Music is my other big love, I think I’d even go as far as saying it’s more important to me than movies. I don’t know why I’ve never written about it before. I guess I’ve been through media studies, college, university, writing about film became something I had to do. And somewhere along the way filmmaking went from hobby to vocation; I can’t watch a movie without thinking about it in some, removed, analytical way. I’ve never wanted that to happen to my music.
I’ve never had any friends with music tastes anywhere near mine so I guess it’s become an insular experience. The only time I get to listen to my music is when I’m on my todd and as a result of that, I’ve gotten very attached and very defensive of it. It’s mine and mine alone and if you’re going to come tell me that Morbid Angel’s glorious Domination is “just noise” or something similarly dismissive, ignorant and generally pigheaded, then we are going to have a problem.
What relevance does this bear to (Y) and our mission and our filmmaking? Well, it’s just another artistic influence that I’ve got a lot to talk about and since I’ve got a platform to do that, I’m going to do just that.
Prototyped in Newcastle, mutated and perfected in the cold heart of Norway and most recently found being reinvented in every which way over in the US, Black Metal is essentially misanthropy made audibly tangible. This is the coldest, most hateful, insular music you’re likely to find but it can be tender, subtle and beautiful as well, it can be cosmic or psychedelic, like I said, it’s a real mutator.
It’s genesis is based in Thrash Metal, with Newcastle’s Venom taking Slayer’s blueprint and twisting the “evil” dial up to eleven, they named their second album Black Metal (1982) and it all began. By the early nineties it had struck a chord with a small gang of Norwegian teens, commonly referred to as “The Black Circle” and they took to perfecting it, recording a series of classics and then cementing it’s notoriety by more or less killing each other and burning down a slew of Norwegian churches.
Themes usually revolve around but not limited to; the occult, depression, religious defamation (explicitly Satanic sometimes but usually it’s simply anti-Christian messages being misconstrued), the cosmos and the void, suicide, nature and the grandeur of the world (which more often than not ties into the prevalent misanthropy), fantasy (Tolkien is huge in these circles) and so on and so forth.
When writing One For Sorrow, I almost explicitly listened to Black Metal. It’s ethereal atmosphere and tendency for harsh, spiky, soundscapes informed the whole aesthetic of the film. I want it to read the way that Ash Borer’s self titled debut sounds. Swirling and majestic, it’s cold and harrowing whilst managing to be simultaneously claustrophobic and absolutely huge. The way their vocalist, known simply as K, shrieks with such utter, hopeless distress is how I imagine the inside of main character Milton’s head to sound.
I want the soundtrack to OFS run chronologically and tell Black Metal’s story, starting out with the early, primitive stuff. As Milton descends on his mad journey, new sounds are introduced, new textures, to mirror all the new things he is experiencing, new people he’s meeting. I think it’d run something like this.
Darkthrone – A Blaze In The Northern Sky. 1992.
Progenitors of that signature blasting style. Early and raw, you have to start here. This is the first time Milton kills.
Weakling – Dead As Dreams. 1999
One of the first American bands to latch onto the genre. Sort of influenced all of USBM, a sound sometimes referred to as “Cascadian Black Metal” for the way it builds into crescendos before, well, cascading. An expansion on what the Norwegians were doing, in the film this would be Milton’s next two, three, four murders, each more grandiose.
Emperor – Prometheus: The Discipline Of Fire & Demise. 2001.
Whilst his bandmates did stints in jail, multi-instrumentalist, innovator and all round legend Ihsahn (again with the pseudonyms) wrote this bats hit insane, operatic masterpiece. A truly innovative, singularly unequalled achievement in the metamorphosis of the genre. The dizzying Operatic style here is really just one man and a synth, this perfectly matches the crazed delusions of grandeur Milton carries with him.
Deathspell Omega – Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice. 2004.
Meanwhile in France, they stretched the formula, sonically and lyrically to it’s extremes. Taking Satan on a metaphysical level and intellectualising it all to an even more impenetrable level, these Francs excelled every expectation of what Black Metal could aspire to. The claustrophobia in this album has to soundtrack a point in which Milton may or may not be reaching his heroin fuelled demise.
