A Blaze in the Northern Sky (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Black Metal)

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“We are a Blaze in the Northern Sky
The next thousand years are OURS” -Darkthrone- A Blaze in the Northern Sky

The 6th of June 2017 marks the 25th anniversary of the burning of Fantoft Stavkirke by members of the Norwegian Black Metal movement. So in anticipation of this, I intend to give my thoughts on this much maligned form of music, as well as my history with it. Bear in mind that this is not a review of the Darkthrone album that I have purposed my title from.

The arson sparked a string of church burnings in Norway, and was what initally gave the genre of Black Metal international attention, so I thought it fitting (if indeed in bad taste) to highlight this (for me upcoming) anniversary, and base my retrospective on my history with Black Metal music around it.

My introduction to Black Metal music came in 2005 or 2006 through the more watered down early 2000’s style, the usual suspects as it were (Dimmu Borgir and Satyricon). I can’t rightly remember what my initial reactions to the music were, but the ultimate effect was so that I sought out the early 1990’s Norwegian originators, such as Darkthrone, Mayhem, and of course, the infamous one-man band Burzum.

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While I can’t remember what my first reactions to Dimmu Borgir were, for instance, I can very clearly remember what my reaction to Burzum was. It was one of utter disgust and loathing (I made the mistake of listening to the track War as my introduction to Burzum). Still, something made me seek out more songs, and eventually I listened to one particular song, which not only changed the way I viewed Burzum, but changed my entire view on music as a whole. The song in question is Key to the Gate from the 1993 album Det som engang var. At first it sounded as silly as the previous songs I had heard by him, but then around the one minute mark, the character of the song changes completely. It went from being an abrasive and violent metal song, to being a melodic and very moody and atmospheric one flawlessly. More importantly perhaps, I felt something inside me awaken, something unexplainable. I had found something that truly represented me, as I were then at that time, as an insecure and troubled teenager. I had found something that expressed my emotions back to me; my anger and frustration and sorrow.

“When night falls
she cloaks the world
in impenetrable darkness.
A chill rises
from the soil
and contaminates the air
Suddenly…
life has new meaning” -Burzum-Burzum (Dunkelheit)

After that I was hooked completely. I bought every Black Metal record I could get my hands on, and downloaded everything I couldn’t get my hands on from the internet, and became obsessed by this music, and the surrounding controversy. I still remember vividly the day I found a second-hand copy of Darkthrone’s A Blaze in the Northern Sky in a local electronics store. When I played it on my stereo back home, I was astonished by the ferocity of it.

I imagine a huge factor in me falling so head over heels for this music was the fact that most of the prominent bands and musicians were Norwegian, and sung (I use that term very loosely) their lyrics in Norwegian. It gave the music an esoteric quality, and gave me a feeling of being one of very few who could understand and appreciate it. I was an insider to this music. It was clearly an elitist thing; I was one of the few who got it, who understood it.

Many bands (such as Enslaved, for instance) based their imagery and lyrics on Viking Age Scandinavia and Nordic mythology. It was probably something that made the music more relatable to me. As did the blasphemous, anti-Christian imagery. At the time I was an ardent, obnoxious atheist, influenced by Nietzsche.

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Of course, an equally significant factor was the criminal element. Back then it was still seen as a dangerous, corrupting force by the media and the general public. That view was in the process of changing, but the genre hadn’t quite reached an accepted position yet; as it does now more or less. It still held an aura of the forbidden.  Many of the musicians involved in this musical style were convicted criminals. There were church burnings, murders and suicides; endlessly exiting stuff for a teenaged boy. It was also, at this time, a music genre the Norwegian press tried its best to sweep under the rug, but failed to. Its worldwide appeal was undeniable.

I don’t condone church burnings, as anyone who has read my previous posts no doubt can imagine; nor do I necessarily agree with the viewpoints of most of the involved parties. However, I think that the arsons are an important part of  recent Norwegian history; and that Black Metal music is a worthwhile and unique part of our musical export. The music from that period (the early 1990’s) still hold an incredible amount of emotional value to me personally. It was something to identify with when I desperately needed it.

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For those interested in the genre and are curious as to where to start, I will give a short list of recommendations at the end of this post. Bear in mind, however, if you are new to this sort of music that it is extreme even by Heavy Metal standards and that landmark albums (such as those I am about to name) often contain low (or non-existant) production values. The music is a furious howl of pummeling, severely fast-paced drums, ice-cold guitars playing harsh and often mournful, tremolo-picked riffs, and screeching vocals. It is not for everyone. Nor does it try to be. Instead it seems to try to appeal to as few people as possible, at least at the genre’s inception. The bands focus heavily on creating a menacing, oppressive and haunting atmosphere that brings to mind an atomic winter. I think they succeeded well in this. Here follows a list of albums that I think are good for an introduction to the genre:

  • DarkthroneA Blaze in the Northern Sky
  • DarkthