Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I'm Losing Scene Points

"A lot of people don't take metal seriously as art, and a lot of people don't take art seriously as ethics. That's fine, I guess -- but as for myself, I do both. These days, when people detect ambition in someone they leap on that person like hyenas. The label "pretentious" is unquestioned as categorically damning. But I think musical culture could use a whole lot more pretension, if anything. It suffers from false, dishonest humility, and from a lack of ambition to be more than either entertainment or a badge of identification with a group"
Guy from Liturgy, re: critical firestorm

I'm in what feels like the lonely position of liking Liturgy (not to be confused with the startlingly uninteresting Brodequin+Matti Way BDM band. Seriously, how did this winning formula fall flat??) as a concept and a band. Last year I stumbled across the first full length, managed to make it out to Charlotte, NC to see them, talked with the dude for a minute, read the manifesto, etc. and I did, and still do, find it all pretty interesting and entertaining. (I haven't listened to the new album as I keep forgetting to do so, but that's unimportant) As a band, the way Liturgy both embraced and bent the thematic and musical conventions of black metal was equally interesting -- here's this gang of urbane Brooklynites playing a fluid, amorphous take on Second Wave black metal about rapturous spiritual transcendence (eh, pardon the reduction there). It may be the way they have one foot in and one foot out that makes them so impossibly incomprehensible and offensive to the seemingly endless wave of anonymous (and otherwise) critics.

So, during these past few months two things have happened: 1) Liturgy has blown up, big time, and 2) They've attracted an enormous barrage of criticism, ad hominem attacks, you name it. In a way I saw this coming but I guess the sheer volume of it has turned out to be equal or greater to to how much press coverage the band has received, and I suppose I expected neither to reach such heights.

Since the sole purpose of a blog is for one to feel entitled to privilege their opinion over others, I'm going to take a stab at this and say that by and large all the criticism of this band, to me, seems to completely miss the point. I'm not trying to force anyone to like Liturgy as it's not important to me whether or not they are liked but rather I'm moved to speak on how Liturgy has been received and I believe that it says a lot about metalheads in general.

First, forgive me if you dislike the band and you have a more nuanced opinion on the matter, clearly this is less directed at you. To me, the recurring phenomenon at work here seems to be either an inability or a flat out refusal to even try to understand the band and if you want a good example of that, look no further than the inane comments on that Brooklyn Vegan page. I'm not saying this band is a gang of geniuses or anything but they are definitely unique in some aspects, so don't kid yourself. So anyways, the guy likes to talk about the band and the concept, and that seems to bother many people...very well, but is he really the first musician in recent memory to do this? Really? In this case, to me it seems like people can't stand the idea of a hip, philosophy major talking about his art, because if it were Chris Tucker instead, no one would be making such a goddamn stink.
So, first of all, I sense a failure to approach Liturgy objectively, generally speaking. To me, it seems like who Liturgy is (Hunter Hunt Hendrix) is far more important than what Liturgy does. I'll return to this point.

The recurring line is that the band (the guy, rather) is pretentious, which, first, I can concede to, to a certain extent and if it is off-putting, I understand but yet, what is the alternative? Again, not to strike a false dichotomy and pardon me if I am making a textbook generalization, but by eschewing Liturgy completely in favor of what we consider appropriate/"right"/"true" for metal (aesthetically, thematically, musically, etc), doesn't that strike a dogmatic tone? If so, does extreme metal really need dogma? I get it: being a metalhead for me comes with a sense of pride and I feel very protective, which is why nu-metal, obvious poseurs, and the larger portions of Victory Record's roster piss me off a lot and send me on the defensive BUT there's a difference between determining what is false metal (which sometimes feels extremely important, weirdly enough) and creating a artistically stifling environment.

If black metal, or extreme metal in general, is going to continue to grow as an art form, it needs to continually rejuvenate itself. I'm not saying the Liturgy is the future of black metal or anywhere even remotely close to it but rather, they are just one piece of it and somehow, someway, their artistic contribution has some value whether you like it or not, just like how somewhere in the midst of all these almost-universally-godawful deathcore bands that I hate, there is undeniably some value in that music as well, whether I like it or not.

I stand by this, as poorly phrased as it may be.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Check out this fucking band

I'm in the middle of fine-tuning a longer post, so for now, here's something else.

ILSA is from the DC area and sound like some kind of unholy alliance of Bolt Thrower's post-grind menace, the raw hatred of Canada's Cursed (RIP), and the sheer filth one finds in Sunlight Studio.

The first time I heard the full-length, I thought the production might have been a little too unpolished, I had wished that the guitars were pushed a little closer to the front, and, most importantly, I wished everything got reverbed a least a little bit. I still feel that way but it's definitely grown on me since. At the end of the day, this is still a very enjoyable slab of unrelenting, raw, punkish, doom-like death metal.

