pamphlets and full Bibles to be distributed to students — as is the case in Orange County, Florida — we think the responsible thing to do is to ensure that these students are given access to a variety of differing religious opinions,” Greaves said.

The Satanic Temple is best known for their ongoing attempts to erect a Satanic monument at the Oklahoma State Capitol where a 10 Commandments monument is displayed.

While we avert our eyes from the ongoing attempts of humans to govern themselves, we encourage you to view the book The Satanic Childrens Big Book of Activities in PDF format and perhaps spread it to children in your area.

International Journal of Community Music releases its heavy metal special

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Image from The Musical Autist.

The International Journal of Community Music recently released its June 2014 issue which focuses on heavy metal through writings by the heavy metal studies academic community which explore heavy metal and its social effects in many different forms.

Centered around the concept of “community music,” the journal investigates interactions between music and the surrounding community, but peers most deeply into how music can be a voice for events, values or changes in a community. Its general list of topics includes:

  • Music and informal educational settings
  • Music in areas of conflict and former conflict
  • Music and the youth service
  • Music in prisons and probation services
  • Music in health settings / Music and cultural policy
  • Music and Life-long learning
  • Genres and musical styles e.g. music-making of all kinds and all styles, listening, music technology
  • Philosophy of Community Music
  • Music, faith and spirituality

The “heavy metal special” issue concentrates its analysis on some of the more controversial areas of the interaction between heavy metal and culture. The topics of these essays seem ready to dig into the type of conflict that would make a good basis for a shredding album of brutally intense music.

International Journal of Community Music June 2014 issue contains the following contents:

  • Raising the horns: Heavy metal communities and community heavy metal music

    Authors: Gabby Riches And Karl Spracklen
  • Kami semua headbangers: Heavy metal as multiethnic community builder in Penang Island, Malaysia

    Authors: Marco Ferrarese
  • Reconceptualizing hard rock and metal fans as a group: Imaginary community

    Authors: Rosemary Lucy Hill
  • ‘Ons is saam’ – Afrikaans metal and rebuilding whiteness in the Rainbow Nation

    Authors: Catherine Hoad
  • Metal made me who I am: Seven adult men reflect on their engagement with metal music during adolescence

    Authors: Michelle Hines And Katrina Skewes McFerran
  • Mapping the underground: An ethnographic cartography of the Leeds extreme metal scene

    Authors: Gabby Riches And Brett Lashua
  • On your knees and pray! The role of religion in the development of a metal scene in the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico

    Authors: Nelson Varas-Díaz And Eliut Rivera-Segarra And Sigrid Mendoza And Osvaldo González-Sepúlveda
  • Hamburgers of Devastation: The pleasures and politics of heavy metal cooking

    Authors: Michelle Phillipov
  • ‘The Black Sheep of the Family’: Bogans, borders and New Zealand society

    Authors: Dave Snell

The journal can be purchased at this location.

Cannibal Corpse: Bible of Butchery by Joel McIver

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Derided mostly by casual noticers of their cover art, Cannibal Corpse created a public face for death metal by becoming the most popular death metal band in history. Outselling the rest of the genre, they have kept on tour and pushing out albums for two and a half decades and now have unleashed their thirteenth album. Veteran music journalist and metal writer Joel McIver caught up with the band and wrote a history and explanation of Cannibal Corpse.

Intelligently, McIver opted not to try to make a narrative of his own. Instead he took a Glorious Times approach and let the band speak for itself for the most part, then knitting the disparate statements together into single narratives. The first two thirds of the book consists of statements from the band members which come across as unedited although their length suggests they were assembled from multiple interviews. The last third of the book contains a history of the band as a whole told through excerpts from interviews with the band, managers and other members of the underground community. The entire book is interspersed with song lyrics with brief explanations from the band. As a result, this book becomes easily readable and very personal, avoiding the pitfalls of trying to become overly formal or over-analytical with a band that does not want to be taken overly seriously.

