Archive for September, 2012

“Le Mort Joyeux”: Politics and Nationalism (The French Black Metal Underground)

Posted in black metal, DSBM, france, underground with tags , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2012 by blackmetallurgy

Well, after taking a bit of a break from the blogging on French black metal (I needed it, I think. My head was starting to spin), I have decided to go at it again. This week, I think I ought to address political/nationalistic French black metal because I have been reading about early modern diplomacy again and have been bitten by the politics bug, and also because I haven’t talked about Peste Noire yet.

Le Mort Joyeux- French Political and Nationalistic Black Metal

Peste Noire hails from Avignon, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, and formed in 2000. They take their name from the French word for the black plague (the K.P.N. on their logo stands for Kommando Peste Noire), and they have become most famous for their rather extreme nationalism. Though this has garnered them a lot of negative attention, it also lends the band a rather unique approach to their music; nearly all of their songs and albums are titled in French, and their lyrics are in French as well. Many of the lyrics are taken from French poets like Charles Baudelaire and François Villon. This adherence to the French language is in stark contrast to all of the other French bands I have addressed so far, which more often than not use English in their music.

[Some early stuff]

Peste Noire, like many black metal bands, espouses Satanism, but specifically IndoEuropean Satanism as opposed to the traditional Semitic Satan in line with their nationalistic views. They are not an NSBM band, however, focusing their conception of nationalism specifically in France. Their vocalist and mastermind La sale Famine is quite the rabble-rouser in terms of proclaiming his nationalism, but maintains that the band pursues an anarchist view rather than a fascist one. The best example I can think to compare this same sort of approach is that of Drudkh- fiercely nationalistic, but not Nazi sympathizers. Even though I may not agree with some of P.N.’s more racist tendencies, the band writes some excellent music, and it is cool to hear traditional French music tied to black metal.

[This album was, apparently, an attempt to scare off all of P.N.’s fans. It didn’t seem to work]

P.N. also tries to use folkish instruments and folk melodies in their music, once again evoking a nationalistic feel. This approach is a really neat one- it’s black metal attitude mixed with the nationalism of folk music, and the final affect is one that makes P.N. one of the more unique black metal bands out there.

[From the new album, a 2011 release. As you can see, they jump around a lot. Famine also maintains, apparently, that you should not listen to P.N.’s songs on the internet. Oh well. We do what we can, Famine]

I’m going to diverge here a little bit and take the time to talk about a French-Canadian band, because their music uses some of the same French national musical themes (not lyrical) as P.N. The bands are as different as night and day, however, and I acknowledge that as well as the seemingly tangential turn that this is taking (but bear with me. I have a point). Gris (“grey” in French) is a Québécois band, and they used to call themselves Niflheim. Their early work (as Niflheim) is atmospheric black metal, and they are still defined as a black metal band even though their sound has changed drastically (I’d say more like post-black metal now).

Like Peste Noire, Gris uses traditional French melodies in their music. The result, however, is a lot different; unlike P.N., Gris has never tried to frighten away their fans. Encyclopedia Metallum says that Gris’ songs address the balance between sorrow and joy, and also focus on spirituality. Though their approach is not nearly as political as that of Peste Noire, the music’s focus on traditional melodies and their frequent use of the French language (not all of their songs are in French) makes Gris a contemporary at least in some respects.

[You’ll notice that there’s still a lot of black metal here. It’s a weird subgenre, but it’s there]

Gris’ latest album Il Était une Forêt moves further still into more melodic territory, though the black metal elements are still there. Gris has entered the strange world of depressive black metal, where the fine line between black metal and post-rock often becomes blurred. The beauty of the music can’t be denied, however, and neither can the traditional sounds of the melodies that occasionally bubble up to the surface. These two bands come from two different continents but share a common language, and musical themes connect them in an odd way that allows me to lump them in a post together.

(Thanks to Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Metallum, from whence I got a lot of the info on P.N.)

***

Well, that’s it for now. I’m glad I got to write a little about Gris; they are new to me, but I really like them. I’ll be back with more later this week- this week should be a little less rough than last.

Until then.

Hagalaz

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Some Silly Black Metal-Themed YouTube Fads

Posted in black metal, videos with tags , , , , , on September 27, 2012 by blackmetallurgy

So I am still working on making the political French black metal post a good one, and in the meantime, I will direct your attention to some humorous videos on YouTube. Regardless of how kvlt we are and how little we may want to admit it, if we allow ourselves to step out of the zone, black metal can be kind of silly sometimes. Perhaps this is why atmosphere is so important- for us to take all the more over the top parts of black metal seriously, we must be willing to pretend for a moment that there is nothing silly about black and white face paint and 12 inch long spikes on gauntlets. Nothing at all. (Note: I happen to think that corpsepaint is amazing, and I know that there are deeper meanings behind it than those whom Nathan Explosion would refer to as “regular jackoffs” can see. That’s not the point I’m making. The point I’m making is that if you don’t get corpsepaint, you really don’t get corpsepaint).

