This month I’m not planning on writing anything huge. I’ve been extremely busy working on new music for Vi, so really I need to get back to it, but I will fill you in on what I’ve been accomplishing during the month of March. I’ve recently graduated to level four in my study of Liang Zhen Pu Baguazhang. I’ve also been keeping up with my Japanese language study on a daily basis–something that I let lapse last year. I need to continue staying vigilant in an effort to maintain my consistency with this. I’m currently still at a very elementary level but I’m starting to understand basic grammar. I just started prepositions this week. I also learned that Japanese is an agglutinative language. I’ve been pulling triggers in terms of the late gender transition game as well, taking care of various last minute consultations and long drives into Phoenix in order to tie up all my loose ends. I’m moving downtown next month which will afford me even greater opportunities for pursuing performing live. I would say the big thing that I’ve begun is a weekly stream which I’m calling “The Church of Satin” on Twitch. It’s been a really great experience for me so far. It’s something I always wanted to try. For the most part, it gives me a lot of time to schedule actual playtime so I’m not continuously fucking off by playing video games during the week. I have been slacking on my drawing lately–but the large majority of the time that I could’ve been spending on that has gone to writing music, so I can live with that trade off. I’ve been uploading some of my streams to my YouTube channel. I linked one of my latest streams below. I’m playing Yoko Taro’s crazy Drakengard 3.
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.
Over the last month or so I’ve been trying to figure out the question of “what’s next?” It’s exciting to think about, as the possibilities are pretty endless, although it’s pretty clear to me that I won’t be climbing Mt. Everest anytime soon. I mean–I could, but I won’t. It doesn’t appeal to me.
Part of this “what’s next?” question ties in with figuring out which one of my personal endeavors I can hold myself absolutely accountable for. I need accountability in my life. It’s a personal assessment as to whether or not I’m making true progression. My work in Bagua has taught me the importance of making the things we hold ourselves accountable for as part of our regular scheduled programming.
So what’s next? Well–music is definitely on the menu. I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a new project. Musicians always tend to do this. If existing projects don’t fit into or serve a very specific need to what we want to do our first response is, “let’s do a new project.” But why limit what a project can do? Yeah, they might have a specific sound to them, but if that sound isn’t as fun as it used to be it might be time to change it. I’ve decided against it for the time being.
I used to be a little more obsessive with making “serious” music. Growing up listening to Black Metal can do that to you, until you realize that the guys in Satyricon or Behemoth are just a bunch of practical jokers who have very good work ethics.
Over the summer I released a track called “Cat Party Baby.” Its been getting played regularly by a few DJs who appreciate the importance of cats and dancing.
I did a few things different with that song that I didn’t do before. I took a step away from preset sounds from my VSTs, instead I made a few of my own. Moving forward I think that this is an important practice, but shouldn’t always be pursued if it gets in the way of songwriting.
I made the switch back to Image-Line’s FL Studio. I still really love Logic, especially for recording actual instruments, but FL works better for electronic music–at least for me. I can also go back to using it anytime or ReWire it, or both. After using Logic for over four years it’s not like I’ll unlearn it.
I got to learn my way around Yamaha’s Vocaloid 4. Cyber Diva isn’t the perfect vocalist, but she’s definitely impressive for an artificial voice.
I still have lots to learn on the production front. As I’ve broken ground on the new Vi album, I’ve been able to work faster and more effectively. Details have become more important to me. I won’t really go into what that entails, but this includes a better understanding of how sounds work together, automation, velocity of notes, etc. etc. “Cat Party Baby” taught me that making a song’s structure simple, to the point, but with unique smaller details can be much more appealing to the ear than something that is difficult to follow. The way I wrote lyrics for “Cat Party…” was also different than I’ve done in the past. Simple stories with visual and relatable details and a few sexual innuendos makes for decent entertainment.
The weirdest thing about My experience writing “Cat Party…” was that I was actually having fun. I didn’t give a fuck if I was being serious, the more I wrote the lyrics and the song itself I literally kept saying to myself “this is ridiculous.” And it was.
