Krieg to re-issue Blue Miasma with original, heavier mix

krieg-blue_miasmaAccording to frontman Imperial, Krieg have unearthed the original recordings of the Blue Miasma album, without samples, and are going to use this heavier mix for the re-issue of the album. Imperial mentioned this in a Facebook post detailing the discovery.

Imperial said, “The original unmastered with no samples mix of Blue Miasma has been unearthed thanks to Jeff Marcheski and will have some minor additions to it for the reissue of the album. This original mix was heavier and dirtier than the one that got released and, to me at least, sounds better.”

While the original Krieg release was improvisational chaotic black metal, the band had drifted into more modern metal influenced styles over the past decade as Imperial and other members collaborated with indie-rock-hybrid black metal bands and took influences from the experience. The latest developments are part of an ongoing arc back toward traditionalist black metal ethos for this band.

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Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult

dayal_patterson-black_metal_evolution_of_the_cultThere have been many publications written about black metal, in an attempt to understand a difficult and enigmatic genre. Most focus on either the musical style of the genre from a historical viewpoint or on the ideology and views of the genre – including the illegal actions taken by a few energetic participants.

Author Dayal Patterson has attempted to combine those methods in his soon to be published book, Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult. Featuring numerous interviews and photography, the book aims to be the most complete resource for black metal research:

“It captures the progress of the genre, from its infancy in the early eighties through to its resurrection in the nineties and onwards to the fascinating scene we see today. Combining interviews with the key individuals involved with editorial insight and iconic photography this epic tome examines the artistic, musical, spiritual development of the genre and the creative work, ideologies and often colourful lives of some of its most significant bands.”

The participants interviewed include the most respected among black metal’s elite: Fenriz, Nuclear Holocausto, Tom Warrior, Rob Darken, and others; guaranteeing that there will be a level of quality already present in the tome that hopefully that rest of the book can carry.

Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult can be pre-ordered through Amazon, with a projected release date of November 13th. See the facebook page for more details.

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Summoning – Old Mornings Dawn

summoning-old_mornings_dawnAfter the first wave of Norwegian black metal entirely re-defined the genre into a melodic and intensely artistic form of music, it seemed metal had culminated. Its technique exploded in death metal, and with black metal, it began the process of creating narrative melodic compositions.

Summoning jumped into this heap by evolving from a relatively straightforward downtempo black metal band into a melange of keyboards, lengthy fast-picked slow melodic passages, and soundtrack-style framing of song structures in the context of atmospheric, Tolkien-inspired vaguely medievalist metal. Ever since they nailed that combination on Dol Guldur, Summoning has been a legend in the metal scene.

After the experiment in greater use of vocals and folk-like dynamics that was Stronghold, Summoning returned with Oath Bound, which edged them closer to the territory last explored on Dol Guldur before the music got more atmospheric on the Nightshade Forests EP. Seven years later, anticipation ran high for their latest, named Old Mornings Dawn.

Coming from the same creative wellspring as other Summoning works, Old Mornings Dawn channels three separate influences: the classic downtempo black metal of its origins, the “Renaissance Faire” style of folk/world music that it became, and an influence that can only be described as dark 1980s industrial goth pop. This album fits in with Joy Division, Soft Cell, Sisters of Mercy and other darker forms of synthpop and EBM, much in the same way that Nightshade Forests picked up similar influences. At the same time, hints of the Stronghold style where vocals lead composition help define these songs.

What is most pronounced on this album however is that Summoning are using the layered style that worked so well on not only Nightshade Forests but the Lost Tales EP as well, but have removed even more of the metal “forward” style narrative composition. Instead, these are circular compositions with layers, but in the best metal style, moods accrue and eventually force change into an entirely different but complementary riff. The result is a ferment of slightly differentiated influences fit into the only song structures that could incorporate them all. The result is like an exotic tour alongside a riverbank populated by fantastic figures from dreams.

Old Mornings Dawn is a creative journey into the recesses of the mind and embraces the sentimental alongside the epic, using its ambient structuring to immerse the listener in a world far beyond anything they have experienced. The result drifts farther from black metal without betraying black metal, and instead creates a voice unique to Summoning which sensibly does not try to be Dol Guldur II, but to create a niche for itself. Its decreased distance from the listener allows emotion to meld with music and create an atmosphere unique to this band and the spread of time they have chosen with their music.