I’m going to address these simply in categories, because there seem to be several people posting them. First, there are

60s Surf Rock Covers

I don’t know where the idea came from to do 60s surf rock covers of black metal songs, but it’s brilliant. The posters usually alter the titles somehow to correspond with cheesy surf rock titles (well, except in the case of Dunkelheit, which I suppose would be difficult to surf-ify). They are actually pretty catchy arrangements for the most part, and probably the only way you’ll get your mother to sit through “Transilvanian Hunger.”

[This is probably my favorite. Sometimes I listen to it just to listen to it]

[There is one for Beherit. That makes me happy]

8-Bit Black Metal Covers

Many moons ago, Darth Eniak’s “I Am the Black Robots” showed up on Reddit. I thought it was about the most awesome thing ever, and when I went to YouTube to investigate further I learned that 8-bit black metal is totally a thing. Like, way more popular than the surf rock thing. Everyone with a mixing program on their computer seems to have done one of these, and that’s probably why there are some that are much better than others (perhaps it’s just me, but some black metal songs don’t really lend themselves to 8-bit remixes). For those of us who straddle the line just a bit between music geekery and nerd culture, however, they are a lot of fun.

[Even in MIDI format, Windir is epic]

[Darth Eniak’s versions are still my favorites. I love the extra work he put into recreating the music video in this one]

Cooking Shows

Obviously, the most famous of black metal cooking shows is Vegan Black Metal Chef. He utilizes those over the top black metal tropes I mentioned above while teaching you how to cook some really great meals (I have made a couple myself. Vegan Black Metal Chef knows what’s up). There are others who have tried their hand at the black metal cooking show as well, and also videos depicting black metallers cooking things, because hey, we’re good in the kitchen.

[The All Star Redneck Medley is YUM. You can also buy the episodes on DVD now]

[This guy also cooks on YouTube. He reminds me of a cross between the above and Epic Meal Time. I wouldn’t eat that sandwich, but I love his decor]

By the way, if any of you know where I can get an altar to cut my potatoes on, please let me know.

Parodies

Black metal is very easy to parody for the reasons I mentioned above- unless you are a black metal fan, it probably appears very silly. Often these parodies come in the shape of music videos and song parodies. The humor often lies in over exaggeration, or in taking the music out of context in some way.

[The Black Satans are probably the most famous parody black metal band]

[Andy Rehfeldt’s song parodies are hilarious, especially when Dark Funeral starts singing about Santa]

Black Metal Fans

Some of the best of these videos, I think, are the ones in which black metal fans make fun of themselves. These play on the same conventions that I mentioned earlier, but they take them to another level, depicting black metal fans in the way that regular jackoffs probably assume we are. Usually the videos depict regular dudes doing regular stuff… but with corpsepaint.

[To this day, every time I hear “One By One” I think of this]

[Teach ‘em while they’re young]

***

So there you have it. Some fun and amusing black metal themed shenanigans, because school is picking up on my end and I need some fun and amusement. Believe me when I say I have a lot of great ideas for the blog before the year is out, as long as I can find time to write them. I plan to do something Sunday, even if it is small.

Until then,

Hagalaz

Today Was Totally Not Metal

Posted in black metal, norway, true norwegian black metal with tags , , , on September 23, 2012 by blackmetallurgy

It was full of me wandering around downtown Minneapolis and finicky printers and losing my keys. I am still feeling greatly unsettled and stressed. As a result, I have no offerings for you today. I am as aware as anyone that I need to return to my French black metal thing, which I still have things up my sleeve for, and I’ve had a few ideas gestating in my head. So there is stuff in the works, it’s just that I flat out ran out of time this week. Things are picking up in the semester (and did I mention I also lost my keys? SIGH).

So I’m going to go watch Metalocalypse and curl up with a cup of chamomile and try to nurse myself back to non-mental-scarredness. In the meantime, I offer you up the new one from Enslaved in supplication.

Sorry, y’all.

-Hagalaz
**EDIT**

Just thought I would clarify- I am not keyless. I do have my keys back. Today was still not fun.-H

Nachtmystium Is Going Back on Tour!

