Archive for May, 2016

Book Review: Confessions of a Heretic by Adam Nergal Darski, et. al.

Posted in black metal, blackened death metal, books, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 26, 2016 by blackmetallurgy

I actually got Nergal’s biography, Confessions of a Heretic, last year when it first came out but I didn’t finish it. So, when I planned to see Behemoth again in April, I decided to reread it in the spirit of things. The book centers on Nergal, of course, and is very comprehensive; while Behemoth plays a large role in it, the focus is always on Nergal and his relationship to the band, and he always speaks from his own perspective instead of speaking for the other guys as well.

Confessions of a Heretic covers the entirety of Nergal’s life up until roughly the release of The Satanist and the book. Nergal candidly recalls his childhood (accompanied by an adorable picture of him as a baby), the early years of Behemoth and its growth into well, a behemoth, his flirtation with super-stardom and relationship with Polish pop diva Doda, and his battle with the cancer that tried, and failed, to take him down. Throughout this review I keep finding myself saying “candid,” and that’s really the best word for it, I think; Nergal is always straightforward, always passionate, and never flinching throughout the entire book. His worldview is expansive enough to allow for Behemoth to grow into one of the biggest extreme metal bands in the world and to allow him to socialize outside of his typical circle without ever feeling as though he has compromised his position. Nergal vehemently states at several points that he keeps “one foot in the underground,” that he will never forget where he came from, and that Behemoth will always maintain their ethos.

While the entirety of the book is fascinating, there were a few parts that excited me in particular. First of all, I was very interested to read about Nergal’s relationship with his native Poland. It’s a rocky one, unsurprisingly; lots of people, myself included, have deep resentment for the places from whence they came, especially if they never were made to feel as though they belonged there. However, despite his frustration and stubborn belief that Poland could be so much more than it is, Nergal has remained in his home country, deciding not to follow his older brother’s footsteps and go somewhere else. “The band is located in Poland,” he says, then later, “Poland is my home” (103).

Another part of the book that I found really interesting was Nergal’s decision to commit apostasy (Chapter 12). Of course, as the interviewers argue, there was never any real question as to whether Nergal was a good practicing Catholic, but he was determined, despite multiple attempts at dissuasion from the priest who had to approve it, to formally break from the Church. Apostasy has always been interesting to me as a non-Catholic. I think it must be freeing to have it formally done; a priest says “Ok. You’re not part of the Church anymore,” and it’s a formal thing rather than saying “I no longer believe this” and then panicking for the next decade of your life, not that I have experience with that. Ahem. But this chapter was really intriguing to me, because, as it turns out, it’s not that easy to commit apostasy, and I found Nergal’s determination to do so, anyway, even if it was just symbolic, inspiring.

I also found it interesting to learn that Nergal has legally changed his name to Adam Nergal Darski (76), and his reasoning behind doing so. Everyone, it seems, calls him Nergal or Ner anyway, with the exception of his parents, and he decided to change his name legally. “I became Adam when I was christened. That’s what they called me without asking for my opinion. I became Nergal because I wanted to. I chose that name knowingly and consciously,” he says, citing a change of name as another break from his christening (76). I find this really interesting in light of reading Richard Cavendish’s book The Black Arts (I have all kinds of opinions on this thing that I won’t go into here) and the idea of true names and the power of names, and the efforts magicians go to in order to protect their true names, etc. It’s not entirely the same, of course, but at the heart of it, it is- names have power, and being able to make a conscious choice about what yours will be is important.

Other fun things in Confessions include stories of Nergal’s run-ins with the paparazzi (he is good at avoiding them; think action-movie-car-chases), his relationships with women and how they have changed over the years (he is very aware of his good and bad qualities, and it’s cool to hear him so openly discuss them), and his statement that he clearly knows nothing about wine since he likes whites, which, as a devoted red-wine-drinker, I agree with. Also, the infamous Kentucky Bible-tearing incident is covered, so you get Nergal’s perspective on that as well.

In a more general sense, Confessions was translated from Polish into English, and at times the language feels a little stiff, which tends to happen in translation. By no means is it distracting, and the prose is smooth, but there are times in the book when I really wish I could read Polish, because I feel almost certain that there are words and images that cannot be conveyed in English.

The format of the book is also unconventional in that it is entirely question and answer. Confessions is written in an interview format, with Nergal’s friends Krzysztof Azarewicz and Piotr Weltrowski asking the questions and Nergal providing answers. What’s really cool is that Azarewicz and Weltrowski have known Nergal for a long time, and so they aren’t afraid to ask him personal questions and rile him a bit, and you get the feeling that they are still friends after the fact. I think this is why the whole book feels very candid, like a discussion amongst friends, which makes it overall very refreshing. The English version also contains a well-written and thoughtful forward by Randy Blythe of Lamb of God.

