Last year was a culture shock for a lot of people, as “50 Shades Of Gray” opened eyes to a world they had no idea existed. Luckily for them, words are a soft initiation into a world they won't be comfortable in. It amused me to see people who would never have thought of such things engrossed in a sado-masochistic fantasy. But then I had a thought; it's not much different than something I've encountered. There's a degree of romantic detachment and masochism that comes along with black metal, a scene I have never been able to understand. When reading about it, the words I see tell a story I would like to be a part of, I would like to be able to say I have experienced. But then, when I try to listen to the music, I feel not unlike the submissive awaiting whatever degrading and punishment has been deemed appropriate for me.
It is with that in mind that I approach Lightning Swords Of Death's newest offering, keenly aware of the position I am putting myself in simply by listening to the record. It is perhaps telling that I would spend the time necessary with such music, but such is the glamorous life of a music journalist.
The band describes what they're doing as “a meticulously designed hyper-sigil, constructed to direct and antagonize the limitless dark energy that lurks within the less navigable chasms of the human mind, and in the space between spaces.” That sounds lovely, but is not unlike much of the posturing I heard from my fellow philosophers; a bunch of words that construct an elegant way of saying absolutely nothing.
Music like we find on “Baphometic Chaosium” isn't nearly as complicated as it claims to be. Everything about this style of black metal is designed for one purpose, to be as harsh and uncompromising as possible. In that respect, it is a fantastic success. Between the never-ending barrage of double-bass drumming, the speedy tremolo riffs, and vocals that emanate from the same place as a horrid viral infection, the music is as bleak and off-putting as you can get. Unless you're studied in the ways of black metal, you're not going to understand the nuance that separates this from other similar works, not will you understand the emotions that are underlying the aural assault.
I am not one of those people, so my opinion on the album must be taken for what it is, an outsider view. While I am not well-versed in the history of black metal, I can commend Lightning Swords Of Death for making an album that is as displeasing to listen to as anything I have encountered, without having to hide what they're doing under the pretense of production ripped from hand-held tape recorders. The most startling thing about “Baphometic Chaosium” is that everything is put right in front of you, no sound is buried because how you imagine it is more terrible than what it could ever truly be. No, every bit of music on the album is an in-your-face statement of black metal ethos, challenging you to make it through to the end, because you can't convince yourself you've been hearing anything other than the truth.
But while there is that degree of artistry I admire, I still find myself in the same position as before this experiment started. I see a lifestyle I'm not engaged in, I was intrigued to experience it and understand how people different than me see the things I love, and upon doing so, I am once again an outsider standing at the gates of Hell, wondering why anyone would choose to live there. “Baphometic Chaosium” is one of the better pieces of black metal I've had the chance to hear, but it's still black metal, which means my praise carries little weight.