Label: Fallen Empire Records, Terratur Possessions Band: Martröð Origin: Iceland, United States, France, Italy
So, as a fan of the genre, I have to get in on Martröð. I think it’s a great record. Not phenomenal, but definitely great, if only for the way this has come together and how the result combines the strenghths of the partaking artists. But it is always tricky finding that right blend. For example, I really like baklava and fish & chips, but chucking it together might not work out as great as you think. There might be a secret combination, but finding it is hard, even more so with five artists.
So we take Wrest (Leviathan)and A.P. (Chaos Moon, Krieg) and add Thorns from Italy (Blut Aus Nord) and H.V Lyngdal (Wormlust), D.G.(Misþyrming) from Iceland. Finally MkM from France (Antaeus) takes on the vocals. The full resumé of these gentlemen I’ll leave out, it’ll take too much. The trick is how to put all of that together, over distances nonetheles, without starting to sound ‘a bit like everything’. Well, in that respect I have no answers, just that they did it wonderfully.
So what you get feels a lot like a cooking experiment, where everything is put in a big cauldron, where it starts to swirl around into a chaotic stream of dissonant noise and unholy sounds. ‘Draumleiðsla’ opens with blaring horns and a lot of strange bells, alerting the listener that something wicked this way comes. The track unfolds as a nightmarish, spiralling descent with bellowing vocals guiding you in your downward swirl. All obliterating chaos.
‘Draumleysa’ feels more static, more straight forward, instead of circular. The heavy drums suggest a marching beat, while the guitars create eery arches above on higher tones. With an enthrancing rhythm, this is one hellish track to go down with, mainly thanks to the irregular drums, that pound as hard as you could imagine. Mostly it’s just layer upon layer of intense heavy blackness and that is just awesome.
Martröð brings everything you expect on ‘Transmutation of Wounds’ and that is slightly disappointing. Such a collection of talented artists together, should not just do what is expected, but create something overwhelming. If this project continuous to record, I’m absolutely certain that this will be what it’ll do, the parts fit nicely together we now know, so let’s see how far it can go.
For a long time I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching music documentaries on my free nights. If I’m not hitting the gym, seeing a show or enjoying some other form of entertainment, it’s pretty much what I’m looking for. I was hoping to highlight some cool stuff for you in this blog.
Ok, it’s not just documentaries, also the films they made about stuff. There are some really brilliant ones. So get them in (in any way you want, though I ofcourse have to condemn downloading here ofcourse).
Good Vibrations (2013)
“New York has the hair, London has the pants, but Belfast has the reason!” – Quote from the film.
This film is about Terri Hooley, the godfather of Belfast punkrock. A story of a war-torn country and the spark of hope from a guy who believes in the shared love for music. From opening a record shop on ‘bomb alley’ to signing some shitty punkbands on his own Good Vibrations records label. A great story, made into the funny surreal journey that these events actually were. The film has a lot of humor in it, but also a bit of the darkside that is often found in people that put music first. Enjoy tunes from TheUndertones, The Outcasts, Rudi and ofcourse a bit of Belfasts very own Stiff Little Fingers.
Salad Days (2014)
Hardcore is a global thing these days, but its roots are on a few places in the USA. This documentary focusses on the scene in Washington DC. Going from the Teen Idles and State of Alert days to its glory of Void, Minor Threat and many other cool bands. Also the latter days are treated, with Fugazi and the decline of USA Hardcore. The best part is that they actually got the people interviewed who were at the centre of things, not the ones on the sides, particularly for the first part of the documentary. Henry Rollins and Ian Mackaye give their views and ofcourse the Bad Brains drop in as well.
If you are not familiar with hardcore, this is as good as any documentary to get a feeling of what it is about and why it matters. Enjoy.
One Man Metal (2012)
Noisey is one of my favorite outlets for news on the music scene and they have a habit of exploring the unexplored fringes of music. This leads to amazing and in debt documentaries that are utterly fascinating. This docu about the famous one man metal bands is one of those. It’s often forgotten that this is not the natural shape music is formed in, so Noisey visits three of the more significant musicans to see what drives them.
