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Topics - Nile_577

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1
Metal / Through Silver In Blood
« on: February 10, 2011, 03:49:02 AM »



With Neurosis' fifth full-length we reach a rarefied plateau. Even the magnificent 'Enemy of the Sun,' which perhaps contains the band's most poignant material, and the contemplative and revitalising wisdom of 'A Sun that Never Sets' - immensely major works by any other artist - seem distant compared to what is unfolded here. Today a glut of pale imitators ape this band's style but terminally lack its vision, which here surpasses Pink Floyd and moves towards realms explored by poets such as T.S. Eliot. All that was excluded in the memorable opening line from 'Lost,' beginning Neurosis' previous album - "My eyes were jaded; so close to the centre they could not see" -, is here revealed. And what can measure up to it?  Neurosis do not seek revivalism, or transparent nationalised identity but rather offer a transcendent mythology of reality, as it is – now - breathing the religious back into the secular.

The almost unbearable demand this music places upon its audience calls for the dissolution of the listener's subjectivity, such that he is no longer a subject listening and interpreting the objective sound of music, but rather becomes bound up in the ritualistic ambience of the work, which in turn discloses his subjectivity as a vector for its world-founding potential. And what a world we are called to inhabit. It is impossible to overstate the titanic force, the immense sonorous weight and violent, cataclysmic power of these pieces; a transformative strength unifies their constituent parts into a radically forceful statement of truth. Perhaps only in Gorguts' Obscura can we find a parallel for the searing intensity of vision and the fusion of mythology, Eastern religion and heavy guitar music; though here we find not just Eastern influences but a dark reinterpretation of Christian scripture.

Through silver in blood,
We stand judged not by
Eyes of flesh.

Bleeding one
Bleed alone

Don't crawl, seek his burn of war
When the fallout comes he is fire

Religious and apocalyptic imagery combine with a reading of Christ's crucifixion that melds the 'Book of Revelation' with nuclear holocaust. The sensibility underlying this landscape is, as mentioned, closest to Eliot (and the anxiety of influence is massively prevalent), pregnant as it is with an eschatological, messianic expectancy. Here this desperate waiting is answered not with a Vedic benediction but a waste land of nuclear Armageddon. "We even ignited the first atomic bomb on the day commemorating the transfiguration of Christ, unconsciously signalling that we intended likewise to transform the world not only after the light but after the darkness." God is celebrated as death, destroyer of worlds; the nuclear detonation as a marriage of heaven and hell, a place where the mechanised is fused with the metaphysical in a sonorous sound-scape of catharsis, destruction and rebirth and where spirit and matter collide and are conjoined. Rarely becoming explicit, the mythologised narrative that structures this work imbues our secular logos with an enlivening mythos, bursting with metaphoric, structuring potential.

Neurosis achieve the remarkable by discovering an authentically ritualistic tapestry that escapes contamination by stylised "exotic" or "tribal" aesthetics, calling the listener into a celebration of the beckoning end by giving birth to genuine mythology of modernity. We are called to take stock of what we have done, and what we are racing to achieve and yes, Datta, what we have given?'

Blazing eye sees all
Nature of fiery triumph
Patterns unfold

Fetal buried gold
Humbled in the womb
A centre opens
To the unknown

The patterns of history unfold; the Kali Yuga and the Ginnungagap, the end of a Vichian ricorso. The thrust of 'Through Silver in Blood' is to reinscribe the mytheme in culture by sanctifying a new kind of religious discourse that reinterprets religious thinking in the light of a sacred "void"; the 'centre' of the 'unknown' 'womb'. Preserving and reinterpreting the spiritual in light of the nihilistic spiritualises nothingness itself, and calls forth the structuring patterns of divinity from the very seat of God's absence, offering a radically apophatic (a)theology, closest to Eastern thinking. Without irony or revivalism, new hope is thus presented through a blasphemous yet transformatively sensitive reading of scripture for a unified understanding of life - and what else can scripture hope for?

