In the style of blasting gurgling death metal that filled in after bands ran out of ways to pay homage to Suffocation, Expurgate unmoor a first album that is genre-consistent but shows promise in that these songs do not fade into a wall of noise.
Most bands in this style are unable to differentiate between riffs or songs very well, and so produce large amounts of very similar material. Much of that occurs because the style demands it; as a subset of death metal, it rewards only some of its techniques. The result becomes to the listener a vast flat space composed of necrotic vocals and chugging, blasting riffs with no real variation.
Dementia Tremens does not assault this basic tendency but injects an individuality to Expurgate into these songs through the distinctiveness of each song, and the tendency to vary pace just enough to allow some tension to build before its release in blasting, slamming, chugging and gurgling guttural mayhem.
While this is a strong first effort, it is going to hang out at metal’s second tier because while it is more distinctive than most of this genre, it is still relatively limited in technique and as such, songs are very similar. Expurgate are great at charging riffs and chugging tempo shifts, but would benefit from some of the fast-fingered phrase riffs that gave death metal much of its imaginative power. It also might help if this vocalist changed up his two vocal styles periodically, or toned them down to allow the song to expand around him.
Despite those small glitches, Dementia Tremens is a strong first effort that presages a great possible future for this band. If they keep developing, they’re going to hit on something interesting that can rise above the rest of this niche sub-genre. If they go further into being more like the other bands, they will be a reasonable option but not stand out more than that. Since they clearly have the ability, let’s hope they shoot for the higher goal.
DeathMetal.org continues its exploration of radio with a podcast of death metal, dark ambient and fragments of literature. This format allows all of us to see the music we enjoy in the context of the ideas which inspired it.
Clandestine DJ Rob Jones brings you the esoteric undercurrents of doom metal, death metal and black metal in a show that also exports its philosophical examinations of life, existence and nothingness.
This niche radio show exists to glorify the best of metal, with an emphasis on newer material but not a limitation of it, which means that you will often hear new possibilities in the past as well as the present.
If you miss the days when death metal was a Wild West that kept itself weird, paranoid and uncivilized, you will appreciate this detour outside of acceptable society into the thoughts most people fear in the small hours of the night.
The playlist for this week’s show is:
Absvrdist – First World Problems/Amongst Humans
Lustration – He Ru Ha Ra on the Horizon
Necrovore – Slaughtered Remains
Boyd Rice – Love Will Change the World
Imprecation – Chapel of Rotting Flesh
Khand – Bete Noire
Sacramentum – Devide et Impera
A transcript of the dialogue embedded in this week’s program:
The lovers of peace in our age are a smiling sociopathic bunch, whose aim is to mentally and physically disarm man – to feminize and pacify all human life, naively believing it detached from the animal realities from which our species emerged. Nietzsche warns us to be wary of those who over love peace, whose self-worth is built upon condescending to the down-trodden and grasp at things they themselves have not fought to win. Such people are averse to direct conflict and parasitize on the efforts of those who do struggle and create, inwardly desiring to tear down what they perceive as the strong and oppressive.
Metal stands in opposition to this feminizing, sanitizing pull. Modern society impels us towards passivity, telling us to plug in, zone out and let government, schools, jobs and charity remove all obstacles before us, dissolving all sense of self-reliance at the same time. The future we imagine however is unsustainable, relying on imaginary forces like equality, pacifism and finance to justify and will it into existence – ignorant of the blood soaked past that has created the space for such comfortable fantasies to breed.
Conflict and war are and have always been the natural order of things, securing resources and eliminating those whom we compete with for them. We now merely live in an interim period between major conflicts; one long enough and soft enough for many of us to forget the inescapable power and necessity of strife and domination in the winning of peace and material prosperity.
Metal revolts against this comfort-loving naivety, revelling in all that is dark, chaotic, violent and uncertain – glorifying reality un-idealized and unsanitized.
Metal songs glorify the act of struggle, over more self-indulgent emotional experiences. Metal avoids the typical prole song subjects of falling in love, breaking up and partying – any idiot can safely enjoy these things without thinking too hard, offending anyone or accomplishing anything. Worse still we use these kind of pointless dramas (and songs about them) to distract ourselves from the other 95% of our lives that are increasingly dysfunctional and bland.
