J.R.R. Tolkien on pipe-smoking

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Metal derives many influences from literature, but H.P. Lovecraft and J.R.R. Tolkien appear near the top of any list, while philosophers like Friedrich W. Nietzsche and authors like Louis-Ferdinand Celine linger in the background. Tolkien captured the essence of a dying society without purpose and a contrary invention, which is the medieval-styled worlds of myth and magic from his middle earth books. This appeals to metal which both hates mass society and loves violence, conflict and mythology.

Tolkien saw modern society as a horror and argued for a return to older ways by violence, a lot like Varg Vikernes and even the more cynical Black Sabbath songs:

My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs) — or to ‘unconstitutional’ Monarchy. I would arrest anybody who uses the word State (in any sense other than the inanimate realm of England and its inhabitants, a thing that has neither power, rights nor mind); and after a chance of recantation, execute them if they remain obstinate!…

Government is an abstract noun meaning the art and process of governing and it should be an offence to write it with a capital G or so as to refer to people…

The most improper job of any man, even saints, is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity.

This mirrors the story in his epic Lord of the Rings cycle, which seems to borrow both from the Nibelungenlied and Plato’s parable of the ring of the Lydian Gyges, where a force of evil seduces men through their egos and the quest for power and control embodied in a mystical ring.

His stories inspired many pieces of fan art, including this animation by Ulla Thynell which has been floating around the internet for the past few years:

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In contrast to the LARPers to follow, Tolkien saw himself in the hobbits, including their love of pipes and Nicotiana (called “pipe-weed” or “tobacco” in the novels):

“‘I am in fact a hobbit,’” Carpenter quotes from Tolkien, “’in all but size. I like gardens, trees, and unmechanized farmlands; I smoke a pipe, and like good plain food, but detest French cooking. I like, and even dare to wear in these dull days, ornamental waistcoats. I am fond of mushrooms; have a very simple sense of humor; I go to bed late and get up late. I do not travel much.’”

Thematically, this fits, since the theme of his book is for the degraded remnants of an ancient order to, despite their puny size and lack of self-esteem, rise up and be heroic against the evil encroaching on them. To any who feel like midgets compared to the ancient Vikings, medieval Knights, or even Otzi the caveman, this is an appealing message.

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Tolkien smoked Capstan Navy Cut, a Virginia flake known for its sweetness and long-burning. On the other hand, his characters in the Lord of the Rings film were actually smoking Peter Stokkebye Nougat aromatic tobacco to give them the feel for being real Hobbits.

He explained his own pipe habit and the portrayal of smoking in his books through a letter to a fan:

I think that the prologue says enough about Hobbits and their art of pipe-smoking. I do know people want more – but I think that covering the story in mysteries is a good thing, if not a necessary one. It also helps to replicate real history.

Regarding the taste, I’m inclined to answer that I do not know myself. The hobbit leaves surely made for very good flavoured pipe-weed (I would not say brand, as there’s no question about commercial products here) but I’ve not given much thought to that until now – or if I did, my old memory is failing me somewhat. However, I do imagine that most pipes were primarily simple in design. Their shape would look similar to the the large half bent Billiard or Dublin shapes, but often much more long-stemmed.

Regarding the material, I think that Hobbits, if they could not grow suitable briar in the hills, would use hardwood like beech or oak – or perhaps even a type of wood I do not know about. These are details that, when writing, do not come to mind and that must be thought out later, if at all. I must admit I’m always hard put to give out so many of them, and in the end I often favour giving only a partial answer, lest the flavour of authenticity I try to give the story completely disappears. Indeed, I see my job primarily as that of a translator, not an encyclopedist!

The mythos lives on, perhaps in a cloud of bluish smoke.

On writing negative reviews

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Back in the days of information scarcity when metal fans found bands through fifteen-generation tapes and xeroxes of pasted-together fanzines, I made the decision to focus on bands of quality. People needed more than anything else a shopping list when they wrote to Wild Rags or Relapse with an order form; as Relapse mailorder grew and essentially became the center of the underground mail order scene, the copywriting got more exuberant and people became even more confused. They needed solid information in the form of “reviews” that actually assessed the material and came up with solid reasons why it might be worth listening to for more than a few months. Looking down a list of of releases with two-line descriptions that ended with “it’ll tear your head off!” gave people nothing, and in the limited hours they had for finding new metal, they needed descriptive writing that could show them what stood out above the rest.

For that reason, I wrote positive reviews and ignored the bands that did not strike me as interesting enough to hear for repeated listens over the years. As Karl Marx reminds us, time is money and conversely, money is time, exchanged by working hours for what can then be spent. Money spent on the wrong bands damges fans. It also damages the health of the scene. Worse, it creates a Darwinistic negative effect where bands are rewarded for slapping out some haphazard or soulless material but getting a good cover, signing to the right label, or having solid promotion, and then getting rewarded for this mediocre content but good marketing. Quality reviews enforce natural selection on metal where the best rises.

Over time the market shifted. With the rise of big metal magazines which would cover the underground, and then the internet, there was no longer a shortage of information. The opposite problem presented itself: we were literally drowning in information. Magazines published thousands of reviews, most of which described some of the surface attributes of a band and then praised it as the next best thing. Internet websites emulated them and became cheerleaders more than critical voices. People now had so many options that they needed not only a list of things to look out for, but defenses against the hype and promotion. They needed solid reasons why some bands were just promotion and aesthetics with no content.

I wish that during this time I had written more critical reviews. I should have been shouting from the rooftops that the first Opeth was warmed-over hard rock made in a cryptic pseudo-progressive format to give basement dwellers some reason to think they were more “deep” than their friends. I should have screamed at the first Slayer to deviate from their unbroken quality, Divine Intervention, and pointed out that the band would have kept its old audience and new by not imitating the past, but keeping up the quality and compositional style of the past instead of going toward vocal-driven hard rock. I should have called out every band of the two types that make metal fail, the false-authentic “tryhard” bands that imitate the surface of past greats, and the “open minded” bands that borrow from old genres and call the hybrid a new thing. But I was stuck in the old mode of trying to find the good in a stream of so-so.

The problem with this approach became obvious over time: there were few gems, but a constant stream of news, and by dropping out of that news stream, I failed to comment on what people were seeing on their screens and pages. They needed guidance from experienced hands who could say, “Nope, seen this before — it’s Bruce Springsteen riffs tricked out as jazz rock with some metal flourishes.” Or, equally important, to ask why it was that a band sounded exactly like Celtic Frost or Blasphemy but the songs had none of the personality and variation of those bands. With the information overload, metal needed mean voices to provide counter-arguments to the excuses and trends offered in the promotions.

For this reason, in the latest incarnation of this site we launched the sadistic style of writing metal reviews. We take the highly-hyped and show why it is hollow, empty and meaningless. The point is not the band itself, but the series of tropes used by labels and magazines to sell this band. If they claim it is open-minded, we need to show how it is merely an imitation of the past in an older genre than metal. If they claim it is trve, its utter lack of ideas and simultaneous aping of the past needs to be revealed. People need mental weapons against the onslaught of advertising coming from both big media and thousands of little over-enthusiastic blogs.

Those of us who write do so — if we are good — to convey some kind of information, usually the type of learning one gains with experience. We can peer beneath the layers of production, marketing, trendy chatter and hype and get to the real question: is this music interesting enough to listen to for months and years, instead of another passing fad? This helps keep metal healthy by ensuring that the good releases get rewarded and the bad forgotten. For many years, I failed you all in this capacity, and I hope to rectify it with well-placed cruelty laying bare the essence of this music.

SJWs force Disma from Netherlands Deathfest

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SJWs have doubled-down on their campaign to force Disma out of the death metal scene. The band, who play non-political death metal, are under fire because one member of the band used politically-sensitive imagery in a side project ten years ago, and has refused to humble himself before the allegedly superior knowledge of SJWs by apologizing and rejecting his former work. Instead, Disma have stuck to the statement that they are not a political band and want nothing to do with either side of the issue.

Since they operate as a type of internet lynch mob, and their power is in generating controversy that causes bands to be ostracized for not joining the SJW hive mind, SJWs in the Maryland Deathfest staff twisted arms to get Disma removed from the Netherlands Deathfest, as shown by the following announcement:

Disma are no longer playing NDF 2016 and have been replaced by Funebrarum.

This is the first time in 14 years of putting on festivals that we’ve been put in such an awkward situation, and in the end, just like a member of Disma who recently quit the band, we’ve decided to distance ourselves from the drama surrounding the band lately.

For the record, nobody “pressured” us into making this decision and the decision is solely ours, but it should be stated that the billing would look drastically different if Disma remained on the bill, as at least 10 bands have said they do not want to play the event if Disma remains on the bill.

We acknowledge that Disma are nothing more than a death metal band (who once played Maryland Deathfest) and it’s unfortunate that their fans cannot see them for what they know them as, but all things considered, there would’ve been far too many negatives than positives for us to deal with by leaving them on the bill. We thought the situation settled down slightly when the admin of the Disma FB page made a statement about a month ago claiming that the band member in question “made mistakes in the past”, but that post was quickly erased and the drama fired up again as a result.

