For classical fans, a bit of space for discussion at our metal forum:No Comments
A metal scene can be defined as a network of people working to promote metal in a certain locality. If done properly, it can be extremely beneficial for the promotion of metal music, but it can also turn into something quite poisonous for the nurturing of great art in the genre.
I’ve seen it a thousand times, and probably you too: a new underground band comes out and if its mildly good it gets promoted to the four winds, sometimes even “deserving” cult or legendary status at only a few months of releasing the first demo. As having success with a band is easier than it has ever been, a local scene can fill itself with hordes upon hordes of new acts expecting its fifteen minutes under the sun, most of them crap because of their motivation.
Some see the amount of bands coming out nowadays as a good thing, but for the more observing, the current state of affairs is tragic: more bands don’t necessarily mean more bands of superior quality.
For those believing that metal is dead because there aren’t any good bands coming out in recent years, it must be said that is not entirely true – there are new bands releasing pretty good music considering their amateurishness, which means they are often far ahead from the herd. Not great nor classic stuff, but music with potential to become excellent, given some time, work and effort. Usually, you can catch them on MySpace and other music channels.
The problem with relentless promotion of the type already explained is that if mediocre stuff can be easily promoted nowadays, the music with potential can too, and that can be perjudicial in the long term for those bands, as an early bout of success in the scene can terminate its potential for further growth. I’ve also seen it. It’s like the scenesters, in non-violent way, clip a band’s wings before it learns to fly by giving the band what they want before they deserve it – recognition.
We at the Hessian Studies Center believe that great art can only come from struggle and difficulties. Don’t complain that there isn’t enough “support”, make it harder on the bands! Be more demanding! If something new doesn’t sound anywhere near like the best bands in the genre, then don’t bother. Many would cringe in horror at that approach, complaining that the number of bands would come crashing down dramatically if many took such a harsh view. Yes, it’s true… the amount of bands would be much less, yet the quality would also go up, as only the most determined warriors would make it to the top.
In such a struggling environment, it would take a lot more than meeting “the right people” or playing the “right style” of metal to get known in the scene, so there would be no more hipsters and poseurs… the key to win a place in the scene would (once again) be musical quality, feeling and expression.
If hessians took only those parameters and to the heart, the scene would once again breed music of quality like in its best days. Besides, such setting reminding one of “survival of the fittest” would adjust to the hessian spirit like a glove – after all, we are all obsessed with war, death and winning battles, why not translate that into our surroundings? And imagine, just imagine, having a new golden era of metal music with bands releasing music as good as the best from Burzum, At the Gates and Manilla Road. It can happen. And it’s up to us.
When black metal became in popular perception “the next big thing”, around 1992, it was rightly considered an European phenomenon which contained a cultural bias based on tradition, arts and society impossible to spiritually clone in the American way of life, even in the underground which had spawned death metal. Bands like Profanatica and VON showed that it is possible to create the blasphemy spewing minimalistic barbaro-black metal in USA as well as anywhere else, but the Romanticist type of black metal bands from USA were for a decade, if not more, the laughing stock of even American BM maniacs themselves. There was something wholeheartedly absurd about Sumerian sorcerers from Texas, druids from Minnesota and vampires from California. David “Blackmoon” Parland of the insipid Dark Funeral waged verbal war in zines against Proscriptor of Absu, who cast curses and spells in return. Judas Iscariot printed Nietzschean statements in German and moustached overweight pro-wrestling fans took pictures of themselves corpsepainted in suburban woods. Whereas musical quality grew through the times, so did the amount of excess people circulating in the American BM underground, leading to the explosion of “bedroom black metal” in the turn of the millennium, while black metal messageboards became populated with people whose IQ would be statistically rather rare in Norway and Sweden.
