Beast Within: like Triptykon with a groove

beast_withinEric Syre lives underground metal. He has been active for many years and is highly regarded. An insatiable artist, he expands into different media, fields and instrumental abilities as it suits him. And now, he has a new band called Beast Within.

The biography roughly describes this band, but a better summary is this: if you can imagine newer Celtic Frost/Triptykon covering older Celtic Frost with a doom/stoner metal groove, you can imagine where Beast Within are going.

We were able to catch up with Mr. Syre for a quick Q&A:

You have a unique lyrical concept with Beast Within that’s about the self escaping society. Can you tell me more?

We are still developing the whole concept as we haven’t completed the lyrics for all the songs we have written. There’s definitely a Nietzschean, Satanist, occult and nihilistic thread in what we’re writing, especially in the two songs we already released. We stand for the emanation of the true “Self”, buried deep inside each man and woman by centuries of decadence, slavery and blindness imposed by a false moral, political and religious elite (not the “self” individualistic values praised by our contemporary consumerist society).

You’re a well-known figure in the black metal underground. Can you give us a brief biography of yourself and the band?

I’ve been actively involved in the whole Metal scene for the last 20 years. I started playing in bands in 1992. Thesyre has been my longest running band (1995). I’ve also been the lead vocalist/lyricist in Decayed Remains, bassist in Soulseasons, actual live drummer with Akitsa and I am now the lead vocalist in Beast Within. I also had a myriad of projects including Unlife, Golem, Supernova and did a few recordings on my own as Eric Syre. I am also doing freelance artwork for other bands.

The other musicians of Beast Within followed a path similar to mine. Past bands and projects includes (among others) Utlagr, Blackwind and The Vault.

I guess you can say we’re semi-veterans of the scene.

How would you describe the musical direction of this new entity?

We’ve all been raised on the classics of the 80s and Celtic Frost is a common ground for all of us. It was important for us to keep things minimal and oldschool. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel but it’s very important to have our own sound. The groove you refer to has a lot to do with the simplicity of the music and its underlying rock vibe. We’re aiming for something heavy, dark, groovy and catchy at the same time.

Do you think that being from a French-culture area of Canada has influenced your songwriting or outlook?

Being French-Canadians always had an influence on us, willingly or not. We’re isolated in the eastern part of Canada and to be honest, it’s almost like we’re living in a different country. We never had the same cultural reaction to the lyrics of the bands we listened to in the early years. We always had to translate, filter and in some ways interpret everything in order to understand what was expressed. I guess we probably got a lot more into it for this reason; It required some form of personal involvement which maybe wasn’t as mandatory for English-speaking fans, for example. The same could be said about the lyrics we wrote. Even if it’s important for us to stay true to our culture, it’s hard to get recognized with lyrics in French worldwide. The whole isolation factor also pushed the pioneers of our scene to have an original sound and a different approach. Voivod got noticed quite early for that very reason, I think. The Quebec scene never got over-saturated with bands and so far I can still claim that quality over quantity is a constant over here.

You mention that you derive influences from Celtic Frost and Pentagram. Why these two?

Celtic Frost inspired us the most with Beast Within. Pentagram is a common interest within the band. Both bands have a strong, recognizable style based on simplicity, catchiness and both are quite effective with the memorability of their songwriting. If we can take cues from those influential bands and eventually establish a characteristic sound for Beast Within, our job will be done. As craftsmen of the genre as a whole, we’re there to deliver dark and heavy music the way we think is the best. Time shall tell if we do it right…

I bet you will. Look for this band to shake up the complacent post-underground scene.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCLSyv_fcTY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZtc5zpMNUs

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Demilich, Jess and the Ancient Ones, and Winterwolf live streaming concert

jess_and_the_ancient_ones-astral_sabbatMark your virtual calendar for Fri, February 22, 6:05 PM EET (which translates to 10:05 AM Central time here in the States) for a live concert which will be streaming over the internet to your screen.

In particular, this is reportedly the last ever concert of Finland’s Demilich, who despite being legendary and making legendary music, have probably seen their last days since guitarist Antti Boman is happily ensconced in Jess and the Ancient Ones.

Also playing will be Winterwolf, a band that calls to mind the buzzsaw guitar and dark melodies of God Macabre and Amorphis. Most likely the luminaries of the Finnish death metal underground will be there as well.

The concert, entitled Farewell to Rubble, includes the following bands:

  • Demilich
  • Jess and the Ancient Ones
  • Winterwolf
  • Blind Men of Doom
  • Standard Whore
  • Aben Erikois Housu Miehet
  • Cypher Acid

If you’re interested, you might as well go on over to the Google+ page for the event and add yourself. Then hit up the site to watch the video when it’s live.

