Archive for ‘Metal’

“Nothingness” by In the Company of Serpents

A labor of love I put together for one of my favorite metal bands, In the Company of Serpents.

The first time I heard “Nothingness” live was at The Oriental (in Denver) when ItCoS opened for Godflesh. Some of the images you see in this video popped into my head that night as they played. It was an amazing experience, and I wanted to share what I saw in my mind that night. Metal on, my friends! \m/

Photography and video by © Mike Yost [ hidden void photography ]

“Nothingness” by In the Company of Serpents
From their album, Ain​-​Soph Aur
Music used with permission. (Thanks Grant!)

Bandcamp: https://inthecompanyofserpentsdoom.bandcamp.com/album/ain-soph-aur
Metal Archives: https://www.metal-archives.com/bands/In_the_Company_of_Serpents/3540344071
(Support Denver Music!)

Malt Infused Metal

Beer and Metal:  A savagely harmonious combination.  Not unlike peas and carrots.  Or masturbation and razor wire.  Or sex and nipple clamps attached to car batteries.

So, why not cultivate that vicious amalgamation into a metal bar that serves craft beer?  Well, a few Denver entrepreneurs did just that, opening a brewing company called TRVE, the bar rooted just south of downtown Denver on a bohemian stretch of asphalt called Broadway.

Slayer Sink

“Our goal is to give you a rad place to hang out and drink killer beer,” their website reads.  “ . . . our mission has always been to create beers that are beyond the pale. To us this implies new ideas, channeling Loki, and embracing chaos. It means drawing from the sounds and sights that inspire us most in life.”

They used the word rad.  How fucking rad is that?

I dropped by TRVE with some friends to drown my brain in more than a few heavenly hellishly fermented beverages (and only after, of course, we sacrificed a few humans to Loki).

I met an awesome barkeep named Shayna (sorry if spelling is off), who let me sample a few of TRVE’s brutal brews, including Grey Watcher—a Grisette-style farmhouse ale.  It had a strong sour taste that complemented the beer very nicely malevolently.

drinks

Next was a sample of Death Ripper—an amber(ish) ale.  Indeed the drink plunged into my stomach and ripped apart my dark soul, so I ordered 16 more ounces of that wonderfully fiendish refreshment.

As I was sipping away on my hops, I asked Shanya how she got into metal.  Shayna told me that when she was a wee-little kid, her mom would play Judas Priest records.

Shanya added that her mom recently battled cancer and was victorious.  In honor of her mom’s conquest, Shayna had the words Judas Priest tattooed on her arm, the letters in pink (the color for cancer awareness) outlined in black.

And it wasn’t long after our conversation that I heard Judas Priest’s “Between the Hammer and the Anvil” blasting out of the speakers above the bar as I gulped down the rest of my Death Ripper.

Being a Saturday night, the bar was packed with assorted groups of revelers.  There were (of course) small clusters of metalheads, but I also saw a small pack of punks, a few gaggles of “hipsters,” and even a faction of yuppies—all enjoying the solidarity of those who embrace beer and metal and human sacrifices to Loki.

dark

Normally I would feel tremendously uncomfortable sitting in a crowded bar, but Sepultura’s “Slave New World” calmly truncated  my apprehension.  I was even slamming my head forward a few times, careful not to knock over my brew, lest I be charged with alcohol abuse, dragged out behind the bar, and beaten to death with giant pixie sticks—as is the law in Denver.  (We take our beer very seriously in the Mile High City.)

Soon I was on my third (or fourth, or sixth) beer—this time an American stout called Stout O))).  And I mean this was a fucking STOUT.  The kind of beer you eat with a knife and a fork.  Thick as tree bark.  Impenetrably dark.  And a taste that makes you cum in your pants with the first sip bite.

It was when I was eating my stout that a black metal band out of Norway called Urgehal began trouncing TRVE denizens.  Songs from their album Goatcraft Torment tore out of the speakers and fed greedily off the beer-soaked flesh at the bar.

But the most savage facet of TRVE is their strong support for local talent.  Not only does the bar display local art on the walls, but the brewery collaborates with Flatline Audio, a Denver studio that churns out (among other music) metal.

art_crop“Recording time ain’t always cheap,” TRVE’s website reads.  “And there are killer bands out there fighting tooth and nail just to break even. We wanted to help these people out and get their music heard.”

That’s pretty fucking metal if you ask me.

The Denver band, Black Sheep of Kali, recorded two tracks through this collaboration.  You can download the songs for free at their Bandcamp page:  http://flatline.trvebrewing.com/album/judecca-morbus

So, if you ever end up in Denver for a metal show (or to legally buy some pot), definitely check out TRVE.  Just be sure you sacrifice a few humans to Loki before you walk in the door.

Metal as the Muse

114256557

As an author, I listen to a wide variety of music while I write—from metal to electronic ambient  to classical music.  Camille Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre (Dance of Death) is one of my favorites.  The composition was inspired by one of Saint-Saëns’ own poems where death plays a violin at the stroke of midnight surrounded by skeletons dancing in their shrouds.  Pretty damn metal.

