09 February 2016

005 - The Playlist of Chapter 2

It has been AEONS since I've logged in to my NLBMe blog to contribute. I was surprised it was viewed more than 1300 times since its creation; I had deemed it improbable. I really thought nobody gives a shit - and perhaps they don't - but these views certainly were not all mine!

Anyway, I will continue where I broke off, and that's a short overview of what chapter 2 will offer - I am still, by the way, not finished fine tuning the document. This one deals with the sacred "First Wave of Black Metal". It deals with the nostalgic 1980s in which hair was curly, high, and wide, pants were ball clenching tight and metal vocalists often sounded like screaming girls. But it was also the era that introduced real corpse paint, bullet belts, an abundance of spiked leather, and a more than an average amount of Satan! Finally, metal had connected with the only true source it needs to acknowledge.

This chapter cannot start anywhere else than with the mighty Venom, whose first two albums Welcome to Hell and Black Metal have shaped the music I have dedicated years of my life to: black metal.

Naturally, the playlist progresses through the standard prime movers of the black metal scene of its days, the falsetto driven Mercyful Fate, Slayer, Sodom, Destruction, Kreator, and - as far as shaping a scene goes - the far more important Hellhammer and Bathory. Surely these bands were not the only ones contributing to the amorphous umbrella genre that was black metal - still synonymous with Satanic metal. Heavy and/or thrash metal bands like Future Tense, Second Hell, Skull Crusher (to name three Dutch ones) pass the light, but a band like Mötley Crüe as well. If it weren't for the mentioned pioneers of black metal, Satanic metal could have evolved from this glammy line (notice the black pentagram on the black cover; it is classy!).

The growing tape trading circuit and growing amount of people that were interested in releasing extreme music gave us a taste of the more extreme niches in far away places. Black metal planted its seeds in South America, where primitive bands like Sepultura and Sarcófago unleashed an avalanche of bands that crushed the fully drained heavy metal genre, the thrash hardcore crossover metal trend, and the boring hard rock that was terrible noise to the average Joe on the streets. Sarcófago packed more blasphemy, graves and bullet, belts imaginable and combined that with a primitive wall of sound that came straight from their black hearts!

Naturally, the 1980s offered more than metal as 'devil music', but those bands and/or albums are a rare breed. The inclusion is therefore limited and drawn from 'inspirations' of bands that appeared in the late 1980s. It's coming down to experimental artists like Zero Kama and Diamanda Galas to fill those shoes. And eventually, the metal part of the chapter builds up to the birth of what would become one of the defining bands of the genre - the Norwegian Mayhem.

But before this black metal could be borne, another thing had to emerge from the extreme metal scene, death metal. And that's where chapter 3 - and another blog entry - comes in!

29 October 2012

004 - The Playlist of Chapter 1

I have chosen to write the book alongside a personal selection of tracks from albums that matter (or don't matter at all but just have to be mentioned) to the international black metal scene, or more general, to an international conglomerate of occult songs or albums. To keep the book readable, I have mixed both the chronological order of things with a more instinctive order, based on the story presented...
The first chapter deals with occult music that existed before black metal was born. I have decided to include compositions of the following classical composers as my starting point: Giuseppe Tartini, Niccolò Paganini, Felix Mendelssohn, Hector Berlioz, Modest Mussorgski, Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns, Peter Warlock, and Carl Orff. Surely I could have chosen Wagner, or any other bloke that's in the famous LaVey list of 'Satanic Classics'. Since I find this list ill-informed and incomplete, I have labelled it as being a 'writer's favourites' list.
Surely, darkness is shining through in a lot of compositions, but that's also due to a fair amount of writing skills. Mozart might have been a rebellious odd fellow, writing a great requiem march, but I don't think that it has been born from the occult. On the other hand, I have also included stuff by, Dominique Frontiere (hardly a Mozart, by the way), but I doubt his Pagan Festival album is really rooted deeply in heathen soil. It's possibly his attempt to create 'exotic' music.
I did chose to include field recordings by Aleister Crowley, Anton LaVey, Alex Sanders, Gerald Gardner, the mass murdering Reverend Jim Jones, and - continuing with infamous cult leaders - also the primitive country ramblings of Charles Manson and his Family.
I also fly past recordings of Sammy Davis Jr., Albert Ayler, Sun Ra, and some voodoo inspired stuff like Screamin' Jay Hawkings and Dr. John. But they are the minor players of the story. The first ones that are obligatory features are blues artists Peetie Wheatstraw and Robert Johnson. This last one laid the foundations for a lot of modern rock, and especially for occult driven bands in these genres - and that includes The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin - because of the famous crossroads legend. It also gives me the opportunity to side-track into material by The Beatles (Sgt. Pepper and Helter Skelter), The Eagles (yes, that's Hotel California and no, it's not Satanic), soundtracks for Invocation of My Demon Brother, Lucifer Rising, and The Omen (remember those intro's from black metal shows back in the early 1990s?), and sect-based releases like that of Ya Ho Wha 13.