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Last Burzum metal recording ever

burzumBurzum composer Varg Vikernes has posted a “goodbye” to his old self as a metal composer and in a sentimental posting, announced his retirement from metal and his intent to pursue ambient music alone.

Burzum appeared from nowhere in 1991 with a demo tape made up of a dozen guitars-and-bass-only tracks in rehearsal quality. I made a few more or less successful metal albums, but they all always included at least some ambient music. With time I moved further and further away from metal, and today only the ambient music remains. Today (2013) I think I am done playing metal music for good.

Many of you followed Burzum through the years, some even from the beginning, and I think metal-Burzum deserves a proper “good bye”. So, just like I started out I will finish metal-Burzum with a guitars-and-bass-only track in rehearsal quality. “Back to the Shadows” is made up of the last metal riffs I ever made (in 2012). It was never released in any way, or recorded (beyond what you hear here), and it will not either — beyond this short “video”.

Take it for what it is; a sentimental good bye to metal-Burzum.

The music is playing with an image of the 17 year-old me, taken from the time when some of the first Burzum tracks were made. You can see this track as a good bye to that fellow too.

For those of us who have been watching Burzum and Vikernes over the years, this is a welcome development. Heavy metal is beautiful but it will always be attached to popular conceptions of entertainment. Ambient music, especially complex material, gets treated as culture.

While we hope to change that perception of metal and to have it be studied as art and part of culture, that’s an uphill battle when the fans routinely rush to gimmick bands and depthless clones in a hope to be part of the next popular trend.

Either way, this bodes well for more interesting compositions in Burzum’s future.

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New Burzum track shows metal technique applied to folk

varg_vikernes-burzum-band_photoThe semi-reclusive Varg Vikernes, sole composer of Burzum, has announced his plans to release a film and a new role-playing game (RPG). As part of the film project, he has revealed a new track designed to act as part of a soundtrack for the film.

As if influenced by some of the non-black-metal soundtrack material from the film Until the Light Takes Us in which Vikernes, as in Lords of Chaos, the most in-depth story of black metal before it, Vikernes opts for a down-tempo single guitar track with no distortion.

The result utilizes a slow and gentle sweeping arpeggio behind which lower notes direct the evolution of the track, much as happened with the countertheme in “Rundgang um die transzendentale Säule Der Singularität” from Filosofem. As the song goes on, these layers interact to push change into the main theme, not in the electronica method of circular layers, but the metal one of a narrative expanding from within itself.

It is hard to tell if this is the type of material that will be on the forthcoming Burzum album Sôl austan, Mâni vestan. While many consider the “keyboard albums” among the band’s best output, a mixed-medium album could be interesting. While this new track has one foot in that world, it also has one foot in the more audience-geared world of the last few Burzum black metal albums.

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Profane Prayer – Tales of Vagrancy and Blasphemy

profane_prayer-tales_of_vagrancy_and_blasphemyOne of the things that distinguished Norwegian black metal from what had preceded it was its emphasis on storytelling: inviting the listener to not just observe, but be an active participant in discovering the meaning behind the work. The elements of composition were not, in themselves, the end goal of a song, but rather were tools used to convey the artist’s intention.

By using heroic imagery coupled with atonal yet melodic music, it went beyond the violent deconstruction of death metal by showing not only that the supposed progress of the modern era has been a sham, it offered an alternative: a return to an earlier age, a time when survival depended upon more than earning enough money to purchase antidepressants and microwave dinners.

This core of black metal was something that was increasingly lost as the genre became more popular, as newer bands overlooked this when attempting to understand how to play this genre of music.

As one of these contemporary bands, Profane Prayer plays black metal in the later Darkthrone style with an old school heavy metal influence. Indicative of its generation, this track (taken from their upcoming album) at first glance has all the elements of black metal: screaming vocals, pounding blastbeats, dissonant tremolo picking, and anti-christian themes.

However, what is lacking is the artistic vision the presages its creation. Although all of the individual components may be sound, there is nothing linking them together. Sections of the song are easily recognizable and there is care in how they are ordered, but the song does not challenge the listener to discovery. Like most black metal of its age, it’s not awful, but not particularly good either. If this band could couple their musical talent with a deeper artistic spirit, they would assuredly have a worthwhile composition.

Tales of Vagrancy and Blasphemy will be released via No Colours Records the first week of May.

