Arts and Entertainment

Hallowe’en 2012, Late Breakfast: Mordant, Black Evil Master

Do you miss Morbid Tales-era Celtic Frost?

If the answer is ja….

Have I…

got a band…

for you!*

“Rise of the Antichrist,” its main riff not unlike 1982-ish Diamond Head, i.e., the band who gave the world Metallica’s “Am I Evil?” and “Helpless…”

“Council of Evil” = essentially very early black metal like Celtic Frost, i.e., thrash metal, bordering on death metal, with satanic-ish lyrics.

“Sadism”: nice old school Celtic Frost riff; vaguely Kill ’em All-ish.

“Retaliation from the dark” = “Morbid Tales”… totally, Tom G. Warrior….

Overall:

generic, but obviously loving the over-the-top antics of early Venom, Celtic Frost and Manowar– and they clearly love them some Mercyful Fate as well.

It’s nothing unique, but it’s really fun, proto-black-metal riffage. If you always wanted to be around when Venom first emerged, or miss those days, get you some Mordant:

amazon.com link

*You traditionalist motherfucker, you….

On a rare and beautiful alchemy, one born of black metal and hallucinogens: Nachtmystium’s “Black Meddle” albums

I’ve been on a real, genuine, phenomenologically-valid, where-the-fuck-did-this-come-from-but-I-kinda-dig-it Nachtmystium kick lately.

I saw them live in June of 2010, touring with Eyehategod. I went to see EHG specifically (though I owned Addicts at that point), and though their closer of “Assassins” was fucking awesome and a rare combination of showmanship and black metal, I failed to fully heed the Nachtmystium call. Said clarion declaration was beyond these ears.

However, and this only of late, that cry pulls my ear– beckons my eye–  tugs my centre– and did make boldly necessary this oblation to their manifest corporeal connection to divinity… yielding this sacred equation, which I humbly submit unto thee:

Pure black metal,

plus (arguably)…

music reflective/ exalting  of experiences born from hallucinogenic states (à la Pink Floyd and/or Rimbaud’s “Systematic derangement of the senses“)

equals…

black metal born of said drug-induced states

which specifically yields:

Nachtmystium’s Assassins: Black Meddle Part I and Addicts: Black Meddle Part II.

THIS

is my thesis, at any rate.

Regarding Assassins: Black Meddle, PT. I:

IT IS the screams of the inarticulate, the groundlings, in emulating, this however with pathos, the peace they found in one or more Pink Floyd albums, much like the Ministry’s “Breathe,” in cruder, less articulate terms, though more passionate, and no less realized for that…

…the last three tracks seems to imply some sort of concept album, or at least a theme album, but if so, what story do they connote? It seems tragic, it seems angry, it seems unsettling, it seems vague… it’s most definitely moody, also there are alto sax parts, which amazingly do not sound like a late 80s-AOR rock band…

…although if it sounded like Cameo that would be more than fine….

Opener “One of These Nights,” what with its wind sounds, sounds like an ice planet somewhere, like Hoth, like the swirling storms of Jupiter, or the MDMA-esque, ravish underside of Saturn– does that make sense? No? Learn your astronomy bitches.

“Ghosts of Grace” is the most “normal” sounding tune here– an extremely “underground,” poorly-but-interestingly-lively-recorded Sex Pistols-y attempt to sound like Pink Floyd… this crudeness suggests someone like Murphy from devilishly-boldly-underrated teen comedy Charlie Bartlett, in that he’s confessing something intimate to you, like he’s not really that much of a pistol of the sexes, more of a floyd who’s also pink… but after he talks these lines, is going to be embarrassed that he even told you– there’s such a ungainly, gangly intimacy to it…

…it’s almost touching.

“Omnivore” is a black-metalled, diabolus in musica of psychedelic and mystic chords resonant of menace– then tribal drums, guttural utterances… an overall degradation and evolution at the once….

And what, prithee, what does this say about society, when our normal diet is drugs, is television highs from consumerism, from rationalism, mass manipulation, material expression*–

and not physical sustenance?

THIS IS the information age, indeed, when even our corporeality is digital, is bar-coded….

And about Addicts:

Part II is possibly evidence, actual physical contact!, with the evidence Gods, whatever their names, of how the internet sometimes contributes to greatness in music:

Addicts is an amalgam of the strangest two genres to partner– early-80s new wave pop (like Modern English, Depeche Mode, Flock of Seagulls), a tiny bit of Killing Joke and Ministry (pre-The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste) and of course (by way of Chicago)– black metal.

