Home > Black Metal > Sturmgeist – Black Metal and Italian Futurism

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.

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