As I begin accumulating new material for the new Vi album for 2017, I’m not going to worry about whether the songs fit into some preconceived vision of the future, but rather whether or not each song really gets me going. I want these songs to be fun. I want them to take me somewhere. The I’m making a departure again from the Neon Metal sound of “Singularity Now.” In retrospect, I think that album is good, but it doesn’t embody what I want out of the project yet. “Singularity Now” was extremely experimental for me. It was the first album that I recorded completely by myself without studio intervention. I did the best I could at the time, but it really shows. I’m going to do much better for 2017. The work goes ever on.
I wrote a song. I had fun writing it. Mew.
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?
It’s been quite the year. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that I’m still writing on this blog. I’ve started and stopped so many blogs and websites over the years that I find it hard to believe I’ve actually stuck with it for an entire year. We’ll see if I make it through another one! Self-discipline is heroic!
(Below is my victory dance)!
I figured today would be as good as any to write out a list of some of the awesome shit I did this year. To be honest, I would say this was probably the most memorable year of my life, and here I thought 2012 was the pinnacle! It just goes to show you how surprising life can be.
- I read more books this year than I’ve read any other year of my life. A few of the highlights include: Harry Browne’s “How I Became Free in an Unfree World,” Anton LaVey’s “The Compleat Witch,” Taylor Ellwood’s “Pop Culture Magick,” and Ouspensky’s “The Psychology of Man’s Evolution.”
- I got into listening to podcasts. I fucking love Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. His World War I podcast is a masterpiece. Radiolab’s podcasts are short and sweet, and packed full of interesting conversation starters. Joe Rogan’s podcast is interesting too–but that’s a sometimes food.
- I traveled to Spain. Beautiful country. I want to live there! Marbella is basically one of my favorite spots in the universe.
- I had a crazy twelve hour surgical procedure on my skull to soften it up in order to become more passable as a woman. So far, so good!
- I moved from the east coast to the west coast. West coast best coast!
- Traveled all over the U.S. Spent a fuckload of time in Dallas Airport. I would say it became my second home this year.
- Went to South Carolina in a hurricane, with floods everywhere. That was fun. And underwhelming. Ain’t nothing but a thing!
- Played a lot of different games this year. My favorites include: Xenoblade Chronicles X, Fallout 4, Wonder Project J2, Knuckles Chaotix, and Magician Lord.
- While we’re on the video game subject we setup the ultimate retro setup in my self-improvement chamber. We have everything! NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, 32X, Sega Saturn, N64, PSX, PS2, Dreamcast etc. It’s pretty awesome having access to every old school game that we grew up with.
- I released an album and an EP amidst all the crazy that was 2015: http://gothicelectric.bandcamp.com http://starseatworlds.bandcamp.com
- I got a drum set! Fuck yeahhhhhhhhhhhh. It’s about time. Now I can truly be a one woman band!
- I started doing karaoke regularly.
- I started watching anime, and loving it. Some of my favorites from this year were Shimoneta, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, and One Punch Man.
- I finally watched Neon Genesis Evangelion. I also started watching Ranma 1/2. Needless to say I’m in love.
- I journaled more than I ever have this year. I’m a badass note taker. No, you can’t copy off of my notes!
- I finally got my own place that wasn’t shared with roommates. Am I sovereign yet mom?
- I finally got around to watching Game of Thrones. The Red Wedding was pretty awesome, the Purple Wedding was even better. Arya Stark is my favorite!
- Learned a lot more Japanese than I did last year. I’m doing this very casually. I could probably be a little more heroic about learning it faster.
- I cut out Facebook from my life. This wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.
- I turned thirty. Thirty is a club. For those of you still in your twenties you’ll see what I mean when you get your membership card in the mail.
- I got a brand new kitten. She’s wonderful in every single way!
Lursula wasn’t in the business of petting kitty cats. She actually loved cats. Which is why she was in the booming business of petting humans. Lursula was made of daggers. Her customers knew that—but they didn’t seem to care about it. To her, a paying customer was never wrong—though that never stopped her from questioning their mental health.