From what else but through the internet’s instant-access-to-any-genre capabilities could such a union be birthed?

It doesn’t always work, but it’s refreshing and singularly inspiring, that there are so many (and these, incredibly disparate) genres on this one album. “High on Hate” comes off like a Burzum track with integrity: all low bass, high treble riffs, and downbeats over 200 beats per minute….

“No Funeral” (not the truly great Revocation song from Chaos of Forms), but a Truly Great, early ministry/ killing joke tune… is a, uh… pop song with black metal vocals…? At 4:30 it couldn’t sound more like a Dawnbringer song… “Then Fires” comes off as maudlin and somewhat necessary if you’re stoned or coming off a long drunk– it comes off like a New Wave sludge tune, Killing Joke via Electric Wizard, or Zoroaster covering Depeche Mode…. and speaking of Dawnbringer, the chorus of the next tune,”Addicts” —  “All we need is more” definitely sounds like Chris Black– makes me wonder if he composed it….

The entirety of Addicts, when considered as an album and not a collection of songs–

and this in light of its following Assassins–

is almost an extended coda to Assassins, is an extended credits-scene, one heralding, celebrating and yet also mourning, the perceiver’s departure from those agreeable protagonists, from that familiar sound… an extended sonic sounding of farewell….

Well done, Blake Judd. I look forward to Silencing Machine.

 

 

 

*Thank you, Oswald Spengler.

Samothrace, Reverence to Stone

Blackened, sludgy doom, not unlike Unearthly Trance and/or Indian… with a bit more narrative/ song structural cohesion….

Reverence to Stone is the Black Herald, is what the burning bush sounded like, or The Horns of Jericho….

THIS: is God Come Down, Making Himself Known, in Fury and Disgust. Play it as loud as you can and tell me I’m wrong.

There’s two tracks: “When We Emerged,” and “A Horse of Our Own,” each quite long, each unspeakably detuned…. There is much feedback, much extended sounding of the lowest chord (and this one a fifth) on the guitar….

What if you actually got to hear the Music of the Spheres and it was unspeakably ugly to you? Does that mean you were messed up? Does that mean there was something wrong with you?

And what if it were still attractive in this ugliness…?

This is as close and perfect a marriage of doom and sludge metal as you’ll ever hear… with black metal officiating the ceremony via the vocals… there’s almost no tempo oftentimes, just a pulse to guide you through the auditory wreckage….

Chemical guide to listening©: this is stoner music, by way of general antidepressants (say, SSRIs or some such)….

“When We Emerged,” at 10 minutes, manages to sound like a doom metal version of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Op. 11 (you’ve heard it)– in that it could be an auditory version of the composer’s wife’s orgasm (as was Barber’s, allegedly)….

Powermad, Absolute Power

I saw Powermad open for Sacred Reich and Forbidden. They had incredible sound: perfect EQ, the works.

To this date, I hold them to be a Truly Great Thrash/Power metal band. (Here’s the wiki entry.)

They were signed to a ridiculously major label at the height of the thrash metal craze in the late 80s (allmusic link here); started with a giveaway EP (The Madness Begins), followed up with their only to date album, Absolute Power.

(Here’s the EM link….)

I only knew about them at all, because of the presence in metal magazines of their “free” EP (if you sent away for it) and because the assistant manager of the local record and tape store (“Steve,” I wanna say) played the LP of Absolute Power, and at the 5:15 p0int (see below video) of the first song “Slaughterhouse,” singer/guitarist Joel DuBay hits Halford/ Tate-esque castrato heights on the syllable “house” as the song closes.

Absolutely amazing, to this day.

Fun fact: the song opens with a priest reading the 23rd psalm of the Bible to a condemned convict; to this day, my brother and I, when attending the funerals of both my mother and father, as the priest read this selection (as they inevitably did), looked at each other at the end of the psalm and air-guitared the first chords of this album.

If that’s not an endorsement….

At The Gates, live at The Fillmore, NYC, 2009

I know this is old news– re-united Swedish melodic death metal heroes At The Gates playing the Fillmore in NYC during their reunion tour– but, frankly, as many times as I watch this, I’m amazed, gratified, made euphoric, et cetera, by this footage.

