Sunday, April 08, 2007

Abruptum - Evil Genius

"As simply as I can, I will speak of the paths by which I found ecstasy, in the desire that others will find it in the same way" - Georges Bataille, Inner Experience.

"Evil Genius" is a cd collecting the Black Metal legend Abruptum's demos "Hexam Galaem Zelog" and "Satanist Tunes" as well as a 7" ep called "Evil", all from what can be called the Dream Time of Black Metal: Scandinavia 1990-1991. In this Dream Time, the nascent genre established it's traditions and cultural structures, it's rules for (anti-)social behaviour and it's ceremonies. The creation of Black Metal was the work of persons who have become the genre's mythological culture heroes: Euronymous, Dead, Fenriz, Faust, Frost, Count Grishnackh. In this creative epoch these culture heroes travelled across Europe, creating significant places of interest and 'sacred sites' (such as the Helvete record shop in Oslo) - some sacred sites, paradoxically, being created by burning the sacred sites of others: churches.

The mythological culture hero behind Abruptum was purportedly a dwarf nicknamed 'IT'. Even if the founder of Abruptum was a dwarf, "Evil Genius" sounds as if it was made not by a dwarf but by a fairy-tale Giant: the music is huge but ugly, clumsy and violent, as if it is ready to eat humans ... especially children. Lumbering drums, gigantic hands fumbling on six tiny strings which spew forth doomy guitar fuzz as uncouth as a cyclope's armpit, retarded, brutish grunting, atonal synthesizer washes and the oddest of samples (some orchestral, some erotic, most indescribable) lurch drunkenly right into and out of the mix. Due to the demo's poor production value, the music sounds incongruously both heavy and hollow at the same time, giving it a cavernous aspect ... claustrophobic ... like a fairy-tale giant captured in it's infancy and kept in a grottoe from which it - now grown - can never escape ... roaring as it is tortured by dwarves ... In fact, Black Metal mythology has it that Abruptum midget mainman IT was tortured or tortured himself in the studio in order to faithfully record the sound of agony.

What is the meaning of this music? Is it right to use the word 'meaning' in this context? Is the word 'music' appropriate?

IT's autobiographical liner notes provide invaluable anthropological insight into this matter.

IT: "In fact, though this is an obvious fact for the majority, Abruptum is NOT in any ways music, something that for reasons I never grasped, I have had to point out time yet time again".

So if it is not music, what is it then?

IT: "Some 17 years ago I was in an unfathomable hunt for certain parts, veiled within the foundation of myself, prying ever deeper to conjure up my personal anguish, hate, desire and gloomy, spiteful darkness, lurking profound within my corporal shell. (...) Recording this pursuit was a task I chose, not for the somewhat more ordinary causes of recording an album, but purely as a purpose to alter into and transmit this energy right back to myself, thus being able to mirror the matter, reaching even further along this dark road".

Thus, the soundtracks (for want of a better word) on "Evil Genius" are a recursive audial image, one that in heraldry is termed 'mise en abyme' and which is also known as the 'Droste effect': the soundtrack mirrors the author whom mirrors the soundtrack which mirrors the author ... and so on. Thus, Abruptum is called a 'sinister void' in the liner notes.

Moreover, these soundtracks are concerned with the relationship between the author as such and the author as a reader/listener. The soundtracks wish to act upon the latter, to transform the author who is their audience, much as many texts of the Christian and non-Western mystical traditions are transformative texts meant to bring about in the reader the mystical experience described within it. It is, to quote Bataille, 'the putting to death of the author by his work'; and even if the author is dead, the consumer of "Evil Genius" is consumed by what he is consuming ... as if by fire...

Here is a link to a fascinating article on the Dream Time of Black Metal and on that underground music's ambivalent relationship with fascism.

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