Article by Johan P continuing Death Metal Underground’s progressive rock coverage.
Morte Macabre is a collaboration between members of the Swedish prog revivalist groups Landberk and Anekdoten, who joined forces to create progressive rock that is equal parts beautiful and disturbing. Their only album – Symphonic Holocaust – is a real treat for those who enjoy creepy music in general, especially 1970s Italian horror movie soundtracks. It is a tribute to the darker side of 70s progressive rock, with reference to Italian groups and composers like Celeste, Goblin, Museo Rosenbach, Fabio Frizzi and Riz Ortolani. An explicit Red-era King Crimson influence permeates the album as well.
Perhaps it was to be expected from the quality of their earlier works, but Sadist’s Hyaenawas one of the high points of what I listened to in 2016. With that in mind, I took the opportunity this Italian band provided to perform an email interview, with some hope of getting some insight into what makes Sadist themselves.
The band’s vocalist (Trevor Nadir) fielded my questions, discussing the past, present, and future of the band and giving us a better picture of what went into Hyaena in particular.
You formed in 1990, right in the middle of the first major flowering of death metal. What was the metal scene in Italy like back then?
TREVOR: Happy Metal Year!
The 90’s were very important for the Death Metal. Death, Cynic, Cannibal Corpse, Carcass, Deicide, Obituary, Morbid Angel and many others have contributed to birth and consolidation of the genre. In our country there were many Death Metal bands. It was certainly much more difficult, the correspondence with the other bands was only through physical mail. I’m very close to Death Metal of the 90s, for me the music stopped at that time, have a nostalgic and I would go back to those years. Sadist was the first band in Europe to add keyboards to Death Metal, we have always been a band that likes to experiment, keyboards were a strange thing, especially in those years, but we are very proud, this is our trademark, of which we are proud of still!
This is a more obvious question, but who are your influences? Have they changed with time?
TREVOR: Each of us listens to different music, perhaps for this reason, the sound of Sadist is contaminated with various styles. Sadist is absolutely a Techno Death Metal band, although in our sound there are other inspirations too: We all love Italian 70’s prog and ethnic music as well. In the past we experienced may ethnic instruments but the new album Hyaena, although it may be misleading, this is not an album about Africa, but on a concept centered around a ruthless predator, who lives in Africa.
We are professional people, we like to be prepared before to put out a new album and we always need to be satisfied of it, first of all. Sadist is a band devoted to technical, Tommy, Andy and Alessio are very prepared musicians, people who have dedicated their lives to their instruments, and very serious guys with one and only personal goal: to always improve. The technique is certainly important but, above all, we must think about the songwriting, the technique must be functional to the music and not an end in itself.
Building off the previous question – how has it changed in the last 25 years?
TREVOR: 25 years ago it was different, it was definitely difficult. Today we are doing interviews via email, on a day we can connect several times around the world, work remotely is something normal. Think of how hard could it be that only a few years ago, can reach somebody or something. However there is also something that works worse, in fact I think that today, it’s all too much and take away, music, bands are increasingly less durable and is no longer the time for rock stars. There is a great saturation and the band, especially the younger ones make great effort to stand out, it is increasingly a question of money. This is not a good time, we hope that the trend changes.
What inspired you to make a concept album about hyenas?
TREVOR: I always take care of the lyrics and the concept album of the album too. I’m a convinced naturalist, I always loved and respected very much the wild hyena. It’s a skillful hunter, smart, and very strong, many people believe it is only an animal that feeds on carrion, a thief, a street sweeper, but this is a myth, the hyenas are ruthless hunters, animals with incredible strength and intelligence, adaptable to any situation. Inside text can be found habits of the herd, hunting tactics, ancient legend which tells that the hyena is ride from the devil, the brutal nature of the animal devour their prey alive. Our music is brutal and the combination with the hyena was something natural, we are talking about an extremely brutal animal. We were lucky enough to pose for new photos with a skull of a hyena, who died in 1888, and we have thank for that all the staff of the Museum of Natural History “G. Doria” in Genoa, Italy.
I love Hyaena…
Hyaena strikes me as, at least in part, inspired by recent developments in metal and progressive music (although I can hear some of this on the previous album as well). Is this your intent? Any particularly recent musical influences of interest?
TREVOR: I would say no, simply Season in Silence was supposed to be a springboard to do better next time and we believe that Hyaena is now the most mature album of the band. Every Sadist’s album has different sounds, We are a band that remains faithful to experience, which is why our albums sound different from one another. Season in Silence is colder, both for the lyrics and the music, with Hyaena instead we resumed ethnic and tribal instruments, close to Mediterranean tradition. It’s hard to make terms of comparison… Although, as mentioned before, We are certain that this is the best chapter of the band up today. Hyaena is a very Sadist album, containing our Death Metal matrix, but at the same time it was our intention to go back on the tribal and ethnic sounds, already used on albums like Tribe and Sadist. On Hyaena We wanted to get to the bottom and We’ve asked for help from Jean N’Dyaie, a great musician, a talented African percussionist. We simply wanted to bring to African culture, their sounds, their habits, We need all of this. Tommy has played many instruments linked to African tradition, like the oud and the santur, We did a thorough search in the traditional sound. Hyaena is a Death Metal, brutal, tribal, ethnic, Mediterranean and terribly Sadist album!
Since you’ve had a keyboardist from the beginning – how do you go about adding keyboard parts to your music?
TREVOR: As mentioned earlier, Sadist born with keyboards, this is our strong identity. Tommy is now known, as the musician playing two instruments simultaneously. It’s an incredible musician. Needless to say, many songs take ideas from the structure of the keyboards, the initial ideas on which is built the structure of the song. We could not think of Sadist without keyboards. We are then to be honest these keyboards are the instruments that characterize the disturbing and horrific soul of our band.
Many of the tracks on Hyaena avoid merely using simple verse/chorus structures. How formal/planned is your composition process these days?
TREVOR: We are a Techno Death Metal band, surely, it is true, however, that we want to keep in mind that we are talking about the songs and the structure has its own importance. Get Death, a band that was technically prepared, but it certainly can not be said that they did not songs, the whole song is what you have to stay ahead. We must try to give space to each individual instrument, absolutely, but one thing is certain, the song is not to be raped.
As a corollary to that, has the way you approach songwriting changed significantly throughout your career?
TREVOR : Sadist is a band that works as a team. Each of us carries out our task to the best of its ability. We are ambitious people, who do not save. Music and lyrics are walking side by side, while Andy, Tommy and Alessio were busy writing songs, I was far from the chaos of the city, and I took care of the lyrics. Each of us is aware of what it takes to the band, the certain sound, the particular phrase.The initial ideas are dictated by Tommy and Andy, though, with the new album, the contribution of Andy was particularly important; really inspired when writing riffs. Our music is generated accordingly to the issues addressed in this way we can have the right impact.
What’s your favorite part of Hyaena? What’s something you think can been improved?
TREVOR: We are very happy about the new album. Sometimes it happens that at the end of the recordings you think something could be improved, this has not happened this time. We worked in our Nadir Music Studios, by taking the time needed, working with the necessary calm you can afford to do things in the best way. Personally I am very attached to “The Lonely Mountain”, it’s the first videoclip for the album, a song that’s very Death Metal.
What other bands, metal or not, do you guys listen to/think are worth following these days?
TREVOR: There are so many good bands, but as mentioned before, are tied to Death Metal. The 70/80’s and 90’s have spoken and given a lot to the music, it’s hard to think of something new. Despite the young guys, all play very well, maybe what it is not is their originality or at least their attempt at being original. Having everything at once is perhaps killing their genius.
A question lifted from another interview we had on our site: What do you attempt to capture, express or communicate through your music? Or is this even the goal of music? Is music communication or decoration? What is the goal of your art?