The 1960s and 1970s unbottled loads of occult driven music, ranging from folk artists to psychedelic rock to experimental electronic music to hard rock and proto-heavy metal bands; both under the influence of outside the influence of the newly found freedom in psychotropic substances. You can think of bands like Sam Gopal, Dave And Toni Arthur, Donovan, H.P. Lovecraft, Strawberry Alarm Clock, King Crimson, Satan And Deciples, The Gun, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, Burn, Bedemon, Boudewijn de Groot, Jacula, Lucifer, J.D. Blackfoot, Zior, White Noise, Roky Erickson, Bruce Haack, et cetera, who have all contributed in big or small ways to the unexisting genre of 'occult music'. I even managed to squeeze in a bit of Elly & Rikkert somewhere - despite their childrens gospel reputation!

Things all came together in the late 1970s, when more extreme music presented itself as both punk rock (hardcore in the United States) and heavy metal (with the NWoBHM as a powerful representative). The explicity of AC/DC's Highway to Hell, Venom's Welcome to Hell, Iron Maiden's The Number of the Beast, and Death SS' Horned God of the Witches demo all predated the one album that started it all: Black Metal by Venom, released in late 1982. And that's where the second chapter kicks in...
If you have suggestions, please do so in the comments!

22 February 2012

003 - Where the Hell do I begin?

Where the Hell do I begin, now I have set my mind to a task as impossible as this one? That was the first question following some lunatic idea I had in the summer of 2010; an idea either an epiphany or mad delirium. After years and years of observing, participating, and anticipating (and loving and hating) the movements in the global black metal scene as far as humanly possible, that day I felt the undeniable urge to contribute something more personal than another objective encyclopaedia. It suddenly unfolded in my mind, during my lunch break from work, as clear as everything else in the bright sunlight at the harbour of Rotterdam: I was to write a single review that would span the pages of a book. I felt destined to review the black metal scene as a whole, overflowing with bias and personal sentiment, decorated with a sarcastic sense of humour, and in that way being the fully flavoured counterpart-companion of my Encyclopedia; my first professional venture into the public metal domain on paper (not counting any lyrics used by bands I had joined or helped, or the issues of Black Art Magazine I contributed to – and no, that’s not some trendy webzine but an old-school Xeroxed paper product, dating back to the early 1990s).
     In a strange way this book started when a colleague from work and I were swapping music (the cd-r variant of good old tape trading), and I decided to burn him a compilation with a short history of black metal – a personal selection out of the many releases that (mis)shaped the scene.
     Fascinated with the musical and occult roots of the music I have been emerged in since I was about twelve years old, I began to compile a more extensive audible history for private pleasure. Of course, there is no logical step from a compilation playlist to writing a 120 page review. I can only say that my mind works in odd ways, and sometimes to my own chagrin, like in this obsessive case of determination, knowing it would consume lots of precious time and bother me on the most inappropriate moments. Strangely enough, I cannot resist it in any way! So a few days later the first words came oozing out of me, illustrating my playlist.

Also there is this delicious anecdote about the evil seduction of rock music that should make writing about rock (and metal even more so) obligatory:

Secular music isn’t as innocent and voluntary as it seems. An American missionary’s family took a leave from their village duties and acquired some rock and roll albums. Soon after their return, the village witchdoctor visited the father of the family. He wanted to know why the family had abandoned their God. The witchdoctor came to this conclusion after hearing the rhythmic beat music, which was the same beat he used to summon demonic spirits.
AGP Alive Bijbelstudie Site (Bible Study Site), chapter “8. Satan” (viewed July 22, 2010). Of course the original source of their quote remains conveniently hidden by the creators of the website.

To keep it short, I will only tell you that on this blog I have conjured up some of my old writings and essays on (black) metal, included elements from my encyclopaedia and its website, and threw them in a creative blender to produce something fresh and worthwhile to read. For lots of people it contains the same old information found everywhere else. I guess the internet ruined a lot for non-fiction writers. Others might discover something new or a fresh way of looking at it. In either case, you will definitely not have read that same-old-shit in the same-old-way as I present it to you in the coming pages.

