dm;wr

I was goofing off on the internet the other day and saw some commentary on the popularity of this meme:

tl;dr

Then, as I slogged through the latest round of promos tonight, another one came to mind:

dm;wr

It describes the black metal I’m hearing now that isn’t utter crap. It’s not bad, but it’s on the high end of mediocrity instead of the low end of genius. As a result, my thoughts on it can be summarized as Didn’t mind; wouldn’t reach for it again.

Hence, dm;wr — didn’t mind, wouldn’t reach.

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The Sacred and the Profane

Mircea Eliade from Romania is one of the most publically revered figures on history of religion and the philosophy of religion, even though at one point he had an interest in Garda de Fier, the Romanian fascist movement contemporary with Mussolini. Among his vast corpus of work, this treatise concerning primarily what it is that men perceive as sacred, is one of the most read and debated ones.

The point of talking about this book is that it’s the most succinct and lucid introduction to the concepts of sanctity and ritual from a neutral perspective. Theology is obsessed with the Christian material and the occultists are obsessed with whatever it is they are obsessed with at the time. Eliade, on the other hand, is remarking on the intention of ritual and temples, cosmogonical myths and how civilization deals with the problem of adjusting to time, the great destroyer, and nature/environment, the great nurturing force. It is not surprising that one finds a lot in common with the ideals of Nietzsche and Evola, such as the concept of cyclical time and eternal return. In stressing the otherness of that which is perceived as sacred, he has interesting parallels to Jungian psychology and seems to foreshadow Foucault.

I believe this book is most helpful to understanding the character of mystical and religious experience and ritual, which has a definite part in metal culture whether in the hippie-tinged early psychedelia, the archaic revivalism of black metal or death metal’s explorations of the religious-psychotic mind. Eliade’s book does have its problems such as putting forward of very generalized statements, some unclear arguments and stylistically the writing is rather bouncing. Yet it is very descriptive, luscious and inspiring. Besides being a scientist, it’s obvious that he is also fulfilling some artistic, visionary and personal aims with this study.

-Devamitra-

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If you like metal, why tolerate weak metal?

Once upon a time, black metal had a mystical component. Its bands tried to write songs about an idea, and shied away from writing songs that were variations on a known form.

This is a split as big as the difference between inductive and deductive reasoning for rock music, which got popular because it’s easy for anyone to make a variant on a template. That way, everyone could participate.

People now like to act as if black metal is still a mystical genre. They take themselves seriously, use ancient and blasphemous language, and claim grand importance for CDs that sell to 50 people who can’t tell them apart from any of their other CDs.

There is no unity in the genre, just a lot of people using it for their own ends, namely to have something to do and some reason to claim they’re important. “But I am Gezagorath of Impietorturous Blasphemic Anal Mayehm!”

I think it’s time to just declare it rock ‘n roll. It’s no longer far from rock music in structure or theory; it’s variations on the pop song format with pentatonic solos, minor/major shifting, and three-chord riffs about the same handful of tired symbols. Not even grandmothers are frightened by Satan and corpsepaint anymore.

It’s also changed in outlook. It used to be the genre of the frontier, of singing about that which was both lawless and a terrifying confrontation with mortality, but also permitted exploration outside the narrow-minded humanist herd mentality. Now people say blatantly humanistic things to keep their music safe, and wonder why we’re all bored.

Yep, it’s just all rock ‘n roll to me now. I don’t see the point pretending the post-1994 black metal is anything more than another variation on hardcore punk, a genre which also lost its mystique and got really normal only a few years after blossoming.

Everyone can participate, and so there is nothing mysterious or unusual about black metal now. We need to start treating it like any other rock or punk music, and stop posturing and pretending we’re true to some ideal that ended long ago. Burn all the idols, not just the convenient ones.

Either you make music to communicate something unique, in which case form is shaped by substance, or you make music to fit within the form that’s popular, in which case substance is shaped by form.

The paradox is that all substance comes from observing the world, not from within the self (a form), so the only substance comes from reality itself. Songs about self-motivations are about the form of human beings, not the profundity of life itself. They’re narcissistic and fall into the same problem as songs where substance is shaped by any other type of form.