They've got a split coming up soon with Hooded Menace, which is plenty exciting.

If you enjoy the full length, cough up some dough for them if you see them on tour, or perhaps pick up the split.

All the Colors of the Dark [Link]

In other news...

I figured out a mounting solution (that's what she said??) for my smaller rack tom on my drum kit and it's working GREAT. It's the first time in a while I've been able to figure out a way to have all three rack toms up in places where they "work."

I found a refurbished Xbox 360 and I bought it. This is such a fucking mistake. I'm just going to play Fallout 3 for the rest of my life.

I'm confused by the Cavalier's draft pick. Williams, to me at least, seemed like a sounder choice than Kyrie Irving. No one seems to agree with me on this, maybe there is something I'm missing.

I'm hungry.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Istanbul, Pt. 2

One thing I like about Istanbul in general is that it is like any regular city (at least to me) only all the squirrels have been replaced by cats who like being pet.

And just like that I'm leaving tomorrow. This visit has ruled. A major highlight was taking the metro, and then a funicular (I didn't know those existed until I got here) and then a tram to Gulhane (all of this is still inside Istanbul, which is outrageously big) to walk around in the park before I went into Topakapi Palace, which used to be the Ottoman seat of power but is now a fittingly gigantic museum. That place was nuts. It was total sensory overload, I couldn't even believe how stunning the architectural features and exhibits were. Google that. All that amazement was fatiguing.

Moving on...

I present: a brief featurette on Turkish metal. All of these bands are from Ankara. For that matter, Ankara seems to be the place for metal here, as all the forthcoming bands that I happened to listen to well before coming here came from that city. I'm making a rough estimation but it would seem as though maybe a whole fourth of Turkey's metal bands hail from the capital. Cool! Here are three..


CENOTAPH formed in the nineties and plays grinding, slamming, gurgling murder music, that makes them right at home on Sevared Records. Speaking of "Cenotaph,"are all these bands (and trust me, there are plenty) named after that Bolt Thrower song or is that a thing? I've never bothered to look that up. Digression. Their most recent release, Putrescent Infectious Rabidity was a personal favorite Brutal Death Metal release for me last year owing to its excellent performances across the board (featuring the dude from Defeated Sanity on drums). If you're into Disgorge, Cerebral Effusion and all those other relentlessly crushing bands, well.... you know what you like, and you know you will like this.

Next is a band who's song titles are almost as absurd as Absu's or Emperor's


DECIMATION play a hyper-technical, convoluted, rhythmically-complex, vaguely "Eastern" sounding, brand of death metal. To state the obvious, this band is pretty Nile-esque but don't write them off just yet. Places where Nile becomes tiring, like during some of their pointlessly long and seemingly directionlessly written songs are generally avoided on Decimation's 2010 album, Anthems of Empyreal Dominion (which has no reviews on the Metal Archives, wtf??). One thing that kind of grates me is how high the vocals are in the mix, as well as their general froggy-ness. Disclaimer: I LOVE Wormed.

Burial Invocation

BURIAL INVOCATION is my favorite of the bunch and features (ex??) Cenotaph members, though they couldn't sound any more different, as you can already tell. Rituals of the Grotesque is a perfect EP. I've been dying for more ever since. To me, the quickest point of comparison would be the morbid middle ground between the menacing, crushing weight of Grave circa Into the Grave and the disgusting, cavernous, evil stench of pre-Shitfun Autopsy (Okay, I think I've made it abundantly clear how much I like Grave and Autopsy..). Fuck, this band fucking rules. I bought this, which is rare. What can I say? I'm a product of the information age. This band is relatively new and this is their only release, you'd be doing them a solid if you ordered the ep as well.

I'm le-sleepy and I have to prep myself for a full day of sitting around on airplanes. If my flight on Turkish Airlines is anything like the last one I took to get here, there will be a million screaming babies and the interior will be Easter Egg colors.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Istanbul, Pt. 1


Well, this has been a really great trip. I've been in Istanbul, which is bafflingly large and populous to me since I'm native to Maine (US), where the biggest city is roughly 64,000 people. Lots of wonderful food and friendly people live here, I've seen more ancient things than I can count, and so far I've done nothing extremely embarrassing. I know a minimal number of Turkish words and phrases, though that hasn't been a problem, even in the less touristy areas I've been where most people I've run into don't seem to know much English. Also, in the more touristy areas, like the Golden Horn and Sultanahmet, I've been pretending to be a Spanish tourist (using the lispy accent, etc) to deflect dudes from trying to sell me street food or getting me to visit their restaurants, but my sister tells me that A) The people around those areas speak multiple languages, given the need to cater to various tourists from other European countries and, B) I'm obviously an American. Oh well. Well, more to follow.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Death Metal istiyorum


I'm going to Turkey for about two weeks. On the advice of my dad, who's been there a bunch, I'm going to camouflage myself as a square, since American tourists are extremely easy to pickpocket, especially on crowded streets during election season.