TREVOR: Making music is an art form, certainly. The messages may be different. Playing Death Metal means venting their anger inward on the system, but at the same time means telling, through the lyrics, your thinking or your mood, this also peer through the melodies of the instrument. The music is not only heard, it should be read, viewed, stored.
What are your plans for the future like? Any upcoming touring or new material we should know about, or is it too early to say?
TREVOR: As for the promotion, by the time we organized with our label Scarlet Records, we want to make a great team effort, people are professional and prepared, and there is great mutual respect. But a good promotion also involves the live set, which is why we started to try, are not canonical songs, and certainly not easy to play on stage, you need preparation. About upcoming releases, together with our booking agency (Live Nation) are working on the next steps, we received a number of proposals, even for a couple of tours in Europe, we expect to be on stage as soon as possible, we are excited by the idea of play the new songs. We want to do our best, in any event, provide a spectacular show to the public , carry the name Sadist as high as possible, and then who knows, reprint the first album and think of a new album. We’ll play at the next Hellfest, and other festival, and we hope to play in the USA; we have many friends and fans who are waiting for us.
If you have any closing remarks you want to make, now is a good time to write them.
TREVOR: For many years I documented the animal in question. I’m really interested, especially for its hunting techniques, although not underestimate the importance of the pack and hierarchies within the same. Animals are crazy, very strong, resistant, challenging and hunt prey much larger than them, and at the same time you also have to cope with other predators, much larger. In this respect, according to what was said earlier, is the number to make a difference. The hyena is a voracious predator that brutally tears apart its prey, an unwitting and innocent murderess. Not scavengers, nor thieves, and they don’t eat only carrion, absolutely not, indeed, are sometimes other animals, such as lions, hyenas to steal the hunted. For many years I document, through books, movies, stories. Television is a stupid means, however, in the 80’s and onward, it allowed me to deepen this interest, thanks to interesting documentaries.
The hyena is an incredible animal, charming, because it’s my favorite predator. We must dispel the myth, the hyena is not only a scavenger carnivore, it also feeds on carrion, but is a skilled hunter, which has a strong team spirit and where within the song applies a strict hierarchy, where the matriarch has absolute power. He saids that the devil comes in the night riding a hyena, and that that the hyenas dig up the corpses. After their death the eyes turn into stones, and Zambezi sorcerers, devourers of men, took the form of a hyena, they appeared to the dead, that they rose and were torn to pieces. Around the campfire, it consumes the sacrifice of a young goat, putrid flesh of zombies and fresh meat for the last dinner. All of this is “The Devil Riding the Evil Steed”.
All the best to you, staff and readers. Stay Brutal!
People do not realize that our society is in the midst of a war. A memetic war, in which one ideology will win out over the other. As we see time and time again, the different worldviews are entirely incompatible, causing the type of internal conflict that destroys empires.
Heavy metal is caught in the middle of this. Those who want to push their ideology on you have discovered it, and try to use it as a “blank slate” on which to write their messages. We found out in the 1980s that Christians did this, in the 1990s that the far-right tried, and now in the 2010s, that an echo chamber of “social justice” agitators wants to use metal as its personal billboard. Mainstream metal media — staffed mostly by such people — agrees with them. The variety of hipster known as SJWs are hoping to take over metal and use it for their own ends.
The modern state of metal writing, as is the case with much of modern metal, has to do with the wrong kind of people being attracted to the music. Those who don’t identify metal with a higher ideal will only think of this subject as so much faffing and will continue drowning themselves in anodyne cliches, self-referential and flippant by turn. Worse yet, in a show of incredible egotism, they will expect the music to fall in line with whatever personal agenda they might be touting at that moment. It speaks of a stunted, unadventurous, and dishonest bent of mind to outright dismiss ideas that may be pariah to our own and then to run down, ad hominem, those that dare think differently.
He hits on a vital point: their goal is not to crusade against a specific evil, but to eliminate everyone who does not dedicate their life to advancing the same agenda the SJWs do. As many people have pointed out, SJWs are a bit hypocritical. They whine about injustices to women and minorities, but night after night they are in front of their computers, putting other people down instead of working in the ghettos or middle east where women are being raped and executed en masse.
This reveals the agenda of SJWs, while it surely overlaps with their left-wing political views and hipster lifestyles in which activism is ironic and fresh, is actually to make themselves appear to superior to others. SJWs are the new master race, in their own minds. By day, they are cubicle drudges with unimportant jobs who live in expensive city apartments and spend themselves into debt buying organic free-trade wine and artisanal wall hangings. By night, they are transformed into warriors, heroes, Anne Franks and Mother Theresas combined. They find their importance in “social justice” because it allows them to pretend they are better than other people, and to experience the delicious revengeful joy of forcing others to be silent and apologize. That is the thrill of SJW: subjugating others with words from the comfort of your computer, with a glass of Malaysian Anisette Merlot and a rare live Deerhoof set on the radio.
What obstructs them is the very fact that metal is not a blank slate. It has its own beliefs, which deal with the world and its problems from an entirely different angle than SJW solutions do. Its basic rule, non-conformity with society for the purpose of discovering the raw unfiltered power of nature and truth, opposes the very notion of collective action for some slogan or political issue. Metal is against politics itself. It sees politics as an outgrowth of social thinking, not an end in itself. In the metal world, politics is a distraction and SJWs are more nagging nannies who distract us from the real problems. As MetalReviews writes:
Let’s lay it down as law, if in the confines of this editorial only: Black Metal ist krieg, waging war on all, and Black Metal that isn’t krieg, that doesn’t wage war on man, god, musical boundaries and every living creature whatever colour or creed isn’t proper Black Metal – there’s more spiritual closeness between Transilvanian Hunger and La Masquerade Infernale, between De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas and 666 International than there is with something like Panopticon’s Collapse or Eldrig’s Mysterion. They may all be great albums, but the spiritual difference is greater than that of the music itself – Arcturus and Dødheimsgard are no more trying to convert you to Anarchism or Ariosophy than Darkthrone and Mayhem are.
Metal has a culture of its own. SJWs are attempting to genocide that culture and replace it with the watered-down indie rock to which metal riffs have been added that the mainstream media media have been pimping for some time. They achieve this by coordinating among themselves. Someone once plotted the communications between two groups, GamerGate and its opposition. The opposition show a trend toward conformity, where GamerGate was more chaotic and open. The SJWs of today were the authoritarians and Nazis of yesterday. A short demonstration follows.
Krieg frontman Neil Jameson — who like Decibel editor Albert Mudrian unfriended our previous Editor on Facebook for what can only be assumed to be political reasons — recently wrote a piece in which he opines on the condition of women in metal. Like most SJW articles, it begins with a justification for its demands on your attention, and threatens you with guilt:
I recently realized that I’ve been having more and more discussions with people about how women are treated within the metal scene, and music in general. Turns out my knee-jerk reaction to throw jokes at the problem wasn’t the best way to address it. This goes a lot deeper, and regardless of how it may make people uncomfortable, it’s a discourse we need to have—and keep having—because the problem isn’t going away; in fact, it’s getting worse.
This is politician-speak like might be used for the wars on terror, drugs or drunk-driving. There’s this problem, see, and it requires immediate attention. Not only that, but it’s getting worse the more we just sit here. Leap into action right now and do whatever I tell you! He goes on from there to make his big point:
As a man, I’ve never gone to a show worried that someone was going to grab my dick or give me a drink with some bullshit drug in it. It’s not because I don’t think I’m pretty; it’s because this is shit that doesn’t happen to men (I understand someone in the comments section will have a story saying that it does, but for the sake of argument, please shut the fuck up). It’s just not something we have to worry about. Women have to shrug this behavior off because they’re afraid if they speak up that it’s going to be turned around on them due to what they’re wearing, or their sexual history, or the simple fucking reason they have a vagina and guys are taught from a young age through marketing and media that we’re entitled to that. Movies and other forms of storytelling glamorize women going to shows to fuck and nothing else. The idea that they’re there because they love the music seems as absurd as a cop telling the truth during a trial.