Like hardcore punk before it, and speed metal and death metal, black metal fell into the trap of letting in the masses. At that point, the level of quality declined because the goal was inclusivity and not the art in itself. So now we have a lot of black metal that is basically dressed-up garage rock.

The solution is to be intolerant of weak metal. If you love anything, don’t coddle its failures. Instead, nurture its successes, even to the point of radicalism. Acceptance is another word for lower standards, and lowest common denominator genres converge on that optimal utilitarian pop style known as rock ‘n roll.

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Gary Valentine Lachman – Turn Off Your Mind

When it appeared, I thought this book mostly worthless, because from a few glances the factual errors, opininiated attitude and the fact that it’s aimed at hipsters who ironically appreciate the counterculture were obvious. Lately I have changed my mind: this is a valuable book for beginners who are wondering about the new age, cult and heretical obsessions from Lovecraft to Crowley, Manson to Castaneda and parallel topics that inflitrated heavy metal from the beginning and even more obviously death and black metal. The writer Lachman has previously contributed to the underground through his work in early post-punk bands Blondie and Television. He comes across as a honest and astute writer, even though his ultra-liberalism causes him to be very unobjective when facing topics such as nazism and murder – it seems he sometimes chooses not to see the context.

The best part is that obviously he himself was very much oriented from a young age towards the topics of the occult in the same spirit as old death and black metallers were: picking up those parts that seem to benefit the empowerment of man, reveal the experience of the mystical in life and reach towards transcendence no matter how “crazy” deemed by the public. And despite the aforementioned shunning of brutal elements in Western culture and counterculture, his conclusions tend to be sane and without the excessive burden of moralism. Overall, while labeled as a book about the 60′s, possibly for marketing reasons, in describing the threads that connected popular culture to esoteric practice throughout the whole century it’s a better guide to reveal the spiritual tendencies behind death metal, from Morbid Angel’s deities to Deicide’s blasphemy, than books that are actually about death metal itself.

-Devamitra-

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Beherit – Engram

Scheduled for release on April 9, Beherit Engram faces high expectations. Thanks to the generosity of some people devoted to art, we were able to hear six of the seven tracks on the new album, and get you a brief review.

Engram thrusts forward through the past in a return to form for black metal, but takes it to the next dimension past Burzum’s Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, which effectively ended black metal by taking it to ambient in the first place. Developing on the concepts shared between ambient music and metal, Engram is really raw but intensely structured, with a deepening mood.

Instead of opting to make a black metal/ambient fusion, Beherit combine the ideas of raw primitive ambient black metal with atmospheric music that works with the texture of sound more than discrete notes. Faster than Drawing Down the Moon, it resembles the material from the Archgoat split given more structure and prismatic depth without losing its primitive gestalt. This is a smart way of not trying to reinvent black metal, but recontexting its riffs in such a way as to pick up where Burzum’s Hvis Lyset Tar Oss left off, which is an attempt to create a mood where one is barely aware that there’s music but gets lost in the muscular clarity of a raw emotion reflecting a primal, naturalistic reality.

The use of repeated non-distorted motifs reminds me of Burzum’s Hlidskjalf as well. There’s a clear Sarcofago influence, and something that sounds like a fusion between Bathory albums The Return and Octagon, sometimes augmented with a noisy, melodic cornering reminiscent of later Darkthrone. Like most Beherit works, these songs uncannily grow on you like mysticism in the darkness.

Black metal has been so stale and boring for the last fifteen years, it’s awesome to have something to look forward to with excitement again. This does not just rehash the past, but inherits it, and subtly develops its ideas consistenly and yet with creativity, moving to a new space for this music to flourish. Engram may win you over surprisingly quickly; it’s organized, has heart, and in the transitions of its dark moods tells us something for the ages about how to survive humanness with elan. Perhaps it is a template for the next generation of black metal.

01. Axiom Heroine
02. Destroyer of Thousand Worlds
03. All in Satan
04. Pagan Moon
05. Pimeyden Henki
06. Suck My Blood
07. Demon Advance
Length: 43:02

Spinefarm pre-order page

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Amor fati

My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it — all idealism is mendaciousness in the face of what is necessary — but love it.

