I don’t normally hawk my own artistic output on this blog, but I’m going to make an exception over the next couple of weeks. You see, it’s been exactly 20 years today since my partner in crime Wiley Wells (check out his amazing new album here) and I released our album Palindrome, which remains one of the accomplishments I am most proud of. Sure, relatively few people ever actually listened to it — although it did generate a bit of interest at the time, Wiley and I split shortly after the release for the typical reasons that bands break up, and without us playing regular shows the record just sort of evaporated after a while. But despite that, the album accomplished what I intended of it, which was basically to get out of my system some kind of artistic mind virus that had been obsessing me for years. Whatever its merits from a musical perspective, the album was a spiritual victory for me, and I like to think you can hear the passion we put into it when you listen to the songs even after so many years.
The album was, I suppose, a sort of concept album, as cringe as that can sometimes be. The theme was one of cyclical death and rebirth, symbolized through the turning of seasons and also through the idea of palindromes, which are character strings that are the same forward as backward (e.g., tacocat). We released the album on 20-11-02, a palindromic date. We were essentially invoking a Spenglerian vision of civilizational cycles, embodied in an extended metaphor of the birth, violent life, spiritual collapse, and obscure, lonely death of an unnamed person. I guess none of this was really explicit in any of the tracks, but you can sort of tease it out of the lyrics if you know what we were thinking about when we wrote the thing.
Anyway, for the sake of posterity I will write more about some of my favorite individual tracks from this record over the coming weeks. Today, we have put together a 20th anniversary downloadable edition on Bandcamp that has three older bonus tracks, including what I think might be the best song I ever wrote. Maybe you listen? Maybe you share? I can promise you that any money we get from downloads will go to subversive causes furthering our slide into, and beyond, the Global American Empire’s Spenglerian winter.
It’s been a while since I posted music, so let’s have a listen to some of my favorite recent black metal releases.
If you’re at all into black metal, you’ve certainly heard of Watain, a veteran Swedish outfit that’s been around since 1998. Their last few records have been especially good, but I think their most recent effort, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Watain, might be their best, and also maybe my favorite album so far this year. The first “single” from the album, “The Howling”, is very catchy:
Another track, “We Remain”, is a major departure from Watain’s typical balls-to-the-wall blast beats, but it’s an amazing atmospheric track with a lot of power. The female vocals are by Farida Lemouchi, who I had never heard of before, but she’s apparently been doing vocals for many years. She’s definitely got an amazing, eerie voice, perfect for this kind of track. Anyway, if slow creepy songs aren’t your thing, “We Remain” is followed immediately by what is probably the fastest track on the album, so just be patient…
But there are also some lesser-known acts that have caught my attention recently. One is the band Hulder, which according to their Bandcamp bio is a “Belgian-American one-woman black metal band”. Well, I guess she got a band to tour with her, because a friend of mine caught them at a recent show in Atlanta (the actual show is on YouTube here) and was highly impressed with them. If you’re expecting “evil Enya” style vocals in the style of Myrkur, you’re barking up the wrong tree — Hulder is old-school brutal, no-frills black metal:
More in the “symphonic” vein is the UK band Necronautical. I really fell in love with their 2021 album Slain in the Spirit. The record channels some of the best moments from classic Emperor, but not to the point of seeming derivative. Plus they include operatic male vocals, which have been really growing on me of late thanks to my abiding love for all things Fleshgod Apocalypse. This video highlights all of those features:
But my personal favorite is the title track “Slain In The Spirit”, which has a very memorable and epic opening riff (I’m a sucker for those). No video, so I’ll just link it from Bandcamp:
Definitely check out Hulder and Necronautical, folks, and go see them if they are in town. Hell, go see any band that’s in town. These guys have been losing money for the last two years thanks to the COVID insanity, so double your effort to get back out there and support underground music to make up for it!
I figure I can’t go wrong posting music from whichever European country is most in the news from week to week. Seems like history is alive and well after all on the continent. A couple of weeks ago, Hungary poked its head up and made some noise, with the landslide victory of national conservative Viktor Orbán for that country’s top political position. In his acceptance speech he declared victory over the left, the West, and, amusingly, Volodomyr Zelensky (sp) and the Ukrainian propaganda machine. Props to you, Mr. Orbán, and may your enemies learn to fear you as Europe feared your Magyar ancestors a millennium ago.
