Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Unholy - Second Ring of Power

Outsiders are afraid of Heavy Metal.

This might be a thought you haven't entertained in a while, reader, if you are on the inside. But there's truth there. Especially during the formative experiences that shaped us into a metalheads, at some point every one of us decided to take something of a sideways step from normalcy.

It could be said that the shift is minimal and phenomenologically, normals and not-normals act much too similarly. It could be further said that normalcy is a manufactured medium that society pays lip service to for utilitarian reasons and otherwise disregards 'behind closed doors'. It can be finally argued that this whole "I choose darkness" thing is a non-choice, that odd people find odd escapes deterministically, but this piece is not a debate on free will (for once). What interests me is to explore and clarify what was sacrificed in that perceived move outside the norm and what was gained for it.

Life in modern capitalism can be seen as an endless pursuit of carnal vanity. What is achieved through the purchase of pleasures is undone by definition daily: pleasure is fleeting. You are not done with food after you've tasted great cuisine nor are you done with sex after satisfying your lust once. You are not done with life just because you lived it briefly. One must chase the specters of fulfillment, defined endlessly by his consumer profile of the twenty-thirtysomething well after that time has passed and then suddenly, they're old and soon, dead. 'Spirituality' sounds like such a mumbo-jumbo, new-age term, doesn't it? It is instead the opposite, resolutely old-age. This is difficult to conceptualize if you've grown up watching The Simpsons endlessly point their finger to their own finger.

The pursuit of life's pleasures, even as it is encouraged by market tendencies and reinforced psychoactively through media, is always a risk. It takes a certain... animal-like obliviousness to see, desire and take, again and again. It's schizophrenic how that tendency in humans is discouraged by the ethical apologia of capitalism that is protestantism, yet the achievements of that tendency are glorified. The modern consumer is at once encouraged to be servile and community-minded and yet reap the benefits of pleasure like a trained killer, eager to strike. It's a curious state of existence that will ring true for some readers, to be surrounded by potential pleasures and yet feel paralyzed by the fear of their indulgence. I... I don't really want to kill anyone and steal their pleasures. And if I look to the left and right I see capable specimens place their hands at the small of the back of life and pull her in closely, though barely just acquainted, with such entitlement, without thought. Envy, yes?

I theorize that that fear is characterized by loss of control. Orgasm as death, gluttony as a brief madness. I will not however theorize as to what brings a man or woman in fear of loss of control at a formative age, it suffices for now to accept that such a fear exists in some. People such as this (and such as I) have this wrongheaded notion that those that desire and take automatically do so in full control of their capacities and faculties. This, experience shows, is not so and it is exactly in the surrender of higher reasoning that one may best explore pleasure. The trained killer is not trained after all, it comes naturally... But this initial envy-fueled recollection is never discarded because it builds on fear. The fear inside is that we're fundamentally broken for not being able to achieve what seems natural to others. Counter-definition of capacity and imperative, society tells us what to think.

The picture that comes to light is exasperating on many levels: to be pulled towards passions by definition unfulfilled, to be pulled off of a course that is at least dictated by one's sense of control, one's center, until one is old and withered and ultimately, dead. The fates laugh. All the while around one's life of slow motion, the rest, the more capable conquer and pillage without thought. Doesn't that feel like a waste?

Some philosophers and artists (and other sensitives) over the ages have felt it to be so, at least. Of all the higher strata of intellectual discourse that can offer alternative paths for the despairing youth, it's a cruel joke that some of us were most affected by the low regurgitations of Heavy Metal bands. But be it so, there was also a strength traded for lost clarity of thought from Nietzsche to Virgin Steele and from Castaneda (as the case is) to Unholy: These old philosophers and mystics are not scary anymore. The great Heavy Metal ghost is. Miraculously, as much as they have tried to cheapen it (and it could be argued that we have only barely survived a decade's worth of concentrated effort to defang Heavy Metal and market it to outsiders), it still is. Outsiders are afraid of Heavy Metal. It might be third rate philosophy, but spikes and chains and blood and darkness make up for it.

Did I hear that voice

or was it just a hallucination

And what about those shapes

For fourteen days I haven't slept

Still my shadow the secret of my life


By going through a long period of depression

I reached a permanent state of enlightenment

I'm the master above you bunch of slaves

I'm the Demiurge, creator of this universe

Master of not-doing

I, myself not fooling

The God of not-being

Everything as it is seeing

Near my death I saw

the white Gate of Death calling

There I didn't fall in

Let self die

Loosen souls dimension

For the sorcerer exhaustion brings ecstasy

For normal people, ecstasy brings ecstasy instead.

Unholy are a perfect band in this way. They're completely inapproachable to the outsider. Which isn't to say they're not alluring, it exactly means that they are, in fact. But they can only be approached on a bended knee, in their own terms. They will never be trendy (though it could be argued they made attempts at a more mainstream sound with each release) They sound demented but strong, no, the word I'm looking for is in-human. When some men become as beasts and rape life's pleasure, other men will become gods and denounce all earthly things. What is left when the soul dies? Surely something must remain the darkness at the candle's rest. Perhaps it is likeso, those whose eyes are accustomed to the light miss the world in twilight, but those who purposefully move from the light to the darkness keep the remembrance of the overworld as they descend into a different world of possibilities, of magic, of solitude.

I'm entertained when I read reviews of Unholy records and people go on about how 'weird' this music is. It's not weird at all. The people in Unholy were a bunch of teenagers from Finland, they were not gods. They probably were shunned by some girls. They dabbled with drugs. Their hair was real long. They kicked a member out of the band because he joined the Army as the Demiurge shall serve no man (elementary, yes?) and you probably know a few people like the dudes in Unholy, right? One of them is writing to you. None of these people are fundamentally different from the beasts, yet they pretend. They make fear into a weapon. Outsiders fear us as we fear them. As long as we are in-human, we will never futilely chase pleasure, as long as we are dead, we shall never die.