We feel that Funebrarum is an adequate replacement to make up for this, but if for some reason you purchased a Sunday ticket to see Disma, you may request a refund.

This news will surely create a debate that we don’t wish to get roped into the middle of. We’ve always been about putting on a celebration of music and nothing more. Let’s all just try to get along and enjoy dozens of great bands at this festival.

As some savvy observers noted, this statement makes no sense. They claim that nobody “pressured” us into making this decision but also say that we’ve been put in such an awkward situation. This means the situation is of their own making, and their Let’s all just try to get along means not that we all get along, but that we exclude bands so that the Maryland Deathfest organizers feel their own political demands have been met.

If they wanted to be honest, they would not take this action since by their own admission, no one has asked them to do it. The “drama surrounding the band” is entirely made by SJWs, and is a non-issue given that it remains unclear whether this side project was anything more than political provocation, like Craig Pillard dressing up as a Nazi comandant in a Bill Zebub movie and demanding that a character “kick me in the balls” in a Hollywood German accent.

SJWs specialize in concern trolling, or disguising their own political sentiments as public services, and then using that power of guilt to remove all voices but those compliant with their own. This form of totalitarian mindset is far more threatening that even an outright Nazi band, since it expresses a sentiment that a minority of people would agree with, and echoes the sentiments of witch-hunters from centuries past who feared that witches might “infect” others with their “seductive” ideas.

For people who claim to be open-minded and progressive however this viewpoint is not new. Over two millennia ago, the citizens of Athens convicted Socrates of “corrupting the youth” with his ideas and sentenced him to death. They were defending the progressive regime in Athens which had become unstable due to its unrealistic ideas, and instead of fixing its problems, wanted to censor its critics so the citizens remained oblivious to the disaster approaching them.

So it is with SJWs, the Maryland Deathfest, and in fact most of our society. In the 1960s when people were so unnerved by the signs of collapse of our civilization that they turned to the type of “peace and love” ideas on finds on greeting cards and under dreamweavers in gift shops, Black Sabbath showed up to confront them with the “heavy” realities of the world as it exists outside the collective human feelings of the hive mind. Now Disma does the same, and to their shame, some of metal’s institutions are attempting to destroy them.

Edit: for kicks, you can watch SJWs looking for a target to boycott in order to make themselves important. No, really.

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Glenn Danzig accused of kicking fan in head, but accounts differ

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Aspiring indie-metal photograph Neil Dalton has accused longtime metal creative force Glenn Danzig of assault after a concert in Montreal. According to Dalton, Danzig hit Dalton while Dalton was being held by security guards:

So I went to Danzig last night. Including the 100 dollars I spent on his merch plus the tickets time of work and traveling to Montreal to see him this is the price you pay for taking a photo of Danzig. He called me up on stage got got his pussy security guards to rough me up and held me back me back so he could hit me himself. Cops can’t do fuck all because we’re both not Canadian and they did it off camera and said I fell .could all my friends please share this because I want the world to know what a pussy the guy is.superjoint fucking ruled tho

A number of problems immediately come to mind here: first, it is unlikely that a performer would call someone on stage to publicly beat them when they could dispatch security to beat the person in the dark; second, public accusations are usually nonsense unless a police report has been filed, because people honestly victimized usually go to the police first and attempt “trial by media” later, but most people who attempt trial by media first are trying to work around the lack of evidence; finally, that Canadian cops would fail to arrest someone simply because he is not Canadian stretches credibility since they arrest visitors every day, usually for not paying the $50/ounce Canadian tobacco taxes.

The usual voices on social media started getting weepy and white knighty, and then, someone who was also there spoke up:

After about ten minutes of arguing with the bodyguard and being pushed around by him, Neil finally took off. [Neil] re-entered the venue after being told not to come back. That’s when things got ugly and sure enough Neil got tossed back out this time bloodied up and shoeless. He kept instigating the security and bodyguards by yelling names at them and not leaving like he was told.

Right after the show ended, Glenn came running out and engaged Neil and threw a kick to Neil’s ribs, and connected. He also swung a couple punches that missed before security got Glenn on his bus. Glenn kept calling Neil a motherfucker

Just as in #DeiphagoGate, we see the importance of getting both sides of the story. This one remains unresolved, but to an experienced concert goer, the second narrative is plausible while Dalton’s version of events has numerous holes in it. Again the pattern emerges that those with legitimate grievances go to the police and file a report, while those who are partially guilty themselves go to social media and try to whip up an SJW internet army to administer a false justice.

