Album anniversaries – Necromantia – Scarlet Evil Witching Black

It feels like we’re doing a great deal of anniversary mini-features these days, but Scarlet Evil Witching Black, at the very least, is particularly deserving of notice. Released on November 15th, 1995, Necromantia’s second album continues the band gimmick of dual distorted bass guitar arrangements. More importantly, it favors some melodramatic and perhaps overblown composition styles I am personally fond of, and serves as an admirable blueprint for how to effectively and tastefully incorporate symphonic and other relatively “normal” musical elements into extreme metal. Definitely a high point of the Greek black metal scene, and a markedly different experience from not only the better known Norwegian works, but also the midpaced stomp of a Rotting Christ or a Varathron.

Slaughter of the Soul‘s 20th Anniversary of Awfulness

"Mud cake" - delicious.
Article by Daniel Maarat

Twenty years ago to the day, At the Gates completed their descent into Fredrik Nordström-produced, commercial pop garbage with Slaughter of the Soul. Since the Death Metal Underground does not celebrate mediocre Eurotrash speed metal (Go listen to Artillery instead), we will be blowing out the candles for a more significant release for the underground featuring many of the same musicians.

Grotesque – Incantation (1989)

The "In the Embrace of Evil" compilation contains, amongst other things, the entirety of the Incantation EP.

Grotesque’s legendary Incantation 12”, 45 rpm EP turns twenty-five this year. The only studio release of the progressive black death madhouse features the twin guitar and songwriting talents of Kristian “Necrolord” Wåhlin (perhaps better known for his contributions to the visual arts) and Alf Svensson. The melodically flowing compositions and shifting time signatures present on At the Gates’ The Red in the Sky is Ours (see former editor and continuing author David Rosales’s excellent article) appear in a more bloodthirsty, thrashier form on the first three songs. Following those are two earlier compositions of simple but very well done speed metal ensure the appreciation of even the most Neanderthal headbangers.

Most probably first heard Grotesque on the Projections of a Stained Mind Swedish death metal compilation or on the remixed and rearranged In the Embrace of Evil career anthology from 1996. In the Embrace of Evil has been quietly reissued this year by Hammerheart in a limited digipack format and Candelight in the standard jewel case with the original mastering intact for the first time. There is no ridiculous overuse of dynamic range compression for the sole benefit of losers with Apple iPhones and earbuds excruciating everyone else. Buy the CD, not the hipster reverse needle drop LP; In the Embrace of Evil was only released on CD back in the mid-nineties and an LP pushing fifty minutes in length can only have poor, distorted sound. Hear Grotesque’s journey from Satanic, Sepultura -worshiping first wave maniacs to black leather trench coat-clad, death metal exceptionalism.

Response to “Time to do away with Manhood”

A still from "The Obsolete Man"
Article by Daniel McCormick; read the original article at The Guardian