In addition to the type of terrible writing that thinks throwing in the word “fucking” for unnecessary emphasis somehow makes it edgy, this piece shows us a lot of guilt — and no facts. We all know that there are some badly behaved people at shows, and their bad behavior takes many forms. People throwing beers, pulling non-participants into the pit, fighting with bouncers, or just being general doofuses are common enough, but not accepted nor the norm. In my experience, metalheads have generally stood up for personal boundaries to anyone transgressing them, without checking to see if the victim was a white male first. But in the Jameson piece, the rambling story goes on with reasoning about how we should stop everything to fight a problem he supposes is somehow very serious, despite no assessment of how wide of a problem this is or even whether it is a problem with metal or simply dickheads being dickheads at rock shows.
But really, the plight of women in metal is not the point. The point is that Jameson has joined the SJWs and wants their approval so he can sell them the “new” version of Krieg, which takes pride in being “open-minded,” a term that means not metal if you analyze it. As he says himself:
“We were one of the first geographical groups to really tie in non–black metal inspiration, like my covers of the Velvet Underground/The Stooges, etc., Leviathan/Lurker of Chalice’s Joy Division and Black Flag influences and covers, Nachtmystium’s interest in psychedelics and more blues-based ideas, etc.”
In other words, innovation by devolution. These bands are much older than metal and fit more into the rock paradigm than metal has. This is like stepping backward a generation and claiming “progress” as a result. Why would he pick this approach? In the SJW world, metal is bad and anything that pretends to be metal but is not is good. Therefore, bands that claim to be innovators for re-hashing older genres — which most metalheads want to escape — are to be praised, and anyone who makes metal for metal’s sake is bad and should be avoided. They need this argument to advance the illusion that metal is a blank slate, instead of the vibrant culture that it is.
A gaming term used to describe a male gamer who, in a desperate attempt to get himself laid, will attempt to woo or impress any female gamer he comes across online by being overly defensive of her and giving her special attention, such as playing as a healing class and only healing her.
That is White Knighting. In other words, men who publicly proclaim themselves sensitive to women’s issues are doing it to get laid or be accepted by a new social group. You may remember this from high school or college. At the mid-point of freshmen year, guys figure out that they can attend feminist workshops, get misty-eyed about how oppressive they are, and go home with a new girl each night. This has little to do with ideology and everything to do with human behavior. People who want acceptance into a group will memorize and repeat the appropriate chants to get what they want.
Is this what the former Lord Imperial, now short-haired Neil Jameson of The Velvet Krieg is doing? Let’s look at some of his statements from the past.
Wikipedia recalls an interview by Jameson in which he expressed a different viewpoint. Although the Wikipedia article was edited mysteriously (moderator notes: “Unexplained removal of content”) on July 5, 2013 at about the time Jameson started writing for Decibel, it can be found at the Project Gutenberg wiki. Jameson — who had just gotten out of his band Weltmacht which had pro-Nazi themes, even getting signed to pro-far-right label No Colours — was heading in an entirely different direction just seven years ago:
Krieg were boycotted in Switzerland “because I freely use offensive words like ‘nigger’ in regards to the disgusting double standards and politically correct nonsense that has spread through the world black metal scene. This is a scene that encourages violence and hatred, but if you say something against anyone besides Christians it sends a lot of people into crying fits. There was one person who wrote me saying he didn’t approve of my life ‘affirmation’ on the Satanic Warmaster split in which I, I felt very blatantly, criticised both the life loving movements and the politically correct movements, but I guess these people are too fucking involved in down syndrome to notice IRONY. Well fuck them, I don’t want the support of people who cannot read the entire idea, but rather pick at ‘dangerous’ words. When the fuck did this stupid concern for hurting people’s feelings become an issue in black metal? […] ALL PEOPLE ARE SHIT […]. As for Switzerland, we got banned from the country for using ‘nigger’ on this 7 inch, which as I stated before, was anti political correctness, NOT PRO FACIST.” Imperial added that “[u]nderneath the abrasive offensiveness lies a much greater meaning that many would take the time to inspect and study. Beneath such a bitter shell lies enlightenment. IF you can fight through my venom, then you will find truly what I am spreading through the words of Krieg.”
This viewpoints sounds like those in GamerGate and MetalGate, except that we do not use racial slurs to denigrate other groups to make our points. We just speak up for what is true against the onslaught of SJWs. Jameson’s case is probably quite normal; he has simply joined the hive mind so that he can meet more people, be cool with the other SJWs at Decibel, and advance his own career, in defiance of the heavy metal genre he once found inspiration in. In other words, SJWs in metal are simply another form of selling out and assimilation into the mainstream herd.
The ire generated by GamerGate and MetalGate showed us that a large segment of our society finds it disturbing to be called out on their constant demands to silence speech. Those however were merely private individuals; what happens when large corporations join them by enabling complaints as a means of censorship?
It might sound far-fetched, but that is exactly what the movie industry is trying to do:
This time, the studios are asking for one court order to bind every domain name registrar, registry, hosting provider, payment processor, caching service, advertising network, social network, and bulletin board—in short, the entire Internet—to block and filter a site called Movietube. If they succeed, the studios could set a dangerous precedent for quick website blocking with little or no court supervision, and with Internet service and infrastructure companies conscripted as enforcers. That precedent would create a powerful tool of censorship—which we think should be called SOPApower, given its similarity to the ill-fated SOPA bill.
In this case, the complaint system is based on copyright. But as we have seen in the past, internet websites — who lose money each time they must process a complaint — lump together copyright, harassment, doxxing and other bad content claims with the vague “offensive content” label. The raging SJWs that GamerGate put in their place found they had the power to silence others by merely mobbing some site with complaints, and the owners, wanting to avoid controversy and bad press from an SJW-compliant media, would simply remove the content, fire the employee or delete the user account.
This power is now being amplified through the American court system. Under this new precedent, if it succeeds, any website which does not filter certain content will find itself with legal liability, which means that all websites will quickly remove both copyright and merely controversial content. What defines what is controversial? If it gets complaints, it is controversial — and will soon be removed.
So far SJWs have gotten a pass from the legal system thanks to their perceived power in media and as a voting bloc, even if it turns out that 90% of them are internet brats on trust funds, living off food stamps in Williamsburg while making artisanal strap-ons for sale on Etsy. This type of “accountability” allows the complainers to determine what content will be permitted, and quickly marginalizes anything but the usual circle-jerk to the extreme corners of the internet. However, even those will be threatened because complaints go to their web providers, and those above providing services to those. The EFF article does a great job of pointing out the important fact here, which is that the complaint itself is viewed as proof. Someone complains, and your web site goes down, without a trial or anyone even considering if it is fair.
As metalheads well know, the problem in society is not so much the leadership as the people who choose it and their tendency to be petty, greedy and controlling. This latest step not only gives them a pass for their actions, in other words removing any accountability they might have, but also gives them the power of the law. While right now the focus is on movies, the mission creep/slippery slope of such laws in the past has rapidly expanded them to other areas. All who wish for uncensored expression owe it to themselves and future generations to fight this troubling development.
There is an experience like deja vu which feels more like parallax motion. This sensation is that of seeing parallels between two things which, visually at least, seem to have nothing in common. And yet it also feels like racing over open ground in a landscape of discovery. Consider this observation from a pipe collecting writer:
Some innovations are not innovative at all. They are ideas that have been explored–and even made–long before. That the current experimenter is ignorant of previous attempts does not make the effort novel. It also does not make revising an idea or revisiting a solution unworthy. But don’t make untrue claims. Socrates’ observation that “There is nothing new under the sun” is almost always true.