This means Leviathan, Xasthur and Striborg are part of the series of three. It’s a harsh and confronting journey, showing some of the deep loneliness and darkness some individuals experience and transform into haunting art.
I dislike the idea of anything being hipster. Unfortunately that means I’ve become victim to the hipster virus, where anything gaining popularity demands you to look onto others as hipsters.
Any semi-homogenous crowd, except that on the weekly market, that seems to conform to any fashion/aesthetic standards that are slightly popular is nowadays dubbed hipster. Fashioncore was the equivalent in the hardcore/metalcore corner. It seems to be the origin of the hipster curse for the heavy underground. At first you were fake or real (or trve if you’re more into the black metal section). Hipster sounds slightly better than fake, but no one will ever call themselves a hipster.
The term hipster has been the topic of discussion on many levels. In 2008 one magazine declared this to be the dead end of western civilization (a nice reference to the Spheeris films), by becoming an aesthetic vacuum in the counter culture. Some sources, like NY Mag seemd to have lost the plot totally in 2010 and Rob Horning suggested the death of the hipster in 2009. Around that time, the turning point seems to have arrived: the hipster was a demon, taking away the particular from our favorite elements of counter cultural rebellion. At the same time it became an aesthetic, a way to define what was basically just current fashion and trend when applied to an alternative image. Hipsters still provide an outlet for an alternative-styled elitism (like NOFX even demonstrated) and a scape goat, even by the Guardian.
I certainly don’t feel I’m a hipster, but I do have one of those single-speed bikes, fashionable boots and I tend to wear the flanel shirts, which I guess I’ve been doing since the late nineties (I was too young for the grunge hype). I’m not into the more hip alternative stuff though, don’t go to the right parties and rarely hang out in coffee bars (though I love coffee, but then again, I did for half my life). I did recently figure out that I do listen to some of the wrong bands in the heavy alternative spectrum. Not the fashioncore of hardcore, I listen to the true stuff there and my Black Flag tattoo is big enough to show it ain’t a ‘once upon a time, while sipping my vegan late’ thing. I was listening to hipster metal bands like Wolves In The Throne Room, Krallice, Deafheaven and Altar of Plagues.
The metal subculture has always been obsessed with being genuine, authentic as Kahn-Harris (2007) is keen to point out in his book. There’s an almost fundamentelistic nature to the more extreme genres and for none it’s as strong as that of black metal. Honestly, to describe a genre so remote from anything mainstream as ‘hipster’ seems to be certainly far fetched, but it is true… And it has some definite roots according to black metal scholar Dayal Patterson (2013), who starts the history of post-blackmetal with Lifelover. Bands that take a new approach to the genre and changing it, challenging its norms.
The origins of the term are a bit vague, but to me postrock, post-metal and so even post-blackmetal are styles that take a different approach to the core aesthetics of the respective genres and taking inspiration from others. The focus is more on dynamics, repetition and timbre, moving away from the traditional style. Ironically, the same thing happened when black metal moved towards the SDBM or DSBM style (Depressed Suicidal Black Metal), which has always been accepted. Stylistically, they are not so different. On the other hand, bands like Manes, Fleurety and even Arcturus could be seen as an affront to the conservative element in the scene, but apparently they’re fine.
True Traitor, True Whore
Yes, the Leviathan album title seems to be apt to come to the true traitor of black metal (in the eyes of some). Leviathan is true, though I’m not sure how his (it’s after all Jeff Whitehead’s one man band) ‘Scar Sighted’ goes down with part of the crowd. “Why not?”, you may ask. Well, because the record pushes out the boundaries of the genre, it changes the aesthetic approach and that is exactly why a band like Deafheaven is so reviled by the purists. In an AP article on the hipster metal phenomenon, they are the first band to be mentioned. Now, why are they the great Judas, the Varg Vikernes in the story of true and false black metal? (you know, like the band that did everything wrong, like Burzum, who are now also kinda hip).
