Sadistic Metal Reviews 11-21-08

Deeds of Flesh – Of What’s to Come

While I may not like listening to the outcome 100% of the time, especially given the strikingly moronic introduction, I really like what Deeds of Flesh are doing here. Instead of becoming a generic mix like others, they are mixing technical death metal with progressive metal, coming up with something that sounds like Suffocation, Cynic and Necrophagist thrown into a blender. However, the unique Deeds of Flesh flavor asserts itself as the sinew that ties together these influences — the use of fast scales and melodic playing of the same patterns at different intervals to effect implications of key change is pure Necrophagist, and the abrupt transitions between riffs that only make sense when the next transition occurs is straight out of the “Pierced from Within” playbook, the joy at experimentation with odd rhythms leading through convoluted tempo changes and bizarre chording is Cynic-derived, but the playfulness with which Deeds of Flesh are willing to interrupt a pattern and connect a fast technical riff with inverted chording and then drop into a rushing power chord feast which is pure sensory gratification is purely their own. The quick drops to hummingbird fast transitional riffs which made Path of the Weakening such a metal delight are here as well, as are elaborations on ideas from the past two albums. It’s possible we hear later Gorguts or Neuraxis winking from the sidelines as well. People — myself include — will experience aesthetic revulsion at this because in its panopoly of techniques it includes some cheap shots, although not as many as the overplayed and bombastically bloviatory new Cynic, so each time we hear a rhythmic seizure before continuation on the offbeat, we yawn and think that we are hearing the auditory equivalent of trotting out a villain who kills puppies at an opera. Yet in a time of painfully slick and cancerously insincere indie/metal/punk hybrids that have the hipness of a carny, the glibness of a presidential candidate and the soul of a toaster, this honest and well-planned effort from Deeds of Flesh is worth paying attention to — it may be one of the few intelligent directions metal has been taken in the last decade.

Mouth of the Architect – Quietly

More of this combination shoegaze, emo/punk, and doom/drone metal that they try to pass off as post-metal or post-rock, when really if we’re honest we’ll admit it descends from Fugazi, its genre is indie metalcore, and it’s all roughly the same because it aims for the same general goals. Is this really that different than what Jawbreaker was doing fifteen years ago? A lot like Callisto or Godflesh, it is very much rock music tricked out in the techniques of metal, albeit with greater competence than either genre is accustomed to. Songs develop like indie rock: it seems quirky at first until you realize it’s a thesis-antithesis deviation away from a second chorus that’s going to finish out the whole thing. Chord progressions: emo. Vocals: emo metalcore hybrid. Mood: indie. Lasting impact: none; it’s very much like the rest in this genre despite being more musically adept, and brings nothing new in form or content to the table, even if it does “post-metal” better than others.

Verminous – Impious Sacrilege

A fusion of later Merciless and early Seance, this is high-octane blasting drums and quick phrasal riffs alternating with Suffocation style abrupt staccato bursts. The problem is that these songs go nowhere but into their own cycles which, in order to be self-evident, are based on well-known patterns and so extremely repetitive both in listener experience and in motivic redundancy within each song. I would really like to like this. It could be compared to early Grave in its “go for it” attitude, but achieves nothing much memorable because its songs are so linear.

These Arms Are Snakes – The Swallower and Dove

Post-rock with prog-rock jazz-influenced drumming, this CD uses plenty of dissonant and jangly melodies over which pop pours like warm asphalt, but doesn’t fill the cracks in these spacious tunes. Punk riffs plentiful add to the mix, which has a metal-influenced sensibility of The Epic but as filtered through the garage bands of the 1970s who liked blistering the ear and then pouring vinegar syrup into it as a means of hooking the listener. For those who like post-rock and post-metal, this supple fusion purrs.

Volkmar – Blessed Sin

Combining Gothic post-punk/industrial like Sisters of Mercy with a mainstream version of underground metal, Volkmar create simple but ear-catching music that sounds like Gehenna and Wolfsheim colliding in the midst of their associated influences. You can hear Emperor at the edges of their technique, but there’s a lifetime of riffology here with influences as wide as Ministry and Deicide, although all are softened into music designed to flow rather than abruptly disturb. Riffs are basic and tend to hold space rather than redefine it, metal-style, with phrase shape changes but these riffs nonetheless serve the organ-style keyboards and half-chanted, half-sung vocals quite well. It’s not my thing, but it’s what anyone who thinks Marilyn Manson, White Zombie or the new Misfits are cool should be listening to.

Krallice – Krallice

Someone disguised an emo album — listen to the chord shapes and progressions used — as an underground tr00 kvlt black metal album, which is sort of like mixing safe sex and nuclear war. The result is a droning, mincing work that rips a bunch of black metal riffs from the Impaled Nazarene and Niden Div 187 school of budget riffs and puts them into a saccharine melodic morass like Weakling. As a result, individual riffs sound OK, but when you try to listen to the whole thing, you’re left with a sense of it being inappropriate. The crustcore howled-into-the-wind vocals sound out of place as well. But most damningly, there’s zero dynamic change. This will be forgotten in less than a year.

Lions – No Generation

The Beastie Boys “Ill Communication” gets resurrected: rock, industrial and hip-hop beats meld under blues rock riffs played with the rhythm of metal riffs, either the Motorhead “galloping Harley” rhythm or Black Sabbath formal march pace, while a vocalist intones his words with the alternate whine of alternative rock and deft syllabic tuck of underground hip-hop. They know how to write a good harmony and put together remarkably effective songs. Like the Beastie Boys, I can see Lions — with their panopoly of pop culture metaphors mixed into a language of their own — giving the current generation a font of opinion work with which to pepper both their complaints to parents and politically serious college admissions essays.

Withering – Festum Melancholia

This CD sounds like a hybrid between Amorphis “Tales from the Thousand Lakes” and Sentenced “Amok,” complete with the failing of both, which is an inability to let the voice of their music fly free from its heavy metal origins. The big cheesy heavy metal riffs are in here, as are some expertly executed death metal and black metal parts. The problem is that the idea of throwing a bunch of stuff together and somehow making the hybrid distinctive doesn’t work, as metalcore teaches us. Their strength is the bittersweet melodies that tie this whole thing together, which with more focus paid on finding a direction, could really be a great strength. Watch this band in the future, but perhaps bypass this release.

Gortuary – Manic Thoughts of Perverse Mutilation

This band reminds me of Psychomancer, who were sort of around a few years ago, but without the ability to grasp the core of what they’re expressing in a song and bring it to light. All instrumentation is capable, songwriting technique is good, but songs don’t come together and end up being a chaotic riff salad of contradictory impulses. That they do this in old school death metal aesthetic is at first memorable, until you realize that this CD lacks what made the old school great: the ability to bring a dark, brooding, powerful vision of life alive and make it exciting. Spare us.

Green Carnation – Journey to the End of the Night

Add some indie into your doom metal, throw in female vocals that would make Celtic Frost proud, and then update its heavy metal/hard rock riffery with some recent additions from prog-metal, and you have Green Carnation. This CD maintains an interesting mood, but it’s all the texture of the vocals and the pacing, because as art it doesn’t hold up as more than an interesting variation on a known archetype. One of the more adept bands at the songwriting game, Green Carnation are content to use minimal riffing that nonetheless exerts some demands in keeping track of its wandering harmonic focal point and its somewhat abstruse rhythms. It’s like a version of Skepticism that got bred early in the game with later Enslaved or Borknagar, but the real problem is that it is insipid. Melodic progressions trail off in a direction they never resolve; rhythms and song structures build, then fade away; no point is ever made. Neat ideas, good execution, bad (or no) direction.

Dark Angel – We Have Arrived

Unfortunately for this, I heard it after Destruction, which put it well in its place. So you wanna be in what imbeciles called “thrash” but really was speed metal updated after Slayer, where bands like Rigor Mortis, Destruction, Kreator, Pestilence and Devastation go? Really — this is moron music when it’s done wrong, because it likes to have choruses match the dominant rhythm of their most frequent phrase — and here it’s done wrong. Recycled Slayer patterns, a little technical leaps, influences from Sodom and Metallica, but basically it goes nowhere. Very catchy, which becomes annoying when the vapidity sinks in. My advice: people will tell you about this forgotten gem from the past. Bury it. It doesn’t suck but it’s like a bicycle for fishes — unnecessary.

Past Lives – Strange Symmetry

Dramatic, poised like the wit of a writer of letters to an antiquated editor, this music is rock in the style of later Beatles with diverse influences uptucked and emulsified by its strong sense of its own direction. Songs follow a melody that develops, with quirks, into a conventional pop cycle but gives space to the vocalist whose voice bends, creels, dives and twists like metal in fire. Shot through all of this is a facile study of riffs across all genres prevalent in the last twenty years, with the guitarist enjoying to play “in the shadows,” casting some of his more developed offerings into the offbeats, out of focus, as a means of steeping this album in subtlety.

Sakrefix – In Shadow’s Embrace

It’s like In Flames reincarnated. Heavy metal riffs, updated into speed metal, are played in melodic songs that want to be a harder version of Cradle of Filth, maybe throw in some later At the Gates, but at its heart the same plodding stuff that made heavy metal unbearable in the late 1970s is here. Sure, there’s a lot of death metal technique, and these guys are reasonably educated musicians so a few nifty harmonies emerge in transitions, but because they don’t actually write songs these are stranded amidst unassociated, disorganized data that confuses any meaning with chronological prevalence. Check your brain at the door.

Watain – Sworn to the Dark

A friend whose opinion I respect describes these guys as carrying on the spirit of classic Mayhem. Yet what made Mayhem great wasn’t the consistency, but the variations, and Watain is all about setting up a comfortable pattern of melody diverging into rhythm violence, and then pulling out again. None of the mystery of Mayhem is here, but all of the technique; do we want to define great music solely by technique, or what it expresses? Watain are masters of the melodic aggressive black metal sound but go nowhere else. They also like arpeggios and other forms of linear variation that when overused make the music sound like warning tones from factory machinery. Should this be avoided? More than that: a pogrom should be formed against it, as all things which imitate form and not some unifying principle — idea, content, spirit, vision — should be burned to hell because they’re stupid, deconstructive, granular, dysfunctional crap like McCheeseburgers and robot solicitations over the phone. Everything that made the underground weak so it could be replaced with metalcore is present in this album. Too bad, since the first Watain CD is good and even has spirit. Burn this ruin that does not yet appear ruined.

Bloodbath – The Fathomless Misery

If old school death metal (to you) means (objectively, in a subjective sense) that Pantera riffs should bounce right into fast melodic riffs under which an unrelenting snare doubletimes the pace of ranting vocals, and you like that mixed — metalcore style — in a salad of musical “scenes” borrowing different influences and so, when put together, revealing nothing but the underlying indecision common to all melanges, then by all means go buy this fucking thing. But to my mind this is a clothes dryer into which someone has pitched the best moments of the ten top bands in every metal genre, and hit the mix button, coming back later to string it together with rhythm. Like grunge and nu-metal bands, it is obsessed with “difference” through contrast, so in place of dynamics we get the fast melodic riff then the bouncing rhythm riff, or really fast then really slow, or death metal riffs and then some bouncy hard rock/punk combination that sounds like the soundtrack to an aerobics video for Slipknot fans who got too fat to fit into their parole hearings. This CD reminds me of At the Gates “Slaughter of the Soul” and Hail of Bullets “Of Frost in War,” and is equally insincere and directionless.

Katharsis – 666

When things die, those who want the authenticity they conveyed find a way to convincingly imitate them the way computers can imitate speech. You’ll read a paragraph, and it reads “just like” normal writing, until you realize that the sentences don’t relate to each other in meaning, only in appearance of language. While some might argue our record reviews are the same way (and we do generate them with Perl scripts), this CD ends up being a giant disappointment as your heart lifts at the thought of something Darkthroney and good but your deeper brain keeps reminding you that this is random fragments stitched together without any sense of direction. It’s like a yard sale of true black metal bits, and whatever you can afford you put in a box and drop it on top of a constant, fast drumbeat. Then, when you wake up from the nap you did not intend to take, you can ask yourself what it meant. Avoid!

Hollenthon – Opus Magnum

This music is some of the cheesiest and slickest stuff I’ve heard this year. It tries to blend soundtrack melodrama with identifiable metal riffs, and so we end up with Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the “300” edition. Death metal vocals over industrial rhythms with guitars shadowed exactly by keyboards, varying between heavy metal and rock riffs, and the darker underground metal — but by the nature of how it is constructed it cannot leave behind the syncopated expectation nor use a tremolo strum, making a sound that could have just stepped off the pages of a Hollywood blockbuster about superheroes with dark but really flamingly obvious secrets from their childhood. Like so many things that turn out to be shit, this is well executed, but its lack of having of a soul dooms it to being utterly comical and redundant.

The Giraffes – Prime Motivator

Technically, I suppose, this is “surf metal,” but it’s more accurate to describe it as groove-oriented hard rock with an underpinning of punk and Motorhead-style metal rhythm. At that point, resemblance to metal is over: the riffs are Led Zeppelin, the basslines are Sex Pistols, and the vocals are somewhere between Alice in Chains and Barenaked Ladies. This is probably one of the ultimate bar bands for those who want something loud and storming but without the complex emotions or violence of heavy metal. Some compare it to Fu Manchu, and I think that’s roughly close, but really it reminds me more of a lounge act taking on Led Zeppelin or later Danzig and making it super-catchy, yet giving it the dark undertones of alternative rock and nu-metal so it has some meat on the bones. If you are a metal person, avoid this release. If you’re looking for new directions in hard rock, it’s worth exploring.

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diSEMBOWELMENT – Transcendence into the Peripheral

diSEMBOWELMENT – Transcendence into the Peripheral
Review by Alexis

While the doom metal genre during the early ’90s in general followed the melodic style of bands like Candlemass, Australian Disembowelment pushed the genre forward by concentrating its topics into esoteric territory, in an attempt to re-discover the abstract language behind metal. Traditionally seen as one of the main innovators of the death/doom crossover, this band fused grindcore influences with the technical patterns of death metal, distilled in epic-long compositions.

Transcendence into the Peripheral from 1993 is their only full-length album and marks the height of the band’s career. The first compositions roughly follow a sonata form, with melodic introductions accentuating the main theme, long passages of structural improvisation, and ending with a repetition of the introductory theme, sometimes fading into technical percussive patterns, hailing its death metal language roots.

Often pending between fast paced moments and longer, intricate passages where the symphonic and droning riffs melt in with the cathedral-like sound production, this band adopts the staggering, epic phrases of Black Sabbath, discarding melody in favour of a rhythmic-harmonic aesthetic. This gives the music its spiritual, ritualistic aesthetic, setting this band apart from most other doom metal bands at the time. The droning sound of the bass and guitars, melting with the drums that pound like gigantic timbales for a funeral ceremony, invokes a sound picture of huge reverb, letting each sound slowly die away like space dust in the universe.

The second half of the album somewhat loses the sonata intention and instead builds up 9+ minute improvisational compositions, where the structural changes in the music require full attention from the listener. Not dissimilar from a mental ritual, the language of Disembowelment is both hopelessly beautiful and heroically assertive, expressing in both content and form the Sumerian concept of the tree of life and death, stretching from the ocean of eternal truth (Abzu) to the divine heaven (Anu).

Although lacking in the department of melodic development, and despite a compositional coherence that could have tied the intricate riff salads together into more central harmony from the lead guitarist, Transcendence into the Peripheral stands apart from the rest of the metal clones to date through its direction into the abstract foundation of metal language. Macabre, stylistic, technical and emotionally heavy, this is a musical manual into personal development–and during its heights, transcendence beyond the mundane world of humans.

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Why metal needs frontiers

Evolutionary skips like humanity do not occur without the introduction of a radical new method. In the case of humans, it was language, which allowed us to form societies of larger than familial groups, specialize in certain tasks, and so preserve a massive knowledge of tools and methods that would overwhelm any human. As a result, we are smarter chimps with socialization in our blood.

From this origin, it is easy to see why humans crave company, but approach it with an unease rooted in the need to keep a balance over social obligation and personal obligation. Too much obligation to society, and we become Stalinist slaves; too much obligation to the individual, and we become modern Americans shuttling between the shopping mall and the psychologist, wondering why we cannot fill the holes our souls with our rank, our wealth, and the possessions we pile up in our castle retreats before shipping them to third world landfills.

Too many people around us creates a hubbub that drowns out our own thoughts. In such situations, we get overwhelmed and it becomes harder to hear our own minds and memories because as we are concentrating, other voices intervene. It is like having someone talking to you when you type; inevitably, you type pieces of the conversation instead of what you meant to scribe. When we are overwhelmed by socialization, we get beaten down into accepting external trends and ideas as our own thoughts.

Someday this condition will be recognized as belonging to that indefinite area between disease and pathology where alcoholism, drug abuse, promiscuity, compulsive gambling, religious delusion and overeating fall. Just as the right dose of a compound has medicinal effect, but too much is poison, and too little is apathy, we need some degree of socialization: murder is wrong (except when necessary), don’t defecate in the water supply, help your neighbor if her house is on fire.

These thoughts are helpful when we can take them into ourselves as a logical conclusion, and realize their necessity, but when societies get too big and too unequal in the abilities of their populations, large centralized institutions or social movements occur which try to hammer these thoughts into our head. The fine line between “murder without reason creates anarchy” and “murder is bad in an absolute sense, and you’ll go to hell” is where things go wrong. If we get afraid for ourselves, and insist on making ever more rigid rules, we take American individualism and turn it into Stalinist persecution of those who step out of line.

In the same way that suffocation might be viewed as CO2 crowding out oxygen, this social overdose might be seen as nature, abhorring a vacuum as the cliche goes, flooding our minds with the will of others which magnified by the credence we give external objects for their self-evidence, take on a higher weight of appearance than our own thoughts — or observations which, while not our own, ring true with what we know from experience and analysis. Civilization can drown us in what makes it strong, which is its support network for us.

Nature thrives on complexity, and like most patterns in nature, this sequence of logical events is repeated in any situation where individual brains must form one brain for the purpose of supporting greater knowledge. One such case is that of musical genres, especially those which derive much of their power from their claim that they are an alternative view to the dominant cliche, which may be either Stalinism or Americanism, or the hybrid of the two mentioned above. Neither Stalin nor Americans invented these two extremes; they are repeated patterns formed by the constraints of nature itself in the task of uniting individuals to perform the functions required for civilization.

