Philippe Herreweghe Johann Sebastian Bach: Ich elender Mensch, Leipzig Cantatas

§ Conspicuous yet Invisible

There are few people today who are not at least aware of J.S. Bach’s fame as a composer. Yet, for most so-called educated people this awareness does not extend beyond a mere recognition of a famous name. Even among those actually acquainted with his music, those who profess delight upon listening to his great art, there seems to be but little, or a shallow, perception of it as “peaceful” or “spiritual”, or other such vague terms which render an appreciation of his great as little more than another page in the catalogue of classical music.

As a layman himself, the author does not presume to possess a detailed knowledge of the theoretical organization of the music of J.S. Bach, but this is not a prerequisite for serious listening and the development of a profound acquaintance with layers of music and the relations between its elements. There is nothing stopping us from using our brain’s innate ability for selective attention and classification, which allied with an open listening channel to intuition can be used to find a plethora of beautiful proportions and patterns; this would enable us to start to understand the relations the latter have with the effects they produce inside and around us.

The appreciation and attention that is lacking is not of a technical kind, for academicians and musicians of all stripes have used and abused the lessons and voices found on the surface of J.S. Bach’s music. Disgraceful depictions in the metal genre appear in the most tackiest of fashions, dragging crown jewels through the mud and excrement of sub-par music limited by a limited understanding and a mundane mentality. A higher vision would allow one to see into patterns and then into the multitude of connections and the effects thereof as far as the eye can see (or the ear can hear), thus being able to abstract and carry the lessons discovered in three-fold attainment.

§ Weaving with Voices

The underlying methodology of Western classical music could be described metaphorically as the weaving of threads into a tapestry; very little other musical tradition, if in fact any at all, anywhere else, developed the art of music-making to such a degree. As one approaches Bach on the timeline of this tradition, one sees music evolving in the way that genres of any kind do, independently of the area of human endeavor, that is, by developing permutations and variations of a seed idea.

The advent of J.S. Bach, however, marked those particular discrete points in a tradition when a leap and transformation is achieved by a stroke of genius, whatever the so-called genius actually implies (most probably dedication, devotion, talent and something else, perhaps); he thus marks a towering achievement on dimensions beyond the normal permutations and variations that are normally brought forth as grains of sand.

For Bach, all instruments are to be treated as singing voices, but human interpreters are also brought closer to an instrumental usage; a special kind of baroque music is thus created, a profound and non-trivial methodology is birthed from this man that essentially opens up a new dimension (spans a new linear space?); this stands rather at odds with the Italian school of Opera, its divas, and represents a stark contrast on a deeper level of attitude towards life; where the one is transcendental, impersonal and devoted, the other is narcissistic and emotionally dependent on the attention of others —it would seem that the religious of music of J.S. Bach could actually exist in a void, and it would gain a life of its own, but Opera, on the other hand, exists for the soul purpose of feeding egos and tickling sensual emotions.

We might attribute the origin of this development to the particular soil on which J.S. Bach planted himself; being an adept of the organ, it does not seem, in retrospect, a surprise that the concept of music as series of pure threads of sustained vibrations would lead to the aforementioned melding of human vocal chords and instruments into the purest concept of musical voices to be used as variations in timber as phenomenal manifestations in the service of music, rooted in the noumenal organ arrangements from which they were likely, conceptually born.

What separates J.S. Bach from the rest is not merely the technical and theoretical solutions which he brought about, but the fact that he produced these in order to bring about such merging and purification of the musical ideal as his holistic vision demanded; he carved a new musick in order to crystallize a bridge, a link, which would work through a more organic instrumentality —in essence, an auditory spell that would evoke the sinking and consuming aura that his soul appears to have longed for.

§ Herreweghe’s Touch of Life

There are plenty of recordings of J.S. Bach’s music, though sadly most are oriented towards producing commercial products for the refined or the pretentious, pandering to today’s would-be elites and erudites. The explorations are not exhaustive nor spiritual, but rather educational, in that stale way that only modernity can produce, and often feel detached.