Updates while I'm away? Yeah, probably. I was going to do a blurb about Burial Invocation or Cenotaph before I left, but I'm running late.

See ya


Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Final Good Enslaved Song

It's "The Watcher."

Everything else on that album stank. Luckily that's the song they chose to make this music video.

Sorry, I just flat out can't enjoy newer Enslaved. All the new proggy stuff feels completely aimless to me. "The Watcher" stands out from the rest of Vertebrae as being the only song that doesn't make me want to bash my head in. Ruun had it's moments. I really like the music video for this, though. It's just really simple and well filmed.



I live with my parents, again

In short, I love refrigerators full of food, dogs leaping into my lap, and New England weather.


Something I noticed is the promotion for the upcoming Black Dahlia Murder album. A lot of metalheads bash this band and they have been labelled as metalcore since day one. I don't particularly mind them. To my ears, this band has been consistently melodeath for as long as I've ever known them, which is FINE, it's just not my thing anymore. Sure, when I was 16 and I had heard maybe two death metal songs in my life, "Elder Misanthropy" was the shit. Truthfully, listening to that song again, I definitely prefer it to anything more recent Ive heard from them. It must be the vocals. In short, I think that band is a completely inoffensive, authentic-if-not-somewhat-derivative group (then again, what band isn't derivative in some way?)

For some reason, though, they were always pigeonholed with the more egregiously unoriginal and commercialized metalcore bands of the mid-2000's, even if their actual music had less in common with said groups. Maybe it's Metal Blade -- think of all the crap bands Metal Blade began to pick up around 2005. It could be the band's sometimes jocular song titles, especially on Miasma. "Statutory Ape*." That speaks volumes. Obviously song titles and subject matter in your average death metal band are reasonably tongue and cheek, to a point (and I'm just using this one song as an example). Having a pun right in the title kind of butts up against the requisite air of mystique one's band is expected to have. Breaking kayfabe like that may very well strike some metalheads as flippant. Me, personally, I don't care much but maybe that's one thing about this band that pisses other metalheads off.

(*It should be said, this line of thought forced me to go back and read their lyrics, which are actually pretty good. Surprise! Cool.)

Anywho, starting around Nocturnal, I, like many people no doubt, began to notice a return to more "classic" aesthetics: songs about fucking dead bodies, generally macabre/occult lyrical content/song titles and spooky album art. I haven't listened to that in years and I was pretty over it by the time the next album came out (2009??) but evidently it's more of the same in that respect.
(Interestingly enough, by around 2008 I was really burnt out on death metal, mainly due to the sheer fatigue of listening to all these modern bands like TBDM and Behemoth, with their overly-loud, hi-fi production. Had I not meandered into classic Floridian and Swedish death metal, I might have been off of death metal forever. I digress.)

I wish to now approach the heart of what have in mind. The promotion and artistic approach of Ritual seems like the most extreme logical conclusion of this push for authenticity, in a way slightly similar to how the newer Job For A Cowboy began sounding like something between Morbid Angel and Suffocation.

The album is evidently a concept album about Satanic rituals, which may be a gross generalization of the thematic content, pardon. Quoth the band: "All of the lyrics to Ritual are bound by a common thread of black magick and the occult, the worship of darkness, and the preservation of inner strength and will." They continue: "Yes, we are an evil band. Yes we sing about Satan. But really, how I see it, our evil is for your own good! The character Satan in our music represents the freedom to think for yourself… the strength to see through the facades of the norm that is presented to us at birth, and the courage to live your own way, free of the burden of guilt and shame. That’s how it’s always been for us and this record is no different."
Gotcha. That's par for the course, considering the ubiquity of Satan in metal, in general, and that is totally a-okay with me. Satan, as a concept representing individualism and the rejection of blind faith, etc etc has always been very poignant to me, so, I don't have any qualms there.

What strikes me as somewhat fishy is the very sudden shift from this somewhat light-hearted approach (see their dvd) to selling a deluxe edition of their upcoming album with a ouija board, incense, and powdered dragon bones or whatever the hell. It seems somewhat incongruous. Maybe I'm alone here. Or, maybe I'm creating a false dichotomy where a band can't joke around and sell a deluxe version of your album with special occult artifacts, like demon farts in little glass vials, but the whole thing seems just a little too forced and somewhat unnecessary. While on the one hand, most of the criticism against this band also seems fairly misguided, besides them being sort of unoriginal (which is FINE! It's completely okay and there is nothing particularly bad about TBDM), but on the other hand, it seems like this lingering stigma of them being phonies (which I don't buy, again) has forced them to really ham it up on the occult/whatever-the-hell-else department, which is a shame, because I think the music spoke for itself well enough, which I concede to, even though I don't really dig melodeath anymore.

I think that's all I had in mind. Now, I'd like a beer.


For more on the release: