Friday, July 8, 2011

Black Metal Musings

This is the Good Stuff.

Not like the old stuff. The Good Stuff. The stuff that reaches right down your throat and pummels you with your own intestines. A rain of salt on a raw fresh wound and a straight shot of hot sauce like the Devil’s Jism. It’s the stuff that’ll grow hair on your chest overnight, buddy – maybe sooner – results may vary depending on individual temperament.

This is the Good Stuff. The stuff that sets fire to all the sacred cows, and your wife makes it through about ten seconds before begging you turn it off, please, just turn it off, but by then it’s already too late and in the blast, the poor thing’s eyebrows have been singed right off.

Like this.
It’s tectonic plates shifting beneath the world’s last and slowest glacier and your ankle has somehow gotten wedged in between.

Any art that’s worthy of the name – and much of what isn’t – is an acquired taste. It took me the better part of a decade before I could make my way past David Tibet’s vocals and make any sense of what it was Current 93 was offering. But at its most potent, Black Metal brings difficult listening to a whole new level entirely. This is out-out past the last outpost of civilization and up-up past the snowline in the dark in that season when the sun never rises. It’s the diving headfirst into the shadow side of yourself that you’d never ever volunteer to see.

Ahhhh the hell with it. If there is one thing forty-five years of Rolling Stone-quality music journalism ought to have taught us every one, it’s that talking about art – about music, about something that is at bottom pure experience – it’s less than useless. It’s a Mortal Sin, an exercise in extreme arrogance, an attempt to feign cleverness by fossilizing into words something that isn’t about that languagy part of the brain in the first place.

Diss-o-nance. Tre-mel-o.

The only explanation of the thing is the thing itself.

*          *          *          *          *

I like to take regular evening walks around the neighborhood and when I do, I generally bring along my iPod and I drill the Mayhem, the Drudkh, the Deathspell Omega directly into my earholes. You know, a little something to provide an appropriate ambiƤnce.

And the neighborhood, it’s filled to the brim with a specific cookie-cutter-molded type of gay male couple: shockingly buff, upwardly mobile and stupidly grinning forty-somethings, sitting on lawn chairs under their rainbow flags, watching the sun go down while their purebred something-or-others chase each other’s tails across perfectly-manicured lawns…

And each evening they’ll wave as I go by. And I’ll nod. Nod and walk, nod and walk. Until the night when there’ll be something going on on down the block. Oh, like maybe a street poet’s getting hassled by the cops, and so Huey and Louie will be up out of their lawn chairs and out by the fence. And they’ll strike up a conversation and inevitably it will be, “What are you listening to?”

“What are you listening to?” This is the worst of all possible questions. It’s like asking another man in passing about his religion or his philosophy of life or how a nuclear reaction takes place. Because in my world, you can tell everything you need to know about a person from what s/he is listening to. So if I tell you what I am listening to, I’m going to have to offer an explanation along with it.  

An explanation, even though the only explanation of the thing is the thing itself.

But Huey or Louie here – one or the other of them, and for the life of me I can’t tell them apart – has asked me what it is I’m listening to, and with a dismissive wave of the hand I mumble something about, “Oh… nothing, it’s just… just some sort of black metal thing, and…”

And by now, the cops are clubbing the street poet senseless-black-and-blue with their standard-issue nightsticks, but Huey (or Louie) doesn’t care, because I said “Metal.” And he giggles and says, “Metal? Spandex and testosterone, heeheehee,” and before I know what’s happened, he’s yanked the sounds out of my earholes.

Before I can even react, he’s thrown it back at me with a “Oh, it’s that GROWLY stuff.” Of course, it’s too late: the side of his head is burned away and there’s a darkness pouring out of his skull from his brief exposure.

But at least tomorrow, I’ll be able to tell which one’s Huey…

Yeah, Huey. It’s the growly stuff.

*          *          *          *          *

Chuck Palahniuk wrote a novel he called Diary, and he set it in a pleasant little island community. And the people he made up who lived there, he had them organize this plan where every eighty years there’d be a horrible tragedy which would chase away the corporations and the tourists for a couple generations.

I went to Nepal once. The 
people there all drank Pepsi 
and listened to Metallica.
But tragedy is not enough to keep progress and commerce at bay, not really. Is it? Folks’ll load up the SUV and take the family a thousand miles out to see where the Donner party munched or where the Manson family cut a baby out of Sharon Tate’s belly. They’ll go out West and put little Billy on a wild grizzly for an official photo op and then complain to their congressman when Billy’s head gets chomped in two.

“Damn it! This is the same thing that happened to my LAST kid seven years ago, and I thought Congress had finally done something about the temperament of those bears!”

I have to venture farther and farther out to get away from the spotlights and the gawkers, the golden arches and the advertising billboards.

Farther and farther out, to where even the gawkers and the advertisers refuse to go.

That place is called Black Metal and it’s the Good Stuff. It’s not the old stuff. It’s not the stuff that wins awards and sells feminine hygiene products and bottled water and movies.

The Good Stuff.


  1. Hells yeah. People make all kinds of assumptions about me 'coz I'm a metalhead. It's hard to explain to someone how hard it is to play a riff at break-neck speeds and play blast -beats for an entire show. Even the growling is not something that just anyone can do, at least not consistently. I love how people assume I'm an idiot because I listen to metal. I let them continue to think it becasue I hate everyone and I don't care wht they think...anyway I got off on a tangent. I love your tatts and continue to be envious of all your spouses!

