Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Wold - Screech Owl

The poet and novelist Robert Graves, like Georges Bataille, was an amateur armchair anthropologist whose work strove to be "applied anthropology". Both were deeply influenced by Sir James Frazer's anthropological classic text "The Golden Bough" - though Bataille was much better informed about then-current anthropological theory than Graves.

Graves' 1948 book 'The White Goddess. A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth' unfolded the theory of the "mythopoetic". Graves proposed that all true poetry is an invocation of the White Goddess. The White Goddess, so he speculated, was a female deity whose worship dominated Europe and the Mediterranean in the Stone Age. Thus, for Graves all poetry is mythological in nature: "The function of poetry is religious invocation of the Muse; its use is the experience of mixed exaltation and horror that her presence excites". Graves described his paleolithic divine Muse as a Triple Goddess, having the aspects of a young girl, a nubile woman, and a crone. The three aspects are closely linked to the seasonal cycles of nature. Graves' theory, which can be described as ecocentric and eurocentric, has been quite influential, making an important contribution to the neopagan and wiccan spiritualities. Coil - a band with a neopagan outlook, after all - has been influenced by Graves' thinking.

And so has Saskatchewan Black Metal band Wold, whose 2006 album "Screech Owl" is reviewed in this post. On the album's sleeve, it is stated that it was recorded in "the mythopoetic lodge", and the album's lyrics seem to refer to the White Goddess in her aspect of the crone. The crone - or: the hag - is the aspect of the Goddess that is concerned with death, the underworld, winter, the waning moon. For Wold, the Screech Owl apparently is a symbol for the Crone Goddess. The lyrics for the fourth track (I wouldn't want to use the word 'song') are illustrative:

"Bitch, Badb,
Witch, old crone:
They call you the field hag,
Yours is the weed and the sage.

Barren one, yet you contain fertile depths,
Dry one, yet you are lush deep within,
They call you the field hag.
It is you who makes the pastures green.

Field hag I shall provide thou offering,
In obiesance I await your conjuring,
Tie her down when the moon is nice and round
Smoke her with smoke under moon and ember.

Old crone holds me down
Speaks of things profound:
"She must be immersed down in coulee,
When all is done bury her in prairy thrall".

The moon is full under autumn chill,
Capture the village maiden,
Perform the ritual of the Field Hag,
Rigid and cold as impending winter.

Hag's cruel grasp of ice:
Molestation by the cold night,
Break the earth with spade and wonder
There I bury her, in the coulee.

Village maiden rests in the coulee,
An offering to the field hag,
The old crone is wise and kind,
I give gifts to wise field hag.

When the snow queen departs,
The coulee begins its thaw,
The field hag unearths the village maiden
And uses her remains for magic".

Nonetheless, the usual signifiers for ecocentrism and neopagan inspiration in Black Metal music - melodic folk, acoustic guitars and frilly blouses like those worn by Ulver on Bergtatt's album artwork - are completely absent. In fact, Wold's sound world is as far from folk and Nature Goddesses as one can get: the music is a very harsh, dense and industrialized take on Black Metal, sounding like Gorgoroth or Darkthrone channeled by the clairaudient medium of Boyd Rice's Non or that of Whitehouse: not unnatural but anti-natural.

If there is a moon in Wold's sky, it is the violent electrical moon of the Italian Futurists; if Wold's forest floor is covered by snow, it is artificial snow, made from carbide dioxide; if fog hangs over Wold's prairy, it is noxious, made by polluting smoke machines, smelling of gasoline; if grass covers the prairy, it is made from needles; if there is wildlife, it is wildlife as built by Survival Research Laboratories, plate-armoured, steel-jawed, red-eyed, spitting out napalm, with mechanical manipulator arms brandishing various attachments such as claws and stabbing knives.

Thus, 'Screech Owl' in an unholy matrimony (inhierosgamos?) of White Goddess Paganism and Futurism.

Though it is interesting to see such hybrid monstrosities come into being, Wold did not entirely convince me on the musical level. I found Wold's noise a little bit too dense, the rhythms a little bit too monotonously harsh, the album as a whole too linear, too straight-ahead, not Free enough. Taken in small doses, the music is OK; but listening to the entire album wears me out before the end.

Post Scripta

Here is an interview with Wold's Crookedjaw (vocalist and "devices"), Opex (guitars and "drums"), and Obey ("scourge") at Pitchfork.
Here is a review of Wold's Screech Owl at Stylus magazine, by Stewart Voegtlin.
Here is a review of Wold's Screech Owl at Decibel Magazine.
Here is a post on Wold at "WFMU's Beware Of The Blog".
A post on Wold on S. Kobak's "Apples And Heroin" blog.


Town Manager said...

Excellent write-up, Valter. The Futurism angle is something I haven't seen before. Here is another review from earlier this year that you might be interested in:


A more in-depth interview will be forthcoming in the next issue of Oaken Throne zine.


valter said...

Thanks Todd! I came up with the Futurism angle not only because of Wold's sound, but also because of their manifesto. As you probably know, writing manifestoes was a big thing for the Futurists. Stupidly, I forgot to incorporate Wold's manifesto in the post, so here it is:

"Wold embraces the Mytho Poetic; the communication is expressed through our music, and theoretical as well as practical work done through our Woldclan brotherhood and our lodge, the L.O.T.M.P."
"Wold venerate our ancestors and cultures through myth and existence, and remain open and reflective to other effective metaphors."
"Wold promote awareness."
"Wold strive for honor and dignity above materialistic lies and novelty culture."
"Wold solemnly swear to adhere to the law of the Self."

Unknown said...

It's OK?!?! that is the rawest shit i've ever heard! its GREAT!

actually no its not it sucks big time, i purchased it in a blind purchase at the princeton record exchange and completely wasted my 10 bucks. it is just static, although the field hag is probably my favorite of the entire album

celestial elf said...

Fascinating post thanks, am getting quite interested in the Old ways myself, take a look at my blog here
& i attach Owl video for fun _/\_