Interview: Frank Stöver of Voices from the Darkside (2015)

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Many of you know Frank Stöver from his days editing the classic death metal fanzine Voices from the Darkside, but many more have come to know him through his website of the same time. Having read his material for years, this writer jumped on the chance to ask him a few questions about what he does and how he keeps putting out high-quality material after all these years…

What do you look for in a metal band that makes them appealing to you? How important is imagery, packaging and production?

First and foremost it’s of course the music that I will have to enjoy, but to me that sometimes goes hand in hand with the band’s imagery or packaging as well. I often experience that bands that are really dedicated to what they’re doing come up with a better visual side as well, because they really know how they would like to present themselves. But a band with a shitty xeroxed cover and a poor looking logo can of course also be killer musically.

Since I’ve been involved in the tape-trading era myself I’m still used to poor sounding rehearsal- and live-tapes, so production definitely isn’t that important in the first place to discover great bands. Just remember the early Mantas/Death recordings… But then again killer songs could be even more killer with a fitting and crushing production of course, as long as the production really fits the band.

When you prepare to interview a band, how do you prepare? How much of this is research? How much of it is listening to their demos/albums?

Since I only interview bands that I personally really like it’s almost exclusively research. I do read a lot of reviews and other interviews, check out their discography, member changes etc. I ask questions that I personally would like to get answers for and hope that the readers find that of interest as well.

In one of your past interviews, you mention a zine as being “narrowminded” in a positive way. Is it important to be narrow-minded? Or is that a term for being open-minded and then making your mind up? Does death metal risk infiltration by imitators, poseurs, fakers, etc.?

Good question… I wouldn’t say it’s important, it’s just a matter of your personal tastes. Even though I’m musically totally open-minded, I still prefer zines that stick to certain styles exclusively. Otherwise I could also pick up one of the colored major magazines that are being sold at shops and supermarkets every month. Same with music itself. I have a lot of respect for bands that try to break boundaries by mixing new elements into established styles.

I ask questions that I personally would like to get answers for and hope that the readers find that of interest as well.

But when I’m in the mood for some brutal Death Metal, I don’t wanna hear that combined with clean vocals, a funky bass or whatever. Considering the fact that there’s constantly so much new music out, it also makes it a bit easier to select releases / bands for a zine. You gotta draw a line somewhere, otherwise you would have to feature 4251166898089090 and more releases every month.

You were manager for Kreator and Destruction back in the day. Why do you think Germany led the world in their kind of speed/death hybrid, but was less participatory in death metal as a complete genre?

Well, I just helped out Kreator a little bit with merchandise and fan club activities, I never managed them… But to answer your actual question: I can only guess. Maybe it’s because all the younger bands in Germany at the time simply looked up to the bands that had already become bigger (Destruction, Sodom, Kreator, etc.) and felt musically inspired by them. And since all of them are rooted in thrash metal, it probably resulted in a pretty healthy thrash scene. If Morgoth would’ve been one of our first extreme bands in those days maybe everything would’ve developed in a different direction, who knows…

Why do you think 1980s bands were so varied, and bands now sound more similar? Is the “market” flooded? How can metal recover from this? Or is it just harder to come up with something new, because everything has “been done”? Or is style less important, and content what drives uniqueness in bands?

I think you pretty much answered this yourself already. The number of bands simply exploded over the years, and almost everything has already been done in one way or another, so there’s not much room left anymore for fresh, unique bands that still deliver brutal music.

Back in the day everything was still fresh and new, so whenever a new band appeared on the scene, it still sounded a little different to the already more established names. I think something like that is almost impossible nowadays. I hardly find enough time to listen to all the new releases I receive every week, so I’m glad that I don’t have to write music in a band that tries to make it.

Why did you switch from print to internet-only distribution of your writings? Are you able to reach the same audience? Did you gain more readers? What are the advantages from print that you miss, and what does online do better?

That’s an easy one: lack of time and money were the main reasons not to continue on with the printed version of the zine. The advantages are obvious: you can easily update a site on a daily base if you like, while a printed zine always takes a lot of time until it’s finished and distributed. It’s easier, because you don’t have to do layouts, ship the finished magazines, deal with printing companies and the postal service and as a result you also safe a lot of money, which you usually spend on postage and printing.

The number of readers has exploded ever since we went online. Our last issue (# 10) was printed in 1,000 copies; with our website we have approximately 2,000 – 2,500 visitors each day nowadays. But of course I miss the print era. I just love the cut and paste type old school layouts… and reading stuff where ever I like is probably the biggest plus (reading in front of a monitor screen is really annoying).

