Blake, Goethe, Romanticism and Black Metal

From the book Blake and Goethe: Psychology, Ontology, Imagination by Martin Bidney:

For Goethe as well as for Blake, fruitful competition between opposing forces is the law of life in both mind and world. The contraries are mutual opposition, but their creative tension is the life-giving power that paradoxically unites them. As Goethe says in one of the “Talismans” from the “Singer’s Book” of the West-East Divan:

“Im Atemholen sind zerierlei Gnaden:
Die Luft einziehn, sich ihrer entladen.
Jenes bedrängt, dieses erfrischt;
So wunderbar ist das Leben gemischt.
Du danke Gott, wenn er dich preßt,
Und dank’ ihm, wenn er dich wieder entläßt.”
(“Talismane” II. 17-22)

[In the act of breathing there are two gifts of grace: taking in the air and being relieved of it. The former oppresses, the latter refreshes; life is so wonderfully mixed. Thank God when he burdens you, and thank him when he sets you free again.]

Or, as Blake puts it: “Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence” (The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Pl. 3). Contraries are crucial to human existence, and evidently to cosmic existence as well: the concepts of attraction and repulsion had been given prominence in the intellectual world of Blake’s day through the influence of Cartesian and Newtonian science. “Without Contraries is no progression,” no life in mind or world, is what Blake means when he says, “Opposition is true Friendship” (MHH Pl. 20).

We find in both Blake’s and Goethe’s visions of creativity in mind and cosmos a kind of breathing motion, what Erich Trunz calls “Emanatio and Regressus,” emanation and return. In a passage from Conversations with Eckermann (11 April 1827) Goethe develops this image into a powerful reverie:

“I like to think of the earth with its circle of vapors metaphorically as a great living being, which is engaged in an eternal inhaling and exhaling. When the earth inhales, it draws to it the circle of vapors that approaches its surface and thickens into clouds and rain. I call this condition the water-affirmation [die Wasserbejahung]; if it lasted inordinately long, it would drown the earth. But the earth does not permit that; it exhales again and sends back up the water vapors which spread into all the spaces of the high atmosphere and thin out to such an extent that not only does the brilliance of the sun cross through them, but the eternal night of endless space is seen through them as a fresh blueness. This condition of the atmosphere I call the water-negation [die Wasserverneinung].”

What Goethe calls the earth’s affirmation and negation of water is an instance of what Blake would call “Attraction and Repulsion.” In the nonhuman universe, Goethe sees no need to distinguish between destructive negations and creative contraries… All contrasts in nature are part of her breathing; one feels that life and death themselves are, by implication, another manifestation of an eternal cosmic inhaling and exhaling.

Commentary:

When distilled philosophically, moral absolutes are simplistic visions of the world in that they fail to grasp the natural mechanism of the whole that relies on the interactions between opposing forces. Good and Evil, Life and Death, War and Peace — these are dualisms in which we’ve taken the superficially pleasing force and converted it into an absolute without realising that the opposite is required for the maintenance of a higher force. Although life is pleasant and we would hate to see those that we love die, death is necessary to allow new life. The dualism of Life/Death is transcended for a higher purpose: growth.

Black metal hails the realisations of such thinkers as Blake and Goethe by bringing into focus the denied aspects of these dualisms and praising their functions. Black metal was responding to an age where this rhetorical absolutism as derived from Judeo-Christianity saturates all sociopolitical discussion, aiming to bring a sense of holism echoing the thoughts of the Romantics and of an even older pre-Christian Europe where what was natural was more important than what was pleasant (good) or unpleasant (evil). Darkthrone emphasised the dark, cold, and evil forces that create impulsive, Dionysian passion within us. Immortal constructed a fantastical world of Winter storms and epic battlefields. Emperor created works which brought struggle and chaos into a sense of a majestic order. Most of Burzum’s work used fantasy to force us to dream of realms where the presence of exciting aspects that have been utterly denied in life leave us feeling that this concrete, absolutist world is boring and mundane — perhaps even dead — and forces us to question whether we live in an age of progress or whether the holistic ancients really lived in a greater, natural, more Human age:

Between the bushes we stared
At those who reminded us of another age
And told that hope was away
Forever
We heard elvensong and
Water that trickled
What once was is now
Away
All the blood
All the longing and pain that ruled
Are away
Forever
We are not dead
We have never lived
— Burzum “Det Som En Gang Var”

by Kalle

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Heavy Metal fans “at ease with themselves”

Musical tastes and personality type are closely related, according to a study of more than 36,000 people from around the world.

The research, which was carried out by Professor Adrian North of Heriot-Watt University, is said to be the largest such study ever undertaken.

It suggested classical music fans were shy, while heavy metal aficionados were gentle and at ease with themselves.

“One of the most surprising things is the similarities between fans of classical music and heavy metal. They’re both creative and at ease but not outgoing.”

BBC UK

One website for some time has been telling you about the relationship between metal and classical: this one.

Ever since we formulated our theories back in the formative years of 1988-1991, we wrote about the synchronicity between metal in classical in mood, in outlook, in music theory, in song structure, and most of all, in type of songwriting — the narrative circular composition that is shared between both classical and metal.

Everyone else told us we were nuts. Then out of the woodwork, came help — Bathory speaking of a classical influence, Burzum mentioning it, Celtic Frost speaking of it, and so on.