In terms of the physical object itself, the book is nice. It has one of those covers that will appeal to weirdos like me who really like textures, and has cool photo pages and artwork (the artwork looks a lot like woodcuts from the kinds of things I study). My only complaint as a book nerd is that it’s a big book and the pages are glued into the spine, so I don’t think it will enjoy a super long shelf-life without some repairs.

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The cover, complete with bonus cat feets.

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Overall, I really enjoyed Nergal’s book. As I said, at times it felt a little stiff, but I think that was because of the translation. It was really fascinating to hear about so many aspects of Nergal’s life, and to see how his pride, his stubbornness, and sheer force of will have carried him through so many trials. That being said, Nergal also remains humble in regards to what he does, continually placing his band above himself, showing a willingness to understand and try to overcome his failings, and in how grateful he is simply to be alive. I’ll leave you with this quotation, because I think it’s important, from when the Azarewicz and Weltrowski asked Nergal what he thought of Satyricon opening the skiing world championships and Gaahl working in the fashion world (134): “Black metal, first and foremost, means individualism. It also promotes freedom without limitations.”

So there you have it, from Nergal himself. You do you, no matter what, and do it as hard as you can. Black metal is, ultimately, about no compromise.

-H

Hagalaz’ Favorite Albums of 2015

Posted in 2015, best of, black metal, doom, doom metal, drone metal, finland, funeral doom, marduk, melechesh, orthodox black metal, sweden, traditional heavy metal, war metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 19, 2016 by blackmetallurgy

The other day, I was thinking of catch-up posts I needed to do and I thought, “Oh! I’ll do a post about my favorite albums of 2015!” I didn’t plan on it needing to be ten or eleven like I normally do because… it’s almost six months late, so why do you care? But then, lo, there were that many, so the list is eleven after all.

So without further ado, in mostly random order, my favorites of 2015.

11. Ghost – Meliora

After the huge fanfare for Infestissumam (and there was a lot of it. Remember when Ghost released those sex toys?), there was practically none for its follow-up. Really. I didn’t even know this album was out until about a week after it dropped, and I worked at a metal record store. Meliora feels like a throwback in a way; it’s more stripped down in the way that Opus Eponymous was, and I dare say a little heavier than its predecessors, “Cirice” feels almost doomy.

Favorite Tracks: He Is, Absolution

[Here’s Ghost playing “He Is” with the grandpas guitars.]

 

10. Sunn O))) – Kannon

Sunn O))) near the end of the year released their first full-length album (not with Ulver) since 2009’s Monoliths and Dimensions (which is absolutely, stupidly, dumbfoundingly awesome). Clocking in at barely over a half hour, Kannon is over a whole lot faster than you would hope (if you’re me), but that’s literally my only complaint about it. Here’s to Attila doing more crazy things with his throat!

H’s Favorite Track: Kannon, Pt. 3

 

9. Baroness – Purple

I was stupidly happy to hear that Baroness would have a new album out; after their terrible bus crash in 2012, I would not have been surprised if they never put out another album. Purple is a return to a heavier sound, and it simultaneously incorporates a lot of new sounds and styles, like in “Shock Me” and “If I Have to Wake Up (Would You Stop the Rain).” J thinks that 2012’s Yellow & Green may prove to be a transitional album if the band continues in this vein, and it will be interesting to see where Baroness goes from here.

Favorite Tracks: Shock Me, Kerosene

 

8. Melechesh – Enki

Melechesh is one of those bands that I think is really cool and innovative and doesn’t get nearly enough attention. 2010’s The Epigenesis was when they got the production budget to really hit their peak, and I wasn’t sure that they would be able to top it, but Enki definitely does. It’s tight, fast, full of fun shifting drum patterns and Eastern-influenced riffing and instrumentation. Now if we can just get them to tour here again… or headline…

Favorite Tracks: Tempest Temper Enlil Enraged, Doorways to Irkala

[And this is just track one.]

 

8. Shape of Despair – Monotony Fields

I was also very excited to hear that Shape of Despair had a new album coming out. Angels of Distress is one of the most upsetting albums I know- it’s beautiful, but it really is distressing. Monotony Fields (there’s one that came out between them that I didn’t know about! I will have to get on that) is another treatise in funeral doom the way it should be done- it’s bleak and slow-moving with some awesome keyboard parts. It’s also got some surprising turns- “Descending Inner Light” is almost joyful. For funeral doom. Which is really kind of the opposite of joyful. Huh.

