The post-Christmas malaise has set in worldwide, but there’s still time for the occasional pre-2016 release and/or news story.
After what was apparently a pretty good performance at Black Flames of Blasphemy, the Mexican black metal band Xibalba is releasing a short three song EP. Entitled Ah Tza!, its first track is already available through Bandcamp due to the services of the band’s current record label (Nuclear War Now! Productions). The other two will be available on December 31st. As of yet, there’s not really enough information to figure out what this shortalbum will sound like, but the first song at least conforms to the musical language of black metal; not that such is exactly difficult.
In the middle of #metalgate, we are familiar with regular outrages as SJWs attempt to silence anyone who does not agree with their narrow-minded, politically-motivated viewpoint which they use as a means to achieve personal power by delighting in the destruction of others. Before this creepy behavior moved into the spotlight, its roots could be seen in an early incident involving the black metal band Nyogthaeblisz:
In the build-up to the fest, the usual rush for the aspiring pretentious festival goer to research all of the bands playing so they wouldn’t get caught looking ignorant was on. Chaos In Tejas attracted a variety of types to the festival. One of the more unfortunate types are the “I still think punk is a platform to fight the good fight politically” PC punk type.
The 2012 edition featured anarchopunk legends The Mob & Antisect, so the festival promised to have more PC crust punks than usual in attendance. As kids started to research the lineup, they found “irregularities” in Nyogthaeblisz’s background. First, they were on the label Satanic Skinhead Propaganda. The label, run by the oft maligned Antichrist Kramer, had a reputation for releasing questionable / sketchy music. Second, Nyogthaeblisz’s lyrics made crushing commentary about the Jewish faith, though not specifically limited to it. The criticism / outcry from many parties quickly became deafening.
The height of this outcry was when The Mob / Antisect both threatened to walk out of the festival and drop if Nyogthaeblisz was not dropped. Eventually, the festival’s promoters made a tactical decision and relented. They dropped Nyogthaeblisz. For the PC types, this was seen as a victory. Defeating the evil that is intolerance and racism wherever they may find it.
Nowhere else has the problem been more clearly documented: invaders from the long-dead punk scene, where people buy bands for “the message” despite low musical quality for the past twenty-five years, muscled into a metal festival and used their media power to force removal of an act singing about a fairly middle-of-the-road black metal message, which is a critique of Abrahamic religions (Nyogthaeblisz targets Christianity, Judaism and Islam as being the same philosophy).
While many of us are sensitive about people who dislike Jews, remembering the horrors of Kristallnacht and The Holocaust, this does not insulate any religion from criticism no matter how minority its status. The whole point of religious toleration is to allow ideas to be compared, and this includes defense of those who are critical of religion or specific religions. “No gods, no masters” is OK in the PC world, but saying “not this god” is not.
Their use of the term irregularities brings to mind a group who, in the name of a Good ideology, killed over 100 million people, many of them in death camps. Their favorite tactic was to kill off the intellectuals and leaders in any field and then replace them with politically-obedient substitutes. This group was the Communists, whose idea of universal equality and ownership by the people of the means of wealth sounds good on paper, at least. You can just see a Commissar, in uniform with pistol at his side, saying “Comrade Nyogthaeblisz, vee haf found some… irregularities… in your papers. Please come with us now,” before the train to Siberia or the guillotine departs.
This mentality was described extremely well centuries ago by Fred “God is Dead” Nietzsche:
There it comes willingly: welcome, tarantula! Your triangle and symbol sits black on your back; and I also know what sits in your soul. Revenge sits in your soul: wherever you bite, black scabs grow; your poison makes the soul whirl with revenge.
Thus I speak to you in a parable—you who make souls whirl, you preachers of equality. To me you are tarantulas, and secretly vengeful. But I shall bring your secrets to light; therefore I laugh in your faces with my laughter of the heights. Therefore I tear at your webs, that your rage may lure you out of your lie-holes and your revenge may leap out from behind your word justice. For that man be delivered from revenge, that is for me the bridge to the highest hope, and a rainbow after long storms.
