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Posts Tagged ‘Tolkien’

That's right, folks: rifles, not skyscrapers.

1) The debut album by Blood Revolt, entitled Indoctrine and out now on Profound Lore Records, is an absolute fucking FACE-MELTER.  The barrage of equal parts black and death metal (thanks to the instrumental prowess/degradation of former members of Canadian outfits Revenge and Axis Of Advance) is profoundly (har har) disorienting, but in a manner that always seems intentional.  The vocals of Alan Averill (of Irish pagan/black metallers Primordial) are a real treat, displaying not quite the same epic, soaring melodicisms of Primordial, but a broader range of spoken word, faster lyrical phrasing, and an all-around more aggressive vocal approach.

I suspect that I’ll be writing up an actual review of this album once it’s been given time to sink its gnarled teeth a bit further into my skin.  The real comment that I wanted to make here, however, is just to note how much of a pleasure it is to listen to an album whose pacing has been very thoughtfully constructed.  What I mean is, this album’s eight tracks seem to have been very intentionally arranged so that even when played on CD, the first four and latter four tracks play like sides A and B of an LP.  It’s a very nice symmetry which only works to enhance the nicely understated ‘concept album’ nature, as well as giving the listener the smallest of chances to catch his or her breath in between these slabs of furious metal onslaught.  This is definitely not to be missed.

Order it here, and learn more here.
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2) A little while back, I was whinging on and on about nostalgia, and about never having the opportunity any longer to be well and truly surprised by music (e.g., the time I bought my first Dream Theater or Swans album, never having heard of either).  Well, just a few days ago I was shopping at Reckless Records down in the loop, and happened to spot two (2!) brand new albums up on their ‘New Releases’ wall that I had not even the slightest inkling were being released.

One of these was a brand new album from David Tibet’s wonderfully cryptic and singular Current 93, entitled Baalstorm, Sing Omega.  So recent are these purchases, in fact, that I haven’t even listened to it yet.  I really just wanted to register my glee at having found this brand new full-length statement, fully formed and ready for the embrace of my earnest dollars.

The newest from everyone's favorite Coptic scholar and apocalyptic folkster

The second is the debut (and eponymous) album from a project called The Blood Of Heroes, which features Justin Broadrick (of Godflesh/Jesu/&c./&c.) on guitar, Bill Laswell (of, well, a fuckload of stuff) on bass, electronic artists Submerged and Enduser on, well, electronics, along with other electronic, live drums, and vocal collaborators.  I’ve only spun the thing once so far, but it’s a pretty interesting fusion of some of latter-day Godflesh’s dub-inflected experimentation, some of Jesu’s yearning melodies, with a bit of noise rock, not-quite-dancehall-but-close vocals, and a tasteful dollop of the slightly-less frenetic side of the breakcore/IDM/drum ‘n bass/whatever scene.

Toward a dark electro / post-industrial / metal synthetics.

I mean, clearly this is not exactly the same thing, since I already know (more or less) what Current 93 sounds like, and although The Blood Of Heroes is a new project, knowing a fair bit about several of the contributors gave me a pretty good sense of what the overall vibe might be.  Still, point is: Surprises are still possible in this here world of ours.

Or, maybe the moral is: If you don’t try and pay attention to every goddamned thing in the world of music, you’ll stumble across these gems, these bolts from the blue, more often.

3) On that same trip to Reckless, I came across a used copy of Summoning’s Dol Guldur in the clearance bin for $0.99.  Nothing much to add there, other than ‘Fuck yeah!’  These Austrian synth-obsessed symphonic/black metallers are equally obsessed with JRR Tolkien, so I’m just downright pleased as punch to have gotten so much Middle-Earth bang for my Regular Earth buck.

Sounds even better for $1

4) Overwrought expressions of grief always end up being more insulting, so I will just say that I offer my condolences to the family, friends, and band mates of Makh Daniels, vocalist of the promising band Early Graves.  Daniels was killed in a car accident earlier today while on tour.  The music world should mourn the loss of a very talented musician, but of course that all pales next to the real, human loss of those who knew him.

Ave atque vale.

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The title of this post really ought to read, “Harry Potter Metal, or On the Use and Abuse of Irony for Music (apologies, as are so frequently due, to F.W. Nietzsche).”

Now, I’m sure that I’m a few years late to this particular party, but after a couple of Blind Guardian tracks just kicked out of my stereo, I suddenly remembered reading a while back about some Harry Potter-themed bands.  Obviously, with such a friggin’ enormous cultural phenomenon as the Harry Potter books (& movies, & video games, & tea cozies, & chewing tobacco, &, if the television’s carpet-bombing campaign of commercials is to be believed, theme parks, &c., &c.), one ought to expect its influence to spread far and wide.  A quick bit of internet research (well, if typing and clicking are admissible under the banner of ‘research’ these days, at least) jogged my memory of an indie rock-type band called Harry & The Potters, by two brothers from Massachusetts.  Pretty cutesy, I guess, and even better when I find out that the proceeds of what they’ve done are going to various literary nonprofits.  Good on ‘em, although the Wizard Rock EP of the Month Club (no, I’m not fucking joking) makes me gag more than a little.

