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An Abstract Revolution in Metal?

An Abstract Revolution in Metal?
July 02, 2007, 07:46:43 PM
Several threads here (Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, the various Venom arguments, and the Swedish DM thread in particular) have focused my interest on the question of abstraction in metal.  It seems to me that key factor separating the classic albums that emerged between say 1988-1995 and both the first couple of generations of heavy metal and most of what has appeared since is the level of abstraction the great classics achieved.  

The great inherent weakness of rock based metal was always its insipid literalism.  With bands like Venom, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Cannibal Corpse, Cradle of Filth etc., neither music nor concept leaves much to the imagination.  Such bands fill their musical spaces with the utterly predictable and their conceptual spaces with lyrics that are painfully self-explanatory.  Metaphor and other more oblique approaches to communication are lacking on every level.

In contrast, death metal bands like At the Gates, Incantation, Deicide, Dismember, Therion, Atheist and Demilich introduced music that worked almost as if according to dream logic, as if calculated to leave an ambivalent interpretive space.  Among such bands, the juxtaposition of seemingly opposing elements (consonance and dissonance, blasting and doomy passages, violence and beauty) served to create an ambiguous sensibility that embodied both the dissolution of the modern age and the haunting possibility of rebirth.  

In black metal, this tendency was even more highly developed, with  many bands projecting their music almost entirely into intellectual spaces defined by ideal rather than by fidelity to the current historical moment.  Some bands did so through an embrace of the heroic past (Bathory, Burzum, Graveland and Enslaved), while others set their music in worlds that exist only in the mind (Immortal and Summoning).



Re: An Abstract Revolution in Metal?
July 03, 2007, 01:04:11 AM
When you think about it, the abstract and the transcendent go hand in hand. You see the structure of reality, and you don't worry about rocking out and pleasing the crowd.

Metallica was always a band on the edge. So close to moments of pure beauty, and then back into the pentatonic solos and sped-up rock beats. It's no surprise they fully went over to the dark side and are a now a country-Pantera-punk hybrid.

Divus_de_Mortuus

A relativist approach
July 03, 2007, 01:31:50 AM
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You are not wrong in what you say at all Falco, but I take a relativist approach this subject. I think a clear distinction needs to be drawn between the first generation of metal and the modern incarnation of rock based junk. The musicians in the first generation were largely equal in spirit to the classics that followed, but were working with ideas and concepts that had not fully matured yet, while simultaneously trying to shed the chains of the rock music from which the genre grew out of.

Judas Priest and Venom were "smart" in that sense, as they could have easily just joined the crowd and played arena rock or disco, but metal was so new there was no way to focus on both making great music and exploring new(or, perhaps Ancient) themes and iconography, so one had to become secondary to another. Venom's(and most of the bands of that period) vision of what could be done musically was far greater than their ability to execute it(especially in Venomís case lol) but only once the groundwork was laid by Venom and others could Slayer, and later Morbid Angel, come to be. Think of these bands as adolescents.

Cannibal Corpse however were too dumb to make anything worthwhile, while playing around with ideas and aesthetics already explored by intellectual superiors, and Cradle of Filth were much the same, except they soon realized they could make money by pandering to stereotypes and gothic Mansonesque imagery. To their credit, Cannibal Corpse never really sold out like Dimmu or Cradle did (not that Cradle was worth anything to start with) but just garnered public attention by bashing their head into the same wall over and over again. Think of these bands as retards.

Is it possible a 12 year old and a 34 year old retard might score similarly on a standardized test? Yes. Are they the same? No.

If you don't like rock based metal of the old school because you just prefer the more evolved stuff that follows, that's fine with me. Ultimately, I agree with you because nothing beats Morbid Angel, nothing, but my concern is when people compare Black Sabbath, Mercyful Fate, Venom and others to the rock based stuff of today, which is completely oblivious to context. It would be like calling a forensic scientist a moron for writing a book 25 years ago about DNA that is less accurate than a first year college student's term paper on the subject today.

I used to hate Venom and Motorhead, and still donít care for some of Sabbathís rockier moments(and I still canít fucking stand Judas Priest, give me another year ok) but eventually I began to see things in context, and found a deep appreciation and affinity for these bands. †

Divus_de_Mortuus

Re: An Abstract Revolution in Metal?
July 03, 2007, 01:42:08 AM
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Metallica was always a band on the edge. So close to moments of pure beauty, and then back into the pentatonic solos and sped-up rock beats. It's no surprise they fully went over to the dark side and are a now a country-Pantera-punk hybrid.


