For this year’s Weirdo Canyon Dispatch I intend to describe that Roadburn feeling. Because we all know perfectly well that something special happens when the banners are up around 013 and strange visitors from far and wide converge upon Tilburg. It’s something peculiar that no other festival has, it makes our eyes and ears open just a bit wider. At the same time you feel that craving for the surprises this year’s festival will offer.
This craving stays with you for three or even four days (and if it’s three you always wish it was four). You approach every venue with an urgency, anxiously check your program where to go next and need to taste as much as possible from the line-up. Others just need to be in the vicinity of the venue, standing in the Weirdo Canyon in front of 013. It’s something special in the air (and I’m not talking about particular fumes that cloud the air during those days). A special feeling of warmth and welcome.
It’s because you know that you’re about to be treated to a buffet of great music. Hand-picked by people who want to share those great artists and sounds with you and have you experience them at their best. Not to rip you of, but to share that joyous event. That creates an enormous pile of trust and love, because it’s like Christmas for us fans. It’s why we come back every year. If we somehow become detached and stop going, we still feel like we need to apologise and explain why and how. That’s that special Roadburn feeling when I completely trust in Walter and his crew to take the best possible care of my musical desires for four days. It’s why I come back, every time.
In a short series of preview articles, I intend to get ready for Roadburn2017. Visiting Roadburn is a bit like a pilgrimage to me, a particular sort of reverie, which I intend to express in three articles dealing with the unknown, the world and the self. Written by a fan.
Roadburn is a gathering, an exchange of ideas if you will. Regardles of your own outlook, the open mind attitude that comes with Roadburn means an influx of new thoughts, ideas and concepts. A forest of new impulses, that always leaves me lost for a few days, realligning myself.
Agreed aesthetic is embedded so I’ll shatter that
Impaired vision like the world got cataracts
Endured attacks on all fronts, now we pushing back
Aligned thoughts to outflank how they counteract
– Dalek, ‘Shattered’
Into the woods: Sharing, exchanging and interacting
The great attraction of Roadburn is that it is simply more than just a festival. Roadburn is a microcosmos of people, who share their love for music. That doesn’t mean they’re all cut from the same cloth and neither are the bands. There’s a lot of variation in ideas, messages and content to the bands and visitors of the festival. No band playing at Roadburn is playing their music, just to ‘rock out’. This is music we love for its meaning, whether its spiritual like Amenra, cathartic like My Dying Bride or simply confrontational like Integrity.
As a visitor I don’t just want to hear, I want to feel. I want to truly feel spoken to, adressed and shaken by what I hear and experience. I want to be moved by the experiences I have and therefor grow in my own view of the world. Roadburn is an international gathering, which means that not just bands bring a distinct flavor with them to the 013 venue, the Cul de Sac and the Patronaat. It’s the people, the art, the songs and conversations over food, drinks and cigarettes that make up the magical exchange of ideas that is Roadburn.
Drifting around Roadburn
I’ve had my hare of fascinating conversations over time and it makes for that absolutely amazing experience. But with little time to spare and many bands to see, you can just wander around in the Weirdo Canyon like a situationist drifter and experience whatever sonic experience you arrive at. From the atmospheric black metal of Ashborer to the post-punk of Alaric and the dark country of Those Poor Bastards, you just drift around from the start. Stay while you enjoy it, look further if you are looking for something else.
It’s a grand way to experience the festival, but don’t forget to take those little bits of ideas, concepts and thoughts with you. Keep them close and revisit them when you have a moment of reflection afterwards. Roadburn gives you lots of new things, don’t waste them. Sometimes getting a bit lost is not so bad at all.
In a short series of preview articles, I intend to get ready for Roadburn2017. Visiting Roadburn is a bit like a pilgrimage to me, a particular sort of reverie, which I intend to express in three articles dealing with the unknown, the world and the self. Written by a fan.