Posted in black metal, tour dates, USBM with tags , , , , on September 18, 2012 by blackmetallurgy

Good news, everyone! Nachtmystium is going back on tour! They did a little tour earlier this year, which I reviewed here. I know that a lot of people were concerned as to whether they would actually play the shows, and one or two shows were cancelled. However, if you missed Nachtmystium then, you have another shot at seeing them! They are going back out on tour with a slightly longer list of dates this time.

I have been intrigued by Jarboe ever since I read an interview with her in Slayer Mag, and Weapon is absolutely fantastic (I saw them with Marduk in June, which I also reviewed. I hope I will be able to make it to see Nachtmystium again this year (I am going to try, but I’m going to have to re-evaluate which concerts I will go to this fall. Maryland Death Fest is going to cost me a pretty penny).

Tour dates are below, courtesy of The Gauntlet.

November
4 – Austin, TX – Fun Fun Fun Fest
6 – Tempe, AZ – Rocky Point
8 – Fullerton, CA – Slidebar (Free Show)
9 – San Francisco, CA – DNA Lounge
10 – Portland, OR – Hawthorne Theatre
11 – Seattle, WA – Highline
12 – Boise, ID – Venue
14 – Denver, CO – Marquis Theater
16 – St Paul, MN – Station-4
18 – Baltimore, MD – Ottobar
19 – New York, NY – Saint Vitus
21 – Chicago, IL – Ultra Lounge

-Hagalaz

The Big Four (or More) of Black Metal

Posted in black metal, black metal history, mayhem, musings, norway, sweden, true norwegian black metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2012 by blackmetallurgy

The other day, Metal Sucks did an interview with Cannibal Corpse’s Paul Mazurkiewicz and the topic of the Big Four of death metal arose. Mazurkiewicz claimed that the Big Four of death metal, if there was a Big Four, would be Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Deicide, and Suffocation. I am not sure; personally, I think Immolation should be on that list somewhere, though I would hate to kick anyone off of it, especially as I am quite the novice in terms of death metal knowledge.

Someone in the comments then decided to do a Big Four of Any Kind of Metal You Can Shake A Stick At, and came up with the following Big Four for black metal.

  1. Immortal
  2. Darkthrone
  3. Emperor
  4. Dimmu Borgir

Now, it is my personal opinion that Dimmu Borgir does not belong on that list. I am not one of the people who hates Dimmu; rather, they were a gateway (HA. See what I did there?) band for me to get into black metal waaaaaay back in high school. Their old stuff is particularly spectacular, and I think they were very strong up through Death Cult Armageddon. Nevertheless, I don’t think they belong on that list. There is already a symphonic black metal band on that list, and nobody, but nobody tops in Emperor in that respect.

Why Mayhem and/or Burzum is not filling that fourth spot on this person’s list I don’t know. But then herein lies a problem- both Mayhem and Burzum should be in the Big Four of black metal, and so should the other three. And then we are just considering Norway, and only considering the second wave of black metal. Blut Aus Nord has had far reaching influence both in and outside of France, as has Von from the U.S. and Swedish staples like Nifelheim. So, without further ado, I give you (I am taking into account here influence and innovation- I think most black metal bands nowadays can be traced back to these guys) my personal Big Six of Black Metal (with justifications).

1. Mayhem

Seriously. Anybody who does not acknowledge Mayhem as godfathers of the second wave of black metal is kidding themselves. No, they have not been as prolific as other black metal bands (see Darkthrone, holy crap) and have often gone far down experimental roads that have left even the biggest fans scratching their heads, but no one can deny their status as progenitors of the second wave. I mean, Euronymous invented the black metal riff. De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas has topped just about every list of the greatest black metal albums of all time, and some of the most brilliant minds in the genre have played in the band. Fenriz claims Live in Leipzig as the album that birthed the second wave of black metal, and Mayhem has been lauded and admired in black metal scenes the world over, especially for their crucial early work. Mayhem should not only be on the list, they should be at the top of it.

2. Darkthrone

Whereas Mayhem has not been all that prolific in album releases (but have in bootlegs the combined weight of the entire band), Darkthrone has been one of the most abundant bands in the scene. Over the years they have released fourteen full length albums, and several demos, EPs, and compilations. Although their early stuff, particularly Transilvanian Hunger, has sometimes been called generic, there is no denying the influence of Darkthrone on black metal as a whole. The title track of the aforementioned album is, of course, one of the most instantly recognizable songs in the entire genre. Darkthrone’s attitude is also a reason for including them on the list; though late to the party (they were playing death metal until someone told them what was up), Darkthrone has maintained their stick-it-to-the-man, punky attitude in a way that most of their contemporaries have not. To this day, Fenriz works a regular job at the local post office, makes time to correspond with fans, and is an ardent supporter of the underground scene. Their later work has been very experimental, seeing the band dabbling in rock and roll and punk, but their attitude has never waned. Darkthrone does what they want, and in doing so they have never let the spirit of the early second wave die.