This hits the nail on the head.  I think the perfect illustration of this is the first half of Anesthesia(Pulling Teeth) juxtaposed against the second half.

Divus_de_Mortuus

Re: An Abstract Revolution in Metal?
July 03, 2007, 01:02:51 PM
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some deleted assbabble by some angsty guy throwing a tantrum



I would disagree, I think the opinions both me and falc are expressing here are a bit more advanced and thought out vs. the typical "burzum am good, venom am baad" approach. The only hole in his argument is the fact it holds both new and old bands to the same standard.

It's ok for Iron Maiden to be rock based, but it's not ok for Cannibal Corpse to be rock based.

Re: An Abstract Revolution in Metal?
July 04, 2007, 06:30:44 AM
Thats a very insightful post.  I'm glad i read that.

I've also taken notice of this problem, but it could also be argued that a genuine message/statement that is too complicated to explain by means of everyday language must rely on abstraction (in most cases).  So then, it might be stated that abstraction isnt the distinguishing factor so much as a genuine message between the bands of the older days and the current.  It would seem to me that a message too complex or great to grasp would require abstraction, so i tend to think of complex meaning as a prerequisite for abstraction to take place.  Hope that makes sense..

Anyway, that was insightful....thank you.  

Re: An Abstract Revolution in Metal?
July 04, 2007, 10:17:44 AM
Ok so does the level of abstraction differentiates ordinary metal from the brilliant?  How far is it true?
THen it would seem that vagueness isthe essence of  metal.

Re: An Abstract Revolution in Metal?
July 04, 2007, 02:30:52 PM
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Ok so does the level of abstraction differentiates ordinary metal from the brilliant?  How far is it true?
 THen it would seem that vagueness isthe essence of  metal.


Contrary to popular notions which equate mysticism with being lost in a reverie, enlightenment is clarity of vision which transcends the fog of ignorance.

Re: An Abstract Revolution in Metal?
July 04, 2007, 05:42:26 PM
The abstract is the human trying to relate a purely human, non-physical experience. And of course English is a cumbersome language when discussing things of this sort anyway, many of Carl Jung's ideas are difficult to translate because the English word soul encompasses a range of more specific things in German.

But i donít think the more abstract something is the greater it is, because music is only abstract when one tries to relate the experience felt with others or themselves, and will quickly find its just as hard with any form of music, not just metal and not just specific parts of metal.

Re: An Abstract Revolution in Metal?
July 04, 2007, 05:54:28 PM
We say abstract when we speak of the intangible, but what music is specifically is the manifestation of higher principles, according to various conditions to which manifested entities are subject, through the modality of sound. It may be said that when experiencing such a given quality, in the listener there will arise a given "feeling" (see correlated thread), the variations of which will depend upon the conditions of manifestation, or the admixture thereof.

[Don't look to Jung if seeking Truth; he even admitted that ultimately rather than finding It he only succeeding in confusing himself.]

Re: An Abstract Revolution in Metal?
July 10, 2007, 01:09:35 PM
Quote
We say abstract when we speak of the intangible, but what music is specifically is the manifestation of higher principles, according to various conditions to which manifested entities are subject, through the modality of sound. It may be said that when experiencing such a given quality, in the listener there will arise a given "feeling" (see correlated thread), the variations of which will depend upon the conditions of manifestation, or the admixture thereof.

[Don't look to Jung if seeking Truth; he even admitted that ultimately rather than finding It he only succeeding in confusing himself.]


Wasn't that what Nietzsche said? Truth is impossible, only reality is true? And that in reality, there are some higher principles and some lower?

It makes sense, really. All things are connected and influence each other (butterfly effect) even if remotely. Truth is reality and reality is truth. There's no higher realization than that, and all the postmodern noodling about symbolic truth is total crap and as confusing and useless as what it hopes to replace, which is calcified reliance on external standards.

But within that truth (that truth is reality, and the converse) there are different degrees of perception. Some are purely physical, others abstract. The best are the abstract ones that relate directly to reality and describe it well, because any other kind of abstraction is unrealistic and unsatisfying.