If you have had any interest in the metal underground over the last 20 years or so then there’s a fair chance that you will have encountered the dark, bewildering and occasionally baffling art of Solefald.
World Metal; Kosmopolis Sud (Indie), the latest album from the Scandanavian provocateurs, is as wilfully perverse as it is artistically diverse and challenging. World Metal is an all too simplistic title for a record that covers and extraordinary palette of aural colours from thrash metal that would not go amiss on a Sepultura album through Al Jourgensen inspired electronica and nursery rhyme folk.
It really is all here. And more.
In some camps, this is supposedly representative of some kind of avant-garde genius. Not in this camp, I’m afraid. I bow to no man in my admiration for bands and artists who push the artistic and creative envelope but there is a significant difference between good and bad art and I’m afraid that World Metal is bad art. Lots of people are going to tell you that its density is somehow representative of a deeper intellectual exercise and that the impenetrability of the music is somehow evidence of artistic freedom- artists doing what they please etc etc. This is poppycock of the highest order.
The entire essence of art is that it connects: on an emotional, spiritual and human level. Wilful self-indulgence is not evidence of a higher artistic intelligence; it is evidence of hubris. And there is much hubris on World Metal. I think we need to call this out now: being diverse and idiosyncratic isn’t, in and of itself, good enough. There isn’t anything particularly big or clever at throwing everything including the musical kitchen sink at things. By contrast, it is self-regarding and, ultimately, very boring.
I’m reminded of the now infamous conversation between Harrison Ford who complained about the quality of the script for Star Wars, and George Lucas: “George, you can type this shit but you can’t say it” said the laconic actor to his director. This was, of course, the same Star Wars that went on to change movie history and get an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay.
My point? I might have got this one wrong. I don’t think I have though. Clearly for some, World Metal will be seen as quite the masterpiece, full of ideas and inspiration. Not for me though. I’ll defend to my dying breath Solefald’s right to make whatever record they want, just don’t expect me to listen to it.
To celebrate the release of their stunning 9/10 album Carrion Skies (Code666 – review here) The Watcher, guitarist and vocalist of England’s atmospheric post-Black Metal band Fen spoke to Ghost Cult on a range of subjects. In the third of four parts, with a further feature to follow in the next Ghost Cult digimag, talk turned to the role of the audience in the development of a band…
When it comes to writing music, and developments and changes in Fen’s sound, do you care what your fans think, or is writing music for Fen purely for the band members?
First and foremost you have to write music that satisfies yourself; that is an absolute underlying fundament of being in a band, but I do care, yes. I think a band takes on a life of its own after a point. We’re on our fourth album, we seem to have quite a few people out there who support us, and I think it’d be disingenuous to say that your audience, or the buyer, isn’t in mind when you’re putting together material. If people are willing to take the time and effort, and potentially money, to invest in your art, then there has to be an element of reciprocation there. We are conscious of the fact we have listeners; it’s not like we’re a global phenomenon but we are aware, and if we put out a record and our established fans didn’t like it, I’d be really interested to know why.
By not being a band that is overtly a touring artist, does that audience becomes more distant, and contact with the people that buy your product is reduced? It’s not like you are a 5fDP with 18 month tours…
“It isn’t, but that’s not to say we wouldn’t like it to be [on tour that long – not that they want to be Five Finger Death Punch – ST]. I enjoy doing this, I enjoy doing shows, we enjoy getting opportunities, and if you’re in a band and you have an audience, you look to grow that audience, and it’s important. I think there are bands that are disingenuous, and they say ‘We just write for ourselves, and it’s a bonus if people choose to listen to us’, but if you’re just doing it for yourself, then just play your music loudly in the rehearsal room.”
To Misquote Al Jourgensen, as soon as you play music to other people you’re selling out…
“I think it’s a dishonest thing to say ‘We just in it for ourselves’. When you pick up a guitar when you’re 13 or 14 years old, you just want to rock the fuck out. You want to be the man! No matter how many permutations your musical endeavours go down, or whatever prisms you view yourself through, as an artist the minute you’re going onto a stage and plugging into an amp that’s cranked up, there’s an element of that original instinct that kicks in, of wanting to just rock out in front of a crowd. I’m not going to lie about that just to make myself look a little bit cooler or more detached, or more intellectual.