– Friedrich Nietzsche, “Why I Am So Clever” in Ecce Homo, section 10

This a great summation of Nietzsche’s method; an outlook unswayed by the petty gusts of popular opinion, or common knowledge, in pursuit of what is real, including acknowledging both the “ugly” and the “beautiful.”

It is also essential to the approach taken by metal: recognize the world for what it is, pull no punches in describing it and use this relentlessly regardless of mere social consequences.

ATHEIST, one of death metal’s most cosmically literate bands, seems to agree:

Another notch in a cosmic climb
Reveal our sanity, reveal your plan divine
To grasp reality is to grasp your biggest fear, you see
Every circumstance is very meant to be

– ATHEIST, “Piece of Time”

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Is downloading MP3s “stealing”?

Stealing depends on the intent of the downloader and the artist.

With death metal, for example, where 5000 CDs sold is an out-of-the-ballpark smash, artists love it when you download their music — much of which is out of print. They gain fans; sometimes, enough fans leads to CDs being re-pressed.

If the artist wants to gain fans, and the downloaders want to buy the CD if they really connect with the music, the situation is good.

As with all downloads, there are some people who will never buy anything and will just leech. However, they weren’t going to buy the CDs anyway. Leeches just leech. DRM doesn’t stop them, but it does hassle ordinary users who might want a second copy of Deicide’s “Legion” for the car or something.

In my view, downloading is a boon to small and niche genres with fanatical fans; it’s a loss for big box store style pop genres, whose fans only care for novelty. Oh well — the destruction of that music is a win for art :)

TechCrunch

Death metal never plays by the rules. People buy the music because it’s eternal, not new. They want to own it so they never lose it, not because it’s worth something outside of its enjoyment. And, almost everyone else hates it and thinks it’s degraded noise made by failed reprobates. But luckily, not playing by the rules means you’re outside the popularity leads to money and power game. Instead, you can focus on the art itself. That’s transcendence of a kind.

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Comeback albums you can forget

We all know the syndrome: old band with a recognized name pops up, and we think, their old stuff was good; it’s great they’re back!

What they’re thinking is that they don’t want to go back to working at Target, so here’s a chance to cash in on the old name. They no longer hope to get big, but now, they just want six months or a year of something more interesting, and they’re going to use you toward that end.

Of course, they’ve forgotten that even though most of the metal audience are dunces at this point, the rise of MP3s means that we can hear the stuff in advance, and pitch it in the bin for being junk. So their comebacks fail.

Pestilence – Resurrection Macabre

Did you ever wonder what would happen if you streamlined the dry production of PESTILENCE’s Testimony of the Ancients to meet modern standards, and kicked around substandard versions of some of the band’s backcatalog riffs into mind-numbing ABABCAB cut-and-paste architecture? What if the illiterate jazz was jammed in every song in the form of the guitar solo? Nary a song passes without hammering the one- or two-word song title home as chorus in some manner; the bafflingly sophomoric lyricism is merely occasionally deferred. Just another testament to the pervasive laziness of this entire affair, and revealing of the pathetic scheme they are implementing in trying to sucker in the most ancient of the longtime fans. Without that motive, it is nearly incomprehensible that a band would return from a giant sabbatical to cobble together this rubbish.

Absu – Absu

There’s no polite way to say this but: this CD sounds like everything else out now. A whole lot of power metal riffs, a few death metal structures, and some melodic parts borrowed from the new wave of Swedish black and death metal bands. What does it add up to? Randomness. No one cares except the kids who’ve invested themselves in being metalheads and so pretend to like this stuff. For serious listeners, this is a waste of good musicians on disorganized, repetitive, obvious material.

Suffocation – Suffocation

Yeah, this is an oldie. I mention it not because it’s incompetent. It barely changed styles, and all the rules are still followed. It just has no soul. It’s a hollow album that you can listen to for several weeks, then wake up and think, if it left my life, would I care? And then you realize that if Pierced from Within left your life, you’d shit bricks. It’s in the “A- and why bother” category, which is sad given the vast potential of this band. I think after the style they invented got appropriated by Cannibal Corpse, who took it to vast popularity, they got bitter and have been trying for revenge by success ever since. Doesn’t work that way.

