Jan 122014

I’m embarrassed to say that almost two months have passed since the last THAT’S METAL! post. Between our seemingly endless (and still not ended) year-end LISTMANIA series, holiday diversions, and other excuses that I know must exist but can’t be remembered, I’ve brutally neglected this long-running series. The continuing list of items I keep for potential use has grown ridiculously long, and I hope I can get my ass in gear to plow through them on a more regular basis now that the new year has begun.

For newcomers, what I assemble in these posts are images, videos, and occasionally news items that I think are metal even though they’re not music. Today’s larger-than-usual collection is mainly winter-themed, with a few exceptions, beginning with this one:


The first item is at the top of this post. It’s a gold forehead ornament made during the fourth or fifth century A.D. in the Mochica civilization of what is now Peru. A feline head is in the center, and spiraling out from it are octopus tentacles ending in catfish heads. Its dimensions are 11 1/4 x 16 5/16 x 1 3/4 inches. It normally resides in the Museo de la Nación in Lima, but was recently on display as part of a unique exhibit of Peruvian art and archaeological artifacts named “Kingdoms of the Sun and Moon” at the Seattle Art Museum, which is where I saw it about a week ago. The museum’s web page describes the object’s history as follows:

Nov 172013

Greetings and salutations to one and all. It’s time for another edition of THAT’S METAL!, in which I collect photos, videos, and occasionally news items that I think are metal even though they don’t involve music (or at least not metal music). Actually, it’s way past time for another edition since the last complete one was three weeks ago. Having dragged my feet for so long, I’ve collected a large number of items for this installment. Here we go…


We begin with John Kenn Mortensen, a Danish writer and director of television shows for kids and himself a father of twins. In his spare time he makes drawings on post-it notes — those small sticky pieces of paper that people use to remind themselves of things that need remembering. Mortensen is not only a talented illustrator, he also has a dark, demented sense of humor and an occasionally Lovecraftian bent in his imaginings. His style is reminiscent of both Edward Gorey and Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are). The fact that he does what he does on post-it notes just makes everything more metal.

One example of his work is at the top of this post. Pay close attention to the jar on the right side of the lowest shelf (you can click the image to make it bigger). And here are other examples of Mortensen’s creations:

Nov 052013

Nothing is more fearful, or more fearsome, than death. Nothing of such importance is more unknowable or more frightening. No wonder the subject is of such central importance in music of all kinds, but especially in the realm of extreme music — which is an artform that can plumb, and exorcise, the intensity of loss, despair, horror, rage, and fear, like few others. Death becomes metal.

To find any kind of grace in the extinction of life’s spark requires the suspension of disbelief, or the eye of an artist. Bodies move after life, in the constriction of the sinews or in the transportation of the hollow remains to some kind of resting place. There is no beauty in such motion, not really. Certainly not when the face is beloved or even only familiar. It can be perceived as beautiful, but still terrible, only when the ultimate silence is a kind of reprieve, or when the shape of death is distant, when it is the flesh of a stranger that becomes mere sculpted alabaster matter.

Filmmaker Pedro Pires has found the shape of this awful beauty in his short film Danse Macabre, which I found last night through a link from an acquaintance. It’s not easy to watch if you have lost someone close to you, especially in the case of a suicide. In fact, it’s wrenching. It’s also NSFW, because the imagery of dead flesh is naked, as it always is eventually. But it’s powerful and powerfully realized, and it’s metal even though it’s not music (though the accompanying music deepens its effect).

Oct 302013

Our frequent guest contributor Leperkahn sent me a link to a recent video last night, urging me to use it in the next installment of our THAT’S METAL! series, in which we feature videos, photos, and news items that are metal even if they’re not music. I refused — because, having seen the video, I can’t wait that long. I need to share it right now, all by itself. The title is “Mute”.

It’s clever as hell standing all by itself, but as I watched it I thought it was also a metaphor for metal (though conceivably I’m so metal-obsessed I’m predisposed to see the meanings I want to see). It’s not just that the video is weird and twisted, it’s the idea that the sharpness of a knife edge, the slash of violence, and the blood of wounds sums up an awful lot of what makes metal . . . metal . . . and what makes it such a powerful way of expressing what we feel.

As Leperkahn pointed out, the video manages to be really metal while at the same time being “light-spirited, uplifting, and happy”. But even though the process may be painful, that’s how you feel when you find your voice, isn’t it?

I smiled all the way through this, but got one genuinely laugh-out-loud moment from it. You’ll probably guess when that happened after you see it.

Oct 272013

Yeah, it’s that time again — time to present our latest collection of images and videos that are metal even though they’re not music. Today we have seven collections of items for you.


We’re just days away from Halloween, so it seemed only fitting to begin with that ugly fucker up there. It’s a photo of Artibeus planirostris made by scientists from Conservation International during a recent survey of an Amazon rainforest in the northern South American country of Suriname. During the survey, 60 new species were discovered, including six new species of frogs, one snake, 11 fishes, and many insects. Artibeus plairostris is not a new species, merely the most abundant species of bat seen during the expedition.

