Friday, April 25, 2008

Buried Melodies

Melodies 'buried' beneath chaos, noise, buzz - the funerary metaphor is a staple, if not a cliché of Black Metal reviews:

"Leichenbergen (corps mountains) plods along dissonantly and onevenly with orchestral stabs and bass wails to reveal some deaden melody's buried beneath the chaos (...)" (here)

"Watain build walls of noise with melodies buried deep within (...)" (here)

"(...) there's even some pretty melodies - buried way in the mix, but still there, like the glistening droplets of synth around the beginning of 'Wandering the Wilderness...'., and the quite lovely but also devastatingly morose melody in the title track that Xasthur would kill for." (here)

"Loping mid-tempo buzz over buried angelic choruses, like Morricone's The Mission performed by Graveland." (here)

The 'burial' metaphor points towards a way of listening to Black Metal that is teleological - like an archeologist, the listener excavates the melodies, removing the soil, chaos, noise and buzz until the musical truth is revealed. This way of listening to Black Metal can be likened to watching a strip tease (seeing clothes stripped away, in the hope of the revelation of the sexual organ) or reading a suspense novel (the obfuscations of the plot being stripped away to reveal 'whodunnit'). Listening to Black Metal this way is primarily an intellectual pleasure: one learns to discern, one learns to know, to understand the melodic origin or destiny of the music. The melody would serve as a transcendent signifier, as the source of the whole song, as the source of Black Metal signification.

However, I feel the situation of Black Metal is a little more complicated. After all, Black Metal is a necro(-philiac) genre - the melody is only excavated because it is cold and dead. And how did melody die? It died because it was buried alive. Melody asphyxiated, dehydrated, starved in a tomb of chaos, noise and buzz. Why was it buried alive? Only to dig it up again. For Black Metal, love smells like death.

Post scriptum

Of course, this post is deeply indebted to "The Pleasure of the Text' by Roland Barthes.


Sigivald said...

Perhaps it's buried alive more in the "buried by time and dust" way?

Alive (or at least not-dead), but trapped and forgotten, awaiting chance discovery and revival?

(Strained, but at least interesting, and any chance for a Mayhem reference.)

valter said...

Not only a chance for a Mayhem reference, but also for an HP lovecraft reference ('that which is not dead'... etc)! I stick to my necro interpretation nonetheless...

Thanks for the comment!