The Elusive Sound

Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

While it may appear pandering to many that we constantly bring certain albums to the forefront of our discussion, the reason for doing this is that the state of maturity which metal as a whole attained was only able to knock on the door of the mysterious experience transmitted through music. Different albums discovered different doorways, uncovered overgrown pathways, and scaled mountains. Ildjarn found contemplation of the absolute in the eye of stormy rage through elated freneticism. At the Gates reached hitherto unmatched heights of craft and musicality. All rasping and scratching while blindfolded,  a crossing of the threshold by different means and interpretations. Fewer still are the music albums, metal or otherwise, which struck at a purity of sound that needed no interpretation.

Burzum – Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (1994)

It is compulsory to mention this album’s regard for the listener’s total experience as Burzum took him on a journey beyond life and death, something which the music alone transmits, but which the composer of this immortal music has verified as part of his intent [1]. The use of the instruments is not ‘technical’ per se but, contrary to erroneous perceptions given the straightforwardness of the expression in singular moments, it is highly profficient and is minimalist in the only way that approaches the ideal of balance and perfection: by stating exactly the necessary, and unobstructing, unhindering, as an ethereal current that lifts the soul. The album can prove to be a task to listen in full however, because it is designed to absorb the listener’s whole attention and drag him away, and is thus not suitable to listen while doing anything else but looking up at the stars, hiking outdoors or inside a dark room. And while the fourth and last track on this album, entirely recorded with a synthesizer, is outstanding and one of a kind, it is highly suggested that it only be savored as part of the whole.

Darkthrone – Transilvanian Hunger (1994)

Imitated and vituperated beyond count or success, Transilvanian Hunger evades all who attempt to get to close by way of simplistic means of understanding. Those who would adopt its minimalist techniques invariably fail catastrophically, and those who would denounce this dark minimalism find themselves tripping over their words as their criticism misses the mark, unable to locate the actual blemish upon careful inspection. Fury surges upwards above the human condition voidwards as a streak of pure energy, unhindered by form yet distinct in its character. There are stark parallels in technique between Transilvanian Hunger and Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, but the original and strong-willed minds of the composers take the listener through experiences so different from each other that they have often been suspected to be the progenitors of two sub-genres. The latter, however, is a grave mistake. The closeness of these two works is unquestionable, being defined by the same techniques, constrained to similar effects and complementing philosophical views —in short, belonging under a same aesthetic umbrella.

Morton Feldman – Rothko Chapel (1971)

Much of the classical music of the 20th century is focused on this search for an elusive sound beyond the notes themselves, beyond notation, beyond theory. Trying to find this sound through the use of notation and theory is again the self-contradictory problem with many of the foremost attempts, including those of Schoenberg and even Messiaen [2].  Morton Feldman succeeded in Rothko Chapel in displaying a sensibility for the sounds themselves without divesting the organization of sense and continuity, albeit a more ethereal one. Furthermore, this is accomplished without abandoning the use of the human voice or traditional instruments, an unfortunately popular gimmick among the more talentless hipsters of academia and the “artistic” world. It avoids the excesses of modern “atmospheric” classical composers such as Górecki, and even —or especially— Feldman himself. Rothko Chapel is actually one of Feldman’s shortest compositions, with the tendency towards the search for alienation and pure sound making the composer extend in the extreme. [3]


[1] “Lyrically: In right order; first death, dying and the memory of what once was, then wondering, if the light take us, the light who burns us, dehydrate and hurt us, the journey to Valhalla, Wotans hall, a ride towards Valhalla, in a way life itself, seeking death. Lastly the peace of complete emptyness, after a long, speedful ride through life. Calm, peace, sleep. I made this album actually to exhaust myself before I go to sleep, exhausted I sleep, fall asleep in emptyness – the final track.” Burzum Genocide zine interview:

[2] Messiaen arguably did allow himself a more savage intrusion. We have referred to his organ music before in the article Olivier Messiaen plays Olivier Messiaen (1956):

[3] More graspable but equally otherworldly works, and favorites of this article’s author, are Ligeti’s Violin Concerto and the famous Tabula Rasa of Arvo Pärt.

Tags: , , , , , ,

32 thoughts on “The Elusive Sound”

  1. Necronomeconomist says:

    “we constantly bring certain albums to the forefront of our discussion,”

    Was someone up your ass about Hellhammer & “Satanic Rites”? Lol. Lord knows you, D.A.R.G., have treated that extensively elsewhere. Rightfully so. That’s awesome. Nowadays, younger niggas especially need some grounding in the classics, and are possibly to hyper and Internet-addled to even comprehend those.