Rise - shining blank
Scars burn way down
It parts ways of the
Serpent view - cast
Stones where to stop
Calling you - they all
Lower me to the ground
Stick him - they all
Lower me to the soil
Stick him

Star - reign down
On you

You'll starve
Bright star in the
Dripping sun
Writhe on - saints
Steal from your actions
Step in right on it's
Function - stick him

Star - reign down
On you

You all lower me
Christ's shine blinds
Your world
Your belief is scars

The will to power
Ascension manifest
That which is above
Is as that which is below
Thy will be done
Thy kingdom come
On earth as it is in heaven
So mote it be

'Locust Star' is the heart of this album, presenting an obscure take on the crucifixion, possibly narrated from the position of the Antichrist, giving a Nietzschean reading of Christianity by proclaiming that the Passion, as the central event of the Christian faith, founds a belief in mere "scars." Interestingly the "stick him" interjection, referring to an injunction to nail Christ, is curiously ambiguous, seemingly addressed to the very followers of the Christian faith, as if suggesting that Christians have somehow themselves crucified Christ. The album title is given meaning as the nails that "blind your world" by piercing divine flesh, though silver in blood. Concluding with a revelation of titanic force, Neurosis stage the transvaluation of values with a violent restatement of the 'Lord's Prayer' voiced by the emergent growl of Dave Edwardson.

'Aeon' explores the range of dynamic sensitivity present here, building from an uneasy and hauntingly child-like music-box motif through a dirgeful lament that opens into a transcendent and world shaking organ section, staging the very earth erupting in response to the relentless, trancelike drumming, before fading into a string lament. This transition from airy fragility to foundational upheaval revolutionised the stylistic potential of this idiom, pushing the genre into unbroached realms with its immense artistic force. A similar moment is found in the conclusion of 'Purify;' one of several 'openings' in this work that point towards the transcendent; an eirenic and breathtaking theme that would be restated on "Times of Grace."

The final act of Through Silver in Blood is a petition, set against a titanic riff, for the dissolution of the self, 'silently praying for enclosure within the flame of origin.' The band structure the unfolding of a new narrative from amidst the very wreckage of modernity, staging a conflict between matter and spirit, resulting in their ultimate fusion. In remotivating the question of mythology and staging the dissolution of the Cartesian subject against the background of an apocalyptic waste land - a barren realm in which the sonorous whine of sirens, and screams of industrial machinery battle with ethereal beckonings - Neurosis create a work that might be called authentically religious, or at least provide genuine effusion of spirit. It is this dissolution of individuality that makes this album unlistenable for many, and harrowing and captivating for those who dare to reverse the the fundamental gesture of modernity, replacing detached, egotistical individuality with mythic whole.

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Metal / Nile and cultural context.
« on: November 13, 2009, 12:45:14 AM »
I think that people who approach Nile looking for an authentic, historicist documentation of Ancient Egyptian music and culture are somewhat missing the point. There are lots of these arguments around (The guys from Mithras, for example, claim that the scales Nile use – especially the harmonic minor – are not the 'real deal' but merely Hollywood representations of what Egyptian music might have sounded like. Elsewhere I have heard Egyptian scholars take issue with the band’s use of syntax and grammar) but, for me, they are pedantic, ungenerous and unrealistic. The music of Nile does not aim to preserve historical integrity but to be death metal music.

It has often been persuasively argued that there is an inherent violence in the process of cultural homogenisation whereby ancient and Arabic cultures are conflated with Lovecraft to provide an exotic “Other” against which to juxtapose modern society. That is, in the music of Nile, it is claimed, cultures are ripped from their context to be presented as a sublime threat to enlightened Western values. This is difficult and controversial ground not least because of the easy parallel that can be drawn between such methods and the crude “bogeyman” racial stereotypes that were employed by writers of Lovecraft’s ilk (e.g Algernon Blackwood) as a device to generate terror of the unknown, representing a supposed lawless or superstitious barbarity lurking beyond the borders of the “civilised” world. I submit, however, that the fundamental thrust of Nile’s dualism between “barbarity” (its topic) and “Modernity” (its audience) is not literal, or historical but rather literary and surreal. That is, I propose that Nile’s works offer a surrealist tapestry of distorted fragments from Egyptian and Arabic cultures alongside snatches of Lovecraft to create a mythological archetype of “Otherness” that transcends its constituent parts.

This tapestry achieves conceptual expression in the track “As he creates, so he destroys,” from Ithyphallic.

