What makes some music better than the rest

Although the “art” of music, as an intangible creation expressed best as an abstraction translated through that pattern into its creation, cannot be sold in any true sense of the word, all art must have a conveyance and if it is not live informally, that is a product whether recorded CD, MP3 or concert. For this reason, the music market affects how metal music is able to propagate(tm) its sinister meme through the stupefacted masses of modern humanity.

The record industry, which is what we call the support structure for the expensive prospect of selling music, is reeling under the dual assault of MP3s and a fragmenting culture. The former allow people to download full albums and have them free, with no obligation except legal to buy the CD. The latter, cultural fragmentation, means that instead of a single dominant genre that sells massively there are now many niches that have to sell consistently to break even. Business plans are shifting.

What this means for metal, which sells few of any one CD but many CDs over time, and has the highest rate of people buying all the albums of an artist if they like one, can be discerned from the black metal experience. The average fan seems to download a few gigabytes a week of black metal, and they listen to it while IMing and watching TV, and then they either delete most of it or keep it in elaborate collections that are magically not restored after the hard drive crashes.

We can describe this hoarding behavior as what might happen if people were able to listen to any radio program from any time in history, and could bookmark them. There would be thousands of bookmarks on each computer. Since any music of reasonable complexity requires more than one listen to grasp its basic intention and structure, people would listen, be either perplexed or enticed, and would bookmark, then not return — except to those few incidences that seemed so perfectly complete or historically important that they could not be ignored.

For the first time in its career, black metal attracts fans who behave like pop fans. They are accustomed to music being cheap, meaning used everywhere in commercial messages and enticements to purchase it, and they saturate themselves in it for a few teenage and early 20s years before their jobs and televisions take their souls.

Black metal, which really picked up momentum in 1993 and collapsed in 1996 with the foundational bands spent and the hipster imitators coming in with inferior duplicates, has spent the last dozen years in a state of suspended animation, with people trying to like what is current but returning to the classics and a handful of bands out of thousands who are not only better than average, but are able to put together a complete package: music, lyrics, symbols, artistic vision, sane public statements and each part complementing the others and showing enough artistry to seem complete. Whole.

In this we see what will prevail in the time of MP3s and cultural fragmentation. It is not enough to have an album, and to have it be pretty good. It must be complete in the way the best albums are. Vision and voice, concept and execution come together like the interface to a warplane, or an elite computer program, or the echoing profundity of a well-constructed argument or theory. The albums that will be bought, as opposed to being downloaded and forgotten, are those that will ring true in this sense.

Through this lens we approach the most difficult question of human music, which is: if music alone communicates, why is it that one album in the same style is better than another? What motivates many of us to recognize this choice and make it simultaneously? It is the quality of the album as a whole product. Mathematically, it shows a higher degree of organization; artistically, whether we agree with it or not (or “like” it) it shows a willingness to tackle some idea which is neither dogmatic nor carelessly milktoast. It is whole.

Bands and labels wonder how to sell in a time of free music. The answer is simple: make concept albums, or maybe we should call them demi-concept albums, because they do not need overblown “conceptualization” that ends up with song titles like Ragn-Thor Attacking the Climate Control Apparatus of Zoroaster. We need albums that are whole. More work and thought must go into them. It is not a question of style. The style from 1992 will do. But an album that is whole will not sound like anything else, even though it’s in the same style.

The dummy writers sit out there wondering why people go wild over Sorcier des Glaces, Averse Sefira, Avzhia or Profanatica when there are 8,000 bands that “sound like” those bands, in style. The answer is that music can be a means to only one end, and that is enjoyment of a journey which involves a change in state. It cannot be manipulated through its form alone. That form must match something it is communicating, and that communication must be highly organized.

Record labels got by for years slapping together pop music “about nothing” — songs about sex, loss, anger, and material desire — and relied on their greater production power and the mechanical task of songwriting, or keeping songs in harmony with enough melodic expectation to deliver a quenchingly satisfying chorus. Bands in black metal got by from 1994-2007 by slapping together a composite of past successful riffs, bloviating on overworn topics, and putting a pentagram, swastika or Horus on the cover.

These times have changed. In fact, if we think carefully, those times of easy fat were themselves anomaly, because in them the music itself became a product — it was a means to an end of selling musical conveyances, like CDs. But now, the music is no longer rare. What is rare is someone who can put together patterns in such a way to fit nearly perfectly, and in that fit, to express something words and images alone cannot.

It’s natural selection for black metal, as for all music, and it will dovetail with the rise in cost of consumer products as cheaply drillable oil tapers off (about 2013). Suddenly, the hard years — that metaphorical frost of the elders of black metal — will return, and it will shape music to be a more precious commodity, more carefully thought out like the last missive of a dying man in prison.

Through pressures of the tangible, the focus will return to the intangible, and metal will rise in power as it leaves both hipsters and corporate behemoths — and aren’t they the same mentality, which is to manipulate others for their own social power — behind.

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History of the band Mayhem

Like a dark breath of forbidden fantasy, black metal came into a world of orderly containers and sprayed them with foaming blood, black bile, and most of all a poisonous uncertainty about the safely egalitarian but boring lifestyle of the first world. In this genre, Mayhem were the band that by sheer persistence evolved into being one of the founders of the new black metal style, but only after years of thrashing in the dark and confusion of the fatalistic tendencies that eventually brought the band to artistic collapse.

Formed in the early 1980s by Oystein Aarseth, or Euronymous, the band released two demos which built upon what Bathory and Celtic Frost had achieved by making it more minimal, less coherent, and less friendly to the ears; in truth, the first anti-social music. The latter of these, “Pure Fucking Armageddon,” had attributes of extreme crustcore infused into its fractured heavy metal stylings, bringing criticism from a metal world which was then just beginning to accept Morbid Angel, Kreator, Destruction and others as a new form of “music.”

As time went on, two important things happened: first, Mayhem released “Deathcrush,” their first release and the best snapshot of the musical style they were attempting to produce, and second, the vocalist “Dead” [Per Yngwe Ohlin] from the Swedish band Morbid joined Mayhem to replace previous vocalist Maniac. The underground was slow at first to embrace the newer music, but soon there was a firm niche carved out for Mayhem: those who rejected the desire for logicality, in the modernist style, that death metal represented. As Euronymous said, “Black Metal is so extreme that not anyone can get into it. This isn’t any funny hobby which stupid kids shall have after they comes home from school.”

With the introduction of Dead, the conceptual impetus behind the band changed, and soon the blocky and deliberately awkward music of “Deathcrush” was metamorphosizing into a sleeker, melodic variant with more dynamic change in the songs, producing different “settings” to tell a tale, somewhat like a micro-opera in harsh guitars and howling vocals. Similarly, the appearance of the band went from t-shirts and jeans to black clothing, black boots and facepaint – corpsepaint – in black and white. In concert, Dead cut himself onstage, surrounded by the carcasses and heads of slaughtered animals. A full rejection of the positivity, pity and focus on individual lives of democratic humanism, the new appearance and music of Mayhem emphasized the bold, terrifying, morally ambiguous and deathlike in life itself. To understand it, one had to realize that the passion given to the music was an affirmation of life, but a different form of life, than that endorsed by the nominally Christian Nordic countries.

With this change, the following of Mayhem increased, especially as their recognizably different image placed them ahead of other musical efforts in the world of metal as less socialized and thus more extreme. Mayhem played a series of concerts across Europe, but recording and songwriting were sporadic, thus little material emerged from this period. At the end of it, Dead, in a moment of nihilism and darkness in 1991, slashed both his wrists and blew out his brains with a shotgun, leaving only a note: “Please excuse all the blood.” Euronymous, upon returning to the band’s shared dwellingspace to discover the cold corpse, took pieces of the brain and integrated them in a stew of ham and vegetables for the pleasure of eating human flesh; the band’s drummer, Hellhammer, took pieces of the shattered skullcap and made them into a necklace. As if a primitive ritual, the members of Mayhem paid their respects in death as in life: with coldness, feral opportunism, and a denial of any “sanctity” or “feelings” toward life, even that of a friend and collaborator. As Euronymous said later, about his form of “evil,” “It is basically hate to humankind. I have no friends, just the guys I’m allied with. If my girlfriend dies I won’t cry, I will missuse the corpse.”

During this time, Euronymous and his band were instrumental in the forming of a new black metal social group, or “scene,” centered around his record store in Oslo called Helvete [Hell]; the downstairs was a necrotic and bleak excuse for a commercial establishment in which the hatred and disassociation from commercial process was as much a barrier to purchase as anything else, but the upstairs was a practice room where Nazi flags and weapons hung over instruments decorated with inverted crosses. During the daytime, the store was a gathering place for musicians and fans of an anti-social nature; at night, Euronymous indoctrinated those who might be useful to the scene by inviting them to wild parties in which orgiastic appetites for alcohol fueled self-mutilation and eventually, rampant church and graveyard desecration [in Europe and many older American towns, the graveyard surrounds the church – a strangely forthright admission of the role of religion in society!]. Euronymous also started the first record label of the modern black metal movement, Deathlike Silence Productions. While these events stood against everything that Norwegian society of the time valued, authorities were permissive and did not “connect the dots” until far later.

It was at this time that many of extremist views, such as the skinhead-turned-rocker Kristian Vikernes – also performing in Burzum, joined the circle – and joined Mayhem on bass. Vikernes was an interesting counterpoint to those in the association so far; he was a hater of life but, like Dead, had an uncanny passion for life through art, and seemed to value his time in nature, away from people and their imaginary rules. His intent could be summarized in his most clarion statement, “I see Burzum as a dream without holds in reality. It is to stimulate the fantasy of mortals, to make them dream” – a replacement of morality with the über-Romanticist ethos of adventure and heroic classicism. Between the Gothic neoclassicism of Dead and the postmodern Romanticism of Vikernes, black metal became more than a style of music, but an ideological and social tool for change away from a highly regimented, moralistic society. Vikernes again: “We want to create the most possible fear, chaos and agony so that the idiotic and friendly Christian society can break down. We are overall not interested in that the truth comes through. When we spread lies we cause confusion and confusion leads to chaos and at last breakdown. People shall be oppressed and we support everything that oppresses man and takes from him his feelings as free individuals.”

It was part of this denial of the supremacy of the lives of individuals over ideas, emotions and even real-world activities that helped what happened next to occur. Two polar opposites existed in black metal, the fatalism and negativity of Euronymous versus the political and violent doctrine of Vikernes, and these were brought into conflict through the personalities. Vikernes claims Euronymous delayed the release of Burzum albums [on Deathlike Silence] by spending the money instead on degenerate pursuits; Euronymous presumably did not care and was more interested in the upcoming Mayhem release, which was moving slowly because of the personality conflicts in the band. Eventually, reality followed imaginary projections: on the night of August 10, 1993, Euronymous was stabbed to death by Vikernes; of 26 knife wounds, 2 were to the head, five to the neck and 19 to the back. Thus began the projection of Mayhem into legend, since it provided black metal in the modern sense with not only its first model of technique and imagery, but also its first martyrs. Dead was eulogized in a 1992 release, “Live in Leipzig,” which recorded an excessively bloody and violent Mayhem concert in East Germany. Teaming up with Attila Csihar of Tormentor, the remaining members of Mayhem put out “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas,” one of the most impassioned black metal albums released, yet one with its feet firmly grounded in old-school Venom/Bathory heavy metal styles. Their nihilism was so great they left Vikernes’ bass tracks on the album next to the guitar work of the man he killed, claiming in the press to have removed them so not to attract unwelcome attention from his family.

While the lives of its members had mostly run their course, and its most epic work had been produced, at least in conceptual form, before these deaths, afterwards the social and political importance of Mayhem was fully recognized. First, it gave many a central point with which to identify the new movement, and generated a wave of publicity especially in unison with the news of 22 churches burned in Norway, mostly by black metal “Satanists.” Even more importantly, Euronymous himself became a central figure, and his ideas [and those of Dead and Vikernes, who heavily influenced him] became dissected and discussed across the globe. Not only was this influential in the fanbase, but labels and bands worldwide began to see the importance of the new black metal movement: unlike anything from popular music since the 1960s, this was shocking; the people in black metal lived on the edge and fought to the death, something metal bands had always sung about but never acted out, much to the derision of punkers and other underground fans. The image of Helvete – the church of the anti-life – became predominant in the minds of many when conceptualizing new forms of social expression to the anti-oversocialization impetus that black metal and heavy metal share. In the years following the death of Euronymous, the focus he brought to the scene brought it to a dramatic rise and sudden death, as in late 1997 the genre became swamped with commercial bands in the mainstream style.

Mayhem itself continued on in the form of two major works, “Wolf’s Lair Abyss” in 1997 and “A Grand Declaration of War” in 2000, interspersed with numerous live albums and re-releases. where “De Mysteriis…” continues to be their most popular work, “Wolf’s Lair Abyss” is regarded by many as a highly proficient black metal album in the style of Satyricon mixed with old Mayhem, producing something with the same rhythmic thrust as “De Mysteriis” but with less of the operatic lack of total consistency in songs. “A Grand Declaration of War” is more problematic, taking a divergence into math-metal and pseudo-progressive stylings, which creates an album which sounds more like soundtrack than foreground listening, with Marilyn Manson influences in both songwriting and image. Because of this, and other factors such as the vast commercialization of black metal during the last six years, Mayhem is effectively dead in the underground and a small player with a devoted fanbase in the mainstream metal scene at this time. However, for every person who gets into black metal, the chorus of voices suggesting “De Mysteriis…” has an effect, for people continue to buy it at a great rate and praise it as immortal metal music and unmatched spirit in a genre filled mostly with angry people of little imagination.

Regardless of the current tedium of record sales and popularity contests, Mayhem contributed an indelible influence on not only metal, but music of resistance to socialization as a whole. Their ideology – part blank-faced fatalism, part fascism and part feral atavism – was carried upwards by the voices of many who were similarly frustrated with the pity-oriented egalitarian society of the first world, which preached that avoiding death was more important than achieving heroic or passionate things. Against this belief system black metal, and Mayhem most visibly, agitated. “True satanists are superhumans,” stated Euronymous in a now-infamous interview. A few years later, Vikernes gave a clearer view: “Strife is evolution, peace is degeneration.” This did not sit well with not only Christians and Jews, but also many people who had become dependent upon society and its pity toward those who are less-able as a whole, thus raising a cry against black metal as music of “hate” or “intolerance.” While those would clearly like to file black metal into a wholly political category, the raw artistry and imagination of bands like Mayhem make that appear a one-dimensional look at the story. As Ihsahn from fellow Nordic rockers Emperor said, “You’ll never understand me because you sit in the audience at a horror movie. I’m up on the screen.” There is no place in the current society for bands like Mayhem; they are beyond its rules and mental conditioning, and always will be. And for this, wherever anguish at social predominance grinds, there will be new fans of the fundamental works of Mayhem, which not only outlive their creators but will forever be a mythos larger than life itself.

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Black Metal History

The genre that came seemingly last of all the metal genres was the one that considered its ideals the most seriously and consequently, produced a radically distinctive form of music. While black metal was somewhat of the cousin of speed and death metal during its early days, during the 1990s it bloomed into full musical form after developing a philosophy more coherent with its dark aesthetic than the hedonism and liberalism of the past. In a consequent blaze of controversy, the black metal genre streaked across the public perspective briefly before proliferating into a variety of styles and mainstream versions of its sound, forcing older variants out as a flood of similar bands absorbed the genre.