What stands out in Herreweghe’s several interpretations of J.S. Bach’s cantatas is his talent from bringing out the most expressive in singular voices, while at the same time emphasizing their place in the midst of the sonic tapestry; that is to say, he does not turn the cantatas into opera jingles for the ego-stroking of singers and soloists, nor does he flatten everything in order to present a monolithic face as a testament to the greater whole.

Herreweghe seems to accomplish this feat of uniting an apparent duality through a dynamic approach that does not require the performance of discrete switches between modes, or at least he does not order these to be done in an overt manner; instead of clearly defined areas where main voices are chosen to lead, and others where the tutti is executed, the potential of the thread-weaving embedded in J.S. Bach’s masterful composition is allowed to shine through and assume organic form in this interpretation.

The result is a constant cooperation amongst the instruments that allows for a alternation and tagging, breaking with static functions and rather allowing for a limited kind of mobility within hierarchical functions; spontaneity works by changes being organically allowed to enter on a continuous rather than step-like manner which may also allow for the deeper impact of digressions while at the same time sustaining them with grace.

Leading voices are clear, but they are joined, rather than merely supported by the other instruments; and though not all can be prominent at once, nor in the same manner, the presented dynamic answers to the needs for an organic whole that may coalesce into an elemental force of its own, as true musick must of necessity become when properly performed.

Obskure Torture Spilling the Blood of the World

The present is a doom metal compilation consisting of a demo, an EP and an additional track written exclusively for the release, written and performed by one man and released in 2010. After this release, the individual behind it appears to have only released a two-track full length, whose actual length and specific development is not fully unknown to the writer; the project Obskure Torture was shortly shut down for reasons not publicly given, though one might, given the stated practice of Hebdomadry of the artist, surmise a number of possible interruptions along the Way that might have drawn him (?) away from the artistic effort. In any case, seven compositions of pensive doom metal for the solitary mind have been left as a testament of an evolving mind throughout the span of six years.

Despite the traditional adoption of a doom metal sound, an evaluation of the approach along the whole of the compilation displays a laudable attempt at fusing different interpretations of the subgenre under a single voice. We may hear an overarching tendency towards a deathly slow take on Black Sabbath’s most foreboding compositions in Paranoid, though reduced and compacted to power chords rather than the freer melodies used by Iommi, and then stretching the usage of sections into an almost Funeral Doom template. Now, despite some of the harmonic and rhythmic motions might echo a lamentable Stoner influence, these gestures are kept under control and never become a crutch, and rather remain a wink to the listener.

As a whole, we could call Obskure Torture a ritual doome metal, for its emphasis on deep-state repetition of long though simple sequences of a character aimed at entrancing and sinking. The ideas, and the lengths to which they are taken, may somewhat strain one’s patience, but the core of these is not deficient in themselves —quite the contrary, there is promise in the overall relation of parts especially when one considers the interplay between two different long sections, which seem to appropriately “speak to each other”1.

It is a pity not to have heard much more from this project, as in the last song written and published here, ‘A Gift for the Prince’, Obskure Torture showed a kind of adventurousness and creativity that had, however, yet to break completely so that it would venture not only vertically in layering and granularity, but also also in other dimensions: transitioning functionally and coherently into different harmonic spaces, which would have added a great sense of progression and elaborate narrative to the composition.

While not an impregnable masterpiece, such as Skepticism StormcrowfleetSpilling the Blood of the World gives us a patient collection of phrases which, though a bit strained, provide a passageway into a different dimension by the familiarity and closeness which its different ideas throughout different songs bear —thus a total experience seems to be had from the collection of pieces, rather than from singular ones, which are rather austere in strict content. As a whole, this is music for very specific mindsets, and its power lies in patience and the subtle versatility in the gathering of influences under a minimalist and personalised banner.

1 A first variation of this expression was most probably coined in the context of metal riff relations by Brett Stevens (, and has served as a most efficacious turn of phrase that encapsulates a holistic understanding of music pattern as communication.