In our twenties, we weren’t thinking too seriously about this stuff. Chris wrote the lyrics and we gave him free rein to be as offensive and disturbing as he thought necessary. Nowadays we probably think a little more about the subject matter of our songs, and the end result can be lyrics that are still horrifying but less overtly offensive. I think that sometimes a more subtle approach can be more effective for horror fiction anyway—‘subtle’ being a very relative term in our case, maybe the difference between a hatchet to the genitals and a hatchet to the head. But that’s what our band is doing really: putting horror fiction to music. We don’t back what the characters in our songs are doing: they’re just evil characters who are appropriate for stories like these. – Alex Webster (121-122)

If the book has a theme, it can be found in the normalcy of Cannibal Corpse. The band member biographies detail their early interest in heavy metal, then in musicianship, and their desire to be part of the new movement of harder and heavier music coming out after Metallica and later, after the first nascent death metal. They mention the classics of proto-underground metal like Sodom and Slayer, but focus on not the extremity of lyrics but the music itself. These men wanted to make music that did what their musical heroes did, but took it to a new level of intensity. They also wanted to have a sense of humor about it. And, going back to their earliest influences, they found idols who had also made it big on a commercial level: the 1970s hard rock and heavy metal acts that shocked the uptight citizenry but delighted mischievous and alienated kids everywhere. The comedic lyrics of torture, sadism, butchery, gore and mass killing arise not from a fascination with the dark and morbid, but a joy in disturbing social pretense that has more in common with Kiss or Judas Priest on the big stage, gyrating away as church ladies gasped.

When assembling the narrative of the band, McIver stacked statements from band members in such a way to tell the narrative through its strongest voices, inserting summaries of major events so that the least specific material is told from a third-person perspective. This gives more space to the band to speak about their own intentions and analysis, which enables this book to move along at a fast pace and never wind down into the kind of rambling anecdotes that blighted rock journalism in the 1970s and 1980s. As a result, it is both a short book and complete in its recounting of the Cannibal Corpse story. Through skillful editing, McIver avoids having the history drag or become tangential, and with the voices of the band members he brings up every essential topic in short, readable fashion. We also hear from band members and crucial actors like label boss Brian Slagel whose voices are not normally heard in the telling of this history.

In my downtime, I shoot guns. I’ve been interested in them since I was a kid. It’s the other thing I’m interested in apart from guitars, and it’s a great way to let off aggression. I go to ranges and shoot targets. Playing loud music is another good way to release stress. I like to go to the gym and work out, and I like to go out and drink and have fun with my buddies. Luckily, I’ve always been able to go anywhere and make friends. I live day by day. I would never have guessed that I’d still be doing this after all this time… — Pat O’Brien (46)

In the history of metal, Cannibal Corpse: Bible of Butchery will be remembered as a book that started a debate instead of ended one. Most analysis of Cannibal Corpse so far has focused on the reactions of others and has been unable to get around the disturbing imagery and lyrics. By mixing lyrics with histories, and looking at the motivation of band members for personal and artistic goals instead of reading the band as an advocate of what is described in its lyrics, Cannibal Corpse: Bible of Butchery reveals the commonality of Cannibal Corpse with heavy metal bands since the dawning of the genre. Instead of serving as a kind of unpaid advocate for serial killers everywhere, this band acted as a continuation of the heavy metal tradition of upsetting parents and delighting kids. By getting past the elephant in the outsider viewpoint room, McIver shows us Cannibal Corpse as they are, and lets their story tell itself and reveal the undiscovered history behind what for most people is the public face of death metal.

Heavy Metal at the Movies conference issues call for papers

September 16, 2014 –

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The Popular Culture Association (PCA) announced the theme for its upcoming meeting on April 1-4, 2015 as “how heavy metal culture relates to cinema.” The PCA issued a call for papers on this topic so that aspiring heavy metal studies scholars can submit writings in advance of the conference.

Held in New Orleans, the conference will allow participants a chance to present papers and network with others in the fields of heavy metal studies and popular culture studies. The PCA accepts a broad range of topics: “Papers on individual films, metal (sub)genres or individual bands are all welcome, as are more theoretical musings on the interrelationship between cinema and metal.” It gives the following sample topic areas:

  • how heavy metal is (ab)used in feature films
  • how documentary films create, expand, and discuss a sense of group identity
  • how cinematic traditions are used in heavy metal culture.

