Interview with Clayton Gore of Harkonin

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March 26, 2011 –
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Modern metal.

You can’t say those words in a room without dividing the audience. Some love you, and some want to feed you to the gators.

St. Louis’ Harkonin is the musical project of Clayton Gore, formerly of early 1990s Tampa death metal “best kept secret in the underground” Eulogy. Where Eulogy straddled the dead middle of the old school, Harkonin is modern metal of the death-metal-influenced style of later Kataklysm, Ion Dissonance and others. In other words, it’s technical metalcore with death metal leanings.

As someone who strives to be honest, I’ll admit that when modern metal gets mentioned at a party, I’m back in the cocktail line before you can say “fist Jesus.” The reasons for this are not important, but while it doesn’t limit my objectivity, it does limit my desire to listen to modern metal and thus, to write about it.

However, I’m a longtime Clayton Gore fan and, as someone who strives to be honest, haven’t hidden the fact that me and modern metal are incompatible. I don’t think that should be used as an excuse to ignore a talented musician and his output, so instead of talking about modern metal, I asked Clayton some non-trivial questions so you, our readers, can see why we at the Dark Legions Archive listen avidly to this man. Without further ado, here he is!

Eulogy – Consecration of Fools

What’s the difference between “modern metal” (2000s) and “underground metal” (1990s)?

Not just metal but music in general is necessarily different. Newer music is generally more well-polished and processed whereas music from two decades ago was generally more raw. This is not law – one can find examples of both in both eras. But generally speaking, this is what I observe. Metal back then was breaking new ground constantly. With each new album that came out, I remember being curious to hear what “new” had been done. Each new album had the potential to redefine and shape the genre.

In contemporary metal, rarely do I hear something that feels “new” to me. It seems most metal bands attempt to find “newness” in production values or post-processing sounds and frequencies. This can lead to a high degree of sterility. Now, what would have been a very advanced professional studio twenty years ago is essentially available to everyone with a computer and some knowledge and/or patience.

This is both good and bad. Like any tool, it can be easily misused or abused. Used correctly, it can enable a person to express themselves in ways they may never have been able to previously. Again, both good and bad.

Is the idea of an “underground” still viable, or necessary?

A term like “underground” implies some sort of unity or feeling of kinship between like-minded people, and I think that is long gone. When metal was really first starting, it felt largely positive. The subset of people to whom such music spoke would seek each other out to trade or just correspond about the music. Reviews would rarely be largely negative. Even if a reviewer didn’t particularly care for the album, they would generally try to find something positive to say about it. There was a feeling of being a part of something big, of something larger than one album or band, and each was at bare minimum a piece of a larger foundation. There was a “collective-good” mindset.

There are many factors that have brought about great change in this attitude since the early days. The early thoughts of nurturing and fostering a greater metal scene have caused complacency in some bands and relative newcomers, a perception that since innovation is difficult it is okay to stand on the shoulders of giants and mimic the movements. A proliferation of also-rans and knock-offs lead the parade to mediocrity. The underground was something special – a person had to take time, to go out of their way to write a letter, to produce flyers, to create tapes, to make a trip to post a package, etc. It felt like there were few of us and we should stick together.

The Internet has given everyone a voice. There is no journey of exploration which leads to knowledge – it’s all available at your fingertips at all times. Following the journey of Bathory from heavy metal fan to black metal innovator to Viking metal pioneer took a decade, with years between each album to study and absorb it. Now it takes minutes. Context is lost.

Forgive the digression… to answer more directly, there is no “underground” any more.

Every band – from bedroom metallers with their digital desktop studio and drum machine to the most skilled at their craft – all have equal voice and opportunity courtesy of the Internet. Word of mouth can spread faster than I can type this response. Everyone is a critic, quick to dissect and dismiss the stack of music they received this week alone if the first ten seconds of each song do not make sounds like they expected to hear.

As much as such a web of connection could be a great tool for a true collective “underground” in the spirit of the old days, it is just not so. Everyone is an island and is quick to judge. As such it’s very difficult for there to be anything “new” of value.

