Neon Vamp

Messing around with color tonight. No goals really. I think this came out looking like a movie poster. I had fun. 

Advertisements
Neon Vamp

Top 10 Extreme/Black Metal (& Friends) songs of my Youth

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.

Top 10 Extreme/Black Metal (& Friends) songs of my Youth

Finding Ekstasis: Xeper in the Art of Fighting

Last spring, I began studying Baguazhang. I had spent the year before acclimating to a new job that required me to be in an office forty hours a week. About eight months into my tenure as an office dwelling pencil pusher I started feeling sick. My body ached. My stomach was constantly in shambles. I started shaking all the time. This wasn’t surprising considering the lack of physical activity I was getting between my day job and producing music at home. Both of these things required me to be sedentary for upwards of eighteen hours a day. I would go to bed and repeat the cycle the next day, which, in retrospect is a horrifying experience to re-live in my mind. The process of breaking out of this self-destructive cycle began with my investigation into traditional Japanese fan dancing, Wing Chun, and Tai Chi. Unfortunately, I couldn’t participate in the fan dancing classes because they happened while I had work. The local Wing Chun school was quite promising, but it was about forty minutes away from where I lived. I did actually start doing Tai Chi for about two months with a rather nice group of people at the local Chinese Cultural center in Tucson, but I quickly bailed on them after realizing that it was a glorified swingers club for people above the age of 55.

I began searching for solutions closer to my apartment and discovered a school that taught internal Chinese martial arts literally a mile down the road. I wrote their association and was informed about their meeting times and attended my first class. The school was hidden in plain sight. The only indicator that the school was different than the houses around it were the two ivory “foo dogs” that stood watch at the entrance. When I entered, I was greeted by paintings and photos of smiling Bagua and Xingyiquan practitioners Dong Hai Chuan, Liang Zhenpu, Gao Yisheng, Zhang Junfeng, Li Guichang and a group of five people slapping the shit out of their bodies. At first I wanted to laugh, but I was quickly beckoned into the circle to join in on the “light” body slapping.

bagua.jpg

I later discovered that light body slapping is done at the start of every class to essentially wake the body up by getting the blood flowing. In the context of my initiation this fit in well as a way to physically explore what it meant to literally go from white to red and back again. With every slap, my circulation improved, my blood rose to the surface of my skin, and for a few hours several times a week I began to realize the importance of using exercise as a way to quiet the brain.

Notice, I did not say my practice of Baguazhang shuts down the brain. Baguazhang is an internal martial art. It works by activating different structures in the brain that I don’t normally use while simultaneously quieting the prefrontal cortex. This allows me to stimulate a state of Flow by being able to focus wholly on what I’m doing without being interrupted by my self-consciousness. Bruce Lee referred to this as the “emptying of the cup.”

bruce.jpg

Bagua has given me an outlet to stimulate my ability to achieve a state of Flow with greater frequency and ease. My initial experience with using martial arts in this way didn’t come until I was able to have a grasp the basics of my chosen fighting art. Which is why I’ve only really begun to write about it now–this is a new, unexpected development in my personal quest to constantly improve.

Flow requires us to bring several automatized skills together in order to kick up our focus to a level that allows us to experience it. It takes awhile when we begin to learn a new skill or artform before we can actually experience a brain quieting flow-state. Steven Kotler, author of “The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance” would describe this experience as “Transient Hypofrontality:”

“In flow, parts of the brain aren’t becoming more hyperactive, they’re actually slowing down, shutting down. The technical term for this is transient, meaning temporary, hypo frontality. Hypo[…]the opposite of hyper means to slow down, to shut down, to deactivate. And frontality is the prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain that houses your higher cognitive functions, your sense of morality, your sense of will, your sense of self.”

I get a sense of deep embodiment when I practice Baguazhang. There’s nothing quite like being locked eye to eye with another person while focusing on multiple outlets of your own physicality. The ancient Greeks called this deep embodiment, ἔκστασις (Ekstasis). Ekstasis can be best described as an altered state beyond the normal “sense of self.” Ekstasis is NOT Flow, but it is a byproduct of being able to achieve Flow on a regular basis. In a Setian context, being able to experience Ekstasis means tapping into my “divine pattern.”

Now just imagine how amazing I feel by being able to achieve Ekstasis a several times a week! Baguazhang has all but become not only a powerful tool, but a conduit in which I can interface with my higher self so long as I continue to practice it or something like it.

Tapping into Flow takes practice. When it comes to my practice of Bagua I fail at tapping into it several times a session. This is usually caused by me trying to mentally dissect forms or movements. In terms of my physicality this “over-thinking” comes from making use of my prefrontal cortex.

I’ve experienced wonderful success imprinting myself with the overload of information I get from my practice the less “think” about it. And the less I think about it, the more I experience Ekstasis by having meaningful personal breakthroughs on a regular basis.

For instance, I was able to fully retain the positions of the nine palaces and the thirteen elbow form last month after working with them each for half an hour. Everything prior to that took several months for me learn. Part of my ability to retain this information comes from the challenge of seeing if I could actually do it, which I could surprisingly, but part of it also comes from a grasp of the basic movements I’ve spent perfecting since last spring.

Bagua has taught me how to get in touch with my immediate physicality–a.k.a. those things that I can see in the mirror. It has also taught me that I am fully capable of interfacing with of my physicality that I previously regarded as impossible to connect with like blood flow, internal energy, successful breathing, and various parts of my brain.

While it could be argued that certain notions of “emptying” the cup could be misconstrued as more of a right hand path philosophy I would argue that the “loss of self” that is experienced by learning to stimulate Flow through shutting down the prefrontal cortex requires the same control it takes to move our sovereign consciousnesses through the objective universe. “Emptying the cup” is something I do voluntarily for the purpose of stimulating Flow in an effort to connect with my divine pattern through Ekstasis.

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Ekstasis: Xeper in the Art of Fighting

Keeping Up with the Alex Joneses: An Atmosphere for Apocalypse

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.

king-koopa
All hail our glorious new President! Crazy hair? Check! Red power tie? Check? Has a tower named after himself? Check! Plumber alert!
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.

global-warming-conspiracy.jpg

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.

My Takeaway

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.

arrival-movie-paramount-530x297

 

 

Keeping Up with the Alex Joneses: An Atmosphere for Apocalypse

Music me Bitch

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. 

Changes 

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. 

Music me Bitch

Born on top of the giant wave

Seventy miles,

And seventy more!

I fight the coast with my feet

Where I stand to cease

Kissing the wind with my face.

The daystar bruises,

The sea it sprawls

With every stroke–leverage.

With every word a fight.

Hookers are delightful in red,

A crown of flowers

The shallow stage

And a boy who calls himself Holofernes.

I don’t care much that it smells of death

Hold the corpse up!

The deathier the better!

For ideals–

My life–worth chasing!

This feast, no Rome, no God!

Pardon me like John the Baptist

A wartorn Goliath melting in the sand.

caravaggio_judith_beheading_holofernes

Born on top of the giant wave