The tarantulas, of course, would have it otherwise. “What justice means to us is precisely that the world be filled with the storms of our revenge”—thus they speak to each other. “We shall wreak vengeance and abuse on all whose equals we are not”—thus do the tarantula-hearts vow. “And ‘will to equality’ shall henceforth be the name for virtue; and against all that has power we want to raise our clamor!”
You preachers of equality, the tyrannomania of impotence clamors thus out of you for equality: your most secret ambitions to be tyrants thus shroud themselves in words of virtue. Aggrieved conceit, repressed envy—perhaps the conceit and envy of your fathers—erupt from you as a flame and as the frenzy of revenge.
What was silent in the father speaks in the son; and often I found the son the unveiled secret of the father.
They are like enthusiasts, yet it is not the heart that fires them—but revenge. And when they become elegant and cold, it is not the spirit but envy that makes them elegant and cold. Their jealousy leads them even on the paths of thinkers; and this is the sign of their jealousy: they always go too far, till their weariness must in the end lie down to sleep in the snow. Out of every one of their complaints sounds revenge; in their praise there is always a sting, and to be a judge seems bliss to them.
But thus I counsel you, my friends: Mistrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful. They are people of a low sort and stock; the hangman and the bloodhound look out of their faces. Mistrust all who talk much of their justice! Verily, their souls lack more than honey. And when they call themselves the good and the just, do not forget that they would be pharisees, if only they had—power.
The article adds a nice analysis of the situation from a neutral viewpoint:
What happened to Nyogthaeblisz was a textbook case of what people who are intolerant of intolerance do. You’ve heard stories about Antifa protests at shows over the years. Antifa members calling the police (the ultimate cardinal sin in the subculture) on shows they protest, intimidating attendees of shows they protest, and threatening promoters for their bookings of questionable acts. None of this is okay. This kind of Kristallnacht, lynch mob, seeing red mentality at the mere possibility of questionable content is not okay. Nyogthaeblisz was judged and attacked without even getting to issue a statement in their defense. The biggest tragedy of the anti-racist position is the claim of a higher understanding / intelligence that their racist opposition lacks. If this higher understanding / intelligence truly existed, the research on Nyogthaeblisz would not have stopped at Anti-Jewish, but arrived at Anti-Abrahamic. What happened to Nyogthaeblisz wasn’t the triumph of good over evil. It was one side becoming what they hated to root out an entity that they did not understand.
This is the face of the SJW: someone who has failed at life or at least is less important than they think they are, demanding to be made important through ideology and their ability to summon a hate-mob to destroy others who have achieved what the SJWs have not. Nyogthaeblisz’s real sin was not having the wrong views, but succeeding without having an SJW ideology and lifestyle. That is the face of the group that wants to take over metal, replace its leaders with SJWs, and forever turn it into a mediocrity like hardcore has been since SJWs took over there.
Along with a planned review for the upcoming week, Ihsahn has made it back onto my list of “musicians who clearly exist” with the upcoming release of Arktis. It is set for a March 4th release and will be Ihsahn’s 6th full studio length. If previous press releases and media praiseworshipspeak is to be believed (I’m looking at Blabbermouth here), Arktis will somehow be both more traditionally structured than Ihsahn’s previous solo albums, which tend to already employ a lot of pop song structures, and also somehow pushing “…boundaries and preconceived sounds typically assigned to heavy music”. That’s either a tall order or a marketing department ignoring what the artist says to revel in their own promotional efforts.
The group organizers issued the following statement:
This group was founded to promote the idea that bands should stay out of Baltimore or risk millennial crybabies attempting to ruin band’s careers over the numerous things they find offensive. Every city has this problem, true. But, the children of Baltimore have made this particular city undesirable for having a good time and enjoying a show.