“OK, we have signifiers and caveats to it – we’re playing “Atmospheric post-Black Metal…” Well, ultimately, we’re playing loud rock music. That’s an underlying fact. And a part of that is an audience. It’s an important part of being in a band. No one in a band can look me in the eye and tell me they enjoy playing in front of fuck all people. That’s not true. You can lie to yourself with your ‘There were only 2 people there, but those 2 people really loved it’.
“I remember in my old band, in Skaldic Curse, we started working on a 25 minute long progressive black metal epic, and we were ‘Oh, this is really going to piss people off’… Hang on a minute, where’s this thinking leading? Are we getting so wrapped up in trying to do what people don’t expect of us? But then you are still thinking about what the audience think, you’re just looking at it through a different end of the telescope. It’s an un-ignorable part of the artistic process, unless you are going to record music on your own at home and only listen to it alone. The minute anyone else enters the picture, even band mates, you’re sharing, and there’s consideration for the listener, and I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t see why that has to somehow compromise the purity of the art.”
I guess it’s always been something that’s intrinsic within the Black Metal / Kvlt Metal mentality or mindset…
“Yes, there’s always the isolationist thing, but if you look at the second wave of black metal, Euronymous still wanted to shift records. He ran a record label. He wanted to sell records from a shop. It was under the guise of spreading the message of the horned lord, or whatever, but he wanted an audience.”
And let’s not pretend De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (Deathlike Silence) is shit…
“It’s a brilliant record, and Euronymous wanted an audience for it. He’d do tours; Mayhem were touring around Eastern Europe in 1990, 1991, and they were one of the first second wave Black Metal bands out there doing it. And there are some real headbanging moments on De Mysteriis… take the riff on ‘Pagan Fears’, that’s a proper fists in the air riff. The mid-section of ‘Freezing Moon’… that’s a head-banging classic, and that’s why I don’t think considering your audience has to be a compromise at all. I think there’s some dishonesty in that level of thinking because you can be inspired, you can write with integrity and you can still consider your audience.
“If you’ve got to a point where your band has a fanbase, then your band has overtaken you. It’s no longer yours and yours alone. And I know John from Agalloch gets really upset with this, he gets upset with fans having a sense of entitlement, and that’s fair enough, but these people are buying and consuming your music, and it’s a sense that’s born from them enjoying your music. While that can be annoying, in a sense, you can listen to them and take some stuff on board. There is a line, but if they’re genuine fans, buying physical releases and merchandise, and they’re investing in your band and your music, then you owe it to them to take them into consideration.”
The upcoming feature film, The Bridge, announce the launch of their Indiegogo campaign. The Bobby Field directed and written, and Denise Bohdan and Jason Gurvitz produced film features a cast of musicians including Joe Elliott of Def Leppard, Al Jourgensen of Ministry, Joey Santiago of the Pixies, Eddie Ojeda of Twisted Sister, Tiny Biuso of Doyle (ex-Misfit)/TSOL, Rick Warwick of Black Star Riders/Thin Lizzy, and Sin Quirin of Ministry.
Fans can contribute to the campaign here: www.buildthebridgecampaign.com
The campaign will also benefit The Fender Music Foundation, and Fender Musical Instruments Corporation’s Entertainment Marketing division will be providing key products for the actual filming. Partnerships with other well-known music corporations will be announced soon.
Ministry 2015 Lineup – (Missing From Photo Is John Bechdel) (via Ministry Facebook Page)
Ministry has announced via Al Jourgensen’s website an extensive schedule of tour dates spanning the first half of 2015. Dates are posted below. The current lineup features Jourgensen, guitarists Sin Quirin and Monte Pittman (Madonna, Prong), bassist Tony Campos (Soulfly, Static X), drummer Aaron Rossi, and keyboardist John Bechdel.