We’ve been right and everyone else has been looking in the wrong place. But as more evidence comes out, the position becomes clearer: it’s heavy metal that inherits classical in the popular music realm, thanks in part to its prog and movie soundtrack heritage.

Keep spreading the word.

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Obscurity, Tyrant and At the Gates in Malmö Sweden

Obscurity, Tyrant and At the Gates
September 3, 2008
Kulturbolaget
Malmö, Sweden

After a round of alcohol to suppress the academic background noise from that same day, we took the bus to the shit hole of the south of Sweden, Malmö. Once a great cultural market city, today a polarized ghetto, famous for its sky rocketing crime rates and ethnic segregation. Despite the social decay, Malmö has got a fascinating city life and impresses with its architecture, public events, and first class symphony orchestra. Likewise it’s the center of many metal and electronic acts, and tonight it was none other than At the Gates who would enter the stage at Kulturbolaget. A small, compact club greeted us once we stepped in, while the black/thrash metal band Obscurity was playing uninspiring satanic hymns in the old Bathory vein. The monotonous noise melted in with the screams and laughter from the nearby bar, setting me in a state of mind where the outside world seemed to be just another peripherical dream.

Observing the surroundings, one thing struck me immediately: a small portion of the audience seemed to be old veterans who’d obviously come only for listening to At the Gates, but the rest consisted of the typical Gothenburg crowd, which you’d expect for an In Flames show. Even fat kids with hip hop pants and Slipknot shirts showed up and were more concerned of acting hip and talking in their cell phones, than to pay attention to the music. It gave an unserious impression and made it clear that metal today has become more of a social thing for confused teenagers than being about art, ideals and principles. The next thrash band took the stage one hour late and crossed an abundance of pointless bridges with speed metal riffs and beer drinking. It was hard to take the music seriously, but the nature of these sloppy Bathory-clones made it seem like it was some form of tribute to the early Swedish metal scene, although the quality of the music said otherwise. When the concert was over, I chatted up with some of the people by the bar, most of whom were post-black metal fans, meaning they understood death metal as the aesthetic template found in “Slaughter of the Soul,” but didn’t understand the older material and couldn’t grasp the architectural differences in song writing between death and speed metal.

The people who came for the music were easy to spot, because they spent less time socializing and more time contemplating the musical experience. When At the Gates finally took the stage, the atmosphere in the club changed. The band began playing songs from later albums, and it was clear that Tomas Lindberg was in top shape. Although missing their old guitarist Alf Svensson, Tomas’ desperate screams from the red album, and the fact that the acoustics in the club compressed the sound of the riffs, this was At the Gates with full energy and expression. The feral, creative spirit of the band impressed me, and technically the performance was flawless. Tomas got almost nostalgic over the fact that they’d played in Malmö back in ’96, and now they were here again for the last time. The tour was obviously a dedication to the fans and to the music, revealed by the fact that they’d chosen to play songs from every album released. Songs that made a special impression on me were “Windows” from the red album and several classics from “With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness” and their first EP. It was a fresh experience, like a brutal realist nightmare, containing mental states of insanity:

Windows, sharp, cold
Wrap your psyche in blankets of pain
No more light of day
We’re the windows to your insanity

And the mandatory blasphemy of religious dogmatism:

The beauty in twisted darkness
Raped by the light of Christ
We were not born to follow
We don’t need your guiding light

This is the essence of death metal: a rejection of a morally principal approach to life, and the celebration of the raw, physical nature of mankind. The wild, dissonant power chords perfectly layered like a mental journey, backed by the typical death metal percussive rhythms and bridges, launched a macabre symphony together with the painful vocals, and stirred the crowd into unisonal head banging. Few things offer you the experience of feral freedom, like banging your head in rhythm to the sound of death metal, and feeling that the rest of the social world suddenly is reduced to noise. At the Gates provoked us into such a mood through its atonal riff patterns and ascending harmony, proving that they were still masters of the genre. The band was right in avoiding a sell-out by only playing later songs, but naturally, the crowd liked performances like “Under a Serpent Sun” best.

The reason to why people will always praise “Slaughter of the Soul” as the best ATG album is for the same reason that black metal bands like Dark Funeral, Xasthur, Drudkh and Blut aus Nord today obscure the great classics: it’s a musically shallow template that distils 3-5 years of death metal aesthetics into a neat package, kind of like how The Abyss created the musical template for 98% of all third wave black metal bands to come. We think it’s death metal, until we pay attention to the song writing, which is basically speed metal impregnated with the harmonic riffing and technical percussion that mark the band’s musical legacy. The mainstream appeal of the album makes it easy to understand and grasp, but doesn’t contribute anything outside of its technical concept. “Slaughter of the Soul” is a merchandise product, and the audience clearly enjoyed it. Although my best moments of the concert were performances from the two first albums, possibly something from “Terminal Spirit Disease” as well, the band was energetic and keen on playing later material for the new generation of death metal fans, and in a sense you could feel that what At the Gates was doing with this tour was to prove that the spirit of Swedish death metal was still alive and causing havoc.