…And thus the Elixir of Recalling flows
And the Dark Gods become manifest…

Riddle of Meander Orcus

Riddle of Meander play what we could easily describe as “standard black metal”, in that it adheres to the usage and application of technique and composition style that characterizes the genre; such strict adherence, however, does not in any way impede them from presenting ideas of their own as someone who is expressing himself in any human spoken or written language does not need to reinvent the wheel of the language or the way ideas are expressed in order to deliver a valuable insight. The music here remains mostly at around a guarded slow-to-slightly-fast pacing, while introducing blast beats for intensifying effect without letting them be an afterthought; this is perhaps one of the greatest accomplishments of this album: that despite the non-innovative approach it is able to subsume a variety of vocabulary to its own purposes without them ever feeling out of place or as a collection of tropes, as one spirit is expressed through them.

Orcus is the second full-length album by Riddle of Meander coming out two years after their debut, End of All Life and Creation, and greatly improving upon it in terms of dynamism (in the sense of organic mobility between more distinct modes of expression) without losing in the strengths of the first; we find here that the composer of the music is more sure of his decisions, and while we saw a prudent shyness about the adventurousness and twists in the music in the first album, Orcus embraces what were occasional jumps and reserved hints and now makes use of them unabashedly to move the music forwards with increased potency, allowing the music to thrust not only forward but farther into different territories.

The music in this mature release shows a band that is in dominion and has a certain focus, thereby carrying the music beyond, or raising it above itself; and while this statement might be misconstrued by applying a dualistic interpretation of a separation between form(aesthetic) and meaning(essence), what is actually meant here is that one can perceive and trace a goal in the music, perhaps expressed through the progression of moods and changes, however small they are, that makes the music not about its presentation or about a conceptual idea to which the music is soundtrack, but as the music as the enacting of the action itself. In effect, this is music as it should be, encapsulated and holistic, well-rounded and concise despite expressiveness.

In light of these highly positive traits, there is something to be said for the lyrical content, at least in what one may glimpse from the titles of the songs; for now it may suffice to say that one may find here more than your average satanic expression, divested from the usual mother worship or simpleton craving for destruction that one may see more commonly paraded elsewhere; instead, there is an interesting combination of references to witchcraft in its very earthy and private sense —the only way it can be remotely in touch with reality— and a black alchemy, the ars regia of self-realization and self-overcoming, thus hinting at a more Traditional approach to living that address the need to counter the tide of the current era.

Prognosis de un Elitismo Personal – Parte I: Arte y Vida

§ Estética y Esencia

El arte, comprendido de manera acertada y cercana a su naturaleza verdadera, está frecuentemente vinculado a la vida humana como experiencia total —como una expresión de su esencia, y en la música en particular es el efecto total lo que cuenta, reflejando y comunicándose con el todo del oyente. Es por esto que la música puede ser una fuente rica para el análisis de la mente de un individuo, ya sea la del compositor de la misma como del individuo que elige una música sobre otra. Por sus características y efecto sobre el humano, la música también ha tenido una cercanía curiosa con la religión desde que tenemos memoria y según encontramos en la evidencia antropológica.

Dice Gwendolyn Taunton acerca de la evolución y cambio en el concepto Nietzscheano de lo Apolíneo y lo Dionisíaco:

To be complete and to derive ultimate mastery from the creative process, one must harness both the impulses represented by Apollo and Dionysus —the instinctual urge and the creative power of Dionysus, coupled with the skill and intellectualism of Apollo’s craftsmanship —in sum, both natural creative power from the will and the skills learned within a social grouping. This definition will hold true for all creative ventures and is not restricted to the artistic process; ‘will’ and ‘skill’ to act in harmony and concord.1

Es por eso que, si bien sería negligente juzgar la totalidad de un individuo a partir de una de sus obras, si podemos juzgar la totalidad de la obra por lo que ella presente por sí sola; lo que se puede entender y vislumbrar a partir de ella en el juego total y en su balance de lo Apolíneo y lo Dionisíaco. Dado que también existe una limitación en esto en la capacidad de la audiencia, hay que entrenar ambos y luego, en un juego de distanciamiento y acercamiento, objetividad y subjetividad, lograr una unión de opuestos en comprensión detallada y en experiencia familiarizada.