Last night ended up in a ruined dress and a dead regular. He didn’t pay her up front for a death by stabbing, but somehow he had gotten away with it. Maybe she got a little carried away. That didn’t matter. Lursula loved that dress. Replacing it would be an expensive chore.
After spending the entire night cruising the OmniBrink for leads on a replacement dress, she finally got around to calling Ymsri’s boys at around 8am. Charlie and Rexxus arrived at her apartment in less than ten minutes.
Charlie took one look at the guy on Lursula’s kitchen floor and shook his head.
“Lursy—we can’t take care of this one. Sorry babe.”
“What—so I’m supposed to keep him?” she replied.
“He’s a Nhevrixian Magistrate.” said Rexxus.
“Fuck. My. Ass.”
“We are not…in the assfucking business.” smiled Charlie.
“Just get this guy out of my apartment.”
“Sorry Lurse-Lurse. No can do.”
It was unusual that Ymsri’s boys wouldn’t take the job. Scrapers weren’t choosy about clean-up work. Gigs like these were their bread and butter. It was unfortunate that the dead Magistrate was a Nhevrixian. If he’d been Olintaj they wouldn’t have batted an eye. The only way to get him out of her apartment now was to report his death to the Nhevrixian embassy in Gjaletek City.
After taking a few photos of the Nhevrixian, Lursula hopped onto the nearest transport into Gjaletek. It was Wednesday—she was losing money by the minute. This wasn’t the life she had planned on. Frustrated, she tried losing herself in the red mountains of rust lining the cityscape.
The transport made a stop in Friesgsten, then Juripthna, and finally Kivturi. At the Kivturi stop an old, fat, though healthy looking man came and sat down next to her.
She tried not to make eye contact. He poked her in the shoulder incessantly for about ten seconds.
“Go sit somewhere else.” She leered.
“Can I ask you something?” he replied.
She tried to ignore him.
“It’s not often that I see an android made for performing surgery dressed as a pleasure model. Come to think of it—I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone or anything quite like that.”
Lursula put her head into her lap and sighed. “What’s your point?”
“Well—why are you doing that sort of work?”
“Maybe I like it.” She lied.
“I somehow doubt that.” he smiled. “Say…do you want get out of here?”
“That’s not what I mean.” he laughed. “I mean do you want to get out of HERE.”
He nodded. “Correct.”
“You’re lying again.”
The transport stopped. The man got up. And started to dig in he coat pockets for something. She was ready to be taken out of the transport by gunpoint. These types of idiots were always looking for a free ride on the “Fuck Me Harder” express.
“Gum?” he asked while unwrapping a wad.
“I’m all set.”
“I’m just trying to be polite.”
“Well be polite, somewhere else. This conversation is over.”
He shook his head. “I have a little something I want you to have. For when you figure out how to be…honest with yourself.”
He pulled out a small data-chip and pressed it firmly into her hand.
She grabbed his wrist.
“Look you little hemorrhoid, unless you’re going to pay you had better get your fucking hands off me before I rip them right off.”
“I—I—I apologize.” he stammered. He immediately got up from his seat and made his way off of the transport. “Please, if you get a moment.” he said holding his wrist. “Look at that chip. It may be worth your while.”
The doors closed. It was days like these that Lursula wished she had a way to go back to being a surgeon. In those days she didn’t have to think of ways to make a living for herself. In fact, she really didn’t have to think about living at all. Her programming had done all of the heavy lifting. Back then, she had been asleep. Happy and asleep. Well as happy as a mindless android made for surgery could be. She often wondered if it would be possible to go back to bed. And then again, why would she even want that? What use did this sprawling heartless city have for a woman made of knives? It was pretty clear to her that something in her life had to change. Re-purposing herself as a pleasure model was a good short term plan, but it didn’t have any staying power. She needed to find a real job–like yesterday. After all, how else was she going to be able to afford a replacement dress?