Recent publications on Death Metal Underground have triggered yet another group of self-entitled Dark Gurus and Awoken Entities of the Left Hand Path™, when the unholy names of some of the popular idols of the Satanic™ niche market group were apparently besmirched by people who simply do not think that the music in question is very good.
The grounds for this opinion rested on the simple perception of music as a form of communication and the knowledge and experience of the way black metal (and underground metal in general) aesthetics work; these are open to any with a sense of logic and understanding and in no moment alludes to ad hominem authority per se, but rather the sense of balanced, sensible consideration of the material at hand, which is always debatable.
Sarpanitum’s Blessed Be My Brothers was one of Death Metal Underground’s rejected albums for the Best of 2015. The album initially showed promise. The introductory track, “Komenos”, presents the audience with Sarpanitum’s combination of chromatic death metal riffs, melodic heavy metal leads, Unique Leader Records brutality, and Emperor-like use of a melotron to approximate medieval polyphony to anchor the concept album’s theme of the Crusades.
“By Virtuous Reclamation” surges forth with soaring, harmonized guitars calling for the conquest of the Holy Land continuing into an Immolation style rhythm riff. A break starts the counterpointed dissonant riffing in the Unique Leader style that variates logically enough for Pope Urban II to call for crusade against the heathen Saracens with a metalcore scream, providing a harbinger of the randomness to come. The band returns to the opening riff minus the accompanying lead. The lead’s eventual return signals the start of the Emperor melotron. A sudden slowdown for a cheesy emotional solo continues into the original riffs, climaxing into a polyphonic blend of every musical element and texture. The song barely avoids falling on its face on the way to to the finish line.
The second real song, “Truth” opens directly with Unique Leader riff salad. The Emperor worship is only to plant listeners in a Western European medieval mindset to distract them from the fact the tension built up by the dissonant riffing is never appropriately resolved. The emotional stadium rock solos are just as disconnected from the death metal as the Emperor aping. “Glorification Upon the Bones of the Sundered Dead” better glues the riffs together but still resorts to emotional, Slash-style solos to impart the triumph of the Siege of Jerusalem.
If Blessed Be My Brothers had ended there, it would have been a disparate but listenable concept album. Instead Sarpanitum use the second half to tell the Muslim side of the later Crusades through similarly flawed but less effective songs. This isn’t just a 180 degree change in perspective: the band added another of their heavy metal heroes to the blender. Ersatz Gorguts riffing plus even more masturbatory glam rock solos leads distract from the effective atmospheric and brutal elements. The songs turn even more so into senseless technical deaf metal with Emperor rendered down into pop hooks.
The drastic changes of viewpoint and influence betray the album’s semi-successful first half. The atmosphere of Western mysticality established using Emperor to approximate a polyphonic medieval choir is wrecked by the hippie drum circle interlude, “I Defy For I Am Free”. Blessed Be My Brothers is a postmodern, apologetic Frankenstein. Wikipedia “neutral point of view” metal for meek liberals is antithetical to Emperor’s classical triumph and heavy metal’s “Compassion is the vice of kings: stamp down the wretched and the weak,” virtus.
This product exemplifies the fraud perpetrated upon American consumers, with those consumers as willing participants, by the food industry. The name is cute; the graphic design is great; the theory (backed by an ideology of health by avoiding evils) is impeccable: gluten-free without having to say so, non-GMO, low-fat, low-salt and low-sugar. In other words, they have made junk food without the evil-ness of junk food.
Except for one problem: they taste — almost literally — like heat-pressed cardboard, with undertones of old garage dust. To say they are tasteless is not so in the same way that tap water is not tasteless; the taste of Beanitos, however, resembles nothing like a chip, which is not a bad thing, but nothing like good, which is a terrible thing. Here we see the fallacy of trying to make good by removing evil alone; one must actively intend to do good, and remove evil to that end, but without the corresponding filling-of-the-void with good, what is left is not evil but entropy. An ashen heat-death of absent flavor and questionable nutrition, clearly fleeing from our fears of high-fat high-salt high-sugar McDonald’s style junk food, but not making it to the other extreme of Real Food. Instead, you have the junk food with the evils removed and the remainder is a jumble of mediocrities.
