"Perception of present reality is a disappointment, and only the imagination can provide lasting enjoyment, in its quest for what is absent" - Marcel Proust.
Marcel, the narrator of Proust's "A La Récherche Du Temps Perdu", is disappointed every time he visits a place or meets a person he has imagined, dreamed about and yearned for. The name of a place or person and the connotations of that name enchant Marcel; real life invariably disenchants. The dream is always more beautiful than the thing dreamed of could in reality be, and dreaming aggravates the disenchantment that is in store for Marcel when he sets out upon his travels.
And so it was for me, listening to US Black Metal band L'Acéphale's album "Mord und Totsclag" (sic), which was released earlier this year.
"Acephale" was the name of a secret society created by Georges Bataille in the late 1930's. Acephale can be interpreted as a desperate, last-ditch attempt to use the means of fascism (conspiracies, mythologizing, violence, fanaticism) against fascism - in fact, Bataille coined the term 'surfascisme' as an ideology which would relate to fascism as 'surrealism' relates to 'realism'. In order to achieve his goals, Bataille applied contemporary ethnological theory (specifically, Marcel Mauss's theory of sacrifice) to the then-current political scene, hoping to employ human sacrifice (!) to reinvigorate society and thereby lead it away from the lure of militaristic dictatorship.
As regular readers of Documents will know, the title and much of the contents of this blog were inspired by the work of Bataille, so a Black Metal band using Bataille's thought would be of immediate interest to me. Furthermore, the album was released by the excellent Avant Metal record label Aurora Borealis, a label whose releases are always thought-provoking. Thus, these names created a mental image (or should I say: a mental sound) which magnified the idea that I had formed of Black Metal, making me imagine a music so blackened, buzzing, dramatic, damaged, droning and formless, so special, it could never be real. "Mord Und Totsclag" was bound to disappoint.
I unpacked the beautiful, deluxe dvd-packaging, and put the cd in the cd-player, and waited with baited breath for the music to begin. Beginning with the sound of WWII bomber planes, "Mord Und Totsclag" ("Murder And Manslaughter") turned out to be Black Metal melded to industrialized martial neo-folk - a genre I have never had much affinity with. Listening to the music, the sense of disappointment became all the more acute. I found that the sensibility of "Mord Und Totsclag" was very different from that of Bataille's thought. Far from being formless, far from being "...akin to a spider or a gob of spit...", the martial neo-folk influences made the music rigid, regimenting all that was buzzing and droning, putting it all into a uniform. Where Bataille's sense for violence is tragic, that is: internal, for L'Acéphale death and destruction would seem to be merely external, brutal pleasures. Even if the had aimed at 'surfascisme', they arrived at it's realist counterpart.
And had they aimed at 'surfascisme'? Reading their manifesto, they strive for "Volkisch metal" and celebrate Odinistic folkways and beliefs. Only people completely un- or misinformed about Bataille's oeuvre could call their art Volkisch and still believe themselves to operate in the spirit of transgressive thought. Perhaps the many spelling errors in their manifesto - even the album's title contains a mistake! - provide a clue to the question whether L'Acéphale is uninformed or misinformed. The kindest thing I can say about their ideological underpinnings is that it is a hodge-podge.
I've waited a few months before writing this review, in the hope that Time would kindly allow me to discover new landscapes within the music - but alas, I only found the dreariness of parade grounds.
"After having scaled the inaccessible heights of the name Guermantes, on descending the inner slope of the life of the Duchess, I felt on finding there the names, familiar elsewhere, of Victor Hugo, Frans Hals and, I regret to say, Vibert, the same astonishment that an explorer, after having taken into account, in order to visualize the singularity of the native customs in some wild valley of Central America or Northern Africa, its geographical remoteness, the strangeness of its place-names, of its flora, feels on discovering, once he has made his way through a screen of giant aloes or machineels, inhabitants who are engaged in reading Voltaire's Merope or Alzire" - Marcel Proust.