“Both blind and bereft of mind
He pipes unceasingly on his reed flute
And the notes that rise and fall in measured patterns
Are the foundations of all the worlds
Ever calculating in sound the structure of space and time”*

The “notes that rise and fall in measured patterns” might well represent the different historical and mythological narratives Nile have explored, while “bereft of mind” suggests the distorted, literary context of death metal music. The vision here is almost Blakean; a synthesis of fragments to provide a syncretic truth, or archetype from which all mythologies spring. At its heart, it challenges the notion of theological autonomy, or controlled historical order. God is not the dictatorial Yahweh but rather a blind a idiot, piping mindless, nihilistic music, indifferent to the affairs of humanity; the individual is not a rational, autonomous being, but instead a subject before various demigods that condition his culture and imbue his life with meaning and passion. These things are contextualised by a temporality that claims all such cultures and even such demigods, 'ever calculating in sound the structure of space and time.' Nile's music puts the individual in context rather like a glance upwards on a clear night. In sum, what the band offer is a vision of the untamed epic; a vast, cosmic Otherness against which, and in which, the narratives of rational theology and philosophy play out as but trivial moments. This is not the violence of imperialism but rather violence to its very concept. Their music exceeds representation by the ordered, scholarly processes of academia. History is dis-torted in the dis-tortion of death metal.*

I'm interested to hear thoughts on this and criticisms, particularly with reference to the merits and demerits of Nile's approach. Also interested to hear views on how metal engages with past cultures.

* - "Ever calculating in sound the structure of space and time." - This is a beautiful line. Independently of how it is discussed here, it might serve as a summary of what the best metal offers.
** - Let us not forget that, in Dante, ‘Dis’ is the city of the burning dead.

3
Metal / Mortal Throne of Nazarene
« on: September 23, 2009, 01:31:04 AM »
Trivial discovery of the day:

If you turn the cover art to this album upside down it reveals a second "face" hidden in the picture.

Ok most people were probably fixated on the inner sleeve art but I'm English, so could resist.

BTW, I think this album is great. Why is it disliked here? Something to do with the indulgence & lust theme?

4
Metal / Bruckner, symphonies & National Socialism
« on: September 19, 2009, 04:06:57 PM »
I am interested to hear preferences regarding his symphonies. I think the 9th is his best work. This is an absolutely titanic symphony and seems, at least to me, very similar in feel to death metal music. I also enjoy the 7th symphony and I'm particularly enamoured with an organ adaptation of the adagio. To my surprise I recently learned that this piece was played on German radio following the announcement of Hitler's death.

Here are a couple of articles about Bruckner's life and how his music was revered by National Socialism.
http://www.nytimes.com/1996/10/20/arts/for-bruckner-a-vague-nazi-aura-persists.html
http://typo3.ort.org/index.php?id=335

There is significant controversy surrounding artists/thinkers related to the National Socialist movement. Interestingly, I think that the resistance to Heidegger is significantly stronger than to Wagner, Bruckner and Karajan. Although I believe Wagner was banned outright for a time by some Israeli music societies, people like James Levine have subsequently successfully conducted his work*. Beethoven seems to have escaped implication almost entirely. I wonder if this represents a belief that music is free from political "contamination" whereas philosophy is not?

For the most part, I think that condemnations against these works are the result of a genetic fallacy (eg. Hitler believed that the combustion engine worked, therefore the combustion engine is evil) but perhaps I need to read more in this area.

* - There have been a number of Jewish philosophers and academics who have engaged with Heidegger, of course, but resistance to him among Anglo-American circles is staunch, with his hermeneutic approach to philosophy being seen as the "path to Nazism" over against rational, analytic thinkers. This was exacerbated by the Paul de Man controversy.

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From pages 10-11

"Quorthon's first genre shift would not only divide fans forever, but would also give him the opportunity to take credit for starting yet another genre, or sort of genre at least - 'Viking metal.' 'Blood Fire Death,' released in 1988, is arguably Bathory's most consistent and better aged album. Because it is the transition album between eras, it is still harsh enough to be called black metal and please fans thereof, but it also introduced an imagery and a swooping, epic musical approach that is at the core of any Viking band you can name today. A good explanation for this unexpected evolution is found in an interview for www.anus.com

'I began to listen to classical music shortly after forming Bathory, and from 1985 to 1986 it was all I would listen to... Around 1986, I realised we were actually just writing albums full of religious hocus-pocus, satanic rubbish and demonic crap. I was not a Satanist and knew absolutely nothing about occultism or demonic affairs, so I asked myslf why I should really be writing about that shit... that's when the idea to bring the whole pre-Christian Swedish Viking era into Bathory came about'"


Also, churcharson.com is mentioned, and quoted from as an example of "atheist extremism" in "The Dawkins Letters: Challenging Atheist Myths," by David Robertson. I don't have the book to hand to check the page number.


