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Black Metal as Greek or Wagnerian Drama

Black Metal as Greek or Wagnerian Drama
January 15, 2012, 10:19:10 PM
(8) Why haven't metal bands gone ancient Greek (no, not that way) by incorporating drama, poetry and music together into one artform?
I suppose we see things differently, as to me, this is one of the primary aspects that define black metal. The corpse paint, the emphasis on atmosphere over virtuosity, the elimination of the individual performers' personas(which is more of a culmination on past metal genres than a new development itself), even the droning and highly linear nature of the music itself; all of these lend themselves to an experience that is far less throbbingly emphatic than it is theatrical, in the sense that it presents an alternate reality from which it can more freely frame its particular views and mores. I could, however, agree that this pursuit has yet to be *perfected*. A lot of bands get misguided by the statement "only the music matters," and on the opposite side of the spectrum, the most intensive examples devolve into intentional gimmick a la GWAR.


Does anyone else find this idea interesting?  This would mean that the goal of Nietzsche and Wagner's notion of perfect art or music of the future would be complete with black metal's rejection of the professionalism of Death Metal and its embrace of theatrics, albeit in a real life sense.

The Black Metal bands could be said to have taken on the aspects of a Greek drama, but bringing it to a place of reality with their adoption of characters and fatal embracing of the meanings of those characters.  This only happened with the Bands Burzum and Mayhem, and a couple other hangers on, for Darkthrone were on a separate wavelength and other bands were only interested in their musical goals.  The characters went on to kill themselves, others, and end up in jail, all in seeking to bring their musical drama to the stage of reality.  If so, are their greek lessons of reverence to be found in this drama, and was this attempt at drama, albeit unintentional, any kind of success.

Just trying to further the conversation.  I know this will bring on ghosts of sensationalism and Lords of Chaos-type books.  Up until now, I tried to look at the genre more realistically and mostly from the musical standpoint, but I will entertain these notions for the sake of the above argument.

I find this incredibly interesting, but what are we talking about exactly?

You make a great observation, that black metal fantasy spilled over into reality.  But how exactly do we incorporate this into the future of metal?  It was all unintentional and incidental, as you say.

In terms of the future of metal, perhaps you can actually look to what Immortal tried to do, which was create this whole world, Blashyrk.  Obviously it was pretty juvenile, but the rudimentary idea is there.  Create a whole mythological world, its stories and its Gods, then make music in tribute to them.  It's both a literary project and a musical project, and why not illustrations too and make it a visual project?
I follow my course with the precision and security of a sleepwalker

This is not neccessarily about the future of metal as it is seeing if there is indeed a case to be made that the activities in Norway in the early 90s were somehow an acommplishment of the Greek ideal of art in music, that being the idea of a full experience of music and drama, along with imagery to match the two. 

I was never too informed on the Immortal concept thing, as the I don't listen to too many of the allbums Immortal made after they began that direction.  I think if the question of the future of metal is being talked about here, things need to go beyond Alice Cooper styled rock operas and more toward stories and characters that go together to paint a bigger idea.

And if I were to make a suggestion about how to go forward with this, is cinema really out of the question for metal?  Not music videos where people dress up in scary outfits, but maybe something where scenes are created to sync with larger pieces of music, where characters exist.  I am just throwing ideas at the wall now.

This is not neccessarily about the future of metal as it is seeing if there is indeed a case to be made that the activities in Norway in the early 90s were somehow an acommplishment of the Greek ideal of art in music, that being the idea of a full experience of music and drama, along with imagery to match the two.

That is indeed some of the superficial appeal of the early Norwegian scene, that it plays out like a drama with real life consequences. But I don't think this link to real life events enhances the quality of the art, and it also doesn't make the inherent romanticism of the music any less relevant.

I think live performance is the closest aspect to the full visual/audial experience in the Greek ideal, but it's also severely lacking. Not to say I don't appreciate the genius of bands that have mastered their craft, but oftentimes I feel bored with the incongruency of the music and the performance. I hate seeing inferior renditions of the album version and I don't think the typical pub/club atmosphere (and all the loonies it attracts) is worthy of the music. I really admire groups like The Moon Lay Hidden Beneath a Cloud for totally connecting every aspect of their art, playing at old churches, ruins etc.

