I think most of us can agree that Black Metal isn’t what it used to be. I think this is largely caused by the advent of the Internet. I grew up in the 1990s which was an odd transitional period for music in general. While we did have the Internet, it wasn’t like I could stream or preview the things I listened to in the same way that I do now. We’re able to discriminate a lot more based on our personal tastes than we ever have. As dorky as this sounds, I remember my non-driving fourteen year old self dragging my mother around to four or five different record stores and exchanges seeking out Black Metal albums like a ravenous beast. I used to mow lawns back for pocket change back then and I can vividly remember going straight from getting paid to the record store and blowing every last bit of my money on music. There was nothing quite like looking at a sales floor filled with thousands of CDs and having to sift through authentically shitty music in order to find that one diamond in the rough that may prove to be an identity forming album. And even then, if the album art didn’t speak to me, I would instantly dismiss the music inside as shit. As I’ve gotten older I’m not nearly as fickle.
I definitely think that my musical tastes are more or less frozen in 1997 when it comes to Black Metal. And by Black Metal I not only mean the likes of a more purist sound like early ’90s Darkthrone, but also stuff that wouldn’t be considered Black Metal by the needless labeling that goes on now–like Covenant’s “Nexus Polaris,” or Therion’s “Theli.” In my world, if it sounded heavy, had Satanic undertones, and was hard to find in comparison to something like Metallica it was Black Metal. Because, a lot of stuff like Covenant and Therion aren’t considered Black Metal by today’s standards I decided to label the kind of music those bands make as “friends” to the Black Metal genre. Yeah, I know that it’s all considered to be Extreme Metal. But I’m not getting stuck on the inconsistencies of genres with this post, this is about what my sixteen year old self would’ve considered to have been a top ten in terms of music! So without further adieu…here’s a list my favorite shit I grew up on. Warning: It starts off very not Black metal. I save the very best for the top 5.
10. Arcturus – Nightmare Heaven
I picked up “La Masquerade Infernale” late into my formative years, which it’s why it’s not really on my list. As I’ve grown older I’ve learned to appreciate the importance that album. I always preferred their follow up to it though with “The Sham Mirrors.” I remember blasting “Nightmare Heaven” in my car on a loop singing along with my windows down to the breakdown at 4:11 like an idiot. Their follow up to “The Sham Mirrors,” entitled “Sideshow Symphonies” is not to be missed either. Arcturus is one of those few bands that popped out of Norway that did the symphonic black metal fusion thing right.
9. Bloodthorn – The Day of Reckoning
Bloodthorn’s 1999 “Onwards into Battle” was not only the first Black metal(ish) album I heard, but also the first extreme metal album I heard. It was a formative experience because it shaped my tastes for the dark and evil sounding. It was the gateway which ruined me forever. I remember blasting this in high school when my parents weren’t home and my brother freaking out to the evil lyrics “IT’S THE DAY OF THE BEAST.” He eventually came around to see the light, or should I say the dark–for himself. Good music is unmistakable.
8. Therion – The Birth of Venus Illegitima
This isn’t black metal. But it has Satanic overtones! I really love Therion a lot. “Vovin,” though it is technically a solo album stands out to me. It’s a pretty badass album. “The Rise of Sodom and Gomorrah,” “The Birth of Venus Illegitima,” and “Clavicula Nox” are a few of my most favorite tracks ever. The only reason Therion didn’t make it higher up on my list is the rest of the album doesn’t stack up as strongly to me as some of the others here. That said, “Vovin” is a much better album than most bands best efforts.
7. Hecate Enthroned – A Graven Winter
Say what you want about this band. Their first two releases which includes their repackaged demo “An Ode for a Haunted Wood” under the name “Upon Promethean Shores” and “The Slaughter of Innocence” are solid symphonic black metal. “A Graven Winter” represents symphonic black metal perfection to me while capturing that familiar first wave of mid nineties British Black Metal started by Cradle of Filth and perfected by the likes of Hecate Enthroned with ambitious release of their first demo. The melody at 2:43 just decimates. By far one of the most influential songs of my youth.
