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Eluveitie – Celtic Folk Metal in Atlanta

November 27, 2010 1 comment

Eluveitie - "Slania" (2008)

Yes, Atlanta folk metal heads, start saving your shekels and drachmas now because February is shaping up to be a busy month, a regular folk metal paradise. The mighty Polka Black Metal mavens, Finntroll, will rollick at Masquerade on February 1st and Eluveitie, the Swiss band that plays “authentic, traditional Celtic folk music combined in a unique way with modern styled melodic death metal,” will hit the Masquerade on February 26th with 3 Inches of Blood, Holy Grail and System Divide.

Now try and wrap your head around this: Eluveitie incorporates instruments like the hurdy-gurdy, flute and bagpipes (!) into their unique combination of Celtic music and death metal.  Did I mention that their early work was sung in Gaulish, a dead Celtic language that predates Latin?

Eluveitie – “Inis Mona

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iijKLHCQw5o&feature=fvst

Glorior Belli – Seasick Blues for Satan

Glorior Belli - "Meet Us at the Southern Sign"

Glorior Belli – “Meet Us at the Southern Sign” (Candlelight Records, 2009)

One thing has been missing from Pitch Black Brigade’s musing on Black Metal: The Dark One, Lucifer, the inspiration for the genre. Why? The whole Satan thing is pretty boring.  I guess at the end of the day I have a hard time thinking of grown men (and it’s always men for some reason) painted up like giant sweaty panda bears in “corpse paint,” yelling about how they serve their Dark Overlord as anything but joke.  Can you take song titles like “Satanic Black Metal in Hell,” “Goatcraft Torment,” and “Through the Grace of Hell” seriously? I can’t. I am, however, going to redress this imbalance today and tackle a true Black Metal – in every sense of the word – record: Glorior Belli‘s monstrous 2009 missive “Meet Us at the Southern Sign.

Quick – what European country is churning out the most interesting and diverse Black Metal right now? Norway, right? Wrong. The correct answer is France. Yes, that’s right, France – home to berets, baguettes, soft cheeses, Bernard Hinault, Sartre and Godard – is the epicenter for innovative and thrilling Black Metal, including shoegaze Black Metal critical darlings, Alcest, and the mind-blowing metal label, A Season of Mist. And you can add Glorior Belli to this list.

Glorior Belli crawled out of  the “temperamental suburbs of Paris in December 2002” to play what they call a mixture of “Blues and Southern Rock textures with the brutal, ominous, doom-laden vibe typical of Black Metal.”**  So what does it add up to? Black Metal blues played at seasick, lurching tempos.

Meet Us at the Southern Sign” is their second album. It is also one of the best records I have heard during the past few years. What makes it so great?  It’s sounds as if Lightnin’ Hopkins sold his soul to a Satanic Greg Ginn (of the immortal Black Flag) and decided to head to Europe and play some metal or James Blood Ulmer decided he was Captain Black Metal instead of Captain Black (welcome to the only Black Metal review in the history of humankind that has mentioned Blood Ulmer). Glorior Belli is blues for Satan. Don’t believe me?  Check out this Twilight Zone-like, drunken “Dancing Days” by Led Zeppellin riff:

Glorior Belli – “Swamp that Shame” – “Meet Us at the Southern Sign“:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AakV7dnGDgw

Or this one – Glorior Belli – “There Is but One Light” from “Meet Us at the Southern Sign“:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xa5VPBpDykQ&playnext=1&list=PLE072FD0273D07A02&index=65

It sounds like an unhinged (but better recorded) Flipper if Flipper owed their allegiance to Satan.

Normally I would have a hard time recommending anything I’ve reviewed on Pitch Black Brigade to my friends, the friends I have spent a lifetime engaged in a conversation about music with – Jimmy, Danny, Randy and William, because most of this stuff will be forgotten in the next 5 to 10 years. But not this album.  It is unlike anything other Black Metal out there. Get it and have your mind blown.

*http://www.gloriorbelli.com/biography, accessed 11.26.10 at 4:12 p.m.

**http://www.myspace.com/gloriorbelli, accessed 11.26.10 at 4:18 p.m.


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Black Metal Theory Symposium II

November 23, 2010 1 comment

Black Metal Theory Symposium II

Does it get any better than this?  Black Metal Theory Symposium II in London on January 13, 2011.  The theme for this symposium is Black Metal and ecology:  “A new word is required that conjoins ‘black’ and ‘ecology’: melancology, a word in which can be heard the melancholy affect appropriate to the conjunction.”

“The Black Metal Theory Symposium thus invites speculation and interventions on the blackening of the earth, landscapes of extinction, starless aeon, sempiternal nightmares, black horizons, malign essences, Qliphothic forces from beyond … in a general re-conceptualization of black ecology.”

