Sunday, June 10, 2007

Post Rock Black Metal

Hard, to imagine long haired Norvegians ecstatically sacrificing black roosters to the Horned One to the gentle, placid sound of Tortoise's 'TNT', which was described by Jonathan Romney in march 1998's Wire as "...decanted from some particularly affectless encounter group, or rather, from its aftermath"...

Hard also, to imagine corpse-painted Satanists celebrating the mass of St. Secaire in a dirty, ruined, vermin-infested church to the precise and clean minimalism of To Rococo Rot, with their 'white cube gallery' aesthetics....

And hard to imagine black-clad and bloodspattered devil worshippers kissing, no licking Baphomet's smelly backside to the "...polite, considered and well read..." (Biba Kopf in Wire 178, december 1998) exoticism of Tarwater's 'Animals, Suns & Atoms'.

Why are such scenes so hard to imagine? Where Post Rock is gentle, Black Metal is cruel; where Post Rock aspires to humanist ideals, is leftward-leaning (cf. Godspeed You Black Emperor!) and politically rational, Black Metal is nihilist, subscribes to far-right ideologies and is politically delirious; where Post Rock is civilized, Black Metal is barbarous; where there is an emphasis on consonance in Post Rock, dissonance rules supreme in Black Metal; while Post Rock's musical textures are clean and smooth, those of Black Metal are ragged and dirty; Post-Rock is euphoric where Black Metal is depressive; and so on. "...I'd certainly let my daughter marry a Tarwater" grumbled Kopf in Wire 178 - and what father in his right mind would let his daughter marry a churchburning anti-christian fanaticist?

Nonetheless, more and more recent (mainly French) Black Metal is described as being influenced by Post Rock. See for example Aquarius Records' website:
  • On Blut Aus Nord's recent 'Mort ' album: "Imagine all the super Slinty post rock parts from the most recent Deathspell Omega record, take all of those parts, play them all at once, some forward, some in reverse, run them all through banks of effects, and you'll have something like Mort".
  • On Glorior Belli's album 'O Laudate Dominum': "...darkly melodic breakdowns verging on post rock...".
  • On Deathspell Omega magisterial 'Kenose': " ...like a Black Metal Slint...".
The French Black Metal vs. Post Rock crossover is a classic case of 'les extrêmes se touchent'. But it's not just Aquarius and Les Légions Noires (i.e. French Black Metal adepti) :
  • On the Sputnik Music website the reader is asked to imagine Wolves In The Throne Room's album 'Diadem Of 12 Stars' as "...Black Metal with the structure of Post-Rock, all with a folky touch reminiscent of Ulver's Bergtatt";
  • On Metal Invader Leviathan's surreal 'Tentacles Of Whorror' is described as "Ranging from DARKTHRONE-like black metal, to BURZUM-dark ambient, all along with post-rock (GODSPEED YOU BLACK EMPEROR, A SILVER MOUNT ZION and even IN THE WOODS... (RIP)) and minimal electro influences..." (Caps in original).
So what are the relations between Post Rock and Black Metal? Is it just a matter of cross-genre stylistic borrowing? Or are there relations on the level of content as well as on the level of form? And aren't form and content interwoven so strongly, that even if the influence of Post Rock on Black Metal started out as stylistic borrowing, Black Metal's content couldn't escape being influenced, contaminated, by Post Rock's content?

Perhaps the distinction Roger Caillois made between Satanic and Luciferian Romanticism can shed some (un-)light on the evolution of Post Rock Black Metal. Caillois was a philosopher loosely associated with Surrealism, and contributed to Bataille's (in-)famous College of Sociology. Both Satan and Lucifer are diabolical incarnations of the sacred endowed with the dual power of attraction and repulsion. Caillois: "For me, Lucifer, as his name suggests, is the demon or angel of lucidity. And I have always made a great distinction between Satanic and Luciferian". For Caillois, Lucifer refers to disciplined, methodical, purposeful passion, rather than to inflamed passion, which is Satanic. Where Satan embodies the "spirit of rioting", Lucifer is the "spirit of conquest". In a sense, the Satanic is an orthodox heterodoxy where the Luciferian is a progressive heterodoxy (both oxymorons).

Where 'troo' Black Metal can be described as Satanic, perhaps Post Rock Black Metal can be said to be Luciferian in spirit, purposefully experimenting with instrumental work (notice the term 'work'), emphasising musical method over immediacy of emotional impact, dedicated to the conquest of new and unique textures and harmonies, aggressively appropriating elements from electronic music, jazz, and rock.

And thus we can discern the pitfalls for Post Rock Black Metal. Satanic - 'troo' - Black Metal runs the risk of losing all dynamism because of it's orthodoxy, of ossifying. Luciferian Black Metal however must seek to avoid exactly the very same errors Caillois made in his thinking.
  • Caillois was an elitist in the 1930's, favoring an intellectual oligarchical dictatorship, ruling the world at an icy distance from the ruled. Such elitism is prevalent in Black Metal also, in my view one of the more stupid and short-sighted aspects of the genre. Losing contact with the wellspring of popular culture can become a risk for Post Rock Black Metal - can you imagine Blut Aus Nord following Autechre's trajectory into aridity?
  • From the 1940's onwards, Caillois thinking lost it's creative edge because of his mind numbing emphasis on purposefulness. In an essay on the worthless treasures small children can keep, he ascribed to such treasure-hoarding the function of helping to build the ego - the poetry of playfulness put in the key of stultifying work. Distaste for the riotous leads to conformism; distaste for inflamed passion to lack of passion; the conqueror becomes a slave of conquest.



Post Scripta
  • In "Filosofem" period, Burzum was called the Aphex Twin of Black Metal - apparently the music was interpreted as some sort of IDM/ambient/Black Metal cross pollination. Given that Post Rock can be read as an IDM/Indie Rock cross-over, the roots of Post Rock Black Metal can be said to go back to Black Metal's very origins.
  • On the 'After The Post Rock' forum, I found a thread where some Post Rock aficionados confess to liking Black Metal.
  • See also this roundup of French Black Metal.
  • While French Black Metal is described as influenced by Post Rock - an American genre - much of recent US Black Metal is described as influenced by the very British genre of Shoegazer, Post Rock's dreamy forerunner (though the use of the word 'runner' in the context of Shoegazer seems wildly inappropriate!).

1 comment:

fishskull said...

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