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Unblack Metal

Discussion in 'General Metal Discussion' started by AchrisK, Jun 29, 2007.

  1. AchrisK

    AchrisK Weakling

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    that is incorrect
     
  2. thisisaformicatable

    thisisaformicatable New Metal Member

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    Finally finished a review for Metal-Archives, gave it 40%. Not a terrible album at all, seemed much better than any Frost Like Ashes I've listened to, and I definitely see how Christians would get excited about it.

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    "…it is important that Christians [be] present in every field, in every genre…"
    - Sygmoon (Morten Sigmund Magerøy), Screams Of Abel Issue 32

    Mr. Magerøy, it must be noted, was not a participant in the recording of The Return Of The Black Death. But as an eventual member of Antestor his statement provides us a context through which to consider this piece. This expression of obligation is appropriate because that is what this album feels like: a band with a mission, a commitment, a duty that requires them to force themselves into the confines of a musical style that was not created for them. It was surely a challenging task, and the debated level of success gained raises questions that were perhaps answered by the band when they later moved away from the black metal sound – why accept the conventions and restraints of a style so counterproductive in achieving the expression of a Christian message? Whether it was the missionary mentality that brought Antestor into secular extreme metal like Black Robes into Huron pre-Quebec or not, they were met with hostility and challenges befitting such a mindset. How successful was this expedition?

    Keyboards are a strong presence, though rarely overwhelming. The album does not approach the cheap gaudiness of the average symphonic black metal atmosphere; restrained production keeps the various elements at a comfortable distance. The recording's main harsh element is the vocal approach, as the typically abrasive black metal tremolo riffing though present is usually buried within the underlying ambience to varying extents. Essentially the sonic outlook of this album is grey with occasional glimpses of bittersweet hope shining through the clouds. The vocals provide a contrast to the rest of this soundscape that is not atypical in black metal, although the relatively easily decipherable lyrics enhance the difference and make it less natural, even awkward. It is not hard to imagine that if you were to replace the vocals with clean ones you would have a subdued Christian doom album, probably one far more coherent than what exists here. At moments, such as large sections of the tastefully meditative "Sorg", we are given glimpses at what might have been were the band to be free of an apparent obligation to insert the black metal vocal convention throughout their work.

    The previously described atmosphere, when pushed aside, reveals a collection of content that is noticeably uneven. The somber doom passages of "Sorg", the nearly uplifting praise vibe of "A Sovereign Fortress", and the weirdly mechanical moments of "The Bridge of Death", though consistently bathed in dreary hues create an odd and disconnected greater picture. While an array of experimental and wide ranging music can certainly be blended into a unified vision on one album, here the explorations aren't particularly experimental and often defy explanation – variety for variety's sake, or the simple byproduct of writing a bunch of songs without a master plan. Whatever the approach, it results in each song standing apart from the others but creates a disjointed listening experience that obscures any greater meaning. Attention to album structure is apparent only in the most pragmatic sense – there are intros and outros, of course. And the late appearance of a standard rising action/climax/dénouement trilogy consisting of tracks eight through ten help strengthen the album as a unified force, but this is after we have been wandering aimlessly for the better portion of the running time.

    Let all my traducers be shamed and dishonoured
    Let all who seek my hurt be covered with scorn


    It would be unfair to focus on the occasional byproducts of the band's ESL status that appear in the lyrics, instead here a typical passage illustrates the religious nature of this album's tone – Antestor doesn't take action, they pray for God to do it for them. When they do take action (they did make this audio proselytization effort, of course) it is with His permission and guidance. A role reversal of your typical Satan-inspired black metal call to arms, perhaps, although Antestor never seem to realize the irony. And there is plenty of that – one gets the impression that these are the type of folks who heard "One Rode To Asa Bay" and remarked at what an uplifting story was being told. As those pagan temples were converted into Christian churches, so we have Scandinavian folk incorporated here into songs about Vikings being guided by the light of Christ ("Svartedauens Gjenkomst"). This unique set of juxtapositions is sure to amuse and probably offend some, and it's a shame that this reaction, though surely anticipated, is never capitalized upon. This could be a blistering assault on metalized and romanticized ideals of pre-Christian Europe, if they were to use this music (both folk and black) in a malicious fashion – but it is understandable that they went a different route, as these don't appear to be Christians of the fire-and-brimstone variety. Instead of parody we get the worst kind of irony, the unintended and unacknowledged kind that comes of as self-destructively naïve.