Roadburn is like a different cosmos, it takes you away for a bit. That’s what this part is about:
Leave the earth to Satan and his slaves
Leave them to their future in their grave
Make a home where love is there to stay
Peace and happiness in every day
– Black Sabbath, ‘Into The Void’
Into the Void: Meeting the unknown
Festivals can be memorable for many reasons, from that one magical show to the fun you had sitting outside with (new found) friends and sharing a drink. Roadburn is for most people all about the music, the scene and the experience. Though not limited to a scene, you instantly know what you’re getting when a band is on the time schedule during Roadburn. Whether it’s Deafheaven playing, Gnod or Bongzilla or even Coven, it’s all fitting in the bigger picture.
For outsiders, it may not make any sense to hear ‘That’s a typical Roadburn band’. It doesn’t mean it’s a black metal band, stoner group or folk ensemble, it might mean anything musically in fact. But to me it means something special, it means I should hear this band, because it fits in this special universe that is Roadburn. Obviously I enjoy seeing my favorite bands during the festival, but the most magical is just drifting around experiencing bands I don’t particularly know and just immerse myself in that sound. Immersion, that’s the key word for Roadburn universe.
In this all of emptiness.
Time will no longer be.
The cosmic certain property.
Of past, now and eternity.
– Mysticum, ‘All Must End’
The joy of Roadburn immersion
There’s something in the air during Roadburn and Roadburn is everywhere once you enter the Weirdo Canyon. From continuous program with talks, bands and listening sessions to the artwork hanging throughout 013. It’s entering a different place and completely immersing yourself in the festival that is the most wonderful part of it.
You never know what to expect and like every year, you’re constantly surprised by that element of the festival. It changes you as a visitor into a sponge, trying to soak up all the elements the festival has to offer. All senses gat their fill, but it’s the mind that is completely satisfied during four days of Roadburn with a completely overwhelming experience in a different universe. So, I can’t wait to just jump in that black hole and see what’s on the other side.
Ride the dragon toward the crimson eye
Flap the wings under Mars red sky…
‘Cause better times are coming
Better times ahead
No-one gets remembered, my deathless child
So don’t rest too long in bed.
– Frank Turner, ‘Peggy Sang The Blues’
It’s been a hard, long road, but in a few months I finally cut loose the strains of the past and embrace my new challenge. It’s going to be hard work, it’ll be scary and it probably won’t be easy. It still beats the dead-end-rut I found myself in about 2 years ago. In a job I didn’t want, with a future that terrified me and no idea what to do about it.
I spend this weekend in Bulgaria, visiting the city of Sofia and I had a chance to speak to some absolute strangers. I saw a new country, with nothing but my backpack full of clothes and books and my wits about me. It’s all I need to feel completely free for once again, to feel the strength within. Standing somewhere between the mountains, looking at the might of nature, I feel better than I’ve done for a long time.
I’m leaving the rat race, where insecurity is a drive for trying to dominate and outdo the other for a different challenge, a different path. I’ve not eaten meat in a week now and that feels so much better too. I’m not where I want to be yet, but atleast I know where I’m going and not going down with the ship of misery. Sometimes you just need to see the clouds and the trees again, to start believing in it once more.
There’s not that much that I need, there’s enough music in the world to sustaiin me and plenty of books I still need to read. I’ve woken up depressed, tired and desperate enough times now. Enough time spend thinking about life, time to live it. Let’s see how far we can truly go.
I’ve got a plan and a brand new backpack. It’s about the journey. Isn’t it?
I’m seated in a cold old factory hall, clutching a cup of coffee that isn’t very good. As is my habit, I intensely stare at the stage imploring the evening to start. It’s a full house of people for tonight in the Hall of Fame in Tilburg, eagerly waiting. This is not about music though, but about voting.
It’s not a metal concert though, tonight I’m enjoying a reading from Esther Ouwehand and Lammert van Raan about the Partij voor de Dieren (Animal Party) and their vision that idealism is the new realism. We watched a short film about nature, which was very powerful. The party members spoke about the trials they’ve had to face from animal noises from other politicans to a guy from the VVD (party for many monies) eating a balloon to prove that they were not bad for the environment…
So how do you end up at a place like this? I thought I’d tell you.