Finntroll – Finnish Polka Black Metal in Atlanta

Finntroll - “Nifelvind”

That’s right – I just found out that the mighty Finntroll, Finland’s uber purveyor of polka- and foxtrot-inflected Black Metal, will be in Atlanta at Masquerade on February 1, 2011 with Finnish “heroic folk metal” legends, Ensiferum.  Tickets are on sale now. I will be there. You have been warned.

Amon Amarth – How I Learned to Stop Worrying about Cookie Monster Vocals and Love Amon Amarth

November 20, 2010 1 comment

Amon Amarth - "Twilight of the Thunder God"

Amon Amarth – “Twilight of the Thunder God” (Metal Blade Records, 2008)

I owe Amon Amarth an apology. I admit it – I was wrong. When I first heard their album, “Twilight of the Thunder God,” I thought it was the most ridiculous thing I had ever come across. Why? Amon Amarth sport the worst (or the best, I guess it depends on your view) Cookie Monster death metal vocals ever. As the legendary Chuck Gill noted, “I could get into this if it wasn’t for the vocals” (and Chuck should know because he pioneered this vocal style singing backup during the encores of Neon Christ‘s sets in 1984 and 1985). The final nail in the coffin, as far as I was concerned, was that this is a chunk of vinyl featuring a bunch of grown men singing songs about Odin, Thor and Asgaard, yearning for the good old days of, say, 800 A.D – some 1,200 years ago. I didn’t just think it was bad; I thought it was retarded. But I recant officially here and now. After listening to it literally about 40 times (hey, I take this reviewing stuff seriously), I have to say I love this album.

But I’m getting ahead of myself – let’s start at the beginning.

Amon Amarth are a Swedish band founded in 1988. I read that they got their name from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I wouldn’t know. I’ve tried several times to read it but I never made it through the series; it bored me to death. They have released seven albums filled with songs bearing jovial titles like “Valhall Awaits Me,” “Gods of War Arise,” “Fate of the Norns,” “Valkyries Ride,” and “With Odin on Our Side.”

"The Mighty Thor"

I guess I was predisposed to not take Amon Amarth seriously because, I have to admit, the only reason I know anything about Norse mythology is because of Marvel Comic’s The Mighty Thor, which I read as a child way back in ye olde 1970s. In school back then we flogged Greek and Roman mythology like a dead Trojan horse but no one ever mentioned the Norse gods.  The result? Everything I know about Odin, Thor, Loki and the realm of Asgaard come from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby – not exactly an auspicious and  accurate introduction to a topic.

So how did I learn to stop worrying about the annoying Cookie Monster vocals and love Amon Amarth? The music – it kills. Take a listen to the album’s title track and first song:

Twilight of the Thunder God

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnT4VEaOALc>

There is a video for it too but just listen to the song first because honestly the visuals and the narrative, if you can call it that, detract from the music. It is hard to get past the silly Viking costumes and the yearning for times when men were men, Vikings were Vikings, and women, well, they didn’t want much to do with men or Vikings. But if you want to watch the video here it is:

Twilight of the Thunder God” (official video)

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQVrl7wRcNg>

Iron Maiden - "Aces High"

In particular, it was Amon Amarth‘s guitar work – the harmonic, two guitar riffing – that changed my mind. Why? Because it reminds me of the mighty Iron Maiden.  Listen to riff-age on Maiden‘s “Aces High”:

Aces High

<http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0RZ9Zco2eY&feature=fvs>

Now go back and listen to “Twilight of the Thunder God” again. I’m not saying that Amarth stole the riff – I just think they are similar in terms of style. And the Maiden-like two guitar attack and the melodies won me over; they overcame the shortcoming inherent in the Cookie Monster vocal style.

And Amarth is melodic, really melodic with hooks, a rarity in metal land. I have been shocked to find myself walking around the house singing, “Thor, Odin’s son, protector of mankind” or sitting at my desk at work singing “We are the guardians, guardians of Asgaard.”

I can honestly admit now that Amon Amarth are one of my favorite bands and I can’t wait for their new album.

Sturmgeist – Black Metal and Italian Futurism

Sturmgeist - "Manifesto Futurista" (2009)

Sturmgeist – “Manifesto Futurista” (Inhuman Music, 2009)

If you don’t think we are living in a mixed-up crazy postmodern pastiche of a world, try this on for size: Sturmgeist‘s “Manifesto Futurista” is an “Avant Black Metal” album that explores the “aesthetics of early 20th-century Futurism,” an art movement founded in Italy, made by a band that was formed by “a Norwegian citizen with remote German origins who spent four years in the Sorbonne in Paris”* (“remote German origins,” qu’est-ce que c’est? One of my dogs has a little German short hair pointer in him – does that mean he has “remote German origins?”).* Did I mention the songs on the platter are sung in either Norwegian, German, French, English and Italian?

