Friday, November 17, 2017

I'm not done yet.

In the couple of years that I've left our Poetry to lie languid and dormant I've put my efforts not in the business of telling but in the business of doing. My very own heavy metal band, of which I never speak on this blog and also kind of inwardly-narcissistically very seldom speak of in general put out a debut album after a long period of gestation. Long as in 15 years long.

You can find your way to that record if you really want to, it doesn't matter to me, or to be frank it only matters to me if you really want to. I have become no less cruel or arrogant with the passage of time (I am now 33, Jesus Christ did his best work at 33) and most importantly I've only become more and more tired.

I was tired of this project when I stopped it 2 years ago and it wasn't just because I had said what I thought I needed to say (such a thing is inconclusive after all - did I need to say anything at all to begin with? And if so, how do I know the need is done?) . It was - as I think I explained in some post or another - the gravity of this artificial Archive that I had built about the history and meaning of heavy metal that was weighing on me. Not because it is false, I am very proud of my false archive, to be sure. We are here right now, communicating again because I googled something I thought Castaneda had said and Unholy used as a lyric, but it turns out if you google it you come here. I completed my own circle, and so Old Helm read some of what Young Helm had to say and the Helms agreed and it was good. Jesus probably reads the bible in heaven some times too and he's like "... I'm pretty cool".

I think an archive has no erotic weight to it unless it is false in that particular, subtle, personal way that any such existentialist history project has to be. I am not a real historian, I am, you should recognize this as well, not a real anything, honestly. And that's not just an ok state of affairs, it is, as I said, a passionate, erotic state of being, for arrogance and ignorance to be such fuel to build an awkward, lopsided edifice, a glorification of something or another, such as the Poetry of Subculture, right?

I wasn't tired because this archive is false, too personal, finished or unnecessary. I was tired because this thing has weight. You write it and then you have to live with it. Even when I forgot what I had written, I still lived with it because I agreed with it. It became a subconscious truth. That's how magic works, and this is a ritual if nothing else. Who knew that writing about heavy metal would be heavy, huh? You, you in particular, dear reader, you could have warned me but I wouldn't have listened. For the sorcerer exhaustion is ecstasy. Google it.

I think it's time to talk about heavy metal again, friends. The world has taken an ugly turn in the in-between time and although I try with my own music to bring a subtler kind of light to this darkness, we will need all our tools and all our dirty tricks to turn the tide, this time. My dirty tricks are bad epistemology, bad history, half-spoken truths and a smile in the darkness. A surreptitious heaven will answer our call. Tell your friends.

Once a reader of some repute, a musician himself of some capability and renown, told me in e-mail correspondence on subject of my older, more private music that I should give up: he thought my music amateurish and my guitar playing a joke and he insisted that I should stick to writing about metal instead of making metal because that's what, he thought, I was good at.

The funny thing is that I never thought of myself as much of a writer, I am wrestling with every fucking sentence in a second language and it's not necessarily fun, but it might be necessary anyway. So, amateurish guitar playing and music, and amateurish writing. I'll use all my tools and dirty tricks, friends. I'll convince you of something you already always suspected.

Why? Because of the neo-nazis, to be honest.

In the interim of our silence here we have had a right-wing turn of global discourse. We have Trump in power and his alt-right internet meme magicians cackling like the toads they are. Internet heavy metal culture played a special role in this turn of events, one I didn't in all my quasi-wisdom predict. It seems an opposing and older Archive of What Heavy Metal Is, that of, as designed by Spinoza Ray Prozak at the dawn of the internet has won the day: though what's left of that site now, under different name and management,  is in complete decline, the actual ideological framework of heavy metal as proposed and reiterated by a million anus drones over the last two decades have left their mark and they propagated through the broader 'internet culture' as designed by 4chan and other such 'edgy' subcultures online: heavy metal has been almost totally usurped by 'alt-right' third-way apolitaeic neo-nazis, occult fascists and other Julius Evola spawn. Especially the field of black metal (and a lot of the more dark and cavernous death metal) is well beyond the realm of 'sketchy'. New memes abound to describe this new historical circumstance, for example "It's only a sunwheel". This meme describes the diversionary tactics of our new breed of heavy metal fascists, whom when confronted with, uh, that there's swastikas or black suns or SS runes on their record covers, they reply with how no no you've got it all wrong, these ancient symbols pre-date the Third Reich and are used in a more esoteric and traditional way.