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Black Sabbath – God is Dead?

black_sabbath-nihilismLost in the darkness
I fade from the light
Faith of my father, my brother, my Maker and Savior
Help me make it through the night
Blood on my conscience
And murder in mind
Out of the gloom I rise up from my tomb into impending doom
Now my body is my shrine

The blood runs free
The rain turns red
Give me the wine
You keep the bread
The voices echo in my head
Is God alive or is God dead?
Is God dead?

Rivers of evil
Run through dying land
Swimming in sorrow, they kill, steal, and borrow. There is no tomorrow
For the sinners will be damned
Ashes to ashes
You cannot exhume a soul
Who do you trust when corruption and lust, creed of all the unjust,
Leaves you empty and unwhole?

When will this nightmare be over? Tell me!
When can I empty my head?
Will somebody tell me the answer?
Is God really dead?
Is God really dead?

To safeguard my philosophy
Until my dying breath
I transfer from reality
Into a mental death
I empathize with enemy
Until the timing’s right
With God and Satan at my side
From darkness will come light

I watch the rain
And it turns red
Give me more wine
I don’t need bread
These riddles that live in my head
I don’t believe that God is dead
God is dead

Nowhere to run
Nowhere to hide
Wondering if we will meet again
On the other side
Do you believe a word
what the Good Book said?
Or is it just a holy fairytale
And God is dead?
God is Dead x4

Right!

But still the voices in my head
Are telling me that god is dead
The blood pours down
The rain turns red
I don’t believe that God is dead
God is Dead x4

Lyrically, it reminds me of “After Forever” but a bit more world-weary. Musically, it contains several allusions to past Sabbath and solo work by its members.

Thematically, it seems to me a response to black metal. Was Nietzsche’s target God, or our tendency to say nice things to each other and conceal the essential truth of the challenges before us? There are often many problems, but one root cause. If you don’t strike at that root cause, you get lost. If the problem is man, and not God, and society (collection of humans) instead of some external scapegoat, then we have a greater struggle than can be fixed by burning churches.

Black metal was purely Nietzschean in that it rejected the idea of a moral society and replaced it with the notion that the natural order of Darwinism produced better results. All of the Nietzschean tropes come out: praise of winter, of hardness, of privation, of wolves and of combat and struggle.

Black metal faltered in the mid-1990s when the bands realized that they might have missed their real target, which is something more like people socializing with each other and thus concealing unpleasant truths. While there are other intermediate and proximate causes of the problems we find it this world, the root cause often gets overlooked. That isn’t to say those other causes are good, or shouldn’t be fought in some form or another, just that they’re not the cause.

Black Sabbath is asking “Is God Dead?” and responding in the negative, pointing out that perhaps that last fifteen years of metal have been barking up the wrong tree. The first half of the song is questioning and self-centered, a personal drama. The second half, after the question is posed, is a thunderous rejoinder. The song splits on themes: the wine, the voices that fill the head (he cannot “empty his head”), the lack of any holiness outside the body that is the shrine, and the sense of a “mental death.” On the other hand, there is belief, a pervasive sense of something not fitting together with the narrative of the voices in his head.

Much is left ambiguous by this. “With God and Satan at my side” suggests a type of esotericism that mainstream Christianity will not embrace, and although there are references to the “Good Book,” a particular denominator has not been mentioned. However, the conflict between logic and intuition rises strongly in this song. On one side, there are empirical forces at work; on the other, instinct and a gut feeling. The song ultimately concludes with the idea that God is not dead.

And all of this happens under a banner formed of (a) a dour Friedrich Nietzsche and (b) a nuclear blast. This reminds me of not only black metal’s Nietzscheanism, but its apocalyptic viewpoint. In bad times, people start to get serious again about what they’re doing. Part of getting serious was, at least for black metal and probably for old Black Sabbath, rejecting what is popular and social.

Black metal is uncompromisingly against what makes people comfortable. In Until the Light Takes Us, musicians from Burzum and Darkthrone describe how they tried to get “bad” production for their music, to make it sound old and rotted. How they embraced evil imagery and acted out the most extreme things possible. This wasn’t a rejection of Christianity; it was a rejection of the social impulse behind civilization that prizes what looks/feels good to a group, to what is true — something that generally can be known by only a few, in the Nietzschean sense of the “apex predators” who have through natural selection risen above the rest and can see through a noble light how aggression is central to life.