A tenet of Christian faith is the idiotic concept of original sin, whereby it is understood we are all born with sin and must be faithful servants as punishment, in order to then be made well. This is a core belief of potentially billions of credulous people all over the world who claim fellowship with Christian death cults. These untold billions demonstrate the power of an illusion, and specifically the ability of a carefully crafted lie to take root and flourish through disinformation, misrepresentation, and argumentum ad passiones. In like manner, the modern feminist recognizes the power of a seductive lie and has taken this titillating concept of original sin and hammer forged their own bastard child. Original victimhood they bemoan, whereby it is observed that man is created sick and must faithfully serve woman in order to be made well. A predictable move for a supremacist, politico-pseudo-religious, ideology, as the claim carries with it the corollary that unless prostrating in servitude man won’t merely become but literally is a nemesis and bane to social order and progress. What is worrisome then, is in considering the absolutist, fatalistic, authoritarian will from which they seek privilege, and the credulous nature of the majority they which to use to attain this privilege.
For a considerable length of time feminism has been generally obsolete in the US, functional but directionless. To keep the menstrual machine relevant over the last few decades, during the modern dearth of social injustice, seeds of its ideological untruths have been sown in the popular consciousness by exploiting politeness. An obvious avenue because intelligent humans tolerate free speech regardless of how it makes them feel, and this tolerance comes at a price. For behind these soft campaigns of Stalinist censorship lay a many headed beast of manufactured victimhood gnashing its teeth in hunger for the credulous. As awareness raising becomes pleas for special privilege, as misrepresented social problems become calls for political action, the beast becomes less obscured behind the crumbling facade of benevolence. Because they are not vying to improve society, nor are they battling institutional injustice. No, today they are pushing for the legislation of morality and opinion and seek to censor, slander, and demonize all that would disagree. Because what Caucasian, alpha, manly men like myself are alleged to be guilty of is not actually anything we’ve done but, as we are told, we are guilty of thought crimes, of language crimes, and guilty of simply being the gender and skin tone we happened to be. This is part of a perverted guilt complex feminists have incorporated from the religious by which feminism proclaims to be able to reeducate and save males through their revealed wisdom (e.g. Catholic flimflam). From which I can only conclude that when a person’s standard for evidence is tantamount to Inquisition grade hearsay there is little to differentiate fanatical absolutists from each other.

I realize the female gender still has some legitimate first world grievances even today: women aren’t funny, cosmetics are expensive, beauty is temporary, but these problems are not institutional. Likewise whatever problem feminism has with masculinity is also not covered by government statutes. That’s because the problems as perceived by feminist theory have become so irrational and illusory and based on perpetuated biases that they shovel their own graves. I’m reminded of an old Twilight Zone episode (06/02/1961 – “The Obsolete Man”), which is a philosophical dialogue on absolutist fanaticism, and authoritarian ruthlessness. This episode ends with the antagonist facing the same sentence he’d inflicted on others, and closing with Rod Serling addressing the viewer.
“Any state, any entity, any ideology that fails to recognize the worth, the dignity, the rights of man, that state is obsolete.”
Thus, I maintain feminism is obsolete.



Article by David Rosales

In ancient times, a transcendental and reverential cosmological vision made of the hardships of reality a way to elevate intellectual life to the status of the divine. The power to speculate, explore and decode reality around us was considered a gift.The time given to pursue such enterprises was considered invaluable.

What we now call history is the constant decaying of civilizations, an ebbing of true understanding, followed by a wave of revolutions, one after the other in relatively rapid succession as a drowning man desperately clutching for air. Scrapping whatever he could, man acquired dominion over the material while all sense of meaning was gradually lost.

“…for the powerful children of natural emotion will be replaced by the miserable creatures of financial expediency.”

The following is a list of four artworks of the greatest refinement, be it formal or otherwise, achieved through experience or birthed by the innerworkings of an innate calling. The first three are metal and of a minimalist stripe. The third is a Baroque religious vocal work. These are the echoes of what once was.

However, if there ever was an art for the elite, this is it. It will challenge each of the shortcomings of the fickle man. The first will call into question the superficial appreciation of aesthetics and will render the disavowal of prejudices compulsory. The second will require self-internment and the ability to perceive higher truths. The third will furthermore force those with a mind for the complex and an aversion to clear, straight lines to look beyond these and settle down in an openness to the expression. Finally, the last and most ancient will bring to bear the capacity of imaginatively layered music to quickly wear down the animal mind. This will be the bane of the simple-minded.

On Det Frysende Nordariket

Disdained by most metalheads and followed with unthinking loyalty by kvlt fanatics, Ildjarn has achieved an infamous reputation in one way or another. Either of these camps considers the project to be non-music, with polarized opinions divided between “far from filling the requirements of music” and “simply beyond music”. The former point of view assumes a position of authority on technique whence it presumes to judge what music is. The latter is the inexcusable blindness of spineless and undiscerning individuals who place image before content.

