A Little More on Infernal Majesty

So, you wanted to know more about Infernäl Mäjesty, eh? Well, here’s a fuller bio of the early years. I cut this for space, but if you’re interested, here it be.

Kenny Hallman and fellow guitarist Steve Terror answered a newspaper classified ad placed by former Rapid Tears drummer Rick Nemes. They hit it off. With Nemes’s bud Psycopath taking on the bass duties, the four got to jamming. When it came time to find a singer, the guys went back to the ad well. Hallman, in an interview with Mirgilus Siculorum, remembers getting “tons of calls”, but those trying out weren’t prepared for the kind of music these fellers were playing. Hallman again: “So we held auditions for about a week and I [remember] this one guy who walked in and he looked just like Mick Jagger. He had the look and the moves. This guy told us that he was the greatest singer that we would hear at the auditions and that there would be no reason to listen to anyone else. Then as soon as we started playing the guy shit his pants as he had never heard anything that heavy in his life. The expression on his face was priceless.” Needless to say, the job remained open.

“So when I turned 18, I moved to Toronto and started looking in the classifieds of the Toronto Star,” Chris Bailey said recently to Tough Riffs. “I saw an [ad] looking for a metal singer for a band that wanted to write all original music, influenced by Slayer, to take on the metal world with the idea of writing the heaviest music ever created at that time.” He called Nemes. He auditioning over the phone. Success. “I showed up at a small rehearsal studio, the air thick with the haze of smoked Hash. That was a good first impression. I knocked on the door, walked in, met everybody and the rest is history.” Bailey was in.

Now with a voice, the group needed a name. First stab? Lord Satans Deciples. Yeah, LSD. It, thankfully, didn’t stick. For a spell, the band took on the name of a song Psycopath was working on: Overlord. But, even in the pre-Google age, they soon found out that Overlord was already taken. Attempt number three according to Bailey: “Ultimately we decided on Infernal Majesty from our frequent readings of passages from the Satanic Bible. It was in plain sight the whole time calling out to us.” In a profile penned to be the PR for High Roller’s 2016 None Shall Defy repress, Bailey explained the band name’s defining characteristic: “The use of the Umlaut is more a matter of distinction.”

Things moved fast. Six months after forming, Infernäl Mäjesty had a four-song demo. “We self-financed it and released 2,000 copies of which we sent out 200-300 out to fanzines, magazines, and record companies,” Hallman recalled. He also noted a key recipient: “One magazine in Europe loved the demo so much that they told Roadrunner about us … We finally sent them a demo and they sent us a contract. We had many offers to sign with labels at that time … so we took them to a lawyer to find the best deal and that happened to be the Roadrunner deal ….”

Contract in hand, Infernäl Mäjesty headed back to Metalworks Studios in Toronto to lay down a full-length. Psycopath and Nemes also donned the producer hats. Then, as band bios colorfully noted, “on a snowy day in 1987,” None Shall Defy hit the streets, tagged with the Roadrunner (then Roadracer in North America) catalog ID of RR 9609. Oh, and quite the cover. Bailey: “When we commissioned the artist we gave him the concept and he painted exactly what we had described. We wanted the Lord of Hellfire to be consuming the heavens, tearing apart the fabric of space and time.”

What was the immediate reaction to the record, then? Well, in 1987, the music business moved a lot slower. “At the time we had no idea the response that would follow after its release,” Bailey said. “…it didn’t really hit me that some people actually liked it until a fan from [Poland] sent us a letter in the mail explaining in great detail how our music destroyed his speakers and that it was the best thing ever.”

In addition to, according to band bios, “a considerable amount of fan mail [sent] from almost every country in the world,” None Shall Defy “received very promising reviews from leading magazines such as, Metal Hammer, Aardschok and Kerrang.” But the print press wasn’t enough. To help get the word out, Infernäl Mäjesty paid for a video. In 1988, MuchMusic would air “None Shall Defy” during a Pepsi Power Hour that Hallman and Nemes hosted. During the interview portion, the two mentioned an upcoming European tour with Whiplash. They even put together a contest: Name the, ahem, “Lord of Hellfire” on None Shall Defy’s cover. Apparently “Bob” wasn’t cutting it.

Then, things started to unravel. The next time MuchMusic viewers would see Infernäl Mäjesty on live TV, Bailey would be standing with two new band members: a bassist and drummer. The three winced when the VJ inferred that their current video looked cheap. But, hey, congrats on naming “Deadalus”, Gordy. Pretty soon after, though it’s hard to tell exactly when, IM and Roadrunner would part.

In some interviews, Hallman is pragmatic about the move: “The relationship with Roadrunner could have been a lot better. They never really supported us in any major way. We had to book and finance all our own tours … so we decided that we would go it alone.” In others, he hints at the instability then whirling within: “Rick Nemes … was doing all the talking for Infernal Majesty … Roadrunner was just talking to Rick about the future and Rick told them that he really didn’t want to tour that much until the 2nd album was done. Well Roadrunner didn’t want to hear that … I know that was our biggest downfall, we should have toured when that album came out, if we did then things would be different for Infernal Majesty today.”

Bailey backed Hallman up: “To this day I still have no idea what was going on in Rick’s head but it was devastating to the band. … It was explained to me that Rick and Psycopath had informed Roadrunner that we weren’t going to tour until the next album, which was unknown to the rest of us at the time. We were shocked to say the least.”

This betrayal, Bailey remembers, put the kibosh on that planned European tour, one that would’ve included a festival stop with Death Angel and Pestilence on the bill. The latter even covered “Night of the Living Dead” at Metal Attack Festival held in Holland on September 7, 1988, which adds some weight to the claim. Regardless of what actually transpired when and why, the damage was done. Infernäl Mäjesty would limp around for a few more years with different lineups and even crazier members. Yeah, crazier. Meet Don “Vince” Kunz, Canada’s metal vampire.

Favorite Albums – 2016

Upchucking one last thought-vomit. You just want picks? You got ’em: ctrl+f to ****.

The final Aquarius Records New Arrival List was published this year, as if 2016 needed to be the end of anything else. (“Hold ma beer, gonna git a few others.” – 2016.) The aQ List, a bimonthly transmission from the decades-old, San Francisco-based brick and mortar independent record store, was a must-read for those who liked to be surprised by sounds and found the weird wonderful. It was a hell of a thing. “Was.” Jeeze.

At first glance, the List probably didn’t look like much of a feat. It aggregated music. It contained snippets of sound. It blurbed every entry, each written in a voice that could be described as if an excited golden retriever learned to type and got way into the avant-garde. The record store’s website design was somewhere between BBS and Geocities. Hype Machine definitely wouldn’t touch it. But it was always geared more towards content, anyway.

By fishing out the obscure and askew that mainstream publications wouldn’t touch until aQ signed off, a tiny storefront in the non-touristy end of SF became the Mecca for a certain kind of music collector. aQ provided a service in a sense, panning in the impossibly wide river of new releases for weird-ass nuggets of gold. Adventurous record buyers and music listeners eventually caught on. aQ influenced them. In turn, those people influenced other people who influenced other people and on and on. That cycle turned aQ’s taste into a recognizable, definable aesthetic, one that a lot of people then used to form their own. So, think of aQ as less of a retailer and more cult figure. Shopping at aQ said as much about the shopper as the music that shopper bought.

But, I mean, it WAS about the music. Unlike, say, a CBGB that got turned into something else after its demise, aQ will always be remembered for the music first. That’s what made aQ. By reading the List, you knew you were going to get stuff you wouldn’t hear elsewhere. From the List’s recurring intro:

“And as always, thanks for reading the list, passing it on to all your friends who love weird music, shopping at our store, turning -us- on to all sort of great stuff, and helping us spread the word and get all this great music to the people who love it. YOU!! And as always, please realize that we work really hard on the list, so if you find out about stuff through us, please try to buy your records from us. That way we can keep on doing what we do, and we’ll always be here with our ears to the ground, and with cds full of metalcore pitbulls, death metal parrots, gamelan playing elephants, recordings of glaciers cracking, ice melting, zamboni’s, life support systems, drag races, audience applause, and of course self flagellating Norwegian dwarves, moaning telephone wires, recorded exorcisms, acapella straight edge metalcore, high school battles of the bands, movie theater organ music, Christian psychedelic folk, Bhangra Black Sabbath as well as all the metal, indie rock, electronica, punk rock, reggae, dub, sixties psych, krautrock, classic rock, country and anything else your heart may desire. So thanks. A bunch!”

If any of those descriptors sound familiar (Opium Jukebox!), you probably have aQ to thank. A bunch.

And here’s when we get all Debbie Downer: Where the heck are we going to find those things now?

aQ was a music distribution point. I’m sure people have a cooler name for it, but distribution point is what I’ve got. These have always existed in the recorded music era to an extent. Distribution points, like the name implies, help music fans to find new things to be fanatical about. We all have tens if not hundreds of DPs and most aren’t just record stores. Newspapers, magazines, blogs, zines, YouTube channels, playlists, mixtapes, friends, liner notes: all DPs to varying degrees. Some are static like Nurse With Wound’s List. Some change focuses all the time to capture new trends. All are there to winnow down the thousands of new releases (or millions of older ones) into a manageable few. Instead of ALL, you get the good. No one has time for ALL, no matter the possible rewards. Trust me, IO readers. I tried.

But, and this is big, while you can acclimate yourself to these DPs and grow comfortable with their assumptions, the surprises still remain because you’re dealing with the taste of someone else. That unpredictability is a prime part of music discovery. That, OH! I never knew I would like this! You live for that stuff. Because, well, if we know what we’re going to find, why would we search for it in the first place?

