Sunday, January 5, 2014
i made you a goat, but i eated it - on the glories of Black Metal
Recently a young man told me that he smokes weed in the same way that I would have a cup of tea in my conservatory. Whoah! I have a conservatory? Who knew?
The other night I was asking another young man about his t shirt. I am a terror for reading t shirts. Someone should slap me for peering myopically at people's chests. He smiled at me in a kindly fashion and said 'Oh, it's a noisy band'.
Well. I have been listening to a bit of black metal lately and I knew that Immortal, the band on his t shirt, hail from Norway and do very stylish corpse paint, and I have wandered around some of their stuff. But it was not the time to put the young man in his place, so I did not.
I can actually live without Immortal. I currently cannot live without their some of their Scandinavian counterparts Mayhem and Bathory, which are currently my all time favorite bands.
Mayhem is deservedly legendary and their music is so sonically powerful that anything else heard afterwards is so vanilla I just want to punch someone's lights out. Their best known track 'The Freezing Moon', inspired by high summer in Norway, is a simple yet densely layered piece that is so heavy it is almost conceptual, a soundscape suited to the ambience of, say, an oubliette. The vocals, by Per 'Dead' Ohlin, who is by the way very extremely dead, hit this Tuvan throat singing thing at times. It's an aural assault of the first magnitude.
Metal is divided into genres. And sub genres. And sub sub sub genres and even subbier genres and even those within the same genre accuse each other of not being tru to the kvlt and in the end all you have is two skinny guys from Bergen throwing pig's heads at each other and calling each other posers.*
I came to black metal via the more cheerful genres of extreme metal, folk metal, pagan metal, and viking metal, although all of these labels are hotly contested, and finely critiqued, like this: No way shit head that is so not grindcore I don't hear any core whaddya mean core you total fucktard if you don't like what I say you can just fuck off from here you faggot no you're a faggot no you are.** Anyway my two all time favorite Scandinavian folk/pagan/whatever bands are TrollFest, who are from Norway but sing in their native Swedish and have made four whole albums about trolls, and Finntroll, who are from Norway but sing in their native Swedish and have made four whole albums about trolls. Korpiklaani, from Finland, are capable of occasional yoiking and have made four whole albums about booze. Eleuvite sing in reconstructed ancient Gaulish and have about nine members because the job of playing the hurdy gurdy (a cross between a piano and a coffee grinder) is so rigorous it needs to be rostered. They have made four albums about how the Romans burned down their village. Gorgoroth, from Norway, and the truest blackest metal ever, were fronted by the extaordinary Gaahl. Here is a picture of Gaahl.
You will see he has a porcupine clamped to his arm. This is because porcupines are sacred to Satan.** Gorgoroth is very heavy on the Satanism. You have to be pretty committed to dress like this. It makes it really awkward to get onto a bus, for example. Gaahl is an interesting chap. One of his stretches in prison was for torturing a guy by, among other things, bleeding him into a Yahtzee cup. Yahtzee is also sacred to Satan*** Despite his reputation, Gaahl was voted Bergen's Gay Man of 2011. This is true. Gorgoroth, of course, sing in Orcish.
Black and black-ish metal is best sung in foreign, like opera. In fact black metal has a lot in common with opera. Both are grandiose and theatrical and atavistic and daft, at their best. Both are best when they are incomprehensible. I mean, ups to John Adams for writing Nixon in China and all that, but, well, damn. Opera is best in foreign. This is because lyrics in opera are like this:
Oh my heart
And metal is best in foreign because it has some of the worst lyrics since Marc Bolan.# Here, for example is a track I admit I have actually heard, from German (not black) metal band Majesty:
Keeper of the sacred oath, defender of the damned
Once born as a thunder child, now you're a stronger man
Riding on a horse of steel up in the hailing storm
Descendent of the universe the mighty lord reborn.
You are flying in the wind
Bring us hope and clear our sins
You are young you are free
You're the son of destiny
We all believe.....
Dearie, dearie me. I promise you that is not a parody, and I did not write this. You can read lyrics on Darklyrics.com and you may wish to do so if you think you have a long, long time to live.
I am not sure why I have developed a liking for Scandinavian metal at my age. Perhaps I just like being roared at by shirtless young men with long blond dreadlocks. And the fact that this is the least hip music imaginable. And it cheers me strangely - a couple of tracks from Darkthrone's Under a Funeral Moon and I have arisen from my torpor and made dinner and baked a pie.
There are lots of good links I could give you. The Uncyclopedia's parody articles about Black Metal and Mayhem are funny as hell, (or Helvete haha), but you need to know a bit about it to get the in jokes. Black metal is inherently very amusing when it does not involve burning churches or making necklaces out of the skulls of dead band members.* There are several in jokes in this post which you will not get at all because you are all merely posers.
I will however link to this, which is Finntroll's awesomely fun 'Trollhammeren'. It is from a whole album about trolls:
*This actually has happened, I'm afraid.
**There is an internet meme that counts the number of steps in any online argument, towards one person referring to another as being Hitler or a Nazi, or being like Hitler or Nazis. In the case of the black metallers, there is a similar count towards one person calling the other a faggot. The answer is always two.+
+Black metal is avowedly homophobic. However it does have a place for women. They make quite good occasional tables.
** There is a South Park episode about this, for enhanced credibility.
*** Well, somebody must play Yahtzee. Who do you know who plays Yahtzee? No one, right. I guess only Satanists play Yahtzee. What would i know, scriptural exegesis was never my strong point and so i am wickedly making up theology as i go along. Hail Yahtzee! Hail Gaahl! Hail Erithizon Dorsat!!!#
#This is the Latin term for the porcupine. Black metallers like Latin.
##'Girl I'm just a jeepster for your love'. The prosecution rests.