The Early Years

Black metal existed first as a singular concept in aesthetics, and later began to proliferate musically, only differentiating itself from death metal in the theoretical arena when its philosophical divergence became clear to the Norwegians in the early 1990s. A comparison from history can be found in the invention of the telephone; while Alexander Graham Bell invented the phone itself, the complex switching systems necessary to connect multiple parties within a city awaited later inventors. Similarly, the aesthetics [appearance and stylistic refinements of music] of black metal were created long before it really existed as a genre, influencing a period of long lull in the 1980s.

There is confusion as to who “invented” black metal, but it is clear that like death metal, its origins came from the same general area and were spread across creators worldwide contributing to the process. While Venom were the first band to grab headlines with their sensationally stripped down riffing and overtly occultist yet ludicrous image, it was Bathory, Sodom and Celtic Frost who gave the genre its enduring form. Where Venom was limited musically to deconstructed heavy metal, these bands took the neoclassical phrasing and minor key melodies of NWOBHM bands like Angel Witch, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and matched them up with the droning three-note roar of early crustcore as exemplified by Discharge. As both bands depended on diminished melodies in power chord riffing it was a seamless match.

During this formative era of black metal, several general styles emerged. First was Bathory with a smoothly flowing, fast-tremolo picked flow of sound over consistent throbbing drums; next was Sodom, making three-chord primitivism which moved at high speed with unsteady and abrupt changes of riff, tempo and texture; also included were Hellhammer, who specialized in droning minimalist music that often resembled hardcore punk played in minor keys, and Celtic Frost, the continuation of that band into grandiloquent constructions resembling the musical staging of operatic scenes; finally, there was Venom, who continued to produce their heavy metal/punk hybrid which delighted in using the simplest possible musical devices to convey the broadest changes available.

From this time onward, the genre slept while innovations were made in the death metal camp, with a few notable exceptions soon to be covered. The same year that Bathory unleashed its first opus brought about a small but intense wave of hardcore/metal hybrids front by Slayer but including within the next two years formative works from Sepultura, Possessed and Morbid Angel. While the basic approach of death metal was to create intricate arrangements using extended phrasing in an architectural style, its essential approach involved rhythm and chromatic progressions which did not admit much obvious melody. The tightly-woven, complex and interlocked riffing used by early death metal bands produced a sense of deconstruction and immersion but gave little new direction. As the genre wound up for its grand entrace, black metal again split from the pack in the 1987-1988 era with Sarcofago and Mayhem, and was then silent for another four years while death metal raged.

Sarcofago presented something offensive, abrupt and even ludicrous to people of the time who were schooled in the riff salad style of death metal, with stilted and broken sounding rhythm changes matching akward, nearly imbecilic riffs which fit together into songs with an uncanny, barely discernible continuity. While the majority of the formative work of Sarcofago, “I.N.R.I.,” was abrasively disassociative rhythm riffing, the album held itself together with some admirably sonorous yet barely logical melodies, seemingly as if formulated on a whim by demons of a distracted but perversely insightful mentality. Ignored at the time by most, Sarcofago in part generated the impetus toward the bizarre and primitive that spurred the next generation of black metal into action.

Simultaneous to the release of “I.N.R.I.” was the fourth release from Sweden’s Bathory, “Blood, Fire, Death,” in which the rippingly fast and simple works of earlier albums had been turned into theatrical yet emotive quasi-operatic pieces in which rasping vocals and singing coincided and song structures staged dramatic encounters of their parts more than repeating cyclic patterns. Across the water in Norway, Mayhem were putting the finishing touches on a massively incompetent but enigmatic work known as “Deathcrush,” in which tortuous guitar patterns arced over drumming with the grace of an exhausted pack animal, and horrific howling vocals textured the mix. The following year, Merciless assembled “The Awakening,” a fast speed metal album with touches of death but an undeniably morbid melodic sensation. Together these releases defined what would go into the mix of the genre coming next: the aggression and grandeur of Bathory, the abrupt and convoluted structures of Sarcofago, the rough aesthetic of Mayhem and the dramatic staging of Celtic Frost, who had just unleashed their discontiguous but impressive masterpiece “Into the Pandemonium.”

The Modern Era

Again some years went by in which death metal was the primary focus of the community and fans. Where mainstream metal had vanished under the dual onslaught of grunge and the progressive selling out of speed and heavy metal bands like Metallica and Testament, the underground shot to the forefront of the minds of those who expected metal, and consequently, became the area where development in metal occurred while the more popular bands did their best to reiterate their essential sound and presence as a means of not losing ground. As death metal became more accepted, however, it became slowly infested with the same mentality that clogged mainstream metal: an underconfident, socially dependent, accepting and undiscriminating mentality which placed excellent bands next to derivative, unimaginative acts without thinking twice.

Born of the desire to surpass this mess, the modern era of black metal began in Norway with the first releases from Darkthrone, Immortal, Emperor, Burzum and Mayhem. Each differed from the death metal before it in an emphasis on melodic composition and intricate, classically-inspired song structures which functioned as motifs, returning to not verses or choruses but clusters of riffs and musical ideas which framed their concepts in a setting, not unlike the work of an opera or ancient Greek tragedy. This new form of metal was more vivid and emotionally evocative than the thunderous assault of death metal, and also less concerned with the immediate social values around it; it embraced independent thinking, a dislike for all social dogmas and humanism, a Romanticist love of nature and predation, and a penchant for fantasy and thoughts of ancient times.

The reaction of the death metal boy’s club was unanimous: “fags!” However, the new style rapidly gained ground and soon a second generation of the modern era, including bands like Ancient, Gorgoroth, Graveland, Behemoth, Abigor and Gehenna among others landed in the crowd. Many of these bands were inspired as were original black metal pioneers Darkthrone by the melodic tremolo picking of Swedish death metal bands from the previous generation, which caused the pace to be picked up as the aggression, but the fundamental differences remained. From the reaction to the first wave of black metal, and a desire to get “purer” and farther away from the possible infestation of death metal bands, black metal bands starting with Darkthrone on “Ablaze in the Northern Sky” began to use a fuzzed-out, lo-fi sound and primal song structures similar to those of Hellhammer, early Bathory, and Venom.

While this initially drove away the more sycophantic fans, it was a failing strategy for the same reasons it failed in the production of hardcore music: it made the genre extremely easy to emulate. As demonstrated by bands such as Dark Funeral, it was easy to transition from death metal and make primitive and fast melodic black metal songs which sold in the underground, and soon there were more ex-death metal, ex-crustcore and ex-rock personnel surging into the scene. By the time of the middle 1990s, bands such as The Abyss and Marduk had joined the party, creating in their process templates which any bands could use to emulate the style – and did.

In a few short years the genre had gone from a handful of bands making distinctive music to a horde of bands making indistinguishable music identified only by novelty factors of instrumentation, voice and concept. Nothing was any longer being achieved in the central group of black metal bands, so most of the “old guard” of Norwegian bands backed out and allowed their music to dissipate, as indicated by Darkthrone claiming their “Total Death” album would be final one from the band. As the hordes of scenesters and clone rock artists gathered, bands such as Graveland, Summoning and Ildjarn began experimenting in ambient forms of the original style, writing longer melodies and integrating semi-symphonic instrumentation in digital form in some cases and making rawer, less rock-like music in the case of Ildjarn.

The Drama

Much has been said about the dramatic entry of the Norwegian scene in the early 1990s. Articles ranting about the terror the “Inner Circle” and “Black Circle” would bring to Christian society overstated the case, and so by the year 2000 most fans were tired of hearing the same stories of the genesis of the scene. These will be mentioned here only for the purpose of conveying the ideology of black metal, and its effect upon society at large that in turn reflected the response of civilization to black metal and some of the factors that contributed to its demise.

In the beginning, there were a handful of black metal bands in Norway loosely unified around some ideals and a few meeting places, including the shop Euronymous from Mayhem ran called Helvete [Hell]. There is some debate over whether or not there was a formal “Black Circle” as initially was claimed by American and British publications, but clearly the members of these bands communicated and met within the 4.5 million person country. Strange things began happening in Norway: churches burned, a homosexual man was slit open, miscellaneous assaults and grave desecrations occurred, and then to cap it off, Euronymous was stabbed one night in his apartment. Furthermore, implications of fascism and/or Nazi beliefs were pointed at many members of the underground, most of whom quickly denied them.

First, the vocalist Dead of Mayhem committed suicide with a large knife and shotgun, leaving a note “Excuse all the blood.” Some time later, Varg Vikernes of Burzum was arrested for burning churches and murdering Euronymous; at the time of this writing, he is still serving his term [when arrested, Vikernes was near famished from lack of money to buy food, yet had 150kg of explosive in his basement for use in destruction of churches]. Over 20 other black metal musicians and fans were arrested for burning churches; a total of 77 burned in Scandinavia during that time, although not all have been definitively linked to “Satanists.” Several other musicians did time for killings, assaults, desecrations or unrelated arsons, including Jon Notveidt in Sweden who served 8 years for being accessory to a killing, and Hendrik Moebus in Germany, who served several years as accessory to a murder before being arrested for making a Roman salute while on parole. While the carnage was not widespread, the effect was; Europe saw a wakeup call to some Pagan values and anti-Judeo-Christian sentiment, and America saw a chance at rebellion and consequently, marketing.

Further, the community of black metal had a chance to demonstrate its values. While most members of the scene when pressed denied they had been involved in fascist or Nazi politics, they were indifferent to the roles of others in such things. Equally noncommittal were many around Euronymous after his murder; Hellhammer, the drummer of Euronymous’ band Mayhem, shrugged and said, “One of them had to die,” when queried about the feud between Vikernes and Euronymous. Most bands interviewed spoke positively of nature, negatively of Christianity, and displayed disdain for social behavior that placed the lives of individuals above that of a collective movement. This made many uneasy, especially in tolerant, peaceful and normally quite uneventful Scandinavia.

The Aftermath

When the mainstream bands such as Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth and Marduk that attracted hundreds of thousands to black metal are confronted with the ideology of the founders of modern black metal, they quickly shake their heads and walk away. “Not for us, thanks.” In addition, their music is fundamentally different from that of the underground bands; where the originators of this style used diatonic and chromatic riffs and melodic modes, most of the “aboveground” black metal uses pentatonic scaling and much of the same riffs and rhythms of metal bands from the 1970s. Thus is exemplified a split in the genre: the bands who are doing what metal bands always have, and the bands who are moving away from traditional metal toward a more neoclassical, less rock-n-roll, more intricate musical form.

This split extends to every area of the black metal scene at the time of this writing. On one side, let’s call it the “left,” there are bands who embrace the current era and its variant aesthetics, including the mainstream genres outside of metal; a good example here would be Ulver or Sigh, both of who create postmodern metal from fragments and samples of other genres arranged into pieces delineated by key or rhythm. On the right would be the classicists, the old-schoolers who either only support black metal in the established tradition or who embrace a “purity” of both musical rawness and ideological allusion to the Greco-Roman, Viking or fascist values. For all intents and purposes this split is permanent, with the sides diverging into assimilation on the left and obscurity on the right, yet somehow they keep attracting audience, albeit a degraded one.

Some would say that there was a mystique about black metal that took a long time to die; it didn’t break in 1996, when The Abyss made an album so textbook Norwegian black metal that it provided a template for other bands to follow, and it didn’t even break in 1998 when all but a handful of the original bands had moved on to making more contented music. The year after however appears to have brought the death of black metal in a form emerging from within, similar to the story of Baldr’s death that conceptualizes a later Burzum album: betrayal from within. When the first of the more mainstream bands emerged, the underground took a clue from Darkthrone and it became de rigeur for the non-commercial bands to slap out albums with monochrome art and blindingly distorted, low-technicality music. As before however, this made it easy for further emulation to occur, diluting a genre with exactly what it opposed, and turning it from a movement where concept, music and action were joined into another form of entertainment for couchbound teenagers.

Black Metal Belief Systems

Conventional wisdom in the Judeo-Christian west holds that nature is lawless, dangerous and pointless; to give life meaning, there must be a moral goal, such as civilization itself: the conquering of natural frontiers and environments, taming of natural impulses in humans, and reduction of the law of the fittest – an equalization, as F.W. Nietzsche and later others pointed out. Nietzsche saw this equalization as a form of “revenge” on nature by depriving nature of what makes it threatening to the individual human, namely the potential imminent death – a form of judgment – for being less than capable in a situation calling for endurance and survival.

Sixty years after Nietzsche’s most influential period of work, explosions on the Polish border awakened the globe to the second world war. In this war, a conflict between the most fundamental division of ideology was established: collectivism versus individualism, with the latter favoring the kind of product-oriented, technologically-based, container-logical lifestyles currently seen in the first world nations. It was those insular and self-pleasing ways of living that first irked black metallers, and demonstrated to them a social devolution: there was no longer any competence needed, only obliviousness. Many black metallers, like Nietzsche, found greater inspiration in nature than in post-Judeo-Christian western society, and identified what Christians find horrible – the bloody, competitive, anti-individualist character of nature – to be an example of the most sublime beauty.

The ideological inclination of black metal remains disturbing to most and illegal in many countries. Yet it is not unique to black metal; as history shifted in the 1960s from a predominantly conservative society to a liberal society, thanks to the counterculture, and its effects were only felt with the children growing up in the 1980s, their response mirrors that of some who rejected the flower powery view of the politics and society. Among the thinkers and dissidents now coming back into favor are ecological fascists like Pentti Linkola and Theodore Kaczynski, as well as various stripes of nationalist and racial separatist leaders. [The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish self-defense organization, claims that National Socialist and Neo-Nazi movements are increasing “worldwide.”] It’s hard to see what the future holds but this controversy remains in the forefront of not only black metal, but international politics, as shown by the amount of air time it is given by the entertainment industry, news media and American/U.N. politicians.

Interestingly, black metal joins not only the far right, but the far left, in many of its sentiments. As the world anti-globalist and anti-capitalist movement picks up speed, it echoes many of the ideals of black metal: natural ecosystems; ethnic uniqueness; population control; an end to technology-driven, product-oriented, convenience-based lifestyles. Protestors across the world in anti-war and anti-globalism protests would be shocked to know they have something in common with a group of bloodthirsty church-burning fascists who idealize the occult, but perhaps would be glad at least for a sympathetic ear. Interestingly also, the “modern primitives” movement as seen in events like the Burning Man festival and the survivalist trend around the time of Y2K align themselves in the same general direction these ideals seem to be taking, but the final synthesis has not yet been heard.

Subdivisions

After the initiation of modern black metal in the Scandinavian style, a fragmentation occurred along the general lines of techniques used to unify song composition, creating a number of subdivisions in the black metal subgenre [genre = metal, subgenre = black]. The following are general descriptions of these substyles and what they implied for changes in black metal as a whole.

Rock

The heavy metal style of black metal, descended directly from Venom and NWOBHM bands like Angel Witch who inspired them, is essentially rock music with some neoclassical influences in the loosest sense. Pentatonic, verse chorus music that stays within basic harmony, heavy metal/rock-styled black metal is recognizable for its radio friendly ways, redundant harmonic constructions and verse/chorus arrangements. Good examples include Venom of course, Dimmu Borgir albums after Stormblast, Cradle of Filth and Dissection.

Raw

Descended from Hellhammer and some early Bathory, this is mostly rhythm music which like hardcore punk is fashioned from the harmonic space of a basic interval between two anchoring notes, often a fifth. While this style is easy to do, it is difficult to do well, as the number of bands emulating Hellhammer and falling far short of what Hellhammer produced have found.

Epic

Symphonic styles and epic song structures often seem to go together, as seen in bands like Summoning, Graveland, Heidenreich and early Emperor. Where most bands indulge some complexity, these bands aspire to a demi-operatic state of unifying concept with staging, projecting a theatrical view of the action described in a song through the pure sound and arrangement of riffs. These bands are often the closest to classical music in types of melody and depth of layering, but it is important to note that epic is mainly a description of the complexity and arrangement of a band, not its techniques, so there is complete overlap with other styles mentioned here.