The whole performance gave a very respectable, professional and worthy impression, and the band received admirable appreciation from the audience after the finale. When the concert was over, the Gothenburg crowd slowly descended out on the streets, among traffic lights, illegal taxis, and the enormous, clear night sky. The rush of energy, passion and alcohol still boiled in my blood, as I contemplated a new perspective on a band, whose music I’d otherwise reserved to lonely nights when the world had seemed more insane than usual. Death metal, not only as music, but also as an existential passion, was pointing my life in a new direction. Through this concert, At the Gates had proved that Swedish death metal is not a legacy, but an ongoing strife to deal with life intimately and choosing endurance as value in a world reduced to hollow social values. Despite the downfall of the genre and much of its audience, the music continues to emphasize the heavy in life, and the presence of death in our immediate everyday life. “Kingdom Gone” is the scream of mankind out into black space, without response, yet with the certainty that life needs to go on.

– Written by Alexis of SNUS

Bands:
Obscurity
Tyrant
At the Gates

Promoters:
Kulturbolaget

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Whitechapel – This is Exile

Whitechapel – This is Exile

Whitechapel - This is Exile

I had a flashback to the early days of 1993. Death metal had just about peaked, and many people were looking for the next big thing — in terms of style. Brutality was the catchphrase, and since millions of American kids had just rediscovered early Napalm Death thanks to a desperate search for the roots of underground metal, new bands were popping up that promised to be more brutal than before, usually by playing much faster and eliminating all melody. This flashback was prompted by hearing the hype about Whitechapel in one ear, and the reality played in the other.

Cycles repeat because there are usually relatively few different options in life, but infinite ways to pull off the winning option. After death metal croaked and black metal blew itself out, the usual retro cycle came in, where the remnants of the last decade are swept into a dustpan, recombined, and out comes the “new” solution. What has happened in the merging of metal and emo, pop punk, alternative and new hardcore is a lot like what happened in 1983 when the first thrash bands formed: metal riffs in punk song structures. But punk has grown up, gotten more technical, and in order to justify its dystopian nature, has taken the aesthetic from 1960s protest songs — jarring, slightly dissonant, poignant bittersweet, etc — and blended it with technicality, creating what I refer to as The Cinema of Discontinuous Image. Much of this is the influence of MTV, which specialized in videos in which rapid cutaways from radically different imagery were seen as desirable; these later influenced how Hollywood films dialogue, so it’s not inconceivable they influenced metal. The new hardcore is technical, melodic, and like carnival music in that it moves between ludicrous extremes without building continuity, because being deconstructive is its political fashion.

Whitechapel isn’t alone in being part of this new genre — let’s call it metalcore — that embraces many variants, some as “death metal” as the recent Behemoth CDs, and others as punk as Fugazi but obviously more mile-a-minute. Do people ever get tired of hearing the next most extreme thing? They should, since this stuff isn’t extreme; it’s sped up, and not in any meaningful way from the first Morbid Angel album. It’s like shredders showing off without knowing how to write songs, and since its basic concept of being protest deconstructive is fundamentally opposed to the ideas of songwriting anyway, this music ends up being a random pile of stuff that’s hard to play mixed in with stuff that, like Meshuggah, sounds hard to play until you realize it’s rhythm noodling on a chord. Whitechapel lives by this variation, where fast scalar single note playing is followed by five-position power chord shred riffs, and then the song collapses into some percussive geometries from the E chord, then repeats with keyboards added, this time. Songs build up to a peak frenzy, and then just end. Nothing is learned, nothing is created, but it has political authenticity — comrade Stalin is pleased! — because it is deconstructive protest music that emphasizes the following tenets: life is terrible, there’s nothing we can do, give up now, wail and whine instead of doing anything, it’s not my fault, it’s not your fault.

The synthesized faux death vocals don’t help either. I can see how this CD would impress someone new to the genre because it tries to “break barriers,” but these are all stylistic. It has nothing to say except perhaps to add on to The Brat Manifesto, which is a giant scroll containing all of the justifications created by the human species for doing nothing about its problems, personal or collective. Whitechapel screams out a kind of fetishism with child abuse, poverty, self-destruction and failure, because these excuse the heavy weight of having to take on life. Hint to Whitechapel: all of the great bands became great because they took on that heavy weight like a charging bull and found a way to convert it into positive enemy, like inverse aikido where the attack ends up converting his own momentum into a throw of his hapless prey. You, on the other hand, have run from it, and that is why you are this season’s trend and tomorrow’s ash on the wind.

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Interview: Eisen (Blood)

Of the many grindcore, hardcore and punk bands that pass through the world, very few have any staying power. Their music, in simplifying itself, also lost any form of uniqueness not in the hipster sense of accessorizing and randomization, but in the sense of a sentence or poem: expressing something that is its own and is both distinctive and relevant. An exception to this random bleaching of meaning is Germany’s Blood, who have pumped out quality material for years without particularly caring that they weren’t on the cover of glossy magazines. Thanks to guitarist Eisen, who kindly granted us not one but two interview sessions, we have the skinny on the unique mix of death metal, grindcore and early black metal that is Blood.

Do you view the music of BLOOD as death metal, grindcore or something else?

It’s a mixture of both: Grindcore and Death Metal. Generally more Death Metal, but almost always very fast with short songs as in the typical Grindcore-vein.

BLOOD lyrics are more like stories, using metaphor, or are insights into psychological and religious topics instead of political topics; why did you take this approach?

We have no fixed concept for the lyrics. We write about the things that disturb us. Sometimes also political things, but mostly horrible stories, bloodbaths, less serious things – also against god and stupid religions.

BLOOD lyrics portray a world where physical power and ancient psychic motivations prevail over civility and finance; this is a lot like horror movies, where supernatural forces defeat technology and law enforcement. What do you hope to communicate to the audience this way, and is designed to get past some of their expectations?

