Friday, August 13, 2010

Black Metal Revolution - Misconceptions

The book is definitely starting to make waves, and not all of them positive ones it seems. Of course, anything worth doing will see its share of detractors, so I can’t say I am disappointed. On one hand I have relished the extent to which people have read “between the lines” so to speak in interpreting the book’s intention and admittedly I find myself confronted with ideas I hadn’t previously considered. On the other hand, it has inspired a need within me to provide some clarity.

In wanting to further spread the word about this quest of mine, I posted an update on a UK forum. Interesting in that it generated a deal of discussion, disappointing that no one seemed to care or understand what the book was actually about, yet all appeared hasty to strike a blow, irrespective of how ludicrous or erroneous their assumptions of the book’s true intention.

This got me thinking that it may be time to share a few thoughts on what I see unfolding and how I see the project continuing. Not to suggest the course is any different to that on which it began, but as stated, clarity is needed.

Almost 30 years since Venom unleashed ‘Black Metal’ there have been untold visions of what BM should be; numerous trends, movements and authorities clamoring for the definitive statement, but the reality is that as long as people “bear arms” under its flag, divergent thought will continue and BM will evolve. The term “religious” was not commonplace in ’94; in fact it was not a term used at all at that time. Does that make the contemporary Religious BM movement irrelevant? No, it is another of the myriad of channels in which BM has existed. Rest assured, there will be more.

It was suggested to me, on a more personal level, that one of the book’s intentions was to unite Black Metal. This is definitely not the case. My acceptance of Black Metal being an ever-evolving medium is in direct opposition to that statement. No singular vision will ever be empirical, no rule ever all consuming.

For the purpose of this project I attempted to distil BM right down to a couple of its core elements and what I extrapolated from this assessment was that BM musicians are generally pro-active in discussing
their influences and are themselves collectors of bands they swear allegiance to. From a genre point of view, that I chose BM is less the reality than it chose me. Having long been an acolyte myself, I, like others of my ilk have found opus after opus that satisfied a myriad of needs both musically and intellectually and I have never longed for a stylistic evolution that wasn’t able to be met under its ever expanding scope. I don’t suggest BM to be music alone, but I would argue that no matter what your philosophical stance on it, those who have themselves forged BM bands have drunk deeply from the channels that preceded their own and by that rationale, hold some of those previous manifestations in higher regard that others. So, I decided that musicians discussing their most revered BM records would make for an interesting read. Especially as that criteria was unfettered by any specific convention other than I didn’t want people to write album reviews.

Which raises an interesting point in response to another suggestion that a work such as this “normalizes” BM. As long as bands are releasing music, they have no long-term control over what will become of it, what sort of legacy will develop and who will listen to it. Look at the Black Legions. It took almost a decade for hysteria for form around that cult. What makes one outlet more valid than the other? Is a cover version of a classic track more valid than a written piece on the album that it came from? Is not more discerned from the written word, assuming it is executed with finesse and insight?

I purposefully used the term Revolution as I found appeal in its ambiguous nature. As stated earlier, it inspired me that people saw more in the conveyance of the book’s message than may have been intended, but recent developments have generated thinking that this too is a point worth clarifying. I make no apologies for positioning BM as a revolutionary form of music. Is it the same as Communism or Fascism? No. Will it be a tool to overthrow government, generate social change or incite fear into the hearts of masses of religious devotees? Not likely. Has it proven to be a genre in which some phenomenal and seldom matched musical visions have been unveiled? The answer is a resounding yes.

So, in that context, it is a revolutionary expression.

The other side of this coin is the simpler of the two; the attachment to the archaic format that is the vinyl record. As the book’s criteria cites, all submissions must have been released on vinyl. The association of 333 submissions with 33 & 1/3 revolutions per minute is not happenstance. Drop the needle onto an LP and watch it go round; watch it revolve. There’s not a lot more to it than that.

Finally, there isn’t an elaborate master plan for printing a zillion copies of this book and for it to become a best seller. I expect those who submitted pieces for it to be interested in the end result and BM acolytes who are wanting another vessel to further explore in the realm of classic offerings discussed within its pages should also find it holds merit. Ultimately if anyone reading these pieces gets the inspiration to listen to one of these chosen records and hear it through the perspective of another, hopefully gaining something even greater through this ritual, then the greatest goal has been achieved.

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