Favorite Tracks: The Distant Dreams of Life, In Longing

[Here’s another track, because there are entirely too many high points on this album]

 

6. Saturnalia Temple – To The Other

Speaking of doom- Saturnalia Temple’s To The Other really is like gazing into the Void. Creepy, heavy, and just plain downright daunting (smothering?), this album reminds me of all of the ugliness and sonic twistedness of something like Teitanblood, but slower. Much. Much. Slower. It’s sort of like being slapped with a sledgehammer. But in a good way.

Favorite Tracks: ZazelSorath, To the Other

[Enjoy your nightmares.]

 

5. Shining – IX: Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends

Shining released their ninth full-length album last year, called Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends. This new album features an introductory track that is entirely fugue-like classical riffing, and later employs the use of a sitar. Say what you will about their stage antics and the general notoriety of vocalist Niklas Kvarforth, Shining remains, in my opinion, one of the most innovative black metal bands currently out there.

Favorite Tracks: Den påtvingade tvåsamheten, Besök från i(ho)nom

 

4. Mgła – Exercises in Futility

Mgła also returned with an offering every bit as good as everyone expected it to be. While I am still very partial to With Hearts Towards None, Exercises in Futility proves that Mgła is not slacking and is easily one of the best black metal releases of last year, even if it doesn’t really break any new ground. Blending old school style with third-wave melody, Mgła’s albums are consistently solid and enjoyable.

Favorite Tracks: IV, VI

 

3. Marduk – Frontschwein

2015 also saw the return of Marduk, and specifically the return of Marduk playing war music. Not to say that their past several albums haven’t been absolutely fantastic in their focus on Biblical/apocalyptic imagery, but let’s face it, war is kind of what they’re known for. Frontschwein does not disappoint, bringing in some of the best reviews that Marduk has seen in years and proving that black metal’s war machine hasn’t sacrificed any of their brutality.

Favorite Tracks: Nebelwerfer, 503

[Yes. That’s a tambourine.]

 

2. Amorphis – Under the Red Cloud

This is the weird one on the list. I have never listened to Amorphis before last year. At all. Basically, Shane just played it a lot at the record store and it really grew on me. While not typically the sort of thing that I listen to with any amount of frequency, Amorphis’ Under the Red Cloud is, I think, easily one of my favorite albums of 2015.

Favorite Tracks: Death of a King, Tree of Ages

[Again. There isn’t a bad song on this one either.]

 

1. Clandestine Blaze – New Golgotha Rising

My number one album of 2015 is actually a black metal album this year. If you’re not familiar with Clandestine Blaze, you should be, and if those vocals sound familiar… well, that would probably be because Deathspell Omega also channels their works through Mikko Aspa’s vocal chords. Only here he does everything. New Golgotha Rising is, on the surface, a relatively straightforward raw black metal album, but the more I listen to it, the more I find that it shifts around beneath the surface, like some kind of parasite in a sci-fi horror film. All of Clandestine Blaze’s catalog is seriously good stuff, but this new one is one of my favorites.

Favorite Tracks: (All of it, ya goofs, but if I have to pick,) Evocation Under Starlit Sky, Passage to New Creed

[I wanted to post this track because it does a good job of showing off that slippery riffage that Clandestine Blaze does so well.]

So there is a list of stuff I liked last year. Because dudes, I already had eleven. Which is why Enforcer isn’t on there along with other notable exceptions, and there’s still stuff I need to catch up on (Arcturus). The back catalog on the stuff I need to catch up on is huge. But, here is the stuff I was jamming a bunch last year for you to peruse while I try to stay on top of this year (new Rotting Christ is incredible, and Behexen and Inquisition’s new stuff is sounding really, really good).

Until next time…

-H

 

 

An open post to the internet, because I ought to do this.

Posted in 2016, musings, state of the blog, Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 12, 2016 by blackmetallurgy

I had other, fun stuff planned for today, but I should get this out of the way, because I should. I will be back with the fun stuff next week, because I decided I should talk about my favorite albums that came out last year, and the stuff I’ve done (because I have done stuff), and have not recorded here because I fail.

So this is the post about why I failed.

***

I went for a long time neglecting this blog. This is not good, because I love metal and this blog is one thing that has generally never failed to make me happy over the past few years. It’s also not good because it’s not like I haven’t been doing stuff, albeit more sporadically than in the past, and I should have been blogging about Hell’s Headbash last year, or how I went to see Mgła and Mortuary Drape in Chicago in November, of the brief time in which I was fascinated by crust punks and very quickly got so burned out on that business it is not even funny (your rebellion is pointless, keep your politics away from my black metal, and take a fucking shower).