3. Immortal

When Immortal came on the scene, they were met with skepticism. How trve were these guys playing black metal so largely influenced by thrash, who write songs about the weather rather than Satan? Today, however, I think that there is little question of Immortal’s importance to black metal. Immortal reminded us that there is more to darkness than the Devil, such as freezing rain and driving snow, the grim, cold darkness of winter, and the stony bulk of impassive, towering mountains. Their fierce tremolo picking and relentless blast beats even sound like winter, and the ferocity and beauty of the season comes across in their work. Not to mention that their corpse paint, Abbath’s in particular, is some of the most instantly recognizable. Immortal has, in many ways, become the face of black metal, and considering that they seem to be genuinely nice guys, they make very good poster children. Immortal was the first black metal band (well, besides Dimmu) that I really got into, and they have a very special place in my grim, frostbitten heart. They earn their way onto the list for daring to take a different approach and proving wrong all those that doubted them.

4. Burzum

Another innovator of the early scene, Varg Vikernes deserves a spot on the list. Though I’m not a big fan of him as a human being, and I assume there are others out there who feel like me, you really cannot deny his contributions to black metal. If black metal’s most important aspect is the atmosphere as Fenriz claims, then Varg deserves to be lauded, because Burzum pretty much invented atmospheric black metal. His early work is repetitive, but has just enough subtle variation to never get boring. Astoundingly simple, yet beautiful and haunting. Burzum also incorporated the “necro” sound of low-fi recording like its contemporaries, but almost using it as an instrument to help create the desired atmosphere. Without the atmospheric stylings of Burzum, black metal as we know it today would sound completely different. Varg’s implementation of Norse mythology and culture into his music is also representative of the pagan influence on black metal, which has been taken up by other bands such as Vreid and Enslaved.

5. Emperor

…And then there was Emperor. I don’t think I really need to explain how awesome Emperor is, but I will justify putting them on my list, inasmuch as it needs justification. Every once in a while you hear a black metal band and it becomes very apparent that the members of said bands are skilled and serious musicians. Emperor is one such band. Although it is perfectly acceptable to have earned your chops jamming in your garage there is something to be said for musical training, and Emperor soars to new heights in the complicated nature of their work. Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk was my first Emperor album, and it blew me away. Why? Because the album acts more as a symphony than a modern popular rock album, with certain melodies repeating themselves at various instances throughout the record and a coherent feel to the whole thing. Emperor’s crafty use of keyboards in their music is never silly and always stirring, and their melodic passages make the soul sing.

6(66). Dissection

Last but not least, I would have Dissection. Dissection were contemporaries of all the aforementioned dudes from Norway, but are strikingly different as a result of being from Gothenburg, Sweden, the capital of Swedish death metal. Influenced by that scene, Dissection’s music is melody-heavy in a way that the early Norwegian bands are not. There are guitar solos and there are folky acoustic interludes. Dissection is about as far as you can get from the bleak fuzz of Burzum or the heavy, Venom-influenced Mayhem. Nevertheless, Dissection’s influence in Sweden and elsewhere has been vast. Melodic black metal lines are still used prevalently today by bands like Watain and Naglfar (both countrymen of Dissection), and this more accessible approach has also been inspirational in other scenes like France and the United States, though both I would argue have over time developed their own sounds. Unfortunately, because they were not in the Norwegian black circle at the time that black metal took off, Dissection has not received the attention in the best of lists that I believe they deserve.

***

And there you have it. That is my Big “Four” of Black Metal. As you can see, this list is not definitive. My list comprises older bands, bands that were highly influential but still primarily second-wave. I have not taken into account the first-wave, with staples like Venom and Sarcofago. Many third-wave bands like Deathspell Omega and Funeral Mist have also wielded tremendous influence in the scene, and there are big holes in this second-wave list where bands like Marduk, Beherit, and Ulver should go, yet in an effort to keep the list short, this is what I came up with. Also, considering that the Big Four of Thrash takes into account commercial success as well, these early bands are perhaps the most notable in terms of names that people know (I certainly had heard of Emperor and Immortal before I had delved far into black metal). The list is by no means perfect, but I feel like it addresses some of the most powerful of the original innovators, without whom bands like Deathspell Omega might not even exist (can you imagine what DsO might sound like if Burzum had never happened? Certainly different).