This is the ideal of any art form, let alone metal: (probably) literally EVERY member of the crowd present knew EVERY Goddamn word of this song– I hate hyperbole, but I got goosebumps and felt the pure greatness of metal as an art form upon watching this (and this was years ago; its EPICness is so obvious as to beckon this post).

[Here’s another angle, too.]

Burzum, Fallen

Hmmm… how to begin this.

Disclosure:

1: Most of my adult life I’ve worked in forensic psychology, in prisons and police departments in six states, specifically with sexual offenders and serial homicide offenders.

2: I dig (though by no means am tr00 or kvlt) black metal; of course I still consider Behemoth black(ish) metal, and love Liturgy, so….

3: Burzum, aka Varg Vikernes, served time in Norwegian prison for murder and arson.

This highlights a sticky area for reviewers: how do you review a piece of (at least alleged) art, knowing the potentially toxic background of the artist?

Do you avoid the Ad Hominem fallacy (“He’s a bad man, so he can never have anything good to say!”) and listen earnestly to what he’s done?

Or do we say Fuck that shit, murdering, church burning bastard.

And it’s deceptively easy, from the safely of reading the monitor, to say “you go, burn that shit!” or something similar.

Now imagine your mother or grandmother being burned alive in a building she found peaceful, or held onto as a symbol, or source of peace.

Regardless of your opinion toward the church and/or Christianity (and the perhaps-inevitable paradoxes inherent therein), there are serious, life-changing repercussions of what Mr. Vikernes was convicted of doing.

The point is, this area gets emotionally tangled very quickly, especially to me; I’m likely to be particularly irritated by the artist’s history and perhaps not enjoy this work as well as someone else might. Be warned, and read on with that in the background of your cerebellum.

So.

If his musical work, despite his background, is good, do we say it’s good? Do we endorse it?

Maybe put more directly– if Hitler gave you the winning lottery numbers, would you play them?

Or would you object to the millions you’d get, from the millions dead?

[Although I’m phrasing this question somewhat rhetorically, I’m obviously working up to a review of the work in question. But: wouldn’t it be hilarious if I just concluded it wasn’t something that should be reviewed at all, and just stopped here? Something like, soup Nazi style: “No review for you!”]

Overall, Fallen sounds like it cost $10 to make; does that make it tr00? Or is it like John Cougar Mellancamp or Joel McHale, spending hours on a haircut, trying to make it look like they spent 10 seconds on it?

If the appearance, at least, of low-budget recording appeals to you, well then… there you go.

Track one, “Jeg Faller”: sounds like my first guitar, a Harmony, played through its accompanying 1.5 inch speaker, with no gain– but somehow does not sound bad…? Like all tracks on Fallen, it’s a mix of ambient, electro-pop (somehow: maybe it’s because of what I’m certain is a drum machine and its stiffness…?), black metal, folk music, acoustic pop… actually, it might be easier to list what musics don’t end up somewhere on here.

“Valen,” like the previous track, follows the songwriting trope of less-melodic verse followed by “catchy” chorus with cleanish vocals. And it pretty much works.

“Vanvidd” continues both the Norwegian lyrics and musical themes: cold, tremolo-picked chords in standard tuning, with murmured lyrics that become hoarse and raspy, replete with blast beats… managing to sound like black metal and ambient relaxation music (seriously) at the same time…. Bonus: at around 3:45 it manages to invoke both Ministry and Joy Division….

“Enhver till Sitt” starts with that same shrill, high-gain non-wound guitar string, bleating a flatted-fifth (sinister) riff…. The remaining tracks “Budstikken” (black metal Pet Shop Boys? Dance floor KMFDM?) and “Til Hel og Tilbake Igjen” (say what you will about the songs themselves, but Norwegian song titles sound metal as shit, don’t they?) are interesting, above average black metal.

So– the overall verdict here is actually quite anticlimactic: Fallen is pretty good.

It’s got good moments, and interesting uses of texture and contrast. It’s not great. It’s not terrible. It’s the germ of something great.

Whether Berzum is past his greatness, or approaching it, is anyone’s guess.

Circus of Power, Vices

For some reason, 23 years later, I have a soft spot for Circus of Power.

At the time, thrash-obsessed as I was, COP seemed like Guns ‘n’ Roses wannabes and not worth hearing; in retrospect they were a heavily-punk-influnced, Ramones and/or TSOL-meets GNR– and surprisingly unique. (more…)