My political journey
I come from a rather left wing nest, where voting for the more left orientated parties is the norm. Voting is always done with the idea of making the world better. We’re an idealistic bunch, My parents were divided about the main direction of that change, it was either equality or environment. I’ve been raised with those ideas, but also with the thought that there’s always two sides to a story. Trying to be critical and taking another view serious is important. Criticism, I sort of learned, is the cornerstone of effective democracy and almost a duty for every citizen. If we hear a politician shout certain facts, we should check them. If a politician suggests a solution, we should be skeptical of it. Not out of distrust, but because it’s our duty. Also, Henry Rollins tells us to do so…
I think that’s how I ended up in punkrock music. The idea that big companies were dominating the world, that polticians were doing a half-arsed job and the idea that music could change the world is deeply ingrained in my personal development. Again, thanks to my parents for encouraging and feeding that. My passion for politics always was present and I’ve never skipped a vote, whatever vote it was. I felt affinity to various parties and was a member of two others, but ended up here. What is it that so grabs me?
Shaping the way of voting
Was it my journey through extreme music, ending up listening to black metal that worships nature? Partly so, I’m certain of that. Was it the visits to the forests since I was a child and the endless string of films and documentaries, like Philip Glass’s ‘Koyaanisqatsi’? Certainly… Was it that magical moment when I got married to my lovely wife on a hill top in the middle of Lithuanian green fields in the Romuva tradition? A tradition that is based on harmony and balance with nature, on planting trees and love for nature? It might have tipped the scales.
At the age of 31 politics and the world around me made me think that the only way to change the world is finding the things you can do yourself. I considered not voting and focusing on that. Not the big things, but living conscious, buying durable and thinking how you can profoundly affect your environment for the better. It’s why I’m leaving business life for a teachers position too. This way I just might change a little bit of the world, change a mind here and there… An inspirational figure for me, who is a teacher, described it once as ‘planting a seed’. Exactly the words used in todays presentation.
If you can form a movement though, of people all wanting to make these little changes… well, we might just change the course of our world.
So what is it with this party?
During the reading it was made clear that the party is very progressive and therefor often ridiculed. The name also is often reason for jokes and mockery. Those two points I would like to address.
Progressive often means a new voice. To me, this is not a strange thing. If you try to get something very simple done and it doesn’t work, you try something else. Being willing to look at the groundwork of what you’re doing, for the ideals behind it, makes sense. I’m an idealistic voter, I’m not informed enough to have an opinion about all the topics in a program, so I want to vote for a general direction. An ideology if you will. At this point we have two choices, which are keeping on going in the direction we’re moving in now or radically change our orientation.
Most parties focus on economics, which never made sense to me. Economics has become a huge business in dealing with tangled, untouchable currencies. How can so many businesses deal in something that physically doesn’t exist? It makes no sense and it is bringing us nowhere, so why keep voting for them?. Dealing with issues as integration, foreign wars, taxes and all matters, but what is at the root of most problems we have? It usually is something with nature. That is something this party got right. This is that change we can all believe in, we need to believe in. Then there’s also the grassroots element.
The party is not just aiming at politics, it’s aiming at creating movement of people that are willing to change. It reminds me of the way Bernie Sanders describes his politics. The movement already was there, but now there’s a catalyst and a flag to rally around.
If you didn’t care
What happened to me
And I didn’t care for you
We would zig-zag our way
Through the boredom and pain
Occasionally glancing up through the rain
Wondering which of the
Buggers to blame
And watching the pigs on the wing
– Pigs on the Wing, Pink Floyd
A party for animals is a funny thing, unless we really look at what we’re doing. We’re behaving pretty much like animals towards each other. The less we take care of each other, the more animalistic our behavior becomes. Animals are focusing on surviving, regardless of others. The way our economy is dealing with the world currently is like that. The way we start dealing with each other is more like that. The core values that the party underlines aren’t just relevant to animals but very much so for human beings as well. Compassion, durability, personal freedom and personal responsibility.