Trance

Music designed to utilize the undulating nature of the sweep picking of a guitar as suspended between unchanging percussion of a basic nature, this style is inspired by generations of metal with ambient experimentation, including Slayer, Von, Massacra, and Bathory. The most notorious band working in this group is Burzum, but other bands such as Nargaroth, I Shalt Become, Ildjarn and Darkthrone have created great works in this area.

Melodic

The oldest style of modern black metal, the melodic compositional approach was first utilized by Norwegian bands looking for a way to make simple power chord music more than thudding rhythm and chromatic patterns. Immortal’s “Pure Holocaust” is the best example of this, with highspeed tremolo picking whipping distorted noise into a flood of searing yet beautiful sound, but there are also examples to be found in Behemoth, Darkthrone, Mayhem and Sacramentum.

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Interview: Chris Reifert (Autopsy, Death, Abscess)

In the an(n)als of metal history, the name Chris Reifert sticks out like a red flag to anyone tracking the progress of the development of the genre. After a partnership with Death, he formed Autopsy for the sake of recording “death metal” in the late 1980s, and has moved on from Autopsy to Abscess, a grind/punk/metal project, as well as several other bands in the quest for loud and grindingly horrific music. We were able to catch up with Chris through a system of coded messages sent via colonically-violated seagull.

What motivated you to get into metal?

Just my infatuation with heavy music. It started when I got hooked on KISS in 1978 and has only progressed since then. Also being exposed to ‘Rubber Soul’ and ‘Revolver’ by the BEATLES as small child got an early intestest in psychedelia cooking. Nowadays we are really merging psychedelic influences with (emphasis on) extremely brutal metal with a healthy injection of ‘FUCK YOU’ punk. AAARRRGGGHHHH! (to quote Venom)

Have you ever gotten in trouble with the law for your metal affiliation?

No, just for alcohol affiliation.

What do you see as the primary difference in mentality between underground metal bands and the people you hear on the radio?

In general, everything. Otherwise, I guess it depends on who you are talking about. Besides that fuck the radio! Even at its best moments it sucks Carrot Top’s unwashed red and brown ass! The radio for the most part is controlled by one piece of fecal matter sitting at the top caring for nothing artistic unless you count dollar bills as art pieces. DESTROY THE FACTORY!!! The sick thing is, alot of fucks in the underground just wish they were that piece of fecal matter but just haven’t achieved it yet. It all comes down to this, is your music good or crap and to whom? hmmm….

in autopsy, what were your influences on drums and why did you pursue the musical style that you did?

I think I was my biggest influence in drumming at the time cause there was no one else to look up to in my mind. If you ask me about that now I would say Keith Moon and Dave Lombardo as a two headed four armed eight legged mutant with a up of insanity added.

In Abscess, you are trying something more punk or grind than metal, but with metal influences. Why the big change and what advantages has it brought you?

I really hate analyzing specific riffs or feels or whatnot. It’s the spirit that matters. I suppose after Autopsy split all we really wanted to do was get drunk and go crazy. No we still do that but really hone in on maximum heaviness and mindfuckitude. ‘Tormented’ dove into that pod and our newest ‘Through the Cracks of Death’ is swimming to the bottom or maybe into the air above. It’s all the same I guess. Quesion is: What would Lester Bangs say?

What are your favorite punk/hc bands?

Mostly older ones cause punk has suffered the same commercial assfucking that metal has as of late. Just a few: GG Allin, Ramones, Sham 69, Capitalist Casualites, Gaia, Poison Idea, Dwarves, Discharge, Stooges, MC5, Dead Boys, Pagans, bla bla bla…

If you could exist in any musical movement in history, what would it be?

I can’t think that way. I’m always obsessed with laying down the next brutal eyeball gouging, runt raping, flesh flinging track.

How has Abscess been received by the metal and punk communities, and what have you learned from the differences in the two?

Everyone still hates us 8 years into it. Mostly I hear “When is Autopsy reforming?” How about “When are you gonna let me spurt jizz into your armpits?” Fuck it! I’ve always thought and still do metal and punk are two sides of the same coin. Its all about energy, aggression and getting your sick kicks in an eardrum pummeling way. Call me old fasioned. har har fucking har de har!

Why do you think underground metal began when it did, 1983-85, with bands worldwide suddenly converging on the same sound?

Fuck knows? Its the way it goes with any movement (bowel-haha!) I suppose. Who cares really? Theres good and crappy in any situation like that. Lizard poop for everyone, thats what I say!

Do you think anything in nature has a single cause?

I dunno. Maybe somehwere between Bukowski, Casteneda and Nietzsche lies the truth. But I doubt it. Most likely humans just wonder too much about some secret key or meaning to life. Maybe Nietzsche was right but ‘Maldoror’ is pretty fucking entertaining!

Do you hate the internet? If so, please tell us why, in detail (including the following topics if possible: AOL, porn, FBI)

I don’t hate it, I’m just not interested in it. If I ever owned a computer (which I don’t) I probably would never turn it on. I’d rather call someone and hear their voice with no screen to hide behind in my admittedly warped mind there’s something deeply good way. I seem to be in the minority…

Please comment on any rumors linking yourself to VON here.

What rumors? Our bass player Joe used to be in Von. That’s as far as it goes.

Where do you think metal will go next, what will become?

I think the big question is, where will the bat boy appear next? Fortunately the weekly world news will keep us in the know.

What do you think of nu-metal?

Where did they get the metal part from? Heavy guitar tones and seven string guitars do no add up to ‘metal’. On top of that some worthless fizzlefuck slobbering about how his father came in his face too many times or some gopher entrails like that. TOTAL FUCKING GARBAGE FOR TOTAL FUCKING DUNCES!!

Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man’s inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another. Self-incurred is this tutelage when its cause lies not in lack of reason but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude! (“Dare to be wise,” Ars Poetica, Horace) “Have courage to use your own reason!” — that is the motto of the enlightenment.

– Immanuel Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals

Many thanks to Clint Carr for his help in obtaining this interview.

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Interview: Les Evans (Cryptic Slaughter)

Cryptic Slaughter, the quintessential 1980s thrash band, where thrash means crossover music of a simple and effective nature. their music, of short bursts of song with explosive drumming and ragged punkish speedcore riffs, projected a forerunner archetype of what grindcore would soon be. Albums like “convicted” and “money talks” displayed the formative techniques of death metal. But even independent of its historical role, this music crushes with its efficiency and organic texture. Les Evans, guitarist of Cryptic Slaughter, was kind enough to answer some questions for us via email. working on this interview has been one of the high points of the experience of writing about metal, and it is a privilege to interact with a founding mind of a band such as Cryptic Slaughter.

Do you think a generational difference exists between bands, in terms of how the thinking that inspires them to make their music changes?

Sure, and every generation thinks that theirs is the most relevant! Your immediate surroundings, differing time frames included, will always impact your creative output. But music crosses generational, race, and class divisions. So even bands from different eras maintain a common thread. I’m just happy that there are still “thinking” bands out there.

How was music composed in Cryptic Slaughter?

Generally, we wrote songs individually, after which we would present the rough sketches to the rest of the band. We would then tweak arrangements and embellish. Lyrics usually weren’t written until the music was finished. A rare exception was Lowlife. Scott came up with that opening drum riff out of the blue, and I wrote the accompanying guitar part right on the spot. I can’t remember if the rest of the song had already been written or not.

Do you conceive of songs as rhythms, or riff patterns, or abstract ideas or melodies? What has been for you normally the genesis of songwriting?

This will be difficult to put into words. I can’t say that I really have a conscious formula. Usually it’s the melody first, then the rythym. Sometimes I’ll hear music in my head and then try to translate it into something tangible. Or I’ll just play around loosely with the guitar. If something promising comes up, I immediately record it and then attempt all manner of variations on the pattern or riff to see which sounds the best to me. After I come up with something I’m happy with, I’ll put it aside for a few days and then listen to it again. If I still like it upon the second listen, it’s a keeper. When Jimi Hendrix was asked a question similar to yours, he replied that he was like an antenna, or an open channel through which ideas were allowed to flow. In other words, his songs came from somewhere else. And while I would never, ever, try to compare myself to Hendrix, I do understand what he meant. Occasionally, I’ll write music and suddenly, it’s like it’s not me playing. Almost as if I’m outside of myself as an oserver. There’s a great mystery behind art.

Rap (and the synth music that inspired it) seems to be digital-technology-dependent, where other forms of music are less so. How does this affect the viewpoints of the artists?

I embrace the technological advances, but I do believe that any artist that relies too heavily on technology runs the risk of having his music sound like it was written and performed by a computer. But then again, that’s exactly what some bands are after. They want it to sound as cold and inorganic as possible because it evokes a very sinister feel. Whatever yanks your crank.

Of all the thrash guitarists, your work was seemingly the most unabashedly punk in raw dynamics while having a metallish sense of arrangement. In what ways did each genre influence your songwriting?

When I was a kid, I was metal to the core. I turned on to hardcore right when Cryptic was first coming together. Back then, those styles of music were so underground that I automatically gravitated towards anything new I could get my hands on. And I was influenced by everything that was fast and raw. We wanted to do something different to stand out from the crowd. The ultra-speed stuff kind of just evolved without any direct intent. But as we got faster and faster, it definitely necessitated a change in the way I was playing. So what eventually developed as my style was never pre-meditated.

What bands inspired you when you were starting out, pre- and post-Convicted?

Before Cryptic formed, the most important bands to me were Slayer, Metallica, Venom, and Motörhead. Then I started listening to GBH, RKL, Suicidal Tendencies, Discharge, and Minor Threat. I had friends in high school who were into punk, so we would borrow each others records. I think they really wanted to convert me, and I guess it worked. Before Convicted was even recorded, we had taken a definite turn towards hardcore. The earlier songs on that record, Rest in Pain, War to the Knife, & Rage to Kill, were more metal. Whereas M.A.D., State Control, & Nation of Hate reflected our new direction, lyrically as well as musically.

Do you think the metal genre has been obsoleted?

I don’t think any musical genre can be considered obsolete if there is still an active fan base. It’s almost impossible to be original anymore because it seems like everything has been done to death. So hats off to the modern pioneers like Strapping Young Lad, who have brought something new and distinct to the scene.

I could find no reference to Cryptic Slaughter demos anywhere on the web (the net is often useless). Were there any and if so, can you give a brief demography?

There was only one, recorded in May, 1985 entitled “Life in Grave”. Five songs, two of which (R.I.P & War) we re-recorded for Convicted. It was much more metal influenced.

Before us there is certainly left only nothing; but that which struggles against this flowing away into nothing, namely our nature, is indeed just the will-to-live which we ourselves are, just as it is our world. That we abhor nothingness so much is simply another way of saying that we will life so much, and that we are nothing but this will and know nothing but it alone. But we now turn our glance from our own needy and perplexed nature to those who have over-come the world, in whom the will, having reached complete self-knowledge, has found itself again in everything, and then freely denied itself, and who then merely wait to see the last trace of the will vanish with the body that is animated by that trace. Then, instead of the restless pressure and effort; instead of the constant transition from desire to apprehension and from joy to sorrow; instead of the never-satisfied and never-dying hope that constitutes the life-dream of the man who wills, we see that peace that is higher than all reason, that ocean-like calmness of the spirit, that deep tranquility, that unshakable confidence and serenity, whose mere selection in the countenance, as depicted by Raphael and Correggio, is a complete and certain gospel. Only knowledge remains; the will has vanished.

– A. Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation

How have your own musical tastes change through the years?

Mainly they’ve broadened. I still like heavy music, but my CD collection is pretty eclectic. Around 1987, we realized that there was a revolution happening in music that was being led by bands like Jane’s Addiction, Fishbone, Faith No More, the Chili Peppers, Mr. Bungle, Soundgarden, etc. Together with Wehrmacht on tour, we would get everybody from both bands on stage and play “Fight for your right” by Beastie Boys. People tripped on that because it was the last thing they expected.

Do you think the underground exists, still?

I do. It’s just that the underground has much more exposure now than it ever did before the advent of the internet. There is some real irony here. In 1985, it was hard to get any information on new bands outside of the mainstream. Now, there’s so much goddamn information available on every band imaginable, good and bad, that you couldn’t process it all in three lifetimes.

Some would say, as Wagner did, that music is a form of paint one uses to create art (narrative, descriptive or poetic works, normally in structure); others would say that music provides art within itself and has no correspondence to a more generalized “artisticness.”

Both points of view are correct. It all depends on how you define and perceive “art”. And that, of course, is a very personal distinction. Wagner and his contemporaries came from a much more rigid time in music history, which required a very strict adherence to form and theory. Imagine what those guys could have come up with had they been given complete musical freedom.

Do you see Cryptic Slaughter’s lyrics as having more of an aspect of the political, or as being social commentary?

Whenever we addressed a political figure or situation, I think that inherently, it becomes social commentary. For instance, when we bitched about Reagan, it was because he was making decisions that were affecting our lives. Political agendas, no matter how convoluted, eventually have a direct effect on the population. Of course, we were great about complaining, but offered very little in the way of solutions. But what do you expect from four young punks?

You said “Around 1987, we realized that there was a revolution happening in music that was being led by bands like Jane’s Addiction, Fishbone, Faith No More, the Chili Peppers, Mr. Bungle, Soundgarden, etc.” – after some research, I am guessing this means a funk/rap revolution in music. Do you think this revolution is still ongoing?

Actually, I was referring more to the punk ethics employed by those bands. They all have roots in the underground and, against all odds, managed to break into the mainstream with varying degrees of success. Let’s not forget, popular music in the early to mid 80’s was abysmal. It was all about Richard Marx, Kaja Goo Goo, and an endless array of butt rock bands. Jane’s, FNM, etc. were innovators and the driving force behind turning the tide. There was an enormous amount of creativity and risk taking in this respect from 1987-1992. And at the time, it was truly inspiring because it felt like the rest of the world finally got hip, and that meant that anything was possible for the rest of us. I should probably broaden my list by adding some more very influential bands; Ministry, Voi Vod, Primus, Butthole Surfers, Rollins Band, The Pixies, and it goes on and on. It’s also important to note that these bands made their impact on their own terms. They didn’t change for the masses, the masses came to them.

How do you describe the music of Cryptic Slaughter, and do you assign it to any subgenres (thrash, crossover, metalcore)?

I still like the original tag line I came up with in 1985, “Hardcore Thrash”. Pretty good marketing for an eighteen year old. It’s simple, yet it tells the story.

How has this revolution changed our perceptions and expectations of music as a whole?

It effected me greatly, and certainly had an impact on music as a whole, because it was really more than just a fusion of metal/funk/rap/punk and whatever else. A new musical paradigm was created, one in which bands were no longer confined to specific categories. This, in turn, forced a shift in general perception that allowed for much more artistic freedom. The audience came to expect bands to be more multi-faceted and eclectic. It changed music forever.

If you could do it all over again, what would you change about your discography?

Well, I’d like to re-record the first three records. I was never happy with how any of them sounded, especially “Stream of Consciousness.” And there are certain songs that I absolutely can’t listen to, like Hypocrite. I realize that it’s probably sacrilege for me to think these thoughts out loud. We really didn’t know anything about recording or production, so we basically just plugged in and played. Maybe that was part of the charm.

Two rumors: that your albums were to be re-released by a Pennsylvania label, and that the new album will approximate “speedcore” or crustcore – can you tell me anything about these and their degrees of veracity?