It’d be better and more honest perhaps to write songs about how insane sitting two hours a day in traffic, waiting to go somewhere else and waste another 8 hours in front of desk doing nothing, day after day, year after year until you either die of a stroke or civilization implodes, whichever comes first.
Metal however tackles more intense subject matters, focusing more on things with an invigorating power. It searches for the mythic in an experience and expresses it in terms of conflict, action, fear and triumph; part escapism and part statement of vision – a desire for a world beyond the stultifying drudgery of modern life. It often puts itself in the head of those who commit extreme acts and conveys that train of thought without moralising, recognising that it is in the most intense experiences – when our sense of all boundaries are overcome – that we are able to see ourselves and the context of life most clearly.
Ever since the opening notes of Death Strike‘s Fuckin’ Death, Master and its related projects have gripped the imagination of the metal community. Simple and direct, the music represented a missing link between punk and death metal.
This year’s The New Elite takes the band more in the direction they took on one of their most popular albums, On the Seventh Day…, which showcased precise playing and rhythmically aggressive songs with more chord changes than a punk band would use. In other words, they moved to modern (now “old school”) death metal.
This was an interesting choice considering the range of the band over the years. Starting in the early 1980s, when Paul Speckmann and others left War Cry to experiment with this new kind of metal, Master, Abomination, Death Strike, Speckmann Project and other bands of this origin have one thing in common: basic, punk style riffs using metallish minor key and chromatic progressions, with influences from blues, rock and hard rock in the fills.
Over the past few albums, punk/heavy metal hybrid Master has steadily been migrating toward late-1990s death metal. This new album presents a more technical view than the verse-chorus-exposition songs that Master (and related Speckmann projects) evolved from. Much like On the Seventh Day God Created…Master, riffs are strummed with precision at high speed and tend to lead away from stable grouping by adding riffs to the existing loop. These riffs use longer progressions and more chromatic fills, giving the music a mechanical terror that makes it sound like technocracy taking over. Speckmann’s vocals are tighter than in the past and urge the music along, but somewhere in this musical process of evolution, his overall tone has started sounding less like protest music and more like a cheering of the coming conflagration. Seeing that Master keep improving over time provides a great incentive to follow this band as they evolve further.
Now you can catch Master on tour and appreciate the wizardry behind these manic and often insightful tunes as they tour with Sacrificial Slaughter and Fisthammer on a 32-date jaunt across the USA:
Fri. March 1st – Los Angeles, CA @ The Joint
Sat.March 2nd – Oakland, CA @ Oakland Metro
Sun.March 3rd – Portland, OR @ The Branx
Mon.March 4th – Seattle, WA @ 2 Bit Saloon
Tue. March 5th – Boise, ID @ The Shredder
Wed.March 6th – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Complex
Thu. March 7th – Cheyenne, WY @ Forum 619
Fri. March 8th – Topeka, KS @ The Boobie Trap
Sat.March 9th – St. Louis, MO @ Fubar
Sun.March 10th – Madison, WI @ The Frequency
Mon.March 11th – Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s Rock Club
Tue. March 12th – Warren, MI @ The Ritz
Wed. March 13th – Rochester, NY @ Bug Jar
Thu. March 14th – Providence, RI @ Firehouse 13
Fri. March 15th – Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus Bar
Sat. March 16th – Philadelphia, PA @ Gunners Run
Sun. March 17th – Baltimore, MD @ Ottobar
Mon. March 18th – Asheville, NC @ Static Age Records
Tue. March 19th – Dothan, AL @ Herman’s Billiards
Wed.March 20th – New Orleans, LA @ Siberia
Thu. March 21st – Fort Worth, TX @ Tomcats West
Fri. March 22nd – Oklahoma City, OK @ Chameleon Room
Sat. March 23rd – Houston, TX @ BFE Rock Club
Sun. March 24th – Austin, TX @ Beerland
Mon. March 25th – San Antonio, TX @ Zombies
Tue. March 26th – Midland, TX @ Pine Box
Wed.March 27th – Albuquerque, NM @ Launchpad
Thu. March 28th – Tucson, AZ @ The Rock
Fri. March 29th – Mexicali, MX @ Bar El Andariego
Sat. March 30th – Pomona, CA @ Characters Sports bar
Sun. March 31st – Oceanside, CA @ The Royal Dive *
Mon.April 1st – Long Beach, CA @ Alex’s Bar *
Lecherous Nocturne have a new take on blackened death. Instead of trying to be black metal with death metal riffs, be death metal with black metal melody. And instead of using happy melodic death metal, use frenetic blasting death in the Unique Leader style.