The dilemma seems to lie in the artificial distance between the sophisticated intellectual and man of the street which characterizes also the separation between the art and entertainment of 20th century America. Whereas the Oslo or Bergen black metaller would have been raised with equal awareness of Ibsen’s plays, American movies and classical music as well as punk, the US black metaller often came from the background of very little cultural perception besides TV, baseball, horror movies and aggressive competitive values. The obsession with social standing is such that looking or behaving different would easily be seen as gay or the sign of a wimp or nerd, but what fan of black metal would want to represent normality in every piece of action? Scandinavian, Austrian or even Polish metalhead did not and does not share this pressure of having to be a regular conservative guy because there are more different roles and stereotypes available in the society to identify with. Thus most of the US youth involved in black metal came to view themselves as either depressive, perverted losers or occult maniacs oriented to conjure the otherworld dressed in robes and armed with litanies of every available ancient magick tradition and spellcasting culture.
As case studies, take for example Crimson Moon from San Diego and Night Conquers Day from New York. Both are bands with respectable instrumental skill, dedication to the black metal arts beyond the normal “scene kid” wannabe interest and an intuitive grasp of the Romantic and Faustian in black metal. Yet, both are bands hard to take seriously at face value, because there is so much absurdity, alienation from reality and bad aesthetic choices involved. Crimson Moon presented themselves as a magical collective of energy vampires but the music was often a too simplistic rip off of influences from Cradle of Filth to Ancient, damaging the beauty, while their reputation suffered a blow from public arguments on online messageboards not at all fitting for the sorceric image – even splitting the band in two factions, Gorgoroth-style. Night Conquers Day posed in full daylight near a storage building with one of the members wearing corpsepaint (and the infamous moustache!) and the personal history of the members included getting into headlines for stealing gravestones and a keyboard player who disappeared but returns now and then to play a piece over the phone (I think I would go that way too if I had to live in the American society) and the 10-15 minute epic songs quoting several eras of metal from Mercyful Fate to Burzum remained unmemorable because of sounding like too many parts had been stitched together with no spiritual theme arching to wrap up its diverse aspects into a continuous whole.
Written by Devamitra1 Comment
Thanks to “Jim Necroslaughter” we now have photos and a full report of the hessian slay-in that took place in Madison, Wisconsin, this past June 6th for International Day of Slayer:
Saturday June 6th, 2009, was a rainy, overcast day in Madison, Wisconsin. Appropriate for the Inter-National Day of Slayer, I suppose. While the rain may have deterred some people (flaky Madison liberals) from showing up that day, the proud few stuck out the rain from 10 AM to 4 PM at Library Mall, in the heart of downtown Madison.
Within 15 minutes of setting up, a random, street-urchin type, riding a bike, stopped by and offered me a hit off the glass pipe he had hidden in his hand – “this is the green, right here,” he said. In the right situation I would partake, but I figured this wasn’t the time or the place, so I passed. I found it funny that this was the first time in my life that a complete random offered me weed – in public, no less. The IDoS brings good karma I guess.
After about an hour, a completely unassuming 20-something year old, came up and asked me, “Is it REALLY the National Day of Slayer!?” We talked for 15 minutes about the best Slayer album (I told him South of Heaven), and metal, in general. I gave him a flyer and mentioned anus.com a few times. He was extremely fun to talk to – a balding, “conservatively” dressed young man that actually knew quite a bit about metal. He was really excited about the fact that it was the National Day of Slayer, and it was clear that he wasn’t taking the holiday as a joke or with a sense of irony.
At one point, early on, I remember two University of Wisconsin campus tours being forced to walk by us – haha! These tours are essentially for high-school kids and their parents who are trying to decide on where to go to college next fall. I’m pretty sure Reign in Blood was playing at that point – perfect!
The next person I remember talking to was a very old man. He was looking at our signs and came up to me and in a thick German accent, he said “June 6th is also D-Day.” I told him we knew that, and he told me a great story about how he was 14 and living in Nazi Germany on D-Day (so I guess that would make him 79, today). He asked me, “What is this ‘metal,’ is it the music you listen to?” I confirmed that it was, and I told him I also listen to classical. He asked me, who is your favorite composer? I told him Beethoven. He seemed very pleased with my answer, and said something to the effect of: “Beethoven makes you think that the entire universe was created just so that Beethoven could exist.” The old man was a pleasure to talk to, especially with Hell Awaits blasting in the background!
