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Archive for the ‘Bathory’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THERION-Theli (1997).

I bought this disc when I was living in Boston and I immediately fell for it.  I seem to recall I was doing a lot of driving at the time, and this mix of extreme metal, orchestral accompaniment and twinned vocals was very captivating.  It was also really fun to play very loud on a dark highway.

I’d read a very good review of this disc that claimed it was a big step forward in styles of thrash/black metal (and if you Google reviews for this album they are pretty universally great).  The disc is exemplified by the track “To Mega Therion” which is almost entirely a full choir singing what I guess is the chorus.  The verses are populated by a guy screaming in a guttural voice who is answered by an almost mechanically twinned voice which sounds great but is even harder to understand.  Follow this with a beautiful piano (!) solo not unlike something Randy Rhoads put together for Blizzard of Oz, and add a pounding double bass drum all the way through (truth be told the album could be a little heavier in the bass) and you get a crazy mix of styles which is catchy and creepy at the same time.

It’s hard to match a song like that.  And, admittedly, the band doesn’t quite manage to do so, but the rest of the album keeps up this orchestral death metal throughout.

Reading about Therion has taught me that this album is something of  touchstone for a new genre of metal, called variously symphonic or operatic metal (I suppose we have this to blame for the Trans Siberian Orchestra?).

In addition to the choirs and guitars there are a lot of keyboards. They are disconcerting when you’re thinking death metal and yet really they add an even fuller sound, even if at times they are not as grand or powerful as anything else.  At times the album seems cheesey, but that may have more to do with thirteen years distance than the music itself.

Anyone who has seen The Exorcist knows that choirs can be spooky.  And when you mix it with the heavy guitars and guttural vocals, you get a really cool sinister yet catchy (and possibly uplifting) album.  There are certainly a lot heavier albums, but this one is pretty stellar.

[READ: Summer of 2010, finished December 12, 2010] Lords of Chaos

My brother-in-law gave me this book for my birthday this year.  I was familiar with it as it is fairly well-known in heavy metal circles as a fascinating read.  And so it was.

This book is basically a history of black metal in Norway and how some bands’ antics went beyond music into burning churches and even murder.  The authors present a pretty neutral account of the story.  They let the main participants (criminals) have their say and the interviews don’t comment on their answers, they just let them tell their side of the story.  The authors also know a lot about the music scene.  Of course, in the end, the authors (thankfully) disapprove of the violence.  It makes for an interesting and somewhat conflicting read. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MASTODON-Blood Mountain (2006).

As I was in a metal/Black Sabbath kick, and Mastodon is always mentioned as a fantastic metal band, I figured I’d give them a try. As with The Sword, I saw no resemblance to Black Sabbath, and at first I was afraid it was just another sludgy death metal record.

[DIGRESSION]: I just read a great article in The Believer about the USBM (United States Black Metal) scene, and how it compares to the black metal in Norway and other European countries where the bands take the music seriously enough to burn churches and such. The article was really interesting. I knew some of the bands that he talked about, but the only ones I had heard were the “grandfathers” of the genre, like Venom and Bathory. Any of the new bands that he focused on, if I’d heard of them at all, I certainly hadn’t heard them. Regardless, it was a great read, and really got me hankering for a band like Mastodon, even though they’re not really in the genre at all.

Anyway, after two listens, I really got into the Mastodon album. I don’t know anything about their previous releases (except that they are heavy), but Blood Mountain is all over the map. It is a fascinating mix of thrash metal, hardcore, beautiful melodies, prog rock, and total chaos. In fact, the song “Bladecatcher,” is three and a half minutes of total insanity. I haven’t heard anything lie it since John Zorn’s Naked City. There’s a beautiful melody which progresses into a screaming guitar riff, which morphs into a headbanging thrash part which basically just unravels into a noisy spasm, wherein the high-pitched noises might be voices, or might by keyboards, or might just be the machine melting. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: Metal Shop (radio program 1980’s).

Back in high school, my friend Al and I listened to this syndicated radio show, which always came back from commercials with “MumumumumumuMetal Shop.” The more I listened to the show, the more into metal I got. And, in high school I rebelled against pop music by delving deeply into the metal scene. I had one of those denim covered 3 ring binders with nearly 100 bands inked on it. Whenever I saw a logo in Kerrang or some other place, I added it, even if I never heard the band. It was good fun.

I also liked to find weird heavy bands to shock anyone who cared to listen (which was no one, actually). So, I have some albums from Bathory, and Venom, Cirith Ungol, and Manowar, sweet, ridiculous, Manowar. These bands all predated the really crazy death and black metal scenes. Somehow, even though Venom were “satan worshippers” they were still pretty goofy. I have a great VHS of Slayer and Venom live at Studio 54. It has some interviews with them afterwards, and they’re just a bunch of silly dudes.

My musical tastes have expanded greatly since those days, but after reading the book below, I may have to dust off my Bathory vinyl and see what it sounds like.

[READ: June 30, 2008] All Known Metal Bands.

This is one of those strange books that surfaces from time to time. What you get is a list of some 50,000 names of heavy metal bands. And that’s it. (Well, there’s an epigram and a concluding remarks pages, but otherwise just an alphabetical list of every metal band that Marin could find while surfig the web.)

Probably not worth the $20some but I joined the McSweeney’s 10 for $100 program, so I got this for $10, so I got that going for me.

It is certainly fun to see the names that have been used over the years. He mentions that some names were used by many different bands, and I do rather wish he had put parenthetical notes for how many of each band, or perhaps a country of origin, but what can you do.

UPDATE:  Why you should never post before reading the book: Even better than parentheses, he lists all of the times that a name was used.  So, you get a list that inlcudes Paranoia eight times!  It is actually quite funny, especially when you see some of the really obscure names that have been used multiple times.  So, thank you, Dan Martin, for doing that.  (Country of origin would have been very interesting but would have ruined the flow, admittedly.)

The seling point, such as it is, is the design. The cover is a beautiful dark blue and silver cloth, and the interior pages are all black with silver writing on it (of course). That probably goes some way to explaining the cost.

My interesting side note is that I started to read it last night (and, yes, I’m actually writing about this without having finished it, but COME ON, it’s 50,000 names), and just as I read the first three names, we had a power failure and I was cast into utter darkness. There was none more black.

[Secret devil worship sign].

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