Also, the music industry as a whole seemed to realize in the mid-late ’90′s that metal has the potential to be commercially viable and has proceeded to milk the lowest common denominator to death, shoving it down the throat of the populace at large. I could walk into the nearest shopping mall and buy a Darkthrone shirt in a store. By no means am I suggesting that Darkthrone represents the lowest form of metal, not at all – I love Darkthrone – just using such marketing tactics as an example of the creation of “hipster metallers” or “mall metallers”. Marketers use brand recognition that bands have worked hard at creating over a few decades to sell the idea of metal. Such dilution is common when a power feels threatened – divide and conquer.

Metal isn’t “threatening” any more. The mysticism that once empowered the music and brought like-minded individuals together is gone. Now it is a perpetual seeking of the next trendy band or sound. Very little time is spent digesting what is in your speakers now or searching for quality among the masses.

Do punk and metal have an ongoing relationship and if so, what is it? How did it affect modern metal?

Absolutely. Look at some of the earlier “cross-over” albums (a term which doesn’t really exist anymore) from bands like Cryptic Slaughter, COC, Die Kreuzen, Life Sentence, DRI, Crumbsuckers, etc. Punk pre-dates metal and as such plays a role in the evolution of anti-popular music, music that is at odds with society in general. There are many common threads – the anger and aggression, neo-political and/or anti-establishment, anti-religion lyrics, etc. Any societal more that seeks to bind, limit or brainwash people was fair game to be attacked. It was/is an outlet for the unheard few.

There was also an element of “street”, “urban” or poverty in some punk. It was an expression spawned from life experiences at their basest, not just anger or “anti” for their own sake. It was true and pure, as was the earlier metal. But all innovators were eventually bastardized by those who were physically capable of mimicking the movements and sounds but who lacked the life experience or hunger to create meaningful art. Both genres saw a dilution.

Metal saw a fork where the music and ideology went more toward mythos and fantasy/fiction for some while others retained a foot firmly in the reality of “now”. This is where punk begot grindcore, with bands like Napalm Death, Extreme Noise Terror and Doom leading the way. Without punk bands like Discharge, there would be no Napalm Death I think. Musically there were other bands that had played such speeds prior, but I think the UK kept the punk spirit and ethos alive in grindcore. Some poetic justice for punk there, some geographical truth.

I think Slayer’s “Undisputed Attitude” album illustrates the relationship pretty well.

Is metal rock music? Is death metal? Is hardcore (punk)?

Insofar as we are cavemen, yes.

Music evolves but its lineage can easily be traced. Foundational rock featured the guitar and was guitar-driven with easy-to-understand song structures. From there you can pretty easily trace a direct route to punk rock to metal to hardcore to death metal to… ad infinitum. If one took, for example, an Immolation record back to the late 1950′s and played it for someone, would they see the similarities? Probably not, but we have the benefit of time and perspective with which to view the musical timeline. Lyrically, the themes are clearly different, but we have no way of knowing how much of that is influenced by external factors and how much is evolution of thought.

Do you think metal has a future at all? Some think it reached its apex, did all it could, and now we’re all living in its shadow. Others think the good days are just beginning.

I am not sure how to answer that question. I mean, take Lemmy as an example. He has been doing the same thing for decades and is more popular now than he has ever been. Same for Iron Maiden, Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, plenty of others. Not citing any of these as the pinnacle of artistic contribution to the romantic idea of metal, just pointing out that the appetite for metal remains strong. I do understand how some take this as a sign of critical mass and predict that metal will implode in the same way as grunge, but what some overlook – particularly newcomers – is that metal is not a “fad” or “trend”. Just because the major labels decided to really push it within the last ten years doesn’t mean it didn’t exist for decades prior.

I think there will always be the “wow” factor – metal is more often than not a very difficult genre to play and requires a relatively high degree of proficiency and mastery of one’s instrument, and this is almost always appreciated even by the casual listener. I also think there will always be an audience for hard, angry, aggressive, meaningful music.

There may be a feeling that there are just far too many inferior, lesser bands out there in the metal world. I can see that – look on the internet, there are thousands upon thousands of bands releasing self-produced albums and demos every day. I’m sure some of them are quite good, but the signal-to-noise ratio is far too high to ever hear them. I don’t think this is a new phenomenon by any means, I just think that the lens of the Internet makes it seem so.