I picked some lyrics here, that might say a lot about many situations. In this song people read different meanings, but for me the opening lines say the most. If we stop caring for another, then what are we really? The way we treat animals says a lot about the way we treat another. The way we talk about refugees for example is no other than the way we talk about cattle. They’re a nameless, faceless entity in our perspective. We create herds all the time, from PVV-voters to foreign nationalities.
Time to change
More and more this is arising. The people around us in traffic, in the supermarket, they’re not fellow human beings but competitors who we must beat in our consumerist hunt. We’re out for maximum gain, more stuff, bigger possessions and we have no disregard for others. We treat each other more and more like animals. Especially those big companies and businesses have found a special mercilessness and disregard of human life, nature and the world. I’m not a vegetarian, but the way we deal with life on our planet shows no respect and most of all is not a way that can last. A party for the animals is therefore not just a party for those that walk on four paws, hooves or feet, but also particularly for those who walk on two…
So that’s why I was there on a cold, rainy Wednesday night. That’s why I feel very passionate about this new direction. So that’s why I believe in this alternative. That’s why I believe that this is a different option and the way to go. A voting alternative for the road to ruin we’re on, because we have no alternative earth.
Disclaimer: This is personal opinion, not party policy or necessarily viewpoints. It’s an attempt at describing a feeling, position and experience by myself. I am greatly interested in pursuing this further.
Can’t I just spend the next four years at a punk show?
I want to spend the next four years in the front row
Because if the world outside is going to shit
Then you will find me in the centre of the circle pit.
-Frank Turner ‘Sand in the Gears’
Yeah, I’ve been trying to figure out how to deal with a world, in which people believe blatant lies of Trump, ridiculous plans bij Wilders and probably will vote for a Le Pen. A world so hung up on blaming the other for our own misfortunes that we forget that whole enlightened idea of being able to make our own future.
If you’ve sat still for 20 years of-fucking-course you get passed by, by someone who studies and grows. No one is steeling your job, you’re just not holding on to it. Oh yes, I believe firmly that the capitalist system that drives us, is slowly killing us and driving us to leaving life earlier. It also drives some to find solutions, to do things differently. From the tiny house movements, to backpackers and all sorts of free spirits. Sometimes I even find escape in books and by simply making my world as small as it is.
So why does this prospect make me feel so utterly sad? Because I believe that we’ve been making a lot of progress in the last couple of years. Gay marriage, environment politics and much more. Sure, there’s a lot of room for improvement, but we’re atleast going forward. Now the Bible is back as a rule book and that was never a good idea. Standing still is less bad than moving backwards, I think Billy Bragg once sang. I think we’re moving backwards into fear and stupidity.
But maybe this is the four years of shit we’re going to need. Maybe this will drive us back to the self sustained communities that are the backbone of the society as we know it. It’s easier to fear a horde of muslims without names and faces, than to fear your friendly neighbour. Fear mongering depends on the idea that people are masses, not individuals. If you accept that, you need also to accept that Trump is not a monster. He’s just a man who probably is a bit afraid and misinformed.
But what to do? I can’t spend four years in hibernation. And no, I don’t live in the United States, but the Dutch elections are due too and I think that regardles of all the proof that they’re a bunch of useless naysayers, there might be a big white, right win. What can I do in these next four years? How do I make sense of it and survive it?
Some guy at a concert in Area 51 explained to me what a Naysayer is. I kinda knew what it ment, but he fully explained it to me (right before running into a closed door, but that didn’t demean his point). Naysayers are people that will not and cannot help you progress. They will not solve, alleviate, improve or change anything. They just say ‘nay’.
So all you can really do… is say yes. Engage in conversation, take part in things, be out there! There’s a surprisingly small circle around you that you can make an impact on profoundly, by just being there. Embrace the people you care about and be open and kind to others. Don’t give in to the fear and hatred. Don’t use fists and hatespeech, use love and understanding. Compassion and that almost forgotten thing called discussion. Don’t wait for the change, be the change.
