Wednesday, February 9, 2011

John Lennon is dead. . . I still think - I still think about Jodie all the time. That's all I think about really.

I guess it's time to do that final post on 2010. Doing four seemed like a good idea when i had the time back in late december...

The death of black metal, pictured yesterday.

Often when black metal is discussed the talk turns to the satanic aspect of culture; whether or not Satanism represents the defining aspect of what makes something black metal or not. “Black metal is Satan’s music, if there is no Satanism inherent then it isn’t black metal.” You’ve heard all of these points a thousand times before and by now you’re probably largely immune to the emotional triggers that black metal’s visual language is supposed to awaken in you.

Similar to power violence, which I discussed last time, no one is clear about black metal and what does or does not constitute its essence. If its essence is the Satanic, then Satanism needs to be better defined. Modern Satanism can take the form of anything from a literal theistic worship of Satan as a divine entity to a metaphorical Satanism; Satan as the symbol for ultimate rebel/ artist/ libertine/ what have you and all points between the two polar beliefs.

So where does the heathenism of someone like Burzum fit in with the gnosis of a band like Ofermod or the brutal Dennis Wheatley style Satanism of Morbosidad?

And where does the eco message of the “are they or aren’t they black metal?” of Wolves in the Throne Room fit?

If you pull back a bit and look at what black metal is reacting against then it is clear that at its most simple level a rejection of Christianity is at the heart, regardless of the approach. You can see this in areas as diverse as Chris Moyen’s comic book satanic super hero adversary of Christ to the reclaiming of pre-Christian ways of interacting with world of the heathens. I would even argue, though this thought is far beyond the scope of a blog post, that the eco-philosophies of some black metal bands come from a place that rejects the separation of man from nature that Christianity has come to embody in many minds.

However, written into this rejection I also see something else, I see a strong rejection of Modernity in black metal. The misanthropic Anti-Life black metal crowd wants to push everything to breaking point and the inevitable societal collapse that will follow (“if it doesn’t work, fuck it up even more”). One of NSBM’s main thrusts is the rejection of diversity and multi-culturalism, both of which are distinctly modern ideas. The symbolic Satanists reject post-Enlightenment moral codes and the heathens have a desire to return to a romanticized past. I see all of this as being a rejection of the modern world and it generally focuses on Christianity in particular, arguably the major defining force on the entire world over the last thousand years.

I love black metal, I listen to it a lot, but it’s not strictly my culture. I acknowledge I contain an element that will probably always mark me as a tourist when navigating this terrain. Thus, what does or does not constitute black metal is not strictly my fight.

As an aside, the wide scale derision that the Hideous Gnosis symposiums have faced strike me as a reaction to what I think many people perceive as outsiders trying to write their meaning on black metal. Once that meaning has been written, it can be colonized and owned anew. Again, this isn’t particularly my fight; I can enjoy some of the undoubtedly ridiculous intellectualizing of black metal (I love theory, particularly the ludicrous stuff) and I can also appreciate and support the refusal to legitimize the proceedings.

At the end of the day if, as I suspect, elements of black metal contain an untamable barbaric warrior spirit then no shit, these symposiums are seen as alien and are hated in some quarters.

Blood Revolt – Indoctrine (Profound Lore)

So, if you’ve seen more than a few posts on this blog it’s probably clear that I’m a person that tends to think a lot (perhaps over think sometimes) about what gives something its form and what it is that I really like about music beyond the sound.

I’m rarely interested in saying much about the musical side of things; I either like it or I don’t and there are different gradations within those two sets. As the post on power violence said, I could easily pull some “this CD resurrects Christ with its occult power then publically executes him and spends an eternity defiling his corpse. It’s fucking brutal dude.” So the lengthy intro above is a just way of framing certain qualities in this release that I admire. The structuring of the power violence article was exactly the same.

But musically, yeah, let’s do this first. This shit is awesome and I had no expectations to the contrary. I followed Axis of Advance’s output avidly and I get the impression that this disc is essentially where the fourth AoA LP would have ended up musically.

J Read’s drumming, like Mick Harris’ of some twenty plus years ago, is instantly recognisable and adds the chaos and war to even relatively polite and melodic sections. Meaning that even in relatively restrained sections there is an uneasy undercurrent to the whole thing.

A. A. Nemtheanga’s vocals are suitably in character; typically veering between an introspective yet impassioned self-questioning and something akin to an insane, histrionic preacher.

Not everyone is a fan of the vocals, I understand that but two things strike me. One, I love black metal pterodactyl vokillz as much as the next nekro guy on the block but the content, which makes the record so vital to me, would be utterly lost with that vocal style. Two, kids would bitch about vocalists like HR and Jello Biafra these days; as time goes by the acceptable means of expressions within genres diminish noticeably.