Other “innovations” are transparent attempts at attention-getting. Putting products out there that exclaim “Look at me! I’m SO leading edge! I’m an artist!” might work for Miley Cyrus, but the average pipemaker’s target audience is somewhat less naïve nor impressionable, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at some of the work being touted on Facebook pipe groups these days.
What amazes me even more is that the work on the ridiculous end of the sublime-to-ridiculous continuum attracts its champions, and they seem eager to whoop and hurrah without engaging in any critical discourse at all. It’s hype, hype, hype. In my view, hyping isn’t helpful because it inhibits thoughtful conversations that might contribute to improving or at least refining the innovations being touted.
He draws a distinction between what we might call invention, or application of new ideas to a realistic use, as distinct from novelty, which is the creation of “new” ideas for newness’ sake. In metal terms, it takes some brains and guts to create a sublime form of a metal genre, but any idiot can add ska, jazz and rockabilly to Pantera and come up with something “new.”
Metalcore in particular is consumed by this view of novelty as a target. Since its songs are built in the post-hardcore random collage style, just about anything fits into a metalcore band, which is why it has aesthetically-diverse but musically-similar acts like Animals as Leaders, Obscura, Behemoth, The Haunted and The Red Chord under the same genre banner. Each riff is like a different act in a variety show. This is why it has the “carnival music” approach: its compositional structure is verse chorus with an extended musical appositive in which the random is prized more than the coherent, or that which flows from one point to another in a sensible narrative.
Some would say this is its artistic appeal, that metalcore expresses the randomness and purposeless directionless consumption of our time. That may be true, but the best art does not merely protest, but forms beauty out of sense and makes it compelling in a new way. Others might defend metalcore as “open-minded,” as was popular with bad gimmick death metal bands in the early 1990s, and even early mathcore experiments. Yet randomness is not open-mindedness; it is refusal to make up one’s mind, and by burying the audience under different elements, essentially hiding what one thinks and hedging one’s bests. How do you criticize a band that has a riff from every imaginable style in each song, except to note that greater randomness produces greater proximity to background noise? Andy Warhol might sell metalcore as an avant garde representation of the background noise of the city.
And yet, we had two-riffs plus breakdowns bands back in the day. Metalcore itself is an extension of post-hardcore, which was a late 1980s thing. None of this “innovation” is in fact new; it is merely recycling the same old sad elements, like the clichés in movies where every rebellious character has to ride a Harley, drink Jack Daniels, smoke Reds and listen to heavy metal. Generally the pattern for metalcore bands is that they find something that people want but do not understand, then make a simplified — in this case, random — version of it, and then pimp it out. Opeth for example made their career off the idea of being too deep for most people, but were basically a re-hash of what Cemetary and Tiamat did five years before. Meshuggah took what Exhorder and Vio-lence did with speed metal riffs but made it more obvious, simplified and put it to a jazz-style complex offbeat structure, but added nothing new musically, and in fact took away most of the musicality. Cradle of Filth figured out that if someone made a heavy metal band that sounded like black metal, it would outsell the original. And so on.
A blend of hardcore and metal music that evolved in the mid-to-late 90’s with bands like Unbroken, Earth Crisis, Harvest, Endeavor, Poison The Well and Unearth. There is a liberal use of breakdowns in the music and the lyrical themes range from the political to the personal.
Deathcore is a style of extreme music often confused by its fans with death metal. Deathcore draws heavily from the “malcore” style of metalcore in the sense that elements of its sound, both in composition and production, are rejected by the more conservative metal culture (ex. death/black/thrash/sludge metal). Deathcore differs from metalcore in the sense that it is generally faster, more heavy, and tending toward darker themes such as are present in death metal. Deathcore is also notorious for the excessive use of breakdowns, an element also present (but less frequent) in death metal and other ‘true’ metal genres. Hardcore dancing, a dance style in which fans swing their arms and legs violently in rhythm, has become hugely popular among deathcore fans, and is a trademark of live deathcore shows.
Despite many fans’ beliefs, deathcore is vastly different from traditional death metal. Musically, the deathcore song structure is generally much more formulaic than that of death metal; songs tend to have one or two guitar riffs, several breakdowns, and possibly a chorus. Deathcore composition is also much less complex, many songs featuring doubled guitar parts or simple guitar harmonies, with the bass guitar being almost entirely indistinguishable.
Our normal impulse is to say “Well, you listen to what you like, and I will listen to what I like.” That is the socially correct answer at least which is one reason why it is wrong: social preference selects for the unreal because people prefer illusion. The problem is that when idiot music shows up, idiots show up, and they outnumber anyone competent. If they can appropriate the style of your genre and make a dumbed-down sugar, salt and fat added version of it, they will replace you. You will not keep listening to what you like because no new versions of it will come out because no musician will touch a genre infested by idiots unless he or she wants to profit from idiots. Your genre will be assimilated and replaced. That is exactly what happened to metal since 1994.
Some people moan any time a person wants to connect metal with social trends, history or other traditional forms of analysis. that is because those people want to keep metal as a hobby, a product and something special removed from everything else that is just there to be enjoyed. But on the other hand, many artists have given up more comfortable lives cranking out alt-country, indie rock or rap to spend their time trying to make quality metal, and it seems pointless to disrespect and ignore that. If we look at metal through the historical development of an artistic movement, it becomes clear that it offers not just another version of the same rock ‘n’ roll idea, but an entirely different idea. Rock is, like all post-Enlightenment thought, about the primacy of the individual. Metal rebels against that with hard realism.
Perhaps the hard realism is right. After all, this society is miserable — another one of those things that metal reminds us of daily — and besotted with lies, committing ecocide against nature, forcing people into miserable jobs, and specializes in tearing down beautiful things to replace them with strip malls and endless rules. I would go so far as to say this is the worst age of humanity, except for the mindlessly selfish, who sure love that 500-channel cable and easy jobs and fast credit that make them feel like kings in the tiny little fraction of the universe that they notice. Over time I have come to observe that the smarter someone is, the more aware they are not just of particular ideas or facts but of space, area, time and their own smallness. An idiot thinks he is the sole occupant of the planet; a medium-intelligence person is aware of his community; a genius is aware of the cosmos, the past and future of humanity as a whole, and the people even far from him. Metal rebels against our society both on the basis that it is formed of affectionate-sounding lies, and that it is ugly, pointless, boring and crass.
But that is “alternative history” to the majority of people. They believe — because they want to believe — that our time is the apex of humanity. And technologically, surely it is, although most of this stuff seems like fumbly-fidgety rehashes of 1970s inventions like UNIX and networking. They ignore the vast misery not just among the impoverished, but among the successful, and the utter boredom of the purposeless nature of modern life. Every generation, social order decays further and people become more like witches, of dishonest, selfish, petty, and oblivious character. Each generation can say to the one after, “Stuff’s worse than when I was a kid, so have an iPod and we’ll call it even, OK?” As long as we stick with official history there is nothing we can do with that. As others have noted, perhaps the root of invention as opposed to novelty is a willingness to leap off the platform of official history and look into other reasons, not new but realistic and truthful instead of merely socially popular ones.