Cornelius von Jackhelln is said Sorbonne-going, Norwegian with the prominent von to hip everyone to his remote Teutonic-ness. Just in case you didn’t notice the von, he decided to slap a Germanic name on his band – Sturmgeist means “Storm Spirit” in, what else, German. The “inspiration” for the band’s name came from the most Germanic of all Germans, Goethe. Von Jackhelln (I was really tempted to call him von Jackwagon but he does have “hell” in his name so I’d probably best not do it) supposedly grabbed “Sturmgeist” from one of Goethe’s ballads from the “‘Sturm und Drang’ era.”* Honestly, I haven’t read enough Goethe to know if this legend is true or not.

Last year von Jackhelln and his mates released an album called “Manifesto Futurista” on the Inhuman Music label.  It, in their words, “explores the aesthetics of early 20th-century Futurism.” Black Metal about Futurism? I was flabbergasted when I came across this because I thought I had already seen and heard all the freaky Black Metal out there. Futurism and Black Metal is a pretty strange combination; it’s akin to a Black Metal album about Impressionism, Pointillism or Dadaism.

Wynne Nevison - "The Arrival" (1913)

Who were the Futurists? Cubist-like paintings that attempt to capture the fervor, speed and iconography of modernity spring to mind when most folks ponder the Futurists and Futurism.  But philosophically Futurism stood for more than embracing automobiles, airplanes, turbines, modern metropolises, bridges, factories, locomotives, steamships and electric wires.  Futurists wanted to destroy the past:

“Come on! Set fire to the library shelves. Turn aside the canals and flood the museums! . . . Oh, the joy of seeing the glorious old canvases bobbing adrift on those waters, discolored and shredded! . . . Take up your pickaxes, your axes and hammers and wreck, wreck the venerable cities, pitilessly!” cried Italian writer Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in the conservative Parisian newspaper, Le Figaro, in 1909.  Here are some tenants excerpted from Marinetti’s famous Manifesto Futurista:

  • Love of danger, the habit of energy and fearlessness.
  • Except in struggle, there is no more beauty. No work without an aggressive character can be a masterpiece.
  • We will glorify war – the world’s only hygiene.
  • We will destroy museums, libraries, academies of every kind, will fight moralism, feminism, every opportunistic or utilitarian cowardice.

Why would a Black Metal band be interested in exploring Futurism?  Because Sturmgeist hearts struggle, aggression and will just like the Futurists: “Sturmgeist is the sound of struggle, the noise of will reckless and relentless,” as their MySpace site relates.*  Interesting subject matter for someone with “remote German origins,” right? Too many Nietzsche classes at the Sorbonne or thinly-veiled fascination with Mien Kampf? You decide.  In the end, “Manifesto Futurista” is . . . uh . . . a conflicted album with Strumgeist imbibing part of the Futurist dogma but also trying – weakly, I might add – to distance itself from the more outrageous proclamations like war is the “world’s only hygiene.”

For all the rhetoric about the uselessness of pre-existing art forms, musically the Sturmgeist album is a pretty standard Black Metal album.  It fulfills all the requirements of the genre: the bacon sizzling, tremolo picking treble guitar, “blast beat” kick drum action, some thrash-like tempos, and constipated, aggro, “unearthly” vocals. The album does, however, have something that sets it apart from most Black Metal recordings – low end, bass, in the mix, a rarity in the dark land of Black Metal.

Himmelen Faller is the best song on the album, especially after 00:46 when it really starts to cook. “The Siegfried Order” and “Skyggestrykerne” also rock; they remind me of Vreid and that’s a compliment.

*Quotes taken from Sturmgeist’s MySpace page, accessed 11.10.10 at 3:32 p.m.

Metal Memories from Behind the Iron Curtain

Accept - "Balls to the Wall" (1983)

By Agnieszka

Pitch Black Bridage welcomes our newest contributor – Agnieszka.  Here are some of her memories of metal in Polska – well, ok, it’s Accept so it’s sort of metal.  Welcome, Agnes!

It came unexpectedly, like a lightning bolt from the sky. I was enjoying my sandwich and daydreaming about what girls usually daydream about –shoes, when I heard that high pitched *ping*. New message! Hooray! I glanced at the screen to see the origin of the missive. The high priest of the Pitch Black Brigade, himself. What the hell does he want now, I thought. A curt, yet gentle order was starring me in the face: “So are you going to write your first post to the Black Metal blog about Kreator?” I smirked.  How could I say ABSOLUTELY NOT! to that?

I remember Kreator from my days in Poland! But my memory of them is severely clouded by a different memory, also Teutonic in origin. Of tall men in black, tight leather pants, lots of long blond, curly hair, strangely shaped guitars, and a little chubby dude with a menacing facial expressions, prancing around the stage, singing in a language I knew not. Their name was Accept. This video was on every (all two of them) channel of the state owned TV in 1984 or so.

Accept – “Balls to the Wall”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_3TlrZLpQ0

As a 9 year old, I think I was impressed. More, I think, by a German band singing in English, and the non-rock’n’roll physique of the front man, than Accept‘s musical prowess. But, perhaps it is time to reevaluate. The video does look pretty good with no sound on, however.