6. Satyricon – Woods to Eternity
I had a really hard time picking a favorite from “The Shadowthrone.” Ultimately, I chose the song that sent the most energy through my body. “Woods to Eternity” has an incredible payoff starting at 4:30. It’s nothing but build up until then, but everytime I get there I feel a powerful release coursing through my body! To me, this is one of those songs that really embodies an authentic Black Metal sound. It successfully fuses strong sound writing with subtle atmosphere that makes me want to continually fist pump until I put a hole in the wall. My sixteen year old self would whole heartedily approve this choice. Many circles consider “Nemesis Divina” to be the best old school release from Satyricon, but that album came up slightly more dry than this one for me. “The Shadowthrone” was one of those albums that would creep into your head at school during study hall that would cause the teacher lording over you to send you to the office for humming it. This song especially would cause long bouts of humming and whistling it when I didn’t have it on–it’s that catchy. For fucking reals!
5. Darkthrone – Kathaarian Life Code
Atmosphere aside, “Kathaarian Life Code” does so many things right. But let’s get real, I don’t know if it would be possible to get a production quality as clean and dirty as this one nowadays. Also the lyrics leave a nice visual:
“Baphomet in steel for the flesh of cain
A throne made by remains
Of 12 holy disciples”
I always figured this line to be tongue in check for the band’s name sake. A throne of remains. What the fuck does that even look like? Regardless, this is another song that I believe could be referred to again and again as a Black Metal song that embodies everything imitators would love to be able to channel. Unfortunately, there’s only one Darkthrone circa 1992, and they’re long dead!
4. Dawn – The Aphelion Deserts
Dawn. One of those bands that just don’t get the attention they deserve. “Slaughtersun: Crown of the Triarchy” is an unsung masterpiece of Black Metal that constantly is overshadowed by more gimmicky groups like Dimmu Borgir. Make no mistake, they are criminally underrated. I had such a hard time figuring out whether “The Knell and the World” or “The Aphelion Deserts” was my favorite track from these guys, but I ultimately settled on the latter since the melody that kicks in at 1:57 really takes me to where the song promises to take me. This album in general is perhaps the most visual on the list with the exception of my number one pick but hey, I think these guys come very close to that! “Slaughtersun” is not to be missed.
3. Covenant – Bizzare Cosmic Industries
Not technically Black Metal, but who gives a fuck! Covenant, aka The Kovenant, released an album that fully eclipsed Dimmu Borgir’s 1997 effort “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant.” There was always something much more interesting about the sound on “Nexus Polaris” than anything Dimmu Borgir had released at the time or since. It’s a shame that we never actually got a proper follow up to this album. Regardless songs like “Bizarre Cosmic Industries” and “The Last of Dragons” keep me coming back almost twenty years later to the watershed sound of my youth.
2. Emperor – I am the Black Wizards (demo version)
Where do I even begin with this? In terms of sound this version of this song will always be the best in my world. I love the raw aspect of it so much. The imperfections like the voice cracking at 4:10 drive me absolutely up a wall. “I am the Black Wizards” is quintessential Black Metal. Everything comes back to this song. It’s just wild as fuck. This version was the first Emperor song I ever heard. And only the third Black Metal band I had been aware of then. I remember the weird hissing noise bothering me. I kept asking myself why I had wasted money on it, until I listened to it over and over again since I really didn’t have much choice back then. It was either these guys or Cradle of Filth–speaking of which…
1. Cradle of Filth – Heaven Torn Asunder
“Dusk and Her Embrace” was the watershed album of my youth. I remember the first time I popped this baby into my CD player. After listening “Heaven Torn Asunder,” I felt like I was a different person when I came out on the other side of it. Without this song, or this album for that matter, I have no doubt that I would be a completely different person today. This is pure perfection for me. It really speaks to my soul above any other song on this list by leaps and bounds. When the lyrics “The most august sorcerers of Hades…” kicked in it take me back down to my basement room abode where I really started to figure out who I was. Totally and completely without equal.
We went to go see “Arrival” Friday night. I chose the movie not just because there were aliens in it, but because I was expecting it to be a quiet evening out and a decent flick. Decent movie it was, but it was packed. Go figure. You would think that people would’ve gone to see Dr. Strange instead. It’s pretty obvious though that we are fascinated by the prospect of communicating with beings from another world, because there’s something, clean and humanizing about it. I suppose the reviews helped “Arrival,” but I think the movie was packed because it speaks to our concept of personal mystery. Needless to say, I was shocked there were so many people there to see a movie of that nature. Of course, this week has been a week of shocks. Yeah–I’m going to talk about the giant elephant in the room. King Koopa. I mean Donald Trump. I want to talk about why it was so shocking that he won and why it created an atmosphere that felt socially apocalyptic.