Speaking of alternative history, I encountered this passage today. You might call it Libertarians for Monarchy. It takes an economist’s view of the change in history, and shows how alternative history might have been right, after all, and how we might all just be living in denial and cruising on the wealth of the past (Hans-Hermann Hoppe via Outside In:
A king owned the territory and could hand it on to his son, and thus tried to preserve its value. A democratic ruler was and is a temporary caretaker and thus tries to maximize current government income of all sorts at the expense of capital values, and thus wastes. […] Here are some of the consequences: during the monarchical age before World War I, government expenditure as a percent of GNP was rarely higher than 5%. Since then it has typically risen to around 50%. Prior to World War I, government employment was typically less than 3% of total employment. Since then it has increased to between 15 and 20%. The monarchical age was characterized by a commodity money (gold) and the purchasing power of money gradually increased. In contrast, the democratic age is the age of paper money whose purchasing power has permanently decreased. […] Kings went deeper and deeper into debt, but at least during peacetime they typically reduced their debt load. During the democratic era government debt has increased in war and in peace to incredible heights. Real interest rates during the monarchical age had gradually fallen to somewhere around 2½%. Since then, real interest rates (nominal rates adjusted for inflation) have risen to somewhere around 5% — equal to 15th-century rates. Legislation virtually did not exist until the end of the 19th century. Today, in a single year, tens of thousands of laws and regulations are passed. Savings rates are declining instead of increasing with increasing incomes, and indicators of family disintegration and crime are moving constantly upward.
In a time when popularity determines success, appearance is more important than reality. This is what gives rise to novelty, or essentially — as our pipe smoker above reminded us — re-visiting of old ideas in bizarre new forms that entice the herd because they are different and unique, which is how all of those bonobos view themselves and want to assert as their reason for having importance. We call most of them hipsters, but the phenomenon is broader than that; we live in a time that is appearance-over-substance, and as long as metal panders to that demographic, its fortunes will not improve.
Yannis: Well me and Léo met through my work. As a tattoo artist I get to know people rather quickly since we spend long hours together. We realized that we had a lot in common, especially music. Our passion toward the raw and the bleak immediately spawned an interest for us two to collaborate musically. We started Léo playing drums and me on guitar duty and started to incorporate other members as we progressed. But eventually the project died of its own. A couple of years later we were still involved in musical projects together. While I was mixing a common project Léo threw at me the idea to start a black metal project. At the time I was overloaded with family and work but, the idea stuck in my head and we gave the project a go. And thus Funeste was born. From there things started to moved rather quickly. After writing a couple of songs I already had test visuals for the mood of the project. But it was just for fun since we didn’t have plans to release anything serious. But the more we listened to the tracks and the more people gave us feedback on it, we realized that we had something special. So we decided to release the Ep as a demo since it wasn’t mixed at all. And then it exploded, people started to respond very positively to it and it hasn’t stopped since.
2. Funeste plays a style of black metal which although firmly standing on a modern conception of the genre also does a very good job at keeping a smooth continuity in the music through paying attention to the consistency of material. How conscious a decision is this? Do you think a choice in style matters a lot?
Yannis: Like you said although I enjoy the traditional aspect of any genre, I think it has to move forward. To me heavy metal has always been about being extreme and subversive. Personally I think these two things can only be quantized by the era we live in and what was done before. So yes I think our style of black metal is a more modern interpretation of the genre. That said I don’t think what we do is especially new.
As far as the consistency of the material goes, I think we don’t think to much about it. I personally hate music that is too linear and safe. Even super technical band can get boring if there’s no contrast in their music. So in terms of mood I think we’re pretty consistent but, sonically wise I like I’m not so sure. I don’t want us to be coined to a specific genre, that’s why we change things a lot from song to song. Most of this is pretty much done on intuition.
Lastly, the choice of style was important at first to give us a foundation to work on, and draw inspiration from it. But like punk, black metal is more an ideology than a specific sound. It’s music that is very emotionally driven and that wants to leave the listeners scarred In every way possible. At least that’s my interpretation of it. So based on that frame of mind, I think we thrive to use all our influences to emphasize those intentions which creates a black metal with a richer spectrum of nuances.
3. In that same vein, do you think that musical genres have inherent powers or strengths and that they can be especially useful at channeling specific messages?
Yannis: I think so. I always found Black metal very introspective in nature. Delving into the roots of the honest and darkest human emotions, this music can be vessel to all sorts of messages. To me it’s one of the few styles were a musician can expose self-hatred, awe and fear of the world, spirituality to its fullest. Although this music is most of the time executed to be a hard listening experience, i think it is a very positive outlet for the musician and the listener because the themes in black metal are very universal and in the end, it is very easy for people to relate to it.
Léo: I agree with Yannis and think it can go even further than that. Music that touches me is music that was made by someone feeling any kind of emotion, positive or negative, and transcripts these emotions through sound. Or at least this is how I make music. And link with the previous question, this is not constrained to any music genre. Some black metals songs can be transmit hope or relief, and pop songs can be depressing. Anyway, I guess this is why we like having vocals that melt into the instrumental part. Funeste is all about hearing a dark gloomy violent overall sound, and relating to melodic lines in any way that fits with your mind when you hear it. It could destroy your mood or strengthen it depending on who you are and what you
4. Would you care naming your main influences in metal?
Yannis: Oh this could be long hahaha! Well I know it’s not metal but, I grew up listening to King Crimson and Genesis and I think that at that era was the metal of their time. Intense, intricate and creative. When it comes to metal I started with the basic, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath then in my teens got a NuMetal phase but I was always looking for darker more punishing music. At the time I was living in the suburbs of Montreal and the only place I could dig for music was Archambault, a big record store like HMV. So I would spend days there listening to anything with a cool album cover. That’s where I discovered Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, Immortal, Darkthrone. These we’re my first contacts with extreme music. Than when I moved to Montreal thing’s got better hehehe. I had more friends into extreme music, listening to death metal like Deicide and Cannibal Corpse, Macabre, Converge, Katatonia, My dying bride, Dark Tranquility. And then the internet started blooming. Oh the glory! Like most kids my age It was a revelation. And it really allowed me to find music that was tailored to my standards.
But to answer your question more specifically, the metal bands that really influenced me to carve the music I do with Funeste would be bands like Weakling, Twilight, Leviathan, Converge, Brutal truth, Cryptopsy, My dying bride, Buried at Sea, Gaza, Deathspell Omega, The body, Abandon. I also draw inspiration from any genre, weather its Massive Attack’s Mezzanine, all the discography from Songs ; Ohia, Van der Graff Generator or the classical music of Alfred Schnittke. Listening only to metal makes really narrow minded records I find.
Léo: Appart from the bands that Yannis cited as direct influence for Funeste, we both listened to many genres which (I hope) gives us some diversity when we compose. My father has a pretty big vinyl collection, and I listened to literally every kind of music that he could find. Later on I developed my own tastes and started to listen to slipknot like many people, which quickly got me interested in more extreme metal bands such as vader, amon amarth, cannibal corpse, gorgoroth, and a lot of punk-hardcore and crust bands like converge, black breath, defdump, etc. There are so many bands that make awesome music that I kind of feel bad to name only a few of them, but I love listening to any band that makes me feel some emotion. Although, music playing with darker emotions will get to me more easily.
5. What about influences outside metal? What about outside music, perhaps in literature or cinema?
Yannis: I guess I answered parts of that question in the last question. For the music we create I focus more on reality. I watch a lot of documentaries on war, poverty and other bleak subjects. Lots of true crime shows. But mostly, what inspires me the most is my own personal experience. I’ve been dealing with Generalized Anxiety disorder for a good while now. Living constantly with feelings of dread generates a lot of anger, which in the end make for good heavy metal hehehe!
Léo: Well, I like making music by myself, so I guess I’m mostly inspired by what goes on through my mind when I let it slide alongside with the music. But what you live everyday is an inspiration. If you have a bad day have a beer and you will most likely write fucking angry music. As long as it concerns me, I like watching movies a lot and taking pictures. I think I’m always writing music with a graphical environment in my mind, but I couldn’t really tell, as my composing process is mainly based on letting everything go, get in my personal bubble and plug my guitar.
6. What is your composition process? Would you care detailing it and commenting on what you believe are its strengths and weaknesses?