Black metal may be anti-Christian, but more, it’s about the potentially mind-warping effects of socializing with others. Black Sabbath seems to be suggesting a new direction, which is less toward atheism and Nietzsche, and more toward sacrality, to which black metal might then respond that sacredness itself is what gets destroyed by socializing with others and obscuring the truth. This mirrors where a lot of the black metal guys went after the movement — Beherit to Buddhism, Darkthrone to cosmic space music, Varg to esoteric nationalism, the Graveland guys to folk music, and many others moving on to esoteric sounds like Jaaportit or Vinterriket.

Although they’d probably kill me for saying this, black metal people are generally the most religious people in the room. They believe that life is sacred, that forests are sacred, and that if nature is “red in tooth and claw” and life is “nasty, brutish and short,” that these are manifestations of the divine as well. Far from being “god is dead” people, black metal musicians strike me as being “we are worshipping the wrong god” people.

Hegel would argue that history moves through new ideas, their opposites, and compromises (synthesis). I would argue that history moves by the ideas created through a type of play acted out by characters representing extremes. In this, black metal shows us the antisocial, and Black Sabbath comes out for the sacred; the two will find common ground, because metal is ultimately sacred music. It worships power, death, nature and violence while others prefer pretty flowers and prancing kittens, but only one of those two perspectives embraces all of reality, while the other requires a social filter to merely exist. Black Sabbath and black metal are united in their dislike of that social filter.

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Vemod – Venter på stormene

vemod-venter_pa_stormeneNostalgia is like going back to your rapist and asking for your first kiss. If I were a 2000s kid, I’d want to be part of those glorious days of the early 1990s. As a 1990s kid, I might want to “go back.”

Yet you can’t go home again. All you can do is re-heat and imitate the past, and hope that the magic comes back. But the magic came from the convergence of the time, what was going on in the world, and the art. That isn’t to say the music isn’t still relevant; it is eternally relevant. But what made it great was how it was organized in the minds of its creators, not the techniques they use. Trying to imitate the techniques is thinking backward, or going from the whole impression to try to recreate the idea it conveys, instead of finding that idea and using it to make another (not necessarily new, but more accurate) impression. I could buy ten truckloads of these retro-imitative albums and I’d still be in nowheresland, ready to trade my left testicle for the ability to buy Transilvanian Hunger or Pure Holocaust again and to experience the joy of discovering it again, like the very first time!

But it is not to be. We wouldn’t want it to be that way. Time marches us forward both toward doom and toward greater heights. Vemod adopts a mix between the Ulver-styled late Nordic material and the French-style barely-holding-on black metal of the wave after the Nordic black metal explosion. That being said, there’s nothing to criticize Vemod for. They play perfectly, many of these riffs are catchy, and they use extended interludes well. There’s just something missing at the center, sort of like there has been in modern life, where we wonder what the point of it all is. As it is, these songs leave us with a feeling of melancholy, having missed the bus to the land of adventure, and maybe a bit of dark loneliness. But after that, it is just decoration.

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Sammath signs to Hammerheart Records for “Godless Arrogance”

sammath-godless_arroganceDutch-German blazing black metal act Sammath, who are preparing to unleash their fifth album, Godless Arrogance, have signed to worldwide metal music label Hammerheart Records for the release of that album.

“I’m getting emails and telephone calls from people all over the world,” said Sammath guitarist/composer Jan Kruitwagen on the change that catapults them from a smaller metal label to worldwide distribution on par with Relapse and Nuclear Blast. The band is leaving its label of sixteen years, Folter Records, on amicable terms. “Joerg from Folter was actualy proud as fuck that we got signed to these guys and only wishes us well. It wasn’t easy telling him after 16 years on his label, but he understands.”

According to Kruitwagen, Hammerheart sought Sammath after hearing the demo tracks from the upcoming album and knowing the band for a long time. “The new tracks will destroy! Guido from Hammerheart knows what’s good,” he said. Believed by many to be the boldest step of the band’s career, Godless Arrogance combines the elegant melodies of Sammath‘s first album, Strijd, with the aggressive ripping death metal approach of their most popular work, Dodengang.

The band doesn’t plan to change a thing about their approach, which is old school technique and composition with an eye toward defiant independence. “We have lots of work left to do. All drums are recorded without triggers and everything is recorded live. Getting this all sounding like we want takes time. We do everything ourselves, no hands but ours will finnish this CD, except Peter Neuber for the master (Necrophobic, Revenge, Severe Torture),” Kruitwagen added.