We have NO special message for the people – we only want to shout out what’s our meaning about those themes. Lyrics have to fit to the music, so you won’t get lovestories from Blood.

Your music sometimes seems to rest at an intersection of genres, being in song form like thrash or grindcore but in topic and riff style more like a death metal band with black metal overtones (like Hellhammer). What were your influences, and how did you reach this unusual style?

We were always into oldschool Death/Grind. Bands like Death, Exodus, Hellhammer, Possessed, Messiah, Napalm Death, later Impetigo, Morbid Angel, Unleashed, Terrorizer and thousands of others influenced us. That’s the music we are into and that’s the music for what our heart beats, so this is the music for which Blood stands!

Do you think it is easier or harder to write short songs than long songs?

It’s much easier to write shorter songs, especially when you are older than 40 *laughing* – no: It mostly bored me to listen to very long songs, so we prefer shorter ones with a clear and easy structure… right in your face!

You recorded your first demo in 1987. The world has changed a lot since then. Has the BLOOD vision changed? Has it needed to, or is the same process going on that was happening then, in the world?

We recorded our first demos back in 1986. From the very beginning the underlying concept of Blood never changed. We were always strongly rooted in the underground and never wanted to be “big.” Only we have learned how to use our instruments much more over the years.

For a band that is as blunt and confrontational as BLOOD is, there is a lot of subtlety in your lyrics and the way your songs are structured. How do people respond to this? Do they “get it”?

Do you think so? Well – we think a lot about our lyrics. We don’t wanna use the same stories again and again, but the major thing is our music. I think people love us or people hate us for what we do. There is not much between those two poles. We are very pleased with this situation.

By the data to date, there is only one animal in the Galaxy dangerous to man–man himself. So he must supply his own indispensable competition. He has no enemy to help him.

Any priest or shaman must be presumed guilty until proved innocent.

If it can’t be expressed in figures, it is not science; it is opinion.

A “pacifist male” is a contradiction in terms. Most self-described “pacifists” are not pacific; they simply assume false colors. When the wind changes, they hoist the Jolly Roger.

History does not record anywhere at any time a religion that has any rational basis. Religion is a crutch for people not strong enough to stand up to the unknown without help. But, like dandruff, most people do have a religion and spend time and money on it and seem to derive considerable pleasure from fiddling with it.

Of all the strange “crimes” that human beings have legislated out of nothing, “blasphemy” is the most amazing–with “obscenity” and “indecent exposure” fighting it out for second and third place.

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded–here and there, now and then–are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as “bad luck.”

– Robert Heinlein, Time Enough For Love (Notebooks of Lazarus Long)

When you write songs, do you start with a concept, or a riff, or something else?

Mostly we start with a cool riff, or a drum-section, than we are jamming around for a while and test different rhythms and riffings. If a song isn’t ready in a short time, it’s usually shit and we throw it away. The lyrics will always follow after the song is ready.

When Hellhammer said, “Only Death is Real,” it launched legions of death metal and grindcore bands who showed us through sickness, misery and sudden doom (in their lyrics) that life is short, manipulations are false, and we need to get back to reality. Only DEAD INFECTION and BLOOD seem to do it by writing short stories and setting them to music, as if trying to show people a state of mind, and not the conclusions of their thoughts. Why do you think you both arrived at this method?

Hmm – do you think so? We try to let a lyric stand for itself… not as a small part of a “big” thing. I don’t like concept-records, nor do the others in Blood. Only in “Gas Flames Bones” we went a bit in that direction. I can’t say that much about DEAD INFECTION’s lyrics only that they are very cool persons and their music fucking rules!

Your music is very consistent, but the ability to make it keeps improving. Do you think bands need to change? Is it possible for bands to change both outward (style) and inward (content) without outward/inward influencing each other?

Yes – we stand for the same style over those many years. NO Band really needs a change, but most bands who try to change their style became crap. It looks like a band is totally fake and false if they play a different style holding the same bandname. A good example how a style change works is Malignant Tumour. They found a way to get their own sound, the lack of which was their problem in the early years. I really love their actualized stuff.

Is there a relationship between how an artist sees the world, and the type of music he or she will then make? Do people who see the world in similar ways make similar music?

No. I think both things are totally different from each other. Lyrics could be in the same way, but the sound/style could be absolutely different.

Grindcore seems to be composed of both metal music and punk music, just more extreme. What do you think grindcore inherited from punk, and what did it inherit from metal?

Grindcore is not the same as grindcore – there are many different shades. From Punk grindcore gets the short songs and mostly the lyrics and the attitude. From Death Metal it gets its brutality and also a part of its lyrics (for the Goregrind corner).

Is VENTILATOR’s name a joke about the name of the drummer from Kreator? (sorry, had to ask)

Ventor? No way. He’s called Ventilator because he rotates as fast with his sticks as the blades of a fan/ventilator.

BLOOD’s work and image has consistently assaulted Christianity, while most grindcore bands are political and most death/black metal bands are about gore, or take a “satanic” approach. Why do you take this approach, and what are you hoping to change in the minds of your fans?

We are no Satanists, so why pray the book of Satan? But we are totally against the manipulations of the church. A free human who stands in life only needs his own mind to know what is good for him, and what he prefers in life. So why not write lyrics about this theme? We hope to change nothing in the minds of our fans, ‘coz our fans are not religious!

