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.

ITEM ONE

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.

ITEM ONE

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.

ITEM ONE

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…

ITEM ONE

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.

ITEM ONE

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.

Jul 212013

Welcome to another edition of THAT’S METAL!, in which we collect photos, videos, and news reports about things that are metal, even though they don’t involve metal music. Today, we have a whopping nine items for you.

ITEM ONE

We’ll start with a pair of items from the natural world, and I’m not talking simply about the pair of eyes that are gazing hungrily at you from the photo at the top of this post. That alien-looking fucker is Phidippus pulcherrimus (Salticidae), one of the 5,000 species in a family called the Jumping Spider. And those aren’t all of the Jumping Spider’s eyes. There are two other pairs of eyes on the back of its head, making a total of 8 eyes.

Not surprisingly, The Font of All Human Knowledge reports that “Jumping spiders have some of the best vision among invertebrates and use it in courtship, hunting, and navigation”. Yeah, courtship. They can see a hot piece of spider ass both coming and going. But the main point of this item isn’t the Jumping Spider’s superior ability to check out potential sex partners. No, today we’re talking about predation.

Butterflies are among the prey of Phidippus pulcherrimus, but one species of butterfly has evolved in a way that gives it a unique ability to survive attacks by the Jumping Spider.

Jul 152013

This isn’t a full-blown edition of THAT’S METAL!, because I didn’t get my butt in a high enough gear to do one this week. It’s just one item that I found via a link from our buddy Phro, and it’s so fuckin’ cool that I decided to go with it now instead of adding it to the pile of other items from which the next full edition will be assembled. (And for any newcomers, this series is about photos, videos, and news items that I think are metal even if they’re not music.)

This is a story about Justin Vigile, the drummer for a Philadelphia metal band named Extractus, and about the doctor (Hartzell Schaff) who gave him back his life. There are other messages in this story, too, but you can draw your own conclusions about those. I just want to tell you what happened.

The facts are based on a May 14 story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune by Jon Tevlin. It begins with these sentences:

“When a Mayo Clinic surgeon showed a short film featuring the drummer of the heavy metal band Extractus at the Minneapolis Convention Center last week, he probably wasn’t hitting the band’s target audience. They were suit-clad doctors, in town for the annual convention of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery. They seemed pretty button-down for the drummer’s exuberant style, but they were impressed nonetheless. That’s because the drummer, 22-year-old Justin Vigile, had been bedridden and dying with end-stage heart disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy [HCM], or thickening of the heart muscle, just months before the video was shot.

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