Así es que, mientras la infatuación (dígase, el amor y gusto ciego) y permisividad del capricho propio rijan, el componente de lo Apolíneo que rige la traducción de la esencia a la estética se hallará siempre sujeto a un auto engaño que favorecerá sentimientos y apegos antes que la realidad —lo que sencillamente es, más allá de nuestras percepciones cambiantes. Dado que lo primero funge como traductor entre dimensiones, si éste es distorcionado, la esencia detrás, el inmortal Dionisíaco también estará, por ley de correspondencia, sujeto a esto y de manera doble, por la indirección natural que la realidad ella misma nos presenta.

Dado, asimismo, que solamente podemos evaluar y percibir mediante las habilidades y conocimiento que poseemos en el presente, ésta es una lucha, una deleitable evolución personal que no debería tener fin, al menos no en nuestras vidas mortales. A medida que se afina y se comprende más acerca del arte de la traducción de esencia a estética, o sea, de lo Apolíneo como el medio hacia lo Dionisíaco, también se vuelve más fácil y práctico evaluar nuevas instancias del arte.

§ Evaluaciones acerca del black metal

Al haber profundizado en la estética del black metal, no hacen falta doce años de familiaridad con una obra en particular para interpretar las implicaciones aurales de la música, las cuales tienen vida propia y revelan más de lo que pueda excusar o dar por sentado el compositor o autor mismo. Es más, la evaluación podría ser llevada a cabo de manera penetrante en cuestión de días, si no es que momentos; todo se resume en la habilidad y discernimiento de quien se abre, escucha y juzga; ambos la habilidad y el discernimiento se basan sobre la experiencia, intensión y capacidad nata.

Creo que es por esto mismo que debemos darle más importancia a la música que a las letras u otras formas de recubrirse de símbolos; confirmada la música, la letra puede venir a dar una multitud de detalles explícitos que terminan y complementan a la música. Pues, en la música, uno encuentra comportamientos y pistas inconscientes, acaso filtradas a través de y no nacidas del artista mismo, y revelaciones del verdadero nivel al cual es comunicado el arte —diciéndonos todo lo que necesitamos saber acerca de la maestría, o la falta de esta, en el artista.

El artista como Adepto podría catalogarse de quien realmente pueda traer ambas juntas, de manera que no solamente su música por sí sola revela la profundidad de la esencia por medio de su estética, si no que él está en completa comprensión y consciencia de ésta relación: consciente de la canalización y su transformación. Esto requiere habilidad técnica, conocimiento del arte de la estética —o sea, de la composición como artesanía— así como de experiencia con las percepciones puras que producen los patrones; en fin, estar familiarizado y haber dominado las avenidas entre expresión y significado transcendentales.

El black metal, en sus tendencias explícitamente metafísicas y espirituales, es un campo de investigación particularmente rico para los intereses de nuestra presente discusión. Podemos, por un lado, tomar bandas que conscientemente y verbalmente se dan muchos aires de profundidad, pero cuya música no presenta una estética que dé a conocer la esencia que dicen canalizar. Por otro lado, podemos encontrar proyectos, en mucho menor número, los cuales no hacen ninguna clase de, o muy pocas, aclaraciones respecto a su música, pero cuya estética en sí revela el carácter realmente profundo y oscuro de alguna esencia desconocida.

Por lo general, los primeros son anti-tradicionales, y en su deconstrucción consciente presentan payasadas auditivas, y los segundos más bien presentan una elaboración muy personalizada de la tradición2. Consiguientemente, vemos en los primeros mucha pretensión3 dentro de la música misma, y en la segunda un método directo cuya elaboración habla por sí sola.

En la música de S.V.E.S.T., lo incógnito se encontraba en su capacidad de llevar al oyente a situaciones complejas y confusas mediante medios casi rudimentarios, y que, una vez analizados, se mostraban en total control y coherencia de sí mismos. El énfasis aquí se encontraba sobre el efecto total que tendrían relaciones dinámicas y vivas entre distintos aspectos musicales —una música de estética holística, no meramente acuñada en explicaciones intelectuales sin contraparte estético en la estructura musical, y por ende mejor equipada para transmitir la esencia de lo que es: como un puente de corrientes y energías no atadas a nuestro universo causal.

