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Overstimulation and Western Culture < Black Metal

I'm not preaching, this was just a musing that arose the other day. Any commentary or criticism would be welcomed to further build and harness this idea.

I find myself constantly challenged by, or victim of this. Grow up in an urban environment and you're inescapably bombarded with sensory overload. Our organism receives vital information from various input and then translates this into usable biological upkeep remedies. Like all things too much sensory input can lead to aversive side effects, maladaptive behaviors (most common), and general misdiagnosis of mental ailments.

It doesn't take a minimalist to see the following consumer and social environments as cathedrals of oversaturation:

The Shopping Mall
The Barroom
The Campus University
The Internet
The Retail Store

Couple that with:
YOUR JOB- expectation of time management with deadlines build never ending anxiety.
YOUR FAMILY- and if you don't have one of your own, consider life management.

Overstimulation and Anxiety is inevitable without a proper plan of action.

Silence and monastic isolation is not feasible for most. Adults have jobs, responsibilities, and dependents. Households to run and food to cook and clothes to wash and rooms to clean etc... even if you live in the woods, life will be fast-paced.

Black Metal tends to negate every notion of these maladaptive principalities in concern to a life aimed toward meaning, health and sanity. The unique tendency of Black Metal atmosphere and its capability to transport the listener away to an inner landscape, where the properties and social/consumer constructs no longer apply allow the listener the right silence of mind, the right balance of stimuli and the right setting to recalibrate one's priorities as dictated by our psychospiritual compass. It can offer a micro-retreat from the overabundance of responsibilities dumped on a person. Removing the overstimulation is necessary for a serious and dedicated practitioner of mental health, just like the removal of sedentary habits is necessary for a practitioner of physical health. For a metal fan, Black Metal is one possible remedy of overstimulation.

I'd say that music in general has become more important to me as the years have gone by for this very reason. As you get older, you get more responsibilities and more power, but you are also saddled with more stress and distractions. Going for a walk in the wilderness and listening to good music really helps with thought organization. I guess it's all an extension of the whole macrocosmic feel of the music I listen to: it all communicates the idea that you are an insignificant component in an impossibly large universe, but rather than consigning you to wallow in misery (like Leviathan, Xasthur, or SIlencer), good music empowers you to tackle life's obstacles by finding your place in the natural order.

It's a bit hard to explain all of this in writing (I think the old saying is that "writing about music is like dancing about architecture"), so here's some specific examples of sonic Windex for your brain:

Mordicus - Oceans
I know that it's a bit trendy to praise the "unknown" oldies, but Mordicus really exists outside of the generic oldschool style of Finndeath. Something about the way they link riffs together really feels organic and honest when compared to most modern death metal, and their frequent nods to older styles of music actually work to enhance their style rather than distract you from their great songwriting.

Infernum - Reverence to the Obscure
The second Infernum album is truly a lost classic of Polish black metal. It was written around the time-period between Thousand Swords and Following the Voice of Blood if I'm not mistaken, and you can definitely hear echoes of that style in this music. For my money, this album is one of the greatest things Darken was ever involved with: epic, Romantic black metal of the highest order.

Robert Schumann - Manfred Overture
Robert Schumann was one of the most "black metal" of the Romantic composers, and this overture is a prime example of his firm grasp of atmosphere and timeless compositional excellence. It's too bad that I couldn't find Kubelik's recording of the overture with the Berlin Philharmonic on YouTube, but this version seems to do the job adequately. If you haven't obtained this double CD set yet, you're doing yourself an egregious disservice. I found out about it in an issue of Heidenlärm back in high school, and it hasn't left regular rotation since I purchased it (for the record, I'm twenty-three-and-a-half now, so this isn't empty boasting).

Manuel Göttsching - Pluralis
There's nothing quite so refreshing as some good old Kosmische Musik, and Manuel Göttsching's Inventions for Electric Guitar is probably one of the best records in that style. It's a bit hard to come by, but well worth seeking out if you're into stuff like the ambient Fripp albums or Klaus Schulze. It got a bit slagged in one of the Sadistic Metal Reviews, but for whatever reason, I can't stop smiling while I'm listening to this album.

Horrified - Down at the Valley of the Great Encounter
Horrified's early work is like the Varathron to Septic Flesh's Rotting Christ: under-recognized and composed in a similar style, but absolutely essential listening for all lovers of the Romantic and the morbid. I picked up a cheap copy of the digipack reissue of their first album (complete with tracks from some similarly well-written early EPs), and it's fast becoming one of my favorite Hellenic metal full-lengths. If early Rotting Christ is black metal's answer to '70s Judas Priest, this is death metal's answer to Rainbow: epic, progressive, and above all, sublimely heavy.