Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thoughts on "Until The Light Takes Us"

I finally got around to watching Until The Light Takes Us, a documentary about some of the criminal activities and the people involved in the Norwegian Black Metal scene of the early 1990s. I must admit, it wasn't a great documentary but it wasn't bad either. Some scenes seemed kind of useless but you get that with any film. I will assume that anyone reading my blog will at least have a general idea of the events the film is based on. Instead of detailing the suicide, murders and church burnings, I'm more or less going to summarize some of the things I took away from the film.
In no particular order:
I haven't finished reading Lords of Chaos yet. And since I wasn't a metal fan back then, and haven't really read a whole lot about what happened, the details of the events discussed in the film were rather enlightening. And frightening.
Varg Vikernes said something to the effect that Christianity is the root of all the world's problems. While I agree to a great degree, burning down churches just doesn't seem like the best approach to take if you are trying to make people see your point of view. People opened their eyes, yes, but instead of making people see that Christianity is a poison, they just branded the perpetrators as Satanists and that was the end of it. If anything it enforced their faith and built the walls of ignorance ever higher. Not to mention that being falsely accused as being Satanists, which had nothing to do with their motives. only further defeated their purpose. Which was to trying and "reclaim" their ancient Norse "pagan" culture.
Listening to Varg speak, I couldn't help but notice how intelligent he is. He seems like a guy that knows what he is talking about and can argue it successfully. His ideas might be FUCKED but at least he isn't some blind sheep playing follow the leader. (There's those darn Christians again....baaaaa)
I was also struck by how cold Varg is. Not frosty grimness cold. He has no heart cold. When he was describing the altercation that lead to his killing Euronymous there wasn't even a shred of remorse. Maybe he feels like he was justified in his actions as being self-defense but his description contradicts that notion.  He states that at one point Euronymous RAN AWAY from him. How is it self-defense when the victim runs away?! When he describes the moment he stabbed Euronymous, he says "so I finished him off and ran after the other guy." In that situation, another member of Mayhem had ran past Varg and he realized this guy had his car keys. So he just "finished him [Euronymous] off" and chased the guy down. What the hell? I believe at this point Euronymous had actually fallen down and was relatively vulnerable. It probably would have been easier for Varg to have just gone after the guy with his keys and left it at that. But no, he stabbed Euromymous in head instead.  Varg tells us that he died instantly. Like he wants us to think that he was doing Euronymous a favour by killing him quickly. I knew this guy was messed but I didn't fully realize just how cold he really is.
That picture of Dead, erm, dead was pretty fucking brutal.
I was shocked somewhat when Hellhammer was describing his thoughts on Faust killing a "fucking faggot" in Lillehammer. He said he was pretty proud of him. Are you serious? These dudes are fucking intense, man.
Demonaz looked like a bouncer in a movie or something. A bouncer you don't fuck with.  Especially sitting beside an equally imposing Abbath.
Fenriz seems to be a very complex man. He likes a wide range of music as well as modern art. He seems very open-minded but also firm in his convictions. He seemed very calm for the most part. but he got worked up pretty good a couple times. He seems to be a vast storehouse of metal knowledge. (I'm going to say "seems" once more time, ok? Seems.) But for being such a well respected and iconic member of the extreme metal community, the movie made him look very lonely. Perhaps he is, perhaps that's just the way the film was edited. Perhaps the events the film is centered around have left a mark on his soul that bled its way to the exterior durng the making of the film. Maybe it was all of those things, maybe none. Maybe I'm reading way too much into it. But it's just that he was alone in almost all the scenes he was in. Alone in the bar, his house, the office, the train. Ya, I'm probably just making too much of it. Fascinating individual though. I think I could listen to him talk all day.
I laughed out loud and the look on the kid's face that was sitting beside Frost on the train. And he wasn't even wearing full corpsepaint! 
I hang my head in shame as I humbly admit that my knowledge of the music that soundtracked these events is basically non-existent. Mayhem, Darkthrone, early Burzum, Immortal, all more or less foreign to me. Snippets here and there but I don't think I've really listened to any of their work from back then. (2 of the newer Burzum albums and that Demonaz one, I have heard.) I know, I know. Hand over my membership card. I don't even know what Bathory sounds like. (Fuck. Grim Kim's gonna kill me.) But, what I'm getting at is, I heard pieces of those bands in the film. What I heard sounded like my cup of goat blood! Which means I have to find the time to get my greasy mitts on those albums. I've known about these bands and their importance but for some reason just never got around to actually hearing them.
So if anything, Until The Light Takes Us, has exposed me to a taste of a handful of bands/albums that any self-respecting (wannabe) metal writer needs to know as a reference point to today's bands.
I suppose I have a task now, don't I?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Corrosion of Conformity - Corrosion of Conformity

