Is metal “too nihilistic”?

February 24, 2013 –
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fenrizA non-Hessian friend once pointed out to me that metal music is essentially avoidance. With its nihilistic outlook it seemed to him to be just shuffling meaning around, never really reaching a conclusion or be able to produce a complete artwork.

Faustian? Pah! It may enjoy details of the world’s harsh realities, the death and gore and decay, but only because the transient nature of death allows for constant change, consequently avoiding all meaning. Which means we may contently pull back in some basement, still fearing reality as a whole. That’s what you get with bands obsessed with death.

Classical? Pfft! How could it be? Metal is too sensuous, delving in creepy subjects and gritty riffs without any sense of spirit or abstract idea.

Unsurprisingly, I think this is writing it off too quickly.

Metal is certainly content with the world, but does that make it materialistic? It does not like society perhaps; metal loathes its stale “bourgeois” mentality, yelling “Fake! Fake!”, and it loves the hedonistic.

But metal nevertheless hungers for the epic, a “heavy” greatness and seems to enjoy the game that nature is playing. Metal found that society was materially flourishing, but also found decay in the souls of the bored everyday man, echoing the troubled mind of Fenriz of Darkthrone who loves art that comes from “the exhaustion of easy life”.

To awaken us, metal explored natural decay. But not as a materialist act: needless to say, with their obscure imagery, dark riffs and haunting vocals, metal bands created a mysterious world that seemed more honest, more real than the life in any Western metropolis. Lauren Wise writes:

Heavy metal seemed just like classical music to me: It was ritualistic, accepting of death and change, questioned authority and normalcy, and satisfied that need for an overture or reconsideration. It was as if classical and metal both quenched my need to understand the positive strength and ultimately horrific nature of the world. Metal may be less refined, but it still seeks to express that philosophical assumption about life.

Metal found life in death – initially as a warning, later as full-on Romanticist nature worship – and that beautiful paradox sums up my answer to my friend: Metal seeks essence, it does not avoid it – but it takes no prisoners.

Black Sabbath return to their roots for new album

February 15, 2013 –

Black Sabbath‘s forthcoming album 13, to be released in June this year, will apparently be less heavy metal and more blues. Quoth mastermind Toni Iommi:

You can’t always repeat what you’ve done, you’ve just to go on… It’ll be today’s version of how it was 40 years ago.

The initiative, however, seems to come from producer Rick Rubin, who referred to the band’s début album and told the members to “keep it in mind” and play the music like a live gig, and according to Ozzy Osbourne, Rubin “didn’t want the songs to be verse, chorus, verse, chorus, middle eight, bridge — he wanted it to flow”.

It seems then that we might expect a modern version of the dark atmosphere that deflected the hippie optimism of 1960s, as heard on the classic showcased below. This will be awesome.

Think metal, be successful

February 12, 2013 –
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hmmA couple of years ago, a venture capitalist and a former investment banker realized that to succeed in business, a startup needs “a fantastic story and a vision, mastery of its craft and must ‘trigger basic human instincts'”.

Now, what is sensuous and epic enough to promote such a strategy? Heavy Metal of course! Using metal as metaphor for business, Pär-Jörgen Pärson and Hans-Olov Öberg have written Heavy Metal Management, in which they argue that successful companies appeal to our emotions and that metal music and culture serves as perfect inspiration for young entrepreneurs to make their dreams come true.

The metaphor works quite well according to The Guardian, “epitomising the archetypal work hard/play hard ethos, the personal commitment, the experimentation and a kind of tribal recognition and respect”. Metal’s concept of creative destruction seems well-suited even to industrial paradigm shifts (like offline industry to online industry, and online to mobile).

Heavy Metal Management will be released in the UK in late March.

30 years ago: Dirty Rotten LP

February 8, 2013 –

driA lot of the death metal gems we listened to (and still listen to) during the heyday of the genre would probably never have been possible if it weren’t for this 22-song, 17-minute 12″ crossover piece of awesome.

Dirty Rotten LP is “as punk as it gets” some would say, and, indeed, structurally it’s hardcore punk all over. But D.R.I. (or Dirty Rotten Imbeciles), hailing from Houston, Texas, managed to do something fruitful with heavy metal riffs in this furious punk context and paved the way for the devilish energies emerging in bands like Slayer. The rest, as they say, is death metal history.

30 years after its initial release, it’s surprising to hear how potent these short bursting songs are. While some of the lyrics are dated, the project as a whole nevertheless seems relevant enough to this day. Inventive and playful, this album will still take you places: the music moves like a bulldozer on speed through a tangle of asphalt, and suddenly the bitter-sweet destruction of society becomes a playground where artifacts of modern society just wait for us to smash them to a pulp.

Now go grab your abstract baseball bat and thrash your way through to sanity!

Realm of Chaos re-released in FDR audio

February 5, 2013 –

bolt-thrower---realm-of-chaosBolt Thrower‘s Realm of Chaos album will be re-released by Earache Records on Monday 18 February, 2013.

This time around, it’s been pressed from the master tapes in Full Dynamic Range audio, which according to Earache means the album is

at its optimum sound quality, with full dynamic range and in its highest resolution. No loss of quality, no compromise. To put it simply, this is, without doubt, the best sound this album has ever had!

Realm of Chaos was originally released in 1989 and according to our review it shows how the band’s grindcore leaned towards the grandeur of death metal, making this album an amalgamation of the epic and the youthfully energetic.