6
Interzone / The history of Being
« on: September 13, 2009, 09:37:12 PM »
In the West, 3 eras:

1 – Phusis (The Heroic Greek Age)

Being shows up as phusis, a blossoming, a rising up and then rapid withdrawal. This is an age of heroism, in which lives can rise up and fall away in a flash. The narrative of the Iliad focuses on one hero, or God, for a short time and then they are removed from the field. Holy days allowed for celebration of the strangeness and wonder of Being; a contemplation of the “ownmost” of beings (i.e. what they are and might be independent of our purchase upon them as resources). Truth was “alethia,” or unhidden, as Being “en-owned” (came into its ownmost) in the clearing of the cultural world.

2 – Cipher (The Christian age)

Being shows up as a cipher. All beings are the creation of God and can be used to interpret his truth. The discipline of hermeneutics develops from Biblical studies where the part is understood within the context of the whole. God was not yet reduced to a “divine mechanic” in the Deistic/Newtonian sense, but was held responsible for the fourfold of causality: the causa materialis (the material out of which something is made), the causa formalis (the shape into which the material is made), the causa finalis (the end to which the form will be placed), and the causa efficiens (that which brings about the actual finished creation). Creation is not a simple ontic fact but an ontological structure of care that, in the divine narrative, reveals creation as a gift. As a gift from God, beings are sacred; not yet pure standing-reserve. St Francis shows that one’s comportment towards “creation” should be reverential, like the awe felt when standing in a cathedral.

3 – Gestell (The pure commodification of Modernity)
Christianity is reduced to a series of propositional truth claims about reality. Being shows up as standing reserve – that which must be dominated and used solely in accordance with functional need. Art is understood functionally (as opposed to disclosively) and trivialised into the theory of aesthetics (the best art is not contemplated by a subject but founds the very cultural world by which a subject understands his public identity). The sacred vanishes underneath a vulgar materialism. The “ownmost” of beings is levelled into a commodity. Gestell sees a river as merely a potential power source, a forest solely as fuel for a fire. The Earth becomes a gigantic gas station. The National Socialist party betray the once revered “Fatherland” by turning it into purely a fuel source for war. Industrial deforestation and environmental activism attempt to gain purchase on forests as polarised but essentially indifferent “being-resources.” Food is purchased as standing-reserve at a supermarket. Gestell gains a hold on man: people are cattle for profit; universities create automatons to earn a salary; worst and above all else, a race of people is mechanistically exterminated and disposed of in the Holocaust.

*****************************************************************************************************************************
The task is to return to 1 (or even 2) without the methods of 3.

Simple revivalism cannot return us to past Being-historical ages. Dressing up in the trappings of a past age is not the same as dwelling in the cultural world that brought those trappings forth. If we wish gestell to go away, we need to rediscover the Greek notion of the holy day, and cultivate a contemplative thinking within the noise of modern life.* This change must come from the bottom up. We must nurture the remnants of culture and sow seeds that a new god, or leader might emerge.

If we are concerned about overpopulation, mass eugenic execution is not the “answer” to the “issue.” The “problem” cannot be solved by activism, ideology or generalised metaphysics (eugenics) – these things are endemic to gestell. It is rather that both “answer” and “issue” are symptoms of gestell. If we were able to get rid of gestell, careful, restrained, delicate and sober discourse about the problems of culture and overpopulation would become possible. Human being would not be reducible to an IQ number but would be understood in its ownmost structure. I suspect that children would not be understood as a necessity, or an accessory for living a full adult life, but as a rare gift for the community. “Overpopulation” would never be formulated as a problem because life would be valued as something of quality, not quantity.

* = I think that within the realm of modern architecture, bridges might well serve as our new cathedrals. I would like to see "chapels" placed in the middle of all crossings, so that the traveller might take a break and enjoy a moment of contemplation. From this, perhaps in time it is possible that something like holiness, or reverence might return.