BLOOD has released great CDs for almost 20 years, but is less well-known in USA than TERRORIZER, REPULSION, NAPALM DEATH, etc. yet, American fans respond positively to BLOOD when it is played on the radio. The only other early band slighted this much is CARBONIZED. How are these great works overlooked? Is it a cultural difference (American culture, such as it is) in what is expected from bands?

No! It’s because we never wanted to be big. We never wanted to play big tours or lick anyone’s ass. We have great fans in the USA, but bad distribution of our records.

A self does not amount to much, but no self is an island; each exists in a fabric of relations that is now more complex and mobile than ever before. Young or old, man or woman, rich or poor, a person is always located at “nodal points” of specific communication circuits, however tiny these may be. Or better: one is always located at a post through which various kinds of messages pass. No one, not even the least privileged among us, is ever entirely powerless over the messages that traverse and position him at the post of sender, addressee, or referent. One’s mobility in relation to these language game effects (language games, of course, are what this is all about) is tolerable, at least within certain limits (and the limits are vague); it is even solicited by regulatory mechanisms, and in particular by the self-adjustments the system undertakes in order to improve its performance. It may even be said that the system can and must encourage such movement to the extent that it combats its own entropy, the novelty of an unexpected “move,” with its correlative displacement of a partner or group of partners, can supply the system with that increased performativity it forever demands and consumes.

– The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge by Jean-Francois Lyotard

What brought about the concept behind the song Sodomize the Weak?

It’s a song inspired by Leatherface and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre mixed with my own pervert ideas back in 1993, so it seems to be a bit funny and not that serious at all.

Do you think that people use categories like genre names (black metal, death metal) to obscure the finer details of experience itself, like saying ‘that experience was bad’ or ‘that experience was good’?”

The whole world is full of categorisation. A person needs this to comparing things. Also I need such categorisation. In the Metal genre many bands coined words to define their style to show others, that they created this style – but most of them are ordinary and fake! In my early days of Metal, there also were different styles, but since I’ve been into metal, I only know good music and bad music in Death Metal, in Black Metal, in Hardcore, in Grindcore, in Rock, in Metal…

Dysangelium was released in 2003, and in 2007, Impulse to Destroy got re-released. What’s next for BLOOD? Are you going to tour Texas ever?

Since 2004 our situation has been a bit different. I (Eisen) moved to another city for private reasons. So now we can only rehearse a very few times a year or at the shows. That’s the reason why we have no new songs and it seems that we will not have a new record very soon. Since 2007 we have added another guitar player, maybe he gives the others in Blood some impulses.

When I listen to Blood, I feel like I am watching some action happen, in the same way that bands like Hellhammer or (early) Belial made me think of a movie or opera. You have captured the feeling one gets of watching a drama, in that the music is very visual and sounds like someone experiencing something. How did this come about?

Thanxx for this compliment, but I don’t know how this will appear. We write our kind of music, because it’s deep in our heart and come from the feeling, we get on this music. And also on stage we try to give people more than only playing our songs and that’s it. We try to show them fire, blood and horror!

“Bokanovsky’s Process,” repeated the Director, and the students underlined the words in their little notebooks.

One egg, one embryo, one adult-normality. But a bokanovskified egg will bud, will proliferate, will divide. From eight to ninety-six buds, and every bud will grow into a perfectly formed embryo, and every embryo into a full-sized adult. Making ninety-six human beings grow where only one grew before. Progress.

“Essentially,” the D.H.C. concluded, “bokanovskification consists of a series of arrests of development. We check the normal growth and, paradoxically enough, the egg responds by budding.”

Responds by budding. The pencils were busy.

– Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

Many thanks to Blood for the interview!

Blood homepage

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Lord Wind – Atlantean Monument

Lord Wind – Atlantean Monument

Probably the best work from Eastclan group since 1998, this release culminates the pagan dreamlike melodies that have been appearing in Graveland and Lord Wind releases. Over an hour long, it represents the best music currently available for those who long for the society of honor that ruled long ago, before dualistic religions, technology and finance took over our lives.

Read the review: Lord Wind – Atlantean Monument

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Interview: Mike Smith (Suffocation)

No one has or will create death metal like Suffocation. Taking the muffled hard-stop strumming of speed metal, mixing it in with the structural cryptograms of death metal, and amplifying the intensity, Suffocation innovative the percussive death metal that spawned the goregrind genre and countless imitators. Drummer Mike Smith was kind enough to give us an interview on the state of the band and its future.

You’ve said in the past that Suffocation was inspired by the heavy metal of its time as well as the hardcore punk that was contemporaneous. A lot of the Suffocation sound however seems influenced by the speed metal bands like Exodus, but taken to a new extreme. Is there any truth to this, and how did you arrive at this fusion?

It was a natural progression of all things unaccepted in the mainstream. It started with metal, we rebelled like punks, and were driven by the speed or thrash metal that was at the time.

Suffocation is what we choose to be at any given time. If we chose to do an album of gloomy doom metal we’d differ from most at that too. It depends on how we feel and what kind of attention the world is paying.

In the Effigy of the Forgotten group photo, a Morpheus (now Morpheus Descends) tshirt is visible. Did this band influence your style?

No, our influence into music started way before that. It was just a shirt of a band we knew and hung with at the time. There was no special meaning behind it.