When such patterns form in a musical genre, equality results, because when there are too many people in a cycle they make an unspoken agreement to treat each other equally so that none are seen as aggressors. This is similar to Americanized Stalinism in that it is the fear of the individual which motivates a stronger society with more rigid rules, such that the rules themselves become the goal, instead of the avoidance or promotion of consequence that the rules were intended to cause. Fear is the cause, and the result is a type of negative thinking that presupposes bad consequences to justify radical and extreme actions taken against its possibility. As the negative thinking spreads, it dominates every form of social and political discourse, and becomes accepted as a fact of civilization itself and not an option.

This negative thinking aims to nullify possible threats instead of treat the source of threat, so it has a neutralizing effect, and soon standards lower. From the best of civilized intentions, collaboration, we produce unending compromise. The compromise arises from our fear of transgressing against well-intentioned but rigid rules, and because the rules are irrational, all other thinking becomes irrational. The individual becomes the root of all justification, and so even if the individual produces mediocrity, there is a demand that all respect that individual for the sole reason of he or she being an individual — otherwise, the negative thinking is violated, and we all will descend into anarchy (the thinking goes).

In an artistic genre, this results in tolerance for all artists which means an information overload so great that none can rise above the crowd. As a result, you have many people happy to have achieved mediocre success, because that’s where 99% of all artists are going anyway, and 1% of the artists who could do better standing alone, longing for a frontier. All suffer because they can’t promote this 1%, because those are the superstars who keep new people coming into a genre, which is necessary because fans age and drop out or die. However, they prefer on an individual level to be rockstars of their block instead of allowing others to be recognized artists who lead.

This pattern repeats itself time and again. It’s how nature sloughs off the dead and dying before they actually exterminate itself, kind of like the sudden summer colds the gods wisely designed to erode the elderly population (think quickly: die for months in a hospital bed, or get the sniffles, go to sleep and kick off in a matter of hours? if the two were methods of execution, we’d quickly decide the latter was more “humane”). If any society cannot find a balance between individual and collective, it tends toward the extremes, becomes rigid and collapses into the kind of third-world entropy we see in the ruins of past superstar civilizations and, hehe, black and death metal today.

One on extreme, in black and death metal, you’ve got the “let’s be one unit” people, or Stalinists, who call themselves “true” but are true to looking like they’re the past, but not understanding, because they’re actually there to be rockstars of the block (note that the first pose adopted by rockstars of the block is humility; it lets them manipulate other people into supporting their own mediocrity, under the guise of “helping one another” and when no one’s looking, taking advantage of the situation; a community of rockstars of the block would rapidly starve itself: “I swear, Jimbo, there was a whole bushel of grain there we were going to share! I don’t know how it got so small, but let’s split it anyway”). The faux true contingent of death metal and black metal bands take the past, put it in a blender, and then drift toward whatever their childhood influences were, which is what they were going to do anything. As a result you have Suffocation-style death metal with black metal choruses mixed into what sounds, at its core, like a Def Leppard ballad. You should buy it because it’s unique.

The other extreme are those who want to embrace the crowdthink through individualism people, or Americans, who want to make that uniqueness be the central feature of the music, but they also tend to play exactly what their childhood influences were, and spend a good deal of time neurotically trying to cover it up. To them, good music has a combination of instruments, images, or quirks never done before, so they specialize in making funk-based death metal with black metal face paint and electric tuba solos. These combinations are inherently unstable, and if you listen carefully, you can hear the Def Leppard peeking through underneath. These musicians deal exclusively in re-combined aesthetic, but never change the structure, form, or musical language of the music. It remains Def Leppard, cut up by jazz breaks and horn solos, grindcore blast beats and disco choruses.

Both extremes share one thing in common: Because the music they make is blatantly ludicrous, and at its essential level unremarkable and in fact in agonized neurotic contortions to hide its ordinariness, the “artists” adopt a pose of self-reflexive irony: “It’s supposed to be entertainment, and between you and me, most of them don’t get it. We’re laughing at ourselves! The people in the audience who know the hip joints are laughing with us, at themselves and ourselves. It’s a big, UNIQUE, party!” Unfortunately for humanity, most people are barely entering maturity when they start listening to this stuff, and it can take them another decade to take a long hard look at what they were listening to, cough, and throw in the towel. At that point, most are so cynical they expect all forms of potential truth or vision to be scams, and so embrace a Gene Simmons-style “it’s all entertainment, don’t take it so seriously” attitude. Doubly unfortunate is that they approach religion and taxes with the same attitude.

The interesting thing about patterns however is that they do not have a central controller. Instead, they emerge from a situation when multiple conditions are correct. The horde of people making stupid music would like you to believe that at some point, the hand of G-d descended upon Earth and wrote in clear Spanglish that all metal must be insincere, and either imitate the past or combine motley cliches to make a new horror of self-analytical but unprofound music. Like all things in the modern time, the pattern of clueless music emerges when a genre makes a name for itself, and then the hordes of bored kids accustomed to being lied to in the suburbs surges into the genre with the assumption that it should be as lie-ridden, popularity-dominated, and self-marketing like their parents as every other media they encounter is.

Ocean streams are another example of emergent patterns. They flow a certain way because that way is the path of least resistance for water to flow, guided by gravity and tides, shaped by shorelines and underwater formations, channeled by differentials in temperature; the paths of ocean streams are not inherent, but appear again and again because the needs of their waters are met by the situation. It’s like horses and open barn doors: you don’t need to tell them to leave, because any creature cooped in a barn wants to leave and will do so, given (a) an aperture and (b) the promise of relative impunity in escape.

What is common about emergent systems is the need for an attractor, which can either be something valuable (atoms bonding with atoms to form stable molecules) or something empty, like a void or frontier (horses rushing toward open barn door). There is in nothingness always possibility; in somethingness, there is safety, but at the expense of variability. It’s like picking a boring day job over a more chaotic self-employment, or choosing to be a domesticated dog instead of a wolf, filling your head with television instead of thinking, or deciding to stay single instead of risking a relationship in which real work must be required. Metal music requires a frontier, unfilled in nothingness, so it can have space to expand.

In this however we see the parallel roles of creation and destruction. For creation to occur, there must be empty spaces but these are only acquired through the removal of something that exists. This principle underlies both natural selection and our tendency toward, in boredom, smashing boring things. When there is too much somethingness, we must make nothingness by removing that which is and is also unsatisfying. For example, if we burned every death and black metal recording but that top slice of really profound works, would the genre be stronger or weaker? Weaker in quantity, stronger in quality, with lots of empty space in which others can visualize their musical/artistic dreams being fulfilled.

Underground metal flourished in a brief period of frontier. Indie labels were a creation of the 1980s when, with digital recording technology becoming affordable just around the corner, printing plants began to more widely open up the new digital technology of compact discs to smaller businesses. As it became possible to print just a few thousand CDs, it became possible to run a small label without it being a complete financial loss, and so indie rock and eventually, indie metal (known as underground metal: thrash, death metal, black metal, grindcore, doom metal) expanded. To distance themselves from mainstream rock, and to compensate for their lack of big bucks for flashy studios, both indie rock and underground metal embraced a gritty aesthetic that made them unpalatable to the average consumer.

However, the average consumer wants to buy something that is intangible, which is that hipness or cachet of authenticity of which rock writers rave. This is why white kids bought forbidden “race music” called the blues, even though it was essential Celtic-Germanic folk music repackaged with a constant beat and gritty vocals. This is why punk music grew rapidly once people living boring lives saw it as a chance to walk on “the other side.” This is why freaks of nature and often pointless artist from Klaus Nomi to Insane Clown Posse have always attracted an audience, because they’re “unique” and “different.” The history of rock music is of one undending scam that sells inferior music to bored kids who are seeking an alternative to the staid social lifestyle of compliance that they see in their parents, who because of their dysfunctional attitudes, treat their children like objects and are consequently covertly hated.

In metal, this desire for the other side manifested itself in Pantera making death-metal-like albums for the real meatheads out there, Cannibal Corpse making a parody of death metal (later parodied by art rock band Fetid Zombie) that had enough groove and bounce for the masses, and eventually, in boutique black metal like Ulver and trend-oriented death metal like Opeth, as well as a horde of “blender bands” who throw past successes into a blender, make an incomprehensible melange, and then wrap it around the same three-chord boring moron rock music that has afflicted the “culture” of industrialized nations since the 1950s.

Frontiers are the antidote to this, but they must begin in destruction. Idiots will tell you destruction is bad, because in their view, more metal means more power in metal. However, life is a science of pattern organization, and this is why patterns of higher organization (complexity) trump those of lower organization; this is why one Beethoven outshines 6,000,000 rock bands and forces their fans into denial of their inferiority. Idiots naturally feel defensive when they develop the resulting inferiority complex, so they come up with endless insincere excuses for why they should continue to listen to stupid music instead of facing reality and finding better music: we like it, it’s unique, every person has musical taste that is unrelated to their mental capacity, it’s our right to like garbage if we want, stupid music is more profound because it has a perspective contrary to the ruling classes, and so on. It’s all mental chewing gum that will keep a brain noshing, trying to find the substance, until it realizes that these statements are broken tautologies of the form “this is important because it claims to be important,” and then moves on.

Artists long for frontiers because they understand the odd relationship between creativity and power. We all want to feel power in life so we can think that our time was well spent as we lie on our deathbeds, and before, as we question daily whether we should keep going. Power is felt by having the ability to change things for the better, and this ability is afforded by looking at life, understanding the rules of nature, and using our creativity to find a way to work greatness within those rules. Freedom is not the answer, because freedom in human minds means no rules, which means our creativity has nothing to chew on, so we make garish “unique” and uniquely useless melanges instead. For creativity to thrive, we need an empty space in which to exert our power, like ancient men approaching their fields and streams and leaving behind farms and windmills irrigating them.

For those who want a frontier in metal, the path is clear. We must laugh at the now-dead past of fifteen years of unsuccessful metal which was “good enough” but never really good, and as we laugh, smash it aside. We do not need greater numbers. We need better fighters. We need bands on the level of Black Sabbath, Slayer, Morbid Angel, Burzum and Gorguts in order to make for ourselves a new space in which healthier metal can grow. For those of us who are not active musicians, this starts in intolerance of garbage music, progresses to its destruction, and then manifests itself in the tolerance of a gardener: we accept everything, but ignore all but the exceptional, and since we water that exceptional and nurture it, we let nature carry off the rest to an early death. This is both natural selection and common sense: if you tolerate everything, you will never have great things, but if you focus on the great, you will bring more of it upon yourselves.

Metal exists in a dual state of brain/body because of its hybrid origin in soundtracks/rock music, even though it was a fundamental rebellion against the careless hippie music of the time which introduced non-solutions as a good way to stay oblivious and justify personal profit, sexual conquest and hedonism despite the obvious need for hard work to resurrect a confused and dying civilization. Metal brought us back to the heavy, but because people living pointless lives like easy solutions and would like to think that buying a CD means they can “walk on the wild side” and feel OK with their mediocrity, it fights this dual nature. It’s 25% Demilich-Burzum fans, and 75% Cannibal Corpse-Skinless fans. However, as the morons fill every available space with garbage, there’s room for the 25% to return in vengeful fashion, mocking and burning the stupid, and opening up a frontier horizon for exploration.

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Gates of Enoch, Averse Sefira, Belphegor, Immolation and Rotting Christ in Houston, Texas

Gates of Enoch, Averse Sefira, Belphegor, Immolation and Rotting Christ
March 2, 2008
The Meridian
1503 Chartres
Houston, Texas 77003

Long ago, before heavy metal was even a glimmer in the eyes of King Crimson and Black Sabbath, when the land of south central Texas had nothing on its pan-flat surface but swamp and hogs, a developer’s eye gleamed and soon a city was being sold to northern suburbanites as a green, natural, sunny and pleasant place. To this day developers continue to create it, sprawling across the humid plane like pancake batter, and so the city pulses through a serpentine mesh of freeways which converge at various points, some forgotten and some celebrated.

At one of these convergences, to the northeast of downtown, an innumerable series of obstacles prevented our reviewer from hearing the Gates of Enoch set and the first four bars of Averse Sefira. Having just released their fourth album (you probably have the MP3s already) Averse Sefira from Austin showed fine form on the end of this tour of established acts. In all fairness, every band on the tour showed massively professional performance ability, so what distinguished one from the next was showmanship and songwriting. In these crucial areas a separation occurred but proved itself to be so messy that few want to untangle its inextricable threads.

Averse Sefira

Averse Sefira took to the stage with the power of those who carve a place for themselves by both fighting the status quo and not fighting the reality of what will be eternally rewarded; they mix traditionalist black metal with the aggressive machine motion of death metal in its peak years, relegating the latter to rhythm with the former insurgent within it as leadership of each song. This enables them to preserve the mystique of underground metal which is the fusion of seemingly random bits into a whole order, an occult process in itself during a time of linear causal logic. Their rhythmic composition comes straight from the halcyon days of early Deicide and Incantation, but their melodies, fusing Graveland and Enslaved and something as uniquely American as Thomas Wolfe recalled a graveyard angel, surge straight from the heart of black metal.

Advent Parallax, the newest from Averse Sefira, steps forward in technique and adjusts the previous sense of concept albums into a new lexicon, where the concept is revealed in serialized views of a prismatic, untouchable reality. They did not back down; they made it more technical, shaped the songs from less obvious shadow forms of structure; gave themselves license to play with elements that dour conventionalists might find threatening, yet kept them in the spirit of the most traditional of all underground black and death metal. Not surprisingly, the album sounds better live, because its synthesis is new and still supple, and putting it to a click track (or even the knowledge that it would be recorded) could dim some of that resonant light.

Mixing two songs each from their last three albums, Averse Sefira delivered a set with more technical verve than previous adventures. Where some shows had been chaotic and organic, and others sniper-precise, the fusion of the two is a grand adventure in pushing things out of control and then with the paranoia of a sentry snapping it back under control. This delightful duality shadowed not only the playful but militant spirit of their music, but also the fusion of ludic black metal and mechanistic mimetic death metal. The triumph came in not only holding together these raging daemonic tendencies but pouring them into form, using the crucible of the classics and an exploratory fire of the now.

Setlist:

A Shower of Idols (Advent Parallax)
Descension (Advent Parallax)
Nascent Ones (Battle’s Clarion)
Helix in Audience (Tetragrammatical Astygmata)
Battle’s Clarion (Battle’s Clarion)
Plagabraha (Tetragrammatical Astygmata)

Belphegor

After Averse Sefira, Belphegor played a super-competent set of ultra-generic black/death metal. There is no way to criticize it, like most modern travesties. No notes were missed. Rhythms were exact. The crowd loved it and bought tshirts. Yet it did not recommend itself, either. It is as one critic has said of life itself: “The problem is not in being mediocre. The problem lies in not being great, because that is all that stays the memory once the last royalty check is cashed.” Indeed — we move away from this artefact of history and the juncture of styles at this point in metal’s career, a conjunction that has mastered the aesthetics of these intrusions without knowing in any way their derivation, significance, or even that they could form a language and not a procession of forms cut from whole shadow shapes.

Immolation

Immolation played the most varied set of the evening, comprising one simple song from their first album (“Those Left Behind”), several from their most recent entitled Shadows in the Light, one from the nu-metal influenced Harnessing Ruin, and a smattering from other albums, priming us for their epicenter with “Nailed to Gold” from Here in After, probably their most ambitious and engaged moments of the night. Relentlessly professional, they played both exactly and with a good deal of the microscopic re-evaluation of intention shared between individuals in a musical outfit that encloses “feeling,” giving the energies of the crowd and the band a chance for chiasmatic influence within the rhythms of what was played. Their material improves greatly with the new album. Retrospective analysis suggests this band, formed in 1986, never fully left behind the ambition to join Exodus, Nuclear Assault, Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth and Slayer in the speed metal camp, and they have filtered through underground death metal their impulse to write surging rhythm riffs with an accelerated rock beat ever since.

The result, a trademark anticipative recursion and complementary unison offset by a shuttling opposite architectural closure, called by fans “that Immolation riff,” shows up too much in their work; some hypothesize that it began with the use of pinched harmonics to accentuate an expected rhythmic closure, which showed this band how much the dimly lit faces glow when presented with something so digestible. Since that time, Immolation have fought their impulse to write bouncy technical rock, and struggled for death metal. They come farthest on Shadows in the Light. They still could benefit from more diligent staging of their work, so that when they crash into a gratifying chorus or transition, it is rarer and so purer in context though less pure in immediate essence. Their set was as solid as any in metal, rock, jazz or blues, but with a good deal more energy. They could learn a great deal from the first Metallica album if they wish to continue this course.

Setlist:

Passion Kill (Shadows in the Light)
Swarm of Terror (Harnessing Ruin)
Burial Ground (Dawn of Possession)
Nailed to Gold (Here In After)
Son if Iniquity (Harnessing Ruin)
Hate’s Plague (Shadows in the Light)
Immolation (Dawn of Possession)
Lying with Demons (Shadows in the Light)
World Agony (Shadows in the Light)
Bring Them Down (Unholy Cult)

Rotting Christ

Rotting Christ showed this audience the greatest technical performance of the evening. They not only played difficult material. They played it as if it was no big deal. Their problem is that while they write beautiful choruses, and have many creative riff ideas, they like writing boring songs. A two-part stomp beat, a trudging power chord ride that shifts position upward like the “after” part of a weight-loss commercial, and in the ensuing mixture whatever beauty is created is crushed under the weight of the trudge. Beauty is what they aimed for, and what they created at rare times, mainly through an excellent knowledge of harmony and a willingness to write melodic lead rhythm picked riffs and harmonize them. One participant put it best when he said this band have become generic metal. There are black metal vocals, speed metal drums, death metal strumming, power metal choruses, and heavy metal rundown verses. It was both inspiring and the greatest disappointment one could have. Caught in the veil of humanism, which presupposes personhood to supplant nature’s judgement of skill in presenting the dynamism which drives the universe away from entropy, this band played to please an idealized, averaged, mythical crowd and as a result they had people standing in cadence during verses and becoming animated for choruses. Guys, take a risk — write something from your minds and not your hearts.