In an effort to get more people talking on this thing, what are your Big Four (or more) of black metal? Do you agree that these bands should be on the list? If not, who would you kick off? Who would you add?

Stay grim, my friends.

-Hagalaz

A Note on the Grammatical Construction of “I Am the Black Wizards”

Posted in black metal, norway, true norwegian black metal with tags , , , , , on September 13, 2012 by blackmetallurgy

**Edited because it was an interview with Samoth, not Faust. My bad. -H**

The other day I was reading Metalion: The Slayer Mag Diaries, and I came across an early Emperor interview. In it, Samoth explains the title “I Am the Black Wizards.” Now, I have always assumed, as I assume that most people have assumed, that this was a grammatical mistake made by young men whose first language was not English. However, according to Faust, the lyrics read:

“…How many wizards that serve me with evil, I know not. My empires has no limits, from the never ending mountains to the bottom lakes I am the ruler and has been for eternity’s long. My wizards are many, but their essence is mine. Forever they are in the hills, in their stone homes of grief. Because I’m their spirit of their existence. I am them.” (emphasis mine, all tense issues sic, taken from Slayer X).

So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Mortiis’ (he wrote the lyrics) use of the plural in this sense is, in fact, correct. The speaker refers to himself as the essence of multiple black wizards as opposed to a single black wizard; thus, he is all of them at once.

I don’t know if that had flummoxed anyone else out there or if it was just me, but there’s the explanation if you want it. The title is grammatically correct, and it’s an interesting philosophical statement as well.

[Also the 8-bit version. Because why not?]

-Hagalaz

The New Dethklok Video is Hilarious and Awesome and also NSFW (Just to Warn You)

Posted in death metal, videos with tags , , , , , on September 10, 2012 by blackmetallurgy

So, the nice guys over at Metal Sucks informed me (as well as everyone else who reads that site) that Dethklok has a new video out for their song “I Ejaculate Fire.” The song itself is what you would expect from Dethklok- catchy, highly accessible melodic riffs and so on and so forth. It is great music to bang your head to and good for a laugh as well, however, which is really what you want from Dethklok. The video is part lyric video (which has become quite a trend lately. Samael recently did an excellent one for their song “In Gold We Trust”), part PSA warning about the dangers of not being careful where you stick your naughty bits. Basically, it’s hilarious, and just when you thought it couldn’t get any funnier, the last scene happens. Ha.

Be warned, the video is NSFW, and you should probably be 18 to watch it and all that jazz.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/47734215″>Dethklok – I Ejaculate Fire (Official Music Video)</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/wmstrecs”>Williams Street</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Dethklok is also touring the US this fall, which is awesome, but means I will have to re-evaluate my concert attendance. Showing up to a Dethklok show with an “Explode Me” shirt is another bucket list item (Nathan is totally my type). It’s just something I have to do.

Dates are below, courtesy of Metal Sucks (who got them courtesy The PRP).

10/30 Norfolk, VA – Norva
10/31 Philadelphia, PA – Electric Factory
11/02 Silver Spring, MD – Fillmore
11/03 New York, NY – Roseland Ballroom
11/04 Worcester, MA – Palladium
11/05 Montreal, QC – Metropolis
11/07 Toronto, ON – Sound Academy
11/08 Pittsburgh, PA – Stage AE
11/09 Columbus, OH – LC Pavilion
11/10 Detroit, MI – Fillmore
11/11 Grand Rapids, MI – Orbit Room
11/13 Fargo, ND – The Venue
11/14 Minneapolis, MN – Myth
11/15 Milwaukee, WI – Rave / Eagles Club
11/16 Chicago, IL – Aragon Ballroom
11/17 Kansas City, MO – Midland
11/18 St. Louis, MO – The Pageant
11/20 Denver, Co – Fillmore
11/21 Salt Lake City, UT – Great Salt Air
11/23 Seattle, WA – Showbox SODO
11/24 Portland, OR – Roseland Theater
11/26 Oakland, CA – Fox Theater
11/27 Hollywood, CA – Palladium
11/28 Phoenix, AZ – Marquee
11/30 Dallas, TX – House Of Blues
12/01 Austin, TX – Stubbs
12/02 Houston, TX House of Blues
12/04 Orlando, FL – House Of Blues
12/06 Chattanooga, TN – Track 29
12/07 Charlotte, NC – Fillmore
12/08 Atlanta, GA – Tabernacle

-Hagalaz