December 9th, 2010

S.C. Hickman

Hideous Gnosis: Black Metal and the Dark Angel of the Abyss

"... black metal could be described as a negative form of environmental writing; the least Apollonian of genres, it is terrestrial – indeed subterranean and infernal – inhabiting a dead forest that is at once both mythic and real unfolding along an atheological horizon that marks the limit of absolute evil where there are no goods or resources to distribute and therefore no means of power and domination, a mastery of nothing."
    - Niall Scott & Scott Wilson

I'm finally getting around to reading Hideous Gnosis which was originally a symposium organized by Nicola Masciandaro and sponsored by Glossator and Show No Mercy. Brandon Stosuy gives us - for those unfamiliar with the Black Metal movement - an informal history of the movement in the US in his article for The Believer magazine A Blaze in the North American Sky. He recounts the gruesome murder of Norwegian born Aarseth at the hands Vikernes (a.k.a. Count Grishnackh) which gained the movement its most notorious publicity.

Beyond this dance of death the original inspiration for Black Metal came from the group Venom and its Thrash Metal sounds in which "the main early defining differences between it and its father-genre being tremelo picking and 'blast-beats'; drum beats played about twice the speed as the traditional trash metal base beats (32nds as opposed to 16ths).  Taking major influence from Bathory and Venom, the ganre became largely associated with Norway through the work of Mayhem, Burzum and Dark Throne, many of the later bands categorised into the black metal genre being influenced by these three bands, and many of these bands being from Norway themselves.

Characteristics of black metal include typically high-pitched screaming vocals, tremolo picked guitars lacking bass and emphasising treble, and blastbeats (quadruple time drum beats). Unlike its sibling, the more thrash-based death metal, black metal concentrates more on mood and melodies (primal as they may be) instead of riffs and heaviness.


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S.C. Hickman

Alphonso Lingis: Poet Philosopher of our dark days...

"Those who find ecstasy do so not by visiting the shrines of civilization but by trudging in the swamps of human destitution and misery. Our literature of ecstasy recounts the dark nights of the soul and encounters with mystics in the slums and in the refugee camps of genocidal wars."
                           —from Abuses, Alphonso Lingis

Alphonso Lingis, a professor of philosophy at Penn State University has been portrayed as "a spectral presence, posed as an otherworldly griot, his voice phasing in and out of sync with peppery Brazilian music that boomed from a pair of formidable speakers. Silhouettes of dancers moved behind an opaque screen, writhing with a shadowed eroticism, as Lingis read a page, then tossed it in air."[1]

Guerrilla Metaphysics by Graham Harman shows a Lingis - as Tom Sparrow states it, that "toes the line between himself and the whole phenomenological tradition by affirming the autonomy of objects."[2] Tom Sparrow tells us in an interesting aside that "Lingis is a wanderer and a cosmopolitan philosopher par excellence, perpetually in search of sensations and constantly giving expression, or the closest thing to it, to the sensualities he encounters. This sensuality is not only sought out in each of Lingis’ travels, it operates as a condition of possibility in his philosophy. Speaking boldly, we might call him a transcendental
phenomenologist of sensuality." (ibid. p. 101)

I've been reading his work Dangerous Emotions.[3] In it he describes his travels to Easter Island where in a descriptive passage on the "free and nonteleological energies" of this volcanic paradise he asks, "How can the passions of penguins, albatrosses, jaguars, and humans not lift their eyes beyond the nests and the lairs and the horizons? How can these passions not sink into the volcanic rock and the oceanic deserts?" (ibid. DE) I'm reminded of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda who once described Easter Island as “a secret island, a rose...of purification, a golden navel”.


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