The result is an aural fusillade that withers even the strongest opposition. It is quickly simply designed to pummel the listeners with jagged and abrupt riffing, then lull them into complacency with melody, and then make even those melodies evil and vile.
What makes this band interesting is that despite their newer stylings, they are sticking very much to the old school ideal of music that makes sense, instead of discoordinated riffing designed to distract. Like it or hate it, the result stands apart from the rest by communicating a worldview that is both terrifying and makes you want to participate.
We were lucky to catch up with Lecherous Nocturne guitarist Ethan Lane. We asked him if he’d mind a few questions.
Thank you for your interest.
What made you decide to take this interpretation of blasting death?
Melody and harmony, coupled with meter and rhythm, form the very foundation of any piece of music, and the music of Lecherous Nocturne is no exception. Although the melody can be difficult to pick out in our music, it is actually the driving force behind it and always exists. If you were to isolate any small section of one of our songs, and hear it played by itself, you may be surprised by how melodic it actually is…
Next, another one of the daunting aspects of our music is the complex meter changes/combinations we employ… It may seem like it’s changing all the time (and in fact it usually is…) But a piece of music is a living, breathing thing, constantly growing and developing. We are not a “verse, chorus, verse, bridge, chorus, chorus” band… that constricting formula is not just sickeningly cliche, but inherently can’t fully let music be the art form it truly is. The musical masters of yesteryear always strove to break out of such restrictions and let their music grow, …even such a popular classical piece like Beethoven’s 5th Symphony (that everyone knows the melody to) would never allow itself to become trite in its constrictive complacency — it’s always moving… Sure, themes are revisited, but almost always are they in a different key or presentation. This is found throughout all higher forms of music.
Now, I realize that the unrelenting “blast-beat” is very predominant in our sound, and a common characteristic of many of the traditional schools of death metal (which, we of course are fans of), But also, it may be easy to overlook the very strong black metal aspects of the music as well, which are every bit as predominant. It is the Black/Death marriage which can, if properly employed, really bring out some of the most exciting results… What I would ask of any potential listener of our latest release, is to let the blast beat (in it’s many different incarnations) be a “guide” for your emotions as you absorb the melody… listen “through” the blast beast to the underlying melodic, harmonic & rhythmic realities of the music. When that is achieved, a whole new world is opened up, so much more appreciation is to be found, the break-downs hit so much harder, the blast-beats themselves so much more poignant, the music is punctuated by so much more color…
What would you identify as your primary influences?
This is always a difficult question to answer without just listing a bunch of bands that we like….First and foremost, every one of us is a die-hard metal fan. The music we play is “Metal” (we would never consider our style anything else but metal, and were never ashamed of the term “metal”, as so many were in the 90’s…We of course grew up listening to the classics of many, many genres of metal…
But it goes even further than that. Every one of us is also a serious musician as well, and always looking for ways to further develop that sense of musicianship… Obviously, we’re all influenced by the various schools of black metal, thrash metal & death metal (Trying to name individual bands would be pointless, as the list would go on and on), but in addition to the obvious metal influences, there is so much more… James’ bass technique draws a lot from Jazz playing styles, as does much of the poly-rhythmic work Alex does on the drums. I personally take most of my guidance from classical/romantic piano masters such as Chopin, Rachmaninoff & Beethoven (Those guys were melting face off with some of the most ferocious extreme music ever written, a hundred years before anyone figured out how to distort a guitar or play a blast beat).