The plan at this time is to re-issue the first two individually, both with the original artwork. For bonus tracks, we will include the demo, along with a substantial amount of live and rehearsal material, most of which has never been heard outside of our circle of friends. Regarding the new material, I’m really happy with what we’ve written, but I have no idea which category it will fall into. We were always a band that people could never agree on anyway, in terms of genre, and I don’t expect that to change now. It’s fast, brutal, and angry.

How did the members of Cryptic Slaughter meet and come together?

We all played soccer, and had all been playing for years. That’s the truth. If not for the the American Youth Soccer Association, there would not have been a Cryptic Slaughter. Bill and I went on to both play for the same high school team, although not at the same time. I met Scott and Bill through a guy named Adam Scott who was actually one of the original members of the band. I used to give Adam guitar lessons and he was younger than me by a couple of years. He told me he knew a drummer through soccer. So when we first started jamming in the summer of 84′, I had just turned 17, Adam was 15, and Scott was 14 & 1/2. We stank on ice, but just finding other pepole into the same music back then was so rare that we bonded pretty quickly. Bill, another one of Adam’s soccer buddies, joined up after school started that Fall. We steadily got better, and played a lot of covers. I remeber that we did Ace of Spades, Aggresive Perfector, Welcome to Hell, and City Baby Attacked by Rats fairly well. Adam’s parents, who were both teachers, began to put a lot of pressure on him to quit. They were just looking out for him. but he started to miss rehearsals so we kicked him out and became a three piece. Rob (who was not a soccer player) came into the fold about a year later, two months or so before we recorded Convicted. We didn’t even know him, but it worked out better than any of us could have imagined. Rob’s playing and songwriting had a huge impact on improving our sound.

Do revolutions in music like the one you describe exist until they get mainstreamed, and then somehow get consumed? Or are they ongoing?

Everything gets ruined when too many people find out about it. But you enjoy it while it lasts. Once there’s a “new sound”, every major label tries to jump on the bandwagon. That kind of over-saturation and dumbing down of the music is what kills originality. And what’s worse, you’ve got these copy cat bands that emerge in an attempt to cash in. Remember how many Nirvana wanna-be’s there were? I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with having influences, but when you’re gearing your music towards what you think will be the next big thing, you’ve lost sight of what’s important. Take Faith No More’s example. They had a huge hit with The Real Thing, and then proceeded to turn their backs on commercialism in favor of following their instincts.

Was Stream of Consciousness a live or studio live album, or did it acquire its deliciously noisy production another way?

It was recorded in an abandoned beer vat, previously owned by Pabst Blue Ribbon. No shit. It was basically a wherehouse. That record actually sounded a lot better before it was mastered. My buddy Jason, Cryptic’s only real roadie, recently foud a test pressing for Sream that Rob had given him fourteen years ago. As is typical, it had a blank label with a section for comments. And what Rob had written summed it up with two words; “IT SUCKS”. Don’t get me wrong, I think the songs on that record are by far the best we ever wrote as a band, but none of us were happy with the production. And for all intents and purposes, by the time that record was released, we were already broken up. An interesting footnote, also thanks to Jason; we have a rehearsal tape of those songs that sounds better than the record, including a tune that was never released. We want to have it released with the re-issues.

On the metal history page (http://www.anus.com/metal/about/history.html) metal is grouped into several waves, based on what worldview they had because of historical events current to the time of each wave. Do you see a difference in the musical approach between bands of members born in approx. 1968, 1974, 1982 and 1986?

Oh yeah, people from different eras grew up in different worlds. I came up in the laid back 70’s when pot was decriminalized (thank you, Jimmy Carter) and sex couldn’t kill you. Then, just as I was ready to start having some of that fun, along comes the “Just Say No” Reagan years and AIDS. And this was also when the Cold War got really ugly and the threat of nuclear war loomed large. I was confused as fuck. And pissed. Someone born in 74′ would probably tell you about their fear of being drafted into the Persian Gulf War. But I think another reason for the difference in approach is simply the desire to do something unique. the same thing over and over again gets old, so music has to grow and evolve.

Some musical thinkers claim to be able to visualize music as shapes or patterns, and from there conceptualize the song as an aesthetic object. How do you conceptualize sound, or is it a conscious process at all?

I tend to experience music more in terms of colors, but then again, I’ve eaten more acid than most people! For me, writing music is about intuition. There are no rules or perameters or formulas. It’s either good or it’s not, and you have to be objective enough to tell the difference. Because even the greats have written crap, but were smart enough to recognize it as such.

What do you think of the overall prospects for humanity given the state of our current treatment of our environment and selves?

Well, humanity will be going away, possibly within the next couple of hundred years. I believe that we’re too far gone now to change our ways enough to make a signifigant difference. Some of us will probably take off for another planet so we can begin the cycle all over again. But after we leave, the Earth will eventually heal itself. Throughout the millenia, it’s been through a lot worse than humanity.

What was the best part about being in Cryptic Slaughter during the innovative days of 1980s thrash?

The high point was the many many friends we made. I got to know people from all over the world, and I was lucky enough to experience a lot of great music.

What future directions do you see opening for people wanting to create loud, heavy, violent music? Do you think the ideals that make one wish to make such music have changed, or do you see the impetus as emotional?

Music is accessable in way now that we couldn’t have imagined in 1986. Back then, before the internet and MP3’s, kids in Nebraska had a hell of a time even finding Cryptic records. Even in L.A., I couldn’t find our records half the time. With the software available for home recording, there really are no limits. You just have to be motivated and creative in the art of self promotion. I’m sure the reasons vary depending on the person, but at the core it’s always driven by emotion. That goes for all forms of music.

Was it difficult to start a band and make it successful at such a young age? I believe you were 17 when Money Talks came out.

I had actually just turned twenty when Money Talks was released in July, 87′. Scott, if I recall correctly, was seventeen and a half. It wasn’t difficult at all because we had no idea what we were doing. We didn’t have anyone telling us what to do or what not to do, which is both good and bad. At the time, I don’t know that we necessarily considered ourselves successful. We saw bands like Suicidal Tendencies as being successful. we were just happy to have a an outlet to create.

Do young people today face a different world than young people of previous generations? How will this affect their music and the ideas they associate with the sounds they are making?

Young people most assuredly face a different world, and the world at present seems to be changing more rapidly than ever before. As a result, any feeling of stability that existed previously is now deteriorating. I don’t think anyone can accurately predict how this will affect how music is written and played. It wouldn’t surprise me, however, if it turns out to be pretty fuckin’ grim.

How did you learn to play guitar?

I took guitar lessons for years from the same guy, a studio musician. He was mainly concerned with teaching me advanced rythyms and chord structures that are most closely identified with jazz and music theory.I took music theory in high school and college as well. It’s funny how I put so much energy into learning “the rules” of music, just to turn around and break them all.

From who/where did the idea for the cover of Money Talks originate?

It came primarily from the artist, Jeff Harp, who also played guitar for Final Conflict. We gave him a lot of freedom, and he created quite a statement of the time. That cover got us on Tipper Gore’s list, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the F.B.I. opened a file on us around the same time. They’ve always kept a close eye on politically-minded musicians.

Santa Monica has always seemed to me to be a hyper-accelerated version of America in transition. Did it influence the topics of early Cryptic Slaughter songs?

I’m sure it did, although indirectly. Santa Monica was a pretty ideal setting in which to grow up. I spent a lot of my youth on the beach as well as the soccer field. Much of S.M. is very rich, but I come from a middle class background. No place is perfect, but we had it better than many kids. By the time we started doing Cryptic, we had begun to realize that the world around us left a lot to be desired.

Do you work on music full time? Family?

I wish I could do music full time, but alas, I work 40 hours a week like most people. I’m married and have a son who will be four years old soon. So I can’t afford to be an irresponsible slacker musician anymore. But I guarantee you that I rode that train for as long as I possibly could.

Do people ever beg you for re-releases of the Cryptic Slaughter albums?

Not really, but I guess the fact that people were paying between $100-$200 on Ebay for our early CD’s could be constued as a form of begging.

Now that the band has reformed, what do you aim to create in a different musical scene and perhaps style?

What we’re doing now is pretty over the top in terms of speed and heaviness. I don’t know that we’re breaking any new ground, but we are attempting to improve on what we helped to create way back when. And we’re setting the bar very high for all aspects from song writing to production.

Do you watch television?

I do, but not a whole lot. Through the influence of my son. our TV is usually set on the Cartoon Network. I’m absolutely addicted to the Sopranos and I usually still watch Letterman and Conan. One of my all time favs was Mystery Science Theater 3000, which finally ended it’s run after twelve years.

What do you think will be the effect of mp3 files and file sharing in a music industry controlled by a few titans, but with many smaller labels and distros?

I think that Napster and the like was a good thing for music. But it was especially crucial to the relatively unknown bands because it helped to get their music out there. Back in 1985, what held the underground together was a network of hardcore tape traders. They circulated hundreds of live shows and demos and helped bands like Cryptic get on the map. No record stores would carry a demo, even if you could somehow get it distributed. Many fans obtained our tapes by trading through the mail, and of course didn’t pay us for them. But the free publicity was well worth whatever we lost in short term profits. It got a buzz going, and pretty soon we were getting contacted from bands, labels, and fans who otherwise never would have heard of us. As far as major labels go, they’ve been bending over their bands and the fans for decades now so I’ve got no sympathy whatsoever. And besides, when I was a kid, I always bought the records I really liked and borrowed the rest from my friends and taped them. It’s the same principal. If you want it but don’t want to pay for it, you can always get it somehow.

You said, “What we’re doing now is pretty over the top in terms of speed and heaviness” – how can these things be increased in music? If you could describe more of your new music, that would be great.

I didn’t mean to imply that we’re going to come along and redefine fast and heavy music. I just wanted to get the point across that this is not going to be “Speak Your Peace, Part ll”. Don’t get me wrong, I love that record, but it’s not where we’re at now. Our new stuff combines blast beats with good rythymic structure and it’s not too complicated. It’s paced well with a definite emphasis on speed.

Catch-all “did I miss anything?” and “anything you’d like to add?” question – if there is any information in those categories you would like to see published in this interview, please fill in now.

Thanks to everyone for the continued support and interest after so many years. Please contact us if you want to be on our e-mail list. And thanks to SRP for probably the most comprehensive interview I’ve ever done.

[This] goes for writers and thinkers: if they resist the predominant use of time today, they are not only predestined to disappear, but they must also contribute to the making of a ‘sanitary cordon’ isolating themselves. In the shelter of this cordon, their destruction is supposed to be able to be put off for a while. But they ‘buy’ this brief and vain delay by modifying their way of thinking and writing in such a way that their works become more or less communicable, exchangeable; in a word, commercializable. But the exchange, the buying and selling of ideas and words, does not fail to contribute, contradictorily to the ‘final solution’ of the problem: how to write, how to think? I mean that they contribute to making even more hegemonic the great rule of controlled time. It follows that public space, Öffentlichkeit, in these conditions, stops being the space for experiencing, testing and affirming the state of mind open to the event, and in which the mind seeks to elaborate an idea of that state itself, especially under the sign of the ‘new.’ Public space today is transformed into a market of cultural commodities, in which ‘the new’ has become an additional source of surplus-value.

– J.-F. Lyotard, The Inhuman

Cryptic Slaughter at the Dark Legions Archive.
Interview with Scott Peterson.

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Interview: Sanguine A. Nocturne and Wrath Satariel Diabolus (Averse Sefira)

Among the bands who originate from areas outside of Northern Europe, there are few as controversial and yet artistically rewarding as Austin, TX’s Averse Sefira. Having their genesis in the era before credulous emulators gagged the black metal community with sound-alike hardcore music dressed up as black metal, Averse Sefira create black metal art in the older style, inspired by Norse and Brazilian black metal from the late 1980s and early 1990s, which puts them at odds with most of their contemporaries who like to make the more generic, less musically-complex “black metal” that has become popular in the years since 1999. Undaunted, the warriors of Averse Sefira have forged ahead on a path of creating mystical, sublime, and unrepentantly vicious metal music which is closer to its influences than competitors.

Additional guest interview questions here, courtesy of Tyler Gebar.

What drew you to black metal and not jazz or punk or ambient or baroque, or more properly stated, what drew you to black metal more than these other forms (thus forced a decision)?

SANGUINE: I have always felt called to Metal and I have always had a sound in my head that I have pursued since I was able that became clearer to me, held meaning and expression the closer I came to Black Metal. It was a journey through the initial fallout of the Genrefication, a journey through Thrash Metal and Speed Metal, Death Metal and Grindcore until one day I was played Black Metal. Then it became clear, an epiphany if you will. I understood the Sound. As I immersed myself in the Sound I began to read and understand the meaning contained within the Sound. That meaning was what I had within me my whole life. Nothing else in music that I have explored has ever merged the Within and the Sound in such union. Classical, ambient and industrial for me are close runner-ups in achieving the union, but there are mindsets within those forms that I find alien and incomprehensible, just as devotees from those camps often never understand the Hessian completely.

Averse Sefira is one of a half-handful of north american bands who create something other than three-chord punk disguised as black metal. What drives you to take a mental vision and project it through music, instead of creating a variant on known musical patterns? How did you collaborate on this vision, and what was the course of its evolution?

WRATH: In regards to initial architecture very little was based on anything else besides instinct. Sanguine and I were ardent followers of metal in general and accordingly we endeavored in what seemed correct and effective at the time. Very often people ask about our affinity for Voivod, which I find interesting considering they were not an influence at all. Most listeners hear an odd timing structure or a false stop in metal and they immediately reference the more technical bands when in truth our chief influence was Immolation in regards to structures. Even with that in mind I do not feel we share a sound in common. Sanguine learned to play traditional folk guitar long before he played extreme music, and both of us had an affinity for classical music as well. I think our decision to draw upon a wide palette of influences rather than aspire to be a variant of one specific band our style gave us a foundation that allowed for continuing innovation and exploration. I don’t quite understand the desire to be a band that is a blatant reiteration of another established act whose work will always remain superior. Why not just be a cover band? It involves less initial planning and more immediate gratification (such as it is). I savour the idea that we are rarely dismissed as sounding like any one band. If you read our reviews, we are compared to Immortal, Voivod, Marduk, Immolation, and everything in between. To address the “three-chord punk” aspect, this seems to be a symptom of minimalism being mistaken for an elementary approach. The two are anything but synonymous yet it opens the door for uninspired amateurism, most of which is thankfully and quickly ignored and abandoned.

How was the energy that inspired you to become formative in Averse Sefira different from other energies you had felt?

SANGUINE: Black Metal is like lightning striking you, the resultant chemical and electrical disruptions alter perceptions and break down barriers between the Terrestrial, the Celestial and the Void. Averse Sefira being an eruptive living presence is a magnification of these disruptions. It becomes a symbiotic relationship sometimes guiding, sometimes being guided.

When did you first get into music, and what are your memories of what attracted you to it? Also, when did you first hear metal and what did you like about it? What was the progress of your moving from outside to inside the genre, as first a fan and then a musician?

WRATH: My first interest in music was classical, from when I was about three years of age. Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bare Mountain” was a genius work that first sparked my appetite for “evil” music. Beethoven and Mozart were also standards, along with Alice Cooper. By about 1986, however, I was anxious to find something more—by this point I was an angry, hyperactive, hormone-addled youth who still wasn’t even old enough to drive. This was the point when Metallica, DRI, Anthrax, Celtic Frost, Slayer, Sodom, Bathory, and Iron Maiden began to match much of “the noise inside my head” (to paraphrase our ever-trenchant guitarist). Here was music that had spirit, conviction, aggression, and, oddly enough, hope. Thus I discovered a paradigm that became a soundtrack for the years ahead, years which continue forward even now. I was a mere fan until I was fifteen, and then I took the plunge and began to learn guitar. Our first band formed before any of us were truly proficient but there was much in the way of raw talent.