Yannis: We’re only two in this project and tough we live in the same city we don’t jam together. I think of us more like a two headed one man project than an actual band. The way it goes is we both compose riffs and we send them to each other, than we build unto them. And then we trim the extra fat, the stuff we don’t want or like. Then I add the bass and the lyrics and vocals. I think it’s a great way to work. We can create on our own time that way we don’t have to go through the hassle of make everyone’s schedules fit. And there’s no downside because we’re always calling each other for input and we meet for beers on a regular basis.
7. Does Funeste have a goal, a message or an intention? Does the music attempt to transmit something in particular or is music “just music”? I am not referring to music in service of an ideology, necessarily, but as music as a communicator of aspects of our condition as human beings.
Yannis: For me it’s a way relieving myself of a lot of anger and frustrations towards that I’ve been repressing for a long time. I guess my main goal is to make music that I enjoy while keeping metal relevant and as far away from the cartoonish travesty it can become. I try to write lyrics that are close to my heart. I know I should be signing about nature, satan or the fact that I wanna go back to our old Viking ways with my iPhone in one hand and my credit card in the other but , this is just not me and its not part of my heritage. I’m a city boy and always been. And the city is a very demanding and stressful place, where the well-off cohabitates with the homeless. With anxiety and depression on the rise, people losing their religion and values and replacing it with careers and selfies. This is all very bleak to me and pushes me to create music that reflects that. Also all the lyrics are written in French which was really important to me. Here in Montreal, the French Canadian underground is not very strong. Very few band writes their music in French. They’d rather write everything in English because there’s a better chance for them to ”make it” in the music business. I think we shouldn’t be ashamed of our heritage and we should promote the hell out of it, even to places that don’t speak french. If the music is good there will be ears all over the globe that want’s to listen to it.
Léo: We started Funeste with no specific goal other than make music and “evacuate” some energy through that. Also, we didn’t expect the attention we get now at all, so we don’t have specific goals related to that. But if people listen to Funeste and enjoy it in any way this we are very thankful. And we will continue making music in the same mindset.
8. Do you have a vision for the future of the band in terms of its growth?
Yannis: Create new music, grow as a musician, meet people. I’d like for us to do splits in the future as well. I still don’t know what our next release is gonna be. Another Ep? LP? who knows. One thing is for sure we’re writing new music as we speak, and it should see the light of day in the next 6 months or so. Eventually I think we’d like to get a proper line up to do live shows but this is still in discussion at the moment.
11. Is Le Triomphe du Charnier Funeste’s first release or is there anything else fans of the band should check out?
Yannis: The Ep is our first outing. Me and Léo also play in a Electro Post-Rockish band called St-Petersbourg. Our new ep that I personally mixed, is coming out this summer. Other that’s pretty much it on my side.
12. What would be the best way in which the audience can get into contact with Funeste?
Black element Production: firstname.lastname@example.org
13. Is there anything in particular you would like to let the metal world know about the band? Is there any particular reason why the audience should keep an eye on Funeste?
Yannis: Well, if you like bleak, unforgiving black metal, give us a try. There’s a good chance you’re gonna enjoy our EP. And keep in mind, the next song are gonna continue pushing our own boundaries to create music more and more punishing.
Flowing black metal band Graveland will play its first live dates ever in August of this year. Composer, guitarist and vocalist Robert Fudali announced his intent to play live on Facebook with the tantalizing detail that most of the set will be older songs with several new ones thrown in the mix, “more or less.”
To longtime underground metal aficionados, this represents a sort of holy grail as like many early black metal acts, Graveland never played live. Formed of a hybrid between grinding Oi and melodic black metal, Graveland distinguished itself early on for its landscape-like melodies and ambient atmosphere, but has since developed its sound to be more like movie soundtracks with layers of instrumentation and composition inspired by ancient traditions in European music, as well as epic soundtracks such as those from the Conan movies by Vangelis. To hear the full evolution in a single show would be of great interest to most black metal fans.
Humanity follows this pattern: someone breaks away from doing the same stuff everyone else is doing, does something different and it resonates with smart people, so everyone else starts doing it but they use it as a new flavor for doing the same stuff everyone else is doing. They think this will let them be both new and familiar at the same time, and it attracts an audience who thinks like them, and then the different thing is destroyed. (more…)
Many of us are fans of last.fm and other services which keep track of listening statistics. These allow me to link up various devices that I use and see what my actual listening patterns are instead of what I think they are. For example, if you asked me for a list of top death metal releases, I can easily name something like this list of the best in each genre. But that is an analytical opinion related to the art and music themselves, not a personal habit, which reflects more the day-to-day utility I find in different albums. Such is the split with Gorguts Obscura, an album I listened to extensively when it came out in accidental defiance of conventional wisdom, but then have not picked up since. Part of the reason is the unreasonably loud production, which makes it — like Sinister Hate and other albums of the “early ProTools era” — difficult to listen to alongside classic albums, and abrasively loud with lost texture of distortion. Another reason is that having heard it three times a day for five years, I may have simply absorbed it entirely. A third might be that while it is admirable as a piece of art, it may not be applicable to much of my life or thought process at this point.
I read Old Disgruntled Bastard‘s article “The postmodern Gorguts” with great interest not just because I enjoy ODB’s writing, but because he has cut into a vital topic: does Obscura belong to the old school death metal legions, or is it of a newer style that we call “modern metal”? Modern metal — comprised of nu-metal, metalcore, tech-death, post-metal and indie-rock — distinguishes itself from the old because it is composed like rock but with metal riffs mixed in among the jazz and prog affectations. The analysis of it as postmodern seems to make sense if one considers later postmodernism. Early postmodernism distrusted meta-narratives and so attempted to create its own based on the subtext, or invisible reality, as an alternative to the public text or consensual token-based narrative of our reality and civilization.
Later postmodernism simplified that to an idea of showing many different angles or perspectives of a topic, like a Pablo Picasso painting, which created a surface level of complexity of ingredients so intense that it reduced the organizing principle or internal complexity of the work to near nothingness. Compare Don Delillo’s White Noise to David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (itself highly derivative of Pynchon, that highly derivative of Nabokov and Burroughs) for an example of this in literature.
The public school safe answer when asked about the origins of postmodernism is that it sprang up with Foucault, but someone who traces the history of ideas — and actually writes postmodern fiction — like myself may see the origins instead in an early writing by Fred “Mad Dog” Nietzsche entitled “On Truth and Lies in a Post-Moral Sense,” in which he points out the nihilism of language: tokens work only when people mean the same thing, but people project their own desires into the meaning through the imprecise device of memory, which means that narratives rapidly become deconstructed into manipulation and the only excuse is to discard the old values and definitions, and rebuild from common sense observation of reality.
There are, after all, very few ideas in history, and much as Plato was a watershed, Nietzsche defined the different perspectives in the modern time, but this analysis is too far-reaching to be made in public, least of all on the government dime. I remember talking with Audrey Ewell (Until the Light Takes Us) over this very split and finding myself dismissed as perhaps not knowing the background material, which is very un-postmodern as it affirms an official narrative in defiance of the introspection that leads to analysis of externality by structure and not appearance, a trait shared between Nietzsche and the Romantics that lives on in postmodernism albeit faintly, and only in the important works, excluding the forgettable Mitchell for example. Postmodernism appears in movies by David Lynch and Lars von Trier, specifically the death metal-friendly Melancholia, and even in the theories we tell ourselves about daily life. Discontent with The NarrativeTM abounds, but very few agree on what that narrative is or what is the truth that it conceals, which shows a difficulty of postmodernism: it deconstructs and points vaguely in a new direction, but never finalizes the task, which relegates it to the academic realm of sipping Merlot and watching the world build up tinder for the final carnage.
