Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Wolves In The Throne Room - Two Hunters (pt.2)

In an interview (here), Wolves In The Throne Room (WITTR) states that the title of their recent album "Two Hunters" was inspired by the cave-bear cults of prehistoric times. "That man, through his intellect and cunning, was able to defeat such a fearsome foe represents a powerful psychic turning point, for better or worse. So the two hunters are bear and man".

That there has been such a thing as a bear cult in prehistoric times is now very much in doubt among paleo-anthropologists. But that is insufficient as a critique of WITTR's concept, so an attempt to write a post about the current scientific insights with regards to the bear cult was quickly abandoned.

I was tempted to write a demystification of "the cult of prehistoric man" in the style of Roland Barthes' "Mythologies" instead. That post, if it had been written, would have been a denunciation of the inverted teleology of portrayals of prehistoric man, a genre in itself, in which the life of prehistoric man is presented as containing within itself the 'historical process as a whole'. The post would have proposed that the "prehistoric cult" genre in a sense postulates that history had already ended before it began and that, paradoxically, these historical fictions deprive man of History. Telling in this respect is that "the cult of prehistoric man" is never in the plural, always in the singular - or so the post would have put forward, if it had been written.

It would have been great fun writing such an post, but I don't have the stomach for the necessary research: I'd hate having to read the entire "Clan Of The Cave Bear" cycle, I don't even want to see the movie. And neither do I have an appetite to watch "The Quest For Fire".

Also, "Mythologies" is perhaps the most irritating book Roland Barthes has written. There is something self-contented about it's denunciations of bourgeois culture, and something hypocritical too. What's worse, is that his enmity of the bourgeois dulls the sharpness of his analysis. Furthermore, as an anthropologist I am taken aback by the very negative connotations 'mythology' has for Barthes.

So instead of the demystification of "the cult of prehistoric man", I'll leave you with an YouTube video of WITTR performing "Behold The Vastness And Sorrow" from the "Two Hunters" album. The performance took place on October 2nd 2007 in Slim's in San Francisco, California.

Post scriptum

Here is a WITTR review by Erik Davis over at Slate magazine, which arrives at the same conclusions as the previous post.

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