While one could easily disarm the first argument on philosophical grounds, an unbiased judgement of the performance itself leaves any knowledgeable instrumentalist with no option but to accept that this is certainly not the weakness of the music. If issue were taken directly with the arrangement — the composition — of the music, there could be a worthwhile side to these attacks. More often than not, though, these critics arise from the new funderground camp, who have a notorious obsession with sheer standard behemoth-sounding production values, and so the argument usually runs along the lines of Ildjarn’s music being buried too deep in noise to have any value to speak of.

However, Ildjarn at its peak is far more than the jumbled improvisations the early recordings let through. The extreme punk channeling raw energy that this music consists of took some time to be harnessed. Det Frysende Nordariket (“The Frozen Northern-Kingdom”) shows us a refinement and redirecting of these ideas. While the self-titled was barely more than a collection of scattered ideas, intuitive impulses and visceral cadences, it is in this release that Ildjarn develops these ideas into mature extensions which make efficient use of the strengths of the original riffs, thereby burying the relevance of their shortcomings.

Coming to an aural absorption or a gnosis, so to speak, of Ildjarn’s rougher side necessitates not only the listener’s amiability towards ultra-minimalist and long-winded ambient music, but also a positive familiarity with low-fi punk and metal production and its use of what are normally considered sound artifacts as tones and colors on the palette of the artist. Once this is understood and the raw texture is successfully digested, one can start to appreciate the unique ideas presented in each track. The genius of Ildjarn lies in the masterful ultra-minimalist manipulation of the original ideas that can be likened to a stretching and contracting, which is occasionally accompanied by a seamless expansion that is so shy it is barely noticeable if the listener is not attentive.

On Hvis Lyset Tar Oss

1994 marks the turning point in metal history when innovation stops and a gradual degeneration starts to take place. This year is also the highest point in black metal, seeing the release of what we can consider the quintessential genre masterpieces. First among them is Burzum’s Hvis Lyset Tar Oss.

The meteoric ascent of Vikernes’ previous works from varied yet focused ideas to the purest synthesis of elements in Hvis Lyset Tar Oss could only have one possible outcome. The groundbreaking impact this had on the genre can only be compared to that of albums like Onward to Golgotha or Legion on death metal. While some argue that Vikernes single-handedly “developed” or “defined” black metal, the truth is that he brought it to an end in this album. It is the kind of album that has the words “THIS IS IT” written all over it. There is nothing for us, mortals, beyond the incognizable infinite.

While there is much dark beauty in other works in the genre, works that may serve as veritable portals to hidden corridors of existence, when it comes to the art of composition, there is no other that brings this black romanticism to a more perfect incarnation. Hvis Lyset Tar Oss addresses all facets of black metal and gives them an equally important place in a masterfully balanced music.

The often-used descriptor “ambient black metal” falls criminally short of what this album has to offer. That this “atmospheric” feeling is the only thing blind men can perceive is empiric evidence of its extant layers penetrable to their last consequence only by esoteric means. The least trained will only hear repetition (variation details are lost on them), while those into ambient music will sense the fog around them. He who decries structures and can, to some extent, understand their relations, will be able to delineate muscle fibers and bones — an objective confirmation of content. Further and higher lie realms to be walked but never shared.

Navigating the waters of this ocean, we see indomitable and gargantuan waves slowly rise before us, we experience the placid breeze under a dark-grey sky streaked by clouds mutilated by the rays of a moribund sun, and we face the wrathful tempest. Battered and sucked into a timeless maelstrom, all that remains at the very end is the essence, the ultimate undifferentiated mother of creation.

On The Rack

Asphyx’s debut garners “historical” respect, but is often deemed to be the preparative stage before more refined ones. This argument appears to be supported on two pillars. The first is that a later Asphyx was more technically outspoken, and the second, that the band managed to narrow down their style into a more focused expression. Both of these are true, yet they did not result in higher artistic merit as later works became increasingly sterile. The fact that people get “a feeling” from them is besides the point. Yet, when it comes to art and especially to music, some might confuse these visceral reactions with effective communication through the intuitive.