I have lived in an America that is filled to the brim with conspiracy theories. And thanks to the advent of the Internet going mainstream sometimes in the early 2000s most of us have immersed ourselves in a culture of conspiracy. You know the days, when you start cruising on YouTube or Wikipedia searching for how hummus is made and somehow end up on a video detailing how Nancy Pelosi is a reptilian a la David Icke. Everybody loves a good mystery, and even more, we love uncovering them. We love shining lights in dark holes hoping to find some semblance of clarity to the questions that can’t easily be answered. Type the words “September 11th attacks,” “Adolf Hitler fled to South America,” “the Bilderburg Group,” “moon landing faked,” or “JFK’s assassination” into your search engine and you’ll see what I mean.
Humans are not made for communicating in the smartphone age. We can’t handle it. What makes it even worse as we approach 2017 is the Internet is adapting to us. Have you ever done a search for something you’re shopping for and then it suddenly shows up in the form of advertisements in your social network feed? We all have. It’s like when Netflix suggests a new Hitler documentary to me, because I’ve watched Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards one too many times.
Most of us are too busy in our day-to-day lives to realize that this is especially dangerous because it immerses each one of us in our own little worlds that we can’t seem to break out of. Humans have created a means to give us this tool to create our own little echo chambers and stay there. This becomes even more dangerous when we find “like-minded” people and band together on social media websites, reconfirming the ideas we romanticize in our own worlds with each other. What’s worse is by limiting our exposure to types of people that do not conform to our own sensibilities, we create a reality for ourselves where we don’t have to confront the actual facts–because we don’t have to. People have forgotten what it means to have a civil argument. Instead when something upsets us, we send assassination threats to the President-Elect and hope that this nightmare will somehow end.
I believe that Donald Trump won the election because we all collectively as Americans bought into conspiracy. Even Donald Trump himself. I guarantee you that he was just as shocked as we were to hear the news that he won the presidency. He even made remarks during the debates that he wouldn’t accept the results of the election because he knew it was “rigged.”
Hillary Clinton has had an amazing track record of dishonesty with the American people in recent memory. Benghazi, the email scandals, stealing the DNC nomination from Bernie Sanders last summer. She’s like the boy who cried wolf. We all expected her to pull it out because she’s so incredibly gangsta that there was no way she could lose. Many people chose not to vote this election because they believed their voice didn’t matter. They believed that a liar would continue to lie to the very end and rig the election against a man who couldn’t possibly win. Hillary was supposed to rig the election. Shit–George W. Bush did in the 2000 election right? It was a whole big conspiracy that George W. won! Right? So why couldn’t Hillary do the same thing? Our votes don’t matter–she’s got this.
The shock came after on Wednesday morning when we all woke up to find that Trump not only won the election, but completely obliterated Clinton in the electoral college. Really, he killed her dead. She had zero chance. She spent her entire political career shrouding herself in lies and in the very end honesty killed it. She didn’t rig the election. And the result was that the story didn’t play out in the way we all thought that it would–both liberal and conservative alike. This is why we are all shocked. And will continue to be until we start seeing how the next four years will go.
Americans love buying into conspiracy. I think it’s going to take awhile for the shock of this election to go away. I do believe that the political pendulum will swing the other way in the next couple of elections. That’s how it always goes, right? Probably–but maybe not. If there’s anything that this election has taught me is to stop trying to be a goddamn mystic all the time. I can’t always predict the future correctly. And it’s during these times of vulnerability that I have to keep my eyes open. The apocalyptic atmosphere that this event has created cannot be easily replicated.
And so ends the longest week. Things are probably a lot more transparent than they may appear to be.
I’m not saying that there’s no possibility for conspiracy to exist, but in my world, and in my perception of the world around me it’s become all but worthless.
Do you know anyone who actually believes the results of the Warren Commission following President Kennedy’s death? Oswald couldn’t have acted alone! The Warren Commission is filled with lies! One bullet couldn’t have done all that damage! Stephen King wrote a book called “11/22/63” about the JFK assassination, it involves portals and time travel and all sorts of crazy bullshit–but he still has Oswald as the killer. Why though? Maybe because he makes up his own opinions.
Or maybe because Oswald actually did it.
I’ve been thinking about a lot of different things lately. Death is among one of the most intriguing things I’ve really been jumping into. I feel that as I’ve grown older it’s around me more and more. I’m more keen to it.
Winners and losers. They will always be there. Last year, I stepped on a few people consciously. For the first time in my life I stood by myself first and let other people in my life take a back seat. When we stand to lose the things important to us we have two options. One, we can choose to be stepped on–because we’re too scared at the possible consequences that might come out of being the one who does the stepping. Two, we break a few eggs.
