27 April 2008

Non Sequiturs, Ep. 4

When I grow up, I want to be like Douglas Pearce. He's one of my heroes right now. I've been enjoying The Rule of Thirds immensely, and I'm definitely going to start exploring Death in June's discography.

On a thoroughly unrelated note, I recently watched Of Human Bondage and The Cococanuts. I will try to put together reviews of these two films in something vaguely resembling a timely manner.

22 April 2008

That's Entertainment! ...Manowar Style

Say what you will about Manowar's bombastic (and often hilarious) "true Metal" posturing, it can't be denied that Manowar puts on one hell of a show. In one the best moments of their performance at the 2005 Earthshaker Festival in Germany, Joey DeMaio and company deliver an entertainment that would make Busby Berkeley green with envy--three drummers, an orchestra, a choir and three seperate guitar solos for just this one song. The only things missing are Eleanor Powell and a chorus line. What's even better is the fact that this was the finale to a show that lasted about two and a half hours. Manowar is nothing if not dedicated to their music and their fans, and you can't fault them for that.

20 April 2008

Album of the Week: Carpathian Forest - We're Going to Hell for this (2002)

This week's album is one which holds a special place in my heart, since it was the first Black Metal album I ever owned. More of a compilation than a proper studio album, We're Going to Hell for this was released by Norwegian outfit Carpathian Forest in 2002. It is comprised of five original studio tracks, three cover versions (including songs by Darkthrone and Venom), nine live tracks and a single demo track dating from 1996.

There are a few things about their approach to Black Metal that set Carpathian Forest apart from so many of their colleagues. First among these is the nature of their music--it is unabashed and remorseless Black Metal, but with elements of Hardcore Punk and traditional Thrash Metal which make the music of Carpathian Forest much more accessible than, say, Abruptum. Second, the production values are much better, though not excessively so (the bass guitar, contrary to genre conventions, is not only actually audible, but also fairly prominent in the mix). Finally, Carpathian Forest approaches the Black Metal aesthetic with a sense of humor--dark humor, to be sure, but humor nonetheless. It's a nice change of pace from the hyper-austerity upon which the countless Burzum wannabes and Marduk knock-offs insist so vehemently.

We're Going to Hell for This is equally valuable both to long-time fans of Carpathian Forest as well as to first-time listeners, to the former because of the quality of the live tracks and the rarity of the studio tracks, and to the latter because it serves as a good introduction to the sick and twisted (but strangely enjoyable) world of Carpathian Forest.

Sieg Shalom?

Today is both Passover and Hitler's Birthday. The universe must have a pretty high tolerance for irony not to have caved in under the weight of that paradox. If we add to the mix that today is 4/20 (that is, Thanksgiving for potheads), one must stand in awe of the coincidence. God is playing with our heads. Maybe we should all just get high.

17 April 2008

Bondage Goat Zombie

Belphegor's latest album saw the light of day on 11 April in Europe and on 15 April on this side of the pond. The Austrian Black/Death Metal outfit has given the title of Bondage Goat Zombie to their latest effort, which has been the subject mixed reviews. Judging by the title track, which is available for listening on the band's myspace, Helmuth and Serpenth seem to be dishing out more of the same blazing and brutal Blackened Death Metal that has been their staple (innovation is a word not likely to be found in Belphegor's vocabulary). I have yet to hear the album in it's entirety, but Belphegor's last three albums have been satisfying (if not particularly diverse), so I am hoping that Bondage Goat Zombie will continue that trend.

I just wish that Belphegor had given the album a more respectable title--they seem to have taken a page out of Dimmu Borgir's playbook, throwing three random evil-sounding words together and calling it good. But what, goes the saying, is in a name? After all, Kid Boots was a pretty good movie, despite it's goofy title.

Relevant to my Interests, Ep. 10

Dorothy Sebastian, Joan Crawford and Anita Page show off the goods in a promotional shot from 1928's Our Dancing Daughters. I need to see this film before I die. Not necessarily because it is a masterpiece of cinema, mind you, but because I am a terrible fanboy. If I have to buy a VCR just so I can watch it on VHS, then so be it. It's a sacrifice I'm willing to make, dammit.

At this juncture I am so very tempted to analyze the significance of Joan's character being named Diana, after the Roman goddess of the hunt (who was also a virgin, by the way). I am equally tempted to engage in an unnecessary exegesis of Dorothy's playing a character named Beatrice (the name of the woman with whom Dante Alighieri, the greatest poet in all of western literature, was smitten throughout his life). Despite those temptations, I will refrain. I needn't give the reader any further evidence that I am truly crazy.

13 April 2008

Album of the Week: Current 93 - All the Pretty Little Horses (1996)

It is virtually impossible to consider neofolk music without considering the music of Current 93. The curriculum vitae of David Tibet and company is vast, beginning in the early 80s and continuing on until the present, and bears considerable influence on the neofolk genre as it stands today. 1996 saw the release of All the Pretty Little Horses, which many fans and critics hold to be one of Current 93's finest works. Being new to Current 93 (and to neofolk music in general), I am hardly qualified to make that judgment, but I can say with some certainty that it is one the best albums I've heard in some time.

