Black Metal Is Not Surf Rock

Hipster Youtuber Sam Sutherland suggested in a click bait video uploaded to his This Exists channel earlier this year that black metal is musically the same as the surf rock of the early 60s. This Exists goes on further to suggest that the best metal is heavily influenced by other non-metal musical genres citing such non-metal works as Mastodon‘s Leviathan being influenced by Moby Dick and Kanye West by Pablo Picasso. Sutherland, like many musically ignorant persons, confuses lyrical influence and playing technique with genre, intent, and goal.

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“A Fatal Acquaintance”

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Varg Vikernes uploaded another black metal history video to his ThuleanPerspective Youtube channel. In A Fatal Acquaintance (Euronymous, April 1991 – August 1993), the Burzum creator summarizes his relationship with Euronymous prior to their fatal fight on August 10th, 1993. Varg explains how the Mayhem guitarist was a fat Communist who stole the money used to preorder Burzum records and sunk it into his money pit Helvete record shop in Oslo.

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Good Friday Crucifixion Playlist

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Billions celebrate Constantine’s syncretic solar deity’s crucifixion by eating fish today. Here’s a playlist of seven classic speed and death metal songs to contemplate this excruciating Roman suffocation method:

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Youtuber “generates” technical metal with randomisation

So perhaps procedurally generated music and chance based (aleatoric) music isn’t either, but sometimes, it’s interesting (at least from a vague ‘intellectual’ perspective) to hear these ideas applied to metal music. In today’s case, we have guitarist Pete Cottrell playing “randomly generated” metal, which was created by using various sources of randomness (dice, Scrabble tiles, computerized pseudorandom number generation) to determine several properties of the music. In this case, however, only a song fragment’s tempo, time signature, and key signature were randomly generated; as far as I can tell, everything else was written and composed by the guitarist.

This latter point offers me a few bits of discussion. The first is that the next logical step would perhaps be to apply randomization to the actual riff-writing process, creating note and rhythm progressions that could end up difficult to play or simply very chaotic based on whatever algorithm was used. A synthesizer like Native Instrument’s Flesh might come in handy, although its timbral/textural relevance to metal is debatable. The other thing that occurred to me while I watched this video was that a ‘random’ compositional style on its own isn’t likely to create particularly well planned and arranged music. I wouldn’t be surprised if even the more fanatical devotees of the technique ended up using their own efforts to jam random fragments into a more sensible shape. Until the upcoming wave of strong generalist AI outpaces us at most cognitive tasks, though, there are limits to how much randomly generated we’ll hear.

Pete Cottrell has some other videos that may be of interest to metal performers, generally focused around equipment and recording technique.

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Bands and labels, please put your stuff on YouTube

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Bands, labels and artists… we need to have a little talk about YouTube. Specifically, the absence of your official and legitimate releases on YouTube uploaded by you so that royalties go to the bands.

Like many of us, I work in an office. There are many like it, but this one is mine. I have a computer where I am expected to do work. But who is fooled? Most “work” gets done in a few hours in the morning, and the rest of the day is dodging meetings and doing paperwork.

While I have this sort of expensive computer, fat internet access, and these nice Harmon/Kardon speakers, I like to put all this high technology to use as a $4 radio. A $4 radio where I can choose what the DJ plays.

I use YouTube to find music, like many others. The reason is simple: almost no workplaces filter YouTube, and no evidence is left behind. I am not keeping pirated music on my computer and I am not pirating music. I am watching videos. True, these videos seem to feature only the cover image of an album while music (just coincidentally from that album) plays. But nonetheless, technicallyTM they are videos.

Many of you do the same.

I have a problem with this situation. When I want to check out, say, an early death metal classic, I type it in the search blank on YouTube. Then a video comes up. But it does not belong to the band, the label, the musicians, their family, dogs or friends. It belongs to some random guy named “BronyThugLife69” from Hoboken.

Why does this matter? As I type this email, the Deicide video I am enjoying has 132,068 views. At the royalty rate that YouTube pays, which is about 1/10 of a cent per play, that means BronyThugLife69 has earned over a thousand dollars for this video. He’s making bank for the simple act of pasting a cover image onto an MP3, uploading it to YouTube and not getting busted.

Now I click on BronyThugLife69’s profile. Oh look — he has not ten, not a hundred, but a thousand videos. It takes about five minutes to paste ten MP3s and a cover image into a video creation program, save to WMV, and upload to YouTube. If only a hundred people click on each of his videos per month, he’s making a professional salary.

Now, you may ask, why do I not simply upload my own versions of my favorite bands?

Unlike BronyThugLife69, I do not want to make money from someone else’s work. This band wrote the music, got a record contract, recorded the album, promoted it and toured on it. They deserve the money. I could always upload videos without receiving compensation, but that is a boring hobby and I get nothing from it.

Since YouTube is unlikely to go away in the near future, people like me will continue to use it. Bands and labels should, instead of blowing off this opportunity, upload their own albums and make sure the checks go to the band. If they are too lazy to do this, I will do it for them for a royalty of ten percent of their royalties.

This is not difficult. People will listen to your music either way. You can take it down, but that requires constant vigilance because someone else will in turn upload the missing Deicide video. If the band uploads it, the cash goes directly to them.

Is YouTube piracy? Probably, but not really. Most of us are checking out new music or listening to favorites we own back at home. We don’t care that the sound quality is not good. Most will use earphones, or these tiny desktop speakers, because we are in noisy environments or quiet ones and we have to hide the evil devil metal we are enjoying from our coworkers who might exorcise and eviscerate us if they knew.

If you bands and labels could get your act together and upload your own stuff, you would enable me to enjoy guilt-free listening to classics while I file these TPS reports. Me, and millions of other faceless workers at anonymous jobs in generic companies across the world, would really appreciate it.

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