Original Black Bean With Sea Salt chips are great for any gathering that is essentially political. That is, if you are swimming in acquaintances who are obsessed with veganism, gluten, cholesterol, salt and other scapegoats for their poor health — which can be cured by moving to the suburbs and getting some exercise, for the most part, unless they are outright doomed by bad genetics — these Beanitos chips are a good compromise that will not offend anyone. They will not make them enjoy the experience, but many people judge life based on ideology and not enjoyment or beauty or truth or any other of those old-fashioned things, and so if your audience is suitably neurotic, they will claim to like these. But beware: they are not good, nor flavorful, nor really useful as chips. We tried feeding them to grackels and they gave us the finger (feather?) and flew away.
The history of Western music did not begin in the baroque period. A continuous musical tradition can be traced back at least as far as the early middle ages and this music itself has links to the musical traditions of ancient Greece. Much of this music fell into relative obscurity due to its notation and the anonymity of its composers, however throughout the 20th century a concerted effort on the part of scholars and performers has resulted in a revival of much of the music of the middle-ages and the renaissance. This series will present selections of music from the middle-ages and the renaissance together with some historical and philosophical background along with reflections on why it is relevant to metalheads.
The earliest medieval music that has been preserved to the present day is monophonic, that is to say it consists of a single melodic line without a harmonic accompaniment. This music has mainly been preserved in the form of the sacred chants of both the Catholic and Orthodox churches. The chants associated with the Catholic church are relatively well known to Western ears as Gregorian chant, whereas the chants of the Orthodox church are less familiar.
From a purely technical standpoint these pieces are interesting due to their use of different modes (scales) and the fact that they focus on pure melody, rather than using melodic lines that conform to a harmonic structure. This approach will not be entirely unfamiliar to metal listeners given that death metal in particular tends to utilise melodic lines which are not rooted to a particular harmonic scheme. From an artistic standpoint these chants are also of interest to metal listeners. Their contemplative and reverent nature speaks to a mentality more aligned with metal than with modern incarnations of Christianity and suggest an understanding of that religion which has long since been forgotten.
The following is an example of Byzantine chant (the chant of the Greek Orthodox Church). Note that it utilises a vocal drone which is not entirely static but moves away from and returns to the tonic note of the mode in order to create tension and resolution. This technique may be considered a predecessor of modern harmony but the music is still essentially focused on melodic material.
The same SJWs in journalism and the media zombies who follow them want to destroy the black metal idea further by forcing it to include another genre of thought which conflicts utterly with its own, this time Christianity (in addition to the politically correct navel-gazing that provoked #metalgate). As reported in Metal Injection, Christian “black metal” is being mainstreamed:
Accuse me of not being kvlt enough, but I’ve always felt that black metal was better defined by the sound and not so much the message. We all know that black metal has signature sounds to it, and that both heavy and satanic music exists without being under the label of black metal. Having this mindset has let me into the world of unblack metal, and allowed me to understand and appreciate the goals of these bands. There’s just something intriguing about a group of Christians getting into a scene of music created with goals that specifically includes their persecution.
He says it clearly enough there: we know this is against what you believe, but we’re going to force your genre into generic status (“better defined by sound and not so much the message”) so that you are manipulated into accepting our propaganda. Whether it is Christian propaganda or SJW neurotic propaganda, the result is the same: the destruction of your genre by making it paradoxical.
I have a better idea. Let’s crucify some SJWs so their zombie political correctness gets recognized for the religion that it is, and then nail up the Christian metal bands so they can go to their holy deliverance and leave our genre alone. Then put the heads on pikes to warn others that we do not want your crazy world invading our oasis of sanity and refuge in which we can actually express a true thought without worrying about who it will offend. Fuck off!
In the process of turning everything into a product, Ohio’s Heavy Metal Church combines Christian worship with heavy metal, and in the process reduces both to caricatures of themselves.
