Death Metal Underground podcast 01-27-13

death_metal_underground-podcastWe are proud to launch the DeathMetal.org podcast series which features the type of music and thinking you expect from your favorite nihilist death metal maniacs.

Covert DJ Rob Jones brings you the esoteric undercurrents of doom metal, death metal and black metal in a show that also exports its philosophical examinations of life, existence and nothingness.

If you miss the days when death metal was a Wild West that kept itself weird, paranoid and uncivilized, you will appreciate this detour outside of acceptable society into the thoughts most people fear in the small hours of the night.

The playlist for this week’s show is:

Derketa – Obscurities of Darkness (In Death We Meet)
Extract from Aubade by Philip Larkin (read by Larkin himself)

Deathless Order – Tentacles of Circumstance (Obeisance)
Goatcraft – Vestibule to the Abyss (All for Naught)
War Master – Into the Abysmal Fire (Pyramid of the Necropolis)

Beithíoch – Arm Na Déithe (Summoning the Past)
Uriel – Azathoth (Arzachel)
Swallowed – Unsavourably (Swallowed)
Chthe’ilist – VeÆcoiitnÆaphnatÆsmaalÓ (Amechth’ntaas’m’rriachth)

A transcript of the dialogue embedded therein:

Death metal is a reflection of our every fear. It thrives upon our sense of our own mortality – the unavoidable feeling of horror that comes from the knowledge that we and everything we cherish and hold dear will eventually all amount to rot.In a world without god there is no respite from this fear; no comfort or deliverance from the terror that wakes us in the night.

To face this darkness unflinchingly is wisdom. To act in spite of the over-arching fear of death is godly.

The very existence of life and consciousness, and all things fleeting and impermanent in this reality are themselves a contradiction and a challenge to the crippling endlessness of death stretching before us and behind us – for if life came from nothing and is only going back to nothing, perhaps here and now is actually something special and sacred?

Death metal like a Lovecraft story presents the world to us in a way that is grotesque and fantastic, contorting and parodying things that at one level should be ordinary and rational but defy explanation – but are also all too familiar and real in their prescient sense of horror at death, despite how obviously mythic and over the top the presentation may be.

Indeed, arguably the surreal outward appearance of death metal is entirely appropriate for discussing death – for death and the cessation of consciousness are to us now as they always have been to man – beyond the normal bounds of our thinking – semi-mythic, inexplicable and more than the mundane sequence of things we grow accustomed to.

The last incomprehensible, more-than-real event our lives will encounter in this secular and rationalist age.

***

Metal music is quite deliberately not very sentimental or excessively introspective about death; but rather by its raging implores us to be actively conscious of death and to endeavor to live life.

For, as death is certain, it is no more meaningful to live in willful ignorance of it than it is to wallow in self-pity about it. Both of these responses are passive, and are little better than being dead before your time. Knowing that, there is perhaps nothing left to do but marvel at the awesomely uncrafted beauty of everything, and to treat life as a constant challenge or adventure – which, paradoxically perhaps, we seem to instinctively know is the most fulfilling way to live.

For by great striving and fortitude life justifies itself, both with each moment and in the reaching towards some future moment or goal – in defiance of the entropic power of decay and death.

Relish the madness. Submerge in the surreal.

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Metal and Nihilism: the realist principle

black_sabbath-nihilismMetal stumps many people because there is a values system within it which has been consistent across the years, but from reading metal lyrics it is hard to figure out what that values system is.

From the imagery and topics of songs, we know metal has a spread not unlike that of European Romantic poetry: nature, horror, the occult, ancient ruins, melancholy alienation and war-like power worship are frequently mentioned. It is difficult to translate those ideals into our contemporary individual-based values system.

Arguably the primordial ‘Lucy’ of metal bands, Black Sabbath augmented the aesthetics of heavy blues rock bands like Cream and Led Zeppelin with occult imagery, pagan and mystical overtones.

However, at the same time as they were seemingly ‘up in the clouds’, there was a nuanced and satirical realism present in the band’s aesthetics that prayed on rosy-eyed optimism.

For instance, in the lyrics of ‘Solitude’ we get a stark, if not sentimental, picture of the fragile nature of human life:

My name it means nothing
My fortune is less
My future is shrouded in dark wilderness
Sunshine is far away, clouds linger on
Everything I possessed – Now they are gone

‘Hand of Doom’ is a satirical jab at the escapism of the contemporary hippie drug scene:

First it was the bomb, Vietnam napalm
Disillusioning, you push the needle in
From life you escape, reality’s that way
Colors in your mind, satisfy in timeYour mind is full of pleasure, your body’s looking ill
To you it’s shallow leisure, so drop the acid pill
Don’t stop to think now

To many, this would seem hypocritical given Sabbath’s legendary history of drug use. However, as any user will tell you, there’s a difference between use to escape and use simply because you like getting high.