However, a lot happened to drain me and make even the things I love not as much fun anymore. Primarily, depression. Depression is romanticized a lot in music and movies, and we tend to focus on how it can help to channel artists’ creative processes. Everyone knows Nine Inch Nails was at its best when Trent Reznor hated himself. But the worst part of depression, the unromantic part that never gets elaborated upon, is the ennui, the apathy, the absolute destruction of everything that you love. Nothing is fun anymore. The things that used to make you happy turn to ash in your mouth, and it’s hard to do anything that isn’t just going back to sleep because when you’re asleep things don’t hurt and also it’s a good way to just kill off the time because you can’t bring yourself to care. About anything. Couple this with anxiety and you end up with me, sitting at home, not doing anything and making excuses to not see my friends and not leave the house. I managed to keep going to Into the Void, our little local metal shop, may it rest in peace, once a week or so, but I was emotionally withdrawn from the scene in general.

Last spring, I decided to jump ship on my PhD and go to library school. This helped immensely, and last fall I actually was declared in partial remission from my major depressive disorder and went off my anti-depressants in October. So that is good. Things were looking up in general but there were still significant changes that I needed to make to my life and… to be short, I think I started filling up all those vacuous spaces with the wrong things, which resulted in about six months of me feeling afloat, anxious, unsure of who I was and what I wanted, and with no clue about what I needed. I was not in a good place, but I was operating under the assumption that I was. (I mean, I was off the pills, so that was good, yeah?) Which, of course, kept me from fixing it.

I went through a shift recently. March was a rough month for me this year, but I was slowly starting to pull myself back together. And then I went to see Abbath in early April, and about the time they started playing “Tyrants,” something clicked in my skull. While listening to some of my favorite songs, surrounded by some of my favorite people, it occurred to me that… I think I’m going to be okay. And I knew when I got home that I was going to make some changes.

First of all, this blog was getting restarted. Because, crazily enough, in my travels over the past couple of years, I have met people who recognized my Funeral Mist back patch and who talk to me about my blog. There are people out there who read this thing on occasion who aren’t just my friends or long-suffering family members. I owe it to those people who read my stuff (fist-bump, you guys are great), as well as to myself, to keep writing. This is what I do. I write and I analyze. Also, without the record store, I have no place to blather endlessly on about black metal to people.

Next, I need to take better care of myself. I have been trying to meditate, which is not easy because I live at a busy intersection and have a helpful cat who worries about me and bites at my elbows when I sit still too long because he thinks I am dead. But already I am able to get into a deeply relaxed state pretty quickly, even after just about four weeks of halting, often-frustrated meditation. I’m also reading a bunch of esoteric stuff and absorbing it like a sponge; I’ve always been interested in occult stuff because I am a (paraprofessional, not yet certified) librarian and an INTJ and a Ravenclaw and I LIKE TO KNOW THINGS, and while I don’t know how spiritual I’ll end up getting with it, I’m inspired by the individualism implicit in LHP and it seems like a good way to lend me strength and not make me feel like so broken and beaten of a person.

Last but certainly not least, I’ve gotta start being a better cat mom, and a better friend, and get my arse out of the house and remember that I LOVE GOING TO SHOWS and LIVE MUSIC IS MY JAM (I went to a pop concert last month. I didn’t know the band at all. I still had fun. What the hey.) and MY FRIENDS, ONLINE AND IN REAL LIFE, ARE AWESOME. I should be more present so that people stop asking me where I’ve been because I haven’t seen them in several months, and I need to make an effort to get out more and meet more people (I’ve met some super cool folks in the past month that I’ve been going to shows all the time).

So I guess what I came here to say is that it’s been a rough year and half, and this blog has suffered because of it, and I’m sorry about that. It’s going to get better, I promise. It already has, I think. And I fully intend to update at least every Thursday. I’m still in school, because I’m… a glutton for punishment, I guess, and so it’s hard for me to promise more than that, but every Thursday, at least, I’ll be here. I’m going to try to post up a list of albums that came out last year that I liked a lot, as well as a brief overview of the cool stuff I’ve done that didn’t make it up here because I have been busy hating myself. Once again, music has been the thing that has lit a fire under my ass, has pulled me out of the dreadful funk I have been in, has inspired me to keep going and realize that I am stronger than all of this. Like Watain says, WE ARE WOLVES. And wolves fight back.

I feel like hanging a sign out like Granny Weatherwax’s from Discworld, the one that she puts up when she’s out of her body borrowing an animal’s mind that says “I ATEN’T DEAD.” Because I aten’t. Not yet.