One of my distribution points, one of the kind souls I’ve entrusted to listen to music for me and then present the worthwhile stuff to me, is Weed Temple. Weed Temple is a blog run out of Poland that traffics in noisy stuff of a thousand different shades. The blog’s runner also happens to highlight a ton of artists from his home country. I would have never found Ptaki or Alameda 5 without this guy. Like, I bet you didn’t know that Poland has a juke scene. Now you do. Boom, discovery. Thanks, Weed Temple. A bunch.

Of course, I’m not writing anything you didn’t already know. DPs exist. They’re mostly virtuous. They help more than than the scene guardians who run them intentionally or unintentionally hinder. ‘Distribution points shape your listening habits and your taste? Cool. Knew that.’ So yeah, I won’t type out ultra mansplain-y paragraphs to stick down your gullet like a gavage. You’re smart. But, instead, here’s a mental exercise: Think about what happens when a distribution point goes away.

Yeah. Music just DISAPPEARS.

As an example, if you thought the only good grindcore album that came out this year was Wormrot’s, you’re wrong. It’s just that Wormrot was only one of a handful of grinders that received the kind of PR push that got the music out to higher profile distribution points. (PR IS metal these days and the biggest contacts shape at least 75 percent of what gets heard. I remember Jordan Campbell once asked followers to name the best album they heard that wasn’t on Haulix and it was like, yeahhhhhhhh… .) Grind, when looking at the big picture, had a fine year, just like any other post-‘Scum’ year. But who is covering grind with any aplomb these days? The old Braindead Zine, which was a great hub of gore in the ’00s, hasn’t posted an update in years. So, with no spawning pond with an elevation above ask-a-grinder, most grind just sort of swims around now, hoping for someone to catch it. Cruel fate: If no one catches it, no one is influenced. And, crazily, not having an influence ends up influencing the public opinion. Visibility equals viability. “Grind had an off year” is now true to a lot of people in that a lot of people believe it.

You know, there are a lot of genres I like that I just don’t listen to anymore because my distribution point is gone. It’s not that I stopped liking the music or don’t think the music is no longer being made, it’s that I can’t overcome the logistics to hear the music. Too much stuff. I mean, I really, REALLY miss noise rock. I miss prog of the Anekdoten set. I miss boom bap rap and elegant instrumental DJ trips. I miss twinkly math rock. I miss woozy, ambient-washed IDM. I miss Joe, my jazz guy. I miss K, my visual kei lady. I miss Magnus, my Swedish hardcore friend. I miss SO MUCH. I just don’t have the time to dig through every single one of those style’s releases to find the stuff I might like, or, more importantly, might GROW to like. It’s way easier now to surf to Traxsource and see what jackin house is good this week. Or, to head to any number of underground punk channels. Path of least resistance, which, unfortunately, is one of the most powerful drivers of human behavior.

But here’s the bigger, more nihilistic exercise: If you didn’t have that one crucial distribution point in your life, the one that steered you to that all-important self-identifier, who would you be? I think about this all of the time. If I didn’t meet the right people or accidentally stumble across the right song or channel surf to the right movie, would I still be the me of today? I think we tend to believe that the stuff we like, that we let form our identity similar to the structural strands of a spiderweb, would’ve been weaved into ourselves regardless, like we were fated to find THAT album in THAT bin. It’s probably not true, though. Who we are happened because of pure chance; just six-sided die rolls smacking against the universe’s dark-matter-obscured DM board. ‘Alright, 20! Enjoy talking to your older sibling about Husker Du!’ ‘Doh, natural one! Welp, have fun waiting for EMF to make a comeback, kid.’ That kind of stuff. Maybe I was a fried modem away from being a KoRn devotee for the rest of my life. Maybe seven-year-old me turns on the wrong radio station and now I have a tattoo of the lyrics to “Beth” on my stomach. THINK ABOUT HOW TENUOUS ALL OF THIS STUFF IS!

So, it isn’t just the music that disappears. It’s, like, lives, dude. Whole lives change. All that potentiality and possibility vanishes. And then you get boring-ass people who pray to the altar of Spotify, happy to hear safe recommendations encased in the carbonite of their own feedback loops. Barf.

Think of a world without Aquarius Records? Think of all the stuff we’ll miss and all of the stuff we don’t know that we’ll never know? Don’t have to think, it’s now. “Now.” Jeeze. What a year.

****

20. Noname – Telefone
Previous collaborators Noname and Chance the Rapper, two Chicago MCs, both released well-received mixtapes this year. The tapes pair well, both matching moments of joy with memories of sunsets, both with a flow like a friend reciting Shakespeare in a burger joint. Make no mistake, though, Noname’s is the main course.

https://nonameraps.bandcamp.com/

19. bvdub – Yours Are Stories of Sadness
More impressions than songs, these soundscapes ache with loneliness. Comparative miniatures in the Brock Van Wey cannon, but they still pack a punch. Maybe more so. Versatile, too. In the Eno sense, they can be wallpaper or acts of a play; they hold up either way. Almost makes you forget that the album’s inspiration is, like, the wet dream of all mopes.

https://bvdub.bandcamp.com/alb…/yours-are-stories-of-sadness

18. 2814 – Rain Temple
Dubby, ambient “vaporwave” never sounded so wet, like El Niño amassing over the set of Blade Runner. Transforms your surroundings, making chronically sunny San Diego feel like midnight Seattle. What the future sounded like in 1982.

https://dreamcatalogue.bandcamp.com/album/rain-temple

17. Marquis Hawkes – Social Housing
Dance music that’s not for clubs but community centers. Has that earthiness that’s scrubbed out of festival playlists. Soul, in other words. Genres run the gamut, but the warm vibe remains the same.

https://marquishawkes.bandcamp.com/album/social-housing

16. Shifted – Appropriation Stories
Hypnotic. Like dub techno, you lose yourself in the sound design. But, not inert. Something living is lurking.

https://shiftedoffical.bandcamp.com/

15. Deerhoof – The Magic
Dependably wonderful Deerhoof makes another dependably wonderful album. Not as electronic as recent efforts, but still the band you wish was yours. Pop, psych, and the best record collection. Hops styles, lands on hooks.

https://deerhoof.bandcamp.com/album/the-magic

14. Masayoshi Fujita & Jan Jelinek – Schaum
On this follow up to their masterful 2010 release, Fujita and Jelinek again melt together the timbres of vibraphone and ambient electronics. The art of slowly drifting tones.

https://masayoshifujiitajanjelinek.bandcamp.com/album/schaum

13. Vinyl Williams – Brunei
Dream pop with a progressive side. Under the shimmering mist there’s a vitality to the playing. It also rocks sneakily without the dream-like distance of shoegazing snoozers.

https://vinylwilliams.bandcamp.com/album/brunei

12. The Mercury Program – New Myths
No band does it better. Takes the post-rock jazz of Tortoise and refines it until derpy irritants are gone. Lovely little miniatures. Don’t take forever on the next one, please.

https://themercuryprogram.bandcamp.com/album/new-myths

11. Biosphere – Departed Glories
Notable for what isn’t there. Maybe one of the quietest albums of the year; epically empty, even. Sounds like a chalkboard looks after it has been erased. What’s left is a medieval sort of sound. Gloomy. Grim. The reaper looms.

https://biosphere.bandcamp.com/album/departed-glories

10. Naked Lights – On Nature
If the Slits were into krautrock. Spiky and dissonant and zen-like when it zones out. H.L. Nelly is Ari Up and Damo Suzuki. Probably the best vocal performance of the year. So charismatic. Engaging. A pied piper getting you to throw your body upon jagged guitars.

https://nakedlights.bandcamp.com/album/on-nature

9. Merrin Karras – Apex
Sound maximalism. Not in the LOUD sense, but in the WIDE. Panoramic vistas. Ambient and techno I guess, but more like watching the heavens open.

https://astrangelyisolatedplace.bandcamp.com/album/apex

8. Chihei Hatakeyama & Dirk Serries – The Storm of Silence
They picked the right title and the right label (Glacial Movements). A slow mover that doesn’t seem to do much, but does a lot with a little. Sufferers of depression will find a certain kinship here. Beautiful. Stark.

https://glacialmovements.bandcamp.com/

7. Emma Ruth Rundle – Marked for Death
Just gorgeous songwriting. Like Throwing Muses after a Brontë binge. Suitably ’90s-style alt rock dirges that hit DEEP. In the Meaghan McLaughlin mold, certainly, but definitely her own thing.

https://emmaruthrundle.bandcamp.com/album/marked-for-death

6. Floating Points – Kuiper
A little EP with a big impact. The release after a breakout is tough, but this nails it. Two longform krautrock jams that evolve above and beyond. Very catchy, very immersive.

5. Venetian Snares – Traditional Synthesizer Music
Live recording of the modular synths that might’ve bankrupted Aaron Funk. The videos are amazing: racks and racks of archaic equipment bleeping and blooping, sometimes randomly if we’re to believe the creator. Music does a chin-up on the concept, though. Breakbeats blow out the dust. The best Snares release in years.

https://venetiansnares.bandcamp.com/

4. C Duncan – The Midnight Sun
Continues to amaze. A wash of psychedelic-heavy folk, but so much grander. This release is more celestial than the others and it works perfectly. Like seeing Tim Buckley’s face in the moon, or something. Haunting. Addictive.

https://cduncan.bandcamp.com/album/the-midnight-sun

3. Solange – A Seat at the Table
One of the few albums that meant more after Election Day. Shoulders the burden of being capital “i” Important quite well because the songs are so good. But, like K. Austin Collins said about ‘Moonlight’, you kinda wish this album could just be viewed as art, not homework, for a little longer. Let it live and breathe and be human. Just an absolute masterclass of R&B. The album we’ll remember from 2016 for decades and decades.