When you write songs, do you start with a concept for the whole song, or do you accrue riff ideas and fit them into a narrative? Do you conceptualize the song in lyrics first, or write music and fit lyrics to it?

When I write personally, I start with the guitar rhythms first and maybe a topic so as to work in a chorus. The song then gets built over time.

The feel and approach of the songs are also built on what emotion I want to portray on stage to the fans or to my self at the time.

I usually have the song complete with riffs, drums and a definite lyric direction before I submit it to the others. It can be done in days, or take months.

It depends on my mental state at the time. When things are good, things flow, when I’m stressed riffs and concepts take their time to form.

Night City was like a deranged experiment in social Darwinism, designed by a bored researcher who kept one thumb permanently on the fast-forward button. Stop hustling and you sank without a trace, but move a little too swiftly and you’d break the fragile surface tension of the black market; either way, you were gone, with nothing left of you but some vague memory in the mind of a fixture like Ratz, though heart or lungs or kidneys might survive in the service of some stranger with New Yen for the clinic tanks. Biz here was a constant subliminal hum, and death the accepted punishment for laziness, carelessness, lack of grace, the failure to heed the demands of an intricate protocol.

– William Gibson, Neuromancer

Is there a relationship between how an artist sees the world, and the type of music he or she will then make? Do people who see the world in similar ways make similar music?

I suppose your experience in life dictates your music. But one who wants to murder someone or cause mayhem could write a death metal song as well as blues or Grunge. For example, Kurt Cobain had a successful life in music but still chose to expire early, but the grunge music didn’t dictate or preach the message of suicide.

So it is what it is, the skill you have as a musician will dictate the type of music you play. Even though you may be a member of Satan’s circle you could easily sing bubble gum pop because you have no special skills musically.

What distinguishes art from entertainment, and if they overlap, is there a difference in goals between the two?

There is no difference. The artist usually is looking to speak or release through their choice of artistry first, if the world happens to catch on then thats a bonus.

I would still be a musician who speaks through music if no one knew of Suffocation.

Do you think death metal has a distinctive worldview different from that of “normal” people? Can people interpret that worldview from the sound of the genre, and does this make them converge on musical communities?

First you would have to show me what a normal person is. I dont know of any or why they would be considered such.

I know plenty of dummies though. The communities they choose depends on the path their life experiences took them.

Some have said that death metal and black metal use “narrative” composition, where a series of riffs are motifs that evolve toward a passage between states of mind for the listener. Is this true, and if so, how is it reflected in your songwriting?

To each his own, some bands write with no goal or direction.

Suffocation chooses to have a purpose to the way the riffs, tempos and impact come across.

We hope to stir a certain emotion. We start by writing to draw the emotion within ourselves first, and hope the fans understand the idea.

Although your music is technical, you have taken pains to distance yourselves from technicality for technicality’s sake. What is the difference between technicality, progression, pretense and good (death metal) art?

The difference lies in the person listening. Technical to some could be as simple as a Sesame Street song to me.

My version of technicality is to be unique and unpredictable, without confusing the listener. Classical is completely intense and technically composed, but its purpose and direction is crystal clear when listened too. It just wasn’t created for the unskilled to pick up and play to like alot of the top selling crap.

The end result of complete cellular representation is cancer. Democracy is cancerous, and bureaus are its cancer. A bureau takes root anywhere in the state, turns malignant like the Narcotic Bureau, and grows and grows, always reproducing more of its own kind, until it chokes the host if not controlled or excised. Bureaus cannot live without a host, being true parasitic organisms. (A cooperative on the other hand can live without the state. That is the road to follow. The building up of independent units to meet needs of the people who participate in the functioning of the unit. A bureau operates on opposite principle of inventing needs to justify its existence.) Bureaucracy is wrong as a cancer, a turning away from the human evolutionary direction of infinite potentials and differentiation and independent spontaneous action, to the complete parasitism of a virus.

(It is thought that the virus is a degeneration from more complex life form. It may at one time have been capable of independent life. Now has fallen to the borderline between living and dead matter. It can exhibit living qualities only in a host, by using the life of another — the renunciation of life itself, a falling towards inorganic, inflexible machine, towards dead matter.)

– William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch

Have the values of metal music changed from the early 90s? How, and what does it make you think?

The values in the music haven’t changed. The value in the industry and those with the power to help it grow has changed for the worst and most likely its demise if left in their hands much longer.

Those with the power to promote it don’t have the skill to write or create it, so they should do more listening to the direction of the musicians instead of trying to shape and mold the artist to what they think the world needs.

Breeding the Spawn followed a massively successful debut with an album that reached farther but seemed less complete as a vision. How did you learn from this, and how has it influenced your later work?

We learned that we need to record with who we wish to record with, and let the label take what we give them, when we give it to them. For BTS we followed the direction of our label which led to an unsatisfactory outcome that won’t happen again for Suffocation. We write record and produce our own. No one knows better than us what we are looking for so we’ve chosen to stay self contained in many aspects.

What influenced the choice of Latinate language and structuralist phrases in song titles and lyrics? (Epitaph of the Credulous, Anomalistic Offerings, Liege of Inveracity — a beautiful use of language)

The need to be different, unique, and think out of the box of most at the time.

On Despise the Sun, you mixed more fluid phrasing — fast tremolo strum, fewer hard stops — into what was otherwise percussive, or based on syncopated patterns of hard stops, music. What prompted this change and how have you developed this since then?

