The cultural differences between different regions of the world are today far less than many years before but in general they are still there. Globalization, the constant technological evolution, the mixing of cultures and people, political power games etc have played a great role in creating a homogenized global culture system but when one scratches the surface of the TV laden brainwashed today's world, the fundamental differences are still there. Signs of this fact can be found anywhere.
The way the americans perceive black metal (at least today) is way different from the way europeans do. Actually the thing came to a point that often the music americans think of as black metal is no bm at all. Perhaps it is difficult for a country with a very recent and rootless cultural history to perceive forms of music that have a spiritual and cultural background that is rooted thousands of years back. The early americans wasted decades trying to systematically extinguish any source of the previously prevalent culture in their(?) soil. All these in order to conclude to today's civilization of the burger and coke. I realize that I am oversimplifying things but I think I am not altering the picture.
So for most of the americans black metal is just another form of music, just a sequence of sounds (preferably the sounds of norwegian bands from early '90s) and all the rest be damned. Lyrics are irrelevant, the philosophical and spiritual background is considered unnecessary and so on.
Of course not all people are the same and there are obviously individuals that are talented enough to break out of the norm. Such individuals have created remarkable art the last few years that has mistakenly been described as black metal. Using the basic sound of norwegian bands blended with hardcore which is mostly where those bands come from and an amazing urban aesthetic that passes from the lyrics to the overall aura of the music, they recorded some of the most amazing music I have ever heard. It is difficult to categorize it but none should care about categorizing great art.
Woe head towards that direction with Quietly, Undramatically but this is a record that leaves me puzzled. Their debut A Spell for the Death of Man was a masterfully crafted black metal record. This one adopts the urban ways described before plus some of those parts that most people call shoegaze and these are the parts I wholeheartedly hate and ruin a large part of the record. Someone wrote that the proper title for the album should be Quietly, Melodramatically and maybe it is dragging it to far but it is still indicative of the albums aura. No way the record is bad...it is maybe that I expected something different from a band that started playing what themselves described as 'raw, sloppy satanic black metal'. Six words from which only 'metal' applies to Woe today. On the other hand it's not the band's fault that I am seldom in the mood of listening to such music...and when I am, I go for Ludicra that are the undisputed kings of their kind.
And if I see another record with trees/branches/leaves/mountains on the cover I swear I am going to set a nice fire to the nearest forest.
Xasthur is far from being a band I like. Furthermore it isn't a band I usually think in relation with bands such the ones I described above. Yet the following video is very much in line with the urban and desolate feeling they incorporate. Plus it is very good.
From the West to the East
Three records I heard recently that had a certain eastern vibe and are worth mentioning (one of them actually deserves all the praise I can give)...
Weapon - From The Devil's Tomb
Weapon's second full album came as an apocalyptic shock devastating anything that dared stand on it's way, leaving only ashes behind. The fact that a band I followed closely for years and had great faith in their potential, managed to shock me with the extremely high quality of their new work is amazing. I have written before that I consider this the second best black metal record of the year, as I reserve the first position for Deathspell Omega but I think that even if DsO deliver a record of the caliber I expect, Weapon are going to give them a hard time.
Drakonian Paradigm was an excellent record but it pales in comparison with the new one. It is brutal when needed, mystical at all times, calculated and precise but not mechanical. Furthermore there's an oriental occult aura prevalent throughout the whole album with eastern melodies that makes From the Devil's Tomb a poisonous elixir that should be approached with caution and mostly with the respect it deserves. The eastern influence is integrated in the music and doesn't act as a foreign part pretentiously added in the songs., leaving no chance to any of the usual imbeciles to use the word 'folk' in relation to the album.So, this is one of the best (true) black metal albums of the last ten years and a fine addition to the Devil's weaponry. Praise Satan.
Birch Mountain - Silence Is Complete
Death metal from sweden with ties with an old swedish band called Egypt and it is not old school. The damned trees are on the cover again but I hope the two band members are there to burn them down so that complete silence is achieved.
The Egypt connection probably explains a lot about the eastern influence on the album that is omnipresent but again it is nicely integrated to the band's music and overall character so that it sounds perfectly natural. They don't overdo it with the speed which is a wise choice considering the atmosphere they want to create. All in all a very good record and one of the best 'modern' death metal jobs I have heard lately. I quote 'modern' so that no one will thing this is about one of those clinical and plastic abominations that pass as modern death metal. The album is available for free download by the band so all ye beggars can head over here.
Melechesh - The Epigenesis
Melechesh for me have always been a band promising more than they delivered. As time passed and the promises were not fulfilled I learned to take what they were offering never asking for more. Nevertheless it is a pity when a band with potential restricts itself to just good works when they could make great or monumental records. The Epigenesis is not an exception. Ghouls Of Nineveh that starts the record is the best track on it. Founded on a robust slow paced rhythm it develops in a freeform manner that as the song progresses it sounds like a band jamming, free of the restrictions of certain genres of music. Those restrictions appear on the rest of the album when the band tries to match the thrash or black metal rules with the middle eastern/folk elements. When this fucking word ('folk' that is) appears it ruins my whole listening experience and unfortunately Melechesh are often approaching dangerously the borders of folk metal, a genre that I think is more of a caricature than a proper music style. I will always doubt the usefulness of folk interludes or instrumental songs, I will always be negative in the use of traditional instruments in black metal. I have to deal with the fucking bouzouki in my everyday life in this fuckholle that is my home. I don't need it in my black metal.
All in all Melechesh once more didn't deliver what they promised and could. And I'm afraid this time my patience is almost over. I think they could benefit by studying what Weapon and Birch Mountain have done in order to incorporate the eastern element in their music effortlessly and naturally.