Conclusion

The show proved an adventure worthy of undertaking for the power of Averse Sefira and Immolation. All things considered, Averse Sefira impressed most, because their set was the least contrived with honest and goofy joy and worship of the power of their own music replacing a more serious mien. Immolation played as well and with more technicality, and also took great gleeful pleasure in their songs, but that performance proved more self-cognizant and less self-reflective, as if they were watching themselves from the audience. The musicians of Averse Sefira were less aware they were onstage and playing music, and seemed to be lost (60%) in the music they clearly enjoyed hearing and (40%) in the emotional and energetic tides of the crowd, although a scan of the audience revealed they appealed to a portion of the audience more likely to watch intently than drink, “mosh,” or chant only the choruses  they knew the verses also. Even more importantly, their songs are written less from a template, and retain the chaotic inspiration that their wide-ranging lyrics bring. Yet neither Immolation nor Averse Sefira were justifiably missed, as both delivered top-notch performances upholding the distinctive DNA of underground death metal.

(Thanks to Cynical and M.S. for the setlists.)

Bands:
Gates of Enoch
Averse Sefira
Belphegor
Immolation
Rotting Christ

Promoters:
The Meridian, Houston Texas

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Jazz, Jazz-metal and the future of a hybrid

Our society is fascinated by outsiderness. This neurosis comes from the fact that we exist by the support of a civilization we see as going down a bad path, if we think about things at all. Our outsiders look more askance at this society than we who must maintain it, but they also do so from within it, so they are both critical of and dependent upon it. This creates a need for not a new civilization, but a new psychology of civilization, and it is mostly commonly engendered by song: poetry, jazz, prose or violence.

Jazz is “America’s music.” A hybrid of the blues and public-school training in European classical harmony, it nonetheless is not unique, because it has existed on every continent at some time in their growths. It is a universal language, the free and open jam, and appeals less to theory — despite being heavy on theory — than it does to an impulse of the soul which wants to start playing first, and then figure out how to cram the symbolism of emotions into song. Even so, when we speak of jazz we speak of the American variety.

Because jazz is extreme compared to pop music, and both in its day and today an outsider music, and because it went through a ring cycle from innocent complex pop music to nearly total psychoacoustic noise with the extremes of free jazz, we see it is parallel to heavy metal and hardcore punk. Both of those as well are falling from grace, exiling themselves from a comfortable modern existence to be extremes. Both of those totally reject society. Where jazz is cool alienation, and an attempt to find itself through degrees of emotion, metal and punk are a rejection of human emotion and a hot alienation that points to the hard, cold historical record — the abstract. Jazz is earth and metal is sky.

As metal expanded through its own cycle of growth and decay, its growth mirrored the process jazz underwent. At first, metal was just a heavier form of rock with more phrasal composition as evidenced by the long melodic riffs of Black Sabbath, but then it became a “serious” art form with speed metal, after the 70s stadium metal wrecked its credibility but good. When that “serious” social consciousness art wasn’t enough, it became crypto-symbolic art with death metal, with an extensive philosophical interpretation required to get from “only death is real” to a philosophy of abstraction to rival Plato.

When death metal got itself established after a painful birth from fragments of thrash/hardcore punk and speed metal, it found itself as an art form embracing simplicity and yet structure, shying away from mainstream consonance or even harmonic structure. Its structure came entirely from worship of the riff, or rather the way death metal bands would string together seemingly unconnected riffs that made sense as the piece culminated, like poetry unifying disparate symbolism. Death metal was unlike the harmonies of heavy metal, or the rhythmic culmination of speed metal, but it was pure structure in arrangement of complex riffs, and the distinct phrasing that made each one both evocative and complementary to others.

Because these riffs operated independently of scalar or chordal structures, death metal was compared to free jazz by the savvier elements of the music press. Much of this comparison occurred before death metal was fully defined, when the more jam-friendly elements in hardcore (Black Flag’s “The Process of Weeding Out” most notably) and more dissonant, theoretically detached elements of grindcore (Napalm Death’s opus of microsong disrhythmic chaos, “Scum”) were noticed by bored, underpaid and desperate writers looking for a story. Death metal being half-hardcore, half-heavy metal, the genre rotated to face jazz for a golden period of about five years.

The first real salvo in this battle was fired by Atheist on their first and second albums, “Piece of Time” and “Unquestionable Presence.” The increasing mixture of jazz crept outward from the rhythm section to the point where the second album embraced much of the aesthetic of jazz, especially the fusion-tinged variety that used intense dynamic variation to resemble a soundtrack, more like Al DiMeola’s “Cielo E Terra.” Atheist embraced the same jazz direction, but added to jazz what punk and hardcore had, what made them “hot” and not “cool”: that inhuman, abstract, theoretical structure that allowed them to stitch riffs together on the basis of phrasing and melody alone, leaving behind the artifacts of tonal context needed by most people to orient themselves in the composition.

If emotional is cool, abstract is hot, and it fits better with the raw anger of death metal, because rage without some idea of how it might manifest itself to soothe its source of irritation becomes impotent and self-serving. What makes jazz cool is its acqueous descent into pure organic emotion, a casting aside of all structure that lets the psyche move with total freedom, given a few rules to keep its motion consonant — like a morality of sound, it throws out conceptions of hierarchy and shared goals and lets the individual freestyle it, but imposes some rigid rules. What makes metal hot is that it throws out that coolness, and imposes an order that transcends human limitations, giving rise to speculation about the motion of empires and epic ideas in collision, like a heavenly war of symbols.

Atheist fused these two outlooks, and in doing so, unleashed a revolution in metal. First, the clones came, but since metal is hot and not cool we pay no attention to them. Next, other bands picked up on this revolution and put it to good use. The two remaining explicitly jazzy death metal albums came from the Netherlands and Florida, respectively, and further advanced the science of jazz-metal. Longstanding death metal/speed metal hybrid legends Pestilence had been growing increasingly toward a greater display of musical skill, including conventional means such as harmony, and after going halfway on their third album created a jazz/metal fusion for their fourth, “Spheres.”

Spheres split a room full of metalheads into people who hated it, and people who loved it. With guitars plugged into MIDI samplers outputting in a range of voices, and offtime tempos marching past with unpredictable variations, Spheres was difficult to grasp as a listening experience much less a piece of art, but many did enjoy it so much that fifteen years after its release, it has been re-released with new live tracks. Metalheads at the time were fascinated that one of their own, from a genre so alienated it was not listed on any mainstream music reporting or labels, could go toe-to-toe with the progressive and jazz bands of its day. Others were appalled at what they saw as an attempt to reduce what made metal unique, and make it more like the conformist music of the mainstream.

Cynic’s “Focus” came out the following year and further divided the community. It did not enwrap its guitars in synthetic sounds, but chose to do that for the vocals, creating an otherworldly but rarely forceful effect that jarred with the assertive psychology of death metal. That coupled with Buddhist-influenced positive lyrics, a tendency toward light interludes, and lush keyboards backing guitars made the album rejectable by most metalheads. Riffs resembled those of the first Atheist album, making many jazz-metal diehards wonder if it was an evolution in artform or production.

While these four albums were the most evident manifestations of the jazz aesthetic, jazz influences abounded in works from other bands. Morbid Angel, known for their otherwordly seizure of souls through intense music, showed a familiarity with jazz technique especially in percussion, but without being jazzy. Demilich created a monstrosity of lead-picked intricate riffs that resembled the most avantgarde of jazz fusion, but with the subtler rhythmic introductions of death metal. Gorguts showed more of a classical influence, but balanced with lessons from avantgarde jazz.

As the death metal experiment with jazz ended, many reflected on the similarities and impossibilities of the two genres. Jazz and metal are both outsider music; both reflect a perception of persecution by society at large, it being supposed to be ignorant of some principle, and offer up radically different solutions. Jazz, it might be said, is a nurturer; death metal, it might be said, is a reality check. While the two overlap somewhat, ultimately they don’t overlap in ideas, and this carries over to aesthetic. Death metal sounds abstract; jazz sounds emotional. Death metal builds a tension for dynamic release through structuring of phrase, where jazz develops phrase to emphasize an underlying harmonic pattern.

Much as Ornette Coleman rebelled against jazz and created free jazz, metal (through hardcore, most notably Discharge) rebelled against the structure of pop songs and created through its new freedom of abstraction a language of expression. Ultimately, its rebellion was that in a world of humans singing about individual fascinations and neurosis, it would be an expression of the structures of the whole. A pattern language of ideas and consequences, death metal is intensely structured music in the way classical is, using narrative composition to unite disparate elements in a storyline, like a poem. Jazz is more like the visual arts, showing exactly what occurs and winding details together in an anti-narrative.

Since the death metal flirtation with jazz, two paths have been taken to resolve this paradox. The first recognizes that death metal’s structure is closer to progressive rock, and incorporates jazz into progressive rock with death metal riffing, as Gordian Knot (featuring Cynic members) or grindcore-influenced acts like Dillinger Escape Plan have done. The second recognizes that jazz’s rhythm can be used to wrap heavy metal-styled riffs into the jaunty, bouncy aesthetic of jazz/funk based music, and this has exploded forth in bands from Candiria to Mordred to The Red Hot Chili Peppers. The problem with both of these approaches is that they must distill death metal to rock in order to proceed.

It may be that a fusion never happens because the genres are too different. Jazz is inherently aesthetic-heavy, because it lacks structure to differentiate its songs; metal exclusively differentiates its songs through structure, and is uniform in aesthetic. Where metal is structured music, jazz is unstructured to permit wide-open jams, but the result is that sets tend to run together and, outside of aesthetic innovations like switching instruments or making the musical elements more bizarre, it has nowhere to evolve, where metal as an inherently storytelling format still has room to expand. But by the same token, metal is pulled downward by its attachment to an audience shared with rock, who will often try to make it into something more like the mainstream even as its most intelligent creators pull in the opposite direction.

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Ambient metal

People frequently ask “So what is an ‘ambient metal’ band? Have you actually seen one? Are there any metal bands out there who, if asked, would identify themselves as ‘ambient metal’?” To understand why the term is used, it is important to examine first why bands do anything that they do and second, what the term “ambient” means in the context of history.

Bands are assembled of individuals who together, in some form, decide what their output will be and create it. While much of this is a spontaneous project, there is behind-the-scenes transfer of information through shared musical influences or ideas and concepts the band members collectively find useful. It is unlikely that four guys with guitars sat down one day and said, “We should be the next cutting-edge thing. I know – let’s do ambient music, but on guitars.” A more realistic version is that a band formed and started playing with some ideas they found intellectually or musically stimulating.

The earliest human music was strictly rhythmic; the next generation of change brought linear melodic music; the generation after that used harmony and syncopation to integrate the two, and this slowly gave way to the furthest evolution of form, in which melody as the primary content expression was given context by the most complex understanding of musical devices yet known. Despite its seemingly technical origins, this music achieved an acme of expressiveness in artistic outlook. Human culture is still waiting for another artistic movement with the patient spirit and yet unbridled passion of Beethoven, Bach, Strauss or Wagner.

In the media age of the 1950s-1960s, the previous popular forms of Christian hymns, blues, country and polka were whipped into a single entity and called “rock music.” It has the populist features that classical music lacks: repetitive beat, droning pentatonic harmony, and constant dynamic intensity. It is cyclic music of an unchanging character. This linear constancy reflected the literature and ideals of the early industrial age, or modernism, although presented in a postmodern (“non-hierarchical”) aesthetic concept, until punk music distilled rock music to a few chords and shattered the illusion of uniqueness to any given rock band.

We might call rock “discrete music” because it aimed at a simple, 1:1 ratio between simple and gesture in the music. While earlier music had used pentatonic scales, including accidental or “blue” notes, blues and rock standardized on the pentatonic scale plus a single blue note; most rock is major, harmonic minor, or blues scale composition because these allow a flexible harmony in which no notes are specific to major or minor keys, meaning they can be used over different tonal centers without any notes that sound bad against a chord. Rock standardized the song format on a simplified version of English sea ballads; rock standardized constant syncopated percussion; it also standardized topics and a role (sexual initiation of teenagers). It broke away from the classical idea of phrases which periodically harmonized to exclusively use chords — descending from the guitar’s role as a rhythm instrument in ensembles, minus the ensemble — which caused rhythmic strumming within a narrow tonal range to replace the many notes and changing time signatures of what came to be called “lead rhythm” phrases. Borrowing from Anglo-Celtic, Scandinavian and German folk music, and adding a simplified version of the instrumentation used in German beerhouse bands, it took the lowest common denominator and made a fixed form of it. In short it was the perfect product, but in order to do that, it had to simplify itself into interchangeable parts which each had contextless and thus universal emotional symbolism.

In the 1970s, a countermovement arose in which musicians began looking to new forms for inspiration, and found them in the neoclassical: a merging of classicalist ideas of melody and layered structure with the newfound populist beat patterns of reduced structural changes to prevent intrusion upon the actual song pattern established by melodic architecture. Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, and arguably the first ambient guitarist, Robert Fripp, embraced principles of this ethos contra the simplistic lifestyle support of mainstream rock. In this atmosphere underground metal was born with 1983 luminaries Slayer, Sodom and Bathory. Each put out an album colored by the dark careless phrasing of Venom and wrought in the tremolo strum and ambient offtime rhythmic structures of extreme hardcore. This heritage forms the basis of all underground metal.

The opposite of discrete music, but not yet approaching the complexity of classical, ambient music creates a harmonic texture and relegates percussion to a background role, letting the phrase lead the change of song structure, key and tempo. An ideal ambient composition takes unchanging rhythm and over it layers phrases, creating harmony from their conjoined effect in the way classical music does, making moods “ad hoc” relative to its starting point. Where discrete music focuses on each piece of a song being a thing unto itself, using a universal set of symbols, ambient music invents symbols specific to each song and as a result gives pieces of a song meaning only when existing in the context of others. In this, selected metal and synthesizer music (synthpop, electronica, ambient) are closer to their classical heritage than the distillation of popular memes that is rock. Not all metal and ambient music fits this description; many artists, figuring that their listening audience would rather have something immediately recognizable and familiar in a “new” form, use rock-styled composition with different instrumentation.

Good examples of ambient metal are found in At the Gates The Red in the Sky is Ours and Darkthrone Transilvanian Hunger most prominently, but these are the end product of an evolution that began when Black Sabbath began imitating the phrases of horror movie soundtracks in streams of power chords. The first three Morbid Angel albums, anything from Burzum, the first two Sepultura EPs, and Sarcófago I.N.R.I. all exhibit ambient tendencies, among many other albums. Not surprisingly, these bands tend to write about topics that are not “universal” in the sense of common to all human beings in the way morality is surmised to be absolute, but write from a perspective outside that of the human, as if showing us interactions of people and nature in a dispassionate, nihilistic universe which delights in conflict and interconnection more than symbols held up above nature itself.

As any change in musical style points to a change in thinking patterns, the rise of ambience in metal signifies a falling away from mainstream views — which tend to be discrete, moralistic, utilitarian, and universalist — toward a naturalistic and scientific view of reality. The linear is broken; the complex and multithreaded view of causality that ancient civilizations had, in which no single event led to change, but a collaboration of events, has been restored in the music itself, as has a belief in varied dynamics, implying a greater narrative range. In this light, it is impossible to see this music as anything but an ongoing revolution, even if the names used here are still foreign to most of the bands producing it.

Ambient music and its relation to metal

The genres grew up simultaneously and converge in the current generation
by Alex Birch

After Burzum started producing pure electronic soundtracks to Pagan mythology, Fenriz from Darkthrone decided to go avant-garde and composing electronic space explorations, Ildjarn left his Discharge-empowered poetry and began producing synth-layered soundscapes, and Beherit, in an attempt to revive the band from the dusty archives, set out to create simple but haunting digitalized neoclassical harmony, many metal fans previously only accustomed to the sound of raw guitars, slamming drums, dark basses, and tearing screams from the abyss, now began taking great interest in what the electronic genre had to offer. To the surprise of many, electronic music was close to the compositional and aesthetic roots of metal, acknowledging new bands using ambient and metal to fuse a blend between two modern instrumentations.

am-bi-ent (am’be-ənt)adj. Surrounding; encircling: ambient sound; ambient air.[Latin ambiens, ambient-, present participle of ambire, to surround : amb-, ambi-, around; see ambi- + ire, to go; see ei- in Indo-European roots.]

– The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

As shown by the etymological explanation above, ambient music is an artistic medium trying to achieve an atmosphere or a particular surrounding, based most commonly on electronic sounds that are looped until the listener feels a certain mood and place arise within the mind. Usually the artist takes use of a basic synth-layer, using that as a base for a melodic or harmonic development. The synth-layer can collaborate through assonance or dissonance with another layer, in order to create balance and expand the instrumental possibilities. Tribal beats or other forms of percussion may be used to set a rhythm along with the flowing electronic waves, but most commonly these are left out completely. On top of the basic flow of key tones, the ambient artist experiments with melody and harmony, which we as listeners recognize as thematic communication. The melodies are often looped for a certain period of time, in order to achieve a form of transcendental, hypnotizing effect. Only by listening to the music continuously without interruption, perhaps over a time span of 30 minutes or longer, can the intensity and the thematic realization reach a high-end point.

Due to its very nature as music, ambient is ideal for meditation, as it means long listening hours, often with a calming and soothing effect for the mind, body, and soul. Its instrumental simplicity adds up to this, but the compositional method is often very complex. The artists can integrate different kinds of sound effects to create additional musical experiences: rivers flowing, people screaming, distorted political speeches, and even computerized sounds from a car or a machine, to further enhance and set the mood to its relative course. The leading melodies often intertwine with the basic synth-layer, ending in collaboration between rhythm (“pace”) and harmony. Some artists are able compose entire songs only by manipulating a few synth-tones, co-ordinating them into different patterns or cyclic key melodies, and as a result achieve an echoing effect in harmony. Percussion-only, like one tribal beat played against another, may also create an ambient-effect of great use — the possibilities lie within the ideas of the composer. Not surprisingly the ambient genre is a very experimental one, fusing metal, folk, jazz, and even classical music, into an organic symbiosis.