An unfocused Suffocation prompted the change. Some wanted to stay as is, others lost focus of our originality and chose to try and follow what was the trend. The band called it quits soon after.

Here are some revealing excerpts from an especially vivid hacker manifesto: “The Techno-Revolution” by “Dr. Crash,” which appeared in electronic form in Phrack Volume 1, Issue 6, Phile 3.

To fully explain the true motives behind hacking, we must first take a quick look into the past. In the 1960s, a group of MIT students built the first modern computer system. This wild, rebellious group of young men were the first to bear the name ‘hackers.’ The systems that they developed were intended to be used to solve world problems and to benefit all of mankind.

As we can see, this has not been the case. The computer system has been solely in the hands of big businesses and the government. The wonderful device meant to enrich life has become a weapon which dehumanizes people. To the government and large businesses, people are no more than disk space, and the government doesn’t use computers to arrange aid for the poor, but to control nuclear death weapons. The average American can only have access to a small microcomputer which is worth only a fraction of what they pay for it. The businesses keep the true state-of-the-art equipment away from the people behind a steel wall of incredibly high prices and bureaucracy. It is because of this state of affairs that hacking was born.

– Bruce Sterling, The Hacker Crackdown

You’ve got a best of collection out on Roadrunner and two post-reunion albums that lead the subgenre of percussive technical death metal. Where to from here?

The new album is in the works. It is titled BLOOD OATH. We expect our first DVD to be out very shortly as well.

Then we plan to make only the right choices in touring and biz associates to ensure that we finally reach the level we truly feel we deserve to indulge in.

20 years has been long enough to prove that we aren’t an overnight success or a basement idea. We mean what we say, show and promote, and I dont expect it to change anytime soon.

Thanks for all the great music, and I appreciate your taking the time to answer my questions, as will our readers. Hope to see you on tour!

No doubt, no problem, take care.

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Trash Talk

Trash Talk – S/T
Trash Talk Collective, 2008

When music runs out of ideas, it recycles old genres. When that happens, smart music fans look for the exceptions that give both style and substance some tweaks to make them compatible with the current time and its challenges. Where the retro-thrash movement has produced some imitators of no substance, Trash Talk comes crashing in with a punk-inspired, thrash-influenced offering that invokes elements of the underground that developed while music festered in nu-metal and metalcore. Although the band compares themselves to Cryptic Slaughter, and comparisons could easily be drawn to Municipal Waste, what fuels this mania is more akin to the suffocated rage and dissident misanthropy that made Eyehategod and Acid Bath favorites of the late 1990s. Songs are sludgy rants that explode into frenetic activity, then smash it all down again, like a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom. It is as if Trash Talk enjoy beating on their audience, lulling them into a false sense of security such as they might enjoy from media, religious or government leaders, and then detonating the result in a searing diatribe. While people will compare this record to works from Discharge or DRI, it’s more like Eyehategod meets Crass with Neurosis in the wings. It’s fortunate to see punk hardcore given another chance with this acerbic testament to the enduring powers of resistance through surliness.

Trash Talk – Dig MP3
Trash Talk Homepage

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Jesu – Why Are We Not Perfect

Jesu – Why Are We Not Perfect
Hydra Head, 2008

Justin Broadrick demonstrated through his early works a desire for that moment of unitivity when the conscious mind and emotions synchronized. Through Godflesh, and later Techno Animal and Final, he showed a passion for bringing colossal structures to bear on moments of quiet contemplation. With Jesu, he resurrects his music outside the ghetto that extremist offerings can be, and melds into post-rock disparate influences from industrial, shoegaze, noisepop, and so forth. Jesu, protean as all Broadrick projects are, in turn twisted from more radiantly noisy to its current softer state. On “Why Are We Not Perfect” Jesu moves the slider closest to shoegaze and pop, losing much of the more complicated structuring and sound that made earlier Jesu challenging. This gambit may prove risky: many in the post-rock fanclub would like to leave behind what so rigidly defines rock and brings the moths to its one-size-fits-all dose, and “Why Are Not Perfect” drapes its nearly ecclesiastical encompassing layered sound over the exuberant shuffle beats of rock/pop. Song structures are not linear but follow a verse chorus pattern culminating in a serenity like the moment after a surf crashes on the beach when water lapses into absorbent, silent sand. Less jagged distortion and cleaner, plaintive emo vocals guide each song and sounds elide smoothly from abrasive feedback to silken, reminiscent of shoegaze classics like Medicine and My Bloody Valentine. While this EP satisfies as a taste, and an exploration, this reviewer hopes Broadrick abandons the past — and doesn’t relapse into his influences — so he can keep exploring the seemingly erratic, intense jigsaw song structures he served up on the self-titled Jesu debut.

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Austin, TX

When I write about metal, I often distinguish works — which I consider to, at their best, be art — by how honest they are. It’s fairly easy to tell, although most people find that unnerving. An honest work tries to communicate with you; a dishonest work tries to game you by convincing you it’s something it’s not, so that you do x, or y or z that benefits those who made it. It’s a virus, in other words.

Dishonest works are generally the product of The Hipster, which is any person who tries to be hip for the sake of their own ego, instead of having a useful function of any kind. Hipsters are parasites on the social scene in that they want attention for being unexceptional, and since they can’t succeed at life by being exceptional — including making good music, being people we’d like to know, etc — they become dramatic and draw attention to themselves with increasingly radical styles of dress and behavior. If you ever find someone doing something humiliating, stupid, freakish, or pointless while slyly watching you out of the corner of their eye, you’ve found the same psychology.