2. Leon Vynehall – Rojus (Designed to Dance)
Man, the depth this guy finds in house music, a style that’s meant to be mostly ephemeral. There’s so much sound here. As Dave Fonseca once said, this thing has more 1s and 0s than most. Yet, the key ingredient is feeling. Booty is engaged, but shivers run up the spine, too.

1. Nikita Bondarev – Siberian Ruins
No album approximated the tenor of this year more. Lonely. Wistful. Contemplative. Grey. Bondarev has a knack for nailing loss, 2016’s dominate theme. In turn, his music feels like it wanders, hiking through desolate scenery as unconcerned birds chirp and far-off sirens sound. Every now and then there are pockets of warmth. Comfort. Little classical enclosures. But then the wind blows through the cracks in the wall and you feel it again on your bare skin.

https://klammklang.bandcamp.com/

40 Favorite Dance Tracks – 2016

40. Leon Vynehall – Blush
‘Rojas’, the LP this is off of, is in contention for album of the year, so I wanted to rank this low to give others a chance to shine. Just remember, 39 picks into the future, that this is absolutely marvelous.

39. Slim Hustla – Trapped in Da Speed Force
Runs that twee Goldroom track through a washing machine. Comes out like your forgotten pocketed receipts do.

38. Paperkraft – No Other
Sucks the scariness out of Human Resource, somehow. Bathed in moonlight.

37. ghettohousedrummachine – Saudade
When the underground is freed up to do anything, you get unfussy little tracks like this. Pretty sample.

36. Dossa & Locuzzed – Dance
The production on this is insane. Need a sound engineer? Dial a drum and bass producer.

35. Jakub Lemiszewski – DAAAMN
Didn’t get to a lot of footwork this year, but this is delightfully askew.

https://polishjuke.bandcamp.com/album/daaamn

34. LK – Party People
Ah, the allure of drums. Go nod your head, human.

https://shallnotfade.bandcamp.com/album/lk-party-people-ep

33. Sebb Junior – Please Love Me
Will make you wobble around in your cubicle. Great house shuffler.

32. KiNK – Valentine’s Groove
One groove, but NASTY. Prepare your stank face.

31. k2k – We Down For
Textures run deep. A joy to sink into.

30. Jaheim – Never (Maurice Joshua Unreleased Mix)
Everything you want soulful house to be.

29. Rhythm Masters – Feel Your Love
Just a blast to hear this one unfurl. Deep house to disco.

28. DJ WIFI – Request Line
A late release here for next summer and every other for the rest of eternity. A Zhane classic sped up with a house beat.

27. DOS – Come A Little Closer
A dream where your parents turn on the radio while you sit in the backseat of a car from decades ago. Never a bad Isley Brothers moment.

26. Agnostic – Mr. Gorbachev
One of the better uses of that Jorge Dalto sample. All you had to do was transmit it from another dimension, huh? Cake.

25. John Davis & The Monster Orchestra – Bourgie’, Bourgie’ (Louie Vega Mix)
Two of the entities responsible for three of 2015’s best dance tracks team up for this 12-minute disco roller. As Danhammer Obstkrieg says, Masters at Work indeed.

24. Jayster – Finding You
Chiptune took a backseat to house this year for me, but “Finding You” was lovely. Listen to that progression. Really next level bass programming here.

23. Sportsmen – Keep this Secret
The rigidity of the rhythms is offset wonderfully by the looseness of the original sample.

22. Classixx – Grecian Summer
As buoyant as it is an oddball. Love the round bass.

21. DJ Boring – Sunday Avenue
“Winona” will be the track people remember, but DJ Boring’s best work was this ancient-sounding throwback.

20. Micky More & Andy Tee – Night Cruiser
Hits SO hard. Warning, disco vibes solo ahead! Only reason this isn’t higher is because I played it out. Apologies, Michael Scott.

19. Folamour – Love Frequencies
Just a killer sample that Folamour doesn’t F up.

18. DJ Playstation – Press Start
Love the future past jungle on this. Could’ve been a ‘Logical Progression’ contender.

17. Lukas Nystrand von Unge – It Always Rains
Quirky little soulful number. Sample is tip-of-the-tongue, as all good ones should be.

16. Mark Funk & Danny Cruz – Givin’ My Love
Jackin house with some edge and bite. Gwen McCrae does the heavy lifting. Yo, women scorned, get out on the floor.

15. J Paul Getto – The Vibe
J Paul Getto has made a career out of feel good tunes and this is one of the feel-goodiest. Killer summer song.

14. Marquis Hawkes – Fantasy
What a jam! Hawkes knows his way around a micro sample.

13. Kemt – 100 Reasons
Nails a mood. Wait for the twinkling synths.

12. Ownglow – Not Like Me
Drum and bass rager that forgoes the heartfelt vocal trend for RPMs. This kind of glossy D&B is like modern hard rock in that most of it is dreck, but a few bangers abound.

11. Crackazat – What You’re Feeling
Half soulful house, half disco. All boogie.

10. Giorgio Rodgers – Somebody Else
Peps up an Archie Bell and the Drells stomper with jackin house’s pace. Pure euphoria.

9. Demarkus Lewis – All Night / Demarkus Lewis – Gruv Select
Excellent year for Demarkus Lewis. Two highlights among many. “Gruv Select” takes a cool-as-the-other-side-of-the-pillow spin on “The Sweetest Pain” (popular this year!). “All Night” is the booty-shaker you try to read the label of when the DJ puts it away. Both fun.

8. DJ Seinfeld – U / DJ Seinfeld – With My Love
Another twofer. Maybe lo-fi house’s true breakout star? Blurb as veiled attack on lazy journalism, incoming: Eh, maybe don’t say that around the get-off-my-lawn cloud-yellers at Fact Magazine. Anyway, not sure how “irony” can have so much atmosphere and feeling. Their loss is your gain.

7. M44K – Mstks
Proves that sometimes you’re just a killer vocal sample away from a classic. This one snatches a heartbreaker from The Miracles.

https://m44k.bandcamp.com/track/mstks

6. Bobby Analog – When Will Our Day Come
Bottles sunlight and adds a pinch of melancholy. Send it to your crush. Play it to get yourself ready for the day. Sneak it in at lunch breaks. How life should be instead of what it is.

5. AVV – Only You Know
Hazy like a planted memory. AVV is believed to be Japan’s And Vice Versa. Makes sense. Regardless of who is behind the controls, this is the perfect mix of textural mist and vocals that can cut right through. To the bone, even.

4. B9 – Bip Bap Bop
Proving that no style ever stops evolving, B9 tweaks the dubstep knob until the sounds become deep jazz. All the elements are there: dubby hits, deep bass, wum wums. However, B9 is closer to Nujabes. Nice.

3. Christopher Cross – Ride Like the Wind (Joey Negro Extended Disco Mix)
Like the Moulton, Gibbons, or M&M mixes that came before him, Joey Negro takes the Michael McDonald-speckled source and ups the epic. Transmogrifies into nearly nine minutes of giddily pure disco pleasure.

2. Black Loops – Sex
Given the title, I bet you weren’t expecting something that’s so… so… sad. At least, that’s my takeaway. The German by way of Italy duo evoke that post-midnight deep contemplation. It’s like those nights you drive away just so you can watch how the light reflects off the road markings. There’s other emotions swimming around, though. Caught somewhere between house and woozy German techno, “Sex” comes with a lot of complicated feelings.

1. Amateur Dance – It’s Really Something (Cherushii Remix)
Crazy that 21 years later, ‘Hackers’ is still shaping my life. The turd burger of 1995 is probably remembered more for an early, sorta empowered Angelina Jolie role than anything else these days, if remembered at all. But, when it came out, ‘Hackers’ provided sheltered pre-teen suburbanites a tantalizing glimpse at a future where the world could be controlled by a computer. And, not to mention, its soundtrack was the electronic inroads for many burgeoning music nerds. Underworld, The Prodigy, Carl Cox, Orbital: first steps that would become sprints back to Varese and Xenakis, digital dumpster dives for dodgy Yaman mixtape rips, and weak-kneed approaches to the altar of the god, Richard D. James. Like how lightning strikes can sometimes show up in the fossil record, ‘Hackers’ is all up in my insides. Some might call it nostalgia, but it was a transformative thing. I’m now chipping away at a career in tech. I’m still chasing songs that sound like “Halcyon & On & On.” Don’t think those things are coincidental.

Cherushii’s remix is definitely in the butter zone, what with its archaic synth swells and swirls, bouncy rhythms, and jungle snares. You can imagine Soichi Terada or, more appropriately, Lord Nikon nodding along approvingly. But, more than its elements, it’s just good. It has that classic, Orbital-esque flow where a track can be more than a static 12” section of a DJ’s set. “Something” grows and grows and GROWS, although it still stays a Proustian banger throughout. So, if this doesn’t work on you, that’s okay. It’s my favorite dance track of the year because I hear so much of myself in it.

For Whom the Force Tolls

Metallica released “Atlas, Rise!” today. It is the best Metallica song since “Moth Into Flame”, the band’s previous single. That’s something I never expected to write about Metallica ever again. But, hey, we’re here.

So, ‘Hardwired’ seems like it’s going to be a success, even if the only definable reason is that the bar is super low. After all, Metallica has been releasing irredeemable garbage for nearly 25 years. And yet, it has survived. That’s something. I tried to think of an analog in music, but few felt like a fit. Because, even through Metallica has been horrible for a long, long time, its album sales never really waned following the expected decline from ‘Metallica’ — one of the best selling albums of all time — to ‘Load.’ Pop quiz: Minus ‘Lulu’, which is only an album if used toilet paper is a book, do you know which studio album from ‘Load’ to ‘Death Magnetic’ did NOT reach the number one spot on the charts? Trick question, they all did.