Atmosphere abounds on All the Pretty Little Horses, as does modal variety. Throughout, a sense of melancholy and sadness is palpable--fittingly, considering the album deals with matters such as death and loss--though the music is never self-indulgently evil or depressive. Indeed, there are some moments when music seems almost happy, such as on "The Blood Bells Chime". On the other hand, moments which seem almost bitter ("The Carnival is Dead and Gone" being a prime example of this). Yet none of this seems out of place, and the seemingly dissonant elements found here come together quite effectively.

Clocking in at just under an hour, All the Pretty Little Horses is something of a protracted affair, and it has to be said that there are some moments where the music seems to drag on a bit longer than might be necessary. The back-to-back songs "Twilight, Twilight, Nihil, Nihil" and "The Inmost Light Itself" feel particularly interminable (not coincidentally, these are the two longest tracks on the album). The lowlights are vastly outnumbered by the highlights, however.

By and large, All the Pretty Little Horses is an engaging and moving listen. I would recommend "All the Pretty Little Horses", "The Blood Bells Chime" and "The Frolic" as particularly good tracks.

10 April 2008

Youtube Magic: The Devil's Cabaret

The Devil's Cabaret is a short-subject early sound film which dates from 1930. It's rather precode, featuring not only the standard-issue scantily-clad chorines, but also a plot that would probably have given the MPAA fits--troubled by slow trickle of souls into hell, Satan charges his assistant (coyly named Mr. Burns) with luring more souls into the netherworld. The Devil's Cabaret is made even more interesting by the fact that it was filmed in technicolor. Vide!

Part I:

Part II:

09 April 2008

Gorgoroth to tour with Cradle of Filth; no longer Quite so Scary

Gorgoroth (the one with King and Gaahl, not the one with Infernus) recently announced plans for a European tour with Portugal's Moonspell and Greece's Spetic Flesh, beginning in December of this year. It seems like a pretty respectable line-up so far, but England's Cradle of Filth will also be a featured act on the tour. Most people with actual lives probably don't know this, but it is the sworn duty of all proponents of true Black Metal--whatever that may be--to hate Cradle of Filth with a passion. Why is this, you may ask? Largely because Cradle of Filth plays a brand of Gothic pseudo-Black Metal that is highly commercialized, and is loved the world over by overweight Goth kids who like to dress like Brandon Lee in The Crow.

Though it may seem absurd, the hatred for Cradle of Filth among devotees of Black and Death Metal is nevertheless points to one of the pillars of the Extreme Metal philosophy--namely, the dogma that any band that becomes too successful and popular are sell-outs, and therefore must be loathed for commercializing themselves.

Even if we were to set that particular tenet aside, touring with a band so MTV-friendly as Cradle of Filth is certain to damage Gorgoroth's prestige. Gaahl is one of the more enigmatic and intimidating figures in the Black Metal milieu, and not just because of his imposing stature. Does Gorgoroth's touring alongside Danny Filth and company represent an attempt to soften that image? Probably not, but Gaahl and King must have known that their decision to tour with Cradle of Filth would not go over well with many of their fans.

Then again, it has to be said that Gorgoroth is one of the best-known Black Metal acts in the world, and the upcoming tour will likely expand their audience. We may hope, furthermore, that the same tour will lead some Cradle of Filth fans to explore real Black Metal.

Elsewhere on the Gorgoroth front, Infernus continues (unsuccessfully) to try to retain legal rights the Gorgoroth name. Gaahl and King turned down a non-negotiable offer made by Infernus, and the matter is likely to go before the Norwegian courts sometime in June. I can't say I blame Infernus; he was one of the founders of the band, at it is really his brainchild.

De Religionis

Though it probably makes me a traitor to both camps, I still can't see why religion and science are so incompatible.

06 April 2008

Album of the Week: Hellhammer - Apocalyptic Raids (1984)

Though perhaps obscure, Switzerland's Hellhammer is nevertheless among the most influential bands in the history of Metal. Their influence on the development of Black and Death Metal is crucial, to say the least. Yet despite their influence, Hellhammer produced precious little recorded material. Aside from a releasing a handful of demos (recently compiled and re-released as the Demon Entrails compilation) and contributing two tracks to the now-infamous Death Metal split LP, 1984's Apocalyptic Raids stands as Hellhammer's only proper studio release.

Containing only four tracks and clocking in at less than twenty minutes, Apocalyptic Raids is anything but a protracted affair. The music is pregnant with underground sensibilities--the production is mediocre at best (though easily listenable), and the musicianship has a distinctly amateurish feel. To put it another way, Apocalyptic Raids sounds like the product of four young (though talented) guys forming an impromptu band and jamming in their garage over the course of a beer-and-whiskey-fueled weekend. In fact, that's probably not too far from the album's actual recording process.

Yet it is precisely this amateurish feel that makes the album so engrossing. Apocalyptic Raids may be raw and primitive, but it is simultaneously organic--there is a soulfulness and an honesty here that I have often found wanting in more polished and better-produced popular music, even if it is "angry" and "violent".

Not long after the release of Apocalyptic Raids, the members of Hellhammer went their separate ways. Tom G. Warrior and Martin Ain formed Celtic Frost from the ashes of Hellhammer, which would be equally as influential as their previous project. Apocalyptic Raids was re-released some years later in 1990, with new artwork and two additional tracks (taken from the aforementioned Death Metal split LP). This edition, entitled Apocalyptic Raids 1990 A.D., is a bit easier to find than the 1984 original, having been reissued as recently as 1999.