Those large teeth are used for seizing and eating large . . . fruits. Yeah, sorry to disappoint you. The common name for this creature is the “Larger Fruit-eating Bat”, not the “Larger Blood Sucker”. But hey, let me make it up to you with this photo of a juvenile planthopper that was also taken during the expedition:

Oct 032013

(photo by Nick Brandt)

This isn’t a typical installment of our THAT’S METAL! series, in which we collect images, videos, and news items that we think are metal even though they’re not music. It features only one item. I had originally intended to save it for the next full installment, but it has been spread around the inter hole so much over the last 24 hours that I felt if I waited, it would be old news to everyone.

The story originally appeared in the October 2013 print edition of New Scientist magazine, and then a couple of days ago it made it to the magazine’s web site. It’s about a lake in northern Tanzania (Africa) that turns animals into statues.

The temperature of Lake Natron can reach 60°C (140°F), but the real threat seems to come from the water’s high alkalinity (between pH 9 and pH 10.5). According to the article:

“The lake takes its name from natron, a naturally occurring compound made mainly of sodium carbonate, with a bit of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) thrown in. Here, this has come from volcanic ash, accumulated from the Great Rift valley. Animals that become immersed in the water die and are calcified.”

Sep 292013

Welcome to another edition of THAT’S METAL!, in which we collect images, videos, and occasional news items that aren’t music but are nonetheless metal. We have nine items in this installment.


Let’s start with a couple of astronomical items. The first one (which is sort of an update to a December 2012 item) is staring at you from the top of this post. Nicknamed “The Rose”, it’s a photo of the eye of a gigantic spinning hurricane at the north pole of Saturn, taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on Nov 27, 2012. The eye of this storm has been measured at a staggering 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) across. Two planets the size of Earth could fit within the hurricane as a whole.

When the Cassini spacecraft arrived in the Saturnian system in 2004, this pole of the planet was tilted away from the sun and in darkness. The last time Saturn’s north pole was photographed in sunlight was in 1981 via NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft, but at that time the observation geometry didn’t permit a detailed view of the poles, so this more recent imagery is a first.

Sadly, the colors in this photo are “false”, though they’re quite beautiful. Spectral filters sensitive to wavelengths of near-infrared light were used, with red indicating low clouds and green indicating high ones. More information is available in the following April 2013 video, as well as at this NASA web page.

Sep 152013

Welcome to another edition of THAT’S METAL!, in which we assemble photos, videos, and/or news items about things we think are metal, even though they don’t involve metal music. Today, we bring you a smorgasbord of eight items.


The first item is metal on many levels. It came my way thanks to a tip from GemmaD (whose wonderful blog is here). It concerns an artist from Mexico City named Pedro Reyes. Among many displays of creative exuberance, Reyes has been creating collections of musical instruments made from the remnants of weapons that the Mexican army seized from drug cartels and destroyed. The most recent collection is entitled Disarm and was made in collaboration with a team of musicians and Cocolab, a media studio in Mexico City.

The concept of creating instruments from weapons is itself brilliant, but get this: These mechanical instruments made from pistols, rifles, and shotguns can actually be programmed and operated via computers, making them capable of performing concerts. You can see photos of Disarm over at Lisson Gallery in London where it debuted earlier this year; I’ve included a few of them here. Many of the Disarm instruments will also be on display at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh starting October 5, 2013. After the jump, I’m also including a video interview of Reyes that allows you to see some of the instruments in action.

Sep 012013

Welcome to another edition of THAT’S METAL!, in which we collect photos, videos, and news items about things I think are metal, even though they’re not music. I haven’t compiled one of these features in many weeks, so I’ve got quite a haul. Let’s get right to it…


The first item (via TYWKIWDBI) is the gorgeous photo shown above, which appeared as The Telegraph’s Picture of the Day on July 29. It’s the Danxia Scenic Area in Zhangye City, located in the Gansu Province of northwest China. “Danxia, which means rosy cloud, is a special landform formed from reddish sandstone that has been eroded over time into a series of mountains surrounded by curvaceous cliffs and many unusual rock formations.”

What?  You don’t think the beauty of the natural world is metal?  You think I’m getting soft?  Well, how ’bout this:

Aug 042013

Welcome to another fantabulous edition of THAT’S METAL!, in which we collect images, videos, and news items about things we think are metal, even though they’re not music (or at least not metal music). We have eight wide-ranging items for you today.


We start with the image you see above. The story behind it, and more complete photos of what you’re seeing, are stunning. There’s no other word for it.

On Tuesday, September 19th, 1989, UTA Flight 772 was scheduled to fly from Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo to Paris CDG airport in France. En route, the aircraft exploded over Niger in the Tenere region of the Sahara Desert, which is one of the most inaccessible places on the planet. French investigators determined that a suitcase bomb planted by Libyan terrorists caused the disaster. All 170 people on board died.

Eighteen years later, in May and June 2007, families of the victims gathered at the crash site to build a memorial, funded in part by the $170 million compensation package eventually provided by the Libyan government. It took two months to build, using hand-placed stones trucked to the site from over 70 km away.

170 broken mirrors, each one representing a victim, were placed around the circumference of the memorial. One one side of the memorial, which you can see above, the starboard wing of the downed aircraft was erected in the sand. It was trucked to the site from 10 miles away after workers dug up the wing and emptied it of sand. A plaque bearing the names of the victims was attached to the wing before it was put in place.

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