We don't hate other cultures. We just love Europa and want to see it return to its prior glory.


This isn't a new narrative, but it has had a new function in the current political climate. Where once the political climate in the metal subculture was such that these clowns were powerless and easy to ignore (as unwise as that was) now, where all of the western world is bent on a rightwards trajectory, every single idiot with a palingenetic ultra-nationalist agenda is actually helping along a very tangible 'fascist creep' with these Third-Way diversionary tactics. So, when near-fascists are in power we have to re-examine our own burden in our own subculture. We should do this now, before fascists-fascists are in power.

Fascists infiltrated black metal and heavy metal at large over a long period of time, right under our noses and we are ill-equipped to spot them, exclude them from our subculture and mend the damage they have done because we're still thinking in 1999 terms, where Capitalism 'won' and history 'was finished' and grand narratives 'were dead' and it was just a consumerist paradise for atomized people going on with their atomized lives. Heavy metal has always been a conservative cultural force, and people fall for 'it's only a sunwheel!' every day. Even people that don't fall for it and can spot the dark humour of such memetic propagation find it hard to divorce themselves from the problematic elements of our subculture, because the problematic has overtaken the non-problematic. Anywhere you turn and go 'I like THIS band in particular, they seem nice!' it will turn out later that they're neo-nazis, or nationalists, or their best mates are neo-nazis, or they've worked with a neo-nazi label or they're just simpler and they just hate the gays or whatnot. It's a disaster, and 'the other side' as it where is politically not equipped to make its voice heard. Because metalheads are either -consciously or unconsciously - on the right or apolitical. And this has to change, because in this political climate, being apolitical is being on the right.

So, at the face of this new Trump reality that emboldens cretins worldwide to be more vocal with their hatred, we have to fight back in any way possible. Does this mean that Poetry of Subculture will now be the equivalent of  Who Makes The Nazis but not for neo-folk, industrial and post-punk but for Heavy Metal? As much as I wish I had the mental fortitude to attempt that, sadly not, but perhaps that void will be filled by other nodes on the internet soon. I'm not enough of a historian, not enough of a Marxist and probably not enough of a human to tackle something like that on my own.

No, we will fight back against the forces of darkness by strengthening our own Archive, our own lopsided edifice to something or another. That's all I can do and I'll do it pretty much the same way I started. I'll talk about the records, I'll talk about the historical circumstances that brought us here, I'll talk about pathos, eternal beauty and the will of the gods (that has great, great power) and I will listen to you. So, make yourselves heard.

In this way we will imagine a different use for heavy metal than that of a foil for nationalistic identity politics at best and outright propaganda for Evolean fascism at worst. Because heavy metal is Chaos, like mother Tiamat writhing in the bottom of the deepest ocean fault. But Chaos is not evil. It can be - and has been - used for evil, but Chaos is just Chaos, it means anything and everything. Even idiots, even amateur, tired musicians with no achievements to recommend them can touch that chaos core, and they can be mutated into some imaginary shape or another.

Of all the shapes we can imagine,  we can do better than the shape of a racist, homophobic neo-nazi. Not only can we, but we must.

For all these words, you know what's up and you know what we're going to do. We're going to listen to the muuuusic, think about for a long time and then write some words about it. That's what humans do, they use culture to understand themselves. And we must understand what Heavy Metal has done to us. Let's strike the black old stone a second time with childlike hope and irreverent intent: let the blood of romance flow from the stone, forever.


  1. Welcome back.

    Nothing has been more heartbreaking than this trend of nationalism. Did you listen to Atlantean Kodex's second full-length? It takes a huge page out of the Awaken the Guardian playbook.
    Musically, some of the most successful adaptations of that particular record. I was enthralled for my first few listens. But the more time I spent with it, I felt something was off. So much of the sub-text and not-so subtle-text could be understood as "europeans unite against foreign immigrants", west vs east muslim hordes bullshit.