This seeming paradox extends to other areas. For Sabbath, the means-ends relationship between an action and its intention is important. It may not be bad to use drugs, but to use drugs to escape reality in such a way that you then end up with an ideology of denying reality, could well be bad.

They apply this lens to other areas, such as politics and religion.

More interestingly still, Sabbath were regarded by many as a ‘Satanic’ band owing to the cover art of their first, self-titled album. However, in the song ‘After Forever’ a charge of ‘group-think’ mentality is directed at, ironically, atheists:

Is your mind so small that you have to fall
In with the pack wherever they run
Will you still sneer when death is near
And say they may as well worship the sun?I think it was true it was people like you that crucified Christ
I think it is sad the opinion you had was the only one voiced
Will you be so sure when your day is near, say you don’t believe?
You had the chance but you turned it down, now you can’t retrieve

The above content makes sense when we consider that one of the things that sets the best metal apart from its heavy rock is its nihilism. Nihilism is a form of extreme realism that rejects the intentions of human individuals when used for the sake of those human individuals, and respects only viewpoints that are oriented toward the larger reality outside the individual.

Metal has always been about blowing overly-optimistic and unrealistic view points out of the water, and worshiping what is ‘heavy’ about existence. Black Sabbath started this trend by calling out many of the convenient lifestyle viewpoints of its contemporaries.

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Is death metal essentialist music?

essentialismDuring the second world war, while most of humanity was involved in mass warfare, the writer and thinker Jean Paul Sartre was instead laboring away in the libraries of occupied France. He was solidifying what has become known as the philosophy of ‘existentialism’. One of the main tenants of existentialism is that ‘existence precedes essence’, or in other words, that there is no fixed and immutable basis from which human life proceeds and from which it derives its meaning.

According to an existentialist, an individual human being is borne, becomes conscious, and then creates his or her own meaning from a point of reference of personal choosing, in a subjective act of pure freedom. Indeed according to Sartre, existentialism is a form of humanism, and we can see why. Secular Humanism, or modern humanism, is the normative or ethical ideal that individuals have the right and responsibility to give meaning and purpose to their own lives, free from tradition, scripture or ‘higher’ authority. So ‘existentialism’ and ‘humanism’ are both cut from the same cloth, the former being a complex (and some would argue, intentionally obscure and obfuscate) philosophical justification for the latter.

Existentialism is a reversal of the traditional metaphysical notion of ‘essentialism’, or the idea that there exists a fixed point from which values and meaning can be derived, by an objective act of intellect or rationality. The most commonly encountered form of essentialism is, in fact, religion. In the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths, God is the basis for existence. He forms the immutable point from which values and meaning are derived. The actions of individuals, their lives, even the actions of entire cultures and cultural movements, derive their value (Good or Evil) from their particular relationship to God. A figure representing the extreme end of the essentialist spectrum, in so far as absolutely positioning life in relation to something prior and fixed, might be Osama Bin Laden. For Bin Laden there is one Word, one Truth, one measure of values. Human ‘choice’ is only as valuable insofar as it leads to a life proscribed by the Word of God. You are beheaded with a bread knife, held down on a concrete floor in panic and terror, if, in choosing to give your life ‘its own meaning’, you align yourself against God. Needless to say, Bin Laden and Sartre would not have got along.

In light of the issues discussed above, death metal is a curious art form. Its position on the existentialist <–> essentialist spectrum is unclear. In its aesthetic outlook, it mocks religious sentiment and tears down religious imagery with truculent glee. Its lyrics praise Satan, evil, darkness and anything, it would seem, that runs against the grain of monotheism. Hence it could be swiftly concluded that death metal is anti-essentialist art, par excellence, tearing down that that last barrier to human freedom: religion.

With a shift in perspective, however, death metal could be viewed in a thoroughly different light. It could be viewed a form of essentialist art. If this is true, then what prior structures could death metal be said to worship? Firstly, death metal posits an immutable essence from which individual human existence stems and from which it cannot escape: biology. Death metal abounds in morbid liturgical hymns about dissection, disease, the tearing of flesh, and the wrenching of bone. Secondly, death metal posits an ‘absolute’ point of reference from which all human actions are judged: death. That ‘all life ends’, is embodied in roaring sentiment in the whole show of death metal. Everyone dies, and reality cares not one whit for the individual. So you, buying your coffee table and matching coasters, beware; your time is finite. Death metal might well be an artistic conduit for spiritual readjustment in the face of something inescapable that, whether we like or not, at some point we are going to have to judge our lives in reference to.