    Vocalist Martyr is appropriately pseudonymed, he sounds strained and sorrowful. But there isn't much in the way of suffering on this album, not nearly as much as the vocal tone would suggest – and when the suffering abates, a strange disparity between message and delivery is created. Songs of praise become songs become emotional cries of prayer, which is effective in a certain way, as is the expression of regret in "The Bridge Of Death." But when the tone doesn't change for the battle cries of "Kongsblod", the issue arises: is this supposed to express never ending tears for Jesus, or do we just have a case where whatever the vocalist's standard black metal screech sounds like is deemed proper for all occasions? When "Jesus you fought the battle for me / Help me to see that you set me free" is delivered with a tone identical to that of "We are God's servants / Armed for war", it would be expected that the musical accompaniment would give us a hint as to the mood. But the overall tone doesn't fluctuate greatly; this is a record where aggression is absent, where triumph and defeat, submission and regret are given a uniform coat of melancholy drab.

    Following the climax of the "Kongsblod"/"Battlefield" victory of the Christian army, the falling action of "Ancient Prophecy" is an anomaly worthy of study on its own. Something of a reserved gothic dirge, it is atmospherically as strong as this album gets, and tasteful if not ambitious. Conceptually it is puzzling, offering a collection of philosophical paradoxes in the popular Christian "the last shall be first" style. These droning passages are bracketed by something far more unexpected – a number of favourite quotes from Ridley Scott's 1982 seminal future noir film Blade Runner. Fans of that work will recall the echoing final lines of Edward James Olmos' character: "It's too bad she won't live! But then again, who does?" These and other lines are paraphrased here, in an apparent attempt to form a powerful Christian narrative for the album's finale. It's easy to presume plagiarism, as when the context of the film is considered the message here doesn't make much sense. Here, meeting the Christian maker face to face for judgment is portrayed as an inescapable consequence. Yet when Rutger Hauer's replicant character meets his maker he is hardly humbled – he gouges the weak old man's eyes out and leaves him to die.

    This band was on a mission on this album, and if the evangelization of black metal wasn't too great a feat, why not Christianize Blade Runner while they're here? One more layer of cognitive dissonance isn't going to hurt.
     
  3. Thoth-Amon

    Thoth-Amon Hypochondriac

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    do unblack metal bands wear uncorpse paint? :p
     
  4. AchrisK

    AchrisK Weakling

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    I like it too
     
  5. V.V.V.V.V.

    V.V.V.V.V. Houses Ov Mercury

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    God this overanalysis is bothersome...
     
  6. Alter

    Alter Banned

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    Black Metal is a soud. Unblack Metal has that sound also. I dont get the how we argue its importance.
     
  7. thisisaformicatable

    thisisaformicatable New Metal Member

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    Sorry, next time I'll try to dumb it down a bit for you. :)
     
  8. V.V.V.V.V.

    V.V.V.V.V. Houses Ov Mercury

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  9. Blind Guardian

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    Christian black metal sounds as contradictable as nazi hip-hop:)
    Not saying anything about the music quality though as i´m not that interested in bm in general
     
  10. Vilden

    Vilden From the holy kingdom of Harmonia

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    Its a sound and about Satan. ;)
     
  11. ShredHeadJHJ

    ShredHeadJHJ oh noes itz a opinionn

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    Isn't "White Metal" essentially "Christian Black Metal"???





    Sorry if it's been answered already...
     
  12. Zephyrus

    Zephyrus Tyrants and Slaves

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    Pretty much. Both terms are equally oxymoronic.
     