    Sure enough, I tracked down some interviews, which sadly confirmed my suspicions. How short-sighted for, especially a German band.

    It just sickened me, to hear the influence of an album, and a song such as Guardian and morphed into something so blatantly racist. It just cheapened it all. You have crafted these beautiful songs, you had the possibility to layer them with any virtue and meaning your heart desired, and you've settled on something so small?

    I think the music is divine, some of the best of its kind from this last decade. But I cannot divorce it from it's intent.

    And I have many times reflected on how my reactions to these bands is not at all parallel to my disgust for stuff like Burzum or Dissection who's malice is more outlandish and distant ( or at least used to be). The current far right creeping into my Heavy Metal makes me uncomfortable in another way. As if the metal brotherhood wasn't bullshit enough, trying to make sure it's an aryan one doesn't make it any more appealing to me. This is where that metal brothers manowar shit lead us.

    Go back to the zines of the nineties. How many now beloved mainstream metal artists" spoke their mind on immigrants and "niggers"? This shut runs deep.

    I look forward to what you have to say on the subject, there is room for love in Heavy Metal.

    On the subject of your guitar skills; I think what has become clear to me, is that Heavy Metal's defining feature is how it's ambition remains totally undaunted by it's limitations. It's a 17-year old recording an epic while barely knowing hot to play. Some of my favourite music in the world is flawed, was written and performed by amateurs. Yet if they hadn't performed it the way they did, I would never have heard it at all. Romantic ambition can transcend any false note or shitty production job. Heavy Metal, transcends.
    Not that it even applies here, I've enjoyed your album immensely this past year. Thanks for making it!

    On a final note, I was very happy to have discovered Memento Waltz by way of you just a few weeks ago. Thanks for that too, I stumbled on it while in a manic period obsessed with Progressive Metal.

    1. Yes, welcome back, Telemachus!

      I found A Subtle Kind of Light immediately intriguing. I have the cd version. Great cover image and there's no band logo - all the more allusive. Locust Leaves made many interesting aesthetic choices.

      The main drawback for appreciating the album further, in my case, is me being the "master of not doing," to borrow from Unholy or Castaneda. At least that's how I sense it.

      Ablation is in order, perhaps. Something different, more likely. There seems to be no exit from creating some body of creative work to appease the itchy skin.

      Nationalism in "my" metal or our Heavy Metal isn't a priority for me. I'll be reading your posts, likely. My multi-ethnic family and I have our own migratory issues to deal with. I'll chime in when I can.

      Also, I think Mechabarbarian is on point with the idea that HM's defining feature being the ambition of a 17-year old, recording an epic and being effectively transformative. Sounds like a sorcerer to me. I was hearing some of that in Accept's "Aiming High" song, today.

      Come to think of it, Unholy has a song called Colossal Vision. I think I'll go consider that in the context of a 46 year old continuing a 17 year old's unfinished business.

  2. Mechabarbarian:

    Atlantean Kodex did a very revealing interview with the Bardo Methodology guy where they go on about their love of Europa and how 'actually Evola had some good points'. So, yeah. Very disappointing. I had gotten the idea that this is where they were heading from the first album, which - at the time - I read as a deliberation on Fates Warning 'bow to kings of yesterday, they've given you wings to fly away, what have the phantom queens but deceived you?' but it still smelled fishy and a few years later it turned out, yup, it smells like what it is.

    re: metal brotherhood, you know me, I didn't get into heavy metal to make friends, right? It's time we start readdressing the need for - not brotherhood - but community. We're not going to get through this unscathed as free agents anymore.

    Thank you for the kind words for the record and also, overall. Glad to have you back.

    Knifetooth, thanks. And yeah, if you should be doing something, do something, there's no other way about it, I feel.

    If you're not interested in nationalism in heavy metal, you'll find the blog quite boring for the next few months.

    re: 17 year old delusions of grandeur, we all know that's exactly what heavy metal is, but that doesn't mean it's all it could be. We're getting olddd. There must be some olddd metal we can make.