The Rack presents a style that is both minimalist in its building blocks but displays a progressive tendency in the overall arrangement of parts. Here, Asphyx goes beyond style fetishization and instead uses characteristic phrases and riffs as symbols standing for moods and points in a storyline. This vision places it alongside classic albums that work at a higher level than the merely technical or the grossly emotional. However, it is important to keep in mind that all this intellectual dissection is only a way to uncover this work’s secrets and must not be confused with the end.


The color palette with which Asphyx plays has a narrow enough range that its extreme opposites are not as contrasting that they incur in an incoherent string of topic changes, yet the individual strokes that riffs represent are distinctive enough that they form clear statements and unambiguously show the way. The triumph of The Rack lies, furthermore, in that it not only signals these inclinations but actually follows them to their last consequence without derailing.

These progressions may seem too clear-cut, leading to them being perceived as ‘blocky’. But when inspected closely, they are shown to be not so much as separate stones in alignment, but as rock-hewn steps in a massive staircase of which each stage is birthed from the underskin of the last. Other ‘brutal’ albums constitute a string of emotions, but here we find an ancient megalithic maze that dwarves petty human creations.
Switching between thematic solos and motific riffs, grindlike attack and doomlike arrest, this first Asphyx takes us through savage plains and forbidden peaks in a barbarian’s world. Now we hear the rage of souls crushed, the karmic cruelty thence resulting, now the ecstatic state following the release of unrestrained fury as we claw our way through this arid wasteland of unmercy.

On Historia der Auferstehung Jesu Christi (recording by Roger Norrington and the Schütz Choir)

A baroque religious work might at first seem like an odd addition to a metal compendium, especially one featuring such corrosive albums. A sympathetic relation may nonetheless be found in deeper metaphysical recesses. This hidden concept being the most relevant connection that merits mention does not stop us from discussing other outer traits that surface from that common source, even though their materialized natures lie at antagonizing angles.

The homogeneous, cloudy exterior of Schütz’s offering to the highest being is a continuous exaltation in which each moment is as much a unique apparition as it is an illusory shadow in a sequence of conditioned stages. A flow through condensation, solidification and dispersion let the listener on to the infinite possibilities arising from the two, who are themselves from the one.

Dense, saturated and appreciable only as a mass, Historia der Auferstehung Jesu Christi will only reflect a clear image if the listener is standing in the right place (at the right time?). This same is true of the Ildjarn, the Burzum and the Asphyx as well. They represent mental spaces within which they are as palpable and engulfing as daylight itself. But places must be traveled to, gates must be unlocked and the decision to step through them is a voluntary one.

Seeds being planted,
guarded by the old ones below.
Against the sky they lay roots,
Once to bloom with signs.

Deathfests went wrong way on Disma


Nothing makes a big deal out of something faster than making a big deal out of it.”-Martin M. Jacobsen, Ph.D.

It’s old news that the Maryland Deathfest, California Deathfest, and the Netherlands Deathfest removed New Jersey death metal band Disma from their shows, citing vocalist Craig Pillard’s association with the Nazi band Sturmführer and his public embrace of right-wing positions.

The fests had the right to remove Disma. I’m not really writing about that. Pillard has the right to embrace any position he wishes. I’m not really writing about that either. I have no sympathy for Nazi thinking, and I’ve noted a wave of Nazi apologia flying around the net lately, which may have contributed to Disma’s difficulties. I’m generally put off by overtly political bands that place ideology of any kind before musical expression. But I’m not really writing about my positions or political bands either. I’m disinclined to discuss SJWs or criticize the fests or Pillard or Sturmführer.

This editorial addresses the imbecility of the outcome of banning Disma from these fests or other shows. Since removing Disma from the playbill has become a bandwagon phenomenon, Sturmfuhrer and Nazism have benefited. If these fests would have let Disma play, it stands to reason that fewer people would have been “affected” than have been reached by the news of banning them. As Pillard and countless other have correctly pointed out, Disma is not invested in political stances. They’re a fairly standard death metal band offering fairly standard death metal lyrics and themes. In fact, they’re so standard that the Netherlands Deathfest said this:

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.