"Aw, teach me how to pray, good Christian.
If it works you'll all be dead.
We'll see the secret to salvation,
For me it's when you're dead, you're dead, you're DEAD"
- Crucifucks, Hinkley Had a Vision

So where does this fit in in the terms outlined above in the preamble? Lyrically it makes me think of what Sirhan Sirhan’s private diary entries might look like, though the first thing I thought of was the letters Reagan’s would be assassin, John Hinckley sent Jodie Foster before he did the deed to prove his love for her. Searching online doesn’t pick up any of the really crazy ones asking Jodie to hang on to his dreams and fly away to netherworld of happiness with him or crying into the shaving mirror every morning. But trust me; they’re worth a read if you find them in a book, for the life of me I can’t remember where I first saw them, (edit, they’re in Apocalypse Culture 2).

The intro to God’s Executioner, Praise Be brings to mind Emperor Constantine’s (you know, the guy more responsible for Christianity than Jesus) vision before the battle of Maxentius in which he had a premonition of victory if he replaced the images of imperial eagles with crosses on the soldiers standards.

Blood Revolt’s central concept is one of religious fundamentalism married to the most mentally decayed aspects of modern life. That most ironic of all distinctly modern phenomena, violent religious fundamentalism at war with the modernism that gave rise to its existence.

Blood Revolt does not condemn the martyr, but they don’t need to. Either way Modernity is called on its shit, both in its creation of deeply disturbed people that attach their psychoses onto a spiritual impulse and for being such a sickened environment in the first place.

If black metal is a culture of obsession (which I think it is, but I haven’t touched that) and also anti-modernist and with a religious aspect (whether in theistic Satanism or in its anti-religious discourses) then to me Blood Revolt hit all three of those concepts squarely. Not only that, but the ideological content is something both entirely new yet still remains consistent with black metal’s framework.

The whole CD is the deranged religious visions of death that black metal has always promised to deliver made incarnate.

Probably the release I listened to the most in 2010 without a doubt.


Anonymous said...

I was able to read this entire post while inebriated and still understand what you were at. Scary.

Survivalist said...

because black metal flows through your veins

we should have another snuff movie night sometime Oskar...

AVFN said...

Plus one for the anti-modernist interpretation. But I have to say I've always found the Burzumic route more effective. The inversion of ecclesiastic nomenclature and symbolism in order to oppose Xianity always appeared self defeating to me; much in the same way that atheism does (' a dog understands electricity').

Survivalist said...

I think as a personal system of meaning the quasi-satanic gnostic stuff of Deathspell Omega and the likes (i assume that's the stuff you're referring to) is fine and fairly interesting, but i think it's usefulness ends where the individual does.

Anonymous said...

I hadn’t considered this perspective before, but it's really interesting. I doubt that most NSBM is motivated by any thoughts that go beyond 'Hitler was cool and evil because he killed a lot of people' though.

I guess my questions heading in that direction might get annoying (I already asked for your favourite noise stuff), but related to the post I'd really be interested in a list of your favorite BM-releases/albums that display the mentioned points best in your opinion.

Survivalist said...

you are absolutely correct, i doubt most NSBM types have much of a greater sense of analysis beyond "hur hur 1488", but i don't think that necessarily makes my point invalid.

Favourite BM LPs, gah, as if i could answer this one...

I tend to favour the utter violence of groups like Revenge, Morbosidad, Blasphemy, Conqueror, Archgoat and their ilk but off the top of my head some favourite acts would be:

Ride for Revenge
Mayhem (most eras)
mid-period Burzum
Beherit (all eras, even the wacky dance beats)
Black Majesty
early Ulver
Black Death Ritual
Sadistik Exekution

yadda yadda yadda

i love the thought really simple "fuck off, kill everything" stuff and i'm equally in love with the high brow chaos cosmology stuff that really gets way into the Qlipoth side of things

not into any rock n roll influenced black metal and i have yet to hear any crust influenced BM that i didn't find completely wretched.

The Wolf said...

If you want an over-arching ideology that connects to all of Black Metal; Nietzsche. The only exception would perhaps be the suicidal Black Metal (though in Nietzschian terms that would be a symptom of someone overcome with nihilism).

These Seans said...

Archgoat is probably my favorite BM band.

I still haven't listened to Blood Revolt yet, but I have the promo....somewhere in my room. I'll try to give it some more priority now.

Great post too, it's nice to see this all written out coherently.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the list, I'm gonna check out the stuff I don't know already.
Since you're obviously into a lot of Finnish BM, what do you think of Satanic Warmaster?

These Seans said...

I would argue that Nietzsche's major ideology results in a much more positive outlook then BM will ever/should ever reach. While Nietzsche brilliantly observes, recognizes and is able to convey most of the horror that is mankind, Zarathustra ultimately must learn to love the rabble...Lord Angelslayer is not down for that.