So what the heck, let’s have a look at my favorite Hungarian artists. Full disclosure, I have no idea what the politics of these individuals are, so if they stumble across this post and are offended to be connected, even tangentially, to Orbán, my apologies.
One of the most creative metal acts, and one of my favorites over the last decade, is the Hungarian band Thy Catafalque. The band is mostly the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Tamás Kátai, but any given record has a laundry list of helpers playing everything from saxophones and horns to unusual ethnic instruments like the Armenian duduk which apparently is this thing:
Add in a wild variety of vocal styles, from metal growls to ethereal female voices to traditional folk melodies, and the result is a completely unique experience that simply can’t be easily compared to any other act out there. Here’s the opening track “Szarvas” (“deer” in Hungarian) from their excellent 2021 record Vadak:
Here’s another track from the same album that highlights more of their “avant garde” side:
But wait, there’s more! Thy Catafalque is probably the most “Hungarian” Hungarian metal band, but let’s not forget the great Attila Csihar, the prolific black metal etc. vocalist who originally crawled out of some Hungarian tomb in the 90’s to famously fill in on vocals for the classic Mayhem record De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas when Mayhem’s previous vocalist Dead inconveniently, but unsurprisingly, shot himself in the face with a shotgun. Here’s a fairly recent Mayhem performance, with Attila singing my favorite track from that classic album:
It’s entirely possible that this song has the most nihilistic lyrics ever written (again, unsurprisingly, written by a guy named Dead who killed himself):
I am a mortal, but am I human? How beautiful life is now that my time has come A human destiny, but nothing human inside What will be left of me when I’m dead? There was nothing when I lived
Happy Easter, man, pass the benzos. Csihar went on to make a fine career for himself as a black metal vocalist, showing up as a guest vocalist on many records and on tour with a lot of bands over the years. One of my favorite of his side projects, though, is the oft maligned Aborym, which was one of the first attempts to fuse black metal and industrial music. You can judge how well they pull it off for yourself — here is the complete recording of their album Fire Walk With Us which gets bonus points for taking its name from the best TV show ever made, Twin Peaks:
Here’s the “Black Lodge” poem/prayer that the name comes from:
Through the darkness of future past The magician longs to see One chance out between two worlds Fire, walk with me!
I guess I should warn you — if you are here for my political and vaccine rants and aren’t a death metal fan, and you have a problem with ultraviolence and gore in the context of music, don’t scroll down.
Hello all, sorry for the long delay since my last post. Part of it was due to traveling, and another part was that I wrote and deleted multiple posts about the Ukraine War before finally deciding to just drop it completely and get back to complaining about science. As he often does, eugyppius wrote a post that summarizes much of my thinking about Ukraine better than I could myself. I might have more to say on it in the future, but right now the emotions are too raw, and I have good friends from both belligerent countries, so taking my usual sardonic tone while people are dying just doesn’t feel right.
In any case, week before last I went to my first metal show since the beginning of the pandemic — the eternal Cannibal Corpse. Cannibal was never one of my favorite bands except insofar as they really really bothered people from outside the metal world. But there’s no question that their style set the tone for much of American death metal from the 90’s onward, even if others perfected the sound later. Cannibal also deserves huge props for the support they’ve given local metal scenes over the years, and how crazy friendly they’ve been (especially Corpsegrinder) to their fans and the bands that grew up listening to them.
The first record I bought by Cannibal, Butchered at Birth, came with an unmarked, white CD liner because their cover art got banned. You had to send off for it — the record company would send you the real CD liner if you sent them an envelope with a stamp on it, which I did, and received this classic Vince Locke cover:
Later on I discovered Locke’s classic zombie apocalypse genre comic series Deadworld. Anyway, here’s probably my favorite Cannibal track of all time — this was their encore song as the show and it was amazing how much energy the crowd managed to find for it that late.
Here’s another one that came up in my playlist last week. Great video and a great cover of a great song. It’s no secret that Behemoth is one of my favorite bands, but the guest vocals by Shining’s Kvarforth are perfect for the dreamy, gothic atmosphere of this classic Cure track.