Is it hard to get volunteers to work with? Is apathy a problem in the metal community?

Never really had any problems in that department at all. But maybe it’s that easy because Voices From The Darkside is already an established name that people are aware of and respect. So, whoever I work with (or have worked with in the past) is first of all a fan of the music and the zine. I guess that makes it a lot easier.

How did fanzines help shape the metal underground? Did this change from your days in Horror Infernal to when you started Voices from the Darkside in 1993? Do you think fanzines played a role in shaping what people liked, and made some bands into “favorites”? If so, was this good or bad?

Without fanzines there probably would be no underground, at least not in the way we know it. I don’t think it changed in any way. Fanzines have been around for ages and I received some of them already back when I started out in the early 80s. I personally found out about a lot of amazing bands through fanzines, flyers and tape-trading.

If a band is honest in what they do and they don’t sell out or change in order to reach a bigger audience, they deserve to get noticed by bigger crowds for sure.

I suppose without this great network, I probably wouldn’t have discovered a lot of the bands this early. A good example is Metallica. I got a live show from 1982 on tape very early on, even before I got to hear their demos and that made me follow them right from the start, which was really exciting.

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Should underground metal stay underground? Is this even possible?

No, I don’t think so. If a band is honest in what they do and they don’t sell out or change in order to reach a bigger audience, they deserve to get noticed by bigger crowds for sure. Of course it’s always a bitter feeling for the fans of day one to see that all of a sudden people like “their” bands, who probably don’t know anything about them, their roots or anything. But that doesn’t mean the newer fans are less dedicated. Some of them often turn into total diehards as well, they just discovered the band later.

The German scene is fascinating to me. From thousands of kilometers away, it looks as if German fans are fans first of heavy metal as a whole, not specialized into death metal, black metal, etc. Does this have some benefits? What about downsides?

Yeah, Germany is really a cool place for metal and all its sub-genres. The scene is very healthy with lots of venues, bands, magazines, etc. That’s probably also one of the reasons why big festivals such as Wacken work out so well. Metal fans are often more open-minded than one might think. They don’t have a problem with having their Terrorizer record next to a Thin Lizzy record in their collection (at least I don’t have). I don’t think that has a downside to it at all.

I wrote about how hacking was a parallel community to underground metal found similarities between the two. Do you think the metal underground had a lot in common with other undergrounds? What made it “underground,” in the first place? Was it only lack of commercial acceptance, or also of social acceptance?

I often compare the metal underground with the early punk movement (before both scenes got commercialized by the industry). This whole DIY mentality with self-organized shows, flyers, cut and paste fanzines etc. most certainly had a big influence on the origin of the metal underground. Also this “fuck off” mentality and trying to rebel against parents, employers or the mainstream is pretty similar. But all this probably makes it scenes on their own. To me being underground means that you’re different to the mainstream in certain aspects and you most certainly have that in various other sub-genres as well.

It seems to me that with the rise of the internet, we have information overload. Meaning that there are too many bands, sites, labels, radio/podcasts, etc. to possibly keep track of. Do you think that zines and some websites can be helpful in reducing this overload? Is that a positive goal? Can websites achieve the same effect that zines did?

I totally agree… and to be perfectly honest with you: I really hate this overkill! I’m sick and tired of receiving a shitload of download links for new albums every fuckin’ day. I mean, who’s supposed to listen to all this, not to mention who shall buy all the records? Today there’s probably more labels than we had bands in the 80s and each one of them releases as many records as possible. From old poor sounding rehearsal tapes, to compilations, split releases, re-releases, EPs, live albums, full lengths etc.

Today there’s probably more labels than we had bands in the 80s and each one of them releases as many records as possible.

The industry always mentions that record sales are going down, but at the same time they are releasing more albums than ever before. Websites such as ours can indeed be helpful by being more selective in what they review and feature in general. And that leads us back to the “narrow-minded” question: if we would be less narrow-minded, Voices From The Darkside would quickly turn into a fulltime job for sure. But luckily most people still care about quality. So, no matter what it is: a record, a band, a label or even a website — if it’s of poor quality people will sooner or later search for something better. Since our website is already online for almost 15 years by now with a steady growing number of visitors, I suppose we’re doing something right.

You have mentioned in several past interviews that you do not collect rare discs, but are interested in having the complete recordings. Do you think the “collector’s mentality” was good for metal? Why do you avoid it, or is this just a practical/personal decision?