Shining (There are two BM playing Shining’s, this is the Swedish one) – V: Halmstad. 2007.
Led by suicidal depressive Nikolas Kvarforth, Shining took misery to it’s absolute most beautiful. Blending traditional BM aesthetics with classical music and roaring classical rock ’n’ roll (not at all as dorky as I’ve described it, but I try) they recorded a truly depressing album, one that aches and shivers and wails with sorrow. The films main narrative runs concurrent to a series of flashbacks detailing Milton’s tragic relationship with his parents and goes someway to try to explain the beginnings of his madness, the shear hopelessness on display here is perfect for that.
Enslaved – Vertebrae. 2008.
Part of the Norwegian old guard, these guys spent a big part of their career slowing moving into the direction of this album before emerging fully formed with this like some butterfly. They merged their BM background with Pink Floydianisms, crafting this dreamy, monumental psychedelic trip of an album. This and the two Nachtmystium records below share a similar psychedelic DNA, one perfect for one of the many heroin-trip/dream sequences.
Nachtmystium – Black Meddle. Pt. 1 Assassins. Pt.2 Addicts. 2008/2010.
Lead singer and main songwriter/creative force Blake Judd is a known Heroin abuser and channeled his inner demons into two of the most surreal/realist BM albums of all time. The lyrics and the sound on these two albums are a huge influence on OFS.
Horseback – The Invisible Mountain. 2009.
A cerebral, droning head trip of an album. It has more in line with Eastern philosophy than Satanism and is somewhat hypnotic. Combined with the almost Tibetan throat singing vocals, this is as peaceful as BM gets. Milton’s comedown music perhaps.
Agalloch – Marrow of the Spirit. 2010.
Last one, promise! The jewel in USBM’s crown, a towering achievement of a record and one of my favourites of all time. Inspired by the geology of the American midwest from which they hail, Agalloch crafted this huge, nature loving atmospheric/folksy BM masterpiece. It’s simply one of the most magnificent, beautiful pieces of media of any sort. It transcends media in fact, it’s more like an element, a force of nature. Corny, perhaps, sue me, i”m enthusiastic.
Side note: I find that the relentless percussive tradition in BM as well as it’s utter gloom lends well to a viewing of some good, hard rain.
Staunch rival of the BM scene, Death Metal spawned from the same Thrashy, primordial soup but took a different, if equally blasphemous path. While Black Metal went for ethereal atmospherics, long songs and tangibly huge sounds, born from mountains of the clod of it’s Norwegian homeland, Death Metal left nature and subtlety behind.
Instead, it focused it’s speed and went for the jugular, heaviness and ugliness were the name of the game. It’s not that DM can’t be naturistic or atmospheric or beautiful, it just more often that not chooses not to be. On the extreme end of the spectrum, it can even aspire to complete technicality, coldness in a different sense, to be clinical.
It often covers the same Satanic ground as BM as well as the cosmic and psychedelic strains that also appear in that sub-genre, but where it excels, where it revels, is gore. To put it cinematically, BM can be seen as The Tree of Life when it’s being wielded by Agalloch or maybe when Darkthrone get hold of it, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, cold, Scandinavian, brutal but poetic and grandiose. Death Metal usually amounts to somewhere in the Halloween area.
Like Ronseal, it does what it says on the tin, Death Metal deals with death, in as many grizzly, imaginative ways as possible. Nile take all their inspiration from the Egyptians and the mad shit they were up to. Carcass take it to the surgeons table, getting clinical with it. Cannibal Corpse are, unsurprisingly, the kings of gore, gore and zombies. Gigan and Wormed both take it to space for some seriously trippy looks into ways to die.
It’s the nuclear holocaust, end of the world vein of Death Metal that I’ll be using as a primary influence when I get back to the writing of part two of my Narcissist Trilogy, The Brainless.
Morbid Angel’s aforementioned, glorious toxic masterpiece Domination is sure to crop up in my playlist, as is Obituary’s fetid debut Slowly We Rot. Multiply that by the noxious smog of Mammoth Grinder’s Extinction of Humanity and Disma’s cavernous, almost sempiternally ancient sounding Towards the Megalith and you have yourself the makings of a glorious end of the world.
– Oliver Drew