    As a sidenote, the new site is awesome. NEW in the new editorship, or overarching presence of D.A.R.G. It’s hard to believe that this same domain hosted the propagandist Daniel Maarat, the vicious and vainglorious Brock Dorsey, and their gossipy articles. Things have become sober and restrained.

    Comments have pretty much fallen off a cliff. Maybe the curation has discouraged the nonsensical? Or are those types just unmoved by D’s writing?
    Remember that nigga Rainier Weisenkat or whatever?
    Even the boy with that tranny-raper schtick.

    So, right on.

    1. D.A.R.G. says:

      It’s rather for emphasis that I mention it.

      It takes more time for the audience to shift in the quality of individuals.

      Yeah, I wonder where Rainer went.
      We’d be glad to have Rainer writing for us, actually, given the fact that he wrote enough in the comments section to fill several long articles.
      Too bad he never actually did write to volunteer.

      1. Lance V says:

        I’m 90% sure Rainer did submit something and maraat deemed it too autistic.

        1. BlackPhillip says:

          Maraat could do with a little autism.

      2. Thewaters says:

        The format of the comment section is not all that conducive to ongoing dialogue imo. You should re-open the forums.

    2. whatever is dead says:

      I think the lack of comments is from the censorship. I miss some of the anarchy and humor in the comments but the site being an actual forum for discussion of metal music by people who are really into it is worth the sacrifice. Right tool for the job.

      1. whatever is dead says:

        oh, rereading your comment, I think you gathered that already.

  2. Necronomeconomist says:

    P.S. D.A.R.G., do you mess with death metal much? Besides At The Gates, I can’t recall that you’ve written on it.

    1. D.A.R.G. says:

      I just shifted mentally from death metal to black metal. For me it was DLA: (early) Vader -> (early) Morbid Angel -> [DLA top 10] -> (early) At the Gates ->>>>>>>>>> BLACK METAL IS THE ANSWER.

      I wasn’t looking for entertainment or “cool stuff”.

      Just as speed metal and all the technical mess and fiddling around with hardcore in the 80s is just a premonition and step for death metal, death metal is just an experiment trying to bring on the far superior and purer expression of Black Metal.

      Anyway, black metal was already present in essence since early Bathory (The Return) and Hellhammer.

  3. ballsack melanoma says:

    2 and a half minutes into HLTO’s title track is basically my favorite moment in music ever. I could autistically listen to it on a loop over and over

  4. gimmeafuckinbreak says:

    Sorry, but that Morton Feldman stuff feels a lot like a ripoff of the more ambient parts on Gustav Holst’s opus The Planets, specifically Neptune, which plays continuously in my head while I listen to this piece. It’s not totally bad, just unoriginal, and because of it being derivative it has absolutely no place next to the groundbreaking works of Burzum and Darkthrone.

    Also, that cover, and the Rothko Chapel itself: what a piece of postmodern art crap! If the main idea of this entire school of though is to establish a rapport with the viewer by giving him ‘freedom of imagination’ when standing in front of stupidly simplistic paintings, then I’ll pass. Some guy painting simple blue and red canvases that say nothing for a chapel that says nothing for people that have nothing to believe in anymore – how lame is that!

    1. ballsack melanoma says:

      yeah. I love Brett (platonically), really, I do. but when it comes to the whole anus triad of metal-classical-ambient, anus/its extentions has never been able to cultivate itself on the latter two a fraction as well as their grasp of metal.

      needs more early techno or even jungle, less muzak ambient and A E S T H E T I C/meme electronic.
      more Mozart and indulgent late Romantics, less nobody Italian baroque composers.

      1. D.A.R.G. says:

        Corelli and Locatelli were not “nobodies”…

  5. paranoid says:

    As far as metal albums with a purity of sound, what about Dol Guldur and Stormcrowfleet?

    1. D.A.R.G. says:

      Masterpieces that stand out beyond “genre”: I place those two next to Blood Fire Death.

  6. whatever is dead says:

    I saw Kenny Broberg play Nicolai Medtner’s sonata in e minor, aka “Night Wind”, and it was one of the best musical performances I’d ever seen. Nothing beats the Russians for a sense of alienation and emotional turmoil.

