Jan 26, 2008

BURLY, WOODY, JAMES, AND SOMETIMES CANADIAN - Aquarius drops another Black Metal bundle at my door

I've been runnin thru some kinda Euler circuit lately, taking deserved breaks between selling folks lottery tickets/Dorals (well, Parliaments and Newports, mostly) and drawing mythologies about omnipotent beings who always make large-scale mistakes so's I can check the pee-oh box for new jams. It was a long road getting to this order, since releases were appearing and vanishing like they do. But Aquarius is good to me. They're starting to understand that I will take my order in dribbles so long as I get some-bleedin-thang.
Well, the circuit is broken. I got my order. 2 of 'em ain't black metal related in the slightest and one's another Drommer cd-r, which is only tangentially black metal-related (as redundant as that sounds). Today, we're sticking to the guys in black. Rest'vem got too many colors.

VARGHKOGHARGASMAL - Call of the Raven demo tape, German, Funeral Agency re-release, 2006
Literally every part of this release represents why I love the black metal. We'll start with the cover and work inward, cuz that strikes me as the most kvlty approach. The cover is a take on the creepy forest iconography I was getting super-tired of, but considering this is also labelled as "Wooden Metal!" on the little part of the J-card, not only does it make sense in an obvious and thematic way (which is very metal), it also looks like a blockprint of a rotting 2x4. Lo and Beherit, inside it reads, "This demo tape was recorded for nature and in total hate to the human race which is destroying it!!!" Which human race? Oh, THAT one. It also informs me this is the...2nd edition? The 2nd edition of a demo tape? Clinging like a shirtless Stallone to the format, guys. That's commitment. What makes this the 2nd edition is that it includes 2 songs from their official 7" ep. A quick look-up on the humming and glowing box on my dresser tells me the 7" is 2 songs. So, really, the 2nd edition of the demo tape is the discography.
By now I'm totally immersed and I haven't even heard a note. Basically, black metal is like the outsider art of the totally uninteresting and rollicking towards a nudge-nudge joke or a symbolic economy that is contemporary art--I mean, contemporary metal. Contemporary metal is about speed and theatrics. Black metal, you mightcould say, is about sound as soul and theater. Same way you had to dash your prior thinkin 'bout jazz structures the 1st time you heard Ayler or Schlippenbach or any of those guys and remember what you were actually listening to was new forms of "soul" music, great black metal is like some unholy, messy palette-cleaner.

So now the tape is in the deck and the reels are rolling. Varghkoghargasmal sounds like a two-piece but I guess it's a solo affair by a cat named Avenger. He don't use no distortion--no buzz! no hiss!--and there ain't no vocals. But there are some occasional field recordings. (Wind is the new bass.) So, without two of the major touchstones of the black metal thang removed, what am I left with? Basically, a strange little mystery. Varghkoghargasmal could be any of those mysterious bands on Songs from the Lowland or Big Southern Hits or any of the Kiwi DIY comps. Raith Rovers! It's an angry, long-form Raith Rovers! Or maybe Jane Dancing...without the dancing. At times, this is downright pretty, even when the drums are wandering off down an alley or squeezing and bulging like a stress ball. I would say somebody oughta tell Avenger he can stop recording by hitting "pause," but then I'd be left without all the cue marks. There should be more cue marks in music. There should be more Varghkoghargasmal in my life. Except now I have everything. Stupid second editions, ruining everything.

GEHEIMNIS - Das Negras Montanhas demo tape, Brazilian, Gungnir Productions, 2005
See, but then there's Brazil. I don't know what it is about Brazilian black metal, but once they stop working from Sarcofago and Vulcano LPs and start trying to be Norwegian, I'm lost and hurrying away. This is really short (so many of these tapes are secretly one-sided) and not terribly exciting. And it ends with the kind of mopey guitar ballad that could bookend a One AM Radio ep but somehow ends up on most of these releases. (
Varghkoghargasmal is an exception! And Korium!)
Not changing my world, not even changing my socks.

JABLADAV - Black as Pitch demo tape, North Carolina, self-released, 2007
Another could-be-two-piece, but again, James is all by his lonesome, doing duty on guitars, vocals, and drumbs. Jabladav is much in line with Weakling, as far as the riff-as-drone theory and the smart-mark approach. Weakling came from smart-mark metalheads Fucking Champs. Thankfully, this never gets smarmy-clever. This sounds less record-clerk than Weakling ever did. Songs are shorter, too. And when he does a quieter track, it still sounds like it was produced by Mike Dixon or Fenriz. James gets all busted-concrete tunnel on the vocals. This is amazingly heavy and creepy for a guy counting talk radio and The Simpsons among his influences. Dial this up.

AUFKREMA - Rehearsals 2002-2003 tape, Quebec, Tour de Garde, 2003
Another thing I love about black metal is being put in positions where judgment becomes irrelevant. Sometimes it's through an intensely personal, almost internal approach. Sometimes it's by being so obtuse, I find I'm trying to develop stage plays to act out what I'm hearing so it makes more sense. Sometimes it's by exposing parts of the creative process most of us aren't used to or necessarily have any interest in peepin in at. How am I supposed to judge improvised rehearsals from 5 years ago, especially from two dudes who haven't released anything else?
Well, I guess I'll start with details. The booklet has a long explanation about there needing to be more spontaneity in metal and I was going to do go on a similarly lengthy rant about how that's an excuse to feel creatively justified in releasing what most people would consider unfinished music, since you're still calling them "rehearsals," but then I realized that's a weak argument. Basically philosophy is a supermarket full of differently colored and scented bullshit that people peruse and decide which needs to come home with them. Something we don't know may or may not be doing something that may or may not be affecting another thing--that's what our knowledge amounts to. In black metal, there are no bands; there are only movements. If Aufkrema consider themselves a movement toward a looser, improv-friendly French Canadian black metal scene, who am I to argue how legitimate that is? If you decide you aren't going to affect the rest of the world for most of your life, which is more personally rewarding: making music in your basement with people you love and trust or sitting in a brick building thinking about fish?
Do I like this? I'm not sure it matters. For the count, the parts themselves are kind of generic with some okay riffs and jars of absurdly fast percussion. Going from one part to another isn't causing me to levitate out of my seat, so as a movement it doesn't really hit me. Who knows. A Quebecois (or Quebecoise!) kid might hear this and fill his briefs.
I say, let the movements flow.

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