In time every moment is conditioned by the previous one. Here the ground or reason of being, as the law of succession, is so simple because time has only one dimension; consequently in it there cannot be any diversity or multiplicity of relations. Every moment is conditioned by the previous one; only through that predecessor can this moment be reached. It is only insofar as that other was and has elapsed. All counting depends on this nexus of the parts of time, and its words serve merelyt o mark the single stages of succession; consequently, the whole of arithmetic depends on it, a science that teaches absolutely nothing but methodical abbreviations of counting. Each number presupposes the preceding numbers as the grounds or reasons of its being; I can reach ten only by going through all the preceding numbers; and only by virtue of this insight into the ground of being, do I know where there are ten, so are there eight, six, four.

– Arthur Schopenhauer, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason

What music besides black metal inspires you most profoundly?

SANGUINE: Primitive chants from earlier times and Classical music. At extremes, these two forms are radical expressions of the Void. Music is a sensual and encompassing experience. The most meaningful displays of it envelop the listener causing a bubble of separate reality to form. This subset of reality wires into every fibre of being and folds the dimensions of existence until the intersection of the mundane intrudes at the end.

What attracts you to a band first – is it instrumental aspects, textural aspects (vocals, tone) or structural?

WRATH: It really depends. Often it is a combination of the elements, though I am quite a seeker of unique and convincing vocal styles. This is how I got into Antaeus, Old Wainds, Funeral Mist (the vocals on their latest are unreal), and even Immortal actually. I like bands that right upon first listen come across as a sum of their parts. This is in the end how ensemble music is intended.

What do you believe is the root of artistic conception? (examples: some say it is simply recontextualizing two forms not normally superimposed upon one another, and that this is the root of all creativity; others say it is simply a sound; some argue the mechanism is understood first; all may be explaining their own phenomenon without getting close to an objective theory)

SANGUINE: For me the root of artistic conception is the expression of the DDIIVVIINNEE. For those who cannot get around such a word being used, insert “the Void.” The artist is called or taps into the Void and finds continual ways to channel and express it. This expression can come in the form of straight religious contextualization or it can be channeled through ideology; although there is much evidence to support a feedback loop between the two (ideology vectoring religion, religion vectoring ideology.)

Music is formed of sound, art of visual impulse, warfare of the physical and words of the abstract; what realization impelled you to join all four disciplines in your artistic concept?

WRATH: From the band’s inception it seemed that total committal and immersion in the art was the only option. We have always prided ourselves in our conceptual completeness. Different facets of this paradigm are expressed in different venues as the visual design and auditory aspects predominate the albums themselves, while the physical component only writhes and poisons in a live setting. This is a form of psychic alchemy; we combine the needed elements to devise something precious and otherwise unattainable.

In music, does the recognition of signal define form, or does form define signal? Could this be a matter of approach, or is it hardwired into human consciousness?

SANGUINE: The answer lies somewhere in between. Developing children across the world will exhibit “music making” or “songwriting” occurrences in an informal manner. They explore rhythm making and melody often without initiation by the parent or group or exposure to more formal musical induction. At some point, all that is naturally occurring within our primal systems, gets written over when someone sits us down and says “this is what music is.” The conditionings leafed over what exists within us takes over and for the most part we become dependant on approach.

In chaos theory we speak of dimensionality as levels of abstraction of repetition of detail; it works in a similar way to computer compression algorithms, which note repeated patterns and assign them a token which takes up less space than the original pattern. Usually the patterns being compressed or abstracted are organized around divisions into two, as for every recognizable thing it can fragment into two halves or recombine a self and an other. How do you think this applies to methods in black metal songwriting for getting closer to a dominant theme or melody without repeating it?

SANGUINE: Humans individually exist within an internal matrix of approaches, thoughts, attitudes, and emotions, all converging and swirling at different points, creating strange relationships and associations along the way. (Not to mention how the act in groups or modify their behaviour based on who they are in contact with at any given moment.) They seem to gravitate towards twos and fours. This might explain the confusing numbers of meat attracted to the binary morality of desert religions. There is something internally pleasing about these even numbers. Conventional 2/4, 4/4 time signatures dominate most song structures and are easily grasped by the Passives and is easily wielded by those seeking conveyance on as broad a band (even if selective) as possible. Perhaps it forms a silent mnemonic system that reinforces the themes?

Music writing seems to be tied inextricably to Newton, in that if something goes up, it must come down (or vice versa.) There is also a high instance of “riff A goes three times and on the fourth time put in riff B.” The only beings that have come near to writing music interwoven with Quantum Physics are Acerbus. I am amazed that people are even able to write music at all, and I have no idea how they do it. I operate with modular components that I call “sets.” A set is usually two or more riffs that compliment each other in somewhat of a logical fashion, there is a great deal of the process based on that great unquantifable: “feeling.” Being modular, these components can be dropped in anywhere in a song and form the basic themes for the composition. They can repeat any number of times with variation imposed as required, say when the song is approaching summation, set A returns, but is played backwards, lower, whathaveyou.

I also think of the songs relative to the shapes that the themes form around. Things like StiGr.39s or the distorted bones of a skinned xtain, celestials on fire, these images are evocative in translation to musical form. One thing I am experimenting with is structuring sets akin to DNA constructions: riff sets on the guitar forming one helical half combining with riff sets on the bass forming the other helical half and the drums acting as sugars linking it all together. Perhaps the construction of an automaton or golem is also an appropriate metaphor: part is bone, part is muscle, part is flesh and part is the electricity powering it. Something that the occult bands often aspire to, or should, is to try and capture in music the essence of what they are summoning/conjuring/opening, not just play Rock and say that it is the embodiment of ritual. Although again, that would explain the obsession with twos and fours… Black Metal is after all, Black Magic but music.

The first time I came to men I committed the folly of hermits, the great folly: I stood in the market place. And as I spoke to all, I spoke to none. But in the evening, tightrope walkers and corpses were my companions; and I myself was almost a corpse. But with the new morning a new truth came to me: I learned to say, “Of what concern to me are market and mob and mob noise and long mob ears?”

You higher men, learn this from me: in the market place nobody believes in higher men. And if you want to speak there, very well! But the mob blinks: “We are all equal.”

“You higher men” – thus blinks the mob – “there are no higher men, we are all equal, man is man; before God we are all equal.”

Before God! But now this god has died. And before the mob we do not want to be equal. You higher men, go away from the market place!

– F.W. Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Do you think that the pre-1996 (Nordic) blackmetal bands held this view? If so, was it their primary view – a summation of their beliefs – or one of the symbols they used to communicate their beliefs?

WRATH: In the time of their greatness, I believe the seminal acts of the region followed these ideals indeed. Regardless, it was their promotion of such things that spoke to us and inspired us to make our own bid as a band. I agree that much of the message was symbolic. The traditional idea of music in general is using art to convey meaning. At their best, the “black circle” bands were very effective in marrying these elements. It is the model under which we have laboured since our inception- symbols standing for greater motives.

How does nature respond to change, in your broad and esoteric experience?

SANGUINE: Nature adapts and ultimately overcomes and destroys, albeit very slowly. Witness the grass growing up from underneath sidewalks, or the tree that has grown over the gravestone. Nature has a much longer longevity than humanity and thus can act at its leisure. Humanity is doomed to scurry around trying to kill immortality in pursuit of its own immortality.

Why are there suddenly so many black metal bands? (this question dates from 1998)

WRATH: The simplest answer seems to be that it has become a trend, though I think a more accurate answer is that more than ever people justify themselves by the attention they get from others. We live in a society full of reality TV shows and we watch complete morons blunder into pseudo-celebrity. A large problem with the current underground (and again I refer mostly to the internet scene) is that everyone claims to be a society-loathing misanthrope who has no interest in the world at large, but then an alarming majority of these people demonstrate just how much the culture they deride has gotten to them. I am constantly amazed at how often I encounter christianized mentalities and the thin rationalizations used to justify them. Getting back to the main point, nobody in metal is interested in making music for oneself anymore. It becomes a process of picking a recombinant band name, writing some recombinant songs, then imploring people to buy a copy of your brand new CD-R. As a side note, I would really be impressed to see a new Black Metal band who went to the trouble to print cassettes and include an inlay card if anything because it would prove that they cared about making an effort.

Although Mayhem’s “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” is arguably more musically conventional than Darkthrone’s “Transylvanian Hunger,” both possess a spirit that is difficult to quantify in the typing that allows us to divide genre and lineage in popular music. What is this essential quality and why is it that some bands have it and others do not, to varying degrees?

SANGUINE: The Void calls to some and the others simply see what the chosen do and mimic it thinking that they bear truth as well. Both albums represent the moment of death for Black Metal in triumphant explosion, an attempt to shut off Black Metal from those who would soil what it offers. The gate was never fully sealed and Black Metal and the Void continue to call and pull a select few to it. There are those that hear the call more clearly, it remains one of those “unquantifiables.”

The bottom line is that bands with severity of conviction are closer to the Void than bands that want conviction or claim to have it because someone else says they do. The “I don’t know what art is but I know what I like” argument raises its head, although in this case it becomes something along the lines of “explaining why one band channels the Void and another one does not is difficult to quantify, the surety lies in the listen, how the space between the solar plexus feels when the album begins to turn.” Once again, “feeling” is important. Feeling and conviction. To borrow from MkM, what is projected in your art must come from every fibre of you being, it has to be your essence, you have to vomit it out for all to see.

The philosopher F.W. Nietzsche posited that western society is collapsing under a wave of liberalization that began with the adoption of Christianity by the Roman empire, a wave that has continued into the secular sector. Where do you think the original black metal impetus in Norway stood in regards to this issue, and where does black metal now stand regarding it? What is your personal view of Nietzsche’s summation?

WRATH: So few people are savvy enough to recognize that christianity is a way of thinking, now more than ever. One can still be christianized and never say a prayer, set foot in a church, or even believe in Jehova. It is christian to demand that everyone be treated with the same regard and merit even when it is unwarranted. It is christian to rationalize behavior that stands in flagrant opposition with professed beliefs, the most common example in the underground being anti-christian yet having a christian significant other (most guys take what they can get without question). It is christian to compromise even when it is clear that the ends will not justify the means. Whether or not the Norse bands were truly adherent in their ideals, their music and words stood firmly against this. Too few really read Euronymous’ mission statement and understood its intent. The Norwegian movement was meant to put a stop to the open door policy of the current scene and implement a new variation that was not intended for everyone. Here again we return to the idea of elitism and why it is so necessary. As previously addressed, the traditional underground still holds these values closely for good or ill, as it is often rigorous to do so when glad-handing scensters continue to get in the way. I agree with Nietzsche’s outlook in this regard; it is particularly true in the US where christian sentiments have long subverted more sensible and functional means and values. Things here no longer run smoothly, as “being fair” or worrying about “people’s feelings” undermines common sense when it comes to getting anything accomplished. Conversely, the whole model is illusory in that so few who enforce these conventions truly believe in them. They assume the person next to them does, however, and thus they adopt a position that will ensure the least amount of judgment or sanctions. This, in its most rudimentary sense, is Christianity- servility for the promise of a nebulous reward.

You were one of the first people in America to embrace black metal, at a time when most metalheads still referred to black metal as “faggot music.” What vision did you grasp that others could not see?

WRATH: More correctly, I like to think I was part of a handful of people in the US to first tout Black Metal in a public forum, mine being a radio show. I did indeed hear many “faggot music” comments (and still do, interestingly enough). As we have since established in this discourse, what enthralled me was a combination of the projected ethos, the aesthetic, and the overall atmosphere that permeated the classic recordings. I saw it as a new renaissance, a step forward, and our best hope for revitalizing a stagnant underground (which, for what it’s worth, happened to a point) . Then again, I always preferred Deicide and Morbid Angel to Suffocation or Cannibal Corpse so it is fair to say that conviction and innovation always got my attention.

I know you’re aware of occult, philosophical and musical leanings of many cultures. In your cross-cultural studies, what common threads have you found that are most applicable to the formation of human ideals?

SANGUINE: There are universal occurrences of a pantheon of gods tied to the cycles of Nature and the machinations of the Universe. There are many universal occurrences of guidelines for living, set up along the lines of balancing “virtues” and “taboos;” these idealy would ensure the survival of the society if adhered to. Societies themselves almost universally had classes for priests, classes for warriors, classes for merchants and artisans, farmers and so on. Everyone had a place and was essential to maintaining continuance. If you were not part of the society, you were the sacrifice that kept the sun rising and the next cycle beginning. These days, society is not going to collapse if you eat pork, or foods that are specially prepared. These days, there is not always a place for people. These days the divisions between tribes are being purposely blurred so that everyone thinks that everyone is the same, everyone can be anything they want. These days everyone seems content to be useless.

What do you think is the major difference between first-wave Norwegian black metal and the current crop of worldwide “BM”?

WRATH: When the Norwegian scene was unearthed they were not a part of a worldwide movement or an internet community. It was a question of standing on merit, talent, and vision. Very few of the bands forming now have this spirit, but then again they no longer need it. Black Metal, particularly in the states, has become a very tolerant and coddling entity. Ten years ago, legitimacy was not about how long one had been visiting a metal message board. At this point it is simpler for someone to simply announce that he has a band and wait for the accolades to roll in, rather than working towards something that stands as an accomplishment unto itself. The Emperor wears no clothes, and has not for some time now. Many would be surprised at my involvement with other projects, bands, and entities in the underground. My name is always present but there is no need to call additional attention to myself. I am proud of what I contribute and this is more than enough, and if there are praises to receive then I want to know I have rightly earned them rather than assume I deserved them before the fact.

The one most relevant [cultural factor] here is language. In general, scientific discourse adopts as its ideal univocality — one word, one meaning. Closely related to this goal is the belief that a language exists, or can be forged, that is purely instrumental. Clearly and unambiguously, it will communicate to the world what the speaker or writer intends to say. Roland Barthes (Rustle) has ironically called this the belief that science can own a slave language, docile and obedient to its demands. Anyone who has seriously studied how language works is aware, however, that it shapes even as it articulates thought. There is now an impressive body of work exploring how metaphors, narrative patterns, rhetorical structures, syntax, and semantic fields affect scientific discourse and thought…language is not a passive instrument but an active engagement with a vital medium that has its own currents, resistances, subversions, enablings, pathways, blockages. As soon as discovery is communicated through language, it is also constituted by language.

– N. Katherine Hayles, Complex Dynamics in Literature and Science p. 5 (1991)

Backing up a bit, in the mid-1980s Bathory and Celtic Frost stunned the world with a form of metal that was both the simplest yet created, in terms of its basic and grinding power chord riffs, and most complex, in that it staged itself like an opera, unifying a visual presentation with a concept with a musical form. This is similar to the use of music in ancient Greece, where it was believed that music by itself, without an accompanying storyline and theatrical presentation, was only partially complete. What do you think brought this view back into the intellectual currency of the West?

WRATH: It seems that those individuals grew up with a healthy fascination for their origins and heritage and quickly realized that this existence was no longer within reach as it had been long-erased industry and judeo-christian mores. What better way to resurrect mythos and wonder than by projecting it through infectious yet markedly aggressive music? For our brand of art to carry any real value it must convey meaning. In our case, the personas and music we have devised are much larger than ourselves; Averse Sefira is an entity in its own right. Immersion is what makes the music live, what makes a spindly guy in a bullet belt into a fire-breathing demon called Quorthon or a tow-headed nice guy longhair into a guitar-shredding grunt machine called Tom G. Warrior. Art is meaning, anything else is just entertainment. The earliest purveyors of this genre understood this and they insisted on creating something that transcended the workaday existence and the conventions of the world they were forced into despite their desires for more and better ways of being. This is why Averse Sefira will always appear in paint and spikes, we will always strive for involved design and presentation, we will always be all-inclusive in our presentation. Music is the foundation but in Black Metal aesthetic will always be important, no matter how minimalist it may be. Those who claim to play Black Metal but still don’t understand this paradigm should form AC/DC tribute bands and play onstage in street clothes.