Ambient music can be seen as a structuralistic form of music, meaning the listener must recreate the compositional structure within the mind, in order to understand the ideas communicated through the musical medium. While popular music and most of the metal created today, are built around the concept of musical progression through key choruses that function as leading melodies, ambient music often lacks melodic development and instead tries to achieve an atmosphere by slowly building up harmonic tension over a large time span. The listener is forced to maintain a close relationship to the variation in tonal, melodic, and harmonic presence, and forge all partial developments of the music into a central motif. While this may sound academic, it is often very simple: by paying attention to the music you’re listening to, following the progression of the composition itself instead of the melody, you will automatically gain an understanding of the underlying structure within the music.

This does not mean that the structure in ambient music “exists” in the objective sense of the word, but that it functions as an assessment of the how the music is structured and what it tries to tell us through ideas. This, along with the fact that ambient music is created to achieve an atmosphere, makes it a very esoteric listening experience, almost like a religious ritual or an intense philosophizing thinking process. There are many kinds of ambient music and, like in metal music, certainly not all subgenres are relevant in the categorizing of the main genre. What they all share in common is a free compositional method of creating music, breaking the boundaries of verse-chorus-bridge-thinking and using the rhythm as a pacesetter and not as determiner of melodic or harmonic progression. This leaves the field open for the artists to create different patterns of ideas without being restricted to a linear beat, like in rock or popular music.

The relationship between ambient and other forms of music may seem far-fetched, but is in fact something that has helped it gain a larger listening audience outside underground circles. Metal music, like ambient, is built around the compositional idea that originates from classical music: long and intense pieces communicating an active life experience, through the inherent variation in musical structure. The free boundaries of harmony in classical music, are in ambient used to let go of all sense of percussion and instead form a continuous rhythm by regularly looping melody and sound effects, until a consecutive working arises and determines the overall thematic and musical base, on which to build upon through progression or deconstruction. Like with classical and metal music, ambient is through its free composition able to take use of partial experiences, and merging these together to form a central motif. While most rock and popular music is built around one key melody without significance to experience, classical, metal, and ambient music can only be understood when interpreting the melodic/harmonic and structural changes in the pieces, and construct these together inside the mind of listener, into a solid whole representing and describing an overall ideal, sensation, feeling, or experience.

The links between metal and ambient music are therefore multiple, and when leading bands within black metal realized the decay of the genre as a whole, they quickly turned to what must have been seen as an obvious next stage within creating neoclassical music: pure electronic textures, free from drums and conventionalities, trying to revive classical music through modern instrumentation. The ambient veteran Klaus Schulze proved that this was fully possible by releasing his album entitled “X”. In it he composes pieces functioning as musical biographies of famous German artists like Georg Trakl and Friedrich Nietzsche. While the first pieces are entirely created using the infamous synthesizer (an electronic instrument creating musical output by mathematically or by hand, manipulating keys and sounds by different musical techniques), Schulze gradually integrates classical instruments like violins. In the final piece he takes use of a full symphony orchestra and manages to create music where the classical meets the modern ambient sound techniques. The result is beyond what any artist within the ambient field so far has achieved.

Other ambient projects like the old-school synthesizer masters Tangerine Dream, began experimenting with the possibility in letting concurrent synth melodies function much like a symphony orchestra works with counterpoint, leaving out most percussive determiners and thereby form a music driven by a free melodic progression in sound. Post-techno projects like Polygon Window instead went the other way and tried to create harmony by working with tribal beats and looping them concurrently, so that a meta-harmony was taking shape as both rhythm and key melody. Early artists like Screaming Corpse would even strip the music of all melody, instead collaborating with sound effects in order to fuse different collage into central motifs. Buzzing sounds and distorted screams passing a digitalized filter, would function as instruments themselves, experimenting with echo-effects and extreme reverbing techniques.

This method of composing music was later developed into what we today refer to as “industrial ambient”, meaning a form of music that by working with machine-driven beats and sound effects replicating mechanistic and robotic parts of modern society, achieves a post-industrial form of electronic music. Similarly many projects take use of sound effects from nature, which nowadays is called “nature ambient”; samples of thunder, running water, moving glaciers etc. together with electronic instrumentation, in an attempt to describe an experience related to nature and its process as organic system. Amir Baghiri demonstrates this when forming melodic motifs by using water drums to evoke the soul of nature with its own organic material. Neoclassical ambient artist Biosphere can also be added to this list, manipulating sound effects from nature with cold and bleak soundscapes, forging a timeless atmosphere set out in the freezing northern Europe.

However, the most common form of ambient is that of long and simplistic synth tones, balancing between different tonal heights and variation in intensity, slowly building up a meditative state of mind within the listener. Lustmord and Lull are two classic examples of this compositional method: no percussion, no beat, no central melodic or harmonic motif, only hour-long sonic textures forged by the most simple of tonal variation. The theme is only understood by listening to the whole piece from start to finish, paying close attention to the underlying structures in the music and placing them in context with the central compositional idea. Metal works the same way: the understanding of the music is only apparent to the listener who follows the structural progression and not simply trying to find any “truths” within the aesthetic alone. Classical music is even more free from boundaries than metal, and requires a high attention span in order for the listener to follow each small harmonic change, and realizing its relevance from a larger contextual “truth”, which is assessed only within the mind of he or she who listens, but nonetheless is a result of an assessment of what the medium is trying to communicate.

Sometimes the entire musical picture is disintegrated into monotone sound waves, like a radio transmission being converted into pure synth layers, moving back and forth between two levels of intensity, much like the waves of the sea meets the shore. Post-Beherit project Suuri Shamaani composed music this way, following a logical progression of its previous attempts in creating solid and flowing music without as little rhythmic restrictions as possible. Inspired by synthpop masters Kraftwerk and the previously mentioned Tangerine Dream, Suuri Shamaani gained a new presence within ambient music with its desperately bleak, dissonant, organic, over-simplistic instrumentation. Fenriz’ side-project Neptune Towers was following the same lead when breaking apart the sparse beats found within the music of Tangerine Dream, and instead using the synthesizer to both shape rhythm and harmony around improvised melodies, thriving on free contextual motifs connected to the organic space of universe.

Similarly have some ambient artists been trying to use instrumentation from more traditional elements like heavy metal, to explore the possibilities in letting metal, ambient, and classical music collaborate on a common idealistic basis. Canadian ambient project Ashtorath and the more well-known artist Robert Fripp, found new life in the electronic genre when integrating classical harmony and metal instrumentation, like piano and guitar solos, even taking use of violins to achieve a neoclassical atmosphere.

While the composition behind ambient music has been complex as in the case of Klaus Schulze or Tangerine Dream, the simplicity of the instrumentation has remained as a hallmark for most of the material created within the ambient field. The veteran and official founder of the concept of ambient music, Brian Eno, stated in the liner notes to the album Music for Airports, that it had to be “[…] able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.” His music was built around this idea: simple key notes balancing on equally simple central motifs, both working as background meditation, but also providing the listener with a deeper contextual depth that only could be found by paying close attention to the structural core of each piece. In this sense, ambient music is both passive and active, as the mind of the listener concurrently experiences a background and a leading theme. This was nothing new to the metal fans that started to listen to Klaus Schulze and Neptune Towers after the outbreak of populism within the genre after 1996.

Metal music follows the same compositional method as described above: what to most people sound like “noise”, is to the regular metal listener a clear and distinctive form of music close to the classical ideals. This is understood only by seeing through the “noise” generated by the guitar riffs and the slamming drums, and instead paying attention to the underlying melody, structure, and thematic presentation. Still the metal artist is able to take use of the “noise effect” by manipulating it and turning it into an aesthetic pleasure – an important part of the musical experience as a whole. Classical music almost completely breaches the boundaries of passive/active switching by its continuous flow of partial melodic development, but similarly has the ability of being understood as both an overall tonal advancement towards a certain key motif, and as partial context in melodic detail: the focus on the partial and the whole becomes a clash that can equally by seen as the switch between the passive and active listening experience. As listeners of classical, metal, and ambient music, we both interpret the active experience and the “passive” one automatically generated, by letting the mind making a continuous re-assessment of the overall advancement of the music. This is how we are able to remember certain key parts in a musical piece, from over an hour of perhaps 40-50 different melodies; we’ve registered the overall tonal variation and from there on, remembered the partial textures built around the central motif of each piece. This can be compared to the sense of hierarchical memory by which our brain often functions: you read the word “Burzum” and think of keywords linked to that phenomenon: “ambient”, “Odin”, “Discharge”.

Is should be somewhat apparent after this reading, that ambient and metal music have a lot in common, and that the narrative basis in metal music made a logical progression away from blues/rock standards, instead trying to conquer new grounds by leaving the standardized format and migrating to an open and free composition closer to that of classical music. With that migration, the blockheads that still today are producing four-chord-cycled riffs, were left behind and still to this day do not understand nor comprehend the genius in Neptune Towers or later Burzum and Beherit. The metal artists proved once again that their ideal was an elitist and romanticist one, creating art after experience and ideal, and not after commerce and popularity. Ambient was the choice for many serious black and death metal bands when the genre became crowded with too many populists, and since the ambient field was both close to classical/romanticist ideals, and offered a modern way of reviving ancient wisdom from centuries far left behind, it was seen as the only step towards a more unrestricted musical area, filled with the passion and atmosphere that defined the best of black and death metal. Today most serious metal fans also listen to classical and ambient music, knowing these three genres contain a lasting artistic expression towards natural and traditional ideals, free from conventions found within blues, rock, and popular music, breaking new boundaries as further possibilities are explored, along the way on the journey to the stars.

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Why “Christian metal” is an oxymoron

Any genre of music can be said to have an ideology, or ideological range. The musicians and fans had to pick the music because it sounded like something they wanted in their lives. With a really dumb genre, that would be distraction or posing like a slacker or a pimp. With more complex genres, the aesthetics and organization of the music suggest ideals people desire. For metal, the aesthetic — finding beauty in dischordant darkness — and organization — a “riff salad” that narrates like a poem — suggests a rejection of the human perspective for a more holistic reality.

It is this style of metal, from its first riffs derived from the modernist-classical-lite melodies of horror movie soundtracks, which, by eschewing fixed “meaning” for a sense of fitting together as a whole and having an architectonic clarity as the songs, shows us a world from the perspective of a movie, or a scientist, or history: the camera pans back and we no longer think of individuals involved as being important in their own right. We think of the story, the situation, and the outcome, but with our knowledge we cannot be limited to an anthropocentric position.

This is how, without even reading the lyrics, we can tell what metal has in the way of values and worldview, which if you believe in them enough to think they’d make a good organization for civilization, you call an “ideology.” The ideology of Britney Spears is “what the hell, who cares”; the ideology of jazz is cosmopolitanism; the ideology of techno is vibrant distraction; the ideology of classical music is a respect for intensity and attention span. All forms of art have some form of ideology, although sometimes it is hard to recognize because it is subtle or, in many cases, non-challenging (see “Britney Spears” some words ago).

The Metal Ideology

With a little more analysis, we can enumerate the metal ideology as follows:

  • Feral naturalism – Horror, predation, violence, and battle are praised for their intensity as experience and their power. Morality is thrown away in favor of this appreciation for the mechanisms of reality.
  • Technofutilism – As in horror films, technology and social institutions are useless for dealing with the problems we face.
  • Realistic individualism – The wisdom of crowds is feared and seen as false, since they pander to each other (poseurs, sell-outs). However, the individualist is realistic and so knows that everyone in a crowd is an individualist, and that’s how a crowd forms.
  • Nihilism – Morality is a human imposition, as are value and purpose. Nature doesn’t care what happens to us, and neither do the gods. We’re in the driver’s seat and whether we sink or swim is 100% up to us.
  • Holism – There is a frustration with the tendency of modern society to break down experiences and concepts by using exclusive logical OR operations in a categorical context; it is either a truth OR an opinion, but can’t be both, and so on. Metal is a genre of logical AND, in that it sees all of our judgments as attributes and reality as the only arbitrer.
  • Ludic, absurdist materialism – In a metal view, we are only fleshy bodies and we can have transcendent thoughts, but we will always be what we are. From that, we can clear aside pretense and enjoy life, which is inherently absurd, gross, terrifying, crass, insane and beautiful, the most rational design ever, rewarding.

Evidence for each of these assertions can be found in metal lyrics, imagery and through a thoughtful perspective on the sounds and structures used in metal songs. You could claim “the past is alive” and “only death is real” as good starting points, but even early Black Sabbath lyrics have the romanticist, naturalistic, holistic and nihilistic tendencies that create the above values system. In this, metal bands are not dissimilar to European Romantic poetry and classical music, which was also post-moral, saw the individual as a means and not an end, nationalistic, and playful.

Christianity, on the other hand, is more complex because it is open to wide interpretations. Narrowing in on what most people believe, we can see it has several basic tenets, originating in its idea of individual equality in the eyes of God. To a metalhead, this interpretation of Christianity seems anti-nature, because we are not equal in ability and any interpretation of equality is a human imposition that does not exist in nature; further, metalheads distrust the creation of alternate realities like God, heaven and hell. Not all interpretations of Christianity have these tenets, and some in fact are closer to what metal believes (the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Johannes Eckhart or Arthur Schopenhauer come to mind). But for the mass religion that conquered much of Europe, these are its beliefs:

  • Dualism – Christianity believes in a second reality that exists outside of this one. This reality, in which there is pure moral “good,” is called Heaven and we are supposed to impose it on earth; Hell exists in this same spirit realm.
  • Morality/peace/benevolence – In Christian lore, the best possible method of living is one that is peaceful, as that way you do not interrupt others. To a metalhead, this is ridiculous because people can be doing things that while not explicitly immoral cause bad consequences, and so of course you interrupt them.
  • Discrete individualism – Christian dogma supports the idea of the individual as absolute in that they are to be granted as much freedom as possible, and can be judged only by God, and should be forgiven when they screw up. This is to a metalhead imposition of the will of the Crowd on the individual and a type of slavery, as it retards those who do have a clue from acting to keep the clueless from dominating via superior numbers.

The common root of these Christian beliefs is humanism, or belief in the predominance of the human form and its incarnations, individuals. The Christian God is shaped like a human; Christian morality rewards never harming or killing humans even if they’re doing insane things; Christian morality emphasizes how we’re all equal. We can see how the elaborate dance of morality and theology supports a much simpler human truth, which is the desire of the ego of each one of us to be independent from forces which can humble it with reality. We want to be free from the consequences of making bad decisions and the social judgment of others, because either can show us to be incorrect or to have a weakness, and that scares us in a social setting and makes us lose social status. The root of Christianity is affirming the ego’s power; the root of metal is affirming the power of nature and by unintentional consequence, decreasing the supremacy of the ego.

Romanticism

Romanticism, the parent belief of metal, originates in a more naturalistic time before beliefs like Christianity separated the self-valuation of the human individual from nature, and gave them an imaginary reality (morality) with which to compensate. Although Christianity means well, the unintended consequence is that it makes people more selfish because instead of just trying to live their lives, they are now trying to prove and justify their worth in a moral context. The resulting drama creates many social problems because it ultimately boils down to a denial of reality in favor of individual withdrawl from reality, and it creates neurosis and ego competition.

For this reason art — which tries to affirm our bonds to reality, or through unitivity remove us from false worlds and the withdrawl into our own perspective — has been at odds with society for at least a millenium, perhaps longer. Where social control, power, law and religion require external affirmation for the individual to justify themselves, art confronts the accepted vision of reality with a fantasy that is metaphorically more accurate than the “scientific” and “objective” beliefs of a dying society. Art reconnects us with cause/effect reasoning by taking us out of a false context, and through a new context, showing us where our values lie.

Both Romanticist art and metal are therefore in conflict with Christianity as 99% of its audience practices it, and they have run into additional conflict through Christian propaganda trying to emulate the original art forms. When a Christian or secular humanist (atheistic version of Christian morality) sees metal, which is a value system that not only denies their own but makes it look like an arbitrary fantasy into which people escape their fear of mortality and failure, they have a tendency to do what any good propagandist would do: make their own version of the art in question, and then point to that new creation which did not emerge from the artistic movement but was imposed upon it, and use its existence to claim that consensus does not exist in the artistic movement.

We call this imposed, false, externalized metal “Christian metal” because its defining factor is that it is Christian. It is not a genre, but can appear in any genre; it is an ideological tag with a parallel in neo-Nazi music in that what matters most is its message, and it uses metal as a conduit for that message, instead of wanting to create metal for metal’s sake and therefore explore the values of metal.

A History of Christian Metal

Metal is a romanticist movement which was inspired by the classical era of European humanity, including as part of its view many Romantic philosophical ideals which are pre-Christian in their derivation and anti-Christian in their values.

  • Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath were originally a blues band who later shifted to metal to reflect an interest in the occult. After three albums in which massive drug use and public outcry over their beliefs battered them down, they created an album which had several pro-Christian songs. This does not necessarily reflect their beliefs, nor is likely to do so, but illustrates the confusion and doubt they encountered at the time and the religion of their youth to whose programming they returned. Further, their songs which had a “warning” about the occult were a product of their having an interest in occultist themes, but not necessarily a propagandistic outlook on it (where in contrast, every single “Christian metal” band that has ever existed has taken a preachy, condescending, demagogic tone toward their audience).
  • Metal – Metal, in Black Sabbath and related bands of that era including King Crimson, Led Zeppelin, and Blue Cheer, reflected a tendency toward darker worldviews which could best be described as Romanticist in the spirit of the literature, art and music of the post-Renaissance in which artists disaffected with the humanism of the time sought a greater meaning than a moralization to existence through art. Poets like Keats, Wordsworth, and Shelley were a revolution against a secular Christian movement in which, despite little talk of afterlife and spirituality, a tendency existed for the first time in European art to preach a secular morality to which one adhered or drifted into the ambiguous, obscure and “evil.” The works of those poets and others from the modern Romanticist movement were invoked by the similar themes of early proto-metal bands, including a fascination with the morbid and with ancient times, a desire for transcendence within the world itself, a ruthless sense of self-discipline and heroic character, and a desire for more significance in life itself more than a concern for post-death salvation.After some years of heavy metal, the movement had solidified much of its artistic technique but had degenerated into hedonism, and fortunately was able to merge with the more dogmatic punk to form the first generation of speed metal. These bands were alarmingly preachy and leftist and as a result quickly self-destructed, prompting the extreme side of metal to go “underground” and dispense entirely with morality and, in the lead of heroes like Bathory and Slayer, who arguably invented the next generation, to preach an imaginative, Romantic “Satanic” outlook which like Black Sabbath was more fascinated with the occult than with preaching its values. The music of Slayer for example uses metaphorical Satanism to describe the errors and horrors of war, disease, violence and crime. Following these bands was a genre made more alienated by the increasing failures of society to recognize its error, and made somewhat bitter by the increasing resentment rising from a society (America at least) that in 80% of its members found an affinity for Judeo-Christian beliefs. Death metal and following it, black metal, as a result were more violent and more dogmatic toward Christ and Judea; part of this was inherited from their “hidden” ancestors in hardcore punk music, who as part of their alienated nihilism recognized religion as the social control mechanism which many of us allege it is.