21 February 2012

002 - Myself

The next question is: “who am I and why metal?”
     Well, you might have spotted my name somewhere. I was born October 1974 and grew up, most of my life, in the Dutch city of Rotterdam. In this no-bullshit-attitude, down-to-earth, love-it-and-hate-it metropolis my fascination with metal started after seeing the four painted faces of Kiss on television in the late 1970s (never remembered any of their music though, except I Was Made for Loving You and Christine Sixteen; my mom will tell anyone that asks that as a small toddler only Kiss and Blondie always managed to keep me glued to the tube). The hard rock of Status Quo (Whatever You Want), Queen (Live Killers), and Deep Purple (In Rock) were among the things I liked while growing up. It was in 1986 (for sure, but it could easily be 1985) that my older nephew Arthur got me hooked on real metal, starting with Venom’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and Slayer’s Reign in Blood, followed by their other albums and Carnivore, Kreator, and Onslaught. I actually skipped the section of heavy metal bands like Iron Maiden, Manowar, and Black Sabbath, which I discovered later on (with the exception of a few tracks I put on compilations during my first steps)… From all those fine thrash metal albums, my attraction to and interest in extreme music grew rapidly. It was boosted a few years later with my discovery of the death metal debuts of Death, Obituary, Autopsy, Pestilence, and Morbid Angel, and the musical extremes of Napalm Death’s Scum and Carcass’s Reek of Putrefaction (to name the most vivid examples). Still, they were a relatively long step away from black metal.
     Since the first years in the 1990s, when legendary albums by Samael, Blasphemy, Beherit, Darkthrone, and Deicide (yes, they deserved to be among them!) were released, the new wave of black metal immediately caught my main interest, and I started investigating the music, ideology, and history of that particular segment. This lead to a renewed exploration in metal releases of the past, where I discovered many of the music gems I will highlight in the coming pages. I also saw a growing Dutch underground I could roam around in, with dark acts like Funeral Winds, Apator, Countess, Inverted Pentagram, and Bestial Summoning. Black metal evolved into an ever-present passion since then. In 1995, after three years of aimless experimentation with my bass guitar in- and outside of bands, my fascination made me team up with the commercially inclined black metal band Liar Of Golgotha, in which I played guitar for almost four years and wrote lots of lyrics. From there on, I moved to more extreme and obscure things with four years of old-school black metal in Funeral Winds (still a highlight; a full 100% my kind of music), four years of more contemporary black metal in Israthoum, and finally laying low (note: not retiring!) with the Coldeemstorft and Veghe projects (which are still part of my life; as a matter of fact, Coldeemstorft recorded its debut release during the creation of the book that gave birth to this blog).
     With the academic skills I picked up in the marginal section Cultural Sciences of the Rotterdam University, where I graduated early 2003, I began exploring the internet, interviewing people around me, purposefully expanding my social network, and combining heaps of research material, just so I could bring you my debut book The Encyclopedia of Dutch Black Metal. But since writing one book is the same as writing nothing at all, here I am again marking a bit of metal territory (even though it’s a blog to begin with!)…

001 - The Preface

I start off with a warning: you will most likely hate what’s on this blog (and consequently me, the author) for slandering your favourite band or release, for supporting the wrong bands, for revealing some ugly truths (or beautiful lies), or for whatever other ‘personal’ offense you will read in it! Every choice I make will piss someone off, so I decided early on to go no-holds-barred on this.

Ever since I realised the first pressing of The Encyclopedia of Dutch Black Metal people have been asking me about my own views on the whole black metal phenomenon. Even though I have relatively clear opinions on black metal, I am against expressing them in an encyclopedia, first because of the objectivity of the undertaking and therefore my objectivity as its writer / researcher, and second because opinions can be fine-tuned or altered over time. Any view given now can become irrelevant in the future, when a radical influential aspect has unveiled itself or a new and accepted influence has challenged, and perhaps changed the scene.
Meelhuysen, The Encyclopedia of Dutch Black Metal, p.3 (introduction, revised edition April 2010).

There are people that believe that associating with metal music and its accompanying ‘culture’ is a sin belonging to youth, and when you grow older you get ‘smarter’ and start looking into safer, tamer, homely, more ‘intelligent’ forms of music. As a result some people drift off to A.O.R. (Adult Orientated Rock; the Valium-laced and castrated brother of regular rock music; probably lost their balls together with their long hair) or find delight in safely eccentric popular bands from their early metal-years (I guess that might be Kraftwerk, Talking Heads, Soft Cell, Prince, Yello, Nina Hagen, Queen, and Beastie Boys for me). They deny or trivialize the fact that they liked Slayer for many years and had hair longer than their wives have. “That’s history, I was just a stupid kid back then,” is what they say in that light-hearted apologetic tone we have all heard more than once in all kinds of different situations. There is a word for that, and that word is Betrayal. And that betrayal is not only targeting the music and its (former / current) fans, but in yourself as well.
     It’s what I found in a Dutch ‘New Age’ magazine that summons it up quite nicely:

Once you sell out your rebel heart you’re lost. You will conform yourself more and more as time goes on and the music you once loved will move further and further away from you. You outgrow the music because your heart closes itself from it, and your mind takes over. But your mind knows it needs music, and it will provide you with material from a more popular genre. This will work for you, but you will never feel the burning passion and intense happiness as you did in those good old days.
Siepman, “De waarheid achter true metal”, p.82; it’s my own translation from Dutch to English.

If you read this introduction and think: hey man, I’m a fan of A.O.R. and there’s nothing wrong with it at all, maybe you’ve neglected to look into your briefs for a while: this book is not for you! But if you think, I don’t mind the hair, but -shit- I’ve lost my gonads as well somewhere along the line, this book might put you back on track and give you a chance to grow them back. You may even discover you’ve missed a whole world of unruly dark pleasures passing by, and grow yourself two sets, just to be sure… Even though my own musical preferences have passed the boundaries of good/bad taste at points (I do listen to more than (black) metal; possibly to the chagrin of some of the scene’s tight-assed ‘elitists’ that think they nailed the point of being ‘true’ black metal), I will probably never be able to shake my allegiance with metal music. I can say that my balls are still intact!