I understand that unlike many black metallers, you embrace both higher education and a personal sense of honor. How does this jive with the post-1996 attitude of many fans and third-string musicians that black metal should be about “total darkness and hate, and total suicidal agony”?

WRATH: Black Metal should be about total darkness and hate, etc, etc, but perhaps not in such absolute terms. It is fine to tout such ideas assuming one understands why it matters. The problem is that most of the individuals who are quick to assert these concepts do so in lieu of anything productive or artistic. Any coward and/or moron can regurgitate “widely accepted” platitudes as an excuse to not bring anything useful to the table. Fatalism is easy because it negates accountability, and in the interim ideals like honor, fortitude, imagination, conviction, and solidarity fall by the wayside. The result is that those who speak loud and offer little have begun to overrun the movement. They have plenty of empty rhetoric, and somehow this saves them from being singled out and isolated from the beginning. It is a symptom of the 21st century that the lowest common denominator defines the trajectory of things, and it seems that Black Metal is not immune. For our part, the aforementioned “strength and honor” aspects of this music are what make it worthwhile. Those we know and respect in this movement also believe and practice within this paradigm, and accordingly they are the ones we call allies. All others should be honest with themselves and return to listening to hardcore.

What was the best part of college?

SANGUINE: I think the best part of college is the appreciation one gains ex post facto for how much was truly useless and how they would do things differently. It is kind of bittersweet, the experience. I enjoyed it but in hindsight it was not unlike a rodeo with textbooks. There is a great destruction involved on many levels.

It seems to me that death metal started with grand ambitions (Altars Of Madness, Legion) and then lapsed into the same mindless three-chord bashing that has always characterized bad metal bands; black metal was a breath of fresh air, but now so many of these bands have adopted the cloak of “Transilvanian Hunger” and are doing the same thing. What engenders this cycle? Should it be “stopped”?

WRATH: It seems so many people have looked at a band like Darkthrone and believed that the key to the music was to keep it one-dimensional. They never realized that in minimalism it is often implication that completes intent. Why is “Transylvanian Hunger” brilliant while some other three-chord album is not? This is when the esoteric takes hold and makes what would have otherwise been a repetitive and poorly produced album into a seminal work. However, when other bands ape this approach the results are transparent and poorly produced albums, period. You will not encounter many individuals who are willing to invest the time in finding their own voices and sharpening their crafts. We live in a twenty-four hour society where everything must be fast-tracked and brought to market while the commodities are hot, hot, hot! Thus we witness and endless parade of idiots who think that they need to commit their Black Metal band to CD-R tomorrow, and Darkthrone isn’t hard to mimic, so why not do that? Our drummer actually summed it up best when he observed that while most everything on the first Deicide album is easy to play, he never could have thought up any of it. It’s no surprise that Emperor turned around and alienated all the aspiring imitators with “Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk”. They wanted to be sure to shut the door on that kind of thing. So, for a short answer yes it should be stopped. I also think Darkthrone should stop grandstanding and find something else to do.

What do you think is the lineage of black metal, and what are its major influences outside of the genre (or even outside music)?

SANGUINE: Do you remember the time, before the Great Generefication, when it was ALL METAL? At some point, someone said, “THAT’s Speed Metal, THAT’s Death Metal, THAT’s Thrash Metal, this new stuff’s called Grindcore,” and in the murky depths of fanzinedom, some one said, “Sodom, Venom, Bathory, Sarcofago, Pentagram, Beherit, Blasphemy, Mystifier, Master’s Hammer, These guys are BLACK METAL! (Well, these are the guys that were doing Black Metal originally; Immortal, Darkthrone, Bvrzvm, Emporer, Mayhem, THESE guys are {True!} BLACK METAL!”

“Why is this Black Metal? What makes it so?” the Incredulous asked.

“Because it’s SATANIC!” the Generifier said.

“So that makes Decide, Morbid Angel, Incantation, ad nauseum, Black Metal bands.”

“Oh no! They are Death Metal bands! They have a more chromatic chord base, double bass blasts and low, growling vocals.”

“Ah! So what make these new bands (that are Satanic/coming out of Scandinavia) Black Metal?”

“The guitars are more melodic, they blast with a single kick, and the vocals are pitched higher. And they have paint and spikes and burn churches some of them. The Death Metal guys wear jeans and sneakers, ‘jogging suits’ and look like everybody at shows”

“I see, so it is an aesthetics and form delineation that makes something Black Metal and not Death Metal.”

“No, it is also their ideology, these guys are warring against Christianity, they are searching for their lost Viking roots, blah, blah, blah.”

“So how can you play Black Metal then Don Diego?”

“Because I and my band are hailing Satan and writing songs about Satan’s triumph over the Earth and killing christians.”

And so on. I agree with that theory: that what everyone initially agreed quantified and qualified a band as Black Metal was a Satanic theme, concept or aesthetic. When the whole Norway/Sweden/Finland “scenes” erupted, that same Satanic element was very strong. At some point this split and fractured; varicose offshoots running amok touting National Socialism, Medieval Satanism, Paganism, Vampirism, Genocide, Nihilism, Forests, Misty Fog, etc; one could graph the ebbs and flows. Some of these arteries have hardened and with every form, conventions solidify and one can now safely describe bands by “they sound like.”

And at this point it all really matters not at all. The lineage of Black Metal is well known as legend with even the wettest behind the ears able quote from “Lords of Chaos:”

“Once upon a time, there was Euronymous, Dead and Count Grishnack. Dead begat the germ that is Black Metal. Euronymous became jealous and killed Dead for this germ [er, ah he committed suicide.] Count Grishnack killed Euronymous for, well perhaps just to get the next phase going.”

IF that is so and Grishnack burned the chruches to wake up Norwegians, perhaps Euronymous’ death was to awaken Hessians, get them thinking about what this is really about.

The great majority of them, the ones that “made the Metal community at large aware of Black Metal,” I still want to feel that they believed in something, that they adhered to an ideology. I want to think that they weren’t just doing it as a joke and now they can go back to their Nine Inch Nails. Many have abandoned what they initially raised high banners in the name of, and many still raise high banners so long as they look right and play music that sounds ‘just like _____!’ It seems like so many have lost their faith, for Metal has its religious qualities, that one can wonder sometimes if there has ever been any meaning to this music, this form. The fact that there are some adherents, some faithful still out there, that to me will point to a common truth wherefrom this movement sprang from. The lineage of Black Metal is now legend, and I feel that it is served better in this manner. Where it is going, what is done with it to keep it vital, thriving and mutating, is of the utmost importance.

Movements pushing ideologies have crept in through Metal, the fanbase appearing as an untapped resource that many would like to exploit, be it financial, material, physical, political, religious. Movements within Metal have arisen and now seek to creep outward, to effect and depose the JCI society that seeks to ruin and despoil what is being accomplished. There is a great war of hearts and minds being waged by those who want to keep Metal regarded as “frivolous.”

There are important leaps in meta-philosophy and meta-culture being made by enclaves of Hessian think tanks. I say it “meta-” because unfortunately such efforts will never be recognized as “legitimate” by the current JCI society. Hessians, as a meta-culture, truly global and post-moral, operate in a closed system making plans for what should promise to be a better future; unfortunately, this knowledge will always be suppressed and disregarded, “the rants and ravings of fringe elements and radicals.” Such accusations are made still, mostly by an unwashed mass with the mean age of 20. The potential within these nay-sayers is still there but still suffer from the conditioned thought of the society around us. Ten plus years ago, I think that Hessians were not as accomplished thinkers as they are today. Ten plus years ago, the message put forth was “Party! Let’s get out our aggression {until we cave to society’s demands!} Oh shit, there might be nuclear war! That’s bad!” Today, the message has changed: “Society is broken and must be set on fire. From the ashes we can rebuild and move forward in a more productive manner, but doing so requires the fetters and fears that bind us be cast aside so that we can act beyond the constraints of morality, act unhindered.”

American society has never fully accepted evolution as a theory, where Europe seems more scientific in outlook. Does this affect cultural and personal views of metal music, art and how to make it?

WRATH: American society has never fully evolved either, so how would we begin to grasp such theories? Of course our remedial culture stunts creation of art just as European culture propagates it. If you look around you, the American underground has all but succeeded in turning US Black Metal right back into Death Metal. What does that tell you? This is why the European bands and their mentality appeal to us. We have further cultivated a sense of this in our travels and travails in that region, and sometimes I cannot believe we are still on the same planet. Some have asserted that we wish we were a European band and all I can say is that they have been paying attention.

360.00 Universe itself is simultaneously unthinkable. You cannot think about the Universe sum-totally except as a scenario. Therefore, for further examination and comprehension, you need a thinkable set, or first subdivision of Universe, into our systems.
362.00 Our original definition of Universe is a finite but nonsimultaneously occurring aggregate of all human experiences, which is, therefore, a nonceptual total Universe. It is logical to proceed from this definition to discover the patterning characteristics of the first conceptual division of Universe into a structural system. After we subdivide Universe into systems, we will make further reductions into basic even experiences and to quantum units. We will then come to the realization that all structuring can be identified in terms of tetrahedra and of topology.

– Buckminster Fuller, Synergetics

Do you watch television and/or movies?

SANGUINE: No TV. I would like to still watch movies, but I feel great pressure from within to make better use of my time and life’s energy, so I generally abstain.

People have accused you of being an elitist. How do you answer that? Also, what is your feeling on the similarities and differences between “musical elitism,” or really elitist meritocracy based on personal artistic output, and an enlightened sense of anti-social Darwinism?

WRATH: Those who feel I am an elitist are usually standards-bereft bottom feeders who are beneath me. Is this not for what Black Metal was intended? The modern iteration of this genre was a reaction to Death Metal’s increasing lack of ethos and liberalized sensibilities. Decrying elitism is yet another facet of our tailspin into the lowest common denominator. Musically and socially, elitism is more necessary than ever yet there are so few genuine adherents to this mindset. Most people would prefer to be hypocrites or apologists rather than invest in the rigors of aspiring to something better. It is not a question of perfection, it is a question of consistency. It is no coincidence that as a band our appeal is selective, as this is what elitism requires. Pleasing everyone is for the MP3 bands of the world.

What technological development of the last 30 years do you fear the most?

SANGUINE: Microwaves, anything that disrupts the body’s electrical systems.

How does religion and/or popular social views affect the composition of music?

WRATH: It seems to drive quite a few bands to trivial output. Again, as mentioned previously the biggest problem with the metal underground right now is the social aspect. Bands want attention and validation more than they want to set artistic goals these days. This is definitely putting the cart before the horse, but that is to be expected in the post-MTV generation. Simply having a band is never enough. When we began Averse Sefira, we never had the slightest inkling that it would become something about which anyone beside ourselves would care. Witness the fact that we ultimately released our first album on our own after rejecting a few thin label offers. For us it was never about acceptance or popularity, and even now we are often surprised and even skeptical of the response we get from listeners. Purely artistic goals are increasingly uncommon in metal, and in part I would agree that society is to blame. In terms of religion’s effect, please refer to my earlier comments on chrisitianized people in metal.

Do you think digital computers provide any models, fragmentary or mimetic, of human consciousness?

SANGUINE: Yes, in that they both have to be programmed and once programmed, there is a great chance for corruption, viruses and crashing.

Some have said the Christian vision of the “soul” is nothing more than the ego yearning to assert itself despite mortality. Do you think this is true? The ego is also paradoxical, in that it is both useful and, if too much of it occurs, destructive. Is there a general principle that can be derived from this?

WRATH: I think the soul is the navigator of the physical body, but as such when the physical meets the end the navigator is extinguished as well. Were this not true then we would not grieve so when those close to us die. What difference does it make if there is an afterlife or not- we are here now. All I know is that dualists forever debunk their own assertions in their failure to deal with death in ways that do not involve fear or grief. What is there to mourn if another life directly awaits on the other side?

The soul seems to be the sum of its parts, both tangible and intangible. One part cannot exist without the other. In terms of ego, you are correct that it is both an asset and a liability. I myself have ego to spare and I find it can lead to garnering great friends as well as bitter (if completely ineffective) enemies. In the more traditional sense, too much responding to drives, desires, and needs leads to both excess and even chaos. Chaos is sometimes good and necessary, but it is well advised to be aware of your own role in its midst.

As humanity poisons Earth, it may be necessary to engage in space travel where individuals will not only be cut off from the world for journeys taking most of their natural lives, but also will be cut off from any kind of parent culture as it disintegrates while they are in space. If these space travelers wrote philosophy or music, what ideas do you think would be emphasized?

SANGUINE: Unfortunately I think they would try to keep the ideal of “goD” going as long as they could. There would also be a biological push to replicate in as many and different combinations as possible so as to ensure genetic existence. To this, all conventions of matriarchy/patriarchy would have to dissolve and notions of conventional pair bonds would have to be cast aside. Everyone would have to breed with everyone else, the idea being that “the best and brightest” have been evaluated and chosen as such “the species” (or amalgamation thereof) would survive and promulgate. Given the limited supplies and space restrictions of a space going vessel, birth cycles would have to be regulated. A new culture would rise and the aspects of it, philosophy, music, etc, would have to revolve on the axis of breeding, “what are we going to do when we land?” and Christmas…

In many ways, Americans are shown by media archetypes how to grow up very quickly on the outside, leaving the structure behind emotions and logic relatively unformed. What do you think are the benefits of this form of extended youth?

SANGUINE: On one hand, delayed development benefits those that will have a greater purpose the close Geburah comes. These will be prepared to pilot the new society towards the halls of tomorrow. Extended youth on the other hand hinders those that embrace the nailed son of monkeys and pigs, for these, there is constant forward pressure into the meatgrinder of JCI society. Things of status are sought and warred over, devotion becomes measured by the material. They squander their youth early in a mad rush for adulthood and when they arrive, they have transfusions of bitterness, guilt, and hate to replace all that once was within them.

Nietzsche also spoke of “eternal return,” or the concept that our lives are lived once and a representation of eternity in the human consciousness would be a perpetual cycling of the memories of that life — this vision was offered in direct contrast to the christian vision of a single life followed by an eternal life of stasis in pleasure. In this writing, the battlelines were drawn between those who believed in another world – the dualists – and those who believed the present was all that existed and thus real-world achievements were more important than symbolic or religious assertions. Do you think this is accurate and on which side of the equation do you fall?

SANGUINE: If we reoccur eternally along the same path, with everything up to the revelation being eternally fixed and immutable, would it matter? The transition between cessation and genesis would necessarily cause the memories and experiences of the same former existence to be wiped away; there would be no acknowledgement of what is already known. The burden of such retention would begin to wear upon the bearer to the point that and endless suicide loop could very well mutate. Nature after all abhors not only vacuums, but closed systems. Until it breaks however, it would be fantastic.

WRATH: I would agree this is fairly accurate, discounting the idiots who say, “well I dunno” when confronted with questions about the meaning of life. I fall very strictly into the latter category, in that I believe the only guarantee we have in the course of existence is that we are living on this plane and we have a certain limited amount of time to make the most of it. This is a shared idea within the band, which is why we do things like abandon gainful employment in the name of touring, etc. I believe one simply cannot put a price on life experience.