ENTER BALTIMORE AT YOUR OWN RISK!
Once in the underground, #metalgate is heating up as people oppose the idea of censorship and political conformity in metal. Many remember what such herd-thinking did to hardcore in the 1980s and the attempts to censor metal from right and left during the same decade. Others simply believe that genres dedicated to extremity should keep all ideas on the table, especially when the standard of political conformity seems to agree with what most governments, media and large corporations endorse. Time will tell.
Cirith Gorgor bases its music around a strong vocal in the modern metal style of several emphatic syllables which then trail off, and this primary rhythm instrument propels the music forward. Underneath it flow melodic riffs which are not based on unique shape for its own ends, but fit around the rhythm of the vocals, approximating the style of later Emperor.
All of the familiar patterns are here: the sweeps, the gently falling melodic riffs, and the sawing upsurge riffs, and they are ordered in sensible songs. These songs do not particularly distinguish themselves from one another, nor evoke any type of emotion other than a general sense of feelings about the genre, but they are not random and are better assembled than the average. They resemble a sort of ongoing conversation that appears in different forms.
If this band has a weakness, it is reliance on the modern style of “yapping chihuaha” vocals. These are easier to follow than the old way, but place too many demands on the guitars for them to lead songwriting. The melodic hooks are pleasant and the discourse of songs orderly, but this band has a way to go before it expresses something like the power this genre has sleeping within it.
Blackdeath is a Russian black metal band that just so happens to perform their lyrics in German. Funny how that works out. I’m not sure what the motivation is, but it’s a mildly interesting bit of trivia that you might get a kick out of. The actual album (which is intended to release on January 1st, 2016, and was provided via promos) was initially released in two parts in 2004, as parts of splits with Mortifera and Leviathan produced in exceedingly small qualities, so while the material is far from new, this may be your first chance to hear what comes off as a competent, but unremarkable and therefore disposable piece of old school black metal. Definitely not “best of 2016” material.
Now, the promo message we were sent claims that Totentanz is “…nothing like you have heard before”, but in my personal experience, there’s not much here that’s particularly novel. Blackdeath’s PR agency was probably listening primarily to the guitar, which showcase a nice mixture of standard melodic black metal phrases with more dissonant, atonal phrases. By not confining themselves to tonal centers, the band has opened up some realms of musical technique that could come in handy. That’s about all I can say in favor of the instrumental end of this album – nothing here is “wrong” or out of place (even the drum machine), but it’s otherwise very standard for its subgenre.
I suppose the specific problem with Totentanz is that it does little to coordinate its individual elements into a coherent whole. Blackdeath seemingly values the “kvlt” side of black metal, and thusly this album is blessed with a stereotypical low fidelity mix. The most prominent issue here is that the percussion is nearly inaudible; this appears to be a constant problem throughout the band’s discography. It’s not really a problem for a more ambient black metal act like Darkthrone or Sorcier des Glaces, but Blackdeath seemingly aspires towards the more violent side of the genre, at least if the rest of their musical elements aren’t misleading me. Totentanz also has the sort of arbitrary songwriting that so many other metal bands fall into. In this case, I find it unusually hard to isolate specific elements for criticism; however, the aesthetic/songwriting mismatch seems to be most responsible for this recording going in one ear and out the other without getting much in the way of proper mental attention.
I guess it’s a dubious honor that the first upcoming release of 2016 I’ve reviewed avoids the Sadistic Metal Reviews pile, but honestly, the best thing I can say about Totentanz is that it’s surrounded by mildly interesting circumstances.
Vic Records plans to re-issue the 1995 debut album from Finnish black metal band Mythos in early 2016. The new issue will include ten bonus tracks taken from the split CD Vociferous & Machiavellian Hate. Mythos fit into the later black metal years with music like Impaled Nazarene but adapted to longer, death-metal style songs.
The Pain Amplifier re-issue will include rare pictures and extensive liner notes, including notes from Evil Omen label boss Ludo Lejeune. This continues the “underground metal bubble” of re-issues and special additions for Generation Xers and millennials who never got a chance to own them the first time around, and this solid B-level black metal release should appeal to many from that group.
German black metal label Purity Through Fire has released a promotional sampler of bands from the new wave of black metal inspired music, including Leichenzug, Kroda, Bergrizen, Vspolokh, Myrd, Svartblodgard, Sarkrista, Infamous, Heldentod, and Irminsul.
We’ve sampled a few of the tracks Olve Eikemo has released as part of the Abbathproject. They certainly exist, that much I can tell you, but I personally wasn’t able to get much out of them beyond a certain level of instrumental proficiency. Response from the rest of the metal communities (curse their still-beating hearts) has been more positive, and Abbath’s proper solo debut will come out on January 22nd, along with a plethora of other albums we’ll have to at least give a perfunctory look. In the mean time, another track from this album (“Count the Dead“) has been released as a single, in case you didn’t already have enough clues about Abbath’s musical approach. Furthermore, Abbath is headlining the 2016 Decibel Magazine Tour through March and April, so he’s definitely got a busy schedule ahead of him.
Black metal emerged as a reaction to the trend of death metal which had already established a musical vocabulary and through that achieved a higher degree of technicality as well as abstraction.
These bands took inspiration from the proto-black Hellhammer, Venom, Bathory and Sodom. The music of these early hybrid bands was quite unlike what became the second wave of black metal or death metal in that its motifs were simple yet concrete; overlaid onto a structure which juxtaposes seemingly unrelated motifs next to one another in an uncomplicated and often superficially nonsensical form. Yet, the result was surprisingly successful as a visceral and chaotic experience of raw, concrete, sensory imagery.
The black metal to follow refined this approach through retaining much of the simplicity and visceral nature of the earlier music while placing the motifs in a more logical format through phrasal composition, in which each riff has a shape created by its phrase and these form a language within each song. This and the trademark atmospheric riffs driven by waves of reverb and tremolo picking – largely invented by the Norwegian bands of note – came to define the public perception of black metal as a genre. Consequently, the Norwegian sound moved away from the rhythmic lineage of rock to music to something closer to the traditional western sensibility: harmony and melody over static, invariant rhythm as famously codified by the experimental gothic sensibilities of Transilvanian Hunger.
Profanatica, from what can be intuited from rare interviews, had strong reactions towards both the Norwegian sound and death metal itself. As such their music took on a different character which has not garnered the band near as much acclaim. The Norwegian sound is, after all, is the standard against which all black metal music is held. Given the fact that all genres are imposed by observation after the fact, it seems that the difference between Profanatica and the Norwegian giants is not one of quality, but of a band not fitting within the aesthetic boundaries of a genre that the audience expects. That and the mad rush for Norwegian black metal pushed Profanatica to the boundaries of the black metal movement where its influence on artists and hardcore fans tells a different story of its importance.
Much like the Norwegians, Profanatica refined the approach of its influences by emphasizing an incoherent structure and seemingly random construction. The motifs themselves are anything but abstract; often sounding vaguely familiar if not recycled both literally and intuitively. The listener will detect a clear sense of familiarity with the image of a particular motif, yet its contextual placement is such that it reveals a new perspective on something familiar. To draw a metaphor, it is as if one obtains a view of the same landscape from the peak of different mountains. This freedom of association allows a particular feeling, idea or image to be used as appropriate, anywhere in a song without sounding out of place. That particular innovation is unique to this band alone.
Structurally, Profanatica develop the proto-black method by emphasizing its motif contrast and non-rational composition. The infamous “Weeping in Heaven” demonstrates this technique through a collection of riff ideas which bears little relationship to one another, nor are treated in such a way that might cause the music to blend seamlessly. The contrast is emphasized which leaves the listener in a position to experience the music on an intuitive level. The result speaks to the body and it speaks towards the id. Logical progression, causality and abstract musical language are rejected abjectly. Profanatica embraces the rhythmic tradition of non-Western forms; using it to give meaning to chaos and incoherence of raw experience. Where one might perceive conceptual weakness and compositional immaturity in the early black metal music, Profanatica matured their approach to the point of strength.