-H

 

Concert: Behemoth/Myrkur (4/30, Mill City Nights, Mpls, MN)

Posted in 2016, atmospheric black metal, blackened death metal, denmark, doom metal, minneapolis, minneapolis/st. paul, poland, USBM with tags , , , , , , , , on May 5, 2016 by blackmetallurgy

When I heard that Behemoth was planning a tour in which they were going to play The Satanist top to bottom, I knew I had to go. I absolutely love that album, and Behemoth has yet to disappoint at a live gig. (Seriously. They have one of the best stage shows ever.) The fact that this was happening on Walpurgisnacht was, well, an added bonus. Who would pass that up?

Anyhow, I had somehow managed to forget that Myrkur was opening until a couple of days before the show. I reviewed her EP over at Burning Fist when it first came out and was really impressed with it, and just as equally dismayed by the sheer amount of hate that she got. The full-length album, M, was far less interesting to me (I never ended up getting it and I don’t really feel an aching need to), and I kind of lost track of her beyond vaguely jumping into conversations on the internet on occasion to slap people on wrist for being douchy. (Seriously. There are legitimate reasons why people are upset over Myrkur, and I understand those. But there are a lot of meatheads out there who think girls have no place in metal, and those people… can fuck off and die. But this is a concert review and that is a post for another day.)

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Myrkur

Myrkur’s live performance went, for me, much like the records did. I really liked the stuff she did from the EP, and the rest I thought was a little repetitive. However, I was really impressed to see her play keyboards and guitar both, and I was glad that she got such a positive reception from the crowd. A friend of mine mentioned that parts of her set sounded a lot like doom, and I found myself agreeing with that assessment. She ended the set with a cover of Bathory’s “Song to Hall Up High,” though, and I, uh, may have gotten something in my eye…

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I was happy that she played some instruments herself

Then, after a fairly lengthy pause, Behemoth took the stage. Behemoth is consistently good as a live act, but tonight they pulled out ALL the stops. In terms of just the stage show, Behemoth hauled out video screens for this one and showed video clips throughout the set, including the super creepy video for “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel.” (If they have done this in previous times that I have seen them, I don’t recall it.) Nergal also carried out one of those swingy-ball-o-incense-thingies that they use at Mass at one point (shut up; I’m not Catholic, I don’t know what it’s called). There was also a mock Communion, and the fans in the front of the stage got to eat up a bunch of Communion crackers. Also, Orion spit blood all over a crucifix he was holding upside down at the end of “Amen.” It was more live blasphemy than you could shake a stick at, along with a mosh pit that was positively churning the entire time.

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Fire: Never not a great idea

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Swingy-ball-‘o’-incense-thingy

Of course, Behemoth played The Satanist all the way through, ending with “O Father, O Satan, O Sun” and coming out for the last part with the horns on like they do. (So cool.) They played a handful of other songs afterwards, however, including “At the Left Hand ov God,” “Slaves Shall Serve,” “Antichristian Phenomenon,” and “Conquer All.” It was a fantastically fun show, and my doom metal buddy was even impressed despite Behemoth not being his typical thing.

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Inferno destroying everything. Seriously. He is one of my favorite drummers

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Happy Walpurgisnacht from Behemoth \m/

I actually did come away with some merch for this one. It had been a long time since I had a Behemoth shirt, and I couldn’t turn down this one with the Virgin Mary on it. It also occurred to me that I didn’t have a Behemoth patch for the jacket, which seemed wrong for someone who has now seen them four times, so I got one of those as well. I also picked up Myrkur’s EP; I had had a digital copy of it before from when I reviewed the album, but when my iPod corrupted in the fall and ate all my files I lost it.

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“Put me on the blog, mom!” Demanding Cat is demanding. (I know you are jealous of my kvlt Hello Kitty blanket) 

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The text on the patch that you can’t read very well says “The Satanist”

April has been absolutely nuts with shows just about twice a week, and now I feel like we’re about to hit a massive dry spell (there’s some really cool stuff coming up this summer, like Swans (!) and The Body, but it’s more spread out). However, Behemoth on Walpurgisnacht is a pretty good way to end a busy April, and very fortifying for the end of the semester that I’ll be fighting through the next couple of weeks.

I’ll be back next week; I’m almost done with Nergal’s biography, so I’m planning on writing on that, as well as the new Rotting Christ (I’m still on my first listen, but my rash impulse is to say this is even better than the last, which I loved), and I still need to write that post about why you all are so wrong about Reinkaos. (I’d put a winky emoji but I feel like that’s inappropriate.)

Until then…

-Hagalaz