The album cover
Deafheaven in all their infernal badness, their disregard for all that is trve and kvlt, released an album with a pinkish cover. PINK! In a genre that wishes to shock and cause controversy, this is just pushing it one step too far (for the scene itself apparently).
The music is not grimdark frostbitten cold
There’s a big myth about the early black metal bands and the necro sound. The idea is that this was the true (sorry, trve?) sound, but it basically was due to money and resources. Many current albums have great production, though perhaps retaining more of the cold sound usually. Still, you can hardly call the last two Enslaved albums unaccesible thanks to a more open polish.
Too many shoegazes and postrocks
Yeah, there is a whole subgenre called eatmospheric black metal, which utilizes the same techniques, just like the ambient black metal genre, but Deafheaven sounds almost pleasant. Anyone ever listened to Woods Of Desolation or A Forest of Stars. Even Winterfylleth retains some warmth and dreamy aspects in their sound. Anyways, the fucking problem is that this album does not sound like either ‘A Blaze In The Northern Sky’, nor as ‘In the Nightside Eclipse’. Shame on you! But seriously, the genre has such a rich range of sounds, why refuse to change?
The band doesn’t like/isn’t/hates/can’t be metal
The dumbest argument for hating Deafheaven is that somehow they would not be metal. Play this album for your mom and see how she feels about that. Well, my mom probably digs it so I’m not sure if that’s representative, but this band is totally a metal band. The fact that they might listen to other music, as said in this interview, doesn’t take anything away from that.
They don’t look metal
A lot of bands don’t do. What is looking like metal exactly? Isn’t that the complete form of conformism that metal despises? I have no clue what, apart from the obligatory preference for black (check for Deafheaven) and the bandshirts (check again) would compromise a metal outfit. It sure as hell isn’t spandex and corpse paint any more, who the hell still does that?
So yeah, Deafheaven isn’t like the past five decades of metal, just like any band from the nineties didn’t look like the eighties nor sounded like it. Maybe it’s an entry level band for kids looking for something more dense and mysterious, which you may find in black metal. Does that make them bad? The black metal fans who trade cassettes of which only 5 are released from bands using My First Sony equipment are few and not even touched by this kind of audience. Wouldn’t it be cool though if you could release 10 cassettes?
Kick in the arse of stale elitism
Why all this fuss about an album that came out a year ago? Well, that is true. ‘Sunbather, may its infernal name be wiped from the histories, has been out for a year or so. The thing is that the band just released a new song and the hipster metal debate is in full swing again, because all this progression of the genre, we can’t have it.
The Deafheaven debate is part of a bigger discussion on metal and its health. The articles asking if metal is dead have started popping up and with good reason. What great bands have arisen in recent years that everyone knows and discusses? Very little, we only have bands that are reviled, like Deafheaven. There’s a vacuüm in heavy metal in general, which is illustrated by the fact that Slayer, Iron Maiden and Metallica are still the perpetual headliners. What else sticks? Babymetal?
The elitist conservatism is slowly killing black metal, once one of the most creative, subversive and exciting genres out there. Embrace the changes or leave them be, but stop putting everything down. Metal needs to breathe, develop and be allowed to find new avenues. With even the mighty Lemmy Kilmister slowing down, it’s high time for some growth and renewal. Even Lemmy can’t carry this torch any longer. The elitism in metal is killing it, like it does with the French language.
As for hipsters, how was metal ever a genre for people that are hip and happening? Aren’t hipsters slowly becoming the social outcasts anyways? The outsider position of metal fans is not going to change, not even by Deafheavens ‘Sunbather’ or a new album, which I think might be a very good one.
Kahn-Harris (2007) Extreme Metal Horning (2009) The Death of the Hipster. Pop Matters Patterson (2013) Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult Stewart-Panko (2015) Debunking the ‘hipster metal’ myth. Alternative Press