Anyone who was around in what many now consider the high point for death metal can tell you that this has always been the case. Even in Tampa, the “death metal capital of the world” in the early ’90′s, there were a small handful of bands that were really good but there were also tens upon tens of other metal bands that were copycat bands. These are the bands that would play venues on off-nights to help keep the lights on and cut their teeth. They would come and go usually without much notice. But now with the Internet, those same types of bands have the ability to flood the market with demos or what have you, spam mailing lists screaming their existence to the world, etc. Simply because we hear of so many bands these days does not mean that this has not always been the case.

I do think, however, that what we’ve been witnessing the past few years could be another fork in the path of metal. As certain flavors of metal become more mainstream and accepted, there will be the other end of the spectrum that goes back beneath the surface and proceeds in counter-balance to what is popular. There will be a certain degree of “You think that’s metal?? I’ll show you true metal…” feeling. Maybe this will lead to a new type of “underground”, a new banding together of like-minded fans of metal that refuse to just let it die away when it feels like so much has been left unsaid and undone.

Did the audience for metal change between 1995 and today?

Certainly the audience changed. Some people who were fans back then “grew out of their metal phase”, others are still fans and still come to shows. But looking out from the stage it seems to me the core audience is still the same demographic – 15-35 year-old males are a majority with females of the same age group making up the rest. People that come out to shows still demonstrate the same passion for metal as fans did 20 years ago.

Shows are just as chaotic and unpredictable now as they were then. I will say that it seems metal fans are a much more discerning bunch as a whole, demanding a certain level of quality now whereas 20 years ago anything resembling other metal might have been acceptable. If you want people to surrender their hard-earned money to come see a show these days, there had better be some quality on the bill.

What for you defines a band or song being “metal,” and how is it important artistically?

It’s difficult to come up with some sort of qualitative description about what makes certain music “metal” without using very subjective terms. Not only because it is inherently difficult to describe such a thing – something akin to explaining the color blue to someone who was born blind – but because there are so many different kinds and types of metal.

I have an extensive music collection and I struggle with this all the time when filing. It’s something you immediately know upon hearing. It’s the feeling the music elicits from you when you listen. It’s the passion so obviously put into the creation of the music. Loud. Distorted stringed instruments. Bombastic drums. Dissonant, minor chord progressions. Angry, aggressive vocals. Many ingredients make up the stew that is metal, and each adds a unique flavor. Not all ingredients are always present, but it can’t be metal without at least one of those things.

Of course, taking any one or more of these ingredients and applying it to other types of music doesn’t necessarily make that other music suddenly “metal”. Many popular bands in recent years have adapted and integrated some of the elements of “metal” for various reasons and to varying degrees of success. None of this bastardization necessarily makes these other bands “metal”. To me it usually seems like a contrived attempt to reach a more broad audience or to make them seem somehow more “dangerous” or “rebellious”.

There are exceptions where I think the melding has succeeded, but the by and large it seems shallow. This further complicates defining “metal” to a newcomer, or explaining what I do to someone.

Metal was really guitar-driven when it started but over the last decade or so it seems to have moved to being more drum-driven, which is a shame. To me that perpetuates the idea that there isn’t a lot of true songwriting to be found in metal, that metal is largely just a collection of riffs. Metal can be about speed, yes, but the idea that it’s a constant competition to see who can be the fastest is asinine. I’d much prefer “interesting” or “moving” music to simply “fast” music or technical wankery.

And there you have it: food for thought from Clayton Gore. Thank you for being with us today, Clayton, and let’s let the videos roll so our audience can decide for themselves what they think of Harkonin and through it, modern metal. You never know… you might redeem the genre.

Harkonin – Cult Of Sin (Ghanima)

Harkonin – Lost Cause (Ghanima)

Harkonin – Exhauster of Souls (live)

Harkonin – In The Shadow Of The Horns (Darkthrone cover)

No comments

  • I learned everything I know about music from reading the comments on the DLA blog

    Well it does sound less gay than Eulogy so far. More aggression, less pretentiousness. Some of the riffs are repeated too often though and kinda get on my nerves like the DUNNAH-DUNNAH-DUNNAH-DUH part in Exhauster of Souls. But it sounds better than later Absu. The DUNGA-DA-DA DUNGA-DA-DA part at the end of the song is cool.