Thirdly, in compositional method and production death metal seems to be inspired, if only implicitly, by prior natural forms. Compositionally, a death metal piece evolves via the linking of riffs according to geometrical shape as opposed to the normal way of linking parts in rock music which is harmonic. This is what give death metal its atonal and, at first, unattractive sound to the uninitiated. Production wise, nihilistic individual units of distorted tone depend on their relation to other such units, or the overarching structure of the song, to achieve beauty in death metal, a bit like matter and the physical universe where a piece of matter, taken by itself, is unremarkable and unsexy.

The list of ways in which death metal could be viewed as an acknowledgement of prior and apparently inescapable aspects of reality is a long one. Battle, night, winter, solitude; all are frequent topics of lyrical subject matter and fodder for imagery. Of course, there are all sorts of aspects of reality that are fixed and inescapable yet which death metal ignores: love, growth, joy, etc. But this is because death metal is concerned with those prior structures to human life that we choose to ignore because they are uncomfortable. Hence its ominous and brooding aesthetics. But while death metal is dark music, anyone who cares to pay enough attention can apprehend that the most worthy contributors to the genre are a world away from writing protest music.

Death metal is not ‘rebelling’ against the uncomfortable parts of life that we are doomed to face up to at some point. It is an attempt to give these aspects of life an artistic redemption. In this, and only this sense, can death metal be said to be ‘humanistic’. It is an attempt at representing those aspects of reality that we often ignore, in order to give them some relevance in human affairs so that we might adjust our lives accordingly, in full awareness of the place of human live in the cosmos.

If all this is correct, then death metal may very well be ‘naturalist religious’ music: A ‘yes’ to, and artistic redemption of, life as process, renewal, conflict and reductive energy.

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Setting the Atmosphere (intros)

Most metal bands apply intro tracks to greet and set the mood before their music takes form. Metallica used ‘The Ecstasy of Gold’, which readied their audiences and became somewhat their trademark (which suits their country-metal).

Death metal on the other hand went a bit further. From Deicide’s goats in anguish, to Carcass’ surgical salute, to Morbid Angel summoning the Ancient Ones; it’s become standard to employ sounds outside of what bands typically use in their songs. What are your favorite intros?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCP-No1DcQI

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Ildjarn entire catalogue re-pressed on Season of Mist

ildjarn-re_releasesDuring most of its active life, this one-man band (with occasional collaborators) was ignored for being primitive, primal, raw and feral. Its few-chord songs and droning incessant beat made it an obvious target for mockery; from a distance, it sounded like a mis-tuned Toyota with a broken fan belt.

However, as the 1990s wore on and it became clear that black metal had expressed itself fully and wasn’t “coming back,” people listened to the advice of our reviews and decided that Ildjarn was, after all, part of the essential black metal collection.

In the mid-2000s, Ildjarn re-surfaced with a spate of re-releases on Northern Heritage Records and Full Moon Productions, but then vanished as its creator moved on to other things. However, as of this month, Season of Mist Records plans to re-release the entire Ildjarn catalogue, first digitally and later, on CD and LP.

  • Norse (EP)
  • Ildjarn (album)
  • Strength and Anger (album)
  • Landscapes (album)
  • Svartfråd (EP)
  • Forest Poetry (album)
  • Hardangervidda (album)
  • Hardangervidda part 2 (EP)
  • 1992-1995 (compilation)
  • Eksistensens Jeger (single)
  • Nocturnal Visions (EP)
  • Minnesjord – The Dark Soil (EP)
  • Ildjarn 93 (EP)
  • Ildjarn Is Dead (compilation)
  • Sort Vokter – Folkloric Necro Metal (album)

All 15 reissues will be available digitally in the upcoming weeks and most of them will hit the stores in physical editions later on.

The label warns us: “Please note that Ildjarn ceased all musical activities a long time ago and therefore does not do interviews and does not run any official web page or social network.”

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Voivod to tour the world 2013

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.

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Underground metal needs a reset button

reset_buttonWe know what the vast majority of the public have moved on to, which is the hipster/indie/emo hybrid of the -core genres, but it’s hard to blame them since underground metal is underproducing.

Underground metal is in stagnation. For the last 18 years, nothing new has come of it, although there have been standouts in the old style. We’ve been relegated to the “old school” category.