Belief. We make up a large majority of the things that cause us almost certain hurt inside of our heads. Selective hearing. We can consciously choose to elect ignorance in the same way that we consciously choose to fuck a few people over in our lives to get ahead. Fucking other people over isn’t exclusive to those subjectively evil individuals in the world.
We are held back because we hold ourselves back. Desire. He who restrains it does so because he is weak enough to be restrained. But why? Because we are taught that weakness is okay. Weakness is not okay. Weakness means you are not fit. Not being fit means you’re off to the gallows. You dig the holes and bury yourselves.
Everything we know, everything that we think we know exists only on the basis of what we experience. What we perceive. There are so many things out there in the so-called universe that we cannot perceive. An infinity of possibilities, an ocean of knowledge you and I will never know or understand. I used to think that uploading my consciousness into a computer would be the most sovereign thing for me to do at the end of my life. But now I’m not so sure. What part of my monkey brain wants to keep living on in the same way that I do now?
You know what scares me most? Not being able to do what I want to do. The most interesting aspect to this is that I’m currently doing a lot of things in my life that I don’t want to do. A paradox! If our lives are measured by the time, and time is the currency in which we have to spend on both the things we must do and things we want to do–then why do we waste that currency on the things we don’t want to do?
When people post on social media about how they are feeling it can come in many forms. Posts are made expressing delight, dissatisfaction, happiness, bragging, and straight up bitching. Aside from the fact that instead of spending their time doing something productive with the forty minutes it took to write a post, we must take into consideration where posts are broadcasted. Public channels.
What does this mean exactly? Well, for one, other people can see these posts. But why is this important to assessing whether or not an individual is adept in the art of wasting time? Posting status updates in a public channel where other people can potentially see it is basically the same thing as screaming:
“I’M HERE! I’M ALIVE! SOMEONE RESPOND TO ME TO MAKE SURE MY CLAIMS OF BEING ALIVE CAN BE CORROBORATED!”
At the surface level, posting status updates can be done in pursuit of social validation. But it goes much deeper than that. The serial social media addict post status updates as a way to validate their existence.
People that post on social media make an observation about their lives and by doing so induce a conscious moment for all of their friends, followers, and would-be adherents to see. This phenomenon is a futile attempt at what P.D. Ouspensky would refer to as “self-remembering.” He defines self-remembering as follows in his book “The Fourth Way” (#19C):
“To remember oneself means the same thing as to be aware of oneself–‘I am.’ Sometimes it comes by itself; it is a strange feeling. It is not a function, not thinking, not feeling; it is a different state of consciousness. By itself it only comes for very short moments, generally in quite new surrounding, and one says to oneself: ‘How strange. I am here.’ This is self remembering; at this moment you remember yourself.”
By posting in social media as a method of existence validation–people are trying not only to make an attempt to remember themselves, but also to get other people to assist them in this process!
For example, when social justice warriors get offended by the multitude of things that they tend to get offended by they scream from the mountain tops for attention. Are they really offended or are they simply trying to get the Internet to remember that they exist because they had something really “important” to say?
Smartphones–Obliteraters of Consciousness
Do you know anyone in the proverbial “first world” without a smartphone? If you do, they’re probably your grandparents or a conspiracy theorist. Regardless, they’re in the minority. Let’s be honest with ourselves–“first worlders” live in a phone society. Over 61% of Americans own a smartphone. We’re obsessed with staying connected.
With regards to having a social media presence, a smartphone, and how those two relate to self-remembering I would like to pose two questions.
- How often do you check your smartphone on a daily basis?
- Have you ever forgot your smartphone at home? How did that make you feel?
The New York Daily News ran an anonymous poll in 2012, 84% of the people that responded to the poll said that they couldn’t spend a single day without their smartphones.
People feel naked without their phones because they feel disconnected from everything. It makes our monkey brains feel insecure when we accidentally leave them at home. After all, the world is nastier than ever. By being disconnected, people feel helpless, unsafe, and alone.
Assisted Self-Remembering and the Left-Hand Path
In terms of how this relates to my exploration of the Left-Hand Path I think it’s important to consider the basics.
Dr. Stephen Flowers defines the Left-Hand Path as “the path of nonunion with the objective universe. It is the way of isolating the consciousness within the subjective universe and, in a state of self-imposed psychic solitude, refining the soul or psyche to ever more perfect levels. The objective universe is then made to harmonize itself with the will of the individual psyche instead of the other way around.”