Now, however, a bit more research on trusty ol’ M-A reveals this band from Norway, the aptly-named Voldemort.  They’ve got two self-released EPs out, which feature some winningly-titled tunes as “Mayhem at the Ministry,” “The Dark Mark in the Sky,” and “Cradle of Filch” (okay, I’ll admit to getting a decent chuckle out of that last one).  The band members have also adopted Potter-themed pseudonyms, including Count Draco Horcrux (…the fuck?) and Muggleslayer.  Okay, so this is already a whole lot of strikes against these folks, but it’s not totally outside the realm of possibility that they could write some decent tunes, yeah?  Well, check out their Myspace yourself, and see if you can make it any further than 1:24 into “Mayhem at the Ministry,” because  I sure as all damn hell could not.  It’s not that I take any great pleasure (well, maybe a little) in tearing down the work of others, but seriously?  This sounds basically like a third- or fourth-rate thrash tune slowed down to 1/2 time, with what sound like (but I think are not actually) synthesized distorted guitars and drums, with an irony-laden vocal ripoff of Cronos from Venom, with occasional King Diamond shrieks thrown atop the last word in a line for “emphasis.”  Which is to say, awful, awful stuff.

Awesome

Not nearly so awesome

The real point of this post, since I should be getting on with it, is that I can’t quite figure out exactly why it is that I can take perfectly seriously many of the metal bands that have incorporated various fantasy literature into their names, themes, artwork, and very music itself, whereas this Harry Potter-themed heavy metal of Voldemort seems like utter fucking bollocks and nonsense.  I think in this case, it’s a pretty clear case of a straight-up gimmick band.  In the interest of full disclosure, I ought to point out that your humble scribe is a pretty giant Harry Potter nerd, so it’s entirely possible that my near dry-heaving upon stumbling across that Myspace page is a knee-jerk response meant to defend Ms. Rowlings’ canon; more likely, though, is that this is a knee-jerk response to the ongoing hipsterization of heavy metal, about which I am, all things considered, an even gianter (that’s right, it’s not a word, but fuck you internet, I’m using it anyway) nerd.

J.R.R. Tolkien, of course, has a long and illustrious pedigree of being used and abused in the world of heavy metal.  Thing is, I’m pretty much perfectly cool with that, and my being perfectly cool with it is kind of bugging me, now that I’m thinking about this Harry Potter music bullshit.  Of course, some of the most obvious examples of Tolkien metal are Germany’s Blind Guardian and Austria’s Summoning, but even the most casual fan of underground heavy metal has stumbled across easily a few dozen bands whose names are drawn from Tolkien.  Gorgoroth, Amon Amarth, Cirith Ungol, Isengard (featuring Fenriz of Darkthrone), Nazgul, Uruk-Hai (early version of Burzum), Cirith Gorgor, and Ephel Duath are only a few examples (not to mention probably at least a half-dozen bands each taking the name Sauron or Morgoth).

Now, in all fairness, Gorgoroth haven’t spent much time actually singing about Tolkien, in the same manner as Blind Guardian (whose landmark Nightfall in Middle-Earth takes on one of Tolkien’s more difficult works, The Silmarillion) and Summoning (whose last full-length album, Oath Bound, included a track ostensibly sung in one of Tolkien’s made-up languages, the Black Speech of Mordor), nor have most of these other bands.  But even with Blind Guardian and Summoning, I don’t find it particularly difficult to take them (more or less) seriously.  And of course Tolkien is far from being the only literary/fantasy inspiration in heavy metal; H.P. Lovecraft likely plays a close second (check out the bizarre thrash band Mekong Delta, or look for basically any band ever utilizing the word Cthulu), but there are also bands like The Gates of Slumber using Robert E. Howard for inspiration (in this case, his tales of Conan the Barbarian).  This is not to say, by the way, that Harry Potter metal is the only type of fantasy heavy metal that reeks of the ridiculous; Italy’s long-running cheese-mongers Rhapsody (lately Rhapsody Of Fire), for example, have invented their own world of dragons and wizards to sing about.  It’s almost like someone should tap them on the shoulder and remind them politely that they’re not German.  Something I haven’t looked into, but might be interesting to investigate, is whether any metal band has tried to tackle Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.  I’ve got a hunch that someone, somewhere, must have given it a go.

Something tells me this is not an issue I’ll be able to resolve, inasmuch as it probably requires delving much more deeply into heavy metal’s penchant for the theatrical, the mystical, the occult, and so forth.  Maybe the fact that Tolkien’s books have been a part of the world’s collective literary consciousness for quite some time now, whereas Harry Potter remains a currently evolving phenomenon, plays some role in my different reactions to Potter metal and Tolkien metal; that is, maybe fifty years from now, Harry Potter metal will be just as widely accepted.  Maybe it simply has to do with the fact that this Norwegian band Voldemort sounds rather like a dog retching, whereas Blind Guardian sound completely fucking bad-ass; in that case, maybe all it will take is for a band to come along and make some really neck-wrecking Harry Potter-themed metal.

Until then, I’ll have to be satisfied with my Harry Potter-brand garbage disposal and jogging shorts.

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