Godless Arrogance will see release in “a couple of months at least,” but will not change its approach. “We need to make sure it all sounds up to mark, without losing the intense sound it already has,” said Kruitwagen. He added that despite a changing music industry, the band remains committed to its approach. He added, “let the music speak for itself.”

The tracklist for Sammath‘s Godless Arrogance will be:

1. Shot in mass
2. Fear upon them
3. Thrive in arrogance
4. Death (hunt them down)
5. This world must burn (hammer of supremacy)
6. Through filth and the remains of man
7. Nineteen corpses hang in the mist

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Helvete: A Journal of Black Metal Theory

helvete-a_journal_of_black_metal_theoryAs part of the burgeoning movement to understand metal and how it relates to the world, comes the first issue of Helvete: A Journal of Black Metal Theory. Although the title of the publication may imply that it is a technical analysis of black metal composition, this is not the case. As the back cover states, “Not to be confused with metal studies, music criticism, ethnography, or sociology, Black Metal Theory is a speculative and creative endeavor, one which seeks ways of thinking that count as Black Metal events — and indeed, to see how Black Metal might count as thinking.”

The book consists of about a half dozen short essays in a contemporary writing style, with full sourcing, complemented by some photographs of black metal musicians and landscapes. Subjects covered in the book range from suicide, ecocide, self-discovery, and more. Rather than treating black metal as both the beginning and end point of the book, it is instead the launching ground for exploration of how black metal’s spirit can find meaning in a cold and modernist world. The flaw in this is that some essays form a rather tenuous link to black metal, often distorted by what the authors want black metal to be, rather than what it actually is.

Of note for exploring this style is the essay by David Prescott-Steed with the admittedly disarming title of “Frostbite on my Feet: Representations of Walking in Black Metal Visual Culture”

Walking can be understood as a transitional practice whereby a person steps into, and through, a complex set of spatial and cognitive relationships. An example of such a theory of walking can be seen in the act of stepping through the doorway of a Gothic Cathedral (Notre Dame, for instance). Entering the westwork has long held physical and religious significance for Catholic devotees, symbolising one’s departure from a world in which a conceived God is incomprehensible and indeterminable (a transcendental space) into a space of communion with that God (an immanental space). Each step into the vast and ornate interior space of the nave, and beyond, comprises a transitional ritual that puts the walker in dialogue with the sacred.

The link to black metal given:

Truncated by the public’s engagement with the spectacle of Black Metal, the less exotic practice of walking nonetheless remains an important practice within the genre.Its significance can be seen in two recent documentaries on Black Metal: Vice Broadcasting System (VBS)’s True Norwegian Black Metal and Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell’s Until the Light Takes Us. In the first instance, Gaahl (the documentary’s leading figure and the former frontman of Gorgoroth) insists that the film crew join him on a long trek into the Norwegian tundra. The hike draws our attention to the meaningfulness of the journey and speaks to the aura of solitude and endurance, of a confrontation with the unknown and human potential. Gaahl enforces: “I become what never fails, following the footsteps behind me.” In Until the Light Takes Us, slow-motion footage of Darkthrone’s Fenriz walking along a snowy forest path seems to evoke similar notions of the shadows of former selves seeking an obscured locus of self-authenticity. Both examples illustrate the capacity of walking to communicate a deeply planted Black Metal aesthetic.

This is indicative of the book’s tendency to have a coherent and intelligent view to convey in the essay, but have the given connection to black metal be suspect. A better idea would be to focus on the music, rather than aesthetics. (What’s more solitary than Transilvanian Hunger? Reference this instead.)

Other questionable choices include analyzing the compositions of Wolves in the Throne Room as being the last gasp of nature in an increasingly concrete world, the apparently transcendent lyrics of a band calling itself Make a Change…Kill Yourself, and how a slashed black t-shirt stuck to a wall is representative of “Ornament and crime (Hvis Lyset Tar Oss)”.

These flaws aside, the content of these essays can be interesting in itself, such as the idea that portable music represents a shield between us and a decaying word; where black metal heralds its deconstruction and the triumph of the wilderness, praise of the physical action of exploration, and how all worthwhile knowledge is achieved through struggle.

For people (like this author), who were hoping for a measured and academic analysis of black metal’s original music, meaning, and spirit, you will probably be disappointed. However, if one views the book as a collection of reasonably intelligent contemporary writers exploring unpopular subjects in the shadow of an often misunderstood genre, you will perhaps find something of interest.

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