§ El ser una luz hacia uno mismo

Importante es saber qué y como tomar las opiniones de aquellos a quienes respetamos y admiramos, pues, a menos que los adoremos como seres supremos y de poderes incuestionables, ellos también son seres finitos, no solamente con distintas capacidades de discernimiento pero también con su propia opinión que no cambia la realidad de las cosas. Para complicar aún más las percepciones de algunos, resulta que algunas de las bandas mencionadas anteriormente, específicamente Deathspell Omega y S.V.E.S.T., han colaborado en al menos una publicación de sus obras, lo cual casi siempre es una señal de mutuo respeto, aunque a veces es conveniencia y estrategia, si no es que apoyo de un superior a un inferior.

Hay que señalar primeramente que el respeto por alguien no es equivalente a ovación por cada una de sus obras; además de que un artista superior está en todo su derecho y libertad de explorar y encontrar cierto valor, cualquiera que este sea, en el trabajo de mentes menos capaces y otorgarles respeto por esto —el genio detrás de las meditaciones de Burzum, por ejemplo, tomaba como una influencia principal la música de la banda alemana de speed metal sólido mas poco impresionante de Destruction.

Esto abre aún más incógnitas, pues el sentido común nos diría que los mejores artistas seguramente han de saber que es lo mejor, y han de alimentarse de lo mejor. Lo más probable, sin embargo, es que el artista superior puede filtrar y adaptar, de manera mas eficiente y penetrante, elementos e impresiones que encuentra aun en lo inferior, de manera que los utiliza para sus propios fines y hacia resultados de mucho mayor alcance y calidad. Además de que el discernimiento enteramente consciente y el talento creativo son dos campos distintos, si bien están conectados y se entrelazan.

Lo que podemos aprender al respecto, es que cada uno de nosotros ha de tomar, primeramente, de donde nuestra tendencia natural, en cuanto a carácter espiritual y metafísico nos guíe, y en segundo lugar, hasta y como nuestras limitaciones de aprendizaje y natas nos lo permitan; siendo lo primero una brújula que constantemente se ha de redescubrir, y lo segundo una señal de lo que debemos mejorar para poder avanzar. Mientras todo esto se tome más allá del ego, y se utilize de manera constructiva y dinámica, siempre será un medio y una herramienta para la evolución personal.

1 Gwendolyn Taunton, Primordial Traditions, Vol. I, ‘THE BLACK SUN, Dionysus in the Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche & Greek Myth’.
2 Podríamos clasificar a Watain y Deathspell Omega en el primero de estos grupos, y a S.V.E.S.T. y Katharsis en el segundo. Cabe decir, además y como aclaración, que el autor de este artículo no favorece en predilección personal a Katharsis.
2 Se recuerda al lector, que contrario a la comprensión y uso burdo de las masas del metal que usan la palabra ‘pretensión’ para definir cualquier cosa que sea demasiado elaborada para ellos, aquí se le usa en su definición original: algo que pretende ser más de lo que realmente es, el proyectarse como algo superior a lo que se es.

Abyssum Todo en Tinieblas

Todo en Tinieblas es el demo de 2015 de Abyssum que nos trae el refinamiento final de una obra cuyas ideas y partes fundamentales habían sido ya construidas para mediados de los años noventa; le vemos entre las piezas en vivo publicadas en el año 2008 bajo el título The Prophecy Is My Name, I’ll Be Here Eternally, en donde la pieza que figura este demo lleva el nombre ‘I am He’; de la transformación de “Yo soy Él” a “Todo en Tinieblas”, mucho se puede meditar y estudiar. La nueva versión de esta pieza se ve envuelta por arreglos de sintetizadores que le suman mucho y le traen más cerca de la cobijante aura cósmica que caracteriza a Abyssum.