If interested in submitting a paper, please send a 300-word abstract by October 15, 2014 to Gerd.Bayer@fau.de. The official call for papers notice can be found here.

Neoclassical Music Hub for metal DC++ users

September 15, 2014 –

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For those of you who like to trade movies, music, books and conversation online, the Neoclassical Music Hub offers a Direct Connect (DC++) hub for those who enjoy classical, neoclassical, dark ambient, heavy metal and hardcore punk.

Hosted by a small team of users who have kept it running for a decade, the Neoclassical Music Hub allows users to share files with one another in the curated environment of a Direct Connect hub, which allows chat, direct messaging and file sharing between those who are connected to it. This escapes the somewhat chaotic nature of open-access P2P clients and the access issues of torrents.

Perdition Temple release title track from upcoming The Tempter’s Victorious

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Perdition Temple emerged from the ashes of Angelcorpse when guitarist Gene Palubicki established a new act to make the high-speed, texturally-encoded complex riff frenzy that made Angelcorpse so distinctive among the later death metal bands.

Anticipating its upcoming album The Tempter’s Victorious, Perdition Temple today released a teaser video for the title track “The Tempter’s Victorious.” The band’s first album for new label home Hells Headbangers, The Tempter’s Victorious unleashed eight new tracks and cover art by Adam Burke. You can listen to the audio below.

In addition, Hells Headbangers will release a 7″ EP in anticipation of the album with an original and cover song enclosed. Release date for The Tempter’s Victorious is tentatively set for early 2015. The band has solidified its long-fluctuating lineup as the following:

  • Gene Palubicki – guitars (Apocalypse Command, Blasphemic Cruelty, ex-Angelcorpse)
  • Bill Taylor – guitars (Immolation, ex-Angelcorpse, ex-Feldgrau, ex-Xenomorph)
  • Impurath – vocals (Black Witchery, ex-Irreverent)
  • Ronnie Parmer – drums (Catalysis)
  • Gabriel Gozainy – bass

For more information, view the Perdition Temple faceplant page.

Nothing Left – “Demo 1999″

September 12, 2014 –

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Way back in the halcyon days of 1999, Steve Cefala (Dawning, Pale Existence) joined forces with Mike Beams (Exhumed), Brian Glover (Bred For Slaughter, Pale Existence) and Jon Nedbal (Disembodiment, Bred For Slaughter) to make detuned high-volume death/doom metal. From those sessions emerged this 25 minute demo which owes as much to early grindcore as to death metal and doom metal.

The constant assault of “Demo 1999″ calls to mind bands like Mortician that intended to make thunderous slow primitive death metal, and energetic heavy-bass assault grindcore bands like Drogheda. The result alternates between slow grinding passages and picked up two-chord uptempo charges, aiming with these basic songs more to create atmosphere than work in a dozen riffs in the death metal style. Like deathgrind slowed down but without the insistence on utterly basic catchy rhythms, taking more of the Napalm Death approach of making basic rhythms sound alien and unnerving, Nothing Left surges like the pulsing sounds of tanks passing in the night on their way to an apocalyptic battle.

Primarily influenced by Mayhem, Brujeria and Mortician, Nothing Left existed for a few short years. To get their signature sound, the band tuned down almost an octave and played at top volume through two full stacks and giant overdriven bass cabinets, then ran the bass through a DOD Meatbox subharmonic pedal that generates a companion tone two octaves below. The result throbs and hangs in the air like a nuclear blast, rumbling and surging within its slowed-down rhythms. True to its influences, it takes the low-fi primitive grind sound and gives it the expansive atmosphere of black metal while reducing all that it creates to incomprehensible destruction. For those who can confront such a monster, band has made the full demo available on YouTube.

Divine Eve in studio finalizing new material

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Divine Eve’s Michael Sleavin and Matt Killen in the studio.