Funebararum may or may not be equivalent (ironically it shares a drummer with Disma). But the passive-aggression in the second part of this statement typifies the mindset here under discussion. What they really mean to say is “If you wanted Disma, you’re a Nazi because now that the story is out you couldn’t possibly like Disma because they are a relatively middle-of-the-road doom/death band-you must follow in lock-step the condemnation of what we condemn.”

Sound familiar?

Disma fans who know of Pillard’s association with the aforementioned band and ideas are surely not legion. Other fans who like Disma as Disma may not have known much about it at all. While there’s no way to know how many of the latter would be ‘reached’ by the former, the number of people ‘affected’ by ‘exposure’ to Disma and their fans surely would not have been overwhelmingly unsettling.

But banning Disma has had a reverse effect. Rather than disassociating themselves from the problems listed above, the actions of these promoters have generated a wave of ‘reporting’ in the metal press that has carried the ethos they sought to exclude to an audience far larger than any fest would draw. As the ‘news’ spread, so did the imagery and ideas that the fests claimed to oppose. As often happens in a media frenzy, the reporting of the ‘problem’ results in the promotion of it.

MetalSucks, Metal Injection and other cut-and-paste journals wasted no time spreading the story, modeling their best bandwagon morality, adding their outrage to the outrage. But for reasons that do not make any sense to me at all, they chose to splatter a swastika-clad CD and screen shots of Pillard’s statements all over the internet. Undoubtedly the purveyors of this story would argue they are being accurate and thorough, but the proliferation of these ideas in any form actually incites the very mania these people claim to fear. They hate these ideas, they say, and yet knowingly make them available to a larger audience than letting Disma play at all the fests would ever have done.

And I’m guessing that people who advocate for Nazi or right-wing positions are not terribly afraid of MetalSucks or Metal Injection being outraged about anything, but they are undoubtedly delighted by the idea of these images breaking into a medium that they would never be included in otherwise. It makes these fest promoters and ‘journalists’ accessories after the fact.

After all, somebody once associated with propaganda said that people will believe a square is a circle if you repeat it enough. Circling Disma like vultures circling a carcass has drawn far more attention to these ideas, repeating the unintended message as much as the intended one. Being so against something that you expose its artifacts to the entire world in an attempt to lessen their impact is about as logical as believing in God.

Correction: the wrong image was used with this original post against the author’s wishes. We regret this oversight.

Field Reporting: Legion of Steel Metalfest & Conference Academic Presentations

An auditorium in Sacramento
Article by “AR”

The weaknesses of the San Francisco Bay Area “metal scene” have been in full display this October. The anticipated California Deathfest was thrown into disarray when death metal band DISMA was kicked out for political reasons – namely due to a past musical project of vocalist Craig Pillard (INCANTATION) which utilized imagery of the Third Reich. Besides the headliners of AUTOPSY and IMMOLATION, and a few less notable exceptions, this left the lineup of the “metal” nights filled with the grind/crust/punk mixture that is popular among a less discerning crowd. This suggested to outside observers that the interests of the promoters lay more with political agendas and popularity contests, than appreciation of metal music.

It was with interest that I heard of the “Legion of Steel Metalfest & Conference”, held over the course of four days this week and consisting of a “metal market”, “academic conferences” about heavy metal, and two night of music featuring most notably San Francisco death/speed metal stalwarts INSANITY, rock/heavy/speed metal band STONE VENGEANCE, and punks FANG, bands who never quite “made it” but who have been doggedly performing since at least the 80s. Only able to attend one night, I chose the night headlined by INSANITY, and showed up around 1PM to catch part of the conference, speculating that it might be some sinister affair where effete academics plot how to force their agenda on innocent hessians, but also open to more positive possibilities.