    I like the direction the site is going in. The last couple of editors had nothing to say about good or even merely interesting modern metal. They didn’t really seem too interested in music at all. Most black metal after the first wave isn’t really my cup of tea, and the modern blackened-death-in-a-cave sound doesn’t do much for me either, but at least you make an effort to expose some of the more substantial stuff. And revisiting the classics is never a bad idea. For the record though, I thought a lot of Brock’s writing was pretty funny and some of it was brilliant. But I don’t visit this site for yuks. I do it to learn about good metal and what inspires it. So keep it up.

    PS: I want to get around to writing that article on the Lucifer Principle but I’ve been real busy. It’s coming sometime.

  7. Satan akbar says:

    “this is accomplished without abandoning the use of the human voice or traditional instruments, an unfortunately popular gimmick among the more talentless hipsters of academia and the “artistic” world”

    using real instruments and the human voice is a gimmicky for hispters?

    1. D.A.R.G. says:

      Either you or I have to check our logical construction of sentences.

      1. Satan akbar says:

        it’s just seem like you guys are trying to hate on metal and say it’s for hispters i think you are catering to the massing in demonizing metal and getting ride of brutal comments do i have to call lord satan about this and have him clear things up?

        1. D.A.R.G. says:

          Nobody is hating on metal.
          Your comments are being trashed when you write garbage.
          They are not “brutal,” but rather, “retarded”.

          1. Satan akbar says:

            this is how you speak to the small amount of people that come here for metal knowledge you call them garbage? how would you feel if someone insulted your mom or ur family members?

            1. D.A.R.G. says:

              Nobody called you garbage.
              I called some of your comments garbage.
              Be glad they have not been made public.

              Try this: start your own brutal band, train like a soldier, read Nietzsche.

              1. Satan akbar says:

                now you are playing the Victum i have not done anything to you and you are acting like i tried to kill you if you would just learn to chill and neissizesite then maybe you will learn something

                1. D.A.R.G. says:

                  What are you even talking about?

                2. whatever is dead says:

                  for fucks sake, wake up man.

                3. It is time to stop posting, friend. Nobody knows what you are trying to communicate.

              2. ballsack melanoma says:

                >read Nietzsche.

                we’re not 13 anymore, we’re already over that phase

                1. D.A.R.G. says:

                  Impressive thought, and common among Internet pseudo-intellectuals and other ignoramuses: “Nietzsche is for teenagers.”
                  I doubt most people can understand Nietzsche’s ‘grain’ in their whole lives.

  8. Frozenlake says:

    Hello, i’ve been coming here for a while, and enjoyed many articles, I feel there has been very positive change lately, as exemplified by this article, which to my nowledge is the first time Feldman has been discussed alongside black metal classics. I find this very stimulating and an avenue to be pursued further. Now, how about we clarify the aestetics/politics aspect of this site? Alt right or not? I do read Brett Stevens on I may not be articulating this properly but can you clarify somehow where you guys stand today? Of course i can figure out a lot on my own but still, is there diversity or homogeneity at editorizl level? Rest assured that the leftist tendencies do irk me as much as anyone around here, i just think that some manifesto would make sense now that the site is renewing itself. Maybe a dumb idea, let me know.

  9. Frozenlake says:

    Thanks, i remember that post, and even more its comment thread. I’m happy the site is ficusing primarily on the music and agree it needs to be grounded in a worldview exemplified by the strong presence throughout history of an involved, usually ‘divinely’ inspired worldview in music of aesthetic quality. I like the musicological analyses made here, and would like these to be applied more systematically, if feasible. This would balance out the more subjective slant that seems quite prevalent within the metal community and here as well. For me, an analysis of motifs and structures is always helpful to better grasp quality music as it helps the brain perceive more clearly what is rather than what it thinks there is. A lot like when turning on the subtitles on a foreign movie helps decipher the sounds of an unknown language.
    I’m looking forward to more reviews of black metal that currently garners much acclaim without, from my point if view at least, fully deserving it. You covered Funeral Mist. How about Gaerea? Anicon? Or even the latest Skeletonwitch? And i was surprised in a good way by the new Immortal despite you calling the project a cash-grab. I found it very listenable as a respectful/trditionalist take on second wave tropes. Thanks.

  10. Hessian Murderer of Black Death says:

    I might give this site a new chance since it has improved recently

Comments are closed.

Classic reviews: