Archive for January, 2013

Some Thoughts on the Black Metal Short Film (and the “Trveness” of Black Metal Film)

Posted in black metal, film, musings with tags , , , on January 26, 2013 by blackmetallurgy

The other day, Metal Sucks posted about the Black Metal short film that is debuting soon at the Sundance Film Festival, and which you can now view on YouTube. The film depicts the psychological turmoil of a fictional band’s vocalist when a young fan of his black metal band commits a grisly murder. Of course I watched it, and honestly I was really impressed- the character development is quite good for a film that is seven minutes plus credits, and it’s very visually appealing.

Nevertheless, something was off for me, and after much thought I think I’ve narrowed down what it is. First of all, I’m not sure of what the message is. I don’t *think* the film or its producers are saying anything bad about black metal, but I will admit that my hackles raise a little when a film looks like it might be sensationalizing my pet sub-genre. Because then that also brings up the point: why black metal? Why not a band along the lines of Judas Priest or Marilyn Manson or other bands that have been dragged into the spotlight over crimes their music allegedly inspired?

And I think that’s what really kind of bugs me. Black metal is a scary thing to people not familiar with it, but there’s actually very little of these kinds of crimes linked to it (at least to my knowledge). I mean, there was Absurd, but they had their own little thing going on, and there were those kids in Finland that Lords of Chaos talks about (plus every other crime that had nothing to do with black metal that that book linked to it anyway). When Faust was questioned about the murder he committed, he denied that the fact that he was listening to black metal beforehand had anything to do with it (I believe. I’m having trouble fact-checking this right now, but I know I read or saw it somewhere). Even though these few murders occurred in the 90s along with the church burnings and some grave robberies, but none of it actually had anything to do with black metal so much as it had to do with a bunch of kids trying to one up one another. Just because they happened to listen to black metal is not a link.

And without a link, it risks becoming another attempt to just exploit an already sensationalized art form. An art form that, despite its philosophical depth and musical variety, is often sold short by people whose interest goes no further than just wanting to gape at a series of events that I’m sure most of the people involved would kind of like to forget.

One thing that really makes this film interesting, though, is the fact that it is a fictional rendition of black metal. Black Metal is really the first film I’ve seen that is not a documentary about the genre. And it, tactfully, I think, steers clear of Norway and the events of the early nineties. When my friend Jamie and I talked about this the other day, we decided that it’s probably not possible to make a “movie” about the early nineties without being rather horrible, which is why the Lords of Chaos movie that has apparently been in the works for forever should, I think, never happen. The lives (and deaths) of these musicians were not occurring for the entertainment of the masses, and to make that into a spectacle is just… horrible and insensitive. A good movie would gloss over the nasty bits, but you and I both know that that isn’t the movie that would get made. (Sorry. Jumped off on a tangent there).

And, as I pointed out, none of the Norwegian stuff was anywhere in this movie, and that’s good. There still remains, however, an issue with fictionalizing a sub-genre like black metal that’s already plagued with all sorts of bad press based on mostly unfounded and sensationalized bullshit. That’s the reason why I got just unbelievably pissed when I saw that Bones episode about black metal, and I think that’s why I’m unsure about this film. Is it being thoughtful about a sub-genre that’s often backlashed when it’s paid attention to at all, or is it taking advantage of the common viewer’s capacity to hate and fear what isn’t familiar? I feel the same way as a lot of black metal fans, I think, when I say I’d rather watch a documentary. There are too many sensational horror stories already. Give me the truth. Let me see Necrobutcher obviously upset talking about Dead’s extremely violent suicide, let me read Metalion’s portrayal of the mixed feelings over Euronymous’ murder. Even give me Varg giving his weird explanation of Euronymous’ stab wounds coming from falling on a lamp. At least that’s real in someone’s mind. This film, I think, was trying to do in a fictional way what the picture in the True Norwegian Black Metal book did in a realistic way when Peter Beste included the photo of Samoth playing in the yard with his daughter- to show an oft-maligned subset of musicians leading normal lives. Unfortunately the message as a whole was not clear, and could easily be twisted to mean something else (and honestly, if I didn’t know that people with a knowledge of metal were involved in the making of the film, I’d default to thinking it was intended with ill-will. Most things that touch on black metal are, and after a while you just assume).

Final thoughts- Black Metal did a good job of creating a narrative surrounding a genre of music that most are unfamiliar with, and those who aren’t probably have the wrong idea about. The character development and the film as a whole were fantastic. Nevertheless, there didn’t seem to me to be any justification for why the film was about black metal, which makes me question how the film will be received. I trust that the filmmakers were sincere and weren’t intending the film as a negative reflection on black metal (I think they even worked with the Metal Sucks guys to make sure their stuff was on target, and the concert footage at the beginning was easily my favorite part. That was well done). Still, I don’t think the world is ready for thoughtful pieces on black metal. Black metal is still something foreign and scary, to the point where even a thoughtful fictional piece can easily be misconstrued as a condemnation or sensationalism, and until I am sure of that not happening, I feel safer with the whole truth. Without added clarity, it’s hard to tell what the film is saying about black metal, if it’s saying anything at all. For the time being it may be safer for black metal to stay in the dark.

-Hagalaz

Band Spotlight: Ubi Sunt [Funeral Doom] (United States)

Posted in band spotlight, doom, featured artist, underground, united states with tags , , , , , on January 17, 2013 by blackmetallurgy

**A note: Skip down to the bottom of the post to listen to Ubi Sunt. I’m not sure how to embed individual bandcamp songs**

This band spotlight is probably going to be a fairly short one, since there doesn’t seem to be much information out there on Ubi Sunt. But in terms of awesome new things that came out in 2012 that I missed, Ubi Sunt’s album I is one of them. Typically I like my funeral doom more European, but Ubi Sunt’s brand has a special twist.

Ubi Sunt plays traditionally sludgy, dirge-like funeral doom, only they blend it with Renaissance-era music. Their songs are based upon the compositions of Thomas Campion, a composer, poet, and physician who lived in Elizabethan/Stuart England. Also an influence is Solage, a late medieval French composer. The music from these periods is often quite simple and has stately feel, which is kind of cool considering how technically tangled a lot of extreme metal is. As a result, Ubi Sunt escapes any sort of over-complication in a way consistent with traditional doom, but presents a new way of imagining the funeral doom genre.

[After all, what’s more funeral doom than the Middle Ages?]

One aspect of doom metal that makes it so interesting to me is the way the genre incorporates both harsh and clean vocals. Ubi Sunt’s use of harsh vocals is really cool as it brings in something for the very traditional sounding music to grind against and merges these two temporally separate genres of music. I also like how the guitars and horns kind of blend together; it reminds me a little of the above Solage song, in which the vocals at times imitate stringed instruments. The same feel is being recreated in Ubi Sunt’s music, only in a different way.

[We’ve had banjos, accordions, and mouth harps- someone needs to find a way to incorporate the lute into black metal]

The name Ubi Sunt comes from a Latin phrase that means “where are those who were before us,” or “where are they?” It was a common way to start poems in the medieval period, which, of course, is referenced by the band’s music. Rather than something nostalgic, however, the phrase is intended as a comment on mortality and the brevity of life. This reference is then a very apt one for a funeral doom band, and for anything that references a period of time when plague was rampant (plague was a common problem throughout the early modern period as well as the medieval. I could go on about this all day).

Ubi Sunt has a bandcamp page where you can purchase I for a price of your choosing, and I highly encourage it. Though the album only contains four songs, those four tracks comprise over an hour worth of music. Plus, they are an up and coming band you can help out! Like with most bandcamp bands, you can listen to Ubi Sunt’s music on their page as well. Well worth a listen!

-Hagalaz

Review: Hellbent for Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook

Posted in black metal, black metal history, books, death metal, doom, Reviews, thrash, underground with tags , , , , , , , on January 14, 2013 by blackmetallurgy

For my first post of 2013, I figured I would write a review of Hellbent for Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook, which I got in the mail yesterday as a late Christmas present. The book was compiled by Annick “Morbid Chef” Giroux (also known as “Sat-Annick” of the Canadian doom metal band Cauchemar), who began soliciting recipes from bands all over the world in an attempt to create an international cookbook with the additional goal of proving that not all metal heads subsist on pizza and Bachelor Chow. She also attempted to include bands that were less known but none the less deserving, like Sir Lord Baltimore, who allegedly invented heavy metal but never got the props for it, and Grimorium Verum, Ecuador’s first black metal band.

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With 101 recipes, this cookbook is quite the compendium. The cover claims that they are “basic” recipes too, which seems to be true- the ones that I have looked over closely seem mostly straightforward and pretty simple to make. Of course, there are some recipes for more experienced cooks in it as well; L’Impero Delle Ombre’s Focaccia Pugliese recipe, while completely awesome looking, does call for you to make your own dough. However, some of them are a simple as King Ov Hell’s Shellfish Crossfire, which is pretty much stir-fried prawns.

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What 101 recipes looks like.

The recipes themselves are very nicely laid out over two pages with the name of the recipe, the band that submitted it, and which country they come from at the top of the first page. Ingredients, cook-time and portions are all listed along the left hand side with instructions in the middle of the page. Giroux also adds her own notes on most all of the recipes, with comments on how to substitute for less common ingredients as well as slight alterations that can be made to the dish. The right page contains a large, colorful photo of the finished product as well as a short bio about the band that contributed the recipe underneath, which is nice since there was a concentrated effort on Giroux’ part to make sure some lesser known bands got in the book.

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Lots of yummy looking lamb dishes!

It’s also a very thorough cookbook, containing appetizers, beef, poultry, lamb, pork, vegetarian dishes, desserts, and even a few cocktails. It also contains a short list of cooking supplies at the beginning of the book that tells you what pots and pans and cooking utensils you will need (“weapons of mass nutrition”) as well as some tips from Giroux about food preparation, like how to chop hot peppers carefully or how to freeze food. The table of contents is very user friendly, and the back of the book contains an index of the bands too, in case you remembered the band but not the submission. Very accessible and helpful, then, for someone like myself who is just learning how to cook.

Table of Contents. There's quite a bit in here, and it's easy to navigate, unlike any of the other black metal books I own

Table of Contents. There’s quite a bit in here, and it’s easy to navigate, unlike any of the other black metal books I own

The recipes themselves for the most part look absolutely delicious. There are a crapton of yummy-looking lamb dishes in here, some awesome looking deserts, and some great looking pastas. There is also Funerot’s Pizza Cake, which… sounds like something a thrash band would devise. Thin Lizzy submitted a delicious looking jambalaya (I absolutely LOVE Cajun food), Tankard’s Beer Pizza Crust made it in as well, and Mayhem submitted the national dish of Norway, Fårikål (Hellhammer’s recipe, thank the gods). And of course, Slayer Mag favorites Sadistik Exekution’s Black Metal Berry Pie, which looks absolutely phenomenal.

It also contains Pizza Cake.

It also contains Pizza Cake.

Black Metal Berry Pie.

Black Metal Berry Pie.

All and all, Hellbent for Cooking seems like a great little starter cookbook as well as a fun fan object for metalheads. I’m hoping to make something from it this weekend- I have a party to go to, and I’m thinking some of the vegetarian options or the appetizers will be really good to make. I’ll also update on here if I make anything from it, just like I did when I cooked some of Vegan Black Metal Chef’s stuff, to give you all a heads up (I still can’t find any truffle oil).

One of my favorite pictures. There's also a lot of humor in here

One of my favorite pictures. There’s also a lot of humor in here. Yes, my blanket has cats on it

Seriously seriously going to try to update more. Until then.

-Hagalaz

2013

Posted in musings with tags , on January 7, 2013 by blackmetallurgy

So it’s been a stressful and nerve-crushing couple of weeks for me, but I’m hoping that I’ll have more time to write for this blog over the next couple of weeks. I am excited for what 2013 will bring- I have plans to see Enslaved on their tour with Pallbearer (and now Royal Thunder), to see Marduk and Inquisition again (I swear I’m getting spoiled), and to finally see Ensiferum live, my favorite melo-deathers. Also looking forward to Maryland Deathfest, which will be most epic- I get to see Venom!

I also picked up a copy of the new Dethklok album, which is pretty awesome, so I’ll review that soon, as well as Hellbent for Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook with Annick Giroux from Cauchemar (which features lots of really yummy looking things I can’t wait to try my hand at as well as… um… “Pizza Cake”).

Either way, I have tons of ideas brewing and have simply lacked the time to get them down recently. I’ll try to get something up soon to start off 2013.

In the meantime, have some Nifelheim.

-Hagalaz

2012 in review

Posted in musings on January 4, 2013 by blackmetallurgy

Didn’t know if anyone was interested in this, but I thought it was kind of cool. Thanks to all the commenters and others who helped make my first year on this thing a great one!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,600 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 9 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Hagalaz’ Favorite Black Metal Releases of 2012

Posted in black metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2013 by blackmetallurgy

Finally, the list is here! Cutting people off it was excruciating- there have been some really fantastic new albums come out this year. After much pain and deliberation, however, these are the ones I have narrowed it down to. These are also of the ones I have heard- although I would love to listen to all the new black metal that gets released, until someone starts paying me for this blog, I’m on my own for supplying my music, and I am but a poor college student.

So without further ado, in *mostly* random order:

Enslaved- RIITIIR

I was skeptical of RIITIIR for a while, since- don’t get me wrong, I love Enslaved, nevertheless- I am more a fan of the Vikings’ older black metal stuff than their newer proggy stuff. I am happy to say I was wrong; RIITIIR has a lot to offer to old and new fans of Enslaved alike, and their subtle blackening of the prog works VERY well.

Nachtmystium- Silencing Machine

Silencing Machine, while not the return to necro black metal that we were promised, is incredibly dark nevertheless, and the interchanges between metal and the grinding feel of industrial music often backed by hooky rock beats is very artfully done.

Alcest- Les Voyages de L’Âme

Les Voyages de L’Âme, Alcest’s newest offering, is everything you could possibly want from an Alcest album. In places it is raw, in others it is uplifting, and it is always, always lovely.

Behexen- Nightside Emanations

Behexen’s Nightside Emanations (while having a really silly and suggestive title to my 12 year old sense of humor- no offense) is another extremely strong release. The album is straight up, good ol’ fashioned, melody-tinged black metal, but Behexen manages to do it without sounding contrived or stale even after all these years.

Master’s Hammer- Vracejte konve na místo

The new Master’s Hammer, Vracejte konve na místo, hasn’t appeared on any of the big metal blogs’ lists I’ve seen this year and that’s ridiculous (although my pal Carlos put it on his list, because he knows what’s up). Always unpredictable, Master’s Hammer have worked another masterpiece, this time including such elements as a mouth harp.

Merrimack- The Acausal Mass

Merrimack’s The Acausal Mass is a fantastic release, and a great way to solidify the band’s presence in the scene. Though they’ve been around since the early 90s, Merrimack didn’t really come into their own sound until 2009’s Grey Rigorism, when they mixed the perfect blend of French dissonance and Swedish melody. On The Acausal Mass that sound has ripened, resulting in a very strong record.

Deathspell Omega- Drought (EP)

Drought, while a simple EP, is another heavy hitter this year. People who don’t like Deathspell Omega love it even, and that is saying something. Finally ending their trilogy and supplemental EPs cycle (perhaps?), Drought provides a welcome reprieve from the methodical mayhem of albums like Fas without sacrificing any of the ugliness.

Watain- Opus Diaboli (DVD)

Watain’s long awaited live DVD/movie, Opus Diaboli, made me change the title of this post from “albums” to “releases,” because it deserves a place on here. With fascinating commentary on the symbolism that the band uses, a stellar live set, and a really impressive 2-disc live CD, Watain really outdid themselves with this one.

Teitanblood- Woven Black Arteries (Compilation)

Although a compilation comprised of only two songs (“Purging Tongues” from the 2011 EP of the same title and “Sanctified Dysecdosis”), Woven Black Arteries is easily a masterpiece. A mere thirty minutes long, it’s Teitanblood at their finest. This wins the “False” award of the year, for short little things that easily slip through the cracks if you’re not paying attention, but which melt your face off if you are.

Marduk- Serpent Sermon

Marduk’s Serpent Sermon is easily one of my favorites this year. Often dismissed as Old Reliable (by people who have been living under a rock since Rom. 5:12 came out), Marduk took some huge risks with this one and succeeded brilliantly.

Mgla- With Hearts Towards None

Mgla’s new album With Hearts Towards None has not shown up on many best of lists this year, and that’s absolutely baffling to me. With Hearts Towards None is inventive and very hooky for black metal, and for me, this is probably the year’s best.

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So there you have it- a bunch of stuff that I think is awesome, and I’m shocked that so much of it seems to be largely overlooked (seriously. The metal blogs should be all over that new Teitanblood and Master’s Hammer). With that being said, there are plenty of other really good releases that I had to file off my list- the Agalloch EP (Faustian Echoes) for instance, or the new Shining, which is also really strong. But I decided to cut it off at 11, because, you know, but also because I can’t put everything on it unfortunately.

And unfortunately, there’s also plenty other new stuff that I haven’t heard enough of yet- the new Godseed and Blut Aus Nord, for instance- and stuff I haven’t gotten around to at all yet- I have been told there is a new Enthroned that I missed completely, and Svartidauđi has gotten some excellent reviews. Dordeduh, Krallice, Mutilation Rites, Panopticon; there’s still so much to listen to. But maybe I will get around to listening to those albums and can review them or something, because I’m sure that some of them have easily earned their way onto a top ten (or eleven) list.

In the meantime I’m going to try and get some more written for this thing. It’s been touch and go for a while because I’ve been working so much, but hopefully I can get more done soon.

Have a very kvlt New Year.

-Hagalaz