Missing the first three presentations, I arrived for “Becoming Death Itself: What Heavy Metal Offers Biblical Scholarship” presented by Charlotte Naylor Davis, of Great Britain. Her short presentation focused on the lyrics of METALLICA’s “Creeping Death”. Most interestingly, she pointed out that METALLICA presents the biblical story of an vengeful tribal god killing first-born children as a celebration of the power of death, and invites the audience to assume the role of the Angel of Death during the chanting climax of the song. This embrace of what is unpalatable or uncomfortable in “polite society” is part of what makes metal music powerful, and sets it apart from the happy illusions of most popular entertainment. Ms. Davis was a knowledgeable and enthusiastic presenter and I was disappointed the topic was not continued for longer.

Next was Mr. Shamma Boyarin of the University of Victoria, who first talked about Israeli “oriental metal” band ORPHANED LAND, who utilize the imagery of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. My ears perked when he mentioned how metal bands freely use themes from many different religious and occult practices, but in “obeisance to none”; i.e aesthetically, not dogmatically (paging Fred Nietzsche!). However, Mr. Boyarin chose to switch tack and talk about how ORPHANED LAND’s music was “breaking down barriers” between the religions and cultures of the Middle East, which seems to be a happy fantasy, if even desirable at all. Next was discussed an Indonesian band, MANRABUKKA, whose lyrics delve heavily into the Koran. A passage of the Koran, quoted by the band (Surat Al-Kafirun, “The Unbelievers”): “I do not worship what you worship. Nor are you worshippers of what I worship… For you is your religion, and for me is my religion”, evoked the religion-rejecting lyricism of bands like MORBID ANGEL and DEICIDE, but also that such advice is poorly-followed in those areas of the world torn by dogmatic conflicts. However Mr. Boyarin somehow brought the conclusion back around to “breaking down barriers”. I would recommend developing some new conclusions and exploring these interesting ideas further!

Next was Addison Herron-Wheeler of Naropa University, who read passages from her book “Wicked Woman: Women in Metal From the 1960s to Now”. The cynics among us may sigh in expectation of the women-as-oppressed-victims narrative that is popular these days, but as her reading mainly dealt with the singer of the 60s occult pop-rock band Coven, musically far distant from metal, I zoned out during this portion and can’t report much. If women in metal are going to be discussed as a separate topic, the most deserving individual may be the fascinating Lori Bravo of NUCLEAR DEATH, who has hitherto been mostly ignored.

Next was a presentation by Dolev Zaharony of Israel. Mr. Zaharony discussed the history of metal music in Israel and how the government/media, ever-paranoid and faced with the difficult task of molding the mixed population of young Israel into a single culture, filtered out all references to heavy metal, and one assumes much else. Mr. Zaharony spoke as one who had been passionate about metal since his teens and had lived through many phases of metal culture in Israel, as well as been a musician. This presentation was enjoyable as he spoke informatively, without any attempt to politicize.

Finally was a viewing of clips from the documentary “Distorted Island”, which focuses on the heavy metal scene of Puerto Rico. This was at times interesting and at times irritating when the documentary attempted to impose narratives on the music, for example highlighting a band because they are all female (though the music sounded pretty awful), and thus an example of triumph against the sexist metal scene. This method is currently trendy in musical documentaries, and one of the many problems with it is that filmmakers end up focusing on mediocre bands at the expense of excellent ones, if the mediocre bands better fit the narrative.

This is a problem common to analyses of metal which prioritize social aspects over the music itself: they lose sight of the reason why the social scene arose in the first place – to celebrate and appreciate the MUSIC, its power and its ethos. Once any other element of the culture is made primary, the goal is lost and the music will become merely an accessory, and necessarily devolve in quality. This same effect can be seen with the hipsters who use metal aesthetic to dress up boring indie-rock, to the collectors who obsess over obscure releases that were forgotten due to their middling quality.

In the spirit of culling the mediocre, Charlotte Naylor Davis and Dolev Zaharony were the only two I witnessed whose presentations passed the bar of quality, knowledge, and true enthusiasm; as well as being free of political propaganda. I would recommend them for any future conferences. Note however the limited sampling which I was able to attend; there may have been other hidden gems.

