14 June 2009

Bosch Bosch Bosch Bosch

Reign Fucking Evil Gates of Hell Apocalypse Astral Demons Last Dawn Burning Universe Slaves Dark Forces Inferno Spheres of Light Symphonies of Steel Living Death Doomed Immortal Skeletons Witch Trial Legion

Party time. The above looks like a cut-up of a random selection of black metal or doom metal but it's in fact all taken from various techno 12s from the late-90s doomcore / terrorcore scenes. Black metal, or at least, the idea of black metal has acquired such a heavy importance now, I've ended trawling through this stuff again, trying to work out what, if anything to make of its overlapping obsession with the terminal points of the hellish apocalyptic sublime.

I find it more interesting than black metal, because there's such a weird tension between its maximalized nihilative death-drive, right up in your face, while in the background are its roots in Acid culture and its ecstatic spaces, shared utopia. I guess it's a logical unfolding of a very ancient theory of hedonism: the Dionysian or Bacchic frenzy in which unhinged orgiastic revelry ends in the madness of the Maenads tearing victims limb from limb. Plus a dose of the good old Gothic sublime, the pain-pleasure nub/rub, from the Summer of Love to the God of Hellfire, souls writhing in the abyss, The Dance of Death, four-to-the-floor conceived as Hieronymous Bosch-Bosch-Bosch-Bosch.

But that makes these records sound figuratively 'hotter' than they are. They're cold sounds for a post-human cybernetic world: arctic reverbs, icy hi-hats, riffs that are like blocks of binary bled dry of any of r'n'b's libidinal pentatonic juice. This chimes with the Arctic atmospheres of Xasthur, KTL or Burial Hex, just as those holocaust synth sweeps, dredged-up, stygian basslines, and, at the higher end of the tempos, the pummeling kick-drums, as flattening as tank treads, start to recall the flattened blur of extreme metal's blast beats.* [see footnotes at end of post]

The difference, very broadly, is the direction the two face culturally. Black metal is all about unspeakable mythopoeic atavisms. It looks back into legend for its vision of the world and its end. Doomcore faces forwards into dystopia, to death-by-machine. It's the music for a Cyberdyne staff party, the music that would play in a bombed-out warehouse shell, carpeted with human skulls for ten thousand stripped-steel Terminators on R&R to get off their CPUs to.

[Above: Let's Dance]

Dominic Fox's excellent discussion of misanthropy and modernism is relevant here:
Here we find the means to distinguish between two modernisms. The first, which is avant-gardist, seeks a new body beyond the law and assembles its cadre according to a novel and enigmatic chording of affinities. The second, which is aristocratic and reactionary, wishes to “affirm the hierarchies”, to maintain (or recover from obscurity) an eternal principle of separation between the values of the elite and those of the levelling, democratic “mass” culture.
I would say doomcore tends to the former, black metal to the latter. There is a lot more to be said about the politics of this stuff, but for now...

A note

After the hip-house post, I don't want this blog to become a YouTube lens, but I've done it again with this one, not only so that anyone unfamiliar can check some of this stuff easily, but because having a whole stack of tunes turns the post into a kind of aleatory make-your-own-Merzbow machine. Set any number of them playing in any combination and you get an un-Holy mess that's equal parts power-electronics : techno : metal. I'd submit that it provides a soundtrack to Splintering Bone Ashes' recent posts, a soundtrack which one commenter there requested.**

Biochip C - Fucking Evil

The quote at the start is from Hellraiser III: 'There is a secret song at the centre of the world, and its sound is like razors through flesh. Oh come, you can hear its faint echo right now. I'm here to turn up the volume. To press the stinking face of humanity into the dark blood of its own secret heart.' Which I guess is the keynote for all doomcore from this track on Force Inc in 1993, though the track itself is full of a juicy acid squelch later doomcore would strip out.

Mescalinum Utd - Symphonies of Steel 1

The clang of the future! On Planet Core Productions in 1993,

Mover and Rave Creator - Astral Demons

From 1994 on Cold Rush, probably the most important label along with PCP.

Freez-E-Style - Enter The Gates Of Darkness (Stay Strong, Raise The Flag And Spread The Spheres Of Light)

Also on Cold Rush in 1994. That title: pure doom. Were they listening to early Earth?