The release includes a DVD of the Bolt Thrower performance at the “Grindcrusher” tour in Nottingham, where they played seven of the albums songs on 14 November, 1989.

Comic book on slaying posers anno 1985 reappears

February 2, 2013 –

Slay Team

In the days when bands like Slayer, Metallica and Megadeth fought to hold true to the metal spirit, Lizzy Green, the ex-girlfriend of Exodus’ lead singer, did her share by creating a comic book called Slay Team: The Poser Wars.

The comic book, whose first issue can be found on the Bazillion Points Blog, takes on the theme of the Exodus song “And Then There Were None” and applies it to the helpless poodle rockers of the day: throughout the sooty black and white pages, the Exodus members — the Slay Team — attempt to “slash, assault, and mow down the poodle-haired metal posers spreading falseness instead of relentless metal mania”.

A charming and humorous take on the violent passion of true metal music, Green’s work ends with a relentless cliffhanger leaving us thirsty for more poser blood and more Exodus thrashing.

20 years ago: Nespithe

January 29, 2013 –

Demilich-NespitheAlmost exactly two decades ago, Nespithe, the sole full-length album of Demilich, was released, like a snake swiftly escaping its cage. That simile is not entirely off: trying to explain what this now classic death metal album sounds like, one almost inevitably comes across likenesses to slippery serpents or, considering the “cut-off” melodies played, to dismembered slimy worms twisting and turning. And growing anew.

What about the vocals? Metal fans seem divided and either hate those belching croaks or love them to death. In any case, I think they fit the idea of the album pretty darn well. The world of Nespithe seems like a cavernous microcosm of life and death, an evolutionary breeding ground hidden away from the rays of the sun, where Antti Boman‘s murky vocals comment on developments like a detached god. Penetrating those underground worlds (that are surprisingly free from tremolo riffs) feels like being thrown down a dark hole, and, after hitting the ground, you realise the floor is “moving”. And the listening experience is much like that: the mind is forced to pay attention to every single movement in the dark despite its complexity. Challenging, terrifying, beautiful.

23 years since its conception, the band Demilich is no more (it now seems definite), but Boman, the mastermind behind it all, is involved in other interesting projects (e.g. Winterwolf and Jess and the Ancient Ones) and we will always have the ever so generous Demilich download page.

Voivod to tour the world 2013

January 25, 2013 –
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Voivod on stageThe Metal File recently interviewed Voivod drummer Michel “Away” Langevin. To no surprise, the interview mainly concerns the band’s new (thirteenth) album, Target Earth, released on January 22nd by Iron Gang Factory and Century Media.

According to Langevin one of the reasons why the album sounds a lot like earlier Voivod is because bassist Jean-Yves “Blacky” Thériault is back in the band after a 17 year absence, being closely involved in the songwriting with new guitarist Dan “Chewy” Mongrain. Among all the “very progressive” songs with “strange time signatures”, Langevin requested to include two more thrash-y songs à la Motörhead, which resulted in “Kluskap O’Kom” and in the band’s first French song, “Corps Étranger”.

Langevin also says that due to Voivod’s 30th anniversary this month, the band plans live tours throughout the world this year, starting in Canada, crossing North and South America, then going to Europe and ending in Asia. In between tours they want to write new material. The past is alive.

Summoning updates

December 30, 2012 –

Silenius with swordThe latest news on black metallers Summoning‘s forthcoming album Old Mornings Dawn:

  • All guitar riffs have been recorded
  • Protector’s vocals are recorded; Silenius will do his share next week
  • Bonus tracks might include an instrumental song + “the missing song from the [O]athbound session”

Oh, and their label is releasing Stronghold and Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame on vinyl.

Academics a-hunting for links between metal and religion

December 29, 2012 –

devil-kissedStudies of the relationship between popular music and religion have increased rapidly in the last twenty years, and the scholarly interest in metal music has “increased markedly during the past decade”, states researcher Marcus Moberg in an article published in Popular Music and Society earlier this year, where he evaluates the current scholarly writings on religion in metal music and culture.

The issue at hand is, apparently, problematic. Concerning metal music and culture as religion, researchers have used “top-down” methods to justify their assumptions, with little (if any) empirical evidence to support them. Case in point is Moberg’s own suggestion that “more thought-out views on religion in general would be relatively common among wider metal audiences” (considering metal’s individualist outlook combined with its fascination for religion), but there’s simply no (or not enough) data to support this claim. Another problem connected to the lack of ethnographic information concerns a prejudiced downplaying of the ideas within metal as little else than a rebellion against adult society. “[T]he issue of rebellion has always constituted a central theme in the scholarship on metal”, writes Moberg, but a clear specification of what ‘rebellion’ consists of has been lacking.

Metal music and culture can also be seen as “offering its followers a wide range of resources for religious/spiritual inspiration”. According to Moberg, scholars studying this area have been more careful in their interpretations, but have downplayed as well as exaggerated the seriousness with which metal bands explore these spiritual themes.

Moberg’s recommendation, then, is for future studies to be based more in fieldwork and ethnography, and less in speculation:

[I]n order to be able to provide more persuasive arguments about what followers of metal culture themselves actually get out of their participation in metal culture in ways that relate to religion/spirituality, studies would clearly […] benefit from striving to ground their arguments on the expressed views of musicians and fans themselves (and this concerns the issue of “rebellion” as well).

Supposedly, we shouldn’t be surprised if curious PhD students start asking us questions in between songs at the next Asphyx show…