We make the world we live in, even in its small scale of close acquaintances. Say no to hatred, bigotry and other ridicuousness.
Be all that you can be, because as Frank Turner once said…
Metal has been widely divided into many subgenres, mostly based on sonic elements. We have the death, doom, black, prog and so fort, but there are always certain streams that defy genre but are constant. For example, Viking metal can range from pagan black metal to cheesy folk metal, as long as the Viking theme is present. There’s another type I’d like to mention: barbarian metal!
Disclaimer: This is merely a bit of thinking out loud… excuse me, thinking on paper. I’ve not really delved into the literature on this, I’m just thinking about what our changing society might think of something like barbarian metal. Can it still exist? Sure it can, I think.
Let me elaborate on this subject. It’s not metal about barbarians, it does feature certain imagery and references. The imagery is close to the sword & sorcery themes, featuring strong looking men, often bare chested, wielding heavy weaponry. The sound is also strong, pounding and rarely features subtleties. I’ll elaborate on this in the following paragraphs. What I want to adres mostly is the inevitable question about this stream in metal. Does it have a place in the now? With gender equality and beyond, does Conan metal still have a place?
The Eternal Warrior
I came across the concept of the ‘Eternal Champion’, through a similarly named band. The concept is derived from the work of Michael Moorcock. Wikipedia has defined the champion thusly: The Eternal Champion, a Hero who exists in all dimensions, times and worlds, is the one who is chosen by fate to fight for the Cosmic Balance; however, he often does not know of his role, or, even worse, he struggles against it, never to succeed. But as the man describes it himself:
Now, if we look at fiction, we could define many versions of the eternal champion. Drizzt Do’Urden, Aragorn, Varian Wrynn maybe even. Any sci fi franchise has their own. There is one verson though, that I would like to isolate here and that is the one of Conan The Barbarian. Conan exemplifies the expression found in what I call barbarian metal, whose progenitors are Manowar. A band loved by many, but clearly embracing the essence of this Eternal Warrior.
Conan, Masculinity and Metal
Conan is pure in all his emotions, he is cunning, fierce or benevolent, but he is always a warrior standing alone versus the tide. Bare chested with bulging muscles, he epitomizes the masculine directness that we find in various characters in fantasy and that is embodied in pretty much every Manowar song. Manowar even has a mascotte, named Manowarrior, who is pretty much Conan, standing on top of his battered and beaten enemies.
The music expresses the same values, it features muscular riffing and a straight forward approach. There are the pumping, heavy hitting rhythms and everything about the sound is ment to evoke that same feeling of epic manliness in a barbaric sense. There is little doubt about the inspiration for this, especially if you see the picture of Manowar in their loin-furs:
Mind, this is not a write-up on the whole gender matter. This is a theme that has been present in metal and fantasy for a long time, where masculinity (as we seem to have defined it) is pushed to its human limits with bulging chests, curving biceps and a full display of the male body as an invincible tool. It’s almost resembling the way we end to depict women these days, but this is not sensual in any way. This is a warrior. His body is his weapon, it’s the engine that drives the blade or axe to smithe the enemies.
It’s easy to make fun of Manowar, but their appeal is worldwide. It’s a band that attracts through its particular charm of masculine power, remarkably catchy songs and brotherhood vibe. They’re one of the great bands in the metal history.
The music is similarly strong, loud and boisterous. It deals with exactly the warrior themes, but without any complexities or discussion, morals or any crap. It’s a straight forward masculine approach. To want is to take, to fight is to win.
Bands following in the steps of Manowar hold on to that notion of aggression and climactic songs. It’s music to pump your fists to, to bang your head to and stand with legs wide and raised fists. It’s empowering in a very pure and direct way. Though some bands might include this in their package, there’s no attempt to be knowledgeable about history as Iron Maiden does. No attempt to incorporate the occult and spiritual, like Led Zeppelin does. No politics and social themes like in Metallica‘s music. It reduced it to force.