To put it in a nutshell, we are a non-denomination, Bible-based Church in a comfortable atmosphere with great music! Our congregation consists of people from all walks of life and age groups. We don’t care what you wear because we just want you there! Our Church has no racial, ethnic or gender barriers and we could care less about your past or present life. We only care about your FUTURE life in Christ! Most people want God in their lives, but think they must clean up first before coming to Christ… You don’t clean up before you jump in the shower, do you? God wants you EXACTLY the way you are at this very moment. As long as you actively seek God, He will actively seek you, and the Holy Spirit will gently clean you up along the way.
This shows a shift from traditional church logic, which is that religion represents a spiritual force (“God”) which is unchanging and immutable, and that humanity has never changed since its inception, so there is a stability in the constancy of belief and its conventions. Back then, the goal was to get the individual to move closer to God. Now, as if selling cheeseburgers, the goal is to sell the church to the individual by making the church more like the everyday life of that individual.
Hence… Heavy Metal Church.
Christian purists and heavy metal purists alike will feel repelled by this abomination that combines a music dedicated to being separate from social conventions and a religion that at its heart feels it should not bend to social conventions. On one, the social convention imposed is a genre of mostly-entertainment, and on the other, the social convention imposed is church and being nice to people even if they’re idiots.
As Vice magazine reports, the heavy metal church is not that far removed from other “contemporary” worship services which feature rock music and the word of Jeeezus all in the same handy product package:
“We’re going to have healing, redemption, salvation, and deliverance take place here today,” says assistant Pastor Ron, from the front of the auditorium. Pastor Ron is a bearded guy who, if he were in a motorcycle movie, would probably be nicknamed “Tiny.”
“Woo!” goes the crowd.
Then the music starts. It’s a head-thrashing, blood-pumping tune, with decidedly Jesusy lyrics: “I believe / How about you / I believe / It’s true / I believe in him!” We bang our heads.
“Get your hands clapping! Come on!” says the guitarist wearing black who plays Judas Priest–style guitar with his combo.
Heavy metal fan Jacob Andrew Crockett was nearly beheaded by Christian zealot Isaiah Zoar Martin after the latter engaged in a binge of drug use and watching Christian-themed videos on YouTube, resulting in the untimely death of Crockett and police detention for Martin.
The defendant’s brother also told police “Isaiah had been watching YouTube videos related to his Christian beliefs and the Book of Matthew” earlier.
During Isaiah Marin’s 911 call, “the caller began rambling about sacrificing and magic,” according to the affidavit. “Asked how … he murdered someone, Isaiah stated, ‘I hacked them to death with a machete.’”
In August, on one of his Facebook pages, Isaiah Marin wrote, “Tried to take on a demon and God had to help me through the tough parts. Got to be careful with my words and pay closer attention to my emotions. Need to figure out how to keep on speaking when I’m with the presence of the Lord God.”
Murder victim Crockett spent his time in local bands Dungeön and Toxic Injection before they fragmented late last year, and was a fan of widely varied metal bands including Dying Fetus and Mayhem. He apparently had feuded with Martin in the past over Crockett’s ongoing experimentation in various occult beliefs, a practice presumed related to his heavy metal fandom.
He says Isaiah followed him, trying to calm him down and “would explain why he killed Jacob from letters he would write while he was in prison.”
Samuel told police Crockett and Isaiah had disagreements in the past.
He said Jacob Crockett and his brother, Jesse, “were practicing witchcraft and Isaiah had strong Christian beliefs.”
For many years, Hessians have received zero protection from persecution or violence by those of other faiths. According to many metalheads, heavy metal is its own religion. While right now people might view this beheading and other anti-metalhead violence as the case of isolated extremists picking on someone else for a lifestyle choice, it is more accurate to view it as a clash between members of competing faiths. From persecution of metalheads in Muslim lands to Christian demands for censorship in the USA and now this violent assault, the tension rises.
I can only imagine the media response will not be so muted if heavy metal fans decide to start defending themselves by beheading Christians who seem likely to commit crimes out of religious antagonism. According to the articles above, Martin prepared for his crime by watching YouTube videos with Christian themes. Perhaps metalheads should be extra wary when members of other religions are nearby watching videos… and arm themselves for the inevitable clash.