It isn’t that the talented musicians are gone. It’s that they got overwhelmed by untalented imitators interested in fame, money and socially popular topics. The good was marginalized by the mediocre.

Death metal is the ultimate evolution of metal. Black metal added melody to it. The next stages will have to do something substantially distinctive, or do it substantially better, in order to get noticed to the degree that musicians want. Three chords and the truth will not do it.

Perhaps all of metal should go back to Metallica’s “Orion” and try to re-innovate from there.

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Awareness Campaign …of Death

People all across the globe are divided by race, color and creed. One thing we all have in common is death: All are equal in death.

There are many misconceptions about death. We will only have freedom when we can speak freely and openly of death. The Awareness Campaign of Death will educate people on such topics as:

  • “When is the right time to die?”
  • “How to die safely”
  • “The consequences of dying”
  • “What you should do if you are dead”

Everyone’s death is special and unique. Remember: someday your life will be taken. But no one can take your death!

The Awareness Campaign of Death is a non-profit organization and campaign to educate people and spread awareness of death.

Zero death becomes the leitmotiv for universal safety. — Jean Baudrillard

Many die too late, and some die too early. Yet strange soundeth the precept: “Die at the right time!” — Friedrich Nietzsche

‘Tis a vile thing to die, my gracious lord,
When men are unprepared and look not for it. — Shakespeare [Richard III]

You pray for death
Mourning does no good as you can only die once. — Morbid Angel

When I was young, I was extremely scared of dying. But now I think it a very, very wise arrangement. — Ingmar Bergman

I am become death, the destroyer of worlds. — Bhagavad Gita

No one can confidently say that he will still be living tomorrow. — Euripides

Tomorrow is a fine day to die. — Bathory

I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it. — Mark Twain

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Last copies of death metal book ‘Glorious Times’ for sale

Alan Moses from Glorious Times (A Pictorial of the Death Metal Scene 1984-1991) has announced that less than 40 copies of their book remain for purchase.

A collaboration between zine enthusiasts Alan Moses (Buttface zine) and Brian Pattison (Chainsaw Abortions zine), this relic features rare photographs and stories from the bands themselves. There are no outside influences to censor or alter what is displayed.

Bands featured:

gloriousphoto

Acheron – Autopsy – Baphomet – Brutality – Cannibal Corpse – Cryptic Slaughter – Dark Angel – Deceased – Deicide – Derketa – Disharmonic Orchestra – Exmortis – Groovy Aardvark – Hellwitch – Hideous Mangleus – Immolation – Impetigo – Incantation – Incubus – Insanity – Lethal Aggression – Malevolent Creation – Massacre – Massappeal – Master – Morbid Angel – Napalm Death – Nocturnus – Nuclear Death – Overthrow – Paineater – Possessed – Prime Evil – Revenant – Righteous Pigs – Ripping Corpse – Sacrifice – Sepultura – Slaughter – Soothsayer – Terrorain – Tirant Sin – Unseen Terror – Vomit – Wehrmacht – Where’s The Pope?

The rumor mill has been pirouetting around Glorious Times, and there was a leak that a new book “Glorious Times 2” is in the works.

Information for purchasing the remaining copies is located at their blogspot page.

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Man receives benefits for continued addiction to heavy metal

roger_tullgren-heavy_metal_addictReminiscent of Zoyd Wheeler, a California stoner who dives through plate-glass windows in order to keep qualifying for government mental disability benefits in Thomas Pynchon’s Vineland, a 47-year-old man in Sweden is on the dole for his addiction to heavy metal.

“I’m still addicted,” said Hässleholm resident Roger Tullgren, according to The Local. His addiction, which is seen as a mental disability, allows him to receive benefits to supplement his income because he listens to too much metal to hold down a full-time job.

Since we all know that jobs are jails, and 75% of what goes on in offices is redundant and could be eliminated, it seems a positive trade. After all, he’s receiving only the equivalent of $150 per month, and spends much of his time with his band. The whole thing might just be a promotional stunt.

But this brings us the broader question: we are Hessians united by a culture and a vision. Our cultural belief includes the attitude that jobs should be done efficiently so people can go on to do more interesting things with their lives. Why are we still sending everyone to kill eight hours a day at jobs? One explanation is that people simply don’t know what to do with themselves otherwise.

Another view is that we could do this, but then people would need to find something compelling to fill that time slot. They’d need to find a purpose, or meaning in life. At least Roger Tullgren has found his, even if many people think he’s committing himself to Satan as a result. And what’s wrong with that?

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