Force and power, those are the main values. Domination of the other and the continuous struggle. It oversimplifies struggle to something that can be resolved with fists and bravado. With flexing muscles and the warriors cry. These have always been part of the metal discourse, as discussed by the more academic analysis of heavy metal. But what does that mean for todays attempt at gender equality?
The thing is just, this is something we love. Something primordial that lifts us up and makes us feel better. Listening to a Manowar album or even one by Conan themselves can lift you up. It can make us do things with less fear, because the music makes us feel better. It doesn’t make us feel superior as men, but it does profoundly affect us.
Gender Equality and battle music
Now, we live in a time where gender equality is kind of a big deal. In a sense this would seem to be one of those last bastions that needs to be conquered and overthrown. But does it really? Is this masculinity really something that is bound up with gender that much or is there a place for female listeners too? Do they perhaps have equal desires for some fight, for power and strength? Wasn’t there a Red Sonja next to Conan? Don’t girls play video games, where crushing your opponents is awesome? Don’t they love fantasy and science fiction and playing Dungeons & Dragons? There is no gender bound up with this mentality and love for the sword.
Perhaps we always will have some warrior element in us and probably this is not just bound up with man, woman or whatever one claims to be. It’s a part of us it seems, regardless where it comes from what charges it. We all feel affinity with the warrior, with glory, with brotherhood… or sisterhood?
So if we leave out the manly, maybe this leaves metal as a perfect bonding ground of whatever sex you are or chose to be. We can all raise our horns together.
Not too long ago I started running a Dungeons & Dragons Campaign. Though the game we play is just the starter set of the fifth edition, ‘The Lost Mine of Phandelvar’, you can gain some insights. Though they are crude, I’d like to share them with you.
See, role playing may seem like a fun activity for your free hours, but you can learn a lot and apply a lot of it to, so here’s five lessons I’ve learned from playing D&D. But let me preface that with the fact that D&D’s magic doesn’t lie in the characters or setting, it’s in the collaborative effort. That’s where the magic happens and how that comes to be is not so different to work situations.
1. Being a DM is much like managing
For those who don’t know, a DM is a dungeon master. Essentially you play the monsters, other characters that the players encounter and you judge whether things that the players try to do work out. Most importantly though, you run the story and try to make everyone enjoy the ride. As a DM, more often than you think, you’ll try to guide the players or direct them. However, you shouldn’t, as this is exactly the part that they need to do themselves. As a DM you have to rely on the qualities of the party. You can suggest or hint at things, or throw some extra stuff their way, but basically you’re managing a team of skilled individuals. Trusting them is a challenge.
2. Role playing only works when you are vulnerable
Role playing is collaboration. Collaboration between the DM and the players and between the players. This only works fully, if you manage to be open and trust each other. As a DM I sometimes have to voice certain characters. Since I’m not a voice actor, it can be tricky, so the willingness to engage with my meager acting skills is extremely important for the mutual fun we want to have. Similarly, if I laugh or mock another player for attempting things in the game or imitating a voice, I might cause a big decrease in expression and joy of that player. He or she will think twice before speaking up again.
Do you have one of those managers or bosses that are hyper-direct, blunt and pretty much always right (even when they clearly aren’t)? Pretty much everyone knows the kind of character I’m talking about. It’s that person who chokes the creativity out of any project group or team, the one that makes refrain from sharing ideas/suggesting things. That’s exactly the same thing. Feeling safe and being able to feel vulnerable are key ingredients in any collaboration.
3. Engaging your players is harder than you think.
Apart from that safe environment, there is another huge challenge if you want to get things done. Engaging with your players is vital to the success of a D&D campaign. If they don’t feel invested or attracted to the campaign, they won’t get into it. Even less chance that they do in the way you want them to. In fact, to get the interaction going and the story rolling, you need every single person around the table to be invested. To achieve such engagement, knowing their various strengths and interests is vital.