And our influences are not all just “musical” ones either. We’ve all been part of this difficult journey called life, and life is indeed one of our primary influences. The feelings of bitterness, frustration, sadness, loss, cynicism, anger & skepticism life elicits … and the desperate need to exorcise these demons from ourselves through this music is perhaps one of the greatest needs we have as artists, and truly one of the most important aspects of doing what we do…. The “Spiritual development”, if you will, of ourselves as individuals, as musicians, and as performers of metal. Hopefully others will take encouragement from this, and be strengthened from it as well.
You’re from South Carolina, which both has a long history of metal bands and isn’t the first place name that comes to mind when we talk about death metal. What is your local scene like? Did you face adversity being in a city with fewer death metal bands?
It’d be more accurate to say that we’re from “The Carolinas” (three-fifths of the band actually lives in North Carolina). And you are certainly are correct in observing that the Carolinas haven’t been the most “nurturing” environment for extreme metal. (despite having quite a long history of metal bands) Yes, It has been extremely difficult to “stay the course” in an area with such little support.
To say we’ve constantly had to face adversity would be a monumental understatement. And that’s not to put down the “local scene” entirely… there have been countless valiant efforts by the local scene to make something out of it, but without that support (that area-wide enthusiasm), it’s easy to simply run out of steam and burn out… it’s really depressing how many great bands have had to call it quits, simply due to a lack of support or encouragement (I know this all too well from my own personal experiences struggling in this scene for well over 10 years).
I consider myself very fortunate to still be doing this. But I’m also aware of how this has turned out to be a blessing in disguise in another aspect. Because of this adversity and lack of support, the “wheat definitely gets separated from the chaff”… In fact, Lecherous Nocturne, as it has turned out to be, wouldn’t even exist without the constant disappointments and frustrations we’ve all had to deal with. It brought us together, strengthened our music, and throughout all of this adversity, we’ve learned to be self-sufficient, to turn to our music and each other to find encouragement and the strength to carry on…And that is a very positive thing.
We are not a “verse, chorus, verse, bridge, chorus, chorus” band… that constricting formula is not just sickeningly cliche, but inherently can’t fully let music be the art form it truly is.
Behold Almighty Doctrine sounds like it has some form of concept behind it. Can you tell us more about this?
Behold Almighty Doctrine isn’t a “concept album” in the traditional sense of the term (with each song telling a defined part of a greater story, lyrically, in “chapters” as it were), but this album in a sense, does tell a story; The story of the frustrations of its own creation. Lyrically, you could say we’re telling the story of our frustrations with life, bitter social commentary on the state of human existence, etc… But I think an even greater story is told in the music itself, without words, for those with ears to hear. I’ve actually been describing that story in little pieces this entire interview. It’s about what we stand for, ideologically & musically; what we get out of these struggles, how we can improve ourselves, and spread this message. This music is our “doctrine”. It’s an answer to the question “Why do we do this?”, a question that the songs themselves answer far better than words.
These songs are like complex mazes of riffs. How do human beings even compose such a thing? Do you use computers or higher mathematics to help you?
The complex nature of the composition and structuring of our songs is truly the heart of Lecherous Nocturne’s music (Aside from an unyielding dedication to the essence of “Metal”, of course…) It is this aspect of our music that is also the most time-consuming… It’s not uncommon for a single 2-minute song to take several months to write. We take great pains to challenge not only the listener but ourselves as musicians with what we write, constantly reworking sections, developing themes and transitions & tying the composition together as a whole in as many subtle ways as possible. In many cases, it takes several listens of a song to really start absorbing much of what has been painstakingly worked into each composition. Regardless of the seemingly chaotic manner of our music, I assure you that each note has been carefully placed, every time change, theme & phrase analyzed and re-analyzed until we feel that the piece has blossomed fully into the carefully constructed work of art we strive for it to be.
How did the band form, and how have you held together a lineup over the past decade?
Lecherous Nocturne was originally formed back in 1997, but there have been numerous lineup changes over the years. What Lecherous Nocturne is at present though, is a culmination of years of tempering. A combining of forces, a living metal entity, a group of people who have decided to keep playing without compromise, in the face of adversity, with little to no support, and a dedication to personal integrity to this music.