  • @I learned etc.

    In what way is “aggression” a quantifiable and important, substantial aspect of music? Slipknot is aggressive, very aggressive. Are they any good? This mentality is why metal isn’t taken seriously.

  • @@I learned etc.

    Most metal bands are aggressive. Most of the good death metal bands’ aggression is part of their severe, ying and yang-like, sober harnessing of the surreal. For slipknot, "aggressive" equates to "mad". Like the guy in this interview was saying, having one metal quality doesn’t suddenly make a band metal.
    P.S.-Notice how you called aggression unquantifiable and then quantified Slipknot’s aggression in the next sentence.

  • @@@I learned

    “P.S.-Notice how you called aggression unquantifiable and then quantified Slipknot’s aggression in the next sentence.”

    What I mean is there’s no making a hierarchy out of it. No more so than “top 10 preschooler temper tantrums weekly” anyway.

  • @@@@I learned

    I agree for the most part. I think that when aggression is present in good metal, it’s an artifact of a more purposely displayed sense of willpower and determination to not get reamed in the ass by demagoguery. It can’t be used to gauge the value of the music by itself, but it’s a perk for me. In most bad metal, aggression is the focal point. So you get phil anselmo in your face going "YEEEEEEA MUTHAF#@KIN HARDAAASSSSS!!!" In that way you’re right, people snicker at metal because of the more known bands with nothing to offer except impotent rage.

  • A fan of real faggotry

    I agree that Slipknot is a perfect example of metal going too far. I believe metal bands should show more passivity so they can reach a wider audience. It would also help if more bands would start writing more songs about social issues like homelessness and the environment. For too long metal has been as an aggressive genre of music for confused boys having problems with their hormones. It’s time to make an actual change, not just within the scene but also within ourselves. Let’s make a positive contribution to society and start a new subgenre called Peace Metal.

  • @@@@I learned

    I condemn pacifism in metal. In my last post I said aggression is like a favorable consequence of willpower in (true) metal; on second thought that claim is semantic and inaccurate. It’s better to say aggression is an inextricable part of metal. However there are other factors at play such as intelligence and the ability to reproduce and meaningfully organize a gamut of experience. Slayer’s music is aggressive and gratifyingly violent all while being vital and smart. slipknot’s aggression is forced and pathetic. It boils down to a matter of determining what is organic and what is plastic, what is living and what is dead. I’m probably preaching to the choir, but I’m just fleshing out my stance.

  • @@@@@I learned

    I think the word you are looking for is epic. Slipknot, nu-metal, deathcore and indie black metal are not epic. At least not in the traditional sense of the metal. Punk = speed and violence, NWOBHM = epic and occult/pagan. But at the end of the nineties and beginning of the 2000′s people had become more self absorbed and incredibly angsty music is the result. There’s no more fear of an apocalypse or nuclear war, just people afraid someone will steal their cookie from them.

  • @@@@@@I learned

    Fear of apocalypse and nuclear war just seems like grimdark comic book escapism with no spiritual consequence.

  • Just thought I'd say.....

    Real good modern metal is Incantation. Real good old-school death metal is Five Finger Death Punch.

  • poopjokes

    Today I made a very big poop. I had not pooped in four days! I did not poop on purpose because I was saving up to make a special delivery. It felt like I pooped out my own skull! It hurt my anus very much but it was worth it. I had never felt so relieved and satisfied after a poop. After my special poop I masturbated for a while and then slept for 12 hours. I am feeling very relaxed today. I might go take a walk a little bit later if I can somehow stuff enough toiletpaper up my ass to stop the anal leaking.