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Introduction to Literature: Heavy Metal as a Literary Genre

martin_jacobsen-heavy_metal_as_a_literary_genreAfter years of people wondering about the connections between metal and literature, a thoughtful university professor listened to his students and as a result, has created a college literature course that uses metal lyrics to teach sentence structure and literary technique.

In one of his other classes, he diagrammed a sentence using the lyrics from Iron Maiden’s “Out of the Silent Planet” and found that students enjoyed the relevant yet thoughtful source material. As a result, Professor Martin Jacobsen launched a new class this year, Introduction to Literature: Heavy Metal as a Literary Genre.

According to the course syllabus, the class will “examine the forty-year history of heavy metal, interrogate major themes and how they persist and/or change with(in) the principal metal movements and sub-genres, and speculate as to the potential literary future of heavy metal.” Jacobsen has created a private Facebook group for the page and the class will use an etext for the text book.

To all of us here who have been collecting and noting the similarities between heavy metal and Romantic literature for some time, it is gratifying to see that someone else has a similar vision. Also, this class sounds fun as hell. Lucky students to have such an interesting experience!

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Details emerge for forthcoming Aosoth album

On April 16th, France’s Aosoth will release their forth album IV: Arrow in Heart via Agonia Records.

aosothiv

Aosoth’s third album III: Violence & Variation hemmed in repetitive riffs and enshrouded them into bleak atmospheric black metal. Reminiscent of Antaeus, Aosoth twist and contrive distorted tones to create an intransigent body of work.

The band expressed their progression from III to IV:

“We’ve spent such a huge amount of time on defining a darker identity, yet open to a wider range of influences. Those tracks still haunt us, as delivering them was a painful and excruciating experience, and left some of us even physically wounded… Which gives that album even more of a spiritual value, as it involved a form of sacrifice.” The band also added: “This fourth full-length release is without a doubt a great step forward for us in term of music writing, and sound.”

In addition to the release of IV, Agonia Records will release black vinyl versions of II and III on April 16th.

Tracklist for IV: Arrow in Heart:

1. An Arrow in Heart

2. One With The Prince With A Thousand Enemies

3. Temple of Knowledge

4. Under The Nails and Fingertips

5. Broken Dialogue 1

5. Broken Dialogue 2

6. Ritual Marks of Penitence

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The Suffering and Celebration of Life in America by Shane and Amy Bugbee


The Suffering and Celebration of Life in America
by Shane and Amy Bugbee
532 pages, $50 (direct: paperback $25 ebook $10)

the_suffering_and_celebration_of_life_in_america-shane_and_amy_bugbeeShane and Amy Bugbee are no strangers to controversy. Shane helped produce the original Milwaukee Metalfests, then ran several of his own Expo of the Extreme shows, while publishing classic Ragnar Redbeard texts with intros by Anton LaVey and running a radio show called Radio Free Satan with the blessing off the occult community.

In addition, the Bugbees put fingers into about every pie in the outsider art community, from banned comic book artist Mike Diana to — well, evil metal, now that you mention it. Their book The Suffering and Celebration of Life in America is a tour of the USA to discover its roots, but it’s also a series of interviews with some of metal’s greatest minds.

Originally, Shane and Amy Bugbee, a married pair of artists and entrepreneurs, planned an adventure called A Year at the Wheel where they would drive the length and breadth of the United States during an election year and record what they saw.

Luckily these artists are also metalheads and so decided to visit with a number of classic figures in the underground or related scenes. They interviewed Jeff Becerra (twice), Ian Mackaye (Minor Threat), Averse Sefira, the West Memphis 3, metal artist Jeff Gaither, and Gene Hoglan (Dark Angel).

These interviews tend to be in-dept explorations of the motivations behind metal artists, and include a number of statements that are crushing in their honesty and profundity. In many ways, they showcase the best of metal when all of the rock-star impositions are removed.

For example, take this selection from Averse Sefira:

Some people think the only real difference between black metal and other forms of metal is the fact that you wear corpse paint and that you scream instead of growl. That’s really, really short sighted. You look at a band like Emperor. You could not write a song like ‘I Am The Black Wizards’ in death metal or thrash or anything like that. You could not write a song like ‘Blashyrkh’ the song that Immortal did in any other genre but black metal. It wants to transcend and that is why we are involved in it. (307)

Interview questions become interesting as the Bugbees interrogate their subjects about historical mysteries, and in doing so, lay bare to some of the vital issues conflicting them. For example, Jeff Becerra (Possessed) on his Satanism and censorship:

We had to take the upside down cross off of the second and third records, well we didn’t, the record company did. We actually toned down the Satanism for the second and third because it was the bonfire of the vanities, the Christians were throwing books on the fire and burning shit up that might be important. People’s moms were making them switch to catholic school cause they were getting caught with shit, like it was drugs, people were afraid of Satan then, no one is scared of Satan now… It’s a trip because if people find spirituality without fear it’s gonna be okay. Life is
scary enough at this point in time, we don’t need to put metaphysical boogie men in our children’s heads. (445)