Do you think death metal now is stronger than when you started? Do people still listen to “real” death metal?
I’m not sure what people listen to anymore, why they do, or what the “metal scene” even means anymore…. And it’s ironic to me that I’m just as disappointed & disillusioned with the “metal scene” now as I ever was, despite the “resurgence” of the popularity of metal (in general, not just death metal). Honestly, I don’t pay much attention to the metal scene at all. I don’t really have time to, or frankly, much of a desire to.
Lecherous Nocturne, as it has turned out to be, wouldn’t even exist without the constant disappointments and frustrations we’ve all had to deal with. It brought us together, strengthened our music, and throughout all of this adversity, we’ve learned to be self-sufficient
What’s your advice to fans who want to find quality death metal in 2013?
That all depends on what an individual defines as “quality”… is it how many notes you can play? is it “brutality”? is it how shocking your lyrics are? is it on-stage gimmicks? is it how fast you can shred/blast? Of course not. it’s none of that. I believe that true quality comes from a sense of dedication to artistry, intuition, individuality, creativity, and personal integrity to yourself and your craft. I’d start by keeping those characteristics in mind when trying to find something with “quality”. If you can do that, then I think you’re on the right track.
Thank you for taking the time to answer our interview questions.
It’s the rare band that improves with age. New York’s Dehumanized returns with a leaner and more complex sound in the style of percussive death metal, a lot like Suffocation or Malevolent Creation given lessons in being mean.
Although the band bill their as “slam death metal,” its roots are in the muted-strumming high-impact styles that extends from Exodus through Meshuggah, with stops in the middle for Morpheus Descends and Resurrection. It is a mathematics of complex impacts, like Shao-lin monks attacking with the precision of a supercomputer.
Dehumanized make their songs out of chromatic strips of chords arrayed in layers of riffs, alternating every third riff or so with a melodic counter-commentary similar to that used by newer percussive death bands like Deeds of Flesh. The result keeps interest throughout and gives you a break between pummeling skull-crushing material and abrupt tempo changes that leave a whiff of snapped necks in their path.
Vocals are chortled guttural rants that undulate through the guitar rhythms that dominate each song. Percussion follows with a flair for fills in the style of modern technical death metal, but rides a cadence like old school death. Songs are efficient, and listenable in that way that Napalm Death’s Fear, Emptiness, Despair is, meaning that they are catchy and minimal but not so repetitive that the brain filters them out.
Lite jazz musicians and metalcore enthusiasts will fear and loathe this album, but for those who like meaty and violent death metal, it is a treat that deserves more inspection. Birthed of the militaristic NYDM scene, Controlled Elite lives up to its reputation by being simultaneously ferocious and listenable.
Around and around again the argument goes. Some people advocate for Christian “metal,” and others like myself find something wrong with it. It’s like school-approved metal or eat-your-vegetables metal.
It just feels wrong. We need one genre devoted to doing something other than what the herd does. The herd, it seems, is cool with anything as long as it enforces the principle that we need them.
That need is based on the guarantee that each person is important. If everyone agrees, see, then we’re all protected and can do whatever we want. But the price is that you have to tolerate the delusions of others.
However, metal seems built on the opposite principle. In the world of metal, epic wars sweep away all these bright and promising individuals. Truth is more important than what people think. The present tense is lesser than the past.
And so the drama goes around again. All the brave individualists say that Christian “metal” is OK and should be accepted; the rest of us wrinkle lips and think there’s just something not right with that.
One Christian writer advances a reason why the distinction might not be so important, but by approaching the question from the other angle — is any metal not Christian?