Let’s see. I remember an older woman (must have been 40) coming up and taking a flyer. I remember an older couple (around 40 or 50) coming up and hanging out for about 10 minutes – the wife seemed to know her Slayer pretty well, all things considered. A group of young African-American men and women stopped by for a few minutes and chatted us up, took a few flyers, and seemed pretty amused about the whole thing. There was a church about 100 yards away and sure enough, there was a wedding that day. A few of the groomsmen walked by at one point and raised a beer. At one point, I remember explaining to a man why Slayer was the perfect spokesband for metal – they are popular, but not total sell-outs, essentially. Nat’l Day of Darkthrone is too obscure, but Nat’l Day of Metallica is too HIV positive.
The best group of people that stopped by was a German family (more Germans!). They all had accents but they essentially spoke perfect English, I gathered that they live in America or visit it a lot. Anyway, the mom and dad stood back and had huge smiles on their face. The two sons and daughter were REALLY excited about our set-up! They said this was the best thing they had seen in months, they loved our signs (the daughter especially liked the “No Hipsters” sign), and took a bunch of pictures. We talked for probably 20 minutes; the one son really knew his black metal – he opened up his wallet and showed me his old I.D. from Deutschland. He said, “this was when I was 15 and had long hair – I used to be a sinner!” Pretty good line, I thought.
All in all I was pretty surprised at how we attracted a pretty diverse crowd – men, women, black, white, German, young, old, long hair, balding, street-urchins, groomsmen. At the end of the day, I realize that some people who stopped by probably thought we were being ironic, and to some extent, I know that we attracted some hipster-types. But I know I made some contact with some authentic people who will hopefully, ultimately, check out anus.com.
Improvements for next year:
– Red dye for the fountain in the middle of Library Mall.
– A goat chained to a tree
– A bigger/louder stereo!
And some pictures of the gathering (click to enlarge):
We at the Hessian Studies Center would like to congratulate the few, but brave ones that took this initiative for activism and showed local people that hessians are a group aware of themselves and that metal is a valid subculture. We also thanks Jim for his detailed report on the gathering and extend our kudos to the old man for his profound saying on Beethoven‘s music.
Metal, through its lyricism and imagery, and some might say, its feeling, tries in a very obvious way to link itself to the past, whether by telling the story of the armies that fought in World War II or by describing things that happened in a far more remote past time, like events so past us that they become almost mythical. Why is that? As previously commented on another post, metal not only is an alternative to modernity as a way to see and understand life, but its opposite. And that was intended from the very beginning…a rebellion towards what metal artists saw as a complacent world filled with domesticated robots disconnected from their environment. As a counterposition towards that mentality, heavy metal offers an inspired vision of how things were in a past when life was a lot more violent and rougher, and yet strangely, healthier for the challenges it offered daily. We can see that connection most obviously in heavy and speed/thrash metal, but the more compositionally advanced forms of extreme metal aren’t divorced from the idea either. In that approach there is a unique message implied, which is: by arriving to a materially advanced state of civilization in which life is safer, we’d actually done a devil’s bargain – we have completely moved away from doing things that may potentially be hurting and unsafe, unlike those times in which life was violent and challenging and yet, despite that, we lived in a state of connection with nature made by the very things that threatened us each day.
Most of the people living now don’t know how to make a fire or wield a sword because they don’t need to: we got gas ovens and professional armies now, which are certainly great things to have in this modern age, no doubt, but the problem lies in that we have skewed challenges altogether expecting that everything be given to us in a silver platter. In other words: we have domesticated ourselves, and in the process we have lost a part of our souls. Suddenly, life no longer has meaning besides getting new things to make ourselves happy and more comfortable. That’s what metal is against, and by rescuing the past it tries to give us lessons, like a grandfather telling a story of his own childhood in order to communicate an experience we young people might find usable. In the same way, metal gives us, red-blooded people with a thirst for life and challenge, an alternative view to the conformism we see everyday around us.