Conservation of energy: what must be sacrificed to achieve immortality, is movement. Become like stone, like a statue and you will never die. Center your energy and cruelly guard it until it is cold, entropic, imperceptible. In eternal darkness, time dies.

But flesh is not like stone. Have you ever stood up for six, seven hours straight? Muscles ache, one must endure. What is traded for everlasting life, for this neverending day, is an eternity of small pain. That is what the music of Unholy describes: small pains for eternal glory. Those of the outside will never understand.

This is why Heavy Metal still inspires fear: they seek pleasure to delay their thoughts on inevitable death. When death finally comes they are like pups, bargaining with the perfect end. "I... I don't really have to leave, do I? I was having such fun." But we bargain with death from day one, give him pain daily so that when he comes, his spectral visage is chartographed, or, has it come already? Is he here? I can not tell in the darkness if I have ever lived. In-human. Un-holy.


  1. I agree that this album isn't all that weird as far as the music goes but it sure is "hard" for me. I haven't been able to really penetrate into it and while there are parts I really appreciate as a whole it makes me very weary. And it's not that the first wave funeral doom (if this count as such) just isn't my thing. I'm actually drawn to this band every once in a while but so far I've been unable to feel close to it. I'm not sure what to make of this.

  2. They've been said to be a funeral doom band but to me they sound like a variation on the My Dying Bride formula more than anything. Atmospheric metal.

    It's interesting when a record resists for a long time and then you find some penetration point. I can't guarantee this will happen with Unholy, they don't have enough 'meat' on them perhaps (meaning, riffs and song construction) if their style is working against them for you. They're one of the bands that clicked instantly for me.

  3. Yeah well I wouldn't say that Skepticism got tons of riffs and construction either yet I absolutely love them. I used to listen to the Unholy's debut album more in the past but while it might be easier for me to get into it's also lacking in many ways. I have still hope for this one to grow on me because like I said, parts of it I appreciate a lot. For some reason this is a band I've always wanted to like more than I do.

  4. Your last paragraph has really struck a chord with me (no pun intended). Somewhere in the later years of teenage life, I managed to literally think my way into a mild, yet constant, physical pain. Did I create the pain, or merely realise what was always there? One day I realised, it isn't that i am in pain, I am becoming pain. Take from life what you will, but ascetic austerity for the man with his mind on the endgame.

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  6. JooPe, taken with visions of thanatolagnia, I ask you: Have you gone through the archives in a single session? Does exhaustion bring ecstasy? How much did you skim, how much did you skip and how much did you read, would you say? Can you describe how that is?

  7. Apologies for the delayed response, this is a particularly busy time of year with all it's social/familial obligations and the machine gearing up to grind through another year. My knowledge of esoterica fails me again as it has while reading your posts, by thanatolagnia do you mean the study of death?
    I have to admit I did not make it through all of your posts but probably will given the scarcity of interesting discussion on subjects I find interesting. I do recall skimming some parts in a couple of articles but think I went back to read the whole thing later, I didn't have time to fully absorb all the information when I found the site.

  8. thanatolagnia - the love of death. Nothing occult about the term, just a greek compound.

    1. Well yes exhaustion does bring ecstasy, perhaps not a '2nd wave' so much as the exhaustion of exhaustion itself. If by 'can you describe how that is' you were asking about the pain, apart from a constant dull muscle ache and pain where any two parts make a contact/strain, there is also the sensation of one's limbs being twisted in opposite directions, as if on the rack, but at glacial speed. Although I'm certain my diet/lifestyle contributes and there are probably medical factors judging by how early it started and the internal changes I was experiencing at the time I would say it is an internal expression of my experience of life. As if there could be a more pretentious statement/self-expression. :P

  9. Replies
    1. Let self die
      Loosen souls dimension = LDS
      My first and last LSD experiment which went wrong, this review is from unholy 20 years ago things and thoughts have changed during 2 decades .
      Best source material of this bands history is History Booklet (history of unholy by their own words) ,dunno is it sold out ,maybe it's still available

    2. Jarkko Toivonen - thank you for your contribution to the arts. Also thank you for taking the time to read this article.

      I will endeavour to track down this History Booklet.

    3. Actually this one of best reviews I have read.
      You review only this album no artist mentioned that's great.

      Usually editors repeat same mistake and mention me and Pasi as creators of Unholy of 1st and 2nd album almost like I and Pasi did everything..
      Every single album is teamwork, Ismo and Jan were also doing there doing their best to make even better album and so on 4 guys aiming for perfection.
      What comes to genres , doom-metal has over 10 subgenres , I just call our music doom-metal .

      I have problems with written text as I have isolated myself maybe 10 years ago , I don't like social life and people not that I hate people I just want to be alone.

      I rather do music rest is irrelevant and has been irrelevant as far as I can remember.
      Wish there were Ismo or Jan commenting for this review

      Anyway - Thanks alot for doing your review it got very good response after I posted this Unholy facebook site .

    4. I'm glad to hear you've enjoyed the article.

      I've been listening to the Second Ring of Power in particular since I was 15. I am 30 years old now.

      I am glad to have made a positive impact - no matter how tiny - with this text on you.

      On being alone: I sometimes feel likewise, I am comfortable alone. But other times I need human connections, even if it's for a little bit. Like now, we are exchanging a few messages - you are in Finland, I presume. I am in London, quite far away, and yet have my thoughts and my regards. Distance is intangible, thoughts are tangible.

      Take care