7
Metal / Yeats & Grindcore & Funeral doom
« on: June 03, 2009, 01:31:18 AM »
Yeats did understand grindcore before grindcore.

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold"

Look at all that core grinding and ontological malaise!

And, verily, Yeats did also understand funeral doom

"Finns fall apart; the centre cannot hold"

Those old Modernists! They knew all about suffering. How it happens when someone is opening a window or eating.

8
That's right, Bill the Pony and Treebeard slash porn from the infamous "Library of Moria"!

"Suddenly the end of the branch crooked itself and stroked something deep
within me, releasing a crashing wave of overwhelming ecstasy such I had
never known before. All self-control was lost and I could only neigh long
and loud. To my eternal shame, I know I sounded like nothing more than a
common braying donkey.

Master Sam was picking the splinters out of me for a week afterwards,
muttering things about ‘That wretched Treebeard’ and ‘Just wait until
I set my pruning sheers on him!’"

http://www.libraryofmoria.com/treebeardbill/provingazzywrong.txt

9
Metal / Styles & metal: Bolt Thrower
« on: May 31, 2009, 11:14:15 PM »
The concept of genre is inexorably bound up with that of style. Style can vary with mode in so far as it adopts the correct protocol for expression as conditioned by its context. These protocols emerge from the historical tradition of a culture and are divided by historians into epochal stages such as Baroque, Classical, and Modern. While this process has a certain utility, when treated as a mode of scientific classification the meaning of style is subjugated to its form. This subjugation is, in fact, the violence of severance, where it is proposed that style exists independently of meaning. Where contextual meaning is forsaken, dogma is created.

This dogma of style holds sway in underground metal. Where it is proposed that the sonic structure of metal music constitutes its essence, that essence is levelled and wrenched from the enabling protocols of its style. Thus impoverished, its style becomes merely decorative, whereby it exists wholly for the purpose of something else, and loses its essential meaning.

When we speak of essential meaning, we do not mean objective, or detached meaning. Essence is given and interpreted within historical tradition. We also do not mean a subjective meaning. The playing of metal is not something a subject does and metal is not something that finds audience in a subject. Rather, the music is itself the subject of artistic experience. When playing metal, one submits to the play; to play in a self-referential or insincere fashion is, as has been noticed elsewhere, to be a spoilsport. Through insincerity of execution or interpretation, the experience of art becomes trivialised into a question of mere epistemology, of “clever” communication between artist and listener rather than the meaning unfolding from the artwork itself and the synthesis of its enabling conditions and interpretative context.  If a style is aped with no thought for its meaningful context, the style is executed badly.

Bolt Thrower’s In Battle There Is No Law emerged at a time when the genres of “extreme” metal had not yet been solidified into meaningful forms. Thus, as an archetype, the album serves as a founding-preservation of what was to come. Bolt Thrower preserved the pre-existing impetus towards extremity existing within heavy metal music and founded it into a style, successfully discovering an optimum mode in which to express its contextual meaning. What of this meaning?

In Battle There Is No Law is interesting, as archetypal death metal, because its style enacts the symbolic dualism at the heart of death and black metal music. Reading modernity as celebrating light, the innate value of life and moralistic purpose, black and death metal emerge from the inversion of these things. Adopting a chromatic riff lexicon, first cultivated as a means of symbolising death in early program music, In Battle There Is No Law forsakes a reverence for melodious beauty to embody an “anti” style that accentuates unpleasantness, jarring distortion and sludgy, noxious obfuscation. The meaning of these traits is larger than the intent of any individual producing them and is given by their conditioned context.

The relentless antithetic process of the album is developed further as it undermines the autonomy of the individual. The title track declares, “countless numbers die in war's path,” suggesting that war is a process to which one submits, rather than a mode of individually willed behaviour. Enlightenment autonomy is thrown into stark relief against a realm of unreason and chaos, and it is through the concept of warfare that this band find their own style, as a subset of genre, in a relentless down-picked grind declaring that In Battle There Is No Law.

The extremist meaning of this music is that of an assault on the taken-for-granted conventions of its epoch. By inheriting what is radically antithetical to modern notions of acceptability, Bolt Thrower preserves only a tenuous tie to its epistemic context. The furthest reaches of this detachment are the breeding ground for styles we may speak of as being legitimately extreme.

(This review tries to think along with Hans-Georg Gadamer)

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