Some time ago, Jon Wild relayed a local news write-up about Amarillo-based death metal band Abolishment of Flesh. I am a part of Death Metal Underground, and I live in Amarillo. I’ve gotten to know these folks, and I thought I’d offer a follow up. I can say without reservation that they are as great as the best of people one finds anywhere. Since moving here 14 years ago, I’ve found I had trouble finding a niche. The ostensibly Christian veneer of this region fades rather quickly when it becomes known that one does not practice some variety (or in my case, no variety) of faith. That sense of alienation grows when one prefers Pentagram CDs to Pentacostal services. So outside the people I knew from work, I really didn’t associate much with the local population. As metalhead and loner from way back, this arrangement suited me just fine. Solitude trumps solicitousness any day, and twice on Sunday.
Then, as Brett Stevens reported earlier this year, a long-time dream came true for me. I offered a college course in heavy metal. As a result of this class and the monumentally fantastic people in it, I started to become acquainted with the local metal scene. A couple of my students were in metal bands, and a couple of others were involved in the campus radio metal show, The Rocket. So when a trivia question about death metal arose on The Rocket, I called in and won tickets to the West Texas Death Fest (WTDF). And as the cliché goes, it changed my life.
Abolishment of Flesh.
When I walked into the show, I saw ink, piercings, gothic scripts, black t-shirts. I learned rather quickly that the black t-shirts covered hearts of gold. A former student was taking tickets. Two students met me there. The promoters of WTDF, who had offered the trivia question, were waiting for me. They knew who I was, and I was welcomed with a hug. Facebook friendships formed. I learned that they were also a local metal band called Abolishment of Flesh, which is supremely ironic because instead of abolishing flesh, they live to sustain the good fortunes of everyone they know. In any event, I got to know Jess (promoter) and Ramon (guitarist/ vocalist) Cazares over the next few months. I think of them as the hearts of local metal. Hearts, plural. I went to see Abolishment of Flesh and kept tabs on their national Brutal Alliance tour, in which they partnered with New Mexico neighbors Fields of Elysium. Par for the course, the bands shared everything along the way. It was part tour (death metal overground, I like to call it), part family vacation. I also became an avid follower of local metalcore band Sixgun Serenade — the rhythm section of which comprises two former students of mine — who are at work on an album to follow up 2013’s The Avenue of the Giants. I’ve gotten to know their families. In much the same way a “church home” may sustain some people; I found my niche in the local metal community. These are my people.
A few weeks ago, The Rocket again hosted Abolishment of Flesh in the studio as guests to talk about their forthcoming CD Creation to Extinction. On that day, I wore the band’s t-shirt to all my classes and changed my profile picture on Facebook to reflect that. I made my cover picture a picture on the band and me taken after a show. Of course all the people involved altered or posted to their pages. It was an event. Encouraged by this activity, I tossed out the notion of a campus metalfest. People came out of the metalwork. More Facebook friendships were forged, more family adopted (and probably more shows to see, more t-shirts to wear). All for an idea.
I’ll be heading out to see Abolishment of Flesh on December 14 as they inaugurate their new CD (and celebrate drummer Robert Ginn’s birthday, because it’s a family thing). Sixgun Serenade will play a benefit in January. West Texas Death Fest is slated for April. I believe we are fortunate to have a metal venue, numerous metal bands, an annual metal festival, a couple of metal radio shows, and a university metal course. We’re pretty active for being smaller city distant from metropolises and centered in a region that by all accounts is not particularly comfortable with metal.
So, in the end, together, we have the mettle to sustain our metal. We smelt the ore daily through friendship and family. It’s not about death metal. It’s about life metal. It’s about living metal and living, metal.
The quest for the origins of heavy metal and understanding it continues. To the mainstream, heavy metal is just edgy rebellion; to the academics, heavy metal is kids acting out as part of a maturation process; to industry, heavy metal is a brand that can be used to sell other products. What does it mean?