Do you believe in the soul?

SANGUINE: After a fashion, yes. I also believe in a spirit. I think these are component parts that make humanity somewhat different from other meat. Not better, but different.

Do any higher powers exist for you?

SANGUINE: Sometimes.

There are a great many matrices and states (altered or not, conscious and unconscious) that interconnect and overlap within and without a single human at any given time. At least there are for myself. Think about how often there are three songs playing in your head while you are driving almost from rote while mentally composing an essay or letter and carrying out a conversation, all on three hours of sleep. And you still marvel at sunlight drifting through clouds. There are multiple attitudes and thoughts you have towards a group of people or a single person, friend, enemy that you have when alone. These same orbits change when interacting with that person or when you are part of your own circle. They change again when you are forced into a job and a group of people that you have nothing in common with, save civility. All this to say that there are many levels of existence, the stark material cannot be the sole.

Egalitarianism and the soul are argued by some to be necessarily codependent concepts. can you explain your views on this subject?

SANGUINE: They want all things to be equal because they want everyone’s soul to be equal, important, and matter just as much as everyone else’s. The glorious truth is that not everyone makes an equal contribution, not even those who contribute a great deal, thinking that it is quality not quantity that matters, makes them a “better” person (but only to themselves, not in the sense that they are above anyone else!). The glorious truth is that not everyone matters. The glorious truth is that 5.9 billion souls are in need of immediate harvesting and those that are left will just have to figure out how it really works.

Many have for years stereotyped metalheads to me as angry, socially abusive people obsessed with negativity and rejection, usually from reasons of low self-esteem. Another variant of this behavior is that at a party, often the loudest people are the ones with the greatest need to make their presence known. I never believed this, although I noted many people who fit this description in the metal community; however, it seemed that post-1998 this percentage exploded and most of the smart people attracted by the promise of early modern black metal (1990-1996 Scandinavia) left the genre. Is this consistent with your experience? Why do you think this trend has come about?

WRATH: I wouldn’t say the smart people are all gone, they just have better things to do than argue about Sabbat with tech-school dropouts. I think one of the most damaging aspects to the genre was the way nearly all of the Norwegian front-runner bands managed about two worthwhile albums apiece and then launched into tangential bids for commercial success. Credibility was compromised, populism took hold, and kids who wanted something more radical than mallcore crept in. At this point it seems that we have too many people who were supposed to have been listening to Iron Maiden and playing Dungeons & Dragons coming in and acting as self-appointed authorities on all things black and evil. Most of them are wounded, stupid, aimless, talentless, or all of the aforementioned. Refer to my comments about not qualifying oneself before demanding patronage. This doesn’t apply to the European scene as much — their dead weight is harder to readily identify and a few among them have proven to be ingenious frauds. At least they try harder.

What Texas bands do you enjoy?

SANGUINE: Acerbus and Absu. I also enjoy former greats such as deadhorse, Rigor Mortis and Pain Teens.

Our entire historical cycle comes many years after the fragmentation of the Greco-Roman empires, but if looked at in the whole, is a progression from simple melodic lines to a sense of absolute melodic freedom; if looked at from a meta-level, it is a progression from music being symbolic of an artistic process (e.g. applied in theatre as did the Greeks) to music being symbolic of itself, at which point it communicates nothing other than what is inherent in the notes themselves. Clearly to the Greeks this would have been degenerate; the question is whether the cycle comes around to what they discovered, in which musical devices are fully known and thus the only question is how to use music as a language – which of course, requires the language _describe something_. How do you think black metal fits into this?

WRATH: It seems that much of Black Metal, indeed in the way our band crafts songs, falls into the “dissonant, smaller pieces” category. In our work, the music is definitely treated as language, though I don’t agree that all bands have a handle on this aspect of the creative process and as such we have the degenerate examples of music that is symbolic of itself. It is no coincidence that we are forever asked, “What are your lyrics about? What is the concept about?” Our goal from day one was to commute ideas through musical structures otherwise what is the point? It is not unlike the difference between talking simply to do so or talking to communicate an idea. In Black Metal the wheat is easily separated from the chaff when a band is asked in an interview to discuss their message or intent. When the answer is the standard vulgar, all-capitals diatribe against christians, society, and any band with musical value then it is clear they are not about communicating actual ideas. This is serviceable for the purposes of novelty but it will not endure, nor will it garner the type of audience worth having. I think that at its best Black Metal communicates volumes of ideas, both universal and esoteric. Consider a song like “I am the Black Wizards” and its portent; this genre offers so much opportunity for transcendent ideas and ways to express them. The palette is incredibly broad and thus ideas of alienation, misanthropy, aspiration, passion, hatred, and wonder have been aired in ways unheard of in any other musical form. The important commonality is that all the best bands set out to communicate. Think about Emperor at the end of their career- what is it that they were trying to say then, other than they wanted to cease? The Greeks definitely knew what made art significant, to be sure.

If you could fight in any war, which would it be?

SANGUINE: I am torn between WWII and Vietnam. WWII was the last great war of the old ways; the heroic ideal as I identify it today was at its peak in so far as its iteration in that age. Vietnam is the first modern war and there is still much to be learned from it. Vietnam was the war that reminded Amerika of its guerilla warfare heritage still struggling to implement lessons learned in a recent past. WWII hearkens back to better times; Vietnam can teach lessons for our current paths.

Do you believe the universe created itself, emerged from a precursor state or was synthesized by a mechanism not describable in causal states of any kind thus far known?

SANGUINE: The recent detection of polarized echoes from the Big Bang seem to indicate that the Universe was born out of an indescribable mechanism, however there had to be some sort of existence of the raw potentials for such genesis. Endless feedback and circular scenarios.

What do you think is next for black metal: will it continue on essentially a linear developmental curve, or will it mutate into another genre? Will it ever reclaim its original intensity?

WRATH: That is a truly difficult question. The issue at hand is that there are two undergrounds- the traditional and genuine, and then the loud and posturing popularity contest that has risen to the surface like a bloated corpse. With this disparity in mind, it becomes hard to predict much of anything. Many bands are still holding the banner of the “old ways” high, and these are the bands with whom we align ourselves. Perhaps the illegitimate side will mutate, considering their brand of “black metal” is effectively old death metal and NWOBHM. The simplest way to describe it all is that the underground went back underground, and as such the intensity and passion was never truly lost. It has become more incumbent upon us all to keep the best our genre has to offer away from those who would malign and misappropriate it. These days I hesitate to discuss bands I enjoy in public forums as I fear it further spoon-feeds the novelty-seekers and arrivists.

For some, there are two kinds of art: one that describes or laments the current world, and another that brings forth a heroic spirit of change and/or rearrangement of mental processing through which the user then sees the world. Which of these is your preferred mode of artistic cognition?

SANGUINE: That which inspires transformations within and without. There is too much “art” that is just “there;” purposeless, useless but for the mercy of the meat that embraces it as “valuable.” To them, everything is equal.

Black metal has become redundant both ideologically and musically in recent years. Many would say that ideology, or perhaps the pretentious portrayal of a facade, has become more important to black metal musicians than injecting the true spirit of their unique perceptions into the raw force of music that they craft. Do you believe that this is true, and if so, to what do you attribute this decline?

WRATH: I would say this is as true as not. That is a slippery idea because it is subjective. Some bands present with concepts and music that demonstrate their lack of understanding, but at the same time they believe in it so would that count as a facade? My standing complaint is that only a small portion of bands bother to fully understand the nature of the art before forming their own bands and then propagating their mistaken interpretations. Sanguine and I were metalheads since the mid-80s and still we took our time in forming Averse Sefira because we wanted to do it right and not have an early career that was riddled with missteps. So in regards to this decline you mention it seems that the urgency of getting on the bandwagon is probably the biggest culprit.

The song structure of your music often bears similarities to the thematic writing of classical composers. Do you enjoy classical and romanticist composers, and how do they influence your work?

We enjoy it very much. Classical music was some of the first music to which I ever actively listened, starting at about age three. Sanguine is actually an even more avid fan than I, and he attends concerts regularly (which is something I need to get back to doing myself). He also listens to a lot of film soundtracks that have orchestral arrangements. Beethoven, Wagner, Mussorgsky, Prokofiev, and Mozart are all part of our musical landscape. Much of our arrangements, particularly on the last two albums, have been written with this paradigm in mind. It seems that black metal draws upon classical much more than other forms of extreme music.

I have read in past interviews that your albums “Homecoming’s March” and “Battle’s Clarion” form a complex narration of mysticism inspired by material found in Kabbalic mythology. The albums seemed to interpret the exile of certain sefira from the realm of god, who rebelled against their creator in the ultimate act of attaining freedom (correct me if I am dead wrong on this). To be honest, I have yet to discover how “Tetragrammatical Astygmata “and “Advent Parallax” fit into this plot line. Do these albums continue the conceptual leanings of your early releases?

Interesting question, I’ve been wondering the same thing myself. For one interpretation of the first two albums, I don’t think you’re wrong. Initially, all the albums were to fall under an umbrella of themes, with multiple trails of thought weaving together (linked together songs, placement of songs, embedded shallow numerology) to allow every song to have a place in a “correct order.” As evolution has occurred, progression taken place and gateways passed through, old forms have been shed in favor of a refinement of original purpose.

Conceptually, the key themes from the first two albums are the same as the key themes of the latter two albums, just dressed differently. Creation springs from destruction in an endless cycle until the cycle is broken. The celestial becomes the terrestrial as the flesh melts away and becomes spirit. The “I” at whatever level of consciousness(es), must come to grips with the process of change and the consequences of transformation. Shaatialn.

Whereas “Tetragrammatical Astygmata” found beauty in the roar of the infernal; the dissonance seems to have been restrained upon “Advent Parallax”. However, the anthemic melodies paint broader strokes, and are much more pronounced. Was this a calculated progression, or did the change occur naturally?

The vibrations of “Tetragrammatical Astygmata” reflected the flesh while describing the spirit. “Advent Parallax” vibrates the spirit while reflecting the flesh. There was hidden purpose in the intertwining of these frequencies, a purpose not yet revealed. There was a natural calculation that produced progression. It’s all part of chasing the dragon. The dragon is either caught and the last seal of understanding is broken and there is nothing left to accomplish or the pursuer is broken in the pursuit, devoured by the dragon and there is nothing left to accomplish. In the end, there is only the void. Only death is real. Thyapihlon.

What particular forces introduced you to the metal genre, and what were your initial reactions to it?

I was driven by “the noise inside my head” as Sanguine has always called it. I started at post-infancy with a fixation on bombastic classical music and Alice Cooper (more for his aesthetic than anything else) and then moved on to progressively louder and scarier things. Actually, I was still very young when Motley Crue broke out with “Shout at the Devil”, and I flatly rejected it because they looked like ugly girls and it struck me as gross and stupid. Thrash and proto-death/black reached me more immediately, however, and so I quickly became an adherent to all the well-known acts like Sodom, Celtic Frost, Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Voivod, etc. Right about this time I realized that this music was all I really ever wanted out of life. It was not just music but a way of being. I have a lot more to show for myself than just metal, but without it my reality would be a much blander and unexciting one.

Several people seem to recognize that the filth of the human race is clogging the pores of our land, and in effect devouring the environment at an agonizing pace. How do you feel about environmental concerns, and those who advocate major change in order to stabilize the planet? Also, do you feel a deeper bond with nature than most around you?

Eliminating two-thirds of humankind from the globe would be a good start. I myself refuse to breed and I wish more people felt the same. I have an appreciation for nature, yes, though I would be lying if I said I had a deeper bond. I spend most of my time in cities as this is where most of my necessary doings occur.

A splurge question, if I may. Reality is said to be the perception of your surroundings through your senses. However, the same stimulus can be interpreted in a vastly different manner by the individual than that of their peers. Do you believe that what the senses experience is subjective, that these experiences define reality, and if so, how do you believe one must measure the validity of their actions?

I suppose due to our exploration of metaphysics Averse Sefira invites many existential questions. I believe in the idea of a consensus reality where everyone can agree on certain perceptions that are known to be true- the sky is blue, the sun is hot, we need air to breathe, etc. Of course past this consensus there are many vastly different realities in which people live, some to their own delusion and detriment. But I would not agree that reality is wholly subjective any more than its governing factors of time and space.

In conclusion, are there any particular words of wisdom or notification that you would like to impart upon your fans who frequent this website?

I’ll take the opportunity to announce that “Advent Parallax” will soon be out on LP through The Ajna Offensive. Support this excellent label. Also, www.josasmith.com is where one should go to see the works of Jos A. Smith, as his work adorns the cover of “Advent Parallax”.

The Egyptian Culture is an embodiment of care – which is the spiritual counterpoise of distance – care for the future expressed in the choice of granite or basalt as the craftsman’s materials, in the chiselled archives, in the elaborate administrative system, in the net of irrigation works.

Contrast with this the fact, symbolically of the highest importance and unparalleled in art-history, that the Hellenes, thought they had before their eyes the works of the Mycenaen Age and their land was only too rich in stone, deliberately reverted to wood; hence the absence of architectural remains of the period 1200-600. The Egyptian plant-column was from the outset of stone, whereas the Doric column was wooden, a clear indication of the intense antipathy of the Classical soul towards duration.

– Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West

All photos copyright © Averse Sefira and Noektrymn.de.

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Drug use in heavy metal

This article is the screed on drugs in heavy metal which I wish someone had handed to me when I was less experienced. Specifically, it is not what I did get handed, which was propaganda from either side. The conservative side, namely all those who believed society still had a culture and values in common, said “don’t do drugs” but couldn’t explain why, resorting to shock tactics that made you think the instant you puffed a joint you’d die; when that didn’t happen, the whole house of cards fell apart and all their propaganda actually inverted in value. The leftist side, comprised of all Hollywood and entertainment figures and most of my teachers, said that drugs wouldn’t hurt you and it was a lifestyle choice, do it if you want.

Neither gave what was needed: an accurate depiction of how drugs are used, and the effects both long-term and short-term. Metal emerged from popular music, borrowing the instrumentation and roles of rock music, which is commercial society’s way of inducting teenagers into adult consumerist life: define yourself by buying things. As a result, it inherits the ego-mania and external focus of rock music, which includes people rebelling by taking drugs. There are also some who take some drugs for the “mind liberation” capabilities ascribed to those substances. However, most are just trying to grow up, and for them partying, sex, and learning to be a consumer are vital nodal points in that process.

Much as defining ourselves through external adornments is a problem for metal, as it encourages dishonest promotion of crap music, defining ourselves by drug use is also an error. If you approach the drug question, do so from a clarity of mind. It will not make you cool or uncool. It will not reveal the secrets of the universe, but will also not obscure them. It will not clarify your philosophical positions, but also will not muddy them. It is like anything else, a detail that without corresponding architectonic details, remains without context and with minor influence on your life, excepting biological impact.

First, we should look at drug use as character definition, and next consider the biological factors.

Most people who approach the drug issue will try to convince you that it’s like religious people versus atheism, or conservatives versus liberals. You either believe the world has an objective purpose, and so you’re against drugs, or you’re with the chaos, freedom, individualism, irony and rebellion program, and you believe life has no purpose except whatever you decide to make of it. While most people fit into these categories, we must remember that categories are imposed, and that they describe one trait of multiples rather than a single, objectively-defining trait. So you’ve got NSBM fans smoking pot and liberal straight-edgers. Drug use does not define your political identity.

Furthermore, it only marginally influences your social prestige. I’d estimate that most drug users at college are secretly insecure and socially-awkward people who see drug use, like politics or flagrant sexuality, as a way to gain more social power. You start smoking dope and you have an instant social group. But a social group of confused people in transition is probably not going to last, nor will you get over your fears of your social abilities. Further, some of the most popular people at colleges neither take drugs nor drink. They merely socialize. More power to them for taking the direct route to the answer they needed.