    From the No Right to Disagree With Us Department:

    The national poll of 1,000 American adults conducted April 26 through May 6, 2002 found that 17% of Americans – or about 35 million adults – hold views about Jews that are “unquestionably anti-Semitic.” source

    With the state of metal now, virtually every formative band in the underground has taken a negative stance on Christianity (and many have attacked Judaism and Islam as well). This is a result of the evolutionary process within the genre detailed above. Times have changed since Black Sabbath, and to a perceptive youth of today the strengthening role of religion and secular moral symbolism derived from religion is not only clear but alarming. Consequently, the most popular metal genre ever, black metal, is unanimous in its destructive impulses toward Christianity and its parent religion, Judaism from the middle east.

  • Why Christian metal is destructive – The Christian — or to a philosopher, humanist, whether secular or ecclesiastical — worldview is the underlying outlook of our society. That means that anything which is not Christian or secular humanist is the rarity, not the other way around. Christians confuse a lack of symbolic agreement with Christianity — saying “I am a Christian” or similar — with a lack of agreement. Essentially, secular humanism and Christianity are the same philosophy and they’re what all but a few people in our society take for granted as “correct.”With this in mind, it makes almost no sense that Christians would attempt to subvert metal for their own dogma, yet they attempt it because symbolically, metal is threatening to the Christian outlook because it endorses a theory in which good and evil are necessary balance, yet does not endorse true “evil” (selfish, deconstructive, callow acts). We should be cynical toward the Christian metal perspective and question it at all times, because it is paradoxical for the following reasons:
    • First, if people should write about what they really believe in, why should they spread the dogma of a religion that they didn’t invent?
    • If they really believe this religion, then metal – as a movement with overwhelming occultist, nihilistic, fascistic overtones – is something they should avoid. Why would they choose to join a genre which contradicts what they believe?
    • Is there no greater “trend” than the 2,000 years in which Judeo-Christian religions have been gaining prominence in the west? What is “un-trendy” about following the same religion that at least 80% of the people in your country follow?
    • Why should metal desire “a lot more of the youth” to be interested in it, if conformity is not our goal? Metal is like many genres self-selecting, and does not aim to be broad. By your logic, we should start making music like Britney Spears (except with a Christian message!) in order to get a wider audience.
    • How can one “truly feel” something which one has to be taught in order to regard it as true? A man raised alone in the forest may invent a religion, but perhaps not the whole dogma of Christ.

    There is obviously more to be said along these lines of questioning, but it’s not necessary here. I’d like to close by mentioning something else: that every single “Christian metal” band that has ever existed has been a poor copy of a “secular” band. Even the most popular, “Believer,” were a ripoff of an Atheist album coming out a year earlier. The separate nature of “Christian metal,” and that the genre itself draws a clear distinction between “secular” and religious music, demonstrates how Christians view “Christian metal”: a tool for preaching acceptable lyrics into a genre that has otherwise on the whole rejected Christ.

In 1990, ninety percent of the adult population identified with one or another religion group. source

In our current time, Judeo-Christianity is not only dominant in social thinking but has become secularized and dominant there as well. Prior to Judeo-Christianity’s arrival, concepts such as “morality” and “equality” and dualism were rejected by the inhabitants of Europe as insane or alien. After years of slowly working its way into that culture, Christianity became the dominant religion through its influence among the poor, the downtrodden, the pathetic, the less-capable and the spiteful. Currently, Judaism and Christianity are the dominant religions in America and most of the Western World. For example, both presidential candidates in the last election spoke extensively of their relationships to “God” and of the “morality” of their ideas, including vice-Presidential candidate Joseph Liebermann who considers himself “the moral voice of the Senate.”

“From these two religions we find at least all of our last ten presidents and their ancestors, and among the believers we find the owners of every major media establishment in the country as well as most of the smaller ones. Virtually every Congressperson has prominently featured in his or her campaign propaganda the Christian or Jewish nature of his or her morality, and most television anchors will make reference to secularized Christian moral concepts or the Judaic “God” in the midst of a supposedly objective broadcast. Before Judeo-Christianity, these concepts did not exist in the Western world; their sole origin is in the religions of Christ and Moses (who were both born Jewish).

This article is not an attempt to smear the people ensnared by these sick ideas; on the contrary, I view them as “victims” also in that their consciousness has had a control mechanism implanted within it. This goes for secular people like yourself, who in good faith sit down and write me a letter like the one quoted above in which you espouse humanist ideals of “individual choice” and “belief.” In the cases of believers however, those ideals do not exist; what does exist is conformity to an ideal of social control, and metal rightly rejects it.

Christians see themselves as very tolerant of people of other faiths, with 81% of Christians saying that Christians in the United States are “very” or “somewhat” tolerant of people of other faiths. People who are not Christians agree with this view for the most part, but not nearly as many of them are fully convinced of Christian tolerance. Only 54% of non-Christians see Christians as being tolerant of people of other faiths. source

Another Form of Humanism: Satanism

Satanism in black metal, death metal, “doom metal,” heavy metal, evil metal, speed metal, thrash and grindcore/metal hybrids arises from the need of metal musicians to understand emptiness in the universe and find a metaphor for its acceptance, a trait in evidence in death metal, black metal, heavy metal and ambient metal to extremes. Much like Romantic poets John Milton or William Blake explored the occult, evil and Satan as metaphor, metal bands find Satan a tempting metaphor for a society against which you can rebel without escaping its psychological trap.

Many of society’s abused denizens, looking at the over-the-top exultation in Satanism, Evil, deviant or degenerate behavior in metal, find themselvs turning back in disgust: “Awk! These kids are just trying to piss me off – contrarians, they only want to invert what is, and to create attention for themselves.”

One could not be more wrong. Contrarians wish to behave “badly” to grab the attention that comes from swimming the wrong way up the stream, but to get that attention, they depend on a cousin of pity: the belief that those who choose a different path are lost and looking for the others to bring them back in to a hearth of comfort and goodness. In short, a contrarian affirms the belief system she is rejecting.

Satanism, as practiced by death metal and black metal bands, does not involve an inversion but a surpassing of moral norms and social custom. To understand this, one must first understand the nihilism of metal bands: they do not believe there is “good” or “evil,” but see events as disconnected from any form of absolute other than their inherent function – that is to say, metal bands believe that events do not have a face value and instead view existence with a scientific eye that traces a complexity of causes, reactions, and similarities but does not attempt to ascribe any of it to absolute forces except logical tendencies.

Where Satanism exists for metal bands it functions as metaphor in following the footsteps of the Master: in each mythology where he touches, the Satan-figure is the youthful and ambiguous rebel who rejects what has come before in favor of his own path, and despite his consequent exile from society, finds truth in what he has created and found. The cry from Milton of Satan’s independence – “I will not serve!” – echoes in a genre that insists on finding out its own answers, and creating its own paths, on an individual basis. Unfortunately, that leads to the ego-basis of Christianity and secular humanism, and shortly afterwards, the sickening morals that constrain begin again.

Resistance

You can strengthen the genre of metal by resisting this form of social control in form of boycotts, public awareness of its true intention, and a refusal to accept it as metal. If it is played on the radio, call in to speak the truth about its agenda. If a friend plays it on a stereo, speak out against the controlling mindset of the music. If someone tells you that it’s “open-minded” to accept music that attempts to destroy the philosophies of the genre to which it theoretically belongs, tell them that art does not reprogram human souls toward giving in to a fear of death, and that true metal will liberate them from their fear of existence.

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Why I am not a Satanist

Both religions have the same core: me first, reality second

Of all the subcultures to emerge following the dominance of rock over popular music, heavy metal and its associated genres remain unique in that they have maintained a counter-culture that targets not just the visible “establishment,” but also all things that hold the core values of that philosophical system; metal is a naturalistic movement opposed to the utilitarian values of modern society, but it has kept its head up and thus far mostly avoided assimilation by not taking an explicitly political stance, but an artistic and metaphorical one.

This outlook has increasing driven it out of the mainstream consciousness, which has allowed it to keep its independence in part by mostly separating itself from the crowd of hopeless people looking for an identity and an easy, one-size-fits-all solution to they subliminal angst they feel about living in a fatalistic and submissive era. Of course, it has not managed this exclusively; some of the biggest sheep, and most profound losers, of our time have been metalheads, even some who have been very influential in the genre. In this way, within the metal genre the drama of the larger society is acted out in microcosm: the few who understand pulling away from the mass which wants what they have, and would emulate it to the point of drowning out legitimate voices in the genre.

What makes the mass destructive is the nature of a crowd, by definition: it is people who come together on the basest pretense and, out of fear for their individual selves, enacts a mass-will upon society at large to remove anything that threatens the herd. When you see a crowd, you are not seeing uniform people, but vastly different people who are disorganized and thus can only accept the lowest common denominator motivation, which is usually as follows: do not criticize me for anything that I do, insofar as I do not violate this basic tenet of crowd-belief toward others; give to me everything that our best people have, as I am participating in the crowd and thus “contributing.” As with all utilitarian systems, this mentality punishes the more capable in order to keep the broader masses from feeling inferior, or that they’re missing out.

Heavy metal music, by its very nature and alienation, recognizes that society operates on two levels: a public level, which comprises the kind of things you’d tell a crowd to make them feel you have their best interests at heart, and a private level, at which actual motivations are acted upon using the tokens of the public level in such a way that their function does not match their definition. It is a lot like hacking, actually; you overload some kind of input buffer with data that appears to be harmless, but contains concealed instructions that the machine, unaware that something labeled “data” might be “code,” executes and hands control to the intruder. William S. Burroughs famously declared, “Language is a virus,” and thus explained the same concept as applies to modern mass-media psychology.

What happens in a computer is that it confuses appearance with reality; the code is reality, but the idea that it is harmless data is the appearance. Similarly in our society we are divided between appearance, which generally consists of happy nonsense to keep you distracted, and reality, which is the relentless pursuit of wealth and a spiritual emptiness that justifies it. (As mentioned here before, this takes us back to a split that the Greeks noticed, between things as they are and their abstractions, which are often mentioned as that which casts a shadow, with the shadow we see being what we know of “reality.”)

Since any tokens manipulated on the public level have dual meaning, and are thus meaningless, heavy metal targetted something more sublime: emotions and self-image. The Gothic, Romanticist, naturalistic and elitist-individualist imagery of even Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin did this, but it flowered from there into a proliferation of forms, each of which took the basic concept and developed it further, all without explicitly knowing why or what was being done. This ignorance of an articulation of what is being done allowed it to be passed, from mind to mind, through the subconscious channel of appealing imagery and concept in personal life, much as it was done in Romanticist literature, art and music: those who found greatness in the past, specifically medieval and ancient civilizations, and could process a melancholy acceptance of death and desire for personal greatness in heroic accomplishment, would naturally find the music appealing.

This is in part because, in addition to imagery, metal music literally sounds like the description of Romantic ideals above. It doesn’t embrace the centralized harmonic structures of rock music, which is Indo-European folk music simplified to the degree of fixing a harmonic center and manipulating major/minor changes for mood, over a syncopated beat so that even the dumbest person can follow it, and it doesn’t embrace the pleasing sounds and casual human vocal noises of pop. Where pop attempts to define beauty and approximate it as a medium, metal attempts to find what is beautiful in that which is, on the level of things that explicitly defined, ugly. If society exists on a level where public discourse is manipulated by private reality, metal is an inversion of that, such that the meaning of public discourse is found within private reality.

Metaphorically, metal almost exactly mirrors Romanticist literature, even down to its fascination with nature and the occult. Loneliness and alienation create independence; obsession with the forces of nature and the power of warfare creates a post-moralistic sense of seeing how life works rather than judging it; wandering into the embrace of Satan affirms the pagan belief that there can be no public level of “good” separated from “bad,” but that good and bad are forces which together create a meta-good, mainly the ongoing process of life itself. These are the values of metal, and they are almost never explicitly spelled out because to do so, in the music, would be to expose the inner workings of the subculture to manipulation by those who have not discovered this meaning on their own; emulation and cheapening would follow.

For this reason, it is important to remember that Satanism in metal is metaphor. Many of the largest proponents of Satanic imagery in metal were Deists and some were Christians, but used Satan in a way similar to that of John Milton or William Blake to describe the individual Will or Ego; when Black Sabbath wrote “War Pigs,” and described how modern society sends its workers off to die in foreign fields for abstract and mostly irrelevant political objectives masking a private reality of profit and power, they concluded it with “Satan laughing spreads his wings” not to praise Satan but to describe, in theological metaphor, what had occurred: humans had confused public reality with absolute truth, and thus been manipulated, and from that, an inner resentment and fatalism expressed itself in the confusion that followed. Satan laughing spreads his wings: a statement of the futility of our time, and in later bands, of the uselessness of religions that conflate Absolute truth with the public level of reality.

In doing this, metal attacked the fundamental Platonic split between the world of appearance and the world of structure; appearance was seen to be aesthetic, and not necessarily related to structure, which was defined by context, something which theological and occult imagery, by the nature of its cosmological outlook, expresses succinctly. While hardcore punk musicians attempted to rearrange the symbols of the public imagery into a meaningful private discourse, metal brushed past and declared the public reality defunct, urging its listeners to look instead toward their inner motivations and animal feelings. However, as with all things, the surging crowd – those who by definition did not and thus could not do it the first time around – sees something it likes and apes it furiously, producing a parody of it by only understanding the level of appearance and taking that appearance as truth, something which belongs to the domain of structure alone.

For this reason, although I have never been a Satanist, I have often employed Satanic and occult imagery in my writing, much as the smarter metal bands have done. In a world ruled by a Christian or secularized Christian (liberal) concept of absolute truth as public reality, one strikes back by upholding all that cannot be ruled by such a petty device, in the process pointing out that such dualistic thought patterns are in fact a simple rhetorical device misinterpreted by the crowd and thus used for its own purposes. In contrast, the crowd embraces Satanism as a truth in itself, and tries through silly literal rituals and laughable posing to be “truer” Satanists that the others, or more “extreme,” or some variation of attempting to find a devotional truth in life. It cannot be done, and therefore these bands and individuals tend to ring hollow to the thinker, and their works — well, let us say that in the years following 1996, there have perhaps been three black metal bands of the caliber of those who occurred 1990-1996, and it is similar in their own times with other subgenres of metal.

I can extend this concept further. National Socialism is popular in some black metal circles, but that is mainly because it’s easier to label oneself a National Socialist and start collecting gear and posing than it is to understand the core concept of National Socialism, which is a feudalistic ethnocultural post-moral revival of classical Indo-European culture. That relatively complex thought gets distilled down to, as Faulkner said, “a hatred of black skins” alone, and thus parodies itself. What kind of idiot believes that African genocide will solve humanity’s problems? Black Sabbath were more advanced in thought with “Satan laughing spreads his wings” than all the goose-stepping fools, or those from the opposite end who make the same mistake, the leftist: they assume that by labelling themselves as egalitarian and tolerant that humanity’s problems will resolve themselves on the level of public discourse. All of them are misguided, and represent waste by the roadside of a path to knowledge.

Death metal and grindcore had its own version of this comedy. Bands like Carcass and Morpheus used intricate descriptions of death and decay as a way of reminding their audience that public reality is a dream designed to deny death, and that when we realize our own mortality, we can comprehend that meaning is not found in public discourse or in liberal/conservative platitudes, but in addressing reality – yes, actual reality, including that good and bad are needed to produce meta-good – we liberate ourselves from illusion and can begin work on the real task. They were followed by unnamed and now thankfully forgotten bands who found an identity in glorifying death, bloodshed, violence, disease, perversity and disgust, all in full ignorance of the original concept. It is not surprising the music of these bands was also of a lesser nature, as their thinking was clearer on a more basic, linear level.

In my view, there is truth to be found in all of these viewpoints, if interpreted correctly. National Socialism and liberalism are not that far apart when we look at their basic motivation; both want to establish healthy cultures where people are not left to the predatory whim of speculative capital. Satan and gore both wish to affirm natural belief over that of the thing-as-named public reality. Even Christians and pagans have the same essential goal, which is to find a larger reason to have values outside the material and thus find meaning in existence. However, our time is confused, as somewhere along the path to this “great” industrial society we have lost the systems of thought that give a whole meaning to the entire process of life, instead of selecting some aspect with which to label oneself and hold up as a shield of “meaning” against death. In a confused time, only a few actually seek truth, while everyone else looks for it as they might a product on a shelf or the best fruit among the ripening burden of branches.

This article is not an attempt to discredit or assault bands who use Satan as metaphor; much like Blake, or Dante, or Eliot, or any number of artists, their quest is legitimate. It should serve, however, as an introduction to the theory of metal as an art form, and an explanation of why there are so many mediocre imitators, of “Satanist” or leftist or NSBM variety alike, and only a few leaders, and thus, a mandate for future thinkers in this genre to start with the leaders and not the followers. Metal remains under assault by both public culture and public “counter-culture” (an anti-establishment affirmation of public cultural beliefs, in trendier form) alike, and thus must keep an intellectual and artistic lead or it will be assimilated and left with Slipknot, Korn and Creed as its tombstone.