AUSTRALIAN SOUNDWAVE TOUR DATES Feb 21: Adelaide, Australia (Soundwave Fest) Feb 22: Melbourne, Australia (Soundwave Fest) Feb 24: TBA Feb 26: TBA Feb 28: Sydney, Australia (Soundwave Fest) Mar 01: Brisbane, Australia
SOUTH AFRICAN & SOUTH AMERICAN TOUR DATES Mar 04: Carfax – Johannesburg, South Africa Mar 06: Audio SP – São Paulo , Brazil Mar 08: Vorterix – Buenos Aires, Argentina Mar 10: TBA, Santiago, Chile, Teatro Caupolican Mar 12: TBA Mar 13: TBA
NORTH AMERICAN TOUR DATES May 03: Bomb Factory – Dallas. TX May 05: The Filmore – Silver Spring, MD May 06: Irving Plaza – NYC, NY May 08: House of Blues Chicago – Chicago IL May 10: Regency Center – San Francisco, CA] May 11: City National Grove – Anaheim, CA May 13: TBA – Philadelphia, PA May 15: The Masquerade – Atlanta, GA May 16: Fest – Columbus, OH May 18: The Palladium – Worcester, MA May 19: The Filmore Charlotte – Charlotte, NC May 20: The Marquee – Tempe, AZ May 22: Fest – Oklahoma City, OK May 23: – Gothic Theatre – Englewood, CO Jun 12: Vogue Theatre -Vancouver, BC Jun 14: Flames Central – Calgary, AB Jun 15: Encore – Edmonton, AB Jun 17: Phoenix Concert Theatre – Toronto, ON Jun 19: TBA – Quebec
In some circles, Ministry are spoken of in tones reserved elsewhere for Slayer. Reverence for their classic material combined with dissatisfaction over their current direction marks them as one of the “Untouchable Greats” in their field. This live DVD shows them touring their 2012 comeback album Relapse shortly before the death of guitarist Mike Scaccia, and is dedicated to his memory.
Having not paid serious attention to the band since 96’s Filthpig, my first observation about Last Tangle In Paris (UDR Music) was how the band have changed. Focussing heavily on tracks written without Paul Barker, we see a band operating comfortably somewhere between generic Groove Metal and mid-period Sepultura – crunchy, thrashy Metal built around repetitive grooves and simple choruses. Where Al Jourgensen once adopted a different vocal style for each song, he now employs the same angry sneer throughout, and their genre-defining “industrial” elements are now largely restricted to the use of samples and effects.
No band with their reputation can completely ignore the past, of course, and a barrage of four tracks finishes the set. Certainly crowd-pleasing, this section unfortunately raises its own problems; not only the contrast with the newer tracks, but also the authenticity of Jourgensen’s vocals. Put simply, the vocal performances on the classics are absolutely note-perfect imitations of the versions recorded two decades ago, and sometimes visibly out of synch with what Jourgensen appears to be singing.
A live DVD is about more than just the music, of course, and Last Tangle… aims to show us a band struggling to come to terms with their grief. Rehearsal footage featuring Scaccia is interesting for fans, but the poor sound quality reduces the value of these sections. Interviews with most of the current line-up cast light on their grieving process, and Jourgensen in particular speaks humbly and openly about the impact that Scaccia’s loss has had upon the band and his own life. Laudable and occasionally genuinely touching, but overall Last Tangle… is unlikely to be of much interest to anyone other than serious fans of their recent material.
With Ministry on the verge of disappearing the vaults are opened once more and this time around Jourgensen and Co decided to release a live CD/DVD package entitled, Enjoy The Quiet – Live At Wacken 2012. Continue reading →
Last month saw the release of Cemetery Gates – Saints & Survivors Of The Heavy-Metal Scene by Mick O’Shea. The book is a collection of portraits on the more notorious figures within the rock and metal scene who’s party antics became their undoing or at least affected their lives in a significant way. Ghost Cult caught up with the author himself to discuss the backgrounds of this rather disturbing collection of rock and roll tales. Continue reading →
With 2007’s The Last SuckerMinistry mainman Al Jourgensen claimed it would his band’s final act of musical defiance. Yet in 2012 another album emerged under the Relapse moniker. Al wasn’t too happy being cajoled in another Ministry adventure by his bandmates, but it was a far more inspired effort than its predecessor and an excellent album to go out with a bang. As with 2013, you guessed it Al released another Ministry album, entitled From Beer To Eternity… Continue reading →