Friday, May 01, 2009

Deathlike Silence and Sodomy

"Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous..." (Genesis 18:20)

In trying to understand the enigma that is the Norwegian Black Metal scene in the late eighties and early nineties, an important strategy is researching and analyzing the web of significance spun around the music. "The concept of culture I espouse. . . is essentially a semiotic one. Believing, with Max Weber, that man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretative one in search of meaning. It is explication I am after. . . . " (Clifford Geertz in "The Interpretation of Cultures").

The German Thrash Metal band Sodom forms an important strand of Black Metal's web of significance, because that band was a very important influence on Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth, the mastermind of Black Metal band Mayhem. Sodom is mentioned in almost every interview with Aarseth.

Aarseth's independent record label 'Deathlike Silence Productions' was named after a song by Sodom, the opening song from their 1986 debut album 'Obsessed By Cruelty'. The lyrics - full of spelling errors and unintentionally funny - are reproduced from the band's web site below. There you will also find a YouTube video of the song. In this interview, Aarseth described the album as an underrated "Masterpiece of Black Stinking Metal".

As an aside, 'Deathlike Silence Productions' must be one of the most poetical names in the music industry.Why? Because 'silence' is a word which is not a word, it is (as Bataille said in Inner Experience) the abolition of the sound that the word is. "Among all words, it is the most perverse, or the most poetic: it is the token of its own death." For this reason, the word 'deathlike' is the perfect adjective for the word 'silence'.

Sodom is relevant to Mayhem for another reason: the name of the German Thrash Metal band refers to the eponymous biblical city which was destroyed by "brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven" (Genesis 19:24-25). In Christian thought, the sin for which God meted out punishment to the inhabitants of Sodom was anal intercourse. Sodomy is a term used predominantly to describe male-on-male, but also male-on-female, anal intercourse.

Aarseth was an ardent proponent of anal intercourse, which he called 'Sodomy', because he regarded it as an "evil" act. It may be useful to compare and contrat Aarseth's view of sodomy with that of the Divine Marquis. From Pierre Klossowski's Sade My Neighbour: "For Sade, the sodomist act is the supreme form of transgression of norms (which suggests their paradoxical maintainance); at the same time it must be the way to transgress the different cases of perversion and thus to constitute the principle of affinity among the perversions. For, like a callipygian test, this act suppresses the specific borders between the sexes and according to Sade constitutes the key sign for all perversions. Having interpreted morally this act as a testimony of atheism and a declaration of war on the norms inherited from monotheism, Sade then projects perversion into the domain of thought. There integral monstrosity forms a sort of space for minds that communicate with another by the mutual understanding of this key sign."

Did anal intercourse in Aarseth's view suppress the specific borders between the sexes? None of the primary biographical sources on Aarseth provide any clarity on this point. Nevertheless, it is striking that even if homosexuality is a taboo generally left untransgressed in Metal culture, Aarseth never specified that he was referring only to male-on-female anal intercourse. In the oeuvre of Swedish Black Metal band Marduk - whose Morgan "Evil" Steinmeyer Håkansson maintained close ties with Aarseth - sodomy had connotations of homo-erotic sadism ('Christraping Black Metal').

"War and Sodomy" was a kind of battle cry for Aarseth. So closely was this rallying cry for sodomites associated with Aarseth's Black Metal aesthetic, that it became the title of the bootleg recording of a Mayhem concert in Zeitz, Germany, on November 24th 1990 (though the album cover mentions that it was recorded in East Germany, the concert in fact took place a month and two weeks after German reunification). That he used "War and Sodomy" as a battle cry in so many interviews, may well point to the fact that for Aarseth too the sodomic act was the supreme form of transgression of norms, as the key sign for all perversions. (Interestingly, war is an important theme for Sodom, but they approach the theme from an anti-war perspective - other than Aarseth).

Sodomy has become an important trope in Black Metal. A quick search on Black Metal audio blog Dunkelheit turns up no less than seventeen bands which use sodomy as a sign of evil: "Black Metal Sodomy", "In The Dark And Sodomy", "Sado Terrorism (Or the Nuklear Sodomy)", "Genocide Sodomy", "Sacred Sodomy", "Angel of Sodomy", "Sodomy of Holy Children", "War, Whiskey, Sodomy", not to mention the tasteful "Cadaveric Leather Sodomy". It does not go too far to conclude that Black Metal aficionados communicate with another by the mutual understanding of the key sign which is sodomy.

However, there is one crucial difference between Sade's view of sodomy and that of Aarseth. Aarseth, being a theistic Satanist, could not have seen sodomy as a testimony of atheism. In fact, Aarseth opposed atheism: "I believe in a horned devil, a personified Satan. In my opinion all the other forms of Satanism are bullshit. I hate that some people think up idiotic ways of making eternal peace in the world and dare to call it Satanism, like so many do. Satanism comes from religious Christianity, and there it shall stay. I'm a religious person and I will fight those who misuse His name. People are not supposed to believe in themselves and be individualists. They are supposed to OBEY, to be the SLAVES of religion." (sourced here). Even if Aarseth waged war on Christianity, and even if sodomy was a weapon in that war, paradoxically for Aarseth sodomy also was an affirmation of the norms inherited from Christianity.

Sodom - Deathlike Silence

A twilight was in my mind
Fulfilled of suspended bare foreboding
Great erhaulted forms of life
Touched me by my nightmare
Feel the inflamed impression in my soul
Appeared that I get blessed

Deathlike silence
Deathlike silence

Trustful eyes look up to me
Bring they harm in my exsist
Terrible things revelated the curse
A petual attemp to blasphemic cruelty
Revelated me to that what i am
I hear it, feel it the weird...

Deathlike silence
Deathlike silence

Grasp the sneep tamed snake
Drink fertite poison without ingure
Men spotless and pure heart
True secret as grave
Master of earth and all on it

No reason to vespair
Ready to fo though hell
Always known the fate
Morbid addication to pain

Talk to me in a prophetic sound
I am choosen to saw the true
That have rage as no earthly calamity
Looking for the centre of labyrinth
But its known in my unconscious mind
Escape to myself coined of envy

Deathlike silence
Deathlike silence

No reason to bespair
Ready to go through hell
Always know the fate
Morbid addication to pain

Deathlike silence
Deathlike silence

Fortify at a namn abness of deep
Intinite space of human existence
Broken is my lords foul work
Burst rebellious shouts of deads
All accurse by...

Deathlike silence
Deathlike silence

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