Not all of the interviews are metal per se, but it’s hard to deny the influence of Minor Threat on underground bands who came after them. Much as punk is different than metal however, the punk outlook as expressed by Ian Mackaye (Minor Threat) is less metaphysical and more political — in fact, this may be the most significant difference between metal and punk, now that I think about it:

In my mind, at least in our culture, the overriding emphasis is on profit and wealth. I think it’s actually the modern form of power. Before there were royalty and kings, or this guy has the biggest knife and cuts off more people’s heads. Now the warriors, the really powerful people are the rich people, and profit is so dominating in all business conversations. (514)

What makes these interviews interesting (outside of the content) is that they are not in a fanzine. This is a book about driving across America to figure out what it’s all about. The goal was to discover it, and themselves, for the authors. In doing so, by approaching many classic musicians from non-standard angles, they captured a lot of what motivated them.

In addition, the Bugbees are no strangers to the type of experience that a metalhead has in a society that, whether motivated by Jesus or money or something else, doesn’t like the disobedient and too smart to conform and get in line for the easy jobs and abundant shopping. In their case, it was a professed interest in Satanism, horror movies, metal and pornography that attracted negative attention.

In America’s heartland, they had to abandon a town and a successful business when a “poison pen letter” outed them as the authors of several atheistic and not-so-very-Jesus blogs that might have endorsed Satanism. Along their trip, they lost other jobs too, as well as non-profit opportunities. In a few cases, they almost lost friends or other contacts but were able to rescue the situation.

Wherever they went, these accusations seemed to follow them. It would make anyone paranoid. It explains what so many metalheads feel in this society, which is that the instant it identifies us as outsiders, it goes on the offensive. We are seen as a threat to its way of life, whether it be conservative and Christian or politically correct and urban.

For this and other interesting explorations of what it is to be an outsider, The Suffering and Celebration of Life in America is a great read for anyone who has stepped outside of the mainstream, and wants to find a reason not just to be outside, but to celebrate it.

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Black Sabbath return to their roots for new album

Black Sabbath‘s forthcoming album 13, to be released in June this year, will apparently be less heavy metal and more blues. Quoth mastermind Toni Iommi:

You can’t always repeat what you’ve done, you’ve just to go on… It’ll be today’s version of how it was 40 years ago.

The initiative, however, seems to come from producer Rick Rubin, who referred to the band’s début album and told the members to “keep it in mind” and play the music like a live gig, and according to Ozzy Osbourne, Rubin “didn’t want the songs to be verse, chorus, verse, chorus, middle eight, bridge — he wanted it to flow”.

It seems then that we might expect a modern version of the dark atmosphere that deflected the hippie optimism of 1960s, as heard on the classic showcased below. This will be awesome.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1t24PsZxohY

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Christian “Metal” is Torture

Back in the hazy 00’s, psychologist Philip Zimbardo released his book ‘The Lucifer Effect‘, which its title derives from the metaphorical transformation of Lucifer into Satan. It was a study about how good people can do bad deeds, and its substance was mainly on his findings about how prison guards turn to abusing inmates. The ultimate point Zimbardo was trying to make was that there is no good or evil person, since each person can be seduced to “good” or “bad” undertakings.

christianmetaltorturedevice

However, torture can be a very sufficient way to throw your enemy into turmoil. With the outright contradiction that is ChristianMetal“, it can catapult the listener into a world of confusion, thus becoming a very suitable device for torment.

According to Esquire Magazine, a gaggle of Navy SEALs were using the music of Metallica to torture Iraqi militants. Once  Metallica received notice that their music was actually resulting in something proactive, they issued a press statement requesting them to cease. “Part of me is proud they chose Metallica, and then part of me is bummed about it. We’ve got nothing to do with this and we’re trying to be apolitical as possible – I think politics and music, at least for us, don’t mix,” said James Hetfield.

Saddened by Metallica‘s decision, the Navy SEALs embarked onward to take things into their own hands and forged the most psychologically destructive torture device known to man: ChristianMetal“. They enlisted the imagery and audio idiocy of Demon Hunter to show the militants true patriotic strength.

Demon Hunter said, ‘We’re all about promoting what you do.’ They sent us CDs and patches. I wore my Demon Hunter patch on every mission – I wore it when I blasted Bin Laden,” one Navy SEAL stated.

One could assume that lunatic Osama Bin Laden took the easy route out. Death before ChristianMetal“.

Source: RT

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The Funderground irks longtime fans

rttp_fundergroundA tension has been simmering under the surface in metal for the better part of a decade now and shows no signs of calming down. It concerns the division of metal into old and new.

Up through the late 1990s, metal was fairly consistent: it was music based on riff Jenga and distrust of society’s pleasant illusions. It was not protest music, but it was outsider music.