Remember when you were a kid and you had that group of friends that did everything together? But there was always that one guy that had a little more going on. The group would want to go shoot hoops, or hang out under the bridge throwing rocks at trains, or some other such sport or shenanigans. But that guy was too busy playing video games, watching porno, or (gasp) hanging out with his girlfriend. The typical exchange: "Hey man, you comin' or what?" "Nah dudes. You go ahead and I'll catch up with ya later." And everything is cool.
Now take that scenario and apply it to Corrosion of Conformity. Bassist/vocalist Mike Dean, guitarist Woody Weatherman, and drummer/vocalist Reed Mullin wanted to make a new album. But guitarist/vocalist Pepper Keenan was too busy with Down. (That's a way better excuse than porno or a girlfriend.) That's cool.  They made the album anyway and Pepper will just catch up with them later. (i.e. no animosity) What that means, is that this album was made by the "classic" Animosity line-up. (I know. I know. I couldn't resist.)
Now, the last time I listened to COC in any capacity, if I recall correctly, was September 17, 2009. I don't have some crazy memory (quite the opposite) but it was the day after a night I will never forget. The COC material was actually Six Songs With Mike Singing. The night before must have had some effect because although I know I listened to it, I can't remember a damn thing about it. Point being: To my frequently misfiring mind, COC sounds like "Albatross" and "Clean My Wounds". Corrosion of Conformity sounds nothing like either of those songs. In fact, this new album sounds nothing like Animosity either.
I expected the Pepper-less COC to sound like the crossover of their early days but that's not the case. The dish we are served instead may actually be spicier than the pre- and Pepper-ed eras. These seasoned vets have thrown the proverbial curve ball. For the most part the album sounds almost like a COC record with the obvious difference being in the vocal department. I say almost because it has more, shall we say, balls, than "modern day" COC. The guitar tone is close to what I would expect but overall the album is more dynamic. Mixed into that southern hard rock vibe is more edge. More youthful enthusiasm. Not near the energy of Animosity mind you, but I can hear touches of that spirit throughout the album. Perhaps my favourite track of the album "Leeches", is by far the song closest to the crossover this lineup is known for. It's almost like this album is at a point in between Animosity and their later works. 
Crossover isn't the only other subgenre that makes its presence known. Throughout the album and mostly in the vocals, a doomy feel seeps to the surface. I hesitate to say it sounds like St. Vitus but that's what comes to mind. Maybe The Obsessed or Spirit Caravan would be a more apt reference point. If that wasn't enough, even grunge makes an appearance. On a couple songs, most notably "Weaving Spiders Come Not Here", a distinct Soundgarden vibe is heard. In fact, if you played me "Weaving.." without telling me who it was I would think it was a lost b-side from Down On The Upside. It's definitely better than the new SG song that is set to appear on The Avengers soundtrack. 
"El Lamento De Las Labras" is an instrumental track that sounds exactly like the laid back southern rock I would have expected from a new COC album. However, the song doesn't really go anywhere and it kind of kills the momentum built by the aforementioned "Leeches".
Detractors might look at the mix of styles as a negative. Perhaps if this was a new band just trying to discover themselves I would agree yet this is a band that been around for almost 30 years. So the fact that they mix it up and incorporate doom, punk, grunge, thrash, and southern rock into a new record is actually quite refreshing. Then again maybe Keenan's absence had something to do with that. For example, when I have the TV all to myself, I get so excited I can't decide what to watch. If there was a pornographic cartoon docu-action horror flick/series, that would make things much easier. (If Heavy Metal was true?) Maybe having the free reigns COC couldn't decide which direction to go so they just amalgamated it all together? Seems unlikely though. I prefer to think that they just made the music that was there to make as the trio. I see it as the band taking influence from themselves and others and making the album they wanted to make. I'm by no means trying to imply that Pepper was a control freak or anything. I can't speculate on the band dynamic.
I believe COC has succeeded in making a solid, enjoyable album with this lineup. Should Keenan rejoin the fold if/when things slow down with Down, so be it. I don't think it would hurt. I've got all kinds of respect for him. But should Dean, Weatherman and Mullin continue as a trio I see no reason to be upset with what they've accomplished and could accomplish in the future.

Corrosion of Conformity is available now from Candlelight Records.