Swedish Death Metal – Daniel Ekeroth

March 23, 2010 –
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Swedish Death Metal by Daniel Ekeroth is an easy and enjoyable read that recounts the glory years of Swedish Death Metal told in large part through the mouths of those who actually lived it. Ekeroth presents the history of Swedish death metal, focusing mainly on the release of seminal albums and demos, and the means by which fanzines and tape trading played a role in the development and proliferation of the Swedish death metal genre. This is definitely a worthwhile read if one is looking for a chronology of all of the important bands, namely Bathory, Nihilist/Entombed, Dismember, At the Gates, and Therion, that played an important role in the development and consolidation of Swedish Death Metal. Additionally, the layout of the book is such that it is easily navigable, making use of handy headings, subheadings and band headings, which also make this a great quick-reference text. However compelling, it is a slight draw back that the various snapshots throughout the book interrupt the flow of the read, and are laid out in such a way as to provide a distraction. One may be better off reading the book through and then returning to the snapshots at a later date.

In addition to analyzing the careers of many important Swedish Death Metal bands, Ekeroth indulges the curiosity of the reader and earns additional merit for mentioning important non-Swedish bands such as Master and Deathstrike, and for emphasizing the role of Morbid Angel in the overall development of Death Metal. Interestingly, the author seems at pains to make sure that the reader understands the relationship between Crustcore, Punk, and Metal and adds some welcome depth to his account of Swedish Death Metal by mentioning Discharge, whose strumming style and melody would influence countless metal bands. If you are looking for a chronology of the glory days of Swedish Death Metal, this book proves enlightening. Thankfully, there is little mention of Slaughter of the Soul and second rate Swedish bands such as In Flames and Soilwork that would later hijack, dilute and all but destroy this once living art form.

With that said, readers beware! Ekeroth has a tendency to try and convince his reader that death metal was all about “fun” back in the day and tends to present the extracurricular activities, namely drinking and partying, as the highlights of many bands careers. Although Ekeroth’s goal was to tell the history of important bands, releases and tours, I believe this book could have been improved had Ekeroth attempted to explore the philosophical underpinnings of this genre and refrained from presenting Metal culture as simply an offshoot or replication of self-indulgent rock culture. New frontiers await those willing to explore this aspect of Swedish Death Metal and Ekeroth’s book may in fact prove to be a trailblazer. Time Shall Tell.

-TheWaters-

The Sacred and the Profane

April 17, 2009 –
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Mircea Eliade from Romania is one of the most publically revered figures on history of religion and the philosophy of religion, even though at one point he had an interest in Garda de Fier, the Romanian fascist movement contemporary with Mussolini. Among his vast corpus of work, this treatise concerning primarily what it is that men perceive as sacred, is one of the most read and debated ones.

The point of talking about this book is that it’s the most succinct and lucid introduction to the concepts of sanctity and ritual from a neutral perspective. Theology is obsessed with the Christian material and the occultists are obsessed with whatever it is they are obsessed with at the time. Eliade, on the other hand, is remarking on the intention of ritual and temples, cosmogonical myths and how civilization deals with the problem of adjusting to time, the great destroyer, and nature/environment, the great nurturing force. It is not surprising that one finds a lot in common with the ideals of Nietzsche and Evola, such as the concept of cyclical time and eternal return. In stressing the otherness of that which is perceived as sacred, he has interesting parallels to Jungian psychology and seems to foreshadow Foucault.

I believe this book is most helpful to understanding the character of mystical and religious experience and ritual, which has a definite part in metal culture whether in the hippie-tinged early psychedelia, the archaic revivalism of black metal or death metal’s explorations of the religious-psychotic mind. Eliade’s book does have its problems such as putting forward of very generalized statements, some unclear arguments and stylistically the writing is rather bouncing. Yet it is very descriptive, luscious and inspiring. Besides being a scientist, it’s obvious that he is also fulfilling some artistic, visionary and personal aims with this study.

-Devamitra-

Gary Valentine Lachman – Turn Off Your Mind

April 9, 2009 –
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When it appeared, I thought this book mostly worthless, because from a few glances the factual errors, opininiated attitude and the fact that it’s aimed at hipsters who ironically appreciate the counterculture were obvious. Lately I have changed my mind: this is a valuable book for beginners who are wondering about the new age, cult and heretical obsessions from Lovecraft to Crowley, Manson to Castaneda and parallel topics that inflitrated heavy metal from the beginning and even more obviously death and black metal. The writer Lachman has previously contributed to the underground through his work in early post-punk bands Blondie and Television. He comes across as a honest and astute writer, even though his ultra-liberalism causes him to be very unobjective when facing topics such as nazism and murder – it seems he sometimes chooses not to see the context.

The best part is that obviously he himself was very much oriented from a young age towards the topics of the occult in the same spirit as old death and black metallers were: picking up those parts that seem to benefit the empowerment of man, reveal the experience of the mystical in life and reach towards transcendence no matter how “crazy” deemed by the public. And despite the aforementioned shunning of brutal elements in Western culture and counterculture, his conclusions tend to be sane and without the excessive burden of moralism. Overall, while labeled as a book about the 60′s, possibly for marketing reasons, in describing the threads that connected popular culture to esoteric practice throughout the whole century it’s a better guide to reveal the spiritual tendencies behind death metal, from Morbid Angel’s deities to Deicide’s blasphemy, than books that are actually about death metal itself.

-Devamitra-