A quote about underrated music

Prompta2020

We’re just one third into this year’s special version of Blaugust, and the awesome blogging community has already outdone itself with lots of great posts about various topics.

The fourth blogging prompt, introduced to us by Roger Edwards on August 3rd, was this:

What type of content do you feel is severely underrated?

Well, that’s an easy one as far as I’m concerned. It’s Metal, of course!

Metal1

Err…wait, no, not this.

Metal2

Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about!

My cousin, ten years my senior, introduced me to Metal when I was about eight. Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Helloween, Ozzy Osbourne, stuff like that. I fell in love immediately.

At the time I didn’t really know what it was, exactly, that I liked so much about it. What I did learn incredibly quickly though was that, generally speaking, most people don’t share my passion. Which is severely downplaying the issue of course, as almost everyone I’ve ever met who doesn’t love it actively dislikes it at best, and regards it as “unbearable noise” at worst. According to the latter group anyone who’s into Metal surely must be some kind of psychopath.

Metal3

I really don’t know where they got that idea from…

Anyway, with kids being kids you can imagine that eight-year-old me, already wearing Metal band patches on the denim jacket, had to develop a thick skin rather quickly. It never grew quite as thick as I would have liked though, and I can still get pretty angry when someone badmouths something that I really like, especially when I feel that they have no idea what they’re even talking about.

Yet over time I’ve wisened up at least somewhat. A couple of years ago I would have, at this point, carried on to beat you round the head with at least half a dozen paragraphs “proving” that many flavors of Metal are, in fact, musically vastly superior to most forms of mainstream music, that geniuses like Bach and Beethoven would undoubtedly be metalheads if they lived today, and that channeling your inner rage through aggressive music does actually make you a less aggressive person, not more.

Instead though I’ll just leave you with one of my favourite quotes – which, incidentally, fits nicely into our Blaugust groove too, as Wilhelm gave us the prompt to do exactly that.

It’s taken from Helloween’s song Heavy Metal (is the Law), where Kai Hansen posits

If you don’t feel it you won’t understand.

Truer words have never been spoken about Metal – and I think it actually applies to pretty much anything human beings can be passionate about.

Stay awhile and listen: Forces of the Northern Night

DimmuBorgir_Forces

I’m not a huge fan of live albums in general. Being an extreme creature of habit, once I’m accustomed to a piece of music I like it just the way it is and don’t want it any different. Live music is by nature almost always different, and when it isn’t there’s no real point to it unless you’re there when it happens and it’s all about savouring the performance.

There are exceptions though, and this is one of them.

While Dimmu Borgir were always frowned upon by many ‘true’ black metal believers I instantly became a fan of theirs when I listened to their album Stormblåst in ’96. What really blew me away was their next release, Enthrone Darkness Triumphant, which remains one of my most beloved albums to this day. My favourite music genres have always been metal and classical (symphonic) music. To me Enthrone was, at the time, the best and most sophisticated symbiosis of those two. For that to work a great sound is needed, and it didn’t disappoint in this regard either.

Since then they’ve constantly refined their style, which I would call Symphonic Black Metal. For the recording of their album Death Cult Armageddon they used a real orchestra, the Prague Philharmonics, for the first time. This again elevated their compositions and sound to a whole new level.

In 2011 they collaborated with Kringkastingsorkestret, the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and Choir, for a live show in Oslo. With Forces of the Northern Night they released the recording of that concert as well as the same show with different orchestra and choir at Wacken Open Air 2012. I highly recommend the earbook, which consists of two Blu-rays, two DVDs, four Audio CDs and lots of large format pictures. At Nuclear Blast Germany it’s heavily discounted, I assume that the Blu-rays and DVDs aren’t region free though.

The CDs are fine, with great sound and a good song selection. The video discs are where it’s at though. Watching them is obviously not as great as it would have been to see it live in Oslo or at Wacken, but it’s pretty close. The picture quality is superb, as is the 5.1 audio mix. They didn’t make the mistake (as is sadly often the case with surround mixes of rock and metal music) to route bassdrum, snare drum and vocals to the center speaker. Everything that’s ‘metal’ comes from the much more powerful main stereo speakers here, orchestra and choir are spread out over all front speakers and the crowd ambiance comes from behind. Perfect!

The stage setting is well thought out and I’m very pleased that neither camera work nor editing are as hectic as many other metal releases I’ve seen.

I’ve not watched the Wacken gig yet, but the Oslo show is already enough for me to rate this release 10/10.

Song recommendations: Progenies of the Great Apocalypse (I’d buy it again for this song alone), Vredesbyrd, Gateways.

Stay awhile and listen: Dark Funeral – Where Shadows Forever Reign

DarkFuneralWhereShadows

During the nineties some of my friends were super into old school black metal. They swore by Darkthrone, Immortal, Mayhem, Burzum and also ‘newer’ bands like Dark Funeral.

My stance on that kind of music was that I’d probably have liked it too if only the sound had been better. Much better, in most cases.

I often imagined the production process of those albums like this: the musicians were set up in the deep end of a giant cave, a single microphone was placed at the cave’s exit and a mono tape recorder was used to record it. Exaggerated, sure, but I find the mental image funny and some recordings were indeed that abysmal.

Seriously, listen to this, or this. Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty great music (if you like the genre, that is), but it sounds horrible to my ears. Of course this wasn’t just a result of low budget and/or inability of the sound engineers. I don’t know why, but somehow it had become an essential part of being a ‘true’ black metal band to have a sound like this.

For that reason I never really followed the genre too closely, and also didn’t take notice when those bands released new albums.

Release new albums they did though, and thankfully the sound evolved along the way. A while ago a good friend strongly recommended Dark Funeral’s latest album to me, Where Shadows Forever Reign. Since I know that I can usually follow his recommendations blindly (thanks buddy!) I bought it.

And boy, is this a great album! It has a good mix of full speed blast-beat and mid-tempo songs, great melodies and the variation/combination of screams and grunts adds another layer of variety.

The sound is the cherry on the cake though. It’s clear, crisp and powerful. You can clearly discern every single note, every drum and cymbal, every hushed voice. And yet, the dark, cold and sinister atmosphere needed for this kind of music hasn’t suffered in the slightest.

I think wanting to achieve this atmosphere at all costs was the main reason for the (to me) bad black metal sounds of the past. Technical possibilities and engineering skills have finally risen up to the challenge, it seems.

Song recommendations: Unchain My Soul, Beast Above Man, The Eternal Eclipse.