I think this “collector’s mentality” opened a lot of doors for the just mentioned release overkill. Many metal fans tend to buy their favorite records in every fuckin’ re-release format there is. If a label re-releases a record with only one single bonus track or a different packaging some diehards most certainly will spend their hard earned money on it again, no matter how often they already have it in their collection. I don’t like that, but somehow I’m infected by that as well.

If I like a band, I try to get their entire material in one way or another. But I don’t keep a record in various formats then. I replace the older version with the newer expanded edition. That’s equally stupid (if not more), but at least I don’t have to spend a shitload of many for rare first press releases, hahaha.

What are your plans for the future with Voices from the Darkside? Do you have any other projects brewing? Ever think of writing a book (of new text, not compilation of the older zines)? If people like your work, how should they stay updated on what you do?

The website already keeps me extremely busy since I take care of all the daily updates myself. Every single review and interview that ends up on the site is being formatted, proof-read etc. by yours truly. And I also compile all the news, tour dates and so on. All that takes a lot of time every single day, so no – I don’t have any other projects in the pipeline at the moment, I’m afraid. All I can offer at the moment can be found at www.voicesfromthedarkside.de. Thanks a lot Brett, for this highly interesting interview and your support! All the best!

Isolation of the human soul in a utilitarian world

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As part of our ongoing series of heavy metal topics, or rather the ideas that are the cause of the effect of choosing to make music that sounds like machinery re-enacting medieval warfare, we look into the isolation of modern humans.

Let us begin through the eyes of W.H. Auden (as suggested by M.J.):

The Unknown Citizen

(To JS/07 M 378
This Marble Monument
Is Erected by the State)

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a saint,
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn’t a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation.
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their education.
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

Then let us turn to the poets of modern dissatisfaction, thrash band Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, first with the second song on their first LP, “Commuter Man”:

I play Pac-Man and I watch T. V.
I’m so happy ’cause it pleases me
I couldn’t really ask for anything else
Maybe my own chain of Taco Bells

I’m perfectly happy right where I am
I could live forever in a traffic jam
It doesn’t really bother me to breath the poison air
I’d choke anyway, I don’t really care

Sometimes I think about getting away for a while
But when I return I will be out of style
You may say I’m not an ambitious man
But let me tell you I’ve got some plans
Like there’s a new car I wanna buy
And a video cassette recorder yet I’m not sure why
I wanna get married and have three kids
‘Cause I’m lonely and I’ve got the hard dick
Commuter Man

Then detouring to a track from Four of a Kind:

Suit and tie guy
With his fashion phases
And his quarterly raises
Feels he’s better than you and me

Suit and tie guy
Thinks he’s real cute
In the bathroom for a toot
Until his nose starts to bleed

Suit and tie guy
I see he always hurries
I know he always worries
He’s gonna die of a heart attack

Suit and tie guy
On his way to feeding
Or an important meeting
Just like a car on a track

Suit and tie guy
He travels between stations
With certain destinations
Never varying from that routine

Suit and tie guy
And he’ll tell you in one word
That he is insured
And it’s not as bad as it may seem

Then, to cap it off, a venture into the world of later Black Sabbath with their acidic (from Born Again) anthem “Zero the Hero”:

Accept the fact that you’re second rate life is easy for you
It’s all served up on a gold plated plate
And we don’t even have to talk to you
Your face is normal that’s the way you’re bred
And that’s the way you’re going to stay
Your head is firmly nailed to your TV channel
But someone else’s finger’s on the control panel

What you gonna be brother – Zero the hero
Don’t you wanna be brother – Zero the hero
When you gonna be brother – Zero the hero
Impossibility impissibolity mother really a hero

You sit there watch it all burn down
It’s easy and breezy for you
You play your life to a different sound
No edge no edge you got no knife have you
Your life is a six lane highway to nowhere
You’re going so fast you’re never ever gonna get down there
Where the heroes sit by the river
With a magic in their music as they eat raw liver

You stand there captain we all look
You really are mediocre
You are the champion in the Acme form book
But I think you’re just a joker
Your freedom life ain’t so much of a pity
But the luv-a-duckin’ way you’re walkin’ around
The city with your balls and your head full of nothing
It’s easy for you sucker but you really need stuffing

What do we see here?

“Good” things such as freedom, commerce, love and self-gratification shown as a path to emptiness, heat death of the inner self and entropy of the mind.

“Bad” things that we fear such as discomfort, risk, danger and violence as having an appeal as getting us out of the purported “good” state.

In the end, a species sprawling in excess and writhing in misery, unable to articulate this because it requires going against public opinion.

Sounds about right.