It’s not much different from parasitic religions that convince people to fail at life so they can succeed at the board game called “What God Likes.” I’m not saying life is about success, or material success, just that if you want to have a good life, you need to have some function and challenge yourself to do it well. Hipsters don’t do that. They want the reward without the work.

We have a hipster core here in Texas. It’s called Austin. Hipsters are fond of one of many modern illusions, a socialized liberalism — a well-intentioned emotion channeled into a fashion that pretends to be an ideology, but never achieves its goals, despite making a hash of things on its path — that like drugs makes us feel better, but doesn’t solve any problems, and strengthens rather than weakens its ostensible enemy, the total state. Hipsters are useful because they beat liberalism out of people who are still able to think.

When I went to Austin, I was all about tolerance. I was still clueless as to the problems of the world, mainly because I spent most of my time working.

When I saw the liberal paradise that is Austin, I realized that liberalism is basically parasitism. “If someone has x, and I don’t, I deserve it, and I’ll force them to share with social guilt”; after seeing that, and the complete social havoc — where good people were not only ignored but socially persecuted, and vapid whores predominated and suffocated art and culture with their lies — I left Austin and liberalism behind.

(There may be an honest liberalism. To me, when I was a liberal, it meant not allowing big pointless entities to rule over people in destructive ways. I’m thinking about all the people who got dicked over by their stupid jobs, all the toxic waste dumped into rivers, all the junk products that just ended up in landfills, all the overdeveloped areas where forests were sacrificed, etc. For me, liberalism meant restraining humanity’s appetite with common sense. I soon learned that if you oppose power, however, you soon get people who oppose power for power’s sake because they’re powerless. They have no power in life and no control over their own appetites, so they hate anything that resembles power, but since they’re weak, they don’t attack directly but through whining. I was a classical liberal, which meant treat people fairly. That philosophy however decays un-gracefully into revenge for the underdog, hatred of excellence, and desire to turn the world into one uniform Safe(tm) place. I realized quickly how this plays into the hands of our leaders. It distracts our best people and sends them off to defend those who have failed at life, and then the activists in turn fail at life, so they spent their time fighting for the right to fail. It’s a sick cycle but easily avoidable if you think it through: the problem isn’t power, but people in power without a clue, and they’re in power because all the failed people want pleasant illusions instead of reality. So if you’re an honest liberal, don’t take this column as a personal attack, or a political statement. I’m pointing out how liberalism commonly decays into self-importance, hipsterism and other problems, not trying to assault the emotional or psychological impetus behind liberal thinking.)

Austin is the hipster capital of the world, in many ways. I’ve been to Seattle and to San Francisco, to L.A. (Silver Lake) and to Mizzoula, MT, all of which are hipster-havens. But Austin hipsters have the city locked down. Under the guise of fighting the man, you’re supposed to be weird and freaky and do whatever the man doesn’t expect. But you go back to work the next day, having learned nothing. It’s a good town to work food service until you’re 42 and then become a regular, bitter writer on Alternet.org.

Austin suffocates every quality band who tries to set up shop there. Metal bands in particular suffer because, unless you infiltrate the social network and start behaving like a hipster, no one will attend your shows. People are too afraid of being un-hip to go see an unknown, unless that “unknown” is secretly an underground favorite. As a result, the best Austin bands are the ones that have nothing to do with the “seen” (Scene) there.

Emos, hipsters, modern primitives, trend whores, carnies, defiant minorities and lesbians, drug use theorists, mantra-chanting New Agers, feminists, body modification fetishists, coprophages, “witches,” faux artists of all variety, embittered defiant hippies, foreskin collectors, and other failures of all sorts cluster in Austin. They have failed at making something of their lives, so they are using cognitive dissonance, and making themselves a Big Deal in social/moral/hip circles.

When I seize power, it will be very unwise for anyone to spend time in Austin. The B-52 carries 27 tons of high explosive and, if unleashed on a city block, literally landscapes it into a moon surface of ceramicized dirt covered in the dust of charred, vaporized plants, animals, and buildings — this is a consequence of the TNT/HE mix used in modern bombs. The explosions are so loud that people up to a mile away will lose hearing for the next two days. Some of the fireballs approximate a quarter mile in size, and can be seen from nearby cities. A flight of B-52s, properly targetted, can erase a city so thoroughly that from space it resembles a desert, and this is without use of nuclear weapons.

That form of horror, visited upon Austin, will not cost the human race any geniuses. Nor will it diminish its artistic or social potential. Instead, it will increase our potential by removing the false and giving space to something new, like weeding a garden and dropping in seeds for non-parasitic plants. Don’t cry for Austin, because that entire town is one giant emo hipster cognitive dissonance passive aggression parasite. Its death in flaming vapor will be a great step forward for taste and beauty.

Metal music, like nature, is not about fashion. It’s not about being nice to everyone so they can feel good for being exceptional. It’s about results. About making civilizations that make people inhale sharply whenever they see their ruins for the next 10,000 years. About getting art, science, culture, etc. right. About doing things that matter because they’re not the same humdrum. Forging new spaces, destroying emptiness, making life interesting and giving us something to live for. Like nature, in metal life is struggle, but struggle for beauty and not the bloated, ugly, self-importance of an ego. Metal is anti-hipster, and anti-Austin.

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