In the strange case of existence validation in social media, I view assisted self-remembering as a very Right-Hand Path mechanism to cope with adversity. By seeking existence validation, you’re seeking to unify yourself with the collective consciousness of would-be “individuals” on the Internet.
As autonomous individuals we must consider how we make use of the tools available to us. However, the user must not become the used.
As the old platitude goes–everything in moderation, but sometimes that just doesn’t work. Especially when it comes to dealing with intense co-dependence on things that should be used as tools to make our lives easier. Social media is a tool, but when we become dependent on it, it can needlessly complicate our lives in a vortex of both wasted time and consciousness.
Some people become so over-involved with their smartphones and their social media presence that they experience “phantom vibration syndrome.” I’ve experienced this first hand. What’s more, is that during the time I was experiencing phantom vibrations I was checking my phone so much that I began to lose sight of the things I actually wanted to do. I was wasting so much time posting cat photos, Twitter drama, and how many likes I could get on my new profile pic. Yeah, I had issues.
My solution? To cut. To be more specific, to cut out social media.
I was starting to become really disenchanted with Facebook back in August, but because I depended on being constantly connected I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. I eventually opted to deactivate my Facebook account for an entire month. During that time, I wrote some bad ass short stories, finished an album, and started vacuuming my apartment more. On top of all that I began to socialize more with actual people! Imagine that. When I came back to Facebook in October I didn’t feel the same about it. I don’t need anyone to help me remember who I am. That’s my goddamn job.
During my glory days of being a social media junkie, my experiences with phantom vibration syndrome was a physical subjective reaction to my consciousness becoming overloaded with stimulation. Mentally, I was malfunctioning. In “The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution” (#19B) Ouspensky writes:
“We cannot become conscious at will, at the moment when we want to, because we have no command over states of consciousness. But we can remember ourselves for a short time, at will because we have a certain command over our thoughts. And if we start remembering ourselves, by the special construction of our thoughts; that is, by the realization that we do not remember ourselves, that nobody remembers himself, and by realizing all that this means, this will bring us to consciousness.”
Smartphones embody what Ouspensky is trying to overstate here. When we carry smartphones it’s a shitty attempt to gain control over our consciousness. We’re aware that a smartphone is in our pocket or purse, and if it’s not there then our monkey brains panic because we’re disconnected and alone. In turn, by abusing social media as a means to assist in remembering ourselves, we stop remembering ourselves.
But why? Because we’re wasting time with bullshit that does nothing to improve our sense of well-being. By over-stimulating our consciousness through our overuse of the social media tool we cause ourselves to malfunction by becoming dependent on assisted self-remembering. In short, we’re making a meaningless expenditure of consciousness that could’ve been spent doing something that we actually wanted to do.
A Closing Thought
I recently discovered that I enjoy going for short hikes in the Sonoran Desert surrounding Tucson. I’m not killing myself when I go out for these hikes–but it’s still exercise. Aside from the obvious physical health benefits of hiking a few miles daily, what does this do for me mentally? It allows me to focus on one thing. The desert. It’s a tranquil experience that I’ve adopted for myself, and it’s become more and more important to me as a means to clear my head of all the negativity I’m surrounded with on a daily basis.
Our brains weren’t meant for the amount of over-stimulation that we get on a daily basis from the Internet void. It’s absolutely impossible to be conscious at all hours of the day. As much as we’d like to convince ourselves otherwise through the illusion of multitasking our direct consciousness is most effectively put to use when we’re focusing on one thing at a time.
It’s important to cut out the things in our lives that hold us back. While we may cut things out of our lives because they are terrible, we must consider why they are terrible–because they prevent us from being autonomous divine life forms.
These are pieces I love playing while I do creative work or work to develop myself. Sarah Chang is a brilliant violin talent that has immense energy that radiates in this aggressive performance.
Sibelius is one of the few creative artists able to describe his own work in a way I view as congruent to what he was trying to pull off:
“I said that I admired [the symphony’s] severity of style and the profound logic that created an inner connection between all the motifs… Mahler’s opinion was just the reverse. ‘No, a symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything.”
Watch and listen to this masterpiece!
Look no further for one of the finest examples of musical composition ever to manifest itself. I really enjoy using this music for getting the right atmosphere when I do work.
Performed by Brigitte Engerer.
There’s no need to thank me. You’re welcome.