Fleshcrawl / Skinned Alive to release Tales of Flesh and Skin

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Brutal Art Records has announced the release of a split CD/LP between Fleshcrawl and Skinned Alive entitled Tales of Flesh and Skin to be released in January 2016. The limited release, which comes with custom guitar picks from each band, will occur in an issue of only 100 copies of the cassette, 50 of each in red and black. Afterwards, a digipak CD with 4-panel booklet will be issued in 300 copies.

The volatile mix of Fleshcrawl’s Swedish-influenced style of death metal and the one-man band Skinned Alive, which takes a more percussive approach, should provide interesting and may foreshadow longer releases from each of these bands. Brutal Art Records reveals the split will be out toward the middle or end of January, and will not be issued on vinyl.

Dunhill – My Mixture BB1938 (2015)

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A long time ago, when times were more innocent, a tobacco company created a blend called “Baby’s Bottom.” The idea, before the scatological and pedophile implications of our present time drive it from your mind, was that the mixture was smooth… as the proverbial buttocks of a baby. Not much different than King Kobra malt liquor, which back in the relatively-halcyon 1980s told us “Don’t let the smooth taste fool you,” while all of us wondered what the heck they were talking about. Sensing the same resistance all of us have in these cynical days to innocent names, Dunhill returned this one under the name My Mixture BB1938, keeping the nomenclature they developed when their primary business around 1912 or so was keeping track of custom blends for customers.

To cut to the chase, My Mixture BB1938 is a light English comprised of a blend of sweet and bold Virginias, capped off with Latakia, and gently stoved or aged to make it very mild, with a slight vanilla hint on top of it. I heard of this blend earlier today when I tried the Pipes & Cigars BB1938 Match, which is very similar but felt like it had some Burley in it and much more of the vanilla topping. Back in the 1950s when this was a popular blend, “mildness” was prized by pipe smokers. This catch-all term referred to blends that you could not screw up because they were low in nicotine, pleasant in “room note” or the smell after burning, cool burning, and easy to light and keep lit. That meant saying goodbye to coughing wives, pipe burn-out and vomiting in the sink near the employee entrance. With this blend, Dunhill achieved that mildness by denaturing the Virginia and Latakia, and leaving out the Orientals that might otherwise create a slight vinegar taste, creating instead a sweet, soft and gentle mix that you can burn all day without blinking. The Latakia dominates the flavor with a background note of gentle sweetness, with Virginias intruding only as a supporting note of mixed sweet and nutty flavors. It compares favorably to the American Cavendishes but owing to its origins as an English blend, derives its flavor more from the sudden mixing of different elements than a streamlined single flavor. The original is far superior to the Pipes & Cigars version, which comes across as a misplaced aromatic, where the original tastes like a light English without the bitterness and bite gentle crested with vanilla.

As a designer of tobacco products — since they outsource manufacturing and marketing — Dunhill stands as one of the finest outfits on earth. They aggressively find market niches and exploit them by taking a middle-of-the-road approach and then improving until until it is if not a luxurious experience, at least a highly satisfying one. My Mixture BB1938, like Early Morning Pipe and Standard Mixture Mild, targets the broadest segment of pipe smokers who want to enjoy eight to fifteen hours of smoking a day without having to worry about the complexity of pipe or tobacco. You can sit at your computer and puff away complacently for hours, dumping out the dead ash and dottle when each pipe dies, and never be interrupted by the needs of your pipe. Where Early Morning Pipe is like their Mix Mixture 965 a Scottish English with added Cavendish, and Standard Mixture Mild approximates their classic English with the edge taken off, My Mixture BB1938 cuts everything to the minimum and presents instead a conveniently accessible, moderately priced, and soothing tobacco for the working smoker. It might be able to improve itself with the addition of some of the gentler Virginias that the BB1938 Match from Hearth & Home uses, or even some light Burley to cool its burning. As much as I generally dislike tobacco blends with this little nicotine, the flavorful and comforting nature of this one — which we might view as an ancestor of mulled Latakia brands like Esoterica Penzance — keeps me loading the pipe again and turning back, placated, to whatever task has been keeping me from seeking out Royal Yacht and burning down a stack of it.

Quality rating: 4/5
Purchase rating: 5/5

Frank Watkins (1968-2015)

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Obituary has notified their fans and friends that Frank Watkins, former bassist for the group and later active in Gorgoroth, has passed away. Born on February 19, 1968, Frank moved to the next plane on October 18, 2015.

His style of bass-playing aided Obituary in the creation of one of the greatest epics of death metal, Cause of Death, in which he achieved a sound like an earthquake moving through a mud layer that shadowed the detuned guitars and growling vocals for a subterranean, unearthly aesthetic.