  • Pretty Boys On Coke (Featuring Scott Ian) - U Can't Label Me

    My life is made of choices
    What I choose is what I am
    People try to criticize me
    but I don’t give a damn
    I live my life the way I want
    And I choose to be me
    I experiment with drugs and sex
    because I want to be free

    But don’t trap me in your mindset!
    Don’t tell me what I’m about!
    My life is the sky and I am the sun
    but you, you are the clouds!
    Maybe if I punched you in your face
    then you’d finally get the idea!
    Call me hetero, gay or bisexual
    It just don’t matter to me!

    U CAN’T LABEL ME!
    I’m non-conformist to the core
    U CAN’T LABEL ME!
    You fucking judgmental whore
    U CAN’T LABEL ME!
    Your life is such a bore
    U CAN’T LABEL ME!
    Cuz I don’t fit in your world no more

    Today I made a choice
    To live my life as I see fit
    I don’t need your set of rules
    I know it’s all bullshit
    If I want to get sexy with my boys
    You have no right to judge
    Just step outside your small world and see
    Your opinion don’t matter much

    Yeah you can’t trap me in your mindset!
    You can’t tell me what I’m about!
    Don’t leave me alone in your cold dark swamp
    I wanna hug people in the nameless crowd!
    Just take a look around tonight
    everywhere are people just like me!
    And I can sleep with whoever I want
    Fuck your homophobic ageist ideas!

    U CAN’T LABEL ME!
    I’m non-conformist to the core
    U CAN’T LABEL ME!
    You fucking judgmental whore
    U CAN’T LABEL ME!
    Your life is such a bore
    U CAN’T LABEL ME!
    Cuz I don’t fit in your world no more

    Maybe I like older men
    Or maybe I prefer animals
    But it’s simply not your business
    how much I can take anal

    Yeah, that’s right, punk muthafuckas…

    (guitar solo)

    U CAN’T LABEL ME!
    I’m non-conformist to the core
    U CAN’T LABEL ME!
    You fucking judgmental whore
    U CAN’T LABEL ME!
    Your life is such a bore
    U CAN’T LABEL ME!
    Cuz I don’t fit in your world no more

  • JOE DUPLANTIER

    GOJIRA IS THE EPITOME OF VANDALIZED GUESTBOOKS.

    GOJIRA IS THE EPITOME OF VANDALIZED GUESTBOOKS.

  • Aryans On Welfare - Kings Of The Street

    We’re marching through the streets
    Looking for a fight
    Because the zionist government
    oppresses everyone who’s white
    We’re looking really angry
    People don’t dare mess with us
    We got shaved heads and lots of tattoos
    Yeah we’re very dangerous

    We are the kings of the street
    We’re white and unlawful
    We beat up people because you know
    it makes us feel so powerful

    We are the kings of the street!

    Immigrants are taking over our cities
    And you know it isn’t fair
    ‘Cause our ancestors died for this country
    so that we can be on welfare
    It’s time for all the white people
    to unite and to fight back
    Last night we beat up a white man
    It was dark and we thought he was black

    We are the kings of the street
    We’re white and unlawful
    We beat up people because you know
    it makes us feel so powerful

    We are the kings of the street!

    So if you’re fed up with the media
    who only feed you lies
    Then shave your head and join us
    We’ll go beat up someone tonight
    Yes anyone can join us
    You can wear our uniform
    Because other than being white
    We don’t really have any norms

    We are the kings of the street
    We’re white and unlawful
    We beat up people because you know
    it makes us feel so powerful

    We are the kings of the street!

  • Adrian McCoy

    Haven’t i been saying that korn is faggot shit all along? Opeth does not suck as bad as korn, not at all…

    Culture
    The collective learning and ways of a population comprise its culture, and no amount of bureaucratic government institution can force this upon a population. Instead, government must provide the possibility for culture to grow, and not interfere with it, and cultural organizations must be funded and led by able people in order to increase knowledge of culture and thus of its importance. The enemy of culture is not other cultures, but a values system which does not reward culture.
    Our values must uphold a higher standard than money and social power.

    While money and social power are necessary methods for any kind of organized civilization, they are not goals, nor can serve in place of them. We have become servants to our own servants in that in a modern time, earning money is seen in itself as valuable, and through the broken system of “Social Darwinism,” to be a selector of the most fit. As money is a useful means of regulating allocation of resources, it must exist under the command of social values which, according to the tradition of each tribe, are applied by a strong leadership and cultural force.