Nightwish, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, and ideological conveyance

Nightwish - Endless Forms Most Beautiful (2015)
Review by Daniel McCormick

It has been said that there is non-overlapping magisteria confining the world of scientific inquiry outside the the realm of “human purposes, meanings, and values.” (Stephen J. Gould) John Keats once said science presents a “cold philosophy” with a “dull catalogue of common things” that reduces life to terms insufficient to the subjective needs of man. Upon this assertion they then heap arguments of moral relativism, theology, and social revision which are based on their personal feelings and beliefs. This is common for religious or political figures but one also encounters this thinking in artists as well. In conversation one can easily find an artist prattling on about how x-piece speaks to man’s soul, or how true beauty lies in one’s personal interpretation, and that judgement is merely a subjective experience, that art itself communicates on levels that can not be directly observed or defined. All manner of feeble logic can you encounter, yet there is at heart a mirroring of intention. What they attempt is to self insulate from reproach, to self aggrandize through idealizing, and to manipulate your willingness to believe comforting thoughts. Because, to them, empirical definitions inundate the mind with a materialist philosophy that somehow cuts out the beauty from the universe around them. They say life is “too mad for mere material chains to bind” (Alexander Pope), and that “knowledge is not happiness, and science but an exchange of ignorance for that which is another kind of ignorance.”(Lord Byron)

There is a fundamental flaw in this anti-science rhetoric which stems from its untenable premise: that methods of inquiry lessen the artistic value of a ‘thing’. My view is much different; when I understand something (a process, an object, etc.) it allows me to observe with keener insight the object as it actually is. For instance, I am no less able to appreciate viewing the sky because I understand that the color I see is the result of lightwaves interacting with molecules, that these molecules are held in the atmosphere by gravity, that what I am seeing is the projection of the information my senses feed my mind, and that my mind and my senses are a direct result of millions of years of evolving characteristics. Like Darwin himself, I believe “there is grandeur in this view.” There is magnificence in grasping the chain of events, that all complexity today is directly a result of the low entropy state of the Big Bang some fourteen billion years ago, or that all life today is a direct descendant from a common ancestor that happened to have evolved billions of years ago on this watery green rock.

Of the untold bounty of scientific progress there are a few ideas more open to criticism than others but none seem as targeted as evolution. This theme of biological descent with modification and/or natural selection is an important idea, so important in fact that it is to our benefit to communicate this effectively, because its importance draws in so much unsubstantiated criticism. In other words, it is an imperative to communicate the theory and evidence effectively so as to combat its antagonists who are ever reproaching science and the philosophy of inquiry for some perceived wrong it has done them, or their group. Because of this constant willingness to attack empiricism, it usually falls to the popularizers of science to keep public opinion from drifting over the precipice and into the cult of the faithful and superstitious. It also becomes an imperative to demonstrate that works of art are in no way diminished by focusing on scientific research.

From this perspective I find myself listening to the eighth full length album from Finnish power metal band Nightwish. Endless Forms Most Beautiful focuses on artistically communicating the understanding of science in a very easily approached manner. Musically, this is what I have come to expect from Nightwish: a sound that is overly popular with a power metal base that drifts between heavy metal, hard rock, and light classical influences. Female vocals drive the bulk of the music, and the structural variations add a bit to what may otherwise falls into the formulaic. The performances are all flawless, over produced, and nearing the mechanical with over the top choruses, strings, keys, acoustic guitars, etc. You could simply say the album is extraordinarily inoffensive, mainstream, and essentially a work of metal music accessible to all ages, and potentially those not traditionally in the category of metal enthusiast.