The greatest contrast between the Norwegian sound and their influences lay at the relationship between the subject and the perceiver. The musical component of the proto-black bands described the emotional reactions to a phenomenon portrayed, resulting in the internal discourse one expects when reacting to the representations given to them by their nervous system. The Norwegian sound attempts to paint the external world through its musical discourse. The valuations of the perceiver are never absent quite absent and serve to describe the relationship of the internal world to the external. It asks the question, “where do we fit in the image of the world as presented?”
In a sense it attempts to categorize a dark forest in nonverbal symbols. Profanatica, resting firmly in the proto-black tradition, presents the terror of a solitary human being in a forest without describing the forest itself through its musical symbols. The dialogue then, becomes a matter of internal sensation which is untamed and instinctual. In terms of artistry, that innovation ultimately expanded the initial range of expression without reasoning categorically about it.
The effectiveness of this particular approach may be observed on the medley from the Grand Masters Sessions release. The track consists of portions of the band’s demo material stitched together to form a single track. A listener familiar with Profanatica’s back catalog will no doubt sense the familiarity of the material yet what is most striking is the functionality of the piece as a whole. Despite being composed from entirely different songs, the song involves juxtaposition of each motif and its partial ordering, and as a result manages a level of unity as a stream of consciousness which reveals new perspectives on the material through context.
Profanatitas de Domonatia (2007) distills the familiar Incantation sound made famous on their debut record Onward to Golgotha – which Paul Ledney had a strong hand in developing – by stripping the material down to its most basic instincts. The result is a fierce and destructive force of will whose aim is deconstruction. The follow up Disgusting Blasphemies Against God saw the band barbarizing the famous emotional sensitivity of black metal’s melodic heritage and assembling those remains into hideous totems. The record’s defining characteristic is, after all, something of a crescendo implying the process of construction, perhaps out of the remains of that which its predecessor tore down. The latest record, Thy Kingdom Cum, lays siege to its two previous approaches by simplifying its rhythms to the point of idiocy while contorting its melodic forms to the point of mockery. The defining character of its predominant motifs is laughter which can be gleaned easily in the opening moments of the track “False Doctrina.” The aforementioned qualities are not something which need to be abstracted from the music; they are clear and obvious.
Profanatica’s approach is much like an uncivilized warband conducting raids on the civilized. Such groups are as much a tribal patchwork out of violent young men as they are a patchwork of the spoils of their activities: contradictory compositions of the basic human and technological components of a greater civilization whose assemblage is entirely pragmatic and allows for them to serve functions other than intended, but no less effective than their original purpose. Out of elements bound tenuously is something effective, something purposeful, something deadly. The world this music operates in is one which is defined almost entirely by nature rather than one defined by humans.
Where proto-black metal is defined by its visceral nature and deconstructive character, Profanatica embrace the ignorance in a brash display of unconcern for the perfume-soaked intellectuals which decry those outside their borders. Dwelling within the primitive backwater fringe has its advantages by bearing immunity to the abstract and desperate silliness of the rest of the genre. The similarly-goaled war metal attempts to reach back into black metal’s foundations but does so in a way which reduces the motif as an objectified emotion or image into pure texture reducing its communicative efficacy. The work of Ledney and company retains the concrete sensory experiences which drove metal in each of its original incarnations and were later given musical scrutiny before completely fossilizing, allowing their art to pick the last of the low-hanging fruit of metal as a form while others languish in petty revivalism, soulless displays of technical mastery, or vapid experimentation that desperately seeks revitalization by looking to external music genres; copying but not transforming its clichés.