Having boiled out all of that context to postmodernism as idea, let us look at William Pilgrim’s excellent article. Death Metal Underground tries to provide multiple perspectives — in the postmodern sense — on any topic, but diverges from the postmodern narrative by affirming that reality itself is truth, and we can approximate that truth, so we must undertake the almost never undertaken second part of the process which is through reasoned debate to then find answers. People love the idea of multiple perspectives, because it means that since nothing is true, they can do whatever they want and that “feels” good to the forlorn or under-confident soul. They are less enthusiastic about boiling down the data found and constructing from it an assessment of truthfulness. The article contains two essential nodal points, the first of which is the definition of postmodernism:
…a school of thought that attempts to reject overarching structural meaning and belief in greater narratives. To the post-modern mind, existence and experience consist of pluralities, splintered into fiercely individualistic cells prone to subjective rule, and inimical to any attempt at establishing a universal system of knowledge. Under this philosophy, adherence to a common-law guidebook serving as a framework for value judgments would amount to giving tacit approval to an authoritarian scheme of things.
This sounds surprisingly like one of my favorite definitions, the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy definition of “nihilism”:
Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated…By the late 20th century, “nihilism” had assumed two different castes. In one form, “nihilist” is used to characterize the postmodern person, a dehumanized conformist, alienated, indifferent, and baffled, directing psychological energy into hedonistic narcissism or into a deep ressentiment that often explodes in violence…In contrast to the efforts to overcome nihilism noted above is the uniquely postmodern response associated with the current antifoundationalists….French philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard characterizes postmodernism as an “incredulity toward metanarratives,” those all-embracing foundations that we have relied on to make sense of the world. This extreme skepticism has undermined intellectual and moral hierarchies and made “truth” claims, transcendental or transcultural, problematic. Postmodern antifoundationalists, paradoxically grounded in relativism, dismiss knowledge as relational and “truth” as transitory, genuine only until something more palatable replaces it (reminiscent of William James’ notion of “cash value”). The critic Jacques Derrida, for example, asserts that one can never be sure that what one knows corresponds with what is.
Much of interest stands out here starting with caste. Alan Pratt seems to see the two interpretations of nihilism as reflecting degrees of abstraction. On one level, people say that life has no inherent meaning — that is the correct short form translation of what he says above — and translate that into dissipation; on the other, they see this as an opportunity to escape the dead definitions of a dying civilization and re-evaluate all that is known and how it is seen as important; in other words, to go back to Nietzsche and his Romantic-tinged apocalyptic renewal.
This also introduces the fundamental problem of modern philosophy, which it tries to handle through grammars of different fields of study, consisting of the coherence/correspondence split. A sentence can be completely grammatical and parse-able but contain no meaning because it imitates outward form but refers to nothing and resembles nothing found in reality. “A = x; if A > x, then the world ends” is entirely sensible as an expression, yet gives no information and relates to nothing. Like Nietzsche, most postmodern philosophers attack language, but unlike Nietzsche, they seek to find ways around language where Nietzsche’s point was the more flexible idea that language, logic and other forms of communication and truth-assessment are dependent on those who wield them, their intelligence, honest and intent; in other words, as he said, “There are no truths, only interpretations.”
This nihilism — which sounds a lot like postmodernism itself — distrusts not just a narrative, but the idea that there can be a narrative, or in other words one explanation of reality and how to deal with it that applies to all people. This translates to a distrust of the inherent or innate, such as the idea of “writing on the wall” or any other kind of definitive sign that communicates to all people. In other words, reality is out there, and all of our access to it comes through interpretations; these vary in value, and communication between them occurs through reality, so is subject to the same weakness. This means that there is no single symbolic or token communication which can be said to be innately true, and since the world itself issues forth no data in symbolic form, “truth” is a property of human minds and dependent on the quality, discipline and application of those minds, and is not shared among humanity collectively.
This applies less to the idea of a narrative within, say, a death metal album, that to the idea of a narrative describing our world and universal values to address it. However, individual interpretations can more closely approximate an understanding of reality, even if they cannot be communicated because communication depends on symbolic parity between all parties, which in turn depends on the ability to understand those symbols in roughly the same way. In ancient times, that viewpoint was called “esotericism” because it suggested that reality revealed its truths to those who were ready for them, with both a sense of knowledge being cumulative and not open to all people. A genius or highly talented person sees a different truth than others, thus this truth is localized to that person, and cannot be shared by the act of encoding it in symbols and speaking or writing them to others.
Taking this path through postmodern reveals that while postmodernism “flouts conventions”, as the article states, flouting conventions is not the total of postmodernism; it is one attribute, and it occurs not in and of itself but for the sake of undermining the narrative. This brings us to the core of Pilgrim’s analysis of Obscura:
In its abundant jagged outcroppings and in its constant search for the next unorthodox detour, Obscura shortchanges the simple truth that holds up metal and indeed all ‘essential’ music, that of relating an idea through sound.
I will simplify this in a grotesque but accurate way: tail wags dog. Instead of technique being used as a means of expressing an idea, the technique becomes the goal and the idea is filled in afterwards to unite the different technical parts. This common criticism of metal rings true in almost all disorganized works because the band wrote a bunch of riffs, adjusted rhythm like a big paper bag to fit them all together, and then called it a “song” despite having nothing in common between its parts, and thus no emergent atmosphere or communication which makes the whole more than the sum of the parts. This leaves us with the criticism of Obscura as failing to maintain a narrative, and whether this is related to the postmodern distrust of narratives, which itself could constitute a narrative. We could create a thesis of history describing humanity as a successive series of escapes from previously limiting narratives to new ones, but that then portrays postmodernism entirely as a form of deconstruction, which while compatible with the notion of extreme skepticism fails to capture the Nietzschean notion of “re-evaluation of all values” which is the second half of the postmodern process: (1) deconstruct and (2) reconstruct, from reality (correspondence) and not internal grammars (coherence).
The only remaining question is to analyze the music itself and see if its parts in fact associate in some way as to make a meaningful whole, which is the question here; postmodernism has served as a useful filter for introduction but not really a guide to how to do this. We are back to using the same compositional analysis that would apply to any death metal release, or any through-composed music.
Specifically, Pilgrim identifies the lack of a melodic or structural center:
Conventional melody is used not as the driving force behind the songs heard on this album, but as ballast to the band’s almost painful need to expand the template of extreme metal prevalent till then.
At this point my own narrative must switch to the incredibly general in lieu of analyzing each song. My take on this album is that Gorguts wrote an album in the style of The Erosion of Sanity and then, possibly through the work of Steve Hurdle, added strong melodic continuity. Then, they chopped it and re-arranged it so that riffs introduced themselves both in “backward” order of distilling from more texturally complex to most melodically clear, and arranged them so that the melody was introduced in a pattern which broke up its normal flow in order to introduce pieces in a sequence that created another emotional impression, then assembling it from its conclusion for the final part of the song. This seems to me both not the tail wags dog approach, but also a use of technique over composition, but in this case it was effective because the music was already composed and was modified with an additional layer of complexity and perhaps, some anticipatory contrarianism, in order to make its labyrinthine journey of fragmentary melodies into more of a puzzle assembled in the mind of the listener, not unlike how postmodern novels like Naked Lunch separated a story into vignettes and multiple character/setting groups in order to disguise it and force the reader to assemble it in the abstract, before repeating it in a finale in more concrete form.