  13. AchrisK

    AchrisK Weakling

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    No, the term white metal was coined long before the genre classification of black metal, and not in direct opposition. White metal was a general term applied to metal with Christian lyrical themes, including sometimes bands like Trouble, who were not comprised of Christian members. It seems to have always been a label applied by those outside of the "Christian metal" "scene". The Christian metal scene was called just that, by those who comprised it, and bands were classified with the same general genre classifications as all metal. Yes, there were questions (as many from within) about "Christian death metal" and wanting to call it "life metal" and all that. But mostly people used the common genre terms. It wasn't until the second wave of black metal came out that a genre arose that took ideological offense on a large scale at Christians playing it. The issue came about because of a band named Horde who released an album called Hellig Usvart in 1994; a great and powerful release of what sounds like true old school black metal, but with a message that violently opposes that of black metal. Hellig Usvart translated means Holy Unblack, and thus unblack metal is born. Many people in the "Christian metal" scene have always resisted the label "unblack", and seen it as silly, as have I. Though as I have discussed the topic, I have come to realize that it has some merit. Words and phrases are defined by the consensus of those who use and hear them. This means that black metal IS just a way to describe a musical (apart from lyrics) aesthetic, and it IS a term that describes a musical style that is defined by its lyrical themes as much as it is by its musical aesthetic. If it is understood by the majority of those who it affects as the latter, then when the lyrical themes depart from the agreed upon ideology, it must cease to be "black metal". I do think that Christians are discriminated against in this regard. The ideological boundries are not well defined and seem to shift to allow quite a variety of bands in, while always excluding those with Christian members.

    I will cease to ramble.
     
  14. thisisaformicatable

    thisisaformicatable New Metal Member

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    I'm curious if you have a source for that, if only because Wikipedia disagrees.

    Is that true?
     
  15. AchrisK

    AchrisK Weakling

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    I am pretty sure I remember the term white metal at least by the mid 80's. I know the term black metal was coined earlier than that, but it wasn't squarely applied until the second wave, as far as I remember it. Maybe that is where I have it wrong. Maybe I have the whole thing wrong. But I know I hadn't heard of black metal (as a genre) until the second wave.

    Yeah, based on what I remember from an interview with Bruce Franklin in Heaven's Metal way back in the day. By the time of the interview he had become a Christian, but he said that during the early stages of the band nobody was. It's been a while, and I sold off some of my older magazines, so I may not have it. But I will try to dig it up and maybe take a scan.
     
  16. thisisaformicatable

    thisisaformicatable New Metal Member

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    Wikipedia claims it arose as a pun on black metal, but of course offers no source. So who knows.

    That would be great, sounds interesting.
     
  17. AchrisK

    AchrisK Weakling

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    If it were a pun on black metal, then black metal as a genre would have to exist. So when did it start to be a genre? I know these days we say there was a first wave, but I always assumed that the black metal label is being applied to things that were originally not being called black metal. When was black metal actually applied as a genre classification?

    Well, here is an interview online.

    http://trouble.de/html/read/interviews/interviews25.htm

    It says it's from a 1999 issue of HM (previously Heaven's Metal). I thought the interview I was thinking of is from an earlier issue around 1993 (based on when Generation - Brutal Reality came out, which is an industrial/metal release involving Bruce Franklin).
     
  18. thisisaformicatable

    thisisaformicatable New Metal Member

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    Why?

    Seems pretty fuzzy on timelines, and doesn't address all members, although I don't know much about the behind the scenes of this band.
     
  19. AchrisK

    AchrisK Weakling

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    How can something be contrasted unless it exists? Wiki says it was a pun on black metal, so what was "black metal" when the term white metal was coined? Was it simply a Venom album? That seems unlikely.
     
  20. thisisaformicatable

    thisisaformicatable New Metal Member

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    As far as I know "black metal" was being thrown around to describe first wave bands shortly after Venom's album. Wikipedia also claims "Christian metal" as a term didn't exist until 1984, so presumably "white metal" couldn't be earlier than that. And by '84 all the first wave black metal bands were making waves.
     

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