It would be cool if bands did something akin to live variations around the basic spirit/ideals of the recorded works. Or in the case of a band like Summoning, move closer into the realms of poetry, using music to carry it, actually it's a shame they don't play live as I'm sure it wouldn't dissapoint.


I agree with your first paragraph and this is the kind of debate I was looking for.  I was entertaining the opposite idea, because I wanted to really get into the topic and I still do.

Regarding your second point, however, I was thinking about starting a topic about how Black Metal might just be a certain kind of genre that is better not played live, for two reasons:
1) The music lends itself to solitude and spacy production
2) Everyone who does it live looks like an idiot

Drama? Listen to Ildjarn is Dead.
You're quite hostile.

I got a right to be hostile, man, my people been persecuted!


Re: Black Metal as Greek or Wagnerian Drama
January 21, 2012, 03:36:14 PM
I was actually trying to say that, at least the album Ildjarn is Dead is the opposite of drama: Straight-foward killing chain-saw guitar metal with no theatrics, but that is one of the better albums I have ever come across. I know the post suggested the opposite.

  Of course, there may be confusion here about what is drama or not, especially wagnerian since I don't know the work of this composer well. Of of any one of the classics.
You're quite hostile.

I got a right to be hostile, man, my people been persecuted!

Re: Black Metal as Greek or Wagnerian Drama
January 21, 2012, 11:16:14 PM
Wagnerian implies to me two things; chromaticity and the use of leitmotif. However, perhaps someone better informed should expound upon exactly what is meant by the term when it is used to describe metal music. A "complete work of art" in the vein of Wagner should be explained.

Re: Black Metal as Greek or Wagnerian Drama
January 21, 2012, 11:23:32 PM
I didn't look it up, so maybe this is wrong, but when Nietzsche and Wagner talk about drama, I think they are refering to narrative and events presented in a linear fashion.  In Wagner's music of the future, this narrative would have more meaning than just what was happening, but the broader aspect of it would comminicate the spirit of the people and their values.  Both saw the drama of the Greeks to be something like this. 

On a more material angle, drama is refering to the Greek dramas, or Shakespeare's dramas, where a story is built toward or around a certain main event. 

Re: Black Metal as Greek or Wagnerian Drama
January 21, 2012, 11:45:46 PM
does anybody have enough balls to write a GOOD metal opera or play? haha

Re: Black Metal as Greek or Wagnerian Drama
January 21, 2012, 11:58:22 PM
But let's not trap ourselves and say that a Black Metal attempt at drama should be some kind of stupid Opera with two hour metal albums where characters appear and dress in elaborate costumes and sing out dialogue.  I don't think that is the goal.

Though imagine something like Beherit's "Demon Advance" from Engram with characters and dialogue singing over that kind of music with that same type of vocal performance.  That might have something to it....

Re: Black Metal as Greek or Wagnerian Drama
January 22, 2012, 12:51:28 AM
If it really is dramatic, I don't know, but the word drama does not come to my mind when I listen to this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ox_SgOL1L8
You're quite hostile.

I got a right to be hostile, man, my people been persecuted!

Re: Black Metal as Greek or Wagnerian Drama
January 22, 2012, 10:56:19 AM
But let's not trap ourselves and say that a Black Metal attempt at drama should be some kind of stupid Opera with two hour metal albums where characters appear and dress in elaborate costumes and sing out dialogue.  I don't think that is the goal.

Though imagine something like Beherit's "Demon Advance" from Engram with characters and dialogue singing over that kind of music with that same type of vocal performance.  That might have something to it....

Interesting you mention Beherit, as it certainly occured to me as one of the few that could build on black metal without negating the overall spirit/meaning of the genre. Nuclear Holocausto even touched on the subject in the DLA interview as well as mixing audio and visual or using audio to represent an unseen visual stimuli.

Regarding the use of characters and dialogue, again I'm reminded of Summoning and their use of the dual-vocals to expand the poetic nature of the music.