Three Apprehensions of Black Metal

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§ Some considerations

It is futile to try and have a discussion on whether black metal should be regarded as pure music, as myth or as entirely subservient to some ideology. Yet, each of the these three views are held by different camps of people who believe theirs is the only ultimately valid appreciation of black metal. The contention held by us is that black metal is all three: mythic/archetypal art, metal music, and enactment of sorcery; and perhaps more. This is black metal at its best, and not when robbed of any of these aspects by the incompetence or ignorance of the artist.

Among the few who, perhaps instinctively, saw these three in one were Mayhem, Burzum and Darkthrone. Whatever eventually became of each of them is a singular story, but the great power found in varying degrees within each one of them depends upon the upholding of all three views. The mistake of followers and non-followers alike is to have interpreted them in light of only one or at most two of these views. The reasons for this may lie in religious predilection, modern-minded callousness leading to presumptuous arrogance, or just good, old-fashioned idiocy.

Typically, Mayhem maniacs of the Left Handed Path forget all about music form, and its relation to what lies behind —based on and perhaps misled by some unknowing Gnostic or Hebrew dictate. Those who tuned into Burzum first and foremost tend to be aware of the power of myth and symbol, while the most awake among them may even delve into the Jungian theory of archetypes, while oblivious to the fact that Vikernes himself has hinted at the very literal sorcery enacted through music. Darkthrone types tend to have followed Fenriz down the road towards the beer metal hall, and away from the intimations of evil that the earlier work grasped at, even if faintly and only over brief lapses of time.

It is even easier to forget that all source of doom-like and black ambience, the liberty of form boasted by the underground, the powerful use (rather than the ignorant abandonment) of metal as a chosen styling while intrinsically communicating a sense of meditative ritual, was densely packed into the demented work of Hellhammer’s Satanic Rites.

§ Black metal as metal music

It must be remembered that black metal is metal music, born from its form and context, if only as a beginning. Within that, it must be remembered that metal is music, and so it is also subject to the wider laws of music. These laws are properties discovered through the experience of generations of musicians, and which properties can be rediscovered anew and singularly bent by those wishing to go back to the void through rudimentary materials. Said laws are not arbitrary rules set by authorities, nor are they constructs to be changed and challenged in the name of some ideology, be it political or religious.

Just as we are encased in a physical body subject to certain forces, defined by certain transcendent formulas of which our own human scientific theories are but echoes and grasps, so is music as a whole under the watchful eye of gods, of unified and interacting forces, of physis ultimately. Metal music is no exception, and black metal in particular should be, as a genre filled with artists aware of the occult nature of reality, even more aware of what goes on here. Alas, most flock towards religious dogma, theoretical lore or absent-minded exciting of the senses, and so idiocy’s subterfuge reigns supreme.

It is not that the artist must submit to the will of an arbitrary metal authority, or that they be made subject to the human scenes around black metal, but that he realize that music can possess a life of its own and form independent of the wishes of ignorant masses and pretentious individuals. A Platonic ideal for metal music, and more precisely for black metal as its ultimate transcendent refinement, arises apart from the blunders. Reject not form, but let form and its study be the tool that brings forth a communication of essence, a representation of eternity and the infinite into a succession of momentary sensations.

§ Black metal as archetypal space

Yet, the cultist power that black metal can sway over a mind that has turned the gaze of its inner eye towards a point of contact, bespeaks the creative essence that builds and connects to the Shadow, and deeper still. This is a region, or a dimension of the reality of black metal, that remains entirely unknown to those who see “only music” in the grossest sense of the expression. Opening oneself to the symbol, allowing it to speak rather than setting up a protective layer typical of modern mental cowardice against the sacred —the violence of Bataille.

As a region where dark archetypes, namely, those that modern society has manged to shun after centuries of repression and materialist Judeo-Christian taboos, black metal holds the keys to drastic and effective mental liberation. How far this liberation goes, of course, depends on the individual: how much the schemata are allowed to shift away from safe space, towards increasingly unbound and dangerous looming realities. The danger is felt when the individual finally starts to realize that these dangers are tangible, whatever modern societal programming has convinced them of.

§ Black metal as enactment of sorcery

Furthest from the safe space of work, order and civilization lies the ostracized, forgotten and ignorantly ridiculed sacred world —the place where homo sapiens can go to reconnect with nature, Eorthe and kosmos at large. How and when is black metal a tool of sorcery lies entirely on the triangle that composer – artwork – audience creates. If any of the three fail, this cannot take place: this goes for any property of art as well and is only here extended to its use for tuning in to a different state of consciousness, and whatever that may bring on its own (which is in itself up to each individual to discover and evaluate according to the sensibility and intelligence of each).

According to some of the more reliable (as in direct and logical, but also serious and non-reductionist) sources, sorcery is the conscious influence of the individual over some aspect of the kosmos, be that the mind itself, an external relationship, or large-scale changes beyond the individual scope. Whether or how each of these work also remains in the domain of speculation and empiricism —hopefully empiricism and rationality above content speculation without action. Purposeful black metal, enacted as such, as having a power of its own, as unrestrained but directed emanation of will, can be the object or the medium even of sorcery itself.

This level of apprehension can only be reached once the archetypal has been considered, accepted and taken to its limit. Once the individual stands on the outer edge of the that circular region, looking towards the dark expanse in front of them, away from human rationality and into the chaos, the beginning of a suspicion, a longing and a need to step through rises like a black flame, eventually engulfing all if allowed to grow through diligent cultivation and honest discrimination.

Around the hero everything becomes a tragedy; around the demigod everything becomes a satyr-play; and around God everything becomes—what? perhaps a “world”?

—F. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Apophthegms and Interludes

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