What makes this interesting is the underlying premise carried through out the album. You can derive it from the album title which is itself a fragment from the ending chapter of The Origin of Species:

“There is grandeur in this view of life, …whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.”  – Charles Darwin

The work is presented in a layman, artistic, fashion but emphasizes many specific ideas underlying the theory of evolution. This is furthered by the addition of narrations from Professor Richard Dawkins which includes the rather famous beginning passage of Dawkins’ own book, Unweaving the Rainbow. The sung lyrics may bear at times an odd nonlinear sappiness, a positivist’s perspective on the war of nature, but they also paraphrase words from scientists like Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, and Stephen Hawking. While the general theme may be summarized as awe the presenting of this includes the happenstance of self replication, the scale of space time in which we exist, the chance of beneficial mutations, etc. Hefty complex subjects which are admittedly not delved into with expert authority, but presented in a way which will hopefully draw some scientifically illiterate person to partake the grand art of autodidacticism.

Collectively, there are issues to be taken with this method of communication, at least if you’re a die hard metal enthusiast like me, but as an expression bent on the popularizing of science I can see where this album has value. It in no way replaces the dozens of books I have on the subject, but it does build from and give insight into the substance of the information. The greatest show on Earth may well be the greatest show in the universe, and we know the party doesn’t go on forever so I urge you to make good use of what little time you have to expand your understanding and to appreciate things for what they offer to more than just yourself.

“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones.”

VH1 “journalist” launches smear campaign against Bard Eithun

VH1 logo
VH1 affiliated journalist (and I feel guilty for using that term, because seriously, it’s VH1) Zack Sigel apparently was inspired by the recent Disma controversy, and has set his targets on Bard “Faust” Eithun in what is almost certainly an attempt to get his current projects (Blood Tsunami, Studfaust, etc.) pulled from the upcoming Martyrdoom Festival. Unlike Craig Pillard, Faust admittedly does have a criminal record to his name, having been imprisoned for the murder of a homosexual some years ago, but this doesn’t make the apparent goal any more noble. Whether or not Faust is the same person he was 20 years ago, witch hunting is not going to actually reform him, or usher in any sort of actual justice or utopian tolerant social justice city on a hill. Most of this article, however, isn’t a call to action against Faust, although the passages specifically condemning Faust’s actions come off as passive-aggressive at best. Instead, Sigel dedicates most of the article to whining about metalheads not immediately condemning bands for their ideological stances. Ironically he also pushes Deafheaven, despite their own ties to right wing movements, but odds are he won’t be turning on them for that any time soon, lest the ensuing cognitive dissonance explodes and kills everyone in a 500 mile radius.

We’re probably enabling him by acknowledging this article, but if nobody calls out this sort of pseudo-tolerant hypocrisy, everyone gets burnt.

Jag Panzer to record The Deviant Chord

Jag Panzer seems to be in a period of heightened activity. After a string of previous and upcoming live concerts (including a scheduled appearance on the next “70,000 Tons of Metal” cruise), the band recently announced that they would be recording their next studio album, The Deviant Chord, in May 2016. This will hopefully build off a long and storied career. Jag Panzer initially achieved fame with 1984’s Ample Destruction, which was one of the formative works of the US power metal scene. Despite long periods of inactivity, the band has been able to successfully revive themselves on multiple occasions, most notably with a string of albums in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as well as 2011’s The Scourge of the Light. The main vocalist (Harry Conklin) also went on to form Satan’s Host, which later took on a life of its own through exploration of extreme metal tropes.

Celtic Frost’s To Mega Therion turns 30

Celtic Frost - To Mega Therion (2015)
It might not be as important to the Celtic Frost/Hellhammer legacy as its immediate predecessors, but To Mega Therion is still a fine work of metal 30 years (and four days) after its release. Many early underground metal recordings are noted for stripping their musical content to a bare minimum of function and simultaneously exploring new methods of arrangement and songwriting. To Mega Therion, on the other hand, takes a step towards refining the new standard, with more elaborate instrumentation, production, and songwriting than the EPs that came before it. It’s still more restrained in its aesthetic exploration than anything else Celtic Frost released, but listeners can easily hear how some of the more obvious experiments here (timpani, occasional female vocals, etc.) anticipate elements that would become fixtures in the band’s later works, and furthermore in the plethora of subgenres to follow.