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Interview: Mr Blaash (Where’s My Skin? Zine)

Those on the prowl for interesting literature about the metal movement may be familiar with Mr. Blaash of Where’s My Skin? zine. His misanthropic commentaries on metal, death, life, self-mutilation and guns are gratifying to those of us who have experienced enough alienation to hate any form of sociability. Blaash kindly granted an interview between reloads on his MP5 during a streetfight in Houston.

How did you get into black metal: was there metal before it that you liked, did it alone appeal to you, or did you find it through a non-metal genre?

Hm. When I was a little blaash, back in the 80s, I found early bands like SLAYER, early METALLICA with Cliff (no remorse, no regrets, we don’t care, what it meant), early MEGADETH (its black Friday!), a little POSSESSED(7 churches), early SABBAT (a history of a time to come – from the UK before they turned UltraGay), and a fucking healthy LOUD dosage of RIGOR MORTIS ( DEMONS).. from there I instinctively turned to the glory of death metal, with DEMIGOD, XYSMA, FUNEBRE, PHLEGM, IMPETIGO, BOLT THROWER, CARCASS and so on.. mainly by listening to a radio show at like midnight by Wes Weaver (now of INFERNAL DOMINION) called Sweet Nightmares… around the time of my first issue oh, lets say 92 or so, I was introduced to the TAOG EHT FO HTAO demo from IMPALED NAZARENE.. I immediately made contact with the man and from henceward I followed with IMMORTAL’s “Fullmoon..”, MARDUK’s “dark endless” and COF’s “principle”.. it culminated with the first slicing as I heard the EMPEROR split with ENSLAVED.. truly an honour to have heard such albums before they have long since “progressed” or some such thing.. it is a shame that the younger generations (rightfully perhaps) spit upon these bands because they were introduced to the LATTER releases, instead of realizing that back in 93 or so that these were skullfucking releases at the time..

Describe what black metal sounds like to you.

As it should – Extreme, in at least some sense of the word.

Describe what black metal communicates to you.

Ah – An aura of violence followed by an intrinsic self destructive honour; that it is still within our grasp to end our own existence or that of another… feelings of no self worth, but with the knowledge that one does not need to have any.. perhaps this is sounding a bit confused; but for me it fuels the fire of negativism in my person; of continuing a fight with the knowledge that in the end I will lose; but that is not the point; the point is the struggle itself, and how many I plague, harass, molest, spread the seed of propaganda onto (heh or into)and/or horrify/depress or encourage others to do so….

What “is” black metal?

As with any form of medium; propaganda – a weapon to encourage negativity in the extreme to others…

How did you get into writing, and why did you choose to do Where’s My Skin?

When I was a young maggot I always had the penchant to write.. I used to write cynical opinions about world events.. I especially liked the LA riots (the darkies were outraged about something, so they destroyed THEIR OWN neighborhood.. shouldn’t they have at least destroyed somebody elses) and also Maggie Thatcher, and CNN (I really think they start the wars, just to have something on TV)…As I delved further into the scene, I ran into some killer zines like billy nocera’s COVEN zine and others.. however, I also ran into shittily written pieces of fucking nonsensical crap – I could not tolerate the extremely poor grammar and just outright usage of the same ‘its brutal man’ reviews. Fuck I couldn’t fucking stand it. Theres nothing wrong with a shitty looking zine – hell look at mine; but at the very least compose it competently.. a good current example would be HELLISH MASSACRE from Sweden.. also TALES FROM THE EIBON (france), tho needs A LOT OF WORK… seems to be showing improvement..

Do you believe as did Georges Bataille that human life in part consists of looking for a good method of expenditure, meaning a means of expression that culminates in the depletion of the life itself?

I believe this is simply a metaphor for ‘finding a goal’ in life. To find ‘meaning’ – be it rape, serial killing or an accounting position at KPMG.. as one attempts to reach these goals, he is confounded (and/or arrested or shot, depending on what goals one pursues)… and eventually dies. Bataille was quite a healthy pervert and an esoteric/violent thinker, from what little I know of him. Would probably great to trade stories with over whiskey.

Let us consider in particular how concepts are formed; each word immediately becomes a concept, not by virtue of the fact that it is inteded to serve as a memory (say) of the unique, utterly individualized, primary experience to which it owes its existence, but because at the same time it must fit countless other, more or less similar cases, i.e. cases which strictly speaking are never equivalent, and thus nothing other than non-equivalent cases. Just as it is certain that no leaf is ever exactly the same as any other leaf, it is equally certain that the concept ‘leaf’ is formed by dropping these individual differences arbitrarily, by forgetting those features which differentiate one thing from another, so that the concept then gives rise to the notion that something other than leaves exists in nature, something which would be ‘leaf,’ a primal form, say, from which all leaves were woven, drawn, delineated, dyed, curled, painted — but by a clumsy pair of hands, so that no single example turned out to be a faithful, correct, and reliable copy of the primal form. We call a man honest; we ask, ‘Why did he act so honestly today?’ Our answer is usually: ‘Because of his honesty.’ Honesty! — yet again, this means that the leaf is the cause of the leaves.

– F.W. Nietzsche, On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense

Is there any division between love and hate for you?

Well. They’re spelled differently. Hows that?Hm. Both are strong emotions…. I myself am trying to move to that cold, negative feeling that one gets when listening to the ANTAEUS interludes from CYAWS.. of simply Not caring. Par example “No I don’t hate that person, because that would mean I care about them – I just want them dead”… I realize in our pseudo nihilistic coalition it is necessary to have those with passion (and strong emotion like hate); those who enjoy their work – these men (women?) will be the brutal, sadistic serial killers that truly define us.. while we just sit back and guffaw when we read about the newest missing daughter’s breasticle found in her mothers shoe…

Most art in this postmodern time outside of black metal seems to focus on finding a convenient way to express the idea that human life is valuable. Why is it artistically, politically and socially valuable for you to think otherwise?

The morals of the current American society have attempted to teach this; however, I believe it is having the opposite effect.. the morally deviant can obviously see the hollowness of this deluge; hell, even the supposed xtians are doing the opposite these days..I have always been wary of society and socially accepted principles – I see nothing but mediocrity and hypocrisy .. that is one reason I have embraced the path of self destruction and disdain for the majority of society…

Do you think armed political uprising is in the American future?

No. Big Brother has too much of a stranglehold.. if we in turn manage some decent domestic terrorism, it will only serve as a carte blanche for the government to act in silencing us further.. still. It would be interesting to bring down the wrath of oppression – as it nominally, at the least, brings forth rebellion and then violent repression.. so.

What is your preferred method of killing humans?

Havent killed any, so unfortunately I cant give a first hand account and/or description and high points/low points of such an activity. However, I am very, very prone to projectile weapons.Again, those with the passion to properly enjoy this activity should be on our payroll; but me, hell, I just want to get the job done; I have a bar I have to go to afterwards anyway.

You live in one of the most ethnically- and culturally-diverse cities on earth, Houston. What do you like about Houston, and what do you dislike?

I can see you giggling as you write that statement. What the fuck .. we have a dangerous VietCong Mafia, 4thWard NigsAplenty, the BlackHand Messican mafia, and more Nigerian cabbies then I can shake my willy at.. there is NOTHING to like.. fuck. The only interesting thing is that there are Europeans (women) that come here, due to Houston being a port city. It is a nice break from the fucking Huge FuckinG MOO-Cows we have runnin’ around here that pass for women. Shit.

Isn’t it fucking hot as hell there?

Prozak – I’m gonna kick you in the groin for that one when/if I see you at the SatanTonio Fest in December. Fuck yeah its like breathing in a nuclear cloud – I don’t fucking care if its sunny in all of the south, we’re in a fucking sewer in Houston – the humidity makes it feel like youre in a sauna – to boot, it rains a lot, and then its SUNNY at the same time – great for blinding you and making you sweat your ass off. I guaranFuckinGtee satan thinks that even Houston might be a good training ground for some of his potential executives.

What do you like and dislike about Texas?

Likes –
Waco – hehe. Killed us some ATF agents we did. In the name of god too. Hehe
Guns. Lots of em.
Not too many Yankees – The northern aggressors
Space – nice, open non populated, flat space.
Cheap consumer goods – food, clothes, cocaine, whiskey, porn etc

Dislikes –
COPS – there are four fucking kind of cops in Houston alone that can shoot me – the Department of public safety (they have cowboy hats and BIG guns), Houston police, Houston Constables, County Sheriffs, METRO police.. shit
THE WEATHER – see above
The sports teams – they all choke/suck and I still watch them
THE WEATHER
The women – MOO.. they have trained the men to like them and think its okay theyre fat, overweight and whiney. The men feel They Have To Like Them because that’s ALL that’s around here. Shit they showed some pics of dallas women lookin’ all hot and slutty like – I bet they weren’t from dallas.. I’m exagerattin’ a bit I suppose – but its especially horrible in Houston.. when you can get a .99 cent hamburger and a .79 64oz coke and NOT do any exercise.. shit. You get an inflated heifer

Of course.. I ll plug them here I suppose

Are there any local bands you find excellent?

KATHONIK – most underrated band of houston – the front man for this band has been around for 10 fucking years, 4 demos, an unreleased (never will be) older album and a newer cd (that still needs proper releasement) – killllller razor in your face black with a touch of doom.. http://kathonik.cjb.net
ADUMUS – hehe. I know you don’t like the keyboards, but heh.http://come.to/adumus
BRUTALLY MUTILATED – old style IMPETIGO worship
BLACK BONED ANGEL – satanic celtic frost Johnny cash
TO SCALE THE THRONE – basic straight forward mid paced black..www.geocities.com/toscalethethrone
INFERNAL DOMINION – ex IMPRECATION .. fast as fuck brutal satanic death
THE DRUNKS – VIOLENT WHISKEY ROCKNROLL – excellent live shows.. good cover of witching hour..
UNCHRIST – newer band – good demo release – kathonik members
HIDEOUSLY DEFLESHED Uhm.. I liked their vocals – that is what saved me from just walking away from the stage in boredom…http://www.hdsproductions.cc/
I’m sure I forgot someone.. I suppose I’ll just get thocked for it.

What do you think distinguishes Texas as a locality from other areas, aside from climactic and geographical concerns?

We have a lot of satanic Hispanics? I don’t know. For some reason, I’ve noticed, even when in other countries, that I state I am a Texan first… I guess its because I’ve personally become enamored with the right of Texans to shoot and kill anybody attempting to steal property at night. Or the “trespassers will be SHOT” signs I see on open roadside (where I’m sure some redneck with a sniper rifle is just waiting for a city boy to try to piss on it)… just the fact that we up and stole this land fair n square from the Mexicans two centuries ago and that we joined the yankee coalition of states as a Favour to them. We have our oil, NASA (for space defense) and our own ground/air forces, so I don’t see a problem with becoming the United Texan Front or something…

Do you think there will be another truly great band from Texas?

You mean besides RIGOR MORTIS and ABSU .. and NECROVORE (I ‘m unfamiliar with this band however, but it is greatly appreciated it seems)…I think so. The climate and road construction leads to so much rage I figure it will manifest itself in another project. Who this might be.. I don’t know.

What are your feelings on Texas seceding from the Union?

See above.

do you think metal music is a form of rock-n-roll?

I am not a metal geetarist per se- but many I know seem have all started out with the older bands of rocknroll and such… and many still admire the technical proficiency of said artists.. I would like to say we’ve defined our own sub genre that cannot be categorized with simple rock bands; however though that argument may hold true for younger dragoons within the metal ranks, it might not hold much veracity with the elders of this genre – mainly with more experience there usually comes further education into other forms of music etc..

What is most important in a metal band, composition, production or attitude? Can these be separated?

1st Attitude – what is the goal with the propaganda – to just make racket and keep mum and dad awake at night. too much jerkin’ off so may as well try the geetar? Play in a rock band to get chix? Which is it?

2nd Okay – youre an evil motherfucker trying to seduce young jedis to the darkside, now what? Can’t play an instrument to save your life eh? Well fucking learn the basics before composing the propaganda – badly formulated propaganda encourages Ridicule..

3rd Production – low production means youre heavy – bad production means youre raw and kult – good production means you did it ABYSS studios and sold out.

When you hear something for the first time, how do you analyze it? For what do you listen?

Drums … I like blasting violence THEN.. vocals – horribly painful vocals like FUNERAL MIST, BETHLEHEM or ANTAEUS (live or rehearsal) can easily encourage Violence and Suicide.Lastly, geetars.. I can’t stand solos.. so unless its horrible I judge these last.

Do you believe the values and beliefs of artists shape the music they produce?

I would like to think so – ive noticed a change as of late.. in the early days of WMSitude, I used to ask bands the equivalent question of their beliefs and the reflection into music… most early bands (death, grind) simply liked playing aggressive music.. with the advent of black metal, it seems that it is Very Important that life imitates the music they produce.. and that is what I prefer.. THOUGH, there were some early satanic death and VIOLENT porn/rape/gore bands that were totally fucking into mass murder and of course endless sodomy of young pigtailed little catholic school girl anuses… so…

Does this explain “Christian metal”?

I have no logical explanation for xtian metal. IF this is to exist, I want more like David Koresh – he played that thar geetar, fucked everybody’s wives, and then done and shot and kilt some Federales…

In your opinion, what is the symbolic value of “Satan” to a modern society and those who wish to reprogram it?

It is an easy symbol to recognize as negativism… easiest put – the baphomet, the upsidedown cross, etc, represent to normal society something “bad”. It is then those who are wearing it that bicker/personalize what it means to them..

Do you believe “terrorism” is a valid way to describe the tactics of America’s current “enemies”?

Yep. Good for them. Fucking smartfucking towel heads. I comment on this greatly in upcoming issue h8te, which will be out in November.

What zines do you read?

I just got FINAL SOLUTION from spain – good interviews in that one; correct mindset for writing.. I naturally have a liking towards the JenOside33 issue#1.. heh. I like older DESCENT mags and also NORDIC VISION (its pretty)… HELLISH MASSACRE is number one on my list right now.. its gonna take a lot to get me away from that one.. IMPAIRED (mKm’s zine) was huge.. I would like to get hold of 666 zine from france…

Do you think black metal ever had a clear direction, or is that something we assume looking back into the past?

The latter. Too many of the so-called visionaries of the black metal elite got themselves stabbed or put in jail. The propaganda machine splintered into different factions, and thus we stand where we are now.. a re emergence of nihilism and flesh mutilation… not a bad thing. But it does seem to be circular…

Do you believe history “exists,” or that each age invents an interpretation of previous events to justify its position?

Heh, I believe those who Won The War Write The History. If you got fucked, well, history will put you as getting fucked, even if you put up a helluva fight. Yes, we do manufacture history as we need to, but not like the good ole days in 1930s germany. Man did they come up with some good shit. And also W.A.R here in the US has some need ideas on history, and its placement of the Zionist Occupational Government and the Gubment Cheese Getters (darkie)

Is there any “hope” for the human species?

Hope for what? I’ve read some of the manifestos at http://www.anus.com/anus/ideology/index.html …very interesting and I can admire the thought put into rationalizing Stupid Human Tendencies… But honestly, it doesn’t concern me… Shit will continue in one form or another after I’m gone, and you’re gone. So why do I care for the future?

These idiots who failed at that bank robbery in Norfolk, NE – how did they manage to do such impressive shooting yet utterly flail when it came to taking the till?

HEHE. I was happy to finally seem some people killed in a bank robbery.. but again. I would prefer if it were authorities. No, nobody is innocent, but if youre going to go on a shooting spree, go on a SHOOTING SPREE. If you’re gonna rob a bank, GET THE CASH. I heard there were like 4 or 5 head shots.. so I guess they just panicked, and started putting bullets in peoples heads. First way to get on the bad side of the law.

Are there any historical figures who have impressed you?

Ho chi minh – gotta like anybody who fucked the French right? (sneak and surround French man drinking wine in valley called dien bein phu)Joseph Goebbels – Nazi Minister of Propaganda.

What was the last book you read that made a lasting impression?

I live off the horrible gore of this man alone – Edward Lee. If you don’t know him – you must – fuck all other horror out there – this is The Shit.The last book I read was Sex Drugs and PowerTools – fuckin’ Christ. Check out whatsaheader.com for more info also heheh movie rights were given to them…http://www.necropublications.com/titles/sexdrug.htmI rarely indulge in the reading of any of the nihilistic writers.. though I suppose I should since I consider myself mostly nihilist.. ennui once again stunts my growth…

Awaiting the intention is neither a reflection upon the “goal” nor an expectation of the imminent completion of the work to be produced. It does not have the nature of a thematic grasping at all. Nor does retaining what is relevant mean holding fast to it thematically. Handling things is no more related merely to what it handles than to what it uses in relevance. Rather, being relevant constitutes itself in the unity of awaiting and retaining in such a way that the making present arising from this makes the characteristic absorption in taking care in the world of its useful things possible. When one is “really” busy with… and totally immersed in it, one is neither only together with the work nor with the tools nor with both “together.” Being in relevance, which is grounde din temporality, has already founded hte unity of the relations in which taking care of things “moves” circumspectly.

A specific kind of forgetting is essential for the temporality that constitutes being in relevance. In ordre to be able to “really” get to work “lost” in the world of tools and to handle them, the self must forget itself.
– Martin Heidegger, Being and Time

Black metal was born right as the internet began being popularized in American and European homes. How has black metal been changed by the net, and vice versa?

Well now I can find anything out it seems by just typing it in the google search engine. That’s both good and bad.. now I have the information, but I cant hoard it and feel self important when I name drop.On the other hand, every bob, akhmed and zimboobma can make a cDr and put it on their webpage so now we have Afrikkkaner Black SpearChucking Metal.. sheesh. It allows for ridiculous crap that would have been stifled because it would not have been cost effective. The internet allows stupidity to be free of the righteous pain it should attain; after all, stupid should Hurt…

Is there human consciousness outside of the brain? In another phrasing: is the brain where the body, mind and soul exist, or is there another world in which these functions exist?

I am of the notion that there is something after my brain receives too many 9mm hollopoint bullets fired from a SWAT team members mp-5. I think it will equally suck.

Why do you think people go hogwild for religion? What do you suggest instead of religion to take care of the same need?