No solamente tiene una introducción de tres minutos en una pista separada, lo cual nos permite prepararnos mejor, pero también un outro de otros tres minutos que crece y extiende la nota y sensación en la que queda la música una vez callan guitarras y batería. La estructura del cuerpo principal de la pieza ha cambiado asimismo, con variaciones hechas a partes que anteriormente eran idénticas entre ellas, además de elaboraciones en los teclados antes inexistentes, y una considerable introducción de conexiones y sutilezas en la percusión donde antes figuraban más que todo patrones uniformes rudimentarios del underground metal en contexto black metal.

La nueva producción es bienvenida, así como la claridad de los instrumentos, pues Abyssum mantiene en mente la necesidad de que se preserve un aura de obscuridad y agresión que un sonido demasiado sintético suavizaría, restándole de manera irreparable al todo; confiamos en que ésta sea una muestra de algo todavía mejor para un próximo álbum completo de Abyssum para el cual algunos habrán esperado casi una década.

Lo cual nos trae a la mención de ciertos puntos importantes respecto a la forma en que Abyssum opera, con la visión sobre la Eternidad, con una visión como Arte de Inmortalidad; este es un arte viviente, las piezas nunca se petrifican, y cada uno de las grabaciones es una de sus develamientos o manifestaciones a lo largo de una evolución perpetua. Si bien se han hecho álbumes como Thy CallPoizon of god, las piezas dentro de ellas han seguido tomando formas varias y únicas a lo largo de los años, siendo su maestro un experimentador de las fuerzas ocultas que dentro de ellas se mueven y las animan.

Abyssum nos da un ejemplo de música creada por un ser para él mismo, de primera mano, pero también con una visión de ella como algo que puede seguir mejorando de manera que se afine y aplique de manera más detallada y natural al cosmos mismo, o a nuestra percepción de éste, como intermediarios que somos entre lo natural y lo que conscientemente creamos con propósitos humanos. Todo lo que pudo haber sido la música clásica en su expresión más trascendental, y lo que pudo haber sido el black metal en un refinamiento holístico más enfocado, es adonde apunta la trayectoria del magistral Abyssum; si bien una sola vida puede alcanzar la inmortalidad para sí misma, el trabajo de Arte Inmortal está en manos de quienes lo puedan tomar y seguir a través de una cadena de vidas que la puedan llevar más allá a medida se descubren y desarrollan a ellas mismas.

C.R.U.E.L. Cantus

C.R.U.E.L. nos muestra una percepción de la realidad más demente que cósmica, abrazando fuerzas del subconsciente en lo que parece una acción de suscitar y evocar fuerzas subconscientes —esa parte de nosotros sujeta a demonios a los cuales el humano común sirve de inconsciente esclavo y perpetuo alimento. En Cantus especialmente, y mas aún que en las obras anteriores, se sienten enfocar los instrumentos a el mantenimiento de una tensión particular, con cadencias enfáticas de fuerte inclinación percusiva, dándole así un tono más fácilmente asimilable desde Abajo. Lo que vemos como el cuerpo principal de la presente obra es, tal vez, menos de dos tercios del total, y el resto consiste en sutiles sonidos, susurros y breves teclados espasmódicos de los cuales surge el metal como forma concreta.

La búsqueda y descubrimiento de este proyecto todavía se estaba concretando para cuando se dejo venir el presente demo, el cual muestra un C.R.U.E.L. de una voz  propia más clara que antes, si bien no del todo destacada todavía; para ver a un C.R.U.E.L. del todo desarrollado tendremos que esperar posiblemente para el siguiente álbum entero, el cual seguramente reunirá las lecciones aprendidas durante la última década y finalmente refinadas hasta el preludio suave y restringido que es Cantus.

Como mucha de la música por individuos de esta talla, el oyente ha de aproximarse a la recepción del arte con detenimiento y respeto, por directo y sencillo que parezca de primera mano el material; en el caso de la presente obra, ese lugar es uno que sea adecuado para rituales herméticos y obscuros, lugares que faciliten la introspección, y que permita por medio de un enfrentamiento y encarnación de pasiones suprimidas una unión en máxima expresión con ellas. Para esto podría ser utilizada esta música, para quien tenga la valentía de mirar directamente y hacia adentro como corresponde; cada quien lo hace a su propio riesgo, y el humano corriente, por supersticioso o con ínfulas de superioridad moderna, puede ser excusado, y reírse y pasar de largo le sienta mejor.