Even the most banal, goat-sacrificing, wannabe Satanic metal participates in the Christian reality by stringing three notes together and calling it a melody. Their songs contain order, and order is the province of God. Their songs contain harmony — however overdriven — and thus amount to pitiful attempts at Beauty, and Beauty is God. Sure, these bands intentionally miss the mark, miss the point, preach vice, fall short of writing anything good enough to last, and waste time indulging the petty, Dionysian emotions, but even their failure is Christian. Failure to be Good, True and Beautiful, can only exist in reference to the Good, True and Beautiful. If their music is bad, it is bad because it fails to be good, and thus in its very badness it gives testimony to that-which-it-fails-to-be, namely Good, who is God. Purely evil music would not be music, because evil is Nothing. If Satanic musicians really wanted to defy God, they’d let their amps exude white noise for an hour and call it a concert. – “5 Reasons to Kill Christian Music,” by Marc Barnes, Patheos
Barnes writes eloquently for reasons to not have Christian music at all, namely that it reduces Christianity to a flavor of the same mainstream junk everyone else is listening to.
He makes a point, since this is probably the same reason metal does not want to be Christian, but from the other direction. Metal needs to be metal. It should not be “flavored” by anything else.
It’s also pathetic to pander to special interest groups. What’s next, homeschooler metal? Vegan metal? BBQ metal? Swinger metal? Please leave your freaky needs at the door and just be metal.
In fact, this is part of what makes metal great. It is a devotional experience of its own. You go to shows, join in a great swirling pit, be united by intense music, affirm reality, and then go home where your parents, friends, neighbors and coworkers can yell at you for not using the blue covers on your TPS reports.
For metal to be what it is, or in Barnes’ words to be an affirmation of “the good, the beautiful and the true,” it needs to be its lawless, amoral and occult self. That’s what metal should be, and without it, metal fails to live up to its role in the drama.
Much like John Milton wrote lovingly of Satan in Paradise Lost, or Romantic poets praised the Pagan gods, or even William Blake revealed a demonology beneath everyday life, writing about the darkness is essential for both darkness and light to know themselves.
And as the ancient Greeks would say, “gnōthi seauton” or “know thyself” is the root of all knowledge. Including that which wears bullet belts, hails Satan and raises the (inverted) cross in blasphemy.
The wording above says releasing, not releases. There’s apparently a bit of label-shopping and confusion as to when this interesting work will actually land. The good news is that when the new Pasadena Napalm Division (P.N.D.) full-length lands it will probably crush your spine.
P.N.D. is a thrash band formed of D.R.I. vocalist Kurt Brecht and Dead Horse guitarists Greg Martin and Scott Sevall, joined by drummer Ronnie Guyote. Formed in 2008, the band released an EP in 2010 which was greeted by enthusiasm from the fans.
Since this is a project band for Brecht, its schedule is unsteady and depends in part on when he’s not busy with his main act D.R.I.. As explained in a recent article, much of P.N.D’s output arose from times when D.R.I. was out of commission due to guitarist Spike Cassidy‘s health woes.
The album will be released on SF-based Minus Head Records, but the exact date is uncertain but likely April or later of this year. Since the band waited over a year to release the album while label-shopping, this means we’re finally getting a glimpse into their 2011 output. Maybe this will spur them on to do even more.
Part of being metal is to be un-metal and to follow projects in a related spirit that do not necessarily use screaming guitars, blasting drums, howling guttural vocals and lyrics about doom.
Some in fact are more ambient. Take for example New England’s Khand, a project band from members of well-known right coast black metal bands, which works in the dark ambient genre but with its own twist that more resembles the classics of psychedelic and cosmic ambient music.
The Fires of Celestial Ardour, released via Hi.Arc.Tow as a GPL-licensed free download, is “all over the place stylistically, but it’s all done with a fantasy/sci-fi mindset,” according to Khand creator Arillius.
Touting itself as music for fans of Tangerine Dream, RPG music, Dead Can Dance, Mortiis, Vangelis, Lord Wind, Winglord and related epic dark ambient projects, Khand is more playful than the norm but creates an atmosphere not of darkness, but of great possibility in which darkness and light are not destinations but means to an end.
“I keep this project all low-fi and try not to use any keyboards, samples or programs that came out post-2000,” said Arillius, who is famed in north eastern black metal circles for his unusual lifestyle. He lives and records in a houseboat without windows anchored offshore, and much of his music reflects the motion of waves, the call of seagulls, and the occasional bloated corpse brushing up against the hull. Often he goes for months without human contact except to post misanthropic screeds on his Facebook Page.
