I don’t read The New York Times regularly. I’ll make a wild guess: I bet most visitors to this site don’t read it either. If you do, you need to rearrange your priorities. There are only so many hours in the day, and you’d be happier if you spent more time here at NO CLEAN SINGING, or any of the linked sites over to the right, and less on The New York Times. But though I don’t read that paper regularly, I’ve got friends who do, and three of them e-mailed me about an article that appeared there today entitled “Thank You Professor, That Was Putrid.”
The word that first came to mind after I read it was “bizarre.” The second word was “fucking pretentious.” The article describes a six-hour symposium on black metal held last Saturday afternoon at Public Assembly, a bar and nigthtclub in Brooklyn. The symposium, called “Hideous Gnosis,” was attended by an odd combination of pointy-headed academics (including two who traveled from England for the event), music critics, and at least one actual black metal musician, Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, the frontman and guitarist from Liturgy. (That can’t possibly be his real name, can it? Gotta be a black metal stage-name.)
The academics presented papers with such mouth-watering titles as “The Counter-Reformation in Stone and Metal: Spiritual Substances,” “Anti-Cosmosis: Black Mahapralaya,” and “Perpetual Rot: Obsessive Cycles of Deterioration.” I can sum up my reaction like this: “Reading About Hideous Gnosis: Regurgitating in My Lap.”
It appears Mr. Hunt-Hendrix from Liturgy also gave a lecture entitled “Transcendental Black Metal.” At least he didn’t use a colon in his lecture title. I’ve read some of his black metal philosophizing previously, courtesy of a Metal Sucks interview, which you can find here (if you really hate yourself). These are a couple of semi-random quotes from that interview:
The meaning of “Transcendental” is pretty free floating. One thought I have is that black metal is absolutely pure, and yet at the same time it is absolutely corrupt. It is a space for honoring heritage and tradition, and also for the obliteration of all culture. For me the meaning of black metal has something to do with a longing for ecstatic annihilation, a perfect void. An obliteration that brings about purity. The absolute, impossible, contradictory limit. Whether this transcendent realm is a cosmic unity or a silent void, and whether those things are different, I’m not sure.
My view is that the individual is epiphenomenal, a mirage, and that attachment to individuality is a disease. Especially when I’m, say, making music, I am not an individual; I’m not responsible for what I do – I’m channeling social, cultural, technological forces which work through me in ways I don’t understand. Liturgy is more interested in subjectivity than individuality. The Subject listens to himself, to the urges he has but doesn’t understand, and he follows what’s interesting to him with courage and fidelity. That’s when new things are created. So Liturgy is an opponent of the Individual and a proponent of the Subject.
Based on this blather (and shitloads more of it in that interview), I would say Mr. Hunt-Hendrix found a home last Saturday at the “Hideous Gnosis” symposium.
But seriously, give me a fucking break. This is fucking extreme, underground metal. It’s for headbanging. It’s for taking yourself out of this world for a little while and losing yourself in a tidal wave of loud, fast, powerful noise. It’s a vehicle for expressing emotions and sometimes even ideas. But to be brutally honest (and that’s the only kind of honest we are here at NCS), even black metal just isn’t that fucking profound. I’m a fan of black metal bands like Rotting Christ, Marduk, Behemoth, and Nachtmystium, but it’s got precious little to do with what they’re saying. Besides, why would anyone in their right mind seek philosophical education from guys who wear corpsepaint and porcupine bands?
But hey, if people would rather spend their time mentally dissecting black metal into tiny little pieces and trying to link it up with ancient roots of human existence or a mystical formula for achieving personal freedom, instead of just blasting the shit into their eardrums, what can I say? It’s a free country, and I’ll fight to the death for their right to be douchebags.
By the way, if you haven’t listened to Liturgy I’ll give you a preview. It sounds pretty much exactly like what you’d expect from a guy who talks like Hunter Hunt-Hendrix: boring, pretentious, soulless noise.
For black metal, we much prefer these Greeks bearing gifts (who by the way have just finished recording their latest album, called AEALO, which the band calls “by far our best and most soulful album in our career”):