Lyrics like the above evoke awful images to most people, but for the hessian, beneath the death, the blood and the fighting, there is a quest for glory and self-improvement and, as modern day warriors, we are able by listening and understanding the music to feel a part of the rush that ancient warriors must have felt. Bands like Manowar, Motörhead, Bolt Thrower, Omen, Dio and, of course, Iron Maiden have brought the past to the table many times for that reason, and many bands have made entire careers out of it. They evoke a time we want to revive in our hearts for daily inspiration. Yet, as romantic our souls may be, we don’t want to repeat the errors of the past as much as we don’t want to screw things up as badly as modern peoples. And this is why metal also takes the idea of evocation further by exploring the mythical world of fantasy. But that’s another topic. In the meantime, let us hessians rescue the past, both through music and books and learn from it so we can be the ancient men of the modern ages. The past lives on us!No Comments
The guitarist/vocalist of Atomizer, Jason Healey, has started writing a book about the meaning and purpose of black metal. As he says on the site:
When I first discovered Black Metal in the early 90’s it was as though some invincible force confronted me. Never had I witnessed a sound so primitive and raw, yet so atmospheric and bombastic. An essence that ran so much deeper than its fiendish visual and caustic tone would alone suggest. A bizarre paradox of ugliness, contempt and barbarism awash in philosophical revelation and profane religious fervor. Life, death, salvation and sacrifice – Black Metal truly is the malignant paradigm.
The Stench of Black Metal will attempt to corral the seemingly divergent positions its legions have granted it and provide what is hoped to be the definitive statement. This is not to suggest that the words of any one individual will bestow this, though readers may find divinity in a single declaration. It is not intended to be a guide or an explanation; rather a gateway to the determination of what dwells at its core. The quest to unveil its quintessence.
He’s soliciting contributions from bands, zines, labels and fans. You can send in your statement at the website, The Stench of Black Metal, if you can address the following questions:
- Describe in your own words the quintessence of Black Metal.
- Is this point of view representative of a specific time, and if so at what point did this view manifest? (ie: March 1991)
- Has the definitive Black Metal statement been made and what is it?
- What purpose is Black Metal yet to serve?
For kicks, here’s an outtake from my answer:
Quintessence to my mind means the indefinable abstract as it applies to the context of the universe as a whole. This means that an idea is needed that gets you to the starting point just before the main show. To my mind, this is a conflict between ego and id.
The ego is the agent of our consciousness about ourselves; self-awareness/self-consciousness is what separates us from animals and lets us look at reality and think how we might change it. That’s the essence of our technology, which is how we have evolved out of ape status. At the same time, the ego is limited by having to put into a present tense, single-focus stream a complex reality of many factors. It does this by subtracting out all factors but one, and then focusing on that factor as a means to a single desired result. This really limits logic.
The id is less limited. It is not self-controlling like our ego, and in contrast is a wild west of impulses and emotions and aesthetic notions. When our ego is put into a social situation, it starts treating the world like a personality, which screws up our sense of cause/effect logic. The ego then becomes overactive because it sees humans as the cause of the world, not vice-versa, and so we get caught up in social notions like popularity, democracy, “safety,” social status and abstract moral conceptions.
Social thinking uses negative logic to organize us against what we fear to deny it or banish it. This long chain of events means that we get ruled by fear, through our ego as it interacts with other egos. The id knows no such boundaries. It likes what it likes because it seems cool, or epic, or beautiful, so it’s not always trying to censor itself to avoid threats. It just goes ahead and does what it thinks is a pleasurable mental experience, even if that means horror or cruelty or amoral acts.
Black metal resembles European literary Romanticism — stuff like Blake, Goethe, Wordsworth and Coleridge — because both see the individual destroying the individual as a gateway to the id. Lose yourself in the beauty of contemplating ancient ruins, or in martial arts, or in meditative thought and soon you are beyond good and evil. You are no longer self-aware, but aware of the abstract structure of reality and how its goods and evils interact to produce a constant, renewing reality. That is beauty and it’s the domain of the id, not the ego, which fears beauty that might be deadly.
If you had to try to put the quintessence of black metal into two words, it would be just that “deadly beauty” or “lawless beauty.” Like all metal, it views the world from a historical sense of the epic, in which the individual is a means of seeing truth but not a goal in itself. This anti-human view lets us escape our self-awareness and social thinking to see reality as a series of logical processes.
Nature is a process that ignores the individual. It is a blind, simplistic process that works like a big organic machine. It tries everything, and then kills off the failures. This is why nature seems cruel to us, because we’re thinking from the view of the individual. “What if I were the mouse in the Eagle’s claws?” Yet it’s that cruelty that gets us not only life itself, but higher form of life, because each puzzle in our environment that we beat made us more intelligent, more capable as a species.