Last week I gave an overview of my favorite Ukrainian and Russian bands. I mentioned that I hadn’t heard them say anything directly about Russia or the war/possibility of war — that’s changed. I thought I’d share with you some notices from musicians in Ukraine.
First, and most exciting/depressing, is that Drudkh decided to release a new video way ahead of schedule in case they don’t survive. From their record label’s statement accompanying the release:
Ukrainian black metal stalwarts DRUDKH are now releasing the official music video for the new song, “The Nocturnal One”. The video was originally not slated for release until later this year, along with a new record from the band. However, due to the increasingly dangerous situation in their homeland, being situated in the epicentre of the invasion and with no safe borders to reach, the band has requested that the video be released immediately as they are currently uncertain of their own future or safety.
DRUDKH has always shown unwavering pride for their country through their music. This poignant statement is a testament to their fighting spirit and love for their homeland. The new record and its details will be revealed in time. Due to vinyl plant delays, the album release is delayed until late 2022.
Season of Mist has been in contact with Drudkh over the phone today.
They stated the following: “Even though we weren’t supposed to share any statement or music until later this year, we are grateful to get this new track out here today. It represents HOPE, may it strengthen those who need it.”
Our hearts go out to Drudkh and all our Ukrainian artists.
Here it is; it’s really quite good. One notices the blue and gold color scheme toward the video’s end — those are the colors of the Ukrainian flag if I’m not mistaken. So perhaps a patriotic anthem to inspire the troops — if there’s anybody on the ground that still has internet access.
The following message from an eastern Ukrainian metal festival’s organizers was reposted by Nokturnal Mortum on Facebook:
To all our friends and supporters all over the world.
Here is something we all should know and remember:
war and russia’s military invasion of Ukrainian territory started back in 2014. It is a hybrid war, filled with blood, death, russian lies, russian propaganda, and russian fakes. This is how they have always behaved for decades: faithful heirs of their soviet past, they continue to assert that Ukraine, the Ukrainian language, and culture haven’t ever existed. They were destroying everything Ukrainian then, adjusting everyone to the patterns of the bloody system, and killing those who did not agree; it is no longer a secret that this is what they would like to proceed with now.
The masks have been dropped, and now the russian aggressor is openly declaring its intentions. The war it has been waging in Ukrainian territories since 2014 threatens to move into an open, much more destructive and bloody phase. This is a threat not only to us but to the entire civilized world, to all the principles by which it is built and exists.
Ukrainians will resist.
And you can help us.
Here are options for supporting the Ukrainian army and helping it defend us and you against russian aggression (all options include international payments):
International charitable foundation “Come back alive”:
Another Ukrainian band, Ezkaton, just released a new record this month (that’s quite good, by the way, see selections below) but sent out the following message to their Bandcamp followers regarding shipping of new orders:
Sorry guys. We have Russia invasion. Delivery will be late for unknown period. Russia bombing city in 60km from me. Wish us luck!
A while back an Israeli colleague of mine wrote that her edits on a manuscript we were working on might be late because Hamas was shooting rockets into her city and her grad students had been called up to defend the country, so things were a little bit weird at the moment. Difficult for an American to put himself in the headspace of people who live in that kind of environment; any attempt by one of us to understand what’s going on in those parts of the world has to start by reckoning with that fact. Damn. Anyway, the next day Ezkaton sent this:
Thanks to all of you for total suppoort! Things here not going well. I hope, that tomorrow I will take weapon in my hands. For the first time in my life, but I hope – not the last time. I still getting orders for wooden boxes, CD’s and t-shirt. I dont want to dissapoint you – CD’s of To Those Who Fell were burned in Kyiv werehouses that have been destroyed by bombs. After our victory – all your orders will be delivered by me, or my family. Thank you again!
He later linked to the same “charitable”* organizations as NM, so if you feel motivated to contribute to their war effort, that’s probably a good link to use. Here’s that new Ezkaton record — atmospheric and merciless with great keys. I hope he survives to make more music inspired by his new brutal life experiences. But if not, enjoy Valhalla brother, it sounds like you’re earning it.
* I give scare quotes to “charitable” because, well, it’s a donation to an army and could very well go towards killing people, so not exactly the Salvation Army or the Red Cross. Seems weird that a military would be raising money on the Internet, but it’s probably better than how we fund our own operations.