black metal

Certain phrases don't appear to make any sense. We hear them, and even without letting our minds pour over the intricacies language can convey, we instinctively know there's something wrong with them. I'm reminded of this as I prepare to listen to Khold's “Til Endes”. The album is described, in the accompanying literature, as 'groove-laden black metal', which is one of those things that doesn't sound like it should be. Black metal is the antithesis of groove, a frosty concoction of pain and misery, with no time or patience for such endearing qualities as 'groove'.

One thing we rarely see in music is a band that knows when to hang it up. Virtually every band that we will ever love ends only after they have beaten the horse to death, tarnishing their good name with an extra decade of sub-par albums and tours. It's rare for anyone in a creative field to know when their talents are slipping, or to tell when the public no longer wants them around. Every musician who enjoys being on the stage has an ego complex to some degree, and with that comes a need for the spotlight, and an inability to give it up.

What makes folk metal interesting is how it is the unlikely union of two things that should not go together. Metal is hard, brash, and abrasive, while folk music is soft, acoustic, and introspective. Folk would be at the bottom of the list of other genres I would expect metal to ever be paired with, given the fundamental differences between them, and yet there is a healthy and thriving scene of folk metal bands that have managed to forge a connection between the two styles.

In the spirit of honesty, I have a confession I must make; there has never been a black metal album I have enjoyed. While I can understand the mental state that leads to its creation, and the ethos is not philosophically unappealing, the actual music that falls under the banner has the same effect on me as fingernails streaking across a chalkboard (a sound that, ironically, does not bother me). I have tried listening to modern black metal, the 'classics', and random recommendations I've picked up in various places, but the end result is always the same.

At some point, we lost our collective minds. Obsessed with classifying everything, the amateur Linnaeus in us all has created a staggering matrix of labels we apply to the metal we listen to, to the point where describing a song can sometimes take longer than the actual track (and I wish I were making that up). By splitting the music into ever smaller pieces of understanding, we are able to better predict the likelihood of enjoying something before ever hearing a note, but we also reduce our exposure to new things, because we know exactly what we're getting.

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.

Psychology has taught us many things about the human condition, few of which can be applicable to an examination of a black metal album. However, there is one phenomenon that is worth considering. We've learned, through studies, that humans are better able to differentiate between members of their own ethnic/racial group than those of other backgrounds. Likewise, fans of black metal will have no problem identifying Brume D'Automne from every other similar band, and can point to the qualities that make them stand out as a unique entity.

To call German black metal band Desaster “veteran” is to not be nearly descriptive enough. Desaster, and by extension their iconically idiomatic misspelling, are veterans in the sense that Ray Bourque was a veteran when he finally won the Stanley Cup with Colorado. Desaster has toiled in obscurity, experienced the highs and lows of success and marginalization, the tumult of frequent and varied roster changes, the dedication of valued fans and the prosecution by those who fail to understand, and, in short, has been around the block.

Behemoth. A name that carries a lot of weight, and a lot of stigma in metal circles. Considered the fathers of the Polish death/black/extreme metal scene, Behemoth has been both the center of celebration and consternation for over two decades. Cited on a 2007 list by Polish officials of artists who allegedly promote murder and Satanism, Behemoth is no stranger to controversy.

Hailing from oft-overlooked Kalamazoo, Michigan, the band originally known as The Ancient changed their name to Winterus and released this new full-length studio album, “In Carbon Mysticism.”

The album is an intriguing exploration of some of the farther corners of common territory between black and death metal. While not exactly revolutionary on either count, Winterus manages to cover a curious bit of ground through a combination of intricate layering and deceptively simple progressions.