  2. I like all music..but generally I like a little of some and a lot of the others.

  3. I also continue to spell like a moron in my comments. WTF?

  4. I guess the old cocksuckers who wrote my kind of music sold out eventually - they should change the lyrics of "Woodstock" to read, "When we finally got to Woodstock/We were worth half a million bucks...."

    You have to go farther and farther to get away from it. Even the doors sold "Light My Fire" to American Motors.....

  5. Music is such a personal thing, Huey should know better than to pull the ear buds out of a young woman's ears. He is lucky he wasn't struck dead on the spot.

    The great thing about black metal, it will NEVER be used to sell a Prius. If that happens, it is time to flee.

  6. Hi there, Rafa. Thanks… I’m lucky (?) in that I can’t play an instrument or write music with any level of competence at all. If someone tells me how technically amazing a piece is, it doesn’t mean much. And I don’t care about the look or lifestyle of a type of music. I’m all about the subjective experience of listening. And, you know, to hell with ‘em if they can’t listen with virgin ears…

    YELLOWDOG GRANNY: I think most people just listen to a song and decide, “Yeah, this is pleasant.” I don’t really consume music like that. I’m a little screwed up that way…

    Rafa (again): Google is supposed to be doing amazing things in the upcoming weeks, out-facebooking facebook and such. Send ‘em a message and encourage them to enter the new century and add “edit” function to these damn comments!

    Will: It takes less and less time for the market to catch up, I think. But even in the 60’s, you can go back and see the artist who did the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” cartoon doing 7-Up commercials and stuff. By the time you get to rap, the appropriation was almost instantaneous. Johnny Rotten does I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Butter commercials…

  7. What caught my attention was that you went to Nepal. Kathmandu? I know the city fairly well. Where did you stay, Thamel?

  8. The growly stuff does absolutely nothing for me... save make me barf... especially when I'm eating split pea soup. I rate the growly stuff almost down there with Rap. If it weren't for some decent instrumentals, I wouldn't even call it music.

    Will: I have to agree with you. That crowd seems to have sold out years ago.

  9. hooray for current 93! hooray for black metal! hooray for chuck palahniuk!

    and hooray for gallhammer!

    go go go check these japanese goddesses out! they are a trio who take metal, and art and black wave to a pinnacle-worthy extent!!!!!

    and they look cooler that they sound!

    {my captcha is "fogasta" and i love that word. want to start a metalhead hairband called fogasta with me? any takers?

  10. Hey, Brent: I don’t know… When I read your comment, it made me think of that Vegan Black Metal Chef bit on Youtube…

    Bill the Butcher! My brother and his husband were… I don’t know, essentially living there in 2008. Dana and I went to visit them right as they were having elections, which was kind of weird, because no cars could go on the street. Nag Pokhari, I wanna say? We were all over, actually, although we did the Poon Hill thing and I ended up sick. I just posted a few pics on my Tumblr
    here and here

    Cal-el: I don’t want everyone to like the same art. I don’t even always like the same art as… me. If people all liked the same art, it would have the same effect on ART as a shallow gene pool has on LIFE.

    Hey, Violet. I have seen pictures of Gallhammer on Tumblr. Haven’t heard them yet. Japanese Chick Black Metal. It doesn’t get more interesting…

  11. Hi Katy, followed your link over from Violets blob - will be back for a proper nosy later :)

  12. Hi, dirtycowgirl! Poke around all you like – some of these entries are a lot more fun than the last couple. I get sort of preachy in the summer for some reason. But it always passes…

  13. Argh, yes. Gorgoroth. Agalloch. Moonsorrow. Immortal. Watain. I know they're not all black metal, but you get my drift. Thank you so much for this post. It is good to know one is not alone.

  14. Hi there, OneFoot. A lot of interesting people seem to have beaten me to it.
    I’m a newbie when it comes to metal in general, for all practical purposes.
    Started getting some of the recent black metal releases just this year and I’ve been left pretty much bowled over, muttering, “I had no idea. I had no idea…”

  15. Ha. What with plate tectonics and global warming, surely it won't be long before Black Metal is used to sell feminine hygiene products, reality amazes.

  16. JerseyDave: The band that will write that black metla feminine hygeine jungle is called Liturgy.
    Hunter-Hunt Hendrix will then write a manifesto about why he did the jingle.

  17. I'll go get educated on them, thanks! Metal is so not my thing, but you're always an eye openner. Nice blog for 33% post-consumer content huh? *grin*

  18. JerseyDave: Yeah, this was sort of my carnival barker blog – “Step right up and try a little black metal on that skin condition. It’s the only product you will ever need, two-for-one for a limited time. Everyone’s a winner, bargains galore!”

  19. meandmythinkingcap: Not just metal, but self-indulgent, 30-minute screeds in a language I do not understand using the most unlistenable guttural growls, machine gun drumming and potentially racialist undertones imaginable. It is basically indefensible crap, and I can’t get enough of it. Ha!

  20. Black metal is Satanic racism. You know Im right. Im ok w/ that but you should tell people up front.

  21. Hi, Bucky. There is black metal that purports to be Satanic. There is black metal that purports to be national socialist. It is not relevant to this blog.

  22. Hey, I was in Kathmandu during the elections in 2008, with my then girlfriend! We must've been in the city at the same time. What a pity we didn't know each other or we could have met up.

  23. Hey, Bill. I love the name “Kathmandu.” I used to think it was some sort of jazz term for a place in Chicago, but I think I was confusing it with Scatman Crothers.
    Regardless, I would have been the person in Kathmandu in 2008 having violent digestive system issues. But if I ever make it out there again, I will definitely give you a heads-up.
    It could happen!


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