Negative Burn - Gates of Hell

Renegade Legion - Dark Forces

Both on Dance Ecstasy from 1996.

Reign - Skeletons March

Searching for Reign on YouTube threw up Slayer (Skeletons of Society) which just goes to show...

Pilldriver - Apocalypse Never

One of history's great kickdrums? Cold Rush again, 1997.

Auteur section:

Zekt - Nuclear Indicator - 1994

Zekt - Sound & Vision - 1997

Not a Bowie cover in case you were wondering.

Zekt - Last Dawn

On Drop Bass Network in 1995. This track features the Lord of Darkness on the mic: "I require the solace of the shadows and the dark of the night!"... from Legend, a film from my childhood which only seems to get weirder as I get older. The involvement of Bryan Ferry... Tim Curry's big red phallic chin... Tom Cruise in a miniskirt, touching a unicorn's horn...

The Horrorist -- Flesh is the Fever - 1997

Terrorcore made the metal aesthetic of doomcore rather thunkingly explicit, through actual interpolations of metal sonics

Jack Lucifer -- I am Living Death -- Kotzaak 1995

Kotzaak was the big label for this stuff. Something very straight-to-video about it for me.

If nothing else, this stuff should make you hear Justice differently.

No doubt original doomcore types scoff at this stuff the way blacker-than-black metallers deride Sunn O))) as latte metal. Well, DANCE is unforgiveable, but the doom-electro of Waters of Nazareth has definitely got something.


* The obsession with apocalypse, the end of history... it crops up in techno and metal, but also in roots reggae, and you get some millennial moments in hiphop: Wu Tang Forever, Nastradamus and especially on the eschatological Killah Priest album. (Of course in roots & hiphop it comes from rasta and Baptist pre-occupations with Revelation Time, rather than the atavistic return of modernism's will-to-decimate described above.) Then there's apocalyptic folk: the millenarian visions collated by Harry Smith, Greenwich Village Armageddon blues, and later Current 93 and Coil. Postpunk scorched Earths like The Pop Group. My Life in The Bush of Ghosts as 'millenarian manifesto'. Not to forget Time Zone's World Destruction. And what you could call Apopalypse: moments in Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, REM...

** Not convinced by the vision put forward by Alex in these two posts at all. The second advocates (and references) a position which Dominic, here, is only describing:
'Pure misanthropy…not self-pity”: in order to be pure, misanthropy must be purified of any attachment to the human self that would fall within its remit. A world of the dead that despises and rejects that of the living: such is the allegiance of the misanthropist without reserve.'
... But the politics of black metal, the spectre of politics as applied black metal, are another post altogether. K-Punk's latest prose-poem meanwhile is as scorched-earth as ever, and in its devious re-casting of critical response as Troll-like or Vampirical, leaves no room for any but the most intemperate dissent. It can only logically be replied to with the (k)punker-than-punk move of an 'I Hate... K-Punk' post. (Not Mark of course, just K-Punk). But I'd rather suggest that (since Alex regards the 'I Hate...' posts as exercises in bad faith) Mark's rallying cry for all fans to gloriously own up to their fandom be answered. Time for a round of 'I Love...' posts I think...


Anonymous said...

that's a pity you didn't mention fifth era, responsible for some of the best doomcore tracks ("support your local doomcommando" or "five minutes after the pill" are classics)

Anonymous said...

Good post. For more doomcore/dystopian rave music, see also Crossbones Records and its sublabels : Phuture Rave, Rave Frontier and Last Tomorrow.

Sam Davies said...

Anon 1, had a look at Fifth Era, that really is techno for Satanists...

Anon 2, thanks for the tip, I'll check Crossbones et al out.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2 talking :

Years ago I made a doomcore playlist for a french webzine (non-PCP because PCP needs a playlist on its own). Of course loads of great stuff are missing but still think they're a majority of real quality uncompromising dark/doom/gloom rave music in it.

Please listen to this, mate


Sam Davies said...

Thanks again Anon 2, I'll check it out now for the ones I haven't heard. Have you done any mixes for download?

Anonymous said...

No i'm not even a dj.

I've just released a doomy rave EP with two other friends on Black Monolith under the "Uninvited" moniker.

Funny that the track "enemy lines" has been written with a kind of cyberdyne's exo-skeletons party on a dancefloor carpeted with human skulls in mind ahaha