Doom/death metal band Divine Eve penetrated the walls of the studio some time ago to record their forthcoming full-length following up on the 2010 release of Vengeful and Obstinate, an EP which saw the Texas band build on the strengths of their 1990s debut As the Angels Weep. Since that time, audiences who enjoy the type of fusion between Swedish death metal, punkish heavy metal like Motorhead, and doom-death like Cathedral have eagerly awaited new material from Divine Eve.

It appears the wait may be over, or at least nearly so. An advance track, “Into the Conquest End,” graciously loaned to this writer by Divine Eve, shows the band maturing and stripping down their sound. Like classic death metal, Divine Eve know how to use a theme well, varying it both in speed and texture and also expanding upon it as the song progresses. The song begins with a raw death metal riff — reminiscent of Death “Altering the Future” — and repeats it on a trancelike beat. This theme repeats in two forms, one with an ending trill and another with a more rigid, doomlike conclusion. The band then breaks into an energetic and simple riff derived from the middle phrase of the previous at an upbeat punk tempo, and use this to introduce the chorus riff which hammers out the theme of the song in a riff answering the first theme.

The band rides the second theme against the chorus and picks up an energetic groove. This part of the song quickly falls into a comfortable zone, both enjoyable and straightforward, which appears to be the moment the band were waiting for… to strike. At this point, the song stops with a simple standoff riff reminiscent of the opening theme of Beethoven’s fifth in its rigidity and simplicity, then returns to the first them before dropping to a slower and darker version of the second theme which answers it in a mode more like that of the chorus. The band then transitions through a lightly strummed, drumless heavy metal style anticipation pause and then builds on that melodic riff as a means to transition to to a bounding doom metal riff that would have been at home on As the Angels Weep but with more of the old-school doom that Saint Vitus made famous. As this mood builds, it falters and collapses into the first theme, then chorus riff, and finally a variant on the standoff riff. The song wraps up its simple elements by repeating them multiple times in different pairings to create a sense of a deepening meaning emerging from the mundane, like an occult meaning derived from the pattern of everyday objects.

Divine Eve added a sense of mystery and atmosphere to the world of death metal bands that play extensive segments of doom metal in their work, expanding upon a lengthy list of death metal influences. Like Cianide, the band has drifted toward a fusion of older metal styles (notably Motorhead) that maintain the same mood, which is a bleak but militant droning which suggests a dystopian collapse followed by rise of vengeance warriors bent on restoring an atavistic order. The result gives more variability to the death metal style and may confuse listeners in a positive way by taking different ideas and restating them in the language of death metal. The production on this track takes an organic and spacious sound and gives to it the dense textures of ancient walls, clarifies drums far more than previous releases and keeps vocals grim but intense enough to stand on their own. The result suggests that the power of the older material will take on a new militarism on the forthcoming album.

Metal and Cultural Impact: Metal’s Role in the 21st Century conference in Dayton, OH on November 6-8

September 10, 2014 –

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The Metal and Cultural Impact (MACI) conference launches its inaugural meeting on the topic of “Metal’s Role in the 21st Century” in Dayton, OH from November 6-8, 2014. This conference features a number of metal academics of note discussing the effect metal has on the society around it through culture.

Described by its organizers as aimed to “examine Metal culture’s role in 21st century society throughout the world,” the conference consists of presentations by academics such as Amber Clifford-Napoleone, Nelson Varas-Diaz, , Vivek Venkatesh, Ross Hagen and Brian Hickam. In addition, after-conference events include a screening of March of the Gods which explores the metal scene in the African nation of Bostwana through the story the band Wrust and an art exhibit on the nature of masks in metal hosted by Brian Hickam.

The University of Dayton Department of English, the Graul Chair in Arts and Languages, and the International Society of Metal Music Studies are the primary sponsors of the conference. It winds up with an evening concert featuring local bands chosen by Alex Skolnick (Testament, Savatage), who also presents a panel on “Louder Education” at the conference. Ticket proceeds benefit two charities, the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund and Project READ.