En Cantus, además, se nos otorga una banda de sonido que, percibida y seguida como si fuese la pauta de un ritual, promete abrir cuartos abandonados y pasadizos olvidados a los lados mas recónditos de nuestra mente y la inmediata realidad velada. El canto, en su uso tradicional y religioso, tiene como objeto primeramente alterar el estado interno del practicante; yendo más allá, sin embargo, y en una vena quizás un poco más esotérica, también la de alterar la composición de los alrededores por medio de este cambio en el practicante en calidad de portal entre lo visible y lo invisible, lo evidente y lo oculto.

Monarch Exile

This is an underground, self-released EP/demo that outwardly evokes traits of Infester and the likes of Cianide, thus utilizing a cross between doom metal, death metal and progressive rock. The latter is the greater influence in the structural approach of the album, but the spirit is permeated by the esotericism and medieval-macabre surrealism of classic death metal. The release’s aura resembles these medieval dark mystic paintings in that it would appear as if the music attempts to trespass beyond the rationalizing agency and into the darkness of the unconscious. That said, there is no proper abandonment of the a logic of structure or coherence of expression.

Such a feeling of alienation transports the listener into an opaque world of grim fantasy that seems always submerged in a dream-like brume. It is recordings such as this one which represent a true underground spirit, not in that it is not associated with a label (for that is meaningless nowadays), but in that its free, wild and personal recordings seem to speak from and to the author himself. The work, in other words, is cryptic and hermetic in the full sense of the word —hermetic in that the meanings and the symbols perused here are shown in an outward, opaque presentation to the listener but are disclosed to the author alone.

Monarch’s Exile, however, only presents a brief picture that does not seem to finish unfolding itself and disappears out of sight when one barely steps into it. Half of the content seems introductory or would give one the impression of being a preparation to the actual material. The last two tracks, furthermore, seem slightly out of touch with the main piece of the work, and they seem to constitute more of an afterthought than a meaningful addition to the present work.

We can only hope that the artists behind Monarch will move forth and present a development of these ideas so reminiscent of the mystic expression that Hieronymus Bosch transmitted through painting. There is great potential in the seed ideas that are only barely articulated in Exile, and where one sees limitation and incompleteness, one may also sense dormant forces awaiting the kiss of life.

Arthame Fiendish Symphonies

arthame-flyer-aDark ambient of the type that can fall into categories such as dungeon synth or the more cosmic variety type of spacing out is an interesting companion of black metal that retains the whole atmosphere minus the transcendental aggression of the former. The way texture tends to vary throughout rather constant expanses and the attachment to long and simple but expressive melodies is itself a refinement of the musical spirit of black metal. Arthame’s Fiendish Symphonies, in particular, is a clear attempt to fuse the two together in an obvious acknowledgement of this kinship.

The writing methodology for each song is exactly the same, producing something akin to constant-texture riffs that are entirely adequate for synthesizer. The sounds selected for the synthesizer are not changed and they are kept minimal so as to further enhance the sense of a certain approach. These effects are changed a bit in different tracks depending on the wanted effect, but they always remain in the vicinity so that the artistic voice in the writing is further enhanced and supported by a particular instrumental timber. As an additional touch, there are brief inclusions of rasped vocals in the background of this pensive music.

Given these observations, it is only fair to look at Fiendish Symphonies as distilled black metal; we can hear the sombre and impersonal mood that alludes to night-sky contemplation along with a self-realization away from the mediocrity of the crowd; there is loneliness in this music, and yet, a soft whispering of a serpent perhaps, or of the Earth itself, or is it the Moon itself drawing us towards it? Is it the memory of blood and soil that links us to this planet in different ways? Is it a call to the stars? I am inclined to believe it is all of these, and a shadow-call for us to reconnect with what saw us become human, and what gave rise to our dark beauty that cannot be contained in deterministic models.

