Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Demon with a Frowny Face

I believe in tragedies / I believe in desecration

This is black metal's contribution to pop culture. The emphasis is not on the existence of events that could be deemed tragic and the horror that comes with them is not meant to be scrutinized, understood or analysed. The emphasis is on imagining tragedy and desecration, on calling it out with willpower, on doing the opposite of understanding it - instead worshiping it as unknowable and illogical. Natura fabricatus.

To the point where the tragic entity overrides the contour of the worshiper, it conceals them completely, it swallows them (think again to certain events of the early '90s). The 'why' in all of this demands attention. Young adult white males would choose to fantasize about tragedy and call it upon themselves, different discussion. In the preamble of that discussion, ponder on the difference between power and tragedy.

Brief point: think of any black metal band that talks about anything real, anything that occurred in this world and was put on the record of history, and you're probably thinking of a black metal band that has misunderstood the construct that it is appropriating. It's not the end of the world, but it certainly is humorous to think about, in a certain dim light.


  1. Contemplating on that Immortal lyric, I am reminded again of that peculiar duality of black metal, the willpower-driven force that is married with "darkness", the pessimism and morbidity that comes from surrendering to mortal fate. It is very interesting that black metal itself is very opaque to the elucidation of the former tendency and somewhat tries to bury it beneath more vital and aggressive part of pessimism, the "desecration". Immortal do not sit in the corner weeping about the sun coming down, but are supposed to somehow enjoy it, in fact embodying the force of death, the coldness, "As I Walk It Become Colder" (ah, Demonaz' legendery English grammar). We could therefore say that black metal is three parts sadistic and one part masochistic, fully pathological of course, in its total appropriation of negativity. Black metal's masochistic identity can be further elaborated by the obsession with winter, Immortal's basic characteristic (a direction that you pointed, if you remember, when we talked years ago about Paysage D' Hiver). For us southerners, winter can be somewhat appreciated as a distant, cart-postale aesthetic object, but for Norwegians, winter actually means pain, it means walking out and freezing to death 6 months a year or something. It is an embodied, every-day tragedy.
    It's interesting to interpretate the early 90's happenings as similarly in part desiring of tragedy, although they have been spearheaded by seemigly strong-willed, aggressive men. Indeed it seems kind of impossible, that Vikernes or Euronymous actually thought they might get away with all the stuff that they did. Modern black metal, understanding its own legacy and this duality has reacted in strange ways, for example see the occult black metal scene. Intellectually, there is all this talk of defying death and reaching out the divine potential of man, as if pessimism was at last cast away. But instead of, say, studying science and learning how to prolong their lifes in a tested and probable way, or going into space shuttles and conquering new worlds, we go to the mysticism of worshiping death itself. Like hugging a hungry lion is going to bring the opposite results of what's logical, because hey it was such an unexpected move. And "worship", that isn't much of a masculine concept anyway, is it? And yet it persists, even intellectually in the words of many oh-so-aggressive and technical and high-brow contemporary bands, such as Deathspell Omega and Abigor.

  2. I think in those occult black metal bands, for their cults or sects or religions or what you want to call them makes it so the mortal, corpse-painted worshipper is (re)capturing some aspect of the divine (through gnosis), so it's a delayed self-worship. That's how they sort it out, at least I theorize. That's how esoteric knowledge works, you only worship it so it will give you superpowers. It's very different in a christian situation where you worship god because a) you were bullied into it and b) to assuage your weakness in this life with promises of divine justice in the next. Esoteric people want power *now* and they will follow a belief system that gives them power. Occultry works because Christianity's point is not to make individuals stronger, but communities. Occultry makes individuals stronger (as in, sociopathic), less remorseful, more driven, incapable of feeling guilt, upward capitalist climbers, so to speak. God (or the Demiurge) have nothing to do with us.

    I think the early '90s norse black metal scene had aestheticized their ideology (think of Benjamin's quote "fascism is the aestheticization of politics") to the point where the only way to one-up each other was to start killing and so on, it was where their social structure was heading. I don't think they were desiring of tragedy because it's tragic, I think they were desiring of power (male power, virility, competition, sadism) and they wanted to inflict tragedy on each other (hidden homoeroticism?).

    It would have been a different heavy metal world we live in today if Varg and Euronymous just got a room and fucked each other silly and came up with a *more* radical direction for black metal in this way.

  3. Still doesn't make sense to me. Thinking in black metal mode, I wouldn't want to subjugate myself to a higher entity, I'd want to kill it and take its place. I might make some Faustian pact or two, but certainly wouldn't develop a devotional aesthetic in my artform, remember also that La-Veyists always described theistic satanism/occultry as an inverted christianism. The mad scientist arch-villain seems to me a better archetype of evil than the robed guys. Of course, it ties well with the rejection of rationalism, as if you can't take something by yourself, you need it to be offered to you. I remember now that the early "orthodox" bm bands -precusors to the modern occult scene- were self consciously masochistic, Antaeus, Funeral Mist. That might have given a more dual perspective to some of the intellectual types I mentioned previously. You might be interested to read this Abigor interview here - more watered down and self-interpretive comparing to old black metal, and the samples from their upcoming album sound interesting too. At least to take half-seriously, half musicologically as a whole.
    Sure, hidden homosexuality should have had some effect too, especially in that repressive hyper-masculine environment of "extreme metal". Perhaps we can take Vikernes' story of Euronymous shit-stained dildo rather differently in that regard, hah. But for the most part the masochistic elements (I'm not sure if we should equate them with homosexuality) must come from the pessimist/nihilistic outlook itself and the high energy/dionysiac expression of the music.
    I'll have to think on that "aesthetization of politics" phrase a bit.