Since those days, Watkins moved on to play for and manage other metal bands, including most notably one reformation of Norwegian black metal act Gorgoroth. During his 47 years, he contributed quite a bit to metal both publicly and in private, and will be greatly missed.

On the difference between art and propaganda

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When issues arise like those of ideological fascists in metal, whether of the SJW or far-right types, the inevitable division between art and propaganda arises. Having written about this for over two decades, I make the following distinction: art has artistic purpose, which is to reveal; propaganda has dogmatic purpose, which is to condition and manipulate the mind through projecting a sense of self-congratulatory correctness onto the perceiver.

Luckily, others have written about this topic, and well. From Canadian author Robertson Davies writing at First Things comes this cogent analysis:

When I was a boy, I was a voracious reader. My home had plenty of moral literature on its shelves, and I was urged to read it for my betterment. There was lots of other literature, as well, but I was not forbidden, only discouraged, from reading it as it was said to be “beyond me,” which I quickly discovered meant that it dealt with life pretty much as life was, and not as the determinedly moral writers wanted me to think.

…I could not stomach Little Lord Fauntleroy, who presented me with a political puzzle especially hard for a Canadian: What was that boy, and what did he do? He was an American, but by chance he inherited a title and went to England and became a Lord, and thereafter was remorselessly democratic toward anyone who kept it firmly in mind that he was a Lord, and behaved accordingly. The Little Lord existed to hammer home two things that were presented as mighty truths: We must be democratic and we must recognize the moral superiority that goes with poverty. It was easy, I thought, to be a democrat if everybody toadied to you, and I wished that the Little Lord could spend a few days at the school I went to, where to be known as a tireless reader (for I could not conceal it) was to be an outcast. Many of my persecutors enjoyed the blessing of poverty, but it did not seem to improve their characters. They were savage, jealous, and without bowels of compassion.

My sanity was saved by the books I read on the sly. Dickens, where evil people were plentiful and often rich, successful, and attractive. Thackeray, where snobbery seemed to be the mainspring of much of the action. Thomas Hardy, where life was complicated by opposed moralities and the uncontrollable workings of Destiny, and where God was decidedly not a loving Father. I did not know it at the time, but of course these were the works of literary artists who observed life with keen eyes and wrote about what they saw, as their widely varying temperaments enabled them to see. When I myself became a writer, it was these whom I chose to follow, as best I could, and not the aggressive moralists.

SJW is a form of aggressive moralism. Nazism, which is an attempt to mold far-right values to a Leftist-style ideological structure, makes that same error (which became fatal for it). Similarly Communism and Socialism are moral appeals, meaning that they base themselves not on practical reasoning — “this works” — but on what should be, based on the feelings of individuals united into large angry groups dedicated to tearing down all people above them. Similarly, Christianity in metal attempts to be a dogmatic ideology, and so we get ludicrous songs about fighting for the Lord which like the propaganda above, present the world in black/white distinctions: one side all is goodness and purity, and the other is bad, stupid, rich and horrible.

When approaching these types in metal it is essential to see this distinction. The victimhood music of indie-rock bands for example presents us perfect, innocent, suffering victims of the type that appeared in moralist Christian literature, opposed by equally dark, evil and cruel forces of large corporations and right-wing tyrants. These overly-simplified moral models exist to make people want to be the good, and to polarize against the bad, without digging into any of the complexity of life that a realistic perspective provides. They are baby food for the brain, as manipulative as television commercials, and as deceptive as the seductions of a whore.

Art will always be better than propaganda, but people like propaganda because it makes them feel good about themselves. When you are presented with absolutes like good and evil, and those are put into simple terms of intent rather than achievement of goals, it makes every idiot shuffling in off the street into a hero just by wanting to be like the good guy in the propaganda. This is why propaganda is easily recognizable through its extreme polarization between the bad enemy scapegoat and the good virtuous long-suffering victim who is secretly a hero, just like the average person with a half-failed life wants himself to be, but will never take steps to be alone and can only do so in a large angry mob.

The assault on metal has taken many forms. During its early days, it was rock bands pretending to be metal to try to capture the authentic feel and thus the bourgeois rebel audience. Later the Christians came in, feeling that a message of evil needed to be replaced with a good one. The white power types have tried for years, often with sympathy from legitimate metal bands, but have never taken ground because metal emphasizes realism over politics. Now the SJWs — who are more similar to Communists than Nazis, but use the same methods — are trying to exact same approach. It helps to see this, recognize it as the attempted mind control that it is, and show it the door.