    This is not a difficult translation from the present system as public opinion determines what products are seen as attractive, and thus what profit centers exist. With strong leadership, and a strong culture behind it, we can re-direct our system toward more appropriate goals without disrupting all normal functions of commerce and society.

    Our daily lives must be meaningful and as free from bureaucracy as possible.

    We spend too much time on modern society, which was in theory going to free us from having to spend so much time on survival. Too many hours are spent unnecessarily in jobs, which, if everyone pulled together and focused on the task, could be accomplished in one-fifth or less of the time taken; further, many jobs exists for useless functions designed to appease the conscience or concerns of people unrelated to the goal. Too many hours are spent unnecessarily dealing with the routine and mechanical support of life, from waiting in line at grocery stores to paying bills to negotiating taxes and “exceptions” that bureaucratic systems do not support. Culture requires that people have more time, first for families and friends, but next to discover the world of meaning found in art, learning, philosophy and language. In order to want to discover this culture, however, they must have excess time, such that they become bored with trivial outlets and hobbies.

    We must support our traditional culture, and reject “progressive” ideas that create only novelty.

    Over many thousands of years, traditional culture has evolved for each race, within each race each tribe, and within each tribe each local population, with slight variations for caste. This culture is formed of ways of thinking about life, or a philosophy and values system, and ways of doing things, which is comprised of method and a values system for methods. The latter ranges from types of art, to types of cooking, to clothing styles and local objects; the former includes reasons we give our children for life’s importance, how we opt to behave, our cosmological and spiritual systems, and the roots of our learning and motivation toward types of learning. “Progressive” concepts try to convince us that there is some new and important way that we all behave outside of our traditional culture, but so far, no “progressive” society has stood the test of time – on the contrary, they have lost consensus about how to run themselves, and have collapsed into third-tier nations.

  • Bongos

    Slipknot’s aggression is genuine and direct. Aggression in death metal is more like they’re just buttmad or disgruntled or something so they have to express themselves through “dark feelings” and stupid shit. It’s passive-aggressive gayness like the smelly fat kid in an XXL Scream Bloody Gore shirt giving people who don’t even notice him a pissed off stare while he’s sitting by himself in the cafeteria, compared to a punch in the face from the star quarterback for being such an ass-pie dipshit.

  • Bongos

    Oh my god, I can’t believe the word f@ggot is actually filtered out. What a fucking pansy website.

  • Underage Cocaine Orgy - Animals are People Too

    I’m such an individual
    I won’t follow your rules
    farmyard animals make me drool

    Social norms
    are for pawns
    you’re a slave
    whilst I’m in an equine cum haze

    Animals are people too!
    My horse understands me better than you
    Animals are people too!
    Squeeze an under, make the cow moan moo
    Animals are people too!

    (Breakdown)

    Down on the farm, I’m gettin’ laid
    whilst you’re stuck making minimum wage
    Bree, bree, bree
    I make that little piggy go wee wee wee

    Animals are people too!
    My horse understands me better than you
    Animals are people too!
    Squeeze an under, make the cow moan moo
    Animals are people too!

    You’re so mundane and your mind is closed
    I’m gettin’ sprayed by horse dick like a garden hose
    You’re married with kids
    I’m chilln’ with goats, fucking them kids

    (Guitar solo)

    Neigh! (uh!)
    Bree! (yeah!)
    Moo! (oh!)
    Baa! (ah!)

  • CC

    Finally fed up with the nasty trolling and gay comments that flooded their guestbook, hipster gay band Gojira called it quits and closed their guestbook for good! Instead they added a very gay link to their Facebook where lots of emo-looking fags can comment on how much they love to be hipsters !!!

  • Not Even Joking

    Hey you guys should check out a band called Opeth. You’d probably really like them.

  • Well adjusted popular social guy with lots of friends and many sexual partners!

    The 3rd album is pretty dope.

  • death metal: enabling homosexuality since 1987

    So do the Harkonin dorks (it’s Harkonnen you fat oafs) all work at the same gas station or did they just happen to meet at the same bear hangout bar?