Arthame communicates this vision and leaves us wondering of a possible brethren amongst the stars, although we cannot tell if such a cosmic desolation is a premonition of the future of humanity in projections based on an ancestral memory of our more primitive past here on Earth. As a fulfillment of the black metal ideal, Arthame conjoins all of these together beyond rationality, and in individual discernment beyond opposites in a holistic apprehension of reality that is at once intuitive and logical.

Gorgoroth Live in Hilversum ’96

gorgorothlivehilversum96The present is a live presentation by Gorgoroth poorly recorded in 1996 in Hilversum. The six songs contained here are selected from Pentagram and Antichrist, arguably the two best releases by this band, whom soon after lost their touch for obscurity and moved on to raw crudeness without sensitivity and then towards completely sterile technical performance. This is a snapshot of a golden era, of the music even if not the people, in which black metal was magickal, engulfing and sincere in a bare-bones manner.

Many will find the quality of the recording so poor that they will wish to pass on it; many would argue if there is any good reason to listen to such an unclear and distorted recording if one can simply listen to the first two albums, whose production is already raw enough but with a nice, clear sound to go with it. One could simply answer saying that they are two different experiences to appreciate different aspects or to contemplate them from different vantage points.

The decay and death in the sound is so pervasive and overbearing that the recordings are indeed blurred, indeed going beyond conceptions of delightful nekro sound. A good reason, however, to listen to a recording such as this is that it forces the listener to actually listen with all his intent and attention; it is as if the listener had to earn the privilege of the the music. Furthermore, the conditions make it so that the live recording must be listened to in a quiet environment, and it needs concentrated attention.

What ends up happening is that only the overarching gestures, broadest textural changes and structural progressions are reflected in this recording, while the details are certainly obfuscated to a degree that they are rendered out of the question for study. He who would properly peruse and thus appreciate this record it to a full and ecstatic experience need tune in to the motions of the music as if to the rhythms of an ocean’s tide under the ravenous moon.

Nekrokrist SS Suicide

nekrokrist-ss-suicide-2007Understood in the destructive, hardcore vision that seem to imbue the spirit of the music and the lyrical references, we could well posit that the proposition and purpose of this album, beyond bringing the listener face to face with the very real idea of suicide, is to encourage such an action among those who entertain it. That could also only be the imagination and desires of the author himself playing a trick; in any case, it seems like an option worthy of exploration  given how needed death is today. Today, suicide is viewed in horror even by supposed non-religious secular society; this is because it has inherited the humanist values that it adopted from the dogmas of Christianity. Many of us rather believe that suicide is a kind of what we could call a ‘natural right’

For those who are honorable or those who have vested the meaning of their whole life in something which has turned to naught, it seems perfectly fair to allow them to decide whether or not they want to keep on living. After all, what else does man have but his inner purpose and meaning? Materialists of the modern kind would, of course, disagree; but we all know what a putrid and decadent world they have always promoted, and continue to promote for the sake of justifying and indulging in their own mediocrity and weakness.

We could also say that in some cases, suicide really is the only way. Some people simply do not have the character or the disposition to live; sometimes this ‘fault’ is intrinsic to these individuals. Rather than spend a lifetime of misery imposed upon them; but it would rather be better to put an end to such a disgusting life. It only seems right to rather offer their own blood on the altar of judiciousness as an example of commitment to a higher ideal.

The music of Nekrorkist SS sets the perfect neutral tone to evoke a nihilist contemplation of itsemurha. It is a concretion of a melodic-frenetic punk-inspired black metal that vomits and blasts, but is at the same time guided by a clear thinking. There is a created destruction vortex that storms around a clear and very consonant melodious line that the guitar carries. The band takes time with each recording and rather than try to propose collections of songs, they seem to evolve of an already mature idea much in the same way as Infamous does.

From suicide, Nekrokrist SS extends the topic to a grander perspective; the suicide of a sick individual can be reflected at spiritual and collective levels. The encouragement to let churches burn because of their already decadent and thus useless form of dogmas that put forth the image of a distorted reality. Instead, and channeling the spirit of black metal as a whole, we find in Suicide a of the destruction of such an establishment through the proposition of finding joy through extermination at all levels: the harsh reset button of an amoral nihilist.