Sigh. Nothing. Too many persons are weak and need a crutch, or are hypocrites who have learned that just coz you say youre xtian, hell that means you can fuck your daughter and the dog in a 69 position and sell it on the internet as long as you ask forgiveness on Sunday. .. and give the minister a copy of course…It is convenience – religion is already set up; humanity as a whole is lazy, and is predisposed to go with what is at hand. Me, I’m gonna go jerk off. That’s what I feel about religion.

Where does one buy CDs and related stuff in Houston?

Sound exchange. http://www.soundexchangehouston.com/ Used to be a KILLER place called SOUND PLUS.. but sadly, it died a couple years ago.. that’s where I was first able to get Osmose releases (first and second IMMORTAL etc) WITHOUT paying Osmose prices (though it was still 20 bux for imports..)…

What do you think of the art of suicide bombing?

Good fucking Job. Good idea. Hell. We need some of those kids. Why the hell don’t we have our own suicide bombers. Damnit. Somebody get the Procurement Department on that one.Man. Tho.. I would at least want a good ole fashioned 12 hour orgy of catholic school girls BEFORE I go meet allah….

What lies next for your zine?

Issue H8TE young Prozak, Issue H8te. Finally to be released with a 12 page (I think) diatribe dedicated to hatred… examples taken from the school yard, from work and from terrorterrorterror… yessirrree bob. I guarantee you this will be just as shitty as before, with the same fucking horrible humour and tasteless porn and violence and bloodletting. Bands also.. confirmed KRIEG, WATAIN, MALICIOUS SECRETS, URGEHAL, HORNA, ARKHON INFAUSTUS, DAWN OF AZAZEL, NECROPLASMA, ARMAGEDDA.Who am I waiting on: AZAGHAL, HELL MILITIA and TEMPLE OF BAAL..And theres always issue 9…

I’ve always been impressed by the mix of metal, mutilation and machine guns. How did you come across this combination?

Death metal to me should have been simple – propaganda encouraging death. Most accessible are sharp knives and guns. Thus, logically, I should incorporate the instruments of death with the metal of death neh? Black metal brings to mind suicide and violence, with a little perversion to boot. Thus, some black metal causes blood to drip from my flesh. That goes in the issue, as it relates to black metal. You forgot porn too. I am one of the most perverted motherfuckers out there – and I guarantee you, if youre into metal, youre into porn – the two just go hand in hand.. so you see, its all a marketing strategy (heh)Yeah right. That’s why ive sold I think less issues then well.. not a lot of em. That’s fine. My goal is not to have many copies floating around.. I assume that those who want to read this shit, will find it.

Do you think there’s been a demographic shift in the black metal movement during the past few years (since 1998) to a younger audience?

Yes. See way, way above. Younger persons in the extreme scene have the benefit now of being able to pick and choose, and also ignore the first monuments that came out in the early 90s. Not a problem really.. but now also with all this CDR trading replacing tape trading and these high tech doodads that allow music to be taken from sites.. it leads to a proliferation of short term shit – what I mean is, yes, of course, there are those who will take this propaganda to heart; but there are those who will take it for a short while, and then find yet another form to entertain them; what I mean is that they leave their crap around for us to step in; before hand, in the days of Paper, one had to write and send tapes and such – it cost money ; nowadays, one can put ones fecal matter on a webpage and spread their e-coli music as such.

If you have any hopes for the future of metal as both a musical movement and a political/social one, please detail them here along with anything else I forgot.

It’s all in issue h8te son. You do us a service, mr. Prozak – I gather both a smirk of approval to an all out heil prozak with the material you have written and continue to produce – a true architect of propaganda you are, and should be bestowed the mandatory schoolgirls for slavery and sodomatic rites.

Mr. Blaash
http://wheresmyskin.cjb.net/

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Interview: Cory Allen (Acerbus)

Acerbus have for some time been the enigma of the Texas scene: music that takes the furthest extension of death metal extremity known to humanity, the technical deathgrind genre, and expands it with a progressive and conceptually advanced edge that leaves most typical listeners of any genre standing open-mouthed. Well-versed in conventional music, Acerbus are exploring for new ground, and we were lucky to be able to talk to guitarist Cory during a break from his rocket science experiments. “Can the man behind the mask answer a few questions?”

What do you see as the distinction between art and entertainment, if one exists?

I definitely think a dichotomy between art and entertainment exists. I believe that art is a mental expression through your physical self, releasing any number of emotions, creative ideas, or in some cases rather scientific musical ideologies based on charted biological responsive “information.” I believe that entertainment is more based around the ever-popular biological survival ticket, or the dollar. Entertainment is something that 47-year-old men sit around in boardrooms concocting trying to blend the perfect ideas to entertain the masses and rake in an easy 1.5 billion in 2 weeks. You know, prime time television shows, game shows, reality shows, family movies, blockbusters, etcetera.

Do you believe art begins as a conception independent of its medium, or is it strictly configurations within the medium that inspire an aesthetic appreciation?

I believe that this varies from individual artist to individual artist. Speaking personally it’s a mixture of the two. Without a doubt it’s more of an inspired aesthetic appreciation and vision yet independent conceptualism does play its roll in some of my song writing. As in extremely awkward things that related none what so ever, not even related percussivly to music induces a spawning of musical ideas.

Do you think it’s possible that a band make significant art with only a handful of power chords?

It all depends on your definition of “art”. It’s like a space-time continuum paradox similar to Schrodinger’s Cat or Einstein’s mouse. I mean, the most beautiful and amazing piece of art to me could be garbage to you, so it’s possible or impossible depending on your perception of what art is. Short answer Yes with a capital N and long answer No with a capital Y.

Are emotions part of the logical process of the mind in your opinion, or are they of the mind?

I think that emotions are stuck somewhere in our time-evolved mammalian primitive minds. They are thoughts that cause nothing more that problems and weakness yet they are necessary so that the human DNA strand will survive and not kill itself off. It was VERY smart and sneaky of our DNA strands to slip that anti self-destruct mechanism into our biological programming.

Are you a materialist (no other words besides this one) or do you have any forms of transcendent mystical belief?

In no way am I a materialist. I do have what I believe is a very open minded transcendent belief. A belief really consisting nothing more that knowing that there are an infinite amount of possibilities and a complete void of fact behind any of them. Even if there were “facts” remember what a very smart man once said, “There are no facts, only interpretations.”

Marijuana seems to be a divine substance to many. So you think this is an accident of nature, something we’ve conditioned ourselves to find, or an accidental property of the substance – or another possibility?

I was actually discussing this yesterday. Once again, there are millions of scenarios containing endless amounts of speculation within each but I will tell you about an interesting theory that I had on the subject. Say the earth is a living organism. Thriving physically and possessing an extremely advanced consciousness that of which is beyond our imaginations or comprehension, i.e., growing wood on its surface for its experiment “humans” to use to build devices to help them live easier therefore longer. It distanced itself the seemingly PERFECT distance from the sun so with its what we see as annual rotation calculated its experiment could live comfortably under the climate conditions. Basically, the miracle plant is just another thing that the earth has grown for us as it watched its experiment get more and more hostile toward one another and boxed into ridiculously small reality tunnels. The growing of the plant by the earth provides its experiment with calmness, happiness, heightened physical pleasure and expanded thinking modulation to help shatter some of those miniscule sized reality tunnels that the humans that are too scared of their own existence want you to reside in forever. But hey, it actually doesn’t sound that far from the truth does it? (You know you read too much philosophy when you answer a question with a question! HA!)

What would your ideal lifestyles be, if you were exempted from the problems of resource scarcity?

I would begin by eliminating 90% of the population, which would be a huge step in the right direction of an ideal lifestyle. Other than that, all I would really yearn for is to be alone in a huge building consisting of a giant music and book library, a state of the art professional studio and a musical instrument library consisting of every instrument in existence. I suppose a gigantic INSIDE pool heated to 98 degrees would be in order as well. I love water. Looking at it, being in it (when it’s clean), drinking it, and thinking about it. It’s pretty amazing to me. It’s the mystery substance!

Do you think some bands are better at aesthetics than music, and should be lauded for opening doors that musically competent descendants will explore? (Think: Venom)

My answer to that question is a rather repugnant one in that I do not approve of artists that rely strictly on aesthetics because 9 times out of 10 that reeks of gimmick. Yet as you noted bands of that illustration have opened doors for artists who have created relevant and meaningful art. Therefore, I think that the grandfather artist (ones of aesthetic dependence) should not be glorified simply due to the fact that their gimmicky “act” unbeknownst to them happened to influence an artist of substance to create something momentous.

What do you see as the ideological, musical and social roots of the death metal movement?

I think that bands such as Deicide, Suffocation, Carcass, Morbid Angel (barf), and Napalm Death fundamentally established the foundation of the death metal movement. Actually, I think almost every new band’s ideologies and “social” roots (not something I enjoy at all in the death metal world) are still somehow based and JUDGED (its VERY harsh these days) on what thoughts the revolutionaries first had. It’s as if these bands created a steel mold for the rules of the genre and all that really happens even after 10 years of existence is bands just filling that mold and ever so slightly expanding on it. That’s definitely something I try to focus on during song writing, to try something new for the genre, and by new I don’t necessarily mean undistorted jazzy fills and adagiated bridges but just in a compositional manner or how the over all conception of the endless possibilities of an instrument are conceived. I think that some people that have yet to get up and peek out of the top of that mold that they’ve been sitting in the bottom of for the last few years will be jaded by this but I think the genre will dry up, get old and fizzle out if some people don’t start having an open mind about the genre’s amazing possibilities and its future and if someone doesn’t have the gallantry to take a chance on expanding the genres limits. You know you can only eat your favorite food everyday for lunch for so many years before it become bland and uninteresting. Music needs spicing up ever so often just like food.

In your opinion, what are the primary musical differences in form between black metal and death metal?

First, touching lightly on the more prominent definitions of the metal genre, and what I would look at as somewhat stating the obvious to any competent individual, I think that DM’s energy is generally fueled more by gore and technicality and BM’s energy is usually fueled more by rage (as blind and unguided as it may be sometimes). The vocal style usually sticks out like a sore thumb as DM vocals prefer the guttural growls or pig noises and BM vocals usual prescribe to the high screechy or I just slammed my genitals in a sliding glass door vocal style. BM guitars are generally consisted of standard tunings, which goes along with the high screechy vocals, where DM bands enjoy the tuned down sound (which in my opinion has become rather ridiculous these days. ACERBUS tunes to CFA#D#GC which is two full steps down on each string and that isn’t really considered that low in comparison to some bands in modern times), once again the deep guitars are coinciding with the vocal style.

Now to get slightly more in depth with my segregation descriptions, I will try to expand more. The musical stylings that I hear in BM songs are primarily composed of mutated minor chords. Quite often I find BM bands utilizing natural minor chords, which lacks a major seventh. While “eerie” or “whiney” sounding it provides no real power or emphasis to the root note of the chord. Harmonic and Melodic minor chords are intermingled with the natural minors to provide power and still retain a “dark” sound. These Harmonic and Melodic minor chords are used to strengthen the minor keys, there for giving way for some dark powerful sounding riffing. As far as an individual riffing style I think audibly there is an obvious sound that is generally more “open” and “breathing” even a somewhat dissonant and definitely more disharmonious sound with a tendency to move in shapes and patterns based on a full note chord to a two and a half step dropped minor chord reverting to the previous full chord with a slight half step rise minor alteration then reverting back to a lower minor chord plus and uncontrolled arpeggiation to follow with implied and increased attack to end and finally execute one performance of a riff. As far as a BM orchestration goes, I think BM focuses more on long-winded repetitious movements using the vocal pattern as lead point of which to follow and adhere to, almost defined as a somewhat deranged classical definition of the term symphony.

I think that the majority of death metal band’s riffing focuses on using diatonic chords intermingled with modulated minor pentatonic single notes tremolo picked scales to provide a constantly powerful, even, and bludgeoning barrage of whole note patterns and movements. Unlike BM, DM bands are not partial to letting songs “breath” or become “dissonant”. DM bands are usual very heavily infatuated with a song structure that has no musical “holes”, or a lack of sonic intensity at anytime in anyway. Unfortunately, I think during composition a lot of DM bands lose sight of the meaning behind the word orchestration. Ive noticed that a lot of DM bands just seem like the write 50 riffs, put them into a hat and randomly pull them out in no order yet string them all together using drums fills.

Today there are plenty of modest and worthy laboreres among scholars, too, who are happy in their little nooks; and because they are happy there, they sometimes demand rather immodestly that one ought to be content with things today, generally — especially in the domain of science, where so much that is useful remains to be done. I am not denying that; the last thing I want is to destroy the pleasure these honest workers take in their craft: for I approve of their work. But that one works rigorously in the science and that there are contented workers certainly does not prove that science as a whole poesses a goal, a will, an ideal, or the passion of a great faith. The opposite is the case, to repeat: where it is not the latest expression of the ascetic ideal–and the exceptions are too rare, noble, and atypical to refute the genreal proposition–science today is a hiding place for every kind of discontent, disbelief, gnawing worm, despectio sui, bad conscience–it is the unrest of the lack of ideals, the suffering from the lack of any great love, the discontent in the face of involuntary contentment.

– F.W. Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals

Is there such a thing as musical novelty? (a combination of notes striking or distinctive for purely musical reasons, with no other implications) or do you attribute what is commonly identified as such as being more of a stylistic novelty?

Yes, but I don’t think it is as much a musical novelty as it is a programmed effect that has thwarted us as time and “standards” have evolved. It’s almost more of a comforting thing to the ears of the close-minded more than a stylistic redundancy. Over time people have been “programmed” to recognize what sounds “correct” and “incorrect” in music, and really all other aspects of life as well. It’s quite a shame but its true. Certain progressions of musical notes or chords have been labeled “incorrect” because to most people they sound “ugly” (minor chords, several notes played at once which are out of key with on another), while others are considered beautiful (whole note chords, several notes played in octave). They both sound beautiful to me, just different. Who are we to say that certain notes grouped together are right or wrong? My interpretation of this ridiculous dilemma is that it clearly seems as if this musical decision coincides with the rest of general human ideology. Humans are always trying to label “beautiful” or “normal” people/animals good and “ugly” or “different” people/animals bad. This reflects onto all aspects of general human thinking so why not let it bleed into music as well? We are brainwashed into thinking that what is disharmonious is “bad” and what is harmonious is “good”. Some people might think its preposterous for me to make a statement such as this but I think its preposterous for people to be trapped in a musical box which has been assembled by their “peers” and guaranteed by record labels which focus on the business of music rather than the music of music.

In ancient Greece, poetry was considered incomplete without accompanying music which united the significance of the words with the significance of certain tones and musical shapes. Is there any relevance of this idea today?

I think so. Music completes life. Certain songs complete and are appropriate for every, and any occasion. The choice of this music is, of course, up to the individual and will never be the exact same for any two people. I’m generally awake 19 or 20 hours every day and there is literally no more than two hours or so of my day, everyday, that is void of music. Working in a music store definitely contributes to my habits.

What inspired you about the deathgrind genre, or was it a culmination of other influences?

It has been countless influences, and the influences that influenced the people that influenced me. As Einstein said, you must honor the gift of evolution that is life, which has been worked on diligently for millions of years. People often tend to look that fact of existence over. I try to take the same approach to music, it seems like great men in the past have already done all of the really hard things in music for me and I think that now, anyone who picks up a musical instrument is on easy street in comparison to these previous achievements. Do you know off the top of your head who invented the first sound recording device?

I will try and stop from getting to far away from the question at hand and get back to my most prominent influences. I guess in the very beginning, 6 years ago, when I was 14 years old and had picked up a guitar for the first time, I was worshiping 3 bands. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Primus, and Deicide. I loved the sound experimentation and groundbreaking abstracting of music that Hendrix had, I loved the sense of humor and unconventuallity of Primus, and the aggression and technicality of Deicide. Those are the bands that made me want to pick up a guitar and that eventually drove me to create a band of my own that I wanted to contain all of the things that drew me to my early influences, in one single band. Now days the only thing that REALLY inspires me is avant-garde classical composers, i.e., Philip Glass, John Cage, Steve Reich, Kronos Quartet, ect.

What do you normally listen to in your time off from being death metal terrorists?

Actually, I enjoy listening to almost every genre of music. I really like Modern Psychedelic music, tons of obscure Classical composures, truck loads of Jazz and all of its sub-genres, of course Metal, Electronic music, Meditation music, Noise artists, and International (there are some really amazing eastern musicians). The list really has no end. What I’m listening to from each genre always changes but I can give you some things that are currently finding their way off the shelf into my CD player.

Kronos Quartet – “Black Angels”
Tan Dun – “Ghost Opera”
Suffocation – “Peirced from Within” and “Effigy of the Forgotten”
Jonas Hellborg/Shawn Lane/Jim Sipe – “Personae” and “Zenhouse”
Uncle Moe’s Space Ranch – “self-titled”
Clinic – “Walking with Thee”
Godspeed You Black Emperor – “Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven”
Philip Glass “Glassworks”
John Cage “The Seasons” (Margaret Leng Tan’s toy piano piece is amazing!)
Flaming Lips – “Soft Bulletin” and “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots”
Autechre – “Gantz Graf” and “Tri Repeatae”
Gyorgy Ligeti – “Ligeti Project II”
Medeski Martin and Wood – “The Dropper” and “Uninvisible”
John Zorn/Mike Patton – “Hemophiliac”
Pat Martino – “Live at Yoshi’s”
John Adams “Naive and Sentimental Music”
Primus “Pork Soda” and “Sailing the Seas of Cheese”
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – “Body and Soul”
Anoushka Shankar – “self-titled”

That’s what ive listened to heavily this week, but like I said the list is ever changing and I have a ton of CDs or so, so I’m always listening to something different.

Is there such a thing as political ideas expressed in art, or do you see there being a necessary connection between political ideas -> social ideas -> perceptive concepts?

There are political ideas expressed in art and rightfully so. Political ideas need expressing so why not use one of the most affective methods of convoying ideas as your medium?

I know you bastards read philosophy; what are your favorites? What did they express that was not seen articulated elsewhere?

