Tuesday, June 24, 2008

N.i.l. - Nihilism Is Liberation

"Nihilism Is Liberation": abbreviated, this motto forms the name for the new band of US Black Metal foreman Imperial (Neill Jameson, formerly of Krieg and Twilight) and J. Marcheski (March Into the Sea, Urine).

The motto presents nihilism as a dark Enlightenment, nihilism as man’s emergence from his self-imposed humanist shackles. For Imperial, Kant's 'Sapere Aude' means to dare to espouse a violent, Social Darwinist mutation of Mad Max-style anarcho-primitivism which does away with all the niceties of humane thought. Imperial, bastard child of Lodovico Settembrini and Leo Naphta, adheres to a particularly virulent form of occidentalism:

"I believe in a world free of humanity and social morality where the beast in man could be allowed to thrive and be set upon the weaker species. (...) I would bring back the old systems that allowed man to be a lawless wanderer, shaping his own world to fit his own desires. Man prospered and became more intertwined with his beast form during nomadic times. Freedom from want, freedom from need. And if that didn't work then unleash the missiles... (...) Nothing in the modern world is worth saving. Our history and ancient cultures/traditions from which we all come from. Every race should be proud of its heritage and maintain this pride in their daily functional lives. The old ways, before the plagues of modern life and religion, were best suited for man's needs. A world turned to ash so that it may be reborn like the Phoenix is the only way for us to reach the true potential that we are born with. Cleanse the races and creeds and allow the weak to be devoured by the wolves instead of giving them a crutch to lean on." (sourced here).

As you can read, Imperial's political philosophy is none too sophisticated - but then again, what else would you expect from a man who has called Michele Soavi's 1989 horror film La Chiesa "Argento's greatest work" (here)? On the other hand, it shows an intellectual honesty lacking in more politically correct forms of anarcho-primitivism: Imperial openly acknowledges that destroying the state, eliminating technology and industry and dismantling civilization can only be brought about by, and will result in, killing billions ("...unleash the missiles.").

N.i.l.'s music - especially the fast tracks - reflects the brutality of Imperial's ideological views: it is an album of harshly droning Black Metal, of relentlessly primitivist, repetitive one-riff-per-song Noise.

But there is an other side to Imperial's music, which comes to the fore in N.i.l.'s self-titled album more clearly than it ever did in Krieg. That other side is mournful, sombre, minor key. In N.i.l.'s debut album, this side is already evident in the very first track,"Plague Doors Rusted Shut", which opens with the sad sound of record crackle, of vinyl grown old and forgetful, and subsequently introduces the plangent sounds of an acoustic guitar. But the sorrowful side is most evident in the slower, Burzumesque tracks, on which atypical instruments such as a mandolin and singing bowls are used. Burzumesque - but where melancholy in Burzum signified a nostalgic longing for a lost Viking Eden, the sadness in N.i.l. seems to have a different meaning: Imperial comes across as too cynical to yearn for a Paradise Lost. Where in Burzum melancholia strengthens the band's ideology, N.i.l.'s sadness seems to be at odds somehow with the ideological content: why laments, instead of brutal paeans to an anarcho-primitive future?

I feel that there is a discontinuity in N.i.l.'s music, a break, where two mutually exclusive codes collide. One code is Imperial's 'official' ideology, which puts forward nuclear Armageddon as a means to achieve a social-darwinistic anarcho-primitivism, an ideology informed by Black Metal's 'canonical' Misanthropism, an ideology of hateful Enlightenment. The other code may well be an merciful, pitying side, a hidden side which where the temptation of the end of civilization can be lost to an almost general sensitivity to human suffering.

I love it when Imperial plays Black Metal cover versions of non-Black Metal songs: his version of the Velvet Underground's "Venus In Furs" was the best song on Krieg's excellent 2004 album "The Black House". The best song on this album is N.i.l.'s Black Metal cover version of a Big Black song: "Bad Houses" from the 1986 album "Atomizer" (an album of which the cover art is also governed by the temptation of the end). In the lyrics to this song, again two, conflicting codes are in evidence: a moral code ("I tell myself I will not go") and a second code, which transgresses the first ("Even as I drive there"). The moment when Imperial speaks these lines in an untreated, rather flat Midwestern parlando is the high point of this album: Big Black Metal. The conflicting codes are mirrored in the music, fuzzed out Black Metal colliding with catchy Punk Rock.

Again, it is the untenable juxtaposition of two codes which creates a tension in N.i.l.'s music, a tension which raises N.i.l. above the facile misanthropy of most Black Metal.

Though N.i.l.'s self-titled album lacks the raw excellence of Krieg's "The Black House" and the immediacy of that band's "Blue Miasma", with N.i.l. Imperial has created an interesting platform for creating Black Metal that burns with inconsistencies, ambiguities and contradictions. N.i.l. has announced that where this album explores the drone, the second album, to be titled "Nothing.Is.Limitless.", will investigate Post Rock and other non-Black Metal music. I am certainly interested.


Here are links to interviews with Imperial: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

1 comment:

Dominic said...

I hadn't seen that Big Black cover before. Hilariously, it's an obvious reference to one of Bugs Bunny's encounters with Marvin the Martian: "Where's the kaboom? There's was supposed to be an earth-shattering kaboom!"