All of our social thinking is in denial of this fact. We detest predation, inequality, death, defecation, disease, horror and fear. Metal has since 1969 been reminding us that these things exist, and we cannot just shut them out of our minds, or we blind ourselves to the good and bad in life. Black metal took this furthest by using the emphasis on logical structure that came from death metal, and adding to it a sense of melody and atmosphere.
In doing so, it fulfilled an archetype of European art that has been struggling for a voice for centuries: the primal Romantic outlook. In this view, we must live for what is beautiful, and we must not be afraid to see some things as better than others and — some would say “arbitrarily” to please their friends — select those and praise those highly while letting the others suffer in the dark.
Romantic literature can be summed up in this phrase from Blake: “The cut worm forgives the plough.” Forget morality, because it’s focused on the means, which are individuals. Focus on the ends — what is beauty? How do we create it? If we do that, we find life isn’t a plodding process of obedience but an onward quest for improving ourselves through adversity and a basic reverence for the process of life itself. That’s the meaning of black metal that I see.
I hope this project makes it to print. It has obstacles ahead. But it’s a worthy goal, putting into words what the vague images of music and visual arts made us feel.No Comments
Today, June 6th, is International Day of Slayer. Many dedicated people, among them the fearsome IDoS task force, have worked to make this event the biggest yet.
You may ask, if interested (and damn you if you’re not), what can one do to celebrate and fully enjoy this day? Easy: by incommodating your parents/neighbours/girlfriend/dog all day long, playing your favorite Slayer(s) album(s) at maximum volume.
But I feel that what’s been said is enough, and we shall preach no more. Today, blast yer speakers through the boundaries of hell!
“NO APPARENT MOTIVE, JUST KILL AND KILL AGAIN!”
- Comprehensive Slayer history @ slayerized.com
- Facts you probably didn’t know about Slayer, also @ slayerized.com
mp3 and FLAC bootlegs:
- Slayer – Live 1984-1992
- Slayer – Violent Brains – Live in Netherlands – May 28th, 1985
- Slayer 1985-06-20 Blue Moon Circus, Oberhausen (soundboard – FLAC)
- Slayer – Slayer – October 4, 1990 – Rheingoldhalle – Mainz, Germany FLAC:
- Slayer – Live Dead (Unreleased):
- Slayer Backing Tracks – bass and drum tracks to the first five albums (Unspeakably cool resource. I think instead of Slayer I’m going to be playing along “Chemical Warfare” all day on the guitar >:-] )
You may have noticed in previous posts on this blog the phrase “elective culture” and its application to the definition of hessianism. Basically, our assertion is that hessianism is a culture in which you’re not born into. “Elective” implies here the power of choice, as all of us in some moment in our lives (early teenage years in most cases) chose to become die hard metalheads as we became enraptured by the power metal gives.
But what is the necessity for “elective cultures”? Did we have these in the past, or are these an exclusive phenomenon of our times? To answer these questions, we need to look at the bigger perspective.
Western peoples have for many decades been experiencing a lost of meaning. Being on the lead in expanding the universal ideals of free market, multiculturalism and relentless economic growth first sponsored by the USA, we have been for quite some time forgetting the value of the original cultures which once defined us.
The generations born after the 60s decade (that’s most of us) met with an unusual circumstance not known in previous eras: the lack of a general foundation in which to comprehend life and base one’s purpose in it. This role was previously given by one’s own culture. As the generations pass it’s becoming more and more difficult to find a meaning to life besides consumerism, hedonism and blind obedience to the system.
It’s not unusual, if one understands human nature, that at the lack of something fundamental one looks for a replacement to compensate. In the plethora of different groupings which characterize our modern pluralistic societies (meaning, not defined by a single culture, but by many sharing the same space), the replacement can only come in what is called an “elective culture”. Among them we have examples in certain neo-paganist sects, sports culture incarnated in dedication and fanaticism for a particular club, and hessianism, or metal culture.