Finally, it will not create character for you. If you romanticize the derangement of the senses, remember that drugs cannot teach you what you need to know to appreciate derangement of the senses, and uneducated intoxication is basically just being wasted. It will not make you into William S. Burroughs, Hunter S. Thompson, Jim Morrison or Paul Ledney. You do not automatically embark on a Journey to the End of the Night because you laid hands on some drugs. That’s a reversed logic consumerist mentality, where purchasing the tool makes you a user of it. You wouldn’t expect to become Andres Segovia just by buying an expensive guitar, would you? Neither should you expect drugs to make your character for you.

But mostly, when thinking of the external effects of drugs, think like a metalhead. Other than biological factors, it’s not going to do anything of substance (no pun intended) for you or against you. It’s going to be another experience. Do you want this experience? If you have doubts, I urge you to cherish your innocence. Stay in a world where hallucinations only occur when you have a fever, and where your most urgent need is food or a bathroom. Innocence keeps cynicism about life itself at bay and helps you see the potential in the wholesome, simple and ever-present joys of life, like family and having some career, hobby or calling that fulfills you. Losing innocence and gaining cynicism distances you from that potential, or at least delays it by what looks to me (anecdotally) as a decade at a minimum. If you have innocence, and like your life, and have a decent grasp of philosophy, there is nothing drugs will teach you except to lose a little bit of that innocence.

Biologically, drugs are a mixed bag. Injecting clean heroin with a clean needle and doing a good job of it will cause you zero health problems, literally. Marijuana leaves more resin in your lungs but that resin departs more easily than the gluey tobacco resin that can helpfully bond cancers into your tissues. Cocaine makes your heart race and you might forget to eat, but unless you go hog-wild, you’re probably going to be OK. LSD may fry brain cells; it appears to vary between individuals. MDMA/Ecstasy and methamphetamine clearly do fry brain cells in everyone.

Many anti-drug pamphlets talk about the secondary problems of drugs, like you deciding to peddle your genitals/ass in order to buy more, or committing crimes, or arrest, or the people you’re going to hang around with. These are biological consequences as well, and while we can be witty moderns and divorce our consideration of these from consideration of drugs, I think that’s illusory. Drugs become part of a lifestyle. If you take something regularly, you have to be able to afford it and to find someone to sell it to you, so it’s at the very least like taking on a hobby. It will take time to do correctly. You may go to jail and be sodomized. If you are very susceptible to addictive substances, recognize that the instant you go into debt and can’t stop taking the substance, you are either going to become a drug dealer or prostitute. It happens every day and while some escape, they’re never the same again. More than denting their innocence, they’ve fractured it. You see a lot of people who end up alone, in their 40s and 50s, stringy and somewhat blown out, because of their hard-partying lifestyles. Are you ready to commit to that future? If you’re still thinking maybe you’d like to have something other than a drug or lifestyle choice be what fulfills you, be wary.

Many musicians will note this fact: drugs have destroyed more careers than they’ve enhanced. For every pothead Kurt Cobain or Jimi Hendrix, there are 4,096 guys who can play guitar really well but between working at Wal-Mart, affording drugs and staying out of jail, they never managed to launch that career. Oh well — drugs will teach you quickly that life doesn’t give a damn if you blow your brains out or go invent a cure for cancer. You are the only one in the driver’s seat, much like humanity is the only master of its fate, and you are the only one who can make that choice for good or ill. Life is like an open field. You will walk through and feel just fine, even if your next step is coming down on a mine or you’re about to have the time of your life. Fun things can be destructive. Miserable things can be rewarding. And vice versa. There are no simple rules here except pay attention to the obvious: drugs will take time, effort, and will make social and biological changes to your life. If your goal is to be a musician, you probably want to spend that time practicing instead.

All of that being said, what is the role of drugs in metal? This is unclear and like the debate over atheism/agnosticism, can never be proven. Some of metal’s most powerful people, like Suffocation and Morbid Angel, launched their careers in a haze of drugs — but they also worked very hard to get where they are. Others, like Dave Mustaine, got kicked out of better bands (Metallica) for violent alcoholism and then spent the next ten years doing insane amounts of dangerous drugs, to the detriment of their careers and personal lives. Metal people have lost girlfriends, wives, band members and friends because their drug habits were more important than other aspects of their lives. They have also made great art when their music was more important than their drug habits and other aspects of their lives.

In the 1980s, many metalheads and metal bands were enamored of methamphetamine (crystal meth, speed). Twenty years later, we can see the negative consequences clearly. Any time you run into someone missing front teeth — speedy drugs, like a huge dose of caffeine, make your mind “speed up” and so reality goes more quickly and seems more easy to master, leading to enhanced ego and loss of fear; however, a consequence is that you grind your teeth — who has trouble sleeping through a night and possibly has very tough, almost bleached skin, you’ve run into one of these meth experiments. Meth fries brain cells and specifically roasts serotonin receptors, making it difficult to maintain energy or a state of rest. After seeing early casualties, many metalheads switched to cocaine, which is safer but can make you behave like a personal injury lawyer. Of note is that each generation has to re-learn this knowledge. In the 1960s, speed casualties were well-known, but the only people who talked about drugs were either cops or those who kept taking drugs. The cops were ignored because they became propagandists, and those who kept taking drugs were hard-pressed to say bad things about drugs as a genre. Your generation, whenever it is, will also suffer for a lack of information because your peers will be too lazy to look up and parse any actual information and will prefer propaganda, because it fits what they want to hear.

The stereotype of metalheads since the black metal days has been of people who do not take drugs, or if they do, limit themselves to smoking marijuana and drinking beer. From a biological perspective, this is not a big strain on your body. Alcohol is probably the more dangerous of the two. While marijuana can disrupt your ability to have a regular appetite, mess with your hormones a bit, and possibly make you a bit lazy, it’s also unlikely to do anything more than that. Cognitive slowdowns reverse when use is discontinued, and your lungs clean up rapidly. Whether for these reasons or for the wide variation in use, from a simple buzz to a complex hallucination, marijuana seems preferred by hessians. Anecdotally, the best hallucinations I have experienced have been from high doses of marijuana in a clear mind, usually bolstered by caffeine and a small amount of tobacco in the bong. LSD hallucinations are more mechanical and while psilocybin produces the most intense hallucinations, they are often incoherent, like watching a television channel tuned to the neurotic chaos of someone caught between worlds. Marijuana could be considered two different drugs, from the different strains (“races”) of marijuana: the more body-intensive sativa, and the more mind-intensive indica. Everywhere I have been where there have been hessians, marijuana consumption has been occurring.

Yet on the flip side, a good many metalheads will have nothing to do with any drugs, including alcohol and cigarettes. It’s harder to find examples here because people who don’t need drugs rarely shout out loud about it. However, if bands like Immolation and Burzum appeal to you, you know of powerful metal acts that avoided drugs entirely. If you think clearly from cause to effect, you will realize that to achieve transcendent states of mind or be good at your instruments, you must go through certain thought processes. Even if drugs aid these, the fact is that they must happen in your mind, and since your mind exists without drugs, you can make them happen without drugs — and you don’t incur the slowdowns of hangovers, buying drugs, dodging cops, getting anally violated in jail, etc. If you think backward, you see someone else taking drugs and then succeeding, and as a result assume that the drugs caused the success, when there’s only a marginal correlation, since five hundred of his buddies are still living in dingy apartments, high as lords but no further along in what would really fulfill them in life, such as having a band of artistic prominence even if unnoticed by most people.

The question of drugs for a new metalhead is complicated in the USA and Europe by the near-complete breakdown of the family. If you’re lucky enough to have two parents consistently, they’re busy working — and when they’re home, they launch into escapism like TV, mass religion, buying stuff, and the kind of useless but well-meaning projects that only dying wealthy nations can invent. With role models like that, drugs appear to be an alternate form of this escapism, and so seem palatable not only because they’re rebellious but also because they are a parentally-sanctioned behavior.

As mentioned above, you get either a pro-drug message or an anti-drug message, because the messager wants the problem — the question of whether drugs are good, whether they’re controlling you, whether you’ll give a damn — to just go away, and so they concoct some statement that because it seems simple, appears to a be a highest level abstraction of the question, but is in fact just a partial truth. Highest level abstractions are things like “the universe re-organizes energy and matter to produce information, allowing it to become more efficient and thus grow” but partial truths are things like “don’t masturbate because it’ll put hair on your palms.”

Parents in this day and age, beset by doubt and swarmed with bad data from careers and politics and a dysfunctional culture, want to tell you something simple and get the problem off their desks. It’s our shame as a culture that when kids ask — or indirectly ask, by probing, which allows an adolescent to preserve aloofness while getting answers — for vital information on drugs, sex, etc. that parents in lieu of analyzing the issue give them some pithy half-truth that’s the epistemological equivalent of FUCK OFF.

And sometimes, drugs are the answer. Anyone who tells you that marijuana is not a blast is probably on the cheap drugs. Clearly mushrooms are more shamanistic than fun. In the right context, either drug can be a conduit to some useful revelations. On the other hand, that conduit isn’t needed. Music can sound awesome under the influence of marijuana; on the converse, bad music can sound a lot more awesome than it is. Many of us have in the past loved our drugs, but as time went on, we observed how many people around us lost momentum to their lives because they were focused on the method of feeling good, instead of building the structure to their lives that made them feel good. Method of feeling good = jogging or taking drugs; building the structure to life that makes goodfeel = accomplishment, family, learning, discipline, spirituality, eternal things that change how you choose to spend your time and the results of it. Feelgood methods are palliative care, or addressing symptoms without finding a way to hit the cause. Re-structuring life can change some of the cause (you can’t change the fact you live in a dying time when idiots rule). It’s the same mistake parents, teachers and cops make when they assume kids take drugs and become possessed by evil, when the more complex and less popular truth is that kids get bored and ape their parents’ own detachment from reality, but use drugs, and that’s the possession of evil. First comes alienation with life, then comes compensation (a form of cognitive dissonance not unlike morality): if I can’t enjoy life, I can make my brain happy with drugs, and maybe that will “be enough.”

There’s a parallel to life here. If we make our primary goal to avoid conflict as someone might get hurt, we have to compromise ideals to include everyone’s divergent opinion, so we don’t initiate conflict with them. This means we always get the lowest common denominator in every situation. If we make our primary goal into our primary goal, which is the achievement of some act or another, we will come into conflict with others but will get a fuller, more complete vision of whatever it is we’re trying to accomplish. Drugs are in a way like conflict avoidance: instead of facing life warts and all, we lubricate it with alcohol or drugs or cigarettes, and make it more palatable. But in turn, this obscures from us what we really find fascinating and troubling in life, and so like kids on antidepressants, we miss the lows and then later find out we missed the highs. Much later, as Paul Di’Anno of Iron Maiden found out after he left the band due to drug problems and only a decade later got his head on straight to find his career had passed him by.

As far as metal culture: does it endorse drug use? Metal culture endorses realism. That’s the point, not some pithy partial truth to make you feel better.

Christian Holocaust Dope Brownies

Ingredients

1 egg
1 cup milk
1.5 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 sticks butter
7/8 ounce Cannabis Sativa (about $120 for quality)
1/8 ounce Cannabis Indica (about $60 for quality)
1/2 tsp baking soda

Ghee

Put butter in medium saucepan and heat until thoroughly melted. Stir, remove from heat, and let sit for a half hour (use this time to prepare marijuana). There will be sticky, gummy stuff on the top, silty gunk on the bottom, and clean oil in the middle. Skim off the gunk, pour the oil into a clean container, and dump the silt over the balcony. Clean saucepan and pour oil into it, then heat to medium. De-seed and de-stem the Sativa and grind or food process it into the smallest bits imaginable. Generally, dry Indica (portions of older bags: ask roommates) is best; remove stems and reduce to powder. Put Indica and Sativa in heated oil and keep it on low medium, stirring regularly but not frequently, for another half-hour. Your oil will now be green. Some like to remove the vegetable material of the weed at this point, but it is not necessary.

Batter

Dump sugar into the heated pot-ghee. Stir in carefully until melted. Remove from heat and stir in cocoa powder, then when mixture is cool, blend in the egg. Add flour and milk, stir, then add baking soda. Stir thoroughly, as distributing this baking soda is how you get fluffy brownies that don’t have pockets of bitter taste. When mixture is uniform, place in 9×12 inch pan greased with butter.

Cook

Pre-heat oven to 350 (generally, a light goes on when heating, and the first time it goes off after you’ve heated the oven means it’s ready). Slide in the pan on the middle rail, so to enable convection, and cook for twenty to twenty-five minutes. You will have to estimate here, as some batches in some ovens take longer or shorter. When a knife inserted into the brownies comes out clean (no sticky black gunk on it) you know the brownies are thoroughly cooked. Remove and serve (a dozen is optimal dosage).

It is advisable to have nothing planned for the rest of the day. The experience is like a very subtle version of a half-hit of acid or half-ounce of quality psilocybin mushrooms.

How to take a bong hit

Rips are a Jamaican invention that combines the European fondness for smoking dope with tobacco for the hippie fondness of using a bong. They originated, ironically, in the rave community where people sought a greater high. California college students revolutionized the bong by using it not for slow inhalation but for a tightly-packed wad of smoke taken quickly, which maximizes the impact of the high by making it come on more quickly. Jamaican slow-smoking, when adapted to this practice, equals a rip.

Requirements

2 ft glass bong
.3g Cannabis Indica (do not use street Sativa)
.1g quality tobacco (from British not American cigarettes)

Pulverize your indica and mix the tobacco in the smallest shreds possible with it. For beginners, “blonde” or light-colored tobacco is recommended. Pack all of this in the bowl. If bong does not have fresh water, use fresh cool but not cold water. To ignite this, you’re going to need something that produces a large powerful flame, preferrably burning wood. If you use a match, use kitchen matches and burn them off while rotating them for about two seconds to make sure you get none of the sulfur in your hit.

Stages of a Rip

  1. FillingMove the burning match over the bowl in a circular motion while inhaling slowly and steadily. You want to use as little of your lung capacity as possible. You are drawing a slow draft of air, slow like doom metal, through the weed to get it ablaze and to fill the tube of the bong with densely compacted smoke.
  2. RippingTake a deep breath on top of whatever smoke you’ve already taken, then exhale completely. Remove the bowl or onstop the carb and inhale that compacted tower of smoke in a single breath, under a second in length (you should not pause more than three seconds between filling the tube and ripping it; the smoke gets stale and harsh). With any remaining lung capacity, take in fresh air, and then hold the hit for a full three seconds. Exhale completely. Watch clocks melt and fish fly, etc.

Preparing Yourself

If you are not a weekend partier but a psychedelic warrior, try this: get caught up on your sleep, and sleep at least eight hours. Get up early on a sunny day. Pour yourself a large glass (1 liter) of water, and down it. Have a healthy breakfast (actually, fortified cereal is the best: large amounts of B-series vitamins), and then munching down some candied ginger. Then drink 2-4 cups of the stiffest coffee you can stand. Next, knuckle shot (quickly drink) a pony of hard liquor, preferrably vodka. Finally, drink another large tumbler of water and run around the block. Your blood will be thin and moving quickly, your brain will be bolstered by caffeine and alcohol, and your general health will support you as you venture on this journey. To cap it off, retreat to a safe, comfortable, familiar place, munch 1 mushroom cap if you have it, and then take 5-10 rips in rapid succession as described above. During the most formative years of my life, I often began days this way.

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