Then came an influx of people who were “alternative,” meaning that they wanted to escape the mainstream, but still wanted what it offered, which was essentially protest music.

In our society, popular music tends to take only a few forms. One is the standard song of individual gratification, usually love or longing. Another is protest at how people are treated.

Hardcore music was a breath of fresh air. While it was opposed to society, it did not protest how people were treated. It protested an insane existence. There was no bad guy, only a dying society.

Metal picked up on this vibe and mixed in the metaphorical and otherworldly approach of early Black Sabbath lyrics. The result was something truly outside of any perspective that was mainstream or alternative.

Now the alternative types have recaptured metal, using their superior numbers to reduce it to something palatable for mainstream and/or alternative consumption.

A counter-revolution against this tendency burst onto the underground recently when pro-OldSchool trolls took over longstanding New England metal blog “Return to the Pit”:

A place where metal is happy and not disgusting. A place where somebody would rather message you on Facebook or text you when you’re nowhere near them in the show.
A place where one man’s smile is another man’s laughter.
A place where the boisterous voices of jokes and YouTube discussion outweigh any serious topic.
A place where it’s okay to have star tattoos covering your flabby forearm.
A place where MetalArchives reviews are that of a fact.
A place where moshing and dancing lost their edge.
A place where everybody knows your name and is friends with you on Facebook.
A place where threads are made about you on a dying board that is absolutely horrible now thanks to the FUNDERGROUND.

While we can’t lend our stamp of approval to the trolling which has essentially devastated this forum, we can point out that there’s some truth in these allegations.

Since 2000, metal has increased in popularity by a vast degree. There are more fans, and more bands, than there ever have been before.

However, these aren’t the same type of bands. They sound more like late hardcore bands, who specialized in putting unrelated riffs together to achieve a “carnival music” or “variety show” effect.

Modern metal seems to have lost sight of who it is, and instead borrows its personality from crowd-pleasers like *core, indie, emo, lite jazz and rock.

The term “Funderground” refers to people who are using the underground as a way to socialize, instead of a way to make music that expresses their viewpoint on the world.

When you think about it, metal has always been anti-social and distrustful of social impulses. We can now see why: when socialization comes out, good music goes away, and with it, the best of metal fans also disappear.

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Think metal, be successful

hmmA couple of years ago, a venture capitalist and a former investment banker realized that to succeed in business, a startup needs “a fantastic story and a vision, mastery of its craft and must ‘trigger basic human instincts'”.

Now, what is sensuous and epic enough to promote such a strategy? Heavy Metal of course! Using metal as metaphor for business, Pär-Jörgen Pärson and Hans-Olov Öberg have written Heavy Metal Management, in which they argue that successful companies appeal to our emotions and that metal music and culture serves as perfect inspiration for young entrepreneurs to make their dreams come true.

The metaphor works quite well according to The Guardian, “epitomising the archetypal work hard/play hard ethos, the personal commitment, the experimentation and a kind of tribal recognition and respect”. Metal’s concept of creative destruction seems well-suited even to industrial paradigm shifts (like offline industry to online industry, and online to mobile).

Heavy Metal Management will be released in the UK in late March.

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Death Melodies Series: Sergei Rachmaninov

The Death Melodies Series (DMS) continues with one of the last Romanticist composers.

rachmanRachmaninov was born in Russia in 1873 and died in 1943. After the Russian Revolution, he spent most of his time in the US and Europe. He’s known as a late Romanticist while Modern styling was becoming prominent. He’s widely considered a virtuoso on piano, which his piano concertos have become standard in classical music performance.

Toward the end of Rachmaninov’s life he drifted from American lifestyle and would rather speak in his natural Russian tongue. His circle of friends that he would regularly visit were mainly Russian nationals.

When Rachmaninov was in Paris in 1907, he stumbled upon Arnold Böcklin’s fourth version of the painting ‘Isle of the Dead‘, which inspired him to compose his symphonic poem about it. The fourth version was black and white, which Rachmaninov stated that if he had seen the colored version that he wouldn’t have forged his somber symphonic villanelle. The fourth being rather recondite, it’s easy to see the correlation to the temperament Rachmaninov sets in the first half of his piece.

The painting depicts a man being ferried to an island. Böcklin never mentioned the meaning behind it, but others surmise it’s of a lifeless man being transferred to afterlife. It has been a source of inspiration for Salvador Dali and many others. Hitler was also noted to having a version in his office.

After the austere waves of sound passes in the first half, it shifts to pure beauty.

On the piano front, Rachmaninov composed many pieces. When he was 19 he wrote his “The Bells of Moscow” Prelude in C Sharp Minor. This piece gained enormous popularity. At one point he stopped composing and would just perform shows to earn money for his family. The crowds always wanted to hear this piece. He was embittered to it as he grew older.

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