Chuck Palahniuk (author of Fight Club) once said in an interview that he prefers to draft novels in the waiting areas of emergency rooms, feeding off the noise and drama unfolding all around him.  Hemingway is often attributed with the quote: “Write drunk; edit sober,” which I often do in noisy bars downing pint after pint of fermented liquid happiness.  But several authors I work with can only pen the future great American masterpiece in complete silence.

For me, silence stifles my ability to write.  It’s deafening.  In truth, silence is really fucking distracting.  It opens the black iron gates to that cacophony of shrill voices in my mind that come crawling out of the obsidian that is my subconscious—their pointed fangs and claws flashing white in the darkness just before sinking deep into my trembling eyeballs.

And it’s not easy to write with bleeding eyeballs.

To quell that silence and keep those visceral voices at bay, I often use metal to mangle my imagination, hopefully resulting in a host of stories convulsing and bleeding on the floor with exquisite ingenuity.   And the bands I usually gravitate toward—like the Saint-Saens’ piece—feature a strong narrative quality throughout their albums.  

Moonsorrow is a great example and has always been a savage source of creative strength when I’m killing off fictional characters in innovative ways. (Usually involving Medieval weapons.  And lots of fire.)  The band’s thirty-minute magnum opus, “Tulimyrsky,” (from the EP which shares the same name) cultivates just the right amount of pagan black metal madness and macabre tranquility.

The song itself (translated as Firestorm) is a story of revenge:  The violent sacking of a village, homes burning brightly in the night, bodies riddled with arrows, axes and swords coated in crimson, screams drowning in waves of blood—all sung in Finnish. These narrative elements lend themselves to my own story lines and characters whose own internal battles often leave them slaughtered alongside piles of swirling ash.

Another band good for cultivating creativity is Xanthochroid, which I came across on metal-archives.com as a related band to Ne Obliviscaris.  Paralleling Portal of I (with the exception of that signature kick-ass violin), Xanthochroid’s album Blessed He With Boils similarly boasts melodic vocals juxtaposed nicely with growls.

There’s a folkish element to many of their songs, including a flute in “Winter’s End.”  An acoustic guitar drops in often throughout the album to lull your malleable mind into a false sense of security just before thrashing guitar riffs and high-pitched growls tear your head off your shoulders.  There is even a piano solo.

The album, which should be listened to in its entirety from start to finish, fosters a fantastic atmosphere of reflection, animosity, and anguish, the perfect scrim for my own fictional characters to play out their own hardships and miseries.

Caladan Brood‘s debut album Echoes of Battle offers yet another impressive metal conduit for those creative writing juices to bubble up to the surface.  With influences ranging from Tolkien to Moonsorrow to World of Warcraft, the band’s first album generates yet another rich atmosphere of black metal embedded deeply in fantasy folklore.

One particular song that tickles my testicles as I write (which is essential for any successful author) is the song “Wild Autumn Wind,” a melodic, slow-paced-yet-fiercely-energetic song, featuring the band’s signature choral vocals.

And then there’s that gorgeous guitar solo at 9:35 that just makes my head slam forward over and over, driving my fingers to type faster and harder.

And check out the lyrics to the song, “Book of the Fallen”

Strap on your shields and raise your banners. / Hear the call of raging battle. / Beneath a hail of flaming arrows. / Push ever forward. Never surrender.

I don’t think there’s ever been a more accurate description of the creative process put to song.

All of these albums share a common narrative theme: Vicissitude.  Peaks and valleys.  The dichotomy of those guttural screams clawing alongside clean vocals.  Gentle piano interludes and head-crushing blast beats.  Those all-too-human moments of empathy followed by furious eruptions of raw acrimony that burns the world black with soot.

I greedily feed off the talent and creativity of theses bands, and the albums parallel the very stories I try to write.  Conflict.  Loss.  Resolution.  Contemplation.  Retribution.  Death.  

Duality

“Why do you have to listen to it loudly?” my partner yelled, looking at me from the passenger seat, his face twisted into a tight knot.  I didn’t respond right away as the speakers in my truck pummeled out some random metal lunacy.  “I can’t hear myself think!” he pleaded.

“That’s the point!” I yelled back with a smile.  He didn’t he return the grin.  I then had to choose between turning the music down or sleeping in my truck.  It’s a good thing I keep a pillow in the cab.

But that really is the point.   Sometimes I just want to shut my mind off, and drinking a bottle of whiskey every day isn’t really an option (though I sometimes wish it were).

It’s metal that keeps me (somewhat) sane.  It certainly keeps me from lighting the mall on fire, laughing manically while I pour kerosene on my head in front of a burning Abercrombie & Fitch store surrounded by screaming shoppers choking on smoke and the smell of burnt flesh.

axeAnd when I worked customer service to put myself through college, metal kept me from bringing an axe to work and lopping off the heads of all those condescending customers—laughing manically while I did it, of course.

Metal is a bastion when you lose your job and find yourself selling your plasma to buy groceries.  It’s the grotto you climb into when you discover your girlfriend/boyfriend moved out, taking the computer and the dog.  Metal is what you listen to right before every family christmas dinner.