For those who like ambient, but like it dark, and like dark ambient, but like it to have a range of emotions beyond “alone in my dark room with a sword,” Khand provides a perfect listening experience that is also free of charge.
Eric Syre lives underground metal. He has been active for many years and is highly regarded. An insatiable artist, he expands into different media, fields and instrumental abilities as it suits him. And now, he has a new band called Beast Within.
The biography roughly describes this band, but a better summary is this: if you can imagine newer Celtic Frost/Triptykon covering older Celtic Frost with a doom/stoner metal groove, you can imagine where Beast Within are going.
We were able to catch up with Mr. Syre for a quick Q&A:
You have a unique lyrical concept with Beast Within that’s about the self escaping society. Can you tell me more?
We are still developing the whole concept as we haven’t completed the lyrics for all the songs we have written. There’s definitely a Nietzschean, Satanist, occult and nihilistic thread in what we’re writing, especially in the two songs we already released. We stand for the emanation of the true “Self”, buried deep inside each man and woman by centuries of decadence, slavery and blindness imposed by a false moral, political and religious elite (not the “self” individualistic values praised by our contemporary consumerist society).
You’re a well-known figure in the black metal underground. Can you give us a brief biography of yourself and the band?
I’ve been actively involved in the whole Metal scene for the last 20 years. I started playing in bands in 1992. Thesyre has been my longest running band (1995). I’ve also been the lead vocalist/lyricist in Decayed Remains, bassist in Soulseasons, actual live drummer with Akitsa and I am now the lead vocalist in Beast Within. I also had a myriad of projects including Unlife, Golem, Supernova and did a few recordings on my own as Eric Syre. I am also doing freelance artwork for other bands.
The other musicians of Beast Within followed a path similar to mine. Past bands and projects includes (among others) Utlagr, Blackwind and The Vault.
I guess you can say we’re semi-veterans of the scene.
How would you describe the musical direction of this new entity?
We’ve all been raised on the classics of the 80s and Celtic Frost is a common ground for all of us. It was important for us to keep things minimal and oldschool. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel but it’s very important to have our own sound. The groove you refer to has a lot to do with the simplicity of the music and its underlying rock vibe. We’re aiming for something heavy, dark, groovy and catchy at the same time.
Do you think that being from a French-culture area of Canada has influenced your songwriting or outlook?
Being French-Canadians always had an influence on us, willingly or not. We’re isolated in the eastern part of Canada and to be honest, it’s almost like we’re living in a different country. We never had the same cultural reaction to the lyrics of the bands we listened to in the early years. We always had to translate, filter and in some ways interpret everything in order to understand what was expressed. I guess we probably got a lot more into it for this reason; It required some form of personal involvement which maybe wasn’t as mandatory for English-speaking fans, for example. The same could be said about the lyrics we wrote. Even if it’s important for us to stay true to our culture, it’s hard to get recognized with lyrics in French worldwide. The whole isolation factor also pushed the pioneers of our scene to have an original sound and a different approach. Voivod got noticed quite early for that very reason, I think. The Quebec scene never got over-saturated with bands and so far I can still claim that quality over quantity is a constant over here.
You mention that you derive influences from Celtic Frost and Pentagram. Why these two?
Celtic Frost inspired us the most with Beast Within. Pentagram is a common interest within the band. Both bands have a strong, recognizable style based on simplicity, catchiness and both are quite effective with the memorability of their songwriting. If we can take cues from those influential bands and eventually establish a characteristic sound for Beast Within, our job will be done. As craftsmen of the genre as a whole, we’re there to deliver dark and heavy music the way we think is the best. Time shall tell if we do it right…
I bet you will. Look for this band to shake up the complacent post-underground scene.
Professor Jacobsen uses heavy metal music to introduce students to literature in a class that he says is “50/50” lecture and listening to music. Among other topics, he tackles the history of metal, the reason the first songs on metal albums are important, the artistic superiority of …And Justice for All among Metallica albums, and the progression of first generation black metal.