That just doesn’t happen in music. Again, no analogs. Either a slumping artist/band’s fallow period is too short or the sales crashed. However, it seems like Metallica has really achieved a unique thing: it sucked and still made beaucoup bucks in a shrinking market. Needless to say, in all of entertainment, there aren’t many comparisons. Well, except one:

METALLICA IS THE STAR WARS FRANCHISE.

YEP.

*‘Kill ‘em All’ through ‘Master of Puppets’ = ‘A New Hope’ and ‘The Empire Strikes Back’*
Genre-expanding and -transcending masterpieces that have the greatest resonance when you experience them as a pre-teen/teen.

*‘Reign in Blood’ = ‘Aliens’*
Cleared the high bar because it’s meaner.

*Cliff = Irvin Kershner*
R.I.P. Cliff. I know you wouldn’t have made ‘Never Say Never Again.’ 😦

*‘…And Justice for All’ and ‘Black Album’ = ‘Return of the Jedi’*
Scattered great moments that ultimately, unlike the predecessors, don’t congeal into a greater whole.

*‘Load’ through ‘St. Anger’ = The Prequels*
Inexplicably awful, legacy-tarnishing material that seemed like it was created for a completely different audience. Somehow, all of this junk made a ton of cash.

*‘S&M’ = Special Edition movies*
Dollar drunk.

*Meshuggah = Expanded Universe*
Initially indebted to the source material, morphed into something different in a good way.

*‘Lulu’ = George Lucas post ‘Last Crusade’*
Troll job that might end up being a fantastic commentary on each respective field of art.

*‘Death Magnetic’ = ‘The Force Awakens’*
Heralded as a return-to-form. Not really. Tried to make good on the past but largely failed because of unwillingness to offend. Still, after many years, there are bright spots (Thrash riffs! Non-white/male leads!). Could be better if more interesting elements were emphasized (Thrash riffs! Poe Dameron is a gay icon!).

*’Hardwired’ = ‘Rogue One’*
Seems EXTREMELY promising, but may be a bummer until the director’s cut (that is, what existed before studio/Lars meddling) hits the shelves in 10 years.

Thoughtvomit: Hypernormalisation

There’s a new Adam Curtis film. It’s titled ‘Hypernormalisation’. For a (probably) limited time, those outside the UK can watch a wonky rip here:

Graphic images and ideas abound, so there’s your warning, I guess. If you’re my super young nephews, ask your parents. Or watch it first and ask your parents a whole lot of other questions later. Whichev.

‘Hypernormalisation’ is a very good film. Adam Curtis is also responsible for ‘Century of the Self’, one of my favorite films of all time. Though both ‘Century’ and ‘Hypernormalisation’ deal with real events, use real footage and interviews, and trace realistic lines to how we got to our present-day life, I hesitate to call them documentaries. The theses are always a little too clean.

Rolf Pott’s, in his piece ‘Notes On the Narrative Conundrum of Baseball Fandom’ (https://medium.com/…/notes-on-the-narrative-conundrum-of-ba…), drops this gem:

“In his groundbreaking 1932 book Remembering, British psychologist F. C. Bartlett describes an experiment in which people were told fables sown with non-sequiturs and illogical complications; when asked to recount the tales later, the test subjects smoothed and simplified the anomalous-seeming details, resulting in clearer, easier-to-comprehend stories. Bartlett’s conclusion — that we remember events via simplified narratives rather than convoluted facts — seems perfectly tailored for the lore of baseball. As the 2011 ESPN documentary Catching Hell illustrated, Bill Bucker became the unworthy scapegoat of a much more complicated Red Sox meltdown (including managerial blunders by John McNamara, and pitching gaffes by Calvin Schiraldi and Bob Stanley), and Steve Bartman’s foul-ball interference was far less catastrophic than a string of eighth-inning shortcomings by the Cubs’ defense (including poor fielding by Alex Gonzalez and Sammy Sosa, and ineffective pitching by Mark Prior and Kyle Farnsworth).”

In the end, this is how I feel about Curtis’s films. They provoke a sense of sufficient #wokeaf-ness, but you feel like things have been smoothed and simplified (as much as a three-hour film can be smoothed and simplified). Granted, even smoothed, these things are like the Super Bowl for people who like to drown themselves in the mire of depressing, deep philosophy. That’s the real entertainment value, and, by that mark, the films sure do “entertain.”

That said, the films entertain on the traditional level, too. For instance, Curtis’s eye for stock footage is still virtuositic, and his understanding of how to build the slow push and pull of a narrative reminds me of Frank Herbert in his prime. He also gets to land a few ideas that truly eat me up inside, like how radicals and liberals retreated into art to critique society instead of trying to upend the hardening conventions they found deplorable. Ouch. Those are the kind of tidbits you quote at parties. However, in the back of your mind, you always think about what else might’ve been happening outside the scope of Curtis’s rescued archival footage.

That has been a reoccurring subtopic in the recent ‘Hardcore History’ series “King of Kings” (http://www.dancarlin.com/hardcore-history-series/). Dan Carlin travels all the way back to the Achaemenid Persian empire and tries to separate fact from the smoothing of Herodotus’s reporting. Unfortunately, the messy stuff never has much of a shelf life. We get Herodotus’s tabloid-y coverage, and that’s kinda it. The rest, like all details, has been forgotten.

While Carlin’s WWI series will be his masterpiece, “King of Kings” is a great place to start because so much of “Kings” is dedicated to ruminating about the fallibility of history. It’s honest in that what we think might’ve happened probably didn’t, at least not in a way we can easily recount to one another in the space of a conversation. Curtis seems to be after similar ends, though you have to wonder if he too has fallen victim to that same human tick as Bartlett’s subjects and the West’s first historian.

Thoughtvomit: Mysteries

Super quick one between school and work:

Alyssa Bereznak, one of my favorite writers at The Ringer, published “How the Internet Ruined Mysteries” today and it got the wheels turning. It was about the unmasking of Elena Ferrante, as close as the literary fiction world gets to fireworks.

If you didn’t know or didn’t care, thus positioning you in a 99.9% majority, you can read Bereznak’s piece to get the details. She lays out the specifics better than I ever could. She also nails the surrounding arguments, in that she recognizes that both sides are, well, right.

True: The doxing of a writer using a pseudonym was kinda gross, even more so that it was a female writer of much acclaim. “Others declared the story a violation of female privacy, an investigative journalist’s chauvinistic grab at the “low-hanging fruit” of a woman who wanted to control her own agency,” Bereznak writes. Count me among the others, I guess.

Also true: As Hamilton Nolan makes clear (http://theconcourse.deadspin.com/the-identity-of-a-famous-p…), investigative journalists are going to investigate. Thinking that public figures, companies, ideas, etc. shouldn’t be questioned or researched or probed for accuracy is also kinda gross. And, while the hours logged on Ferrante could’ve been better used on any number of ProPublica stories, I’m definitely not going to get on my high horse when my investigative journalism over the past five years has amounted to a scrapped story about the freaking curse of the Velvet Unicorn.

So, while this news nugget burns bright for the next couple days, you get a fascinating squabble where two sides with different ethics lay out moral arguments that, shocker, don’t compromise their core tenets. And, shockier, neither side is misinformed. The residence of your ultimate opinion won’t be which side you think is true, but which side you think is truer.

But that’s not why Bereznak’s piece makes my wheels turn. It’s this:

“As the internet has evolved into a ruthless spout of indiscriminate information, we have gained things: a system of power checks, the ability to hold celebrities accountable for their vanity, the ability to order pizza by tweeting a single emoji. But we’ve lost the precious delight of an awe-inspiring mystery.”

To put it less intelligently, the result of the hunt is, *Chevy Chase bug-eyes*, BORING. When it comes to art, it’s the hunt that’s fun.

Anyone who suffered through Lost knows this. I honestly feel bad for the people on the Banksy beat because they don’t realize that they’re ruining everything enjoyable about Banksy. When Banksy is unmasked, all of that intrigue and mystery will disappear. Because, really, in the realm of art, mystery makes things extra interesting. (Hard science and history might be the only fields where the discovery is the interesting thing.) When the mystery leaves, you’re just left with a thing. And, because that thing’s interesting-ness (science word) had peaked when its mystery-multiplier (math word) was at its highest number, the thing by itself will always be something of a letdown afterward. Even if the thing itself is really good. Like Banksy. Like The Tuss.

The Tuss was a brother/sister IDM duo that sounded uncannily like Aphex Twin. No one was really fooled by this, much like people aren’t fooled by pleas to invest in water insurance from the water company. The Tuss released two great little EPs that, really, should’ve just been left alone without anyone confirming their Richard D. James-ness. Even Rephlex cofounder Grant Wilson-Claridge tried to make that point, writing “People seem more interested in speculation and celebrity than content, quality or music. Be careful you don’t miss something really great that isn’t really famous.”

But people inflated the mystery and that became the most interesting thing about The Tuss. “If this isn’t RDJ, who is it?” That was the fun part! “I guess we gotta confirm the source.” NOT THE FUN PART, GUYS. The problem: When RDJ admitted what everyone thought, it stripped The Tuss of its most interesting thing. Even though everyone already assumed the parentage, the definiteness still had that BORING effect. I still like those EPs, but I don’t think I love them as much as when it was a fun little secret that RDJ didn’t want/care to cop to.

To kick this into a more metal sphere, think how fun those few months were when Velvet Cacoon were wine-drenched black metallers playing freaking diesel harps. That stuff was a blast.

So, to preserve that sensation, I’ve tried to limit myself from researching some makers of my music. Case in point, I don’t want to know anything about Nikita Bondarev.

Siberian Ruins, his newest work, is made up of two parts that encompass ambient, field recordings, chamber classical, and more. It’s cold. It’s lonely. It’s wonderful. And I can’t accurately describe how this record feels to me. It’s one of those rare moments when you get to hear you; how you think, how you feel, your own internal rhythms. That’s not an everyday thing.

My fear is that if I learn more about Bondarev, the record will become less about me and more about him. That’s an INSANELY narcissistic thing, but I’m holding on to Siberian Ruins pretty tightly. Considering that I often have a hard time liking the music I used to love, and finding some fresh snow like this to play around in is so fleeting, I want to preserve that feeling for as long as possible.

And I kinda like what I can infer about Bondarev. Maybe he’s a drifter in the Siberian wilderness, recording bird sounds and, when the rare room and board presents itself, cracking open his soul all over his recorder. Maybe he lost everyone and he wants to be no one, just another nameless mound of snow. Maybe his way of battling ennui is losing himself until he’s found. Finding out he’s, like, a post-grad with a laptop would be kind of a bummer. Mystery: wooooooooooosh. Even if the music is still good, the not knowing is gooder (English word.)

However, all of this also makes me feel kinda gross. While I’ve said that knowing everything about everyone will make you like no one, I still want to know about people and their experiences. (As an example, the Solange record is SO MUCH DEEPER knowing a little bit about the artist and the context.) I want to relate to them on a deeper level. I also want to know what things inform them, even if those things are ugly and make me stop listening to them. Ignoring the rest of humanity for your own selfish ends ain’t no way to live. Not knowing anything ain’t a way to live either, even if, at the end of our time here, that’s all we really soak up anyway.

I don’t have a right to know, but I want to. I think. Sometimes. I just don’t really know where that puts me.

Invisible Oranges Turns 10

Invisible Oranges turned 10 this week.

In order to (dis)honor my own questionable spot in its history, I found an old email I sent to the staff.

Dear CONTRIBUTOR,

Hello! I am your new editor. As you know, beloved former editor Doug Moore has stepped down to pursue his dream of lobbying Washington lawmakers for a “No Curling in the Squat Cage” amendment. (Godspeed, Doug. Dale.) So, instead of continuing a legacy of smart, stable, and capable editors, I will now be assuming the dunk tank, er, chair. I am a visionary.

You may now applaud. No, like right now. I can see you. Unrelated, I may or may not have infested all of your laptops with cheap government-grade spyware from Tazbekistan in exchange for subtle, near-invisible sponsored content. Also, you now need to make sure to add something like “this band almost sounds as good as XXX Blarf, Tazbekistan’s number one wine made from fermented shark meat. Nine out of ten paid doctors agree that blindness is only a ‘likely’ outcome!” to every piece you file… for reasons.

But hey, enough about me… for the next minute or two. Here’s a very specific list of things I like about you, CONTRIBUTOR! And, in no way am I trying to butter you up so you don’t jump ship to Noisey:

TK

Truly, all of that is true. I think about you a lot. (Intern, please edit last line if they’re new or have a pending restraining order, thanks.)

Okay, now on to the real reason for this email. With the leadership change, I thought it might be a good time to send out a FAQ so that we can all get on the same page. Because, the thing that makes Invisible Oranges and heavy metal music great is, clearly, policy. I don’t think I’m misinterpreting that. And, besides, that’s why we became metal writers, right? Policy!

Will anything change?
No, beyond the fact that I’m running my 13-part series on Kix next week (‘Kix the Can? Maybe If You’re Not Nice on Ice’). You too will get to publish something one day! Maybe! (Intern, please transcribe the 26 hours of interview tape I have of Nelson for the follow-up. Thanks!)

Why does “bring back Cosmo!” have to appear in every comment section?
Richard Street-Jammer lost a Blind Guardian pub quiz to the Devil and, to save his soul, RSJ decided to offer that reoccurring comment as compensation. If we don’t adhere to it, one of RSJ’s Savatage singles will turn into a tiny spiked imp that nests in his right armpit for a fortnight until Satan receives payment. That payment? We write a ‘[blank] Turns [blank years old]’ piece. Yeesh. I’m just tired of Richard asking me to set up eBay alerts for new copies of “Gutter Ballet” to be honest.

What about site security?
Worry not. We’re going to build a firewall and make BrooklynVegan pay for it.

Will the style guide change?
The what?

The document we use to formalize grammar, editing, formatting, etc.?
That’s a thing?

That’s a thing.
Huh. As long as we’re doing sensible things like referring to bands as “hordes” and including New York tour dates as if the entire country lives there, I think we’re good. Otherwise, all style guide rules will be decided by rolling percentage dice. Please consult my handmade copy of AD&D third edition DM guide for outcomes.

Example: Do I always put a comma after the city AND state?
Target creature is enraged by your offer of apple juice. Make sure to calculate reverse custom THAC0 before proceeding.

Do I get paid now?
Here’s a picture of a dog!

Daw!

How do I contact you?
If it’s anything that might require work, talent, or creativity please send it to Wyatt.

Can I get advice over the phone?
No, I sound like Rob Darken after taco night. Avoid. Wyatt.

I’m requesting a line edit…
Oh yeah, love those. Wyatt.

I have a gift card to send you… for… approving my oral history on the Goo Goo Dolls’s Metal Blade years… . Can I contact you? You also have pretty eyes?
Do you really think so? Someone told me I make rats look like Betty Dav-NOPE. Nice try. Gift cards? I’m straight cash only or unmarked bottles filled with bootleg SSRIs. WYATT.

Can I use a pseudonym?
No! For the last time, Scab Casserole is his real name! I’ve seen the birth certificate! I have met Mr. and Mrs. Abscess Casserole! They are lovely people!

We have a lot of media requests in our inbox. Should we respond to these?
No. If there’s one thing I know about PR people, it’s that they don’t care if you ever respond to them. They like to be left hanging when a premiere needs a home. It’s fun for them.

How should we handle attribution and copyright law?
Posting a YouTube video of a full album is encouraged, but, when choosing graphics, make sure to search Wiki Commons for public domain pics. Imgur users are super litigious.

When will you edit my piece?
Ah, that’s up to this formula:

f^2(d+Dep)-(B+aE)/SD=URb

Where:
F is equal to the amount of fucks I give, squared to represent how bad I feel ruining this site’s legacy

d is how far I am behind deadline

Dep is soul crushing depressing

B is bong hits

AE is how many assistant editors are on, i.e. people who actually do things

SD is sleep deprivation

URb is how many songs I had to listen to for Upcoming Releases (UR) multiplied by the amount of buildings I saw in the area (b) that I now fantasize throwing myself off of so I may achieve my deserved, messy death

That should give you your answer.

Why the heck would I ever want to write for you?
Because, you’re not writing for me, you’re writing for Invisible Oranges.

Look, I’m not going to Patton you to death with some obsequious inspirational crap about how we the best, another one, etc. I have the IQ of a carrot post-encounter with a donkey. Smarter people than I have written about why metal is great. Most of those people have written for this site.

But, realize that you have a hell of a lot of wiggle room here. What makes IO great is that it hasn’t been one thing. It has been incredible retrospectives, thinky stuff that actually make you think, funny-ass asides, and on and on and on. The fact that you can find your next favorite band here while reading a piece about your current favorite band says everything. IO has the capacity to be, well, anything because it covers music that has that same scope. If you don’t like a certain genre, move to the next one; there will be one for you. Likewise, if you don’t like an IO piece today, come back tomorrow.

Of course, the bigger thing is the feeling IO inspires. IO was one of the first sites I read that covered metal – the awesomeness, goofiness, deftness, awkwardness — without a smirk or while sitting atop metal Mt. Olympus. It wasn’t arch, it wasn’t elitist. It wasn’t written by the excluded desperate to return the favor. It was by and for people who liked metal and didn’t need to couch their appreciation in something safe and distancing. It was a raw nerve sort of like. Bare. It was, This is how I feel, why I feel. So, how about you? Let’s figure this out. That made the difference. Now, the “how about you” and “let’s figure it out” is what keeps the site going. It’s why you should come back. Today. Tomorrow.

Welp, that’s it, CONTRIBUTOR! Yeah, I feel like I’m going to be editor here a long, long time.

So, will I ever get paid?
DOG!

Praise Mollusca,
Ian

Thoughtvomit: Metallica and Darkthrone

Last week, Metallica and Darkthrone released new songs. Here are some half-formed ramblings, jotted down while I was in a meeting. I am a professional. This could (should) bake longer, but where’s the fun in concise text that doesn’t waste your time?

1. I like the Darkthrone, I don’t like the Metallica.

2. This isn’t a particularly revelatory statement, nor is it interesting. I’m guessing this is the mindset of many. And the fact I’m presenting this as something you’d want to read ranks up there with “but I can clean a toilet bowl with my pee!” on the Asinine Ideas of White Males list.

THAT SAID, when I dug into WHY I liked the Darkthrone and didn’t like the Metallica, I hit most of my music analysis hobbyhorses like a game of Plinko. I also came to a pretty uncomfortable conclusion.

3. For the sake of giving you a tl;dr out early, here’s everything minus a few thousand words:

A. I trust Darkthrone, I don’t trust Metallica.

B. The respective contexts I have constructed to interpret Darkthrone and Metallica favor and encourage the success of Darkthrone to a far GREATER degree.

C. I don’t trust myself.

4. In the extended Soundcloud premiere of “Tundra Leech”, Fenriz makes his influences clear: Dream Death’s Journey into Mystery and Necrophagia’s Season of the Dead, among a ton of other old, ‘80s things.

On the surface, “Leech” is in line with today’s metal-as-a-thrift-shop mentality: take something old and fondly remembered, dress it up so it can be enjoyed again in the present. New OSDM, trad heavy metal, NWONWO_HM, etc. The Encino Man principle of modern metal, if you will, if your brain now runs only on awful clickbait headlines. These genres are for people who either missed it initially or miss it dearly.

Now, a lot of stuff in this vein is dreck. A lot of it misses the point. A lot of it is dishonest. A lot of it is predicated on the idea that legendary sounds stay legendary no matter what hands are making those sounds. As if metal can be easily replicated by following templates. As if music is as reproducible as programming code. And the false are easy to spot. No matter how hard you try to bury it, your internal monologue always comes through when playing music.

Darkthrone dodges these potholes by being honest.

A. They write music as though good metal, no matter THE metal, has certain ineffable qualities with one of those qualities being the enjoyment of those qualities.

B. Fenriz and Ted seem to have a history of openness regarding their influences and how those influences are applied to their music.[1]

More than that, they always seem to sound like fans when talking about or playing music, like this stuff remains important to them. Like they’re not above it. Even if they aren’t fans, the perception is that they are. (If enough people think it’s true, it’s true. That’s how history works. Not just Wikipedia history. Like, Herodotus history.)

Fenriz and Ted are also solid songwriters. Charismatic, too. That goes a long way in turning Dream Death and Necrophagia into Darkthrone. Their perceived adoration means they probably know how to do Dream Death and Necrophagia better than the 1987 versions of those bands. Again, at least you BELIEVE that they do. That’s the narrative. The fact that they’re still looking outside of themselves for inspiration is maybe the biggest thing. Even if the inspirations are 30 years old, at least Darkthrone isn’t stuck in the ego-stroking feedback loop of believing that its OWN material holds important, eternal truths. Darkthrone is real, but what paved the way for Darkthrone is realer; as most things that come ever-so-slightly before you tend to be. Life is kinda front-loaded like that.

I like this song. Path of least resistance, though. It’s easy for me to like Darkthrone because it’s easy for me to trust Darkthrone. I trust Darkthrone because they have a long history of doing things I’ve learned to find agreeable. Darkthrone, they’re just like us.

All of these things, objectively, mean nothing.

5. So, “Hardwired.” Best case, this sounds like a mic check that could’ve landed somewhere between Justice and Metallica if they let Newstead plug in his amp. Worst case, uh, choose your “favorite” Metallica disasterpiece from the past 20 years.

Put more simply: Best case, “Hardwired” looks back to a younger, more vibrant Metallica. Worst case, this looks back to a corrupted, money-over-everything Metallica.

Now, it’s hard to tell if “Hardwired” is best case or worst case, which makes this the most promising Metallica has been in a long, long time. But, this much is clear to me: If they’re looking back, they’ve trained their sights on themselves, and that’s like giving a starving person a jar of pickles.[2]

Not that this is objectively bad. Considering how successful Metallica has been financially, why wouldn’t they just keep doing what they’re doing? They have lives, have families to support, and those families will have families to support. Like signing a sports contract, Metallica’s members are probably thinking of the betterment of generations of descendants. Plant the tree so it can create shade for those who follow you. That kinda stuff. Pleasing some moron who writes overwrought Facebook posts is pretty darn low on their hierarchy of needs.

Add in that what Metallica is trying to do – staying viable in the minds of millions of concert ticket buyers and Mandatory Metallica listeners – is a higher risk high wire act than what Darkthrone is trying to do – make “true” metal that’s fun and mostly agreeable to thousands of metalheads who share the same influences. Metallica is doing a hard thing, and they’re doing it WAY past their prime. No matter how good of a hitter you were, there comes a time when you can’t catch up to a fastball. Your body and your brain just won’t let you. Likewise, no discography remains unblemished.[3] However, the economic factors surrounding Metallica means they still have to try. Subtracting Lulu, I don’t think art is much of a factor these days. Considering Lulu, pleasing snobby fans isn’t much of a factor, either. I could write (poorly) about this stuff for days and days and days and days.[4]

Fact is, this isn’t normally the thing music critics (and I’m using “critic” EXTREMELY LOOSELY) like me think about when crucifying “bad” music. We’re more likely to preach the party line that selling out is bad and it decimates your trustworthiness. That fits better into a 200-word blurb no one will read while scrolling down to the stream embed.

And, I mean, yes, Metallica has a long history of selling out and detonating trustworthiness. I’m not going to rehash a history that has more disappointments than your first relationship and is equally hard to look back on without thinking of the way it ended. You know it, you lived it. Suffice to say, it’s difficult to trust Metallica.

Because of that, I tend to side with “Hardwired”‘s worst case: it sucks. It sucks because what I know about Metallica these days is mostly bad. Thus spake my gut.

6. If I lost the thread, it’s that both bands are playing into narratives. Darkthrone is the outsider that cares, Metallica is the industry behemoth that has forgotten how to be itself. Darkthrone is you, Metallica is what you don’t want to be. (That said, in life, you’re probably going to be a Metallica more than you are a Darkthrone. C’est triste.) Whether these narratives are accurate or true is immaterial. These narratives drive the surrounding conversations. If enough people think it’s true, it’s true.

But what if we thought about the songs in a vacuum?

7. Fenriz posted this to the Band of the Week Facebook page in January:

“for the SERIOUS iron maiden fans out there I propose this train of thought: Many of us are not majestically thrilled by ‘gangland’ or ‘invaders’, yet we wallow and rejoice when some newcomer act sound remotely like these songs. How and why is that?”

8. I have been thinking about that quote for months. I have been trying to write something about it for months. In the interest of completely wasting your time, I haven’t quite untangled my thoughts. However, here’s my best take:

Context is extremely important.

9. There are two things at play in Fenriz’s scenario:

A. The reason we think lowly of “Gangland” and “Invaders” (they don’t bug me, but whatever) is we have built a context around Iron Maiden. It’s a bullshit quilt made up of many patches: history, personal opinion, borrowed opinion, tons of smaller variables. Point is, if you get to “Gangland” and “Invaders”, you probably have a sense of what makes a good Iron Maiden song. You know where to place the bar. Promise and potential, though enormous in the case of Iron Maiden, is quantifiable. It might not be a concrete calculation, but when you hear a new Iron Maiden song, you might think, Does this clear the Iron Maiden bar? You’ve felt out the boundaries. You’ve explored all that needs to be explored.

B. However, a new band, whether it’s making its debut or it’s just new to you, doesn’t have boundaries. Promise and potential isn’t quantifiable. (Although, if you’re a miserable cynic like me, you may default to an artificially low value because you have been … hurt … SO MANY TIMES.) That’s the appeal. Where subsequent releases by Iron Maiden are a sports season, in that you engage to see how things play out, a new band is the draft or free agency. Much promise. Much potential. Much wallowing and rejoicing. And that’s exciting. It’s unknown. Even if the particular song couldn’t clear an Iron Maiden bar, the fact that you might use the same measuring stick is exciting enough. “Oh man, what IF this new band could clear the bar?” Crazily, that gets added into their context. New band bullet point: Could be Iron Maiden?

10. The problem is that things are so rarely new these days. Everyone has a take. You discover music from someone’s take, or, in the case of Discover Weekly, an algorithm’s take.[5]

Even if the take is as basic as “this is good, you will like it” recommendation, that is still creating a context. A tiny one, but it’s there. It skews your listening experience. Instead of being like, “Music! Yay!” You’re subconsciously like, “Well, do I like this?” It changes your approach. Really, context changes everything.

When we talk about Darkthrone and Metallica, the context is bigger, generally personal (because you are likely to have encountered both bands if you like HERVY MERTAL), and just plain complex.

11. If I lost the thread, it’s that context is extremely important.[6]

12. Back to that subthesis from a few points back: But what if we thought about the songs in a vacuum?

Thinking exercise: If “Tundra Leech” and “Hardwired” were released by new, unknown bands, would that make them better or worse?

“Tundra Leech”: Ever so slightly worse. You lose Darkthrone’s perceived trustworthiness, which means I can’t rule out that this is accidentally great.[7] However, if a new band put this out, it’d be a pretty impressive debut that fits in with a lot of fetishized-by-zines metal. Blackened throwback jams are kinda in and haven’t been driven into the ground, though your mileage may vary depending on your listening habits.[8] That might have something to do with Darkthrone’s continuing influence on the cultish, more critically favorable parts of the genre. (This is less of a George Bailey thing, and more of a This is Just How It Is thing, so we’ll allow it.) That said, even if Darkthrone’s ideas have been digested by that subculture, Darkthrone’s songwriting is still strong enough to keep its head above the flood of bands with similar mission statements. I mean, “Leech” is quintessentially Darkthrone, and “Leech” does things that only Fenriz and Ted can do. Another band *couldn’t* do this. However, the songwriting is so good – it doesn’t miss the point, it comes at its source material honestly – and the performance is so good that if it were passed around as part of some unknown USBM demo tape, my reaction would be largely the same: This is great. Just slightly less great. It’d score a premiere wherever.

Points for: Well-written and performed, fits in with what is currently praised by the culture

Points against: Not Fenriz and Ted, and that’s a big chunk of Darkthrone’s appeal. They’re affable, you want to hang with them. The best substitute is hanging with them aurally

“Hardwired”: Way, way worse. Surprise! You lose Metallica’s untrustworthiness, but thrash isn’t exactly a selling point in 2016. Yes, a small handful of bands can still spin a raging thrasher, but by and large, it’s usually a pass. If you had to speed pick through a promo pile, you’re not saving a modern thrash band unless the style has been augmented by another qualifier (blackened, death/, tech, classic, Voivod, etc.). You’re just not. And if you get “Hardwired” deep into one, you’re not going farther. So, with Metallica’s name stripped off, “Hardwired” is then forced to work against a different context: modern thrash’s. Not good, because consider this: Metallica’s ideas have been DEVOURED by metal kids raised on this stuff. Like, every kid. In contrast to Darkthrone’s influence, Metallica’s influence is overexposed because it’s in the DNA of every metalhead. So what “Hardwired” is peddling in the BEST CASE SCENARIO outlined above is not exactly fresh. It’s the default. Basic. Without innovation to lean on, that leaves “Hardwired”‘s songwriting as the sole gradable element, which earns a legit meh.[9] It’s crazy, but the fact this meh is Metallica is actually a point in “Hardwired”‘s favor. It takes “Hardwired” out of the thrash bucket and places it back into Metallica’s, which is a different universe and therefore has a different metric.[10] About that metric, though: Even if you’re Aaron Gordon, it doesn’t look impressive when you’re dunking on a five-foot hoop. Lastly, “Hardwired”, in my mind, isn’t a “Gangland”, because it’s modern-sounding and classic heavy metal (Maiden) has more cultural cache and legs than modern thrash (post-Black Album Metallica). Although, there’s a great piece on IO comparing it to “Motorbreath.” In the end, it really depends what era of Metallica you think “Hardwired” sounds like.

Points for: It’s not Metallica

Points against: It’s not Metallica

13. So, that was kind of a wash. Instead of stripping the band name off these songs, what if we strip the context away from the bands? WOOSH! It’s gone! Can we do that?

No.

14. If you’ve read this far, you may be thinking, What is this bozo even writing about? I don’t think about these bands like this! Welp, that’s how insular context is. How PERSONAL it is.

I discovered Metallica *way* before Darkthrone. I won’t front like I was spinning “The Pagan Winter” for show and tell. Metallica, then, sits closer to a time when the music I enjoyed was kinda sacrosanct. It WAS me. I used it to identify me. It had the power to change me. I was younger, I didn’t have much context, so I was chipping in fresh truths into my worldview tablet that wouldn’t be erased for a long, long time, if ever. I think this is why our reactions to betrayals of childhood beliefs – Metallica is awesome, Star Wars is awesome, society is just and fair – hit so deeply. It’s because it smashes these core foundations that were created before we kind of knew better. We built a lot of stuff upon those foundations, though. It’s hard to rebuild that stuff once it tumbles.

If Darkthrone lets me down, I’ll be bummed, but I’ll get over it. Because, I discovered Darkthrone as a young adult and, at that point, I knew better. I was a little more guarded. I knew that art letting you down is something that art does. It’s what makes good art that much more important: stakes. Plus, I like Fenriz and Ted as personalities, which is more important than what they do for a career. I’m more likely to forgive them.

I knew Metallica long before I could separate the PERSON from the BAND from the CONCEPT. It was before I knew how tough adulthood is; before I knew that no matter how close you are to someone or something, we all grow apart because the context always changes; before I knew real disappointments, depression, downfalls, etc. In a way, then, I’m still beholden to a sort of childlike logic with Metallica. My conception of them just stuck like a broken clock, the same way I think of old pets or things I used to treasure. It’s not that Metallica should always be “Battery,” it’s that they should always be the FEELING I had when first listening to “Battery.” They are gods, and gods (sorry Greeks/Romans/most religions) are infallible. Metallica, though, like all of us, has been proven to be very fallible. Cognitive dissonance, commence. Output: a context too messed up for me to ever like Metallica again. It’s a scar now, not a wound. Kinda don’t want to reopen it.

Let’s distill this down. This is how I listen to classic Darkthrone and classic Metallica.

Classic Darkthrone: Man, this is good music. I like good music. That is something I value as an adult.

Classic Metallica: Man, remember that time I sat in my yard and listened to this thing all day? I wish my parents were still around.

How the hell is a new Metallica song ever supposed to measure up to THAT?

15. This stuff goes a little bit beyond JUST the personal.[11] I feel like I’ve been conditioned to like newer Darkthrone over newer Metallica, that I have been socially engineered to like a new Darkthrone over Metallica. Because, really, what person believes in new Metallica? Do you actually respect the opinion of that person? No. It sounds crazy, because metal culture, by and large, has decided that it’s kind of crazy.

I don’t want to go too far down this rabbit hole. It is a long-ass post for another time.

BUT.

Be honest with yourself for a second. We all know when we like something at first. I like a lot of things at first blush. BUT, when and how do we decide to KEEP liking something?

I know that we’re all paragons of legit cred and that the masses will never decide what we like and what we don’t like. I know this. BUT, I think, every once and awhile, we’re susceptible to softening our opinion on something, having it remolded, and then hardening it again. As long as it doesn’t hurt too bad.

One of those most susceptible times is when something changes. When Load came out, it initially hit my ears wrong. I thought, Huh, this is different. Not good. Not bad. Just different. I was trying to come to terms with whether that different was good or bad. And then, everyone I trusted about music came to the same conclusion: Load sucks. And I was like, You know what, I think you guys are right. And that opinion hardened, because it felt right.

BUT, how did I get there? Did I get there through my feelings or the feelings of others? How did those others get there? Where is the truth in any of this? I’m not entirely sure.

And I’m not entirely sure about a lot of music things. For instance, I didn’t like Darkthrone the first time I heard it. That was a gut reaction. In fact, I have hated most of my favorite things at first. More reactions from the gut. To be clear, I was wrong. My gut was wrong. I am wrong about so many things, which, of course, makes me question so many things I feel I’m right about; which, of course, makes me wonder if there’s a truth or a legitimate context to any of these things.

I also got into Darkthrone because someone told me I’d like them. That’s a weird pressure to put on a band. On anything. Sometimes I try harder to like something based on the person recommending it. Yet, if that person is only passing me something because they think I’ll like it and they really don’t like it, where is the truth in that? Is that a lie? Was truth born from that, regardless?

I don’t remember how I got into Metallica. I remember it just sort of being THERE, like the way you pick up a language. And then it felt like either Metallica or I wasn’t speaking correctly. Like we were no longer fluent with each other. It was a little scary, an early pass at how things are outside of your control.

BUT, let’s consider something else. I am blessed with the opportunity to listen to so many metal promos a week. I am also blessed with the free time to think philosophically about metal promos. In the 18th century, if I were like, “Hey, can I have a few spare seconds to think about music philosophically,” I’d get my ass kicked by a taskmaster and thrown back into a mine. So, my context is different than a lot of people. As a student of Dunning-Kruger, I’m not going to say that these experiences justify certain opinions. It just mutates my perception and context, making the lens I, uh, hear music through (how am I a writer again?) WAY different than most people.

Let’s roll back to when I said that most modern thrash is boring. Blanket statement; guilty. I HAVE listened to a lot of modern thrash. I have some experience. However, is what I said true? Might there be whole scenes of modern thrashy thrash I’m not tapping into that are truly excellent and popular? Yes. Plus, let’s say you don’t listen to as much music as I have to. (Not a humblebrag, more of a shameshare.) You jam a couple thrash albums here and there and have come to the conclusion that this is the best time for thrash, ever. Are you wrong? Am I wrong? Are either of us right? Is “truth” limited to the scope of what you perceive to be reality? Limited to the context? Could everything be true and untrue at the same time? Brain … leaking … out … of skull.

I think about this junk all of the time. Another sampling: If opinions change, how do they change? And what makes them change? And if all of this stuff is random, or if it’s because of a lifetime of experiences that accumulate in such a way over time that the end result is out of your control, then how can I honestly say something like:

I like the Darkthrone, I don’t like the Metallica.

And how the hell can I ever *mean* it? And why does it kinda hurt?

[12]

[1] Like, Fenriz is really into electronic music from the early ‘90s. That’s cool, but I know that’s not going to find its way on a Darkthrone album. Can you imagine some shitty Manes-esque thing that sounds like Green Velvet? No. That’s part of the reason for trusting Darkthrone. Even if they did that, I’d expect them to release a commentary track explaining what the hell was going on. Props on the commentary tracks. More commentary tracks.

Aside: A Crypt Sermon premiere I wrote once popped up on the Band of the Week Facebook which means either Fenriz or Arjen read it. THAT IS TERRIFYING. I r a false.

[2] To be clearer, the last great Metallica song was the Mercyful Fate medley on Garage, Inc. Minus Lou Reed, which was really just Lars taking a master troll class, Metallica has usually been very good when looking outside itself. Garage Days, Garage, Inc. There’s something there.

[3] And it’s not like we can say Metallica is objectively bad. Metallica’s context is just different from ours. Their inputs are different, moved away from what we first aligned ourselves to. People change. Things change. We weren’t in the day-to-day Metallica trenches, so what’s crazy for us may have been a totally normal evolution for them. Who is to say that Load isn’t the best album made by a former thrash band that wants to be Lynryd Skynyrd? THAT might BE the best case.

[4] Fame and money make you do weird things. Also, I’m a firm believer that knowing everything about everyone will make you not like anyone. Twitter and Facebook are art installations that prove that point every second. We know a lot about Metallica. I wish we didn’t.

[5] That transforms you into a boring person. More on this sometime.

[6] You have read A LOT of garbage to this point. 1-800-273-8255 if you’re feeling woozy.

[7] This is a Michael Scott theory. Despite evidence to the contrary – nu-influences, questionable ethics, etc. – a band can still luck into something great. Some bands even go on accidentally great streaks. See: Deftones.

[8] I don’t mean “in” like “TRENDS R GUD.” I mean in like there isn’t much friction in the way of you enjoying something. It doesn’t sound dated, it doesn’t sound too futuristic. To learn to like difficult stuff that falls outside of your normal listening sphere, you kind of need to work at it. (It’s more rewarding, but it takes WAY longer.) This is a path of least resistance thing. It’s easier to get into the styles and genres that are floating around in the current, ugh, cultural zeitgeist because they’ve already been accepted. Doesn’t take much of a leap. This.

[9] I call this the Van Halen effect. A band’s ideas are so thoroughly assimilated by the culture so quickly, that anything the originators release afterwards sounds like a tired rehash. See: Van Halen.