Culture simply means any way of life, any way of being, any form of art. So ‘elective cultures’ like metal are just as much cultures as anything else. However, the question of legitimacy you raise seems to imply the question of whether elective cultures like metal are seen as legitimate in pluralistic societies. While the old ‘high-low culture’ distinction still remains in some parts of society, it is much weaker than it used to be. These days, most people who hate metal would still probably concede that it forms a unique cultural space.
I shall go further: by sponsoring a world-view based on nature’s law and extreme realism, hessianism not only becomes a viable alternative to modernism, but its opposite. Metal lyrics and themes have quite an obsession with the past, and from the past it draws its values: heroism, warrior spirit, channeled aggression towards a noble end, etc. These are antagonistic to the modern view of life of comfort and materialism.
Now, in some of you may arise the question: are hessians born or made? Are the values of hessianism so different from the norm that you need to have certain innate psychological qualities, like an unusual lust for power? “I was born to play/listen to metal” is an assertion we hear many times from hessians. How “elective” is metal culture really? If the application of the EC label is more ambiguous than we believe, then, can hessian culture become at some point non-elective? We’ll try to touch the subject on another post.No Comments
From the arid deserts infested with scorpions and snakes to the liberal cities and more conservative rural ranches, Texas carries the memory of the American frontier, the spirit of man against overwhelming odds; an age when harmony with nature determined survival. In the 80′s groundbreaking bands such as DRI, Helstar, Watchtower, Ripper and Necrovore created both musical and aggressive anti-normal metal that gave foundations for genres such as progressive metal, thrash and death metal. In the 90′s, the sceptre was mostly carried by death metal influenced black metal bands Absu, Averse Sefira and Thornspawn. Just as the Texas scene seemed to have quieted down in keeping with the hipsterization of metal, the last two years have shown many new promising acts to arise: the occult metal of Dagon, the hyperactive metal/punk crossover of Birth A.D. and the demonic and subliminal Blaspherian. While all of these are formally very much crafted according to the rules of subgenres established by the previous degenerations, their no-nonsense attitude and direct, perceptual spirit in the creation of insistent, spontaneous and un-commercial metal artifacts deserves nothing but applause.
Written by DevamitraNo Comments
Shedding more light on our statement that artistic aptitude in metal is a rare trait, a University of HELLsinki study reveals that musicality is more of an inborn characteristic than most think:
In the study high music test scores were significantly associated with creative functions in music (p< .0001), suggesting composing, improvising and arranging music demands musical aptitude. Creativity is a multifactorial genetic trait involving a complex network made up of a number of genes and environment. Here was shown for the first time that the creative functions in music have a strong genetic component (h2 =.84; composing h2 =.40; arranging h2 =.46; improvising h2 = .62) in Finnish multigenerational families. Additionally the heritability estimates of the musical aptitude were remarkable.
To elucidate the neurobiological basis of music in human evolution and communication the researchers demonstrated an association of arginine vasopressin receptor 1A (AVPR1A) gene variants with musical aptitude. In the previous studies the AVPR1A gene and its homologies have been associated with social, emotional and behavioral traits, including pair bonding and parenting. The results suggest that the neurobiology of music perception and production is related to the pathways affecting intrinsic attachment behavior.
“Music is social communication between individuals,” says Liisa Ukkola. “Darwin proposed that singing is used to attract the opposite sex. Furthermore, lullabies are implied to attach infant to a parent and singing or playing music together may add group cohesion. Thus, it is justified to hypothesize that music perception and creativity in music are linked to the same phenotypic spectrum of human cognitive social skills, like human bonding and altruism both associated with AVPR1A. We have shown for the first time in the molecular level that music perception has an attachment creating impact.”
In more layman terms: ability in music, meaning not just technical skill but creativity and general talent at composing and improvising, is determined mostly by the genes. Not just that, it is also claimed that music making is intimately related with the human traits associated with bonding and communication with other human beings: we use music to transmit to each other ideas so complex that we would be unable to convey with speaking or gestures and do so because we care about communicating those ideas to the world.
All of this data makes one thinks twice about supporting each and every band that comes our way. Not everyone can be an artist and create great, transcendental works, so why should we keep encouraging participation in the metal scene when we can be more concerned about quality and not quantity?