This, again, is very similar to a project. No one wants to be bothered with a project that doesn’t offer any challenge. Why? Because it’s boring and doesn’t give you those positive vibes of excitement that make you go out of your way to contribute your best/to do your best, etc.. Simply ‘challenging’ someone does not make for a good project. It’s a matter of constantly estimating their attitudes and interest and working that on a personal level. Challenges have to be tailored to the individual. Have you ever been in a project where everyone was agitated and nobody felt like it was really his or her project? That’s the absolute opposite of an engaged group. If you find that exact bit of the story in which the player can excel, it becomes her story. The same goes for work-like situations: if you don’t feel engaged, you’re not switched on.
4. Reward effort, even when it fails.
Your players will attempt stuff, that will be creative, weird or even utterly out of place. Also stuff that you were simply not prepared for. So… sometimes they fail. Sometimes players come up with elaborate schemes and actions, but they roll, you roll and they fail. However, that’s not the end of it: the creativity of the players should always should be rewarded. Just let them succeed or do some accidental good to the players. Why? Because speaking out is brave, trying things is daring. Creativity already is stomped upon way too often in this world of ours.
Again, let me compare this to the bad manager that sits you down at a table and asks for ideas, yet somehow every idea gets ridiculed and mocked. How many ideas would you like to share with this person? None. So it’s vital to reward people that share thoughts, give feedback, offer suggestions and so on, because once that flow of information stops, you might end up having to do all of the work by yourself. For a D&D game, that would suck. For any work endeavor… well, what do you think? Always show grattitude for the input of others and reward the courage to stand up and say whatever you have in your head.
5. You could treat any project like a dragon
Ok, so I kind of added this one for fun, but also to wrap it up. If you spark the interest, engage players and manage to provide that environment where people feel cool and feel that they can be creative, you can do anything. Seriously, ANYTHING! You’d be surprised by how often you see a D&D party beat the odds with daring ideas, out-of-the-box thinking and the creative madness that is born out of the excitement.
You might think: well, yeah, but they’re beating paper dragons… Well, isn’t most of the work we do all just paper dragons. Paper dragons are, at their core, problems that need to be solved. If you can make your team feel like they are facing a dragon and if they get as pumped and inspired as my D&D party, you’ll be surprised by what you can achieve. Really, they might just slay it in a way you had never thought of.
Back when I was still a much younger student, I was listening to music all the time. Music was carried on my iPod, casually called Archibaldt I (instead of Guido’s iPod, which I didn’t like). Now I have Archibaldt V on my desk. Now extreme and weird music feels home, but it wasn’t always like that. So that’s where my tuesday thoughts drift of to today.
Back before Archibaldt I died in an unfortunate laundering accident, years before Archibaldt II finally stopped working properly, I was in the fortunate environment of people that dug music. I mean, really were into music that I had never heard of. I was pretty much into punkrock and that was the way to go. Punkrock was all you need, not Love. Fuck the Beatles! Well, I was already looking outward, so that was a good time.
Leaving the small town I lived in for university was a big thing, but the amount of music that hit me was even bigger. Suddenly I got to listen to Opeth and Graveworm and both terrified me at first (yes, I was late to the metals at 19). I had been listening to a lot of more accessible metal music, but these really got me reeling back for a while. I wasn’t ready for that. Luckily I had other sources, like the great record stores Sounds and Tommy (or was it Tommie?) in Tilburg. I went there with a class mate, who was more of an music afficionado than me, I think.
“Have you ever listened to Godspeed! You Black Emperor?” he asked me one day, while we took the train to the center. For some reason that moment came back to me today, while I was walking to my lecture and listening to Meshuggah. “Godspeed! You Black Emperor… that sounds dark and heavy!”, I responded. He agreed, but his dark and heavy was something completely different than mine. I thought of black metal, he probably thought of the ‘Dead Flag Blues’. So soon I learned that dark and heavy had many different forms.