Yes indeed. I guess a few favorites are Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Thus Spake Zarathustra”, Immanuel Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” (if you can make it through this book, read it again and ponder each line he writes, as each sentence holds at least a paragraph’s worth of metaphorical ideology. I own the Cambridge edition, it is abridged appropriately and edited in a way which makes the text easier {well I should say possible for most people to understand} for those who haven’t taken a Kantian philosophy course.), and while it is sort of a culmination of such topics as physics, philosophy, non-Aristotelian logic and semantics, I enjoy Alfred Korzybski’s “Science and Sanity.” I enjoy most titles by Robert Anton Wilson dealing with philosophy/consciousness expanding. While I believe most of his books are nothing more than other peoples’ ideas funneled down and regurgitated so people with “lesser intellectuality” can understand them and begin the process of consciousness expanding. Normally I would disagree with this method of funneling information/writing but he actually notes when he is taking from someone else’s thoughts or literature so that makes it valid in my eyes. His books are fun to read, he makes good points and has a great sense of humor. Stephen Hawking’s book, “A Brief History of Time” is good for the most part. I could go on forever here but I will list another good one, Carl Sagan’s “Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark.” To answer your second part to this question would be a whole other interview. The ideas expressed in these books that were not articulated elsewhere are so deep, vast and lengthy that a summarization of all of these individual ideas within a few pathetic sentences typed by myself, to me, would be an insult to the writers who I look at as some of the intellectual iron men of writing. Although, I believe a quick summary to someone who is interested and has never read or heard of any of these books is due. As basic and stripped down as it can be put, the over all point of all of these books is to force the reader to look at life in a different light. Metaphorically speaking, your mind is like a parachute. Closed you will die, open it will save your life and you will float above as you watch the others hit the ground screaming.

In spiritual practice, which is more important: coherence with natural schema of patterning, or symbolic adherence to human desires?

I think both are equally unimportant. Both are nothing more than a subconscious choice that is made of how a person perceives and interprets his/her own reality based on how their brain programs cropped and filed away the information of spirituality that has been directed to them and imprinted in their brains based on what experiences and information (or misinformation, really) they happen to come in contact with during their life that has consequently shaped their perception and beliefs according to these random events.

What do you think about Falun Gong?

From what I have read or been told about falun gong it’s really nothing more than Chinese yoga for people whose reality is based on pseudoscience. I know it involves physical postures accompanied by mediation which will supposedly promote mental/spiritual well being. I read an article in a magazine once with the “leader” stating by mastering falun gong you can obtain such metaphysical abilities as levitation and other supernatural powers. In my eyes, falun gong is as ridiculous as any other type or brand of a spiritual salvation that is defined by one living person (on an upside, at least their “leader” isn’t fictitious). Master Li, the “leader”, is the only person who can define the ways of F.G. therefore the ideology immediately causes me to burst into laughter and look at F.G. as nothing more than another man (Li) who is probably semi-intellectual who uses shills to control the minds of the mentally weak and needy. To me, the idea that a carbon based life form is to be looked at as a bringer of salvation is hilarious, pathetic and simultaneously horrifying in the fact that there are about 2 million people in the world that prescribe to the theory of falun gong. It’s a shame our species has bred beings that believe one of their own kind could be their bringer of salvation and are so mentally weak and distorted that they are sucked into a thin, as in lacking of content and containing no scientific relevance, vision of salvation in hopes of obtaining “supernatural” powers for no more than time and a likely weekly fee. I think the first step in demystifying any method that promises to bring salvation is if biological survival tickets (money) fit into the equation. I would imagine that a being that brings salvation would not be of biological content therefore would have an absent need for our (note the first word after the parenthesis) biological survival tickets.

Do you have any opinions of pornography? Do you feel it turns humans into symbolic structures in the same way religion does?

I think pornography is humorous. Not really from the point of view of the female who is baring her hide but from the male’s perspective. I think guys and women alike who enjoy pornography are either not aware of certain aspects of their existence or the worse scenario, are aware yet don’t care. Males tend to drool, stew, fantasize and obsess over pictures of naked females and critique their body in comparison to their personal preferences. Here is where the humor comes in. What males don’t realize whilst they enjoy porno is all they are doing is acting as the primates that they are, filled with a genetic structure that does not want to die out therefore possesses the constant need and want to reproduce. For example, when a guy says, “that bitch is hot”, unbeknownst to him he is thinking “the fat distribution and reproductive organs of the opposite sex in my sight seem extremely healthy and from what I’m perceiving visually has the ability to provide extremely healthy children for me.” When a guy looks at a pair of naked breasts he quivers, when in actuality that thought of lust running through his mind is nothing more that his deeply rooted and distilled thought that these mammary glands (plump breasts) will provide perfect sustenance for his offspring therefore promoting the longevity of his DNA strand, which is the most important aspect of a living organism. Apply this ideology to all other focuses of lust and there is a similar truth such as above behind each one. Peacocks spread their feathers to show the females the array of colors and the amount and fullness that their feathers possess which is a trait of a healthy male that in turn attracts the female, just as the human male works out, combs his hair, and wears becoming clothing etcetera, to attract the female. Unfortunately cars, money and so on are signs of power and well being which also attracts the human female. This is where the humor in pornography lies for me. When some pathetic male is gawking at or masturbating to a photo of a naked women he has no idea he is simply bleeding for his master, the DNA strand that is programmed to reproduce at all costs. Just as it is stereotypical for a male to feel and act “Zen-like” and feel necessary to reminisce of his previous nights copulative affairs with other males. He is satisfied physically that he has fulfilled his biological purpose in life and must tell the other males in his “tribe” of his affairs to gain a top dog status. Watching or hearing of these events provide me with endless laughter and entertainment; therefore the idea of pornography is extraordinarily humorous to me.

Another counsel of prudence and self-defense is to react as rarely as possible, and to avoid situations and relationships that would condemn one to suspend, as it were, one’s “freedom” and initiative and to become a mere reagent. As a parable I choose asociation with books. Scholars who at bottom do little nowadays but thumb books–philologists, at a moderate estimate, about 200 a day–ultimately lose entirely their capacity to think for themselves. When they don’t thumb, they don’t think. They respond to a stimulus (a thought they have read) whenever they think–in the end, they do not but react. Scholars spend all of their energies on Yes and NO, on criticism of what others have thought–they themselves no longer think.

The instinct of self-defense has become worn-out in them; otherwise they would resist books. The scholar –a decadent.

I have seen this with my own eyes: gifted natures with a generous and free disposition, “read to ruin” in their thirties — merely matches that one has to strike to make them emit sparks — “thoughts.”

Early in the morning, when day breaks, when all is fresh, in the dawn of one’s strength — to read a book at such a time is simply depraved!

– F.W. Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals

What activities do you have outside of music?

I don’t do a lot that doesn’t relate to music in some way. I enjoy drawing, writing text in a style I call “metaphilosophtry”, which is a mixture of metaphor, philosophy and poetry. I love reading philosophy, physics, and psychology books and really enjoy psychotropic experiences. Not sleeping much and drinking lots of coffee fits in there. I rarely go “out” as I hate loud noises (yes I know its sort of contradictory to being in a band but loud music is the only loud noises that are enjoyable to me) or being around people. Other than that there isn’t much I do that doesn’t have to do with music in some way or another.

What do you do to relax and have fun?

Well, there is the obvious, I play in Acerbus, I write music at my home and record various guitar or keyboard pieces on my digital studio. I try and have an intellectually stimulating conversation with someone every now and then. I’m quite the hermit and often refer to myself as a “misanthropic nihilistic introvert”. I love studying and thinking about the psychology involved with musical notes and progressions and I suppose the previous question will answer the rest.

If music is a language, what distinguishes certain pieces as impressive relates to the poetic content they express. Is there a difference between content and form in music?

I definitely think that certain progressions or orchestrations in musical notes, patterns of notes or chords will draw out certain emotions or trigger thought patterns that are unique to each listener. This is where my main interest in music lies. With every piece of music I write I keep in mind how it (the piece) will affect the listener on individual levels as well as in cohesion with the rest of the composed piece. I hope this is subconsciously apparent to people who listen to Acerbus. When people come to me after our shows they will tell me that we just sound “different” and that they cant quite place their finger on what it is but we just sound “different” to them. Hopefully this is a result of my psychological study of music at play since I write music utilizing certain aspects and attacking the listener’s ear in such a way that their brain cant help but to register these sounds on their musical spectrum as “new”, hence people telling me Acerbus just sounds “different” to them. Hopefully this method is at play but one can never be absolutely sure.

What’s wrong with humanity?

Do you want me to write a 2000 page essay here? I’ll give it to you as stripped down as possible. Humans have “evolved” to a biological life form that holds horrible traits called narcissism, ego, deceitfulness and personal dogma. America has arrived at a point where everything is based on biological survival tickets (money) and milking and flexing the primitive aspects of humans for all that their worth. Everyone in America (99%) has the mindset as follows: me first, I’m right you’re wrong, I am not successful without loads of money, I must outdo everyone else in the world on every level to retain top dog status, I’m the most important being on the face of this planet that would shrivel and die if I were to cease to exist. It’s sad really because life would be grand if everyone would drop all of this self important hogwash and read a book about, or at least an introduction to non-Aristotelian thought. Unfortunately, this will never happen so I say it would be in our best interests as a species to destroy all existing political and social parties and try to start over again with an actual democracy instead of one that spoon feeds its residents the illusion of freedom, the illusion of choice and the illusion of safety.

if you could be one non-human species (imagine reincarnation or other “magical” occurrence) what would it be?

I’d settle on being a viperfish. There are amazing and undiscovered things in the deep sea that would provide an infinite amount of eye candy for me as I enjoy looking at things and pondering on them. Having photophores that cause light to emanate from your body using bioluminescence would be amazingly amusing. Knowing reality as an air breathing life form would make living underwater very interesting. As an added bonus viperfish are extremely gnarly looking so that is a definite plus for me as well.

Which book would you most likely have written, not being already given to a career in musicianship?

Without a doubt I would have written, “Prometheus Rising” by Robert Anton Wilson. It’s a great book that anyone on any intellectual level can understand that will help him or her expand his or her reality tunnel resulting in higher intelligence, understanding of their self and others and awareness of one’s own biological nature and an introduction to the ways brain programs work. All things I think humanity could use sorely at this current time.

What do you think of the Austin scene? Do you think a city’s collective attitude determines what music will emerge?

I’ve gotten asked this question EVERY interview I have ever done since Austin has the reputation for being the “live music capitol of the world”, which is total bullshit (there is probably at least 200 bands that play in clubs all over Austin every night, it doesn’t mean that they have any real musical substance to them), so forgive me for not elaborating in great lengths one this one. Let me say this, we play a lot of out of town shows and most of the people that are into underground metal in Austin are in bands. I think the attitude of a city has little effect on what bands will emerge. I see where bands from certain areas have certain “sounds” but I think that is probably just a factor due to a psychosomatic suggestion that bands from certain cities hold a certain sound that must be emulated. I’m sure bands from the same areas experienced the same influences and I would imagine that would have something to do with it as well.

Do you see yourselves as expressing the ideas of your environment, or reacting to those ideas? (not to be confused with reactionary opposition, or an emotional/irrational response of rejection)

I guess I create music based on my influences, perceptions of what I think is musically divine, my own thoughts and on what ways I think that music can and needs to evolve.

Do you plan to have a family and “normal” life, if the opportunity rises?

No. An American “normal” life is nothing more than the lowest common denominator.

When you are playing, do you visualize the difference between the shapes you are touching/pressing on the fretboard, or do you have another method of preparing for the radical sweeping fretruns that seem to be easy for you?

This is a hard question to answer, but I will do my best. I hope my response remains coherent to everyone because I know exactly what I’m talking about but it’s difficult to put certain brain/body functions in to text form. When playing I visualize geometric patterns on the fretboard that are segregated in a grid-like pattern (as in each fret contains 6 lines which can be looked at in cohesion with all others as a giant piece of graph paper, each line holds a tone and is programmed into my brain accordingly) with the boundaries for each possible note change being each fret and string. This method of playing is extremely critical during my four fingered tapping solos. Most times when I play I do it in a sort of subconscious manner, I just kind of let me hands go to work. The best comparison is typing on a computer keyboard; each key is assigned a certain character just as each string is assigned a different note. Certain words you type, after typing them a few times become natural and this allows you to type in a fluid and fast way. This is just like how I play guitar. After I write a guitar riff the hand movements that are necessary to create the sound of the riff become like a stamp. Once it’s forged all you have to do is apply it and its there in perfect relief. The assemblage of many riffs, rhythm, transitional or lead, form together as one giant hand pattern or in other words about 40 different “riffs” or stamps compiled will create one giant “stamp” or song. I think that is the best I can explain it. I hope it made sense.

When you interact with normal people, how much do you self-censor what you’re going to say?

Unfortunately I do. I don’t censor what is considered “foul” language but I majorly censor what I would like to say intellectually. While people are talking they generally want their opinion to be heard and they don’t want to feel inferior. If I say something to someone that is what I consider a slightly deep thought, people will most times not understand you and think your just trying to be a “know it all”. So whilst in conversation with people whether it is friends or strangers I just strip down what I’m thinking so everyone understands and no one feels left out forcing them to lie their way through a topic since humans can’t stand admitting to not knowing something. I consider doing this a social Valium, but I never said I had the best social skills.

If you make people feel that they know something, they will adore you, if you make people realize they know nothing, they will loathe you.

What does Acerbus do to prepare for a concert?

We all stretch our muscles, tune our instruments, and arrive at a mentally self-confident state of readiness. Larry prescribes to the athletic abstinence of all physical indulgences theory for several weeks before any show or recording. I suppose that is all.

Have any labels woken up and signed you yet?

No. I have sent promotional packages to countless labels but every response I have gotten has been that we are too “extreme” or “out there” to bring in a large quantity of sales therefore the labels are unwilling to take a chance. I guess I’m out of touch with the metal community because I thought in the early nineties when Suffocation, Carcass and Deicide were breaking new ground being as extreme as possible was the name of the game. I don’t mean this in an egotistical way at all but I’m not worried: I know we will get signed eventually its just a matter of when and who is willing to take a chance.

What do you see as the primary differences between classical music and jazz?

Another essay style answer is in order here but I’ll try and keep it to a few sentences. This will probably only be funny to 1 out of 10,000 people but here it goes… I’ll try and be “the minimalist” while answering this question about classical music. HAHAHA! Man that’s funny in a cheesy way! Anyway, most Classical music is very refined and often referred to as “educated” music that is based on theory and what is “correct” (except for my favorites), while jazz is a style of music, while still well refined, is characterized by improvisation and experimentation. Hopefully everyone reading this already knows this fact but the alternate definition to the word “jazz” is miscellaneous or unspecified things. There we go, short and sweet and without speculation as promised.

What are the most significant musical innovations in the last fifty years, in your opinion?

This is another hard question to answer, but I’ll give you the most prominent things that stick out in my mind. The invention of several instruments (electronic and others) has done music well. The fact that in the last 20 years musical genres seem to have been mixed up a lot more. Unfortunately, this genre mixing has not been good all the way around but it has produced a few gems. It’s like mixing paint colors together, if you do it right you get vibrant unique colors. If you do it wrong you get brown. I can tell you some artists that I think have really pushed the limits of music as a whole in the last 50 years. Philip Glass (whom I happen to be listening to as I answer this interview), Steve Reich, Jimi Hendrix, John Cage, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, John Zorn, Primus, John Coltrane, Black Sabbath, Thelonious Monk and the Kronos Quartet. These are just a few but I think that they have all have had a profound impact on music over the last 50 years.

Do you feel ambient music brings any theoretical change or alterations in form to popular music, and, if so, what do they signify in the mental processes of artists in this time?

Slightly, and by that I mean everything has an effect on everything. Any slight alteration or event will affect an infinite number of reactions that will cause change throughout the world. Introducing new musical ideas or genres will work in an identical fashion.

Is history cyclic, linear, or linear within cyclic? Please explain.

The thought of history being cyclic is not feasible to me. Charting reoccurring events and loosely comparing them to more recent events suggesting the idea that history is cyclic is very similar to people who believe in psychics or faith healers. Weak-mindedness and deluding myself into believing coinciding similar facts cause factual relevance in certain events is not something I’m a fan of. Believing that history is linear within cyclic patterns sounds like someone who is one the edge a cliff preparing to jump off but just can’t quite do it yet. I think history is linear and I think people that believe history is cyclic could probably be diagnosed with infophobia and need to get hobbies, try pseudoscience it will be right up your alley.

How do you reconcile the view that art is a matter of individual interpretation (#2) with the idea that all listeners are affected similarly by certain musical combinations (#1)?

A sense of relief falls upon me to discover that the perceiver asks for further information on questions that have what could be seen as contradictorily answers. I will attempt an explanation using metaphor with promises that my answer remains coherent. Imagine bottles of paint and a mixing palette. Each base color in the each bottle (red, green, blue, yellow) is pure and unaltered such as an un-interpreted message to your brain. Any disturbance to this pure thought or “pure color” (which represents and un-interpreted brain message) will cause the same amount of change to the final interpreted message (“mixed primary paint colors” or a thought that has been altered by your minds own personal perception. ) in the outcome. So, the fact that I stated that “art is a matter of individual interpretation”, resembles how everyone’s “final perception” or, a thought that has gone through your brain programs thus the outcome will vary based upon each individual’s “reality tunnel” or, the way they perceive reality. Now, when I say “all listeners are affected similarly by certain musical combinations” I mean that if I can find musical combinations that actually change the original unperceived signal (which is the same for everyone), then the outcome will be slightly different, yet different in the same way for everyone. I will explain again in a different manner to promote the illumination of my point. Imagine having 10 painters that are all using the same paint bottles. You tell them to mix the colors on their own palettes and to each paint a landscape. Therefore, each painter s final picture will be different based upon his or her perception of a landscape. Now to change each painter’s painting without changing their interpretation of the landscape we would change the base colors from red, blue, yellow and green to black, purple, orange and brown which would cause the same change to each painters painting without changing their perception of their landscape.

There’s too much to talk about, and I’ll keep asking questions forever. Is there anything else you’d like to add for benefit of broadcast to the world?

Thank you for reading the entire interview, I’m glad you made it all the way through! Thanks to SRP for writing an interview that owns questions of substance and once again I appreciate anyone spending the time to read this. Anyone should feel free to contact me if they wish: Acerbus@angelfire.com

Thanks Again for your time!

Cory

-ACERBUS-

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