It’s something my partner (who listens to nothing but jazz and classical music) will never get.  Which is fine, as long as I keep a pillow in my truck.

And that’s not to say all metal is just one-dimensional  pulp vomited into your ears to drown  out your own depressing, strangling thoughts.  On the contrary, engaging lyrics can rip you out of your own stolid perspective.  Just read the lyrics to almost any Agalloch song.  And the samples in “Faustian Echoes” are wonderfully though provoking.

ImageFaust: “So, still I seek the force, the reason governing life’s flow and not just its external show.”
Mephistopheles: “The governing force? The reason? Some things cannot be known.  They are beyond your reach even when shown.”
Faust: “Why should that be so?”
Mephistopheles: “They lie outside the boundaries that words can address, and man can only grasp those thoughts which language can express.”
Faust: “What? Do you mean that words are greater yet than man?”
Mephistopheles: “Indeed they are.”
Faust: “Then what of longing? Affection?  Pain or grief? I can’t describe these, yet I know they are in my breast.  What are they?”
Mephistopheles: “Without substance, as mist is.”
Faust: “In that case man is only air as well!”

Metal isn’t afraid to claw away at that comfortable social veneer most people saturate themselves in—to reveal the horror of an unexamined life.

So, here are a few of my favorite metal songs that explore this duality.  They run the gamut from poetic music inspired by John Milton to raw animosity.  Listen as loud as possible.

Dying Fetus “Second Skin”  [intelligent growls]

“Gracious second skin
Courteous facade accepted
The cultured do not harm
Fitting in amongst the sheeple”

Hevein “Last Drop of Innocence” [the death of childhood with a cello and a violin]

Draconian “Expostulation / Heaven Laid in Tears”  [Paradise Lost as metal]

Agalloch “Not Unlike the Waves” [astronomy as metal]

A Lengthy Excursion

IMAG1669

Denver, Colorado to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  About 1,638 miles.   That’s 2,882,880 yards of asphalt.  Burning through almost 200 gallons of diesel fuel.  Passing what must have been over 1,000,000,000 fucking construction cones.  The vehicle:  A 22 foot-long Penske moving van with a dolly towing a car.  12 foot, 7 inch height clearance.  Ten tires on the road.  Total weight of about 30,000lbs.

Yes, this was (dare I say) an epic trip.  And an expedition of this magnitude required tunes.  Lots of tunes.   Lots of metal.  With almost 30 hours of drive time, silence for that long would have driven me into a bridge.   Or rather, I would have driven willfully into a bride, laughing manically while beating my head against the steering wheel.

Combine the claustrophobia of IMAG1692a truck cab, the inability to sleep while occupying such a contraption, the stomach aches from eating shitty gas-station sandwiches made with meat shaved from the hind-end of a decaying maggot-infested human carcass laying out back, the traffic jams in the middle of fucking nowhere due to construction, the congested cities you must fight your way through, and just the general mind-numbing tedium of miles and miles of road rolling out in front of you—endless and without mercy or conscience—then you understand the function and importance of metal to sooth nerves and subdue the urge to suddenly veer into oncoming traffic.

I put myself in charge of what music to bring.  Since my sister-in-law was in the cab with me, I brought a plethora of various bands.  Everything from The Who to The Cure to Stevie Nicks to Thy Catafalque to Smashing Pumpkins to mind.in.a.box to random technIMAG1676o music.

But the genre that brought me the most comfort was metal.  Nothing is more comforting on miles and miles (and miles) of pothole-littered, monotonous highway than the swelling growls, guitars and drums bellowing out of those crappy stock speakers.

I did all the night driving, with Thy Catafalque’s Rengeteg stabbing at my ears and keeping me awake (along with more than a few energy drinks).  Particularly the fourteen minute song “Vashegyek” with that pulverizing and relentless double-bass drum on the second-half.  “Holdkomp” is a perfect road song if I ever heard one, the repetitive drum beat of which the Penske truck seemed to bounce along to.

At one point around 3 am, I turned Thy Catafalque up a little too much and my sister-in-law woke up (this is somewhere in Kansas—a.k.a. the great void of the earth).  I apologized, asking if the music was bothering her.  “Not at all,” she replied with a slight laugh.  “Whatever you need to keep going.”  (Yeah, my sister-in-law fucking rocks.)

When I wasn’t driving, I would throw on my headphones.  I found Omnium Gatherum’s New World Shadows—particularly the song “New World Shadows”—to be a particular treat as background music on I-70 in Pennsylvania, the black hills rolling up and down in the distance.

Ne Obliviscaris Portal of I soothed me to partial sleep as the truck slammed violently over the cracks in the interstate, the violin, vocals and rhythmic guitars serenading me into a quasi-dream world free of potholes and the smell of diesel fuel.  The haunting ending to “Of Petrichor Weaves Black Noise” matched perfectly with that intense introspective feeling you get when traveling for hours on the interstate, left alone with your thoughts.

The trip ended without incident, and I attribute our mutual sanity to the power of music.  So I end with the following:  What are some of the bands/albums you listen to when stuck in a vehicle for hours at a time?

sunrise