Departing from Pink Floyd (thanks dad) and punkrock (through postpunk and other stuff) I found a whole world of adventurous, daring music that I had not known about. I lived in a world of pop charts and punkrock samplers, but I found a dense and rich underground. Soon I was walking around campus with, next to G!YBE, bands like Mogwai, ThrobbingGristle, CabaretVoltaire, The Residents and so much more in my headphones. All that great music, all for me to listen to!
So I’m thinking of that and of the importance of other people in your musical journey. Of discovering and exploring new musical realms, flipping records in a store or discussing tunes over coffee. I miss that… it would be nice to have some more of that.
To me it matters where I come from, it matters where I feel at home and I feel a connection to certain traditions and religious tendencies. I’m happily embracing the harmonious ideas of heritage, This is something that is very persistently present as well in extreme metal music. The connection has provided us with endless political discussions, but does that make as much sense as we think?
Though there is the rare band that embraces national socialism, racism and nationalism at large, it’s a very rare occurence. Most bands say they are anti-political and not without reason. Extreme metal has one characteristic that defines it.
Individualism: Defining the self
Extreme metal has often been about the individual. This is probably why NSBM is such a weird mix of two world views. Metal is against the herd and for the self, but that leaves the void of identity for a person. We, as human beings, like to define ourselves as something, we are always looking for a sense of belonging and reason to be. Even black metal warriors delve into identity and spirituality on all sorts of levels.
Connecting to something like our heritage, traditions and maybe nationality is a logical thing to us. Sure, we can still accept that we are all one people, but we’re defined by where we are from. Does that make me a Germanic pagan? Not necessarily, but it might just as well. Bands like Skyforger, Winterfylleth and Moonsorrow had a hard time getting the difference across. Self-identification is an individual proces, which sometimes works as a concept and identity for a band, but that doesn’t make it the herd behavior of institutionalized nationalism or racism. It’s about defining the self, not the other.
The Other: Defining the opposition
The other side of the medal is when identification of the self is done in order to define the other. The other is, for some reason or purpose, the opposed of what the self should be. This is a lot harder to do in a way, so much easier to do by defining the other first. Now, here we come into the terrain of professional hate mongering. Defining the other with unwanted characteristics is very effective, because it defines both sides. This completely binds the relation to the other in an absolute relation of the lesser and the better. There is no need to approach the other anymore, because the other is evil, wrong, lesser and the enemy.
When we’ve defined the other, we usually end up with a stereotype, with a group we’ve vilified. This puts us in a group too and sadly we soon will find likeminded individuals. The hate is concrete enough to fuel itself, but high-over enough to define all others. Though metal has the tribe mentality to form a cohesive group, it just isn’t in the nature of the culture to find such unity. Individualism is part of that identity and so is discussion and interaction. This sort of defining just doesn’t work in that environment.
Open hearts, open minds
It’s perfectly possible to have an identity bound up with the local, the past and belief, but be open and tolerant to others. Interaction between cultures is what shapes them, but if you define your opposed identity you’ll never know this beautiful variation. I talked to a Latvian metal singer once who said: “It’s ok to be proud of your country, your tribe or your belief, but if you feel superior to others you missed the plot.” Superior thoughts lead to isolation, which creates a fearful protection of what is yours. Of vague ideas of tradition and identity that don’t really matter at all. Imagine a culture on its own. How does it get any value if it’s not challenged by different ones?
I see this constantly in the metal world. People are embracing their own culture and past, but also interacting with others. Clearly showing that, a while ago a compilation album came out titled”One and All, Together, for Home” on Seasons Of Mist. Why would all these bands work together if they were the kind of nationalists depicted in the media? If they had superiority motives, why would they ever join on a record? It’s that sort of love for land, folk and belief that creates. It connects and enriches itself and the other.
If you open yourself up to the other, to culture of others, your identity and culture will change. We learn through interaction about the other culture. We adapt, we reform, we change. Change is scary, but not bad. This sort of change we are all too familiar with. We call it growth.
If we allow growth to happen, maybe we can even get some sort of enlightenment one day.