Seance – Awakening of the Gods

This is every bit as painful as the Pestilence, but less cynical. I think they tried to figure out what The Kids Today like, and so made a product, but it ends up being unsubstantial, yet not catchy enough for the kids who are buying the real idiot fodder. So they’ve both alienated their own audience and failed to gain the big-time audience, which makes this album an uber-fail. Banging drums and super-loud distortion run around my head in circles, riffs are made like Soulfly without the bounce, and the whole thing is a grab-bag of influences and half-finished ideas. Next, please.

Lots more death metal bands are up on the block. If they didn’t have the presence of mind to keep going after the 1990s metal boom, they’re probably not going to fit today’s audience, which means that if they’re writing an album, they should simply target the old schoolers and do what they do best instead of trying to fit in. Also, they should know that any self-reference title, or reference to resurrection, rebirth, awakening, etc. means the album will blow ass because they are thinking of nothing but themselves. I expect none of them will figure that out.

The best metal albums continue to be those composed by intelligent, thoughtful, realistic people who make music that they think they would enjoy. Not surprisingly, other people of the same inclination also enjoy it; it gets lost in the flood of music for drones, like emo, nu-black/hardcore/shoegaze, carnival music, bad heavy metal, and other stupefactive nonsense.

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PESTILENCE — or — The Failure of Revival, Pt. II

The Failure of Revival, Pt. II

(Part of a LONG ongoing series, I’m afraid. Don’t even bother to download this album.)

PESTILENCE – Resurrection Macabre

Did you ever wonder what would happen if you streamlined the dry production of PESTILENCE’s Testimony of the Ancients to meet modern standards, and kicked around substandard versions of some of the band’s backcatalog riffs into mind-numbing ABABCAB cut-and-paste architecture?

No?

What if the illiterate jazz was jammed in every song in the form of the guitar solo?

To give you an idea how unfathomably unimaginative this album is, the vocals on the first two songs begin by repeating their respective, inane two-word titles immediately after the opening riff. In fact, this happens on no fewer than five out of the eleven tracks on the album. Nary a song passes without hammering the one or two-word song title home as chorus in some manner; the bafflingly sophomoric lyricism is merely occasionally deferred. The vocal delivery is so dispassionate that it persuades you they know exactly the kind of boilerplate tripe they are spewing.

Maybe even more convincingly braindead: they’ve introduced a sequel to a song in Dehydrated II (how does that happen a second time?). They’ve cleverly lifted the opening riff from the original track and inverted the melody in order to buy themselves another three minutes (inverted old-timey riff, chorus riff, inverted old-timey riff…etc.) Unfortunately, they’ve also revealed their entire comeback formula by failing to come up with only one more clich

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Nocturnus – Thresholds

Nocturnus - Thresholds

Thresholds, the second offering from Mike Browning’s (ex-Morbid Angel) sci-fi death metal tour de force, is an uneven, messy, fusion-inspired, lurid and occult death metal album. The best bits on here such as the sparkling, baroque, Mozart-ian lead guitars on “Aquatica” and the super-addictive chug and rhythmic chant on “Climate Controller” will stick to mind but at times the observation leaps through that Browning & co. are nowhere near the composers that for example Azagthoth & Brunelle were. The polyphony of the looming synthesizers is mostly awkward atmosphere building instead of solid thematics incorporated with the guitars. Browning does have an uncanny primitivistic yet accurate touch with the drums, one he obviously is going for, even naming a track “Tribal Vodoun”. All in all, it was probably a disappointment for many who bought it back in the day simply because Trey Azagthoth was always wearing a Nocturnus shirt in promo pictures. Nowadays as a rare and seldom heard item it has both nostalgic cult value and alongside the equally fusionistic, strange but compulsive “Spheres” by Pestilence shows imaginative directions where death metal could have followed if it hadn’t been abandoned to the blind flocks with their “brutal chugging” and “melodic wanking” trends.

Devamitra-

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