However, it seems to me that the core of Pilgrim’s essay is his listing of seven attributes of metal, and that perhaps his intent is to use Gorguts and postmodernism as a point to speak about metal as both having postmodern attributes, and opposing postmodernism by asserting a narrative construction of its own. In this, metal may be a nihilistic exception to the norm of postmodernism, in that while it distrusts the contemporary narrative, and negates the idea of inherent truth/knowledge/communication, it asserts that it can portray reality in a fragment in such a way that others can appreciate it. Regarding the charges of amateurism, Pilgrim makes some solid points. The fixation on iconoclasm and paradigm-inversion, which itself strengthens a narrative by the fact that exceptions tend to prove the rule, and deliberately “whacky” permutations of arrangement draw skepticism, and deservedly so. The third possibility offered by this author is that like most works of art, parts of Obscura are sincere and insightful, and other parts are bullshit designed “outward in,” or from appearance to core, meaning that they communicate little or were modified to express something convenient after the fact. If taken as a whole however, the album minimizes these parts by fitting them within other songs that attract less trivial attention. Where Pilgrim seems proven right to me is through recent Gorguts output which emphasizes mysticism of the trivial as a means of enhancing the self-estimation of its listeners, much as Opeth and Meshuggah built a cottage industry around making simple music seem complex to attract low self-esteem fans who want bragging and pretense rights over their friends; where he falls short is that From Wisdom To Hate, while a more rushed and uneven album, further develops the techniques on Obscura.
I discovered the music of Blood Urn through the recommendation of a friend. Like most of what I listen to now, it is music that upholds the spirit of older underground metal, the earliest prog rock, and early metal bands like Black Sabbath: a desire to look past the official one-dimensional categorical narrative and uncover the organic life beneath, and through that, to avoid the manipulation of the mass culture around us and discover personal truths that also correspond to tendencies in reality itself. In the style of the oldest death metal bands, Blood Urn knits together riffs into a complex narrative that continually reinvents itself, creating a roller coaster through a labyrinth effect that incorporates both the progressive and psychedelic ancestry of metal. Fortunately, I was able to have brief speaks with the founder and composer of Blood Urn…
When did Blood Urn form and who are the members? What have you released so far?
The name was given to the project in 2010, but a vague idea already existed for several years before, slowly becoming a definite force. We are not a band. I write and record all the music, a friend records the vocals and some allies contribute small parts. We have released two demos on tape: “Unchain the Abhorrent” (2011) and “…of Gory Sorcery and Death” (2014).
What inspirations and influences helped propel you into starting Blood Urn?
A deep love for darkness and metal music. My influences are mostly the music that I listen to. But of course I also cherish certain occult literature, splatter movies, mythology, paintings… What I like about making (death) metal is that one can incorporate all these influences in such a naive way; there is no need for huge systematic concepts, but a lot of space for instinct and eclectic working. It never looses it’s reckless teenage approach but also provides a sense of depth and seriousness.
A riff has to make sense in the context of a song and it has to serve the song, that is what’s most important to me.
You say: “My influences are mostly the music that I listen to. But of course I also cherish certain occult literature, splatter movies, mythology, paintings…” Can you list your musical influences, especially when you started out with Blood Urn, in addition to literature, movies, mythology and paintings? I think people are fascinated by this kind of stuff because it often reveals a lot about what you value.
Things that are a continuous influence for my work with Blood Urn (and sometimes beyond):
Absu (death metal era, especially the first album and earlier stuff)
Nile (especially the first album)
Cryptopsy (first two albums)
Morbid Angel (old)
Occult stuff like Peter J. Carrol, Aleister Crowley, Austin Osman Spare, but not so much recently.
Philosophy like Nietzsche, Camus, Evola, poetic works from Baudelaire, works on religion and spirituality like Mircea Eliade.
Stupid splatter movies, horror movies like Evil Dead, Hellraiser, experimental stuff like Begotten.
Only Norse and celtic mythology when it comes to Blood Urn.
PAINTINGS / ART
I don’t have vast knowledge when it comes to art, but I know what I like when I see it. Rubens’ “Medusa”, Hieronymus Bosch, old woodcuts illustrating death, plague and the devil. VERY much old anatomic illustrations, for example by Andreas Vesalius. Specific Austrian art: Viennese actionism, Hermann Nitsch,… everybody should check this out!
Why did you choose an older style, when newer styles are more likely to get you record contracts, interviews and fame?
If cared about that, I would make different music. But I don’t even think that I would be able to make other music than this kind of metal in a decent way… For example, I am into prog/folk rock and would love to play that style as well, but it just ends up horrible every time I try it.
On the other hand, I am doing an interview right now and people have been responding better to my creative output than I could have ever wished for, so. I am pleased about all the feedback the way it is. If there is something like an underground metal “scene,” then I have to compliment it for being very responsive.
What is it that appeals to you about these older styles? Do you think they are still relevant? How do we measure “relevant”?
Right now, being traditional, backward-looking and a little bit nostalgic is a strength of the black and death metal scene since it spawned a lot of interesting bands that adhere to these ideals. I think tradition will always be relevant for metal music and I am extremely enthusiastic about its complexity. But that is no excuse to replace artistic vision by mere reproduction of the characteristics of a certain style/era… that is a danger for creative potential and I am a little skeptical about the way things are. I don’t know how to measure relevance, but I sure see the danger of becoming trivial. Especially after all the buzz about old death metal vanishes again… which of the records that we bought in the last five years will stand the test of time? Blood Urn? I don’t have the highest hopes, to be honest. And I don’t really care.
A good part of the songwriting may be jamming around and stringing riffs together, but most of the time I have an abstract concept for a song structure and then try to find fitting riffs.
I could not identify a single dominant influence to Blood Urn. This makes the band stand out as different from retro/revivalist bands which seem to target a specific sound from the past. How did you find your own artistic voice in your music?
Thank you, I appreciate that observation very much! I think I like re-arranging elements from different scenes / bands / eras, sometimes by intuition and sometimes intentional. But that is not a main aspect of my songwriting. Maybe it adds a little character. For “Unchain the Abhorrent” I had a vision of a bastard descending from stuff like Archgoat and old Suffocation, I can’t really say if it worked out (there definitely is room for improvement and refinement). For “… of Gory Sorcery and Death” I went for rather pure death metal.
Are there any plans to release an album? Are there advantages to releasing demos first?
“Unchain the Abhorrent” was purely a demo. It came together spontaneously, I did not care too much for sound issues, I just wanted to get something done. But after that, I have to say that I put a lot of work into “…of Gory Sorcery and Death” and it feels like the best I can do at the moment. So maybe I should have put it out as an album; I don’t know where to draw the line to be honest.
Do you listen to any current metal acts? Can you list them, if so?
I do listen to a lot of new metal. Dead Congreagation, Karnarium, Katharsis, Deathspell Omega, Triumphant,… I don’t buy every demo ever released, but I think a lot of worthwhile stuff has been going on in the last years. I also listen to other musical genres, like 70s rock, folk, hardcore punk, grindcore, ambient, noise and so on.
How do you compose your songs? Are they riff-based, melody-based or idea-based?
I would say the emphasis is on ideas! A good part of the songwriting may be jamming around and stringing riffs together, but most of the time I have an abstract concept for a song structure and then try to find fitting riffs.
I think tradition will always be relevant for metal music and I am extremely enthusiastic about its complexity. But that is no excuse to replace artistic vision by mere reproduction of the characteristics of a certain style/era.
How do you determine what riffs, songs, parts, etc. to keep and what to reject?
I write a lot of riffs and it is hard for me to reject any of them. I know, there may be a few filler-sounding riffs on my demos, but I don’t mind that too much. It gives certain other parts a climax-like effect and I like that, because it adds structure to the songs. I know a good riff when I stumble upon it, but I sometimes have hard times with parts that don’t click the first time. I tend to keep all the material I write as placeholder for better parts, but sometimes I familiarize with it after a while. A riff has to make sense in the context of a song and it has to serve the song, that is what’s most important to me.
If people like what you have been doing, where should they go next to learn more? Any upcoming news you can share?
Blood Urn does not have a website or facebook page, but feel free to contact me at email@example.com. There are plans for a re-release of “…of Gory Sorcery and Death” on Vinyl as well as a new 7″. I haven’t been working on Blood Urn for the last few months, but there will be something new this year.