[10] The only reason any of us are even entertaining the fact that this is kinda okay is because it’s a Metallica song, Metallica has been a perceived Turd Titatnic for decades, and this is better than what we’ve come to expect from Metallica. If this was released on some crappy nu-thrash label (not naming names, you know who you are), you would never listen to this again. Part of that is because thrash, minus the pitifully small handful of bands that continue to do cool things, hasn’t been great in a long, long time. And we’re talking thrash. Not blackened thrash, death/thrash, tech thrash, thrashcore, old school thrash, or any variant of thrash that has been Fabreezed with something more culturally acceptable. We’re talking thrashy thrash. If someone handed you a demo in the parking lot and said, Hey, check out my thrash band, would you even look for a garbage can before disposing of it? Imagine me – white, privileged, stupid me – handing you a reggae demo. Same level. Such is our opinion of all of the post-Pantera garbage that has found its way underneath the genre tag. This isn’t thrash’s fault. It’s the fault of the crap that has proliferated and the general response of listeners. Thrash could be great again in 10 years and the stuff I think is zzzzzz now might be reappraised as slept on. That happens. See: heavy metal’s greater cultural relevancy from 1970 – present. However, in the here and now of me posting this, most new thrash sucks. So, if “Hardwired” came from a new band named, like, Thuderbirth Suicide, you’d think, How the hell did this band get the money for this production? And then you’d think, This is kinda meh.

[11] In case I didn’t make it clear, context is everything. It’s everything in Fenriz’s quote. The reason I am not majestically thrilled by “Gangland” is because I have heard other Iron Maiden songs and I know where to place the bar. The reason a new band making a “Gangland” gets a pass – #wallowing, #rejoicing — is because I *don’t* know where to place the bar and that’s exciting.

Darkthrone has a higher possibility rating than Metallica. Trust and context have taught me as much. I’m excited for a new Darkthrone album because of all the positive possibilities. I’m kind of dreading a new Metallica album, even though I KNOW I shouldn’t care and should cut my losses, because of the perceived negative possibilities. One more nail in a coffin that’s made out of nails.

Metallica, though, has a much higher career bar than Darkthrone due to the point in time I encountered each respective act. I met Metallica when I was young, so their career bar is unreasonably high due to the fact I didn’t have much experience placing bars. Darkthrone’s is lower because I had more experience with music when we were introduced. I genuinely like Darkthrone’s discography more than Metallica’s these days, though something like Kill ‘em All sits on a different plateau with childhood favorites.

Metallica: Lower possibility rating, higher career bar, tied to core memories and feelings

Darkthrone: Higher possibility rating, lower career bar, tied to adult memories and feelings

[12] And my entire opinion will change as soon as I post this.

Thoughtvomit: Meshuggah

Meshuggah will release The Violent Sleep of Reason on October 7, 2016.

1. Meshuggah used to be my favorite metal band.

2. This isn’t to say I no longer like Meshuggah or I rank some other band ahead of them. I just try not to rank bands anymore. Or anything, really.

3. Dave Fonseca kind of blew my pea-sized brain apart when he said he was a fan of the NBA on a whole rather than a single team. This allowed him to enjoy all moments instead of a few. True, the peaks aren’t as high. When you’re living and dying with a team or a player, it is its own kind of rush. But the “fan of the league” mindset allows you to enjoy so many more things. When teams or players screw up, you can kind of enjoy it for what those moments mean in the grand scheme of things. Those moments also don’t color past achievements or future possibilities.

4. The peaks of living and dying fandom are, like, heroin-spiked coffee addictive, though. The misery is its own kind of addiction, too. When a certain sports team finally won a championship, I didn’t know who I was because my identity was SO tied to their failure. Fandom is weird.

5. Chris Sessions kind of blew my pea-sized brain apart when he said fans ruin everything. This doesn’t mean fandom is bad or something that shouldn’t be pursued. I hated Mad Men but I loved listening to people talk about Mad Men because it’s interesting to hear people talk about things they’re passionate about. There’s a greater truth in their fandom than most people usually allow themselves to offer in normal conversation. I’m glad those people were fans. But fans, especially the root word fanatic fans, do ruin everything. Like a statue, the more people interact with something, the more it wears that thing away until you’re just left with a smooth hunk of material devoid of meaning. That’s what fans seem to do. They touch things with their own meaning until you can’t hang anything else on there without it slipping off. (Real quick: Imagine hearing the Beatles without context. Is that even a thing for anyone anymore?)

6. I listened to Koloss today for the first time in three-ish years. Koloss kinda sucks.

7. Most of Koloss doesn’t play to Meshuggah’s established strengths. Following three full-lengths and an EP that were panoramic in their apocalyptic heaviosity, Koloss sounded like you were sitting in their practice space. I mean, it was loud, but Meshuggah were, like, there. They weren’t beaming stuff in from the other side of a third-eye-unlocked portal. There was a focus on immediacy to the point that Koloss even felt kind of loose. It was the thrashiest, and therefore the punkiest, Meshuggah had been in a bit.

8. This wasn’t what I was expecting at the time. With the djent movement in full-swing, I wanted Meshuggah to obliterate the pretenders or take a hard left and make everyone chase them down a rabbit hole only Meshuggah could fit through (Catch Thirtyfour! Deeper Within Sol Niger!). Because, despite a few interesting, passionate people, djent sucks. What started as a fun extension of what Meshuggah and those weirdo Polish bands were doing — think the first Textures, Coprofago, Tandjent — quickly frrrted into something smooth and formless. Though everyone borrowed Meshuggah’s most recognizable attributes, such as their interest in polyrhythms and that distinctive picking timbre, they never captured Meshuggah’s essence or their sense of swing. Today, djent comes in two flavors: 1. KoRn for nerds or 2. My First Polyrhythm for kids who heard a G3 concert while in the womb. Djent *has* evolved into its own thing and it *means* its own thing to its own people. Its own fans, I should write. There *is* something to that. That’s important. As an older person, I just don’t really get it.

9. I mean, not that Meshuggah didn’t borrow. Contradictions Collapse is a love note to technical thrash. Fredrik Thordendal has always been enamored with Allan Holdsworth and, later, Derek Bailey. New things are born out of old things. Older people only hear the old. Newer people only hear the new.

10. Since Meshuggah was my favorite metal band, I tried really hard to get into Koloss. I think I’m even on record saying I love it. Fandom makes you do weird things.

11. Given enough space so that New Meshuggah could become Meshuggah, I now think this: Koloss is a very eh version of Meshuggah, making it a very 2012 djent album.*

12. If you’re a fan, does this make you worry about the Tue Madsen-produced, clumsily titled The Violent Sleep of Reason?**

13. If Meshuggah only released a single in 2012 with Koloss‘s best songs, “Behind the Sun” b/w “Demiurge”, would you feel better?

14. I would. Still. And that’s nuts. No matter how hard I try to be a fan of the league, my fandom is still there! And, in a way, I have failed to capture the essence of what Meshuggah is in the 2010s. Because it’s still capable of great things. Those two aforementioned songs could easily sneak into a best of, so why am I complaining that surrounding tracks are crap? Mike Trout is the best hitter in baseball and even he has some at bats where he looks clueless and toothless. If you don’t mess up from time to time, are you even really trying? And you know, sometimes things just fall apart. That’s okay. Natural, even. Prince Fielder had to retire because of his neck, costing the Rangers a brutal $100 million. Does that change how we feel about his 2009 now that we know the end? This need for bands to bat 1.000 is silly, yet it’s hard to divorce yourself from it. Because we ask these bands, movies, TV shows, teams, whatever to stand in and explain something about ourselves to the world at large. It’s all shorthand for *my* feels. And when we feel wronged, that’s it. Snip, bye bye. That’s a heavy, heavy burden. Instead of just enjoying the thing, we artificially raise the stakes until the only true end is disappointment. Full Trump: Unfair!

15. But damn, the peaks feel great until they don’t.

*Koloss makes obZen sound like a minor classic. Listen to both of them back to back. obZen sounds vital and huge when pulled out from the shadow Catch because it towers over Koloss. What other mild bummer of a record has received that sort of lift from a subsequent release? Reappraise obZen. It’s more notable than its cover art that looks like it was submitted as evidence in a malpractice suit stemming from a botched prostate exam. It’s, dare I say, underrated. Maybe Haake’s best album.

**This is a Goya thing, right?

Thoughtvomit: Opeth


1. Opeth hasn’t been good since Watershed, hasn’t been great since ‘Deliverance.’

2. Mike Å: “It’s just that I’m not the same person I was when I was 19 – I think that’s natural.” No one is the same person they were at 19 unless they died at 19. However, most entertainment that people take in post-25 is meant to rekindle the same fire they felt for things when they were 19 or younger.

3. It’s better to be artistically honest than it is to pander. So, even though this doesn’t hit for me for the reason stated above, I’m glad Opeth is doing what it needs to do.

4. Regarding Netflix’s Stranger Things, NPR’s Stephen Thompson said something like the following on Pop Culture Happy Hour: [paraphrasing like crazy] It’s derivative, but then everything it’s derivative of was also derivative in its time.

5. Opeth is now a ’70s prog band born 40-plus years too late.

6. If this was some rare track I found via the Nurse With Wound List and not Opeth, would I be more receptive to it? If this had the provenance of ULTRA OBSCURE PROG JAM that was too weird for its time, would I like it more than I do now? Even if the two songs were identical?

7. If there’s a continued backlash to Opeth, and I don’t know if there is because #harambe, would that backlash be solved by time? Meaning, if you were forced to listen to “Sorceress” over and over — like it was stuck in your car’s tape player as tapes were wont to do — would that make a difference? Would you adapt? Even learn to like it? If this became the only thing, would that make it a better thing?

8. In another 40 years, will we think of this version of Opeth as a ’70s prog band born 40-plus years too late, or will it just become a prog band?

9. If you cut out the zzzzzz, “Sorceress” would be a pretty okay Trouble song.

10. Why did you read this?