Apparently this class arose from a sentence diagramming exercise in another class. How did you realize that this could be a class of its own?
The students realized it. I just mentioned it would be cool to have a class on heavy metal, and the response was crazy. Word spread and people started asking me about it. The boss was in favor of it, and we had already been offering some classes off the beaten path. So, I proposed it.
Approximately how many of your students do you think are heavy metal fans?
That’s a hard question. It’s fair to say most of my students aren’t. I teach a lot of elementary education majors, and most of them are not metal fans. But the English majors are. And among them, it seems to cut across genders and ages and other factors. You’re probably right that Romantic literature and metal have much in common, and the questioning mindset of a humanities major surely brings them in line with heavy metal.
“Introduction to Literature: Heavy Metal as a Literary Genre” teaches English using metal from over its forty-year history. What generations of metal do you consider, and can you give us some examples of each?
It’s pretty even across decade: 1970-Classic Metal; 1980-NWOBHM; 1990-Mainstream Metal; Nu Metal-2000. These are centers rather than inceptions, and I mean to suggest that this is when they reach a type of critical mass (i.e. albums Paranoid, British Steel, Metallica, etc). The early 1980s are when all the genres became established really — especially black, death, and thrash metal. All of them persist into the present. Prog metal is surely an outgrowth of RUSH, but there seems to be a lot more of it since the 1990s.
Do you think heavy metal artists are actually reading and influenced by literature?
Yes, some of them are. Or the news. Or some other source of ideas. Geezer Butler and Ronnie James Dio have talked openly about their reading. Clearly Steve Harris and Bruce Dickinson are very familiar with literature. Rush and Dream Theater in prog metal use literary themes and models (like Ayn Rand’s ideas in 2112 or the Hamlet motif in DT’s “Pull Me Under” or the Metropolis suite). Movies play a huge role too, and metal artists seem to see books and movies rather equally. Iron Maiden seems especially prone to use imagery from movies, though literature and history are also clearly sources for them.
Of all the literary movements throughout history, which one do you think is the closest in form and content to heavy metal? Is heavy metal an artistic “movement”?
That’s a very interesting question. I think it follows them in some ways. Much of it is similar in nature to Romanticism. Surely Death metal and Black Metal have postmodern elements. It is a movement, I think, and what’s interesting to me is how it has so many sub-genres within it. We can really analyze metal as a literature of it’s own making. While it’s interesting that metal artists use so much from literature, it’s even more interesting that they have enough depth and innovation to create an independent ethos.
Do the literary qualities of metal change between generations of metal, for example between NWOBHM and black metal?
That’s a good question. Some of the newer stuff seeks to be shocking for the sake of being shocking. That ruins it a little bit, I think. But even at that, one of the things metal does is put every question on the table. That’s what art does. It’s like cubism in painting or baroque in classical music. Take the norm and skew it and then re-present it to the world so they can think about it. I think new groups can ask the questions more explicitly, but I’m not sure the questions have changed. Death, pair, fear, war, pessimism, metal stability–all of these recur again and again. And they are questions that need asking. If heavy metal serves the world, it does so by interrogating notions every other approach seems afraid to interrogate. There are a lot of scary ideas in this world. And some people think that metal is one of them, I suppose. But any real metal fan will know that the real point is to talk about these things openly. Maybe that’s why we’re so loud. We talk about things no one else dares to engage. We have to speak up to be heard.
How have the students responded so far? Do you see more engagement with this as the subject matter, versus literature at large?
Way more. But, many of the students are in the class precisely because they are metalheads. Other literature classes at this level are seen as ‘have to’ humanities classes. I usually teach classical literature when I teach these classes. I get pretty good responses in those classes, but nothing like this. The students called the secretary the other day because we had a blizzard here and they wanted to make sure class was meeting. They didn’t want to miss it. Usually, a blizzard is a day off for most students, especially for a core class. This class draws people who want to be there. It’s not a fair comparison in many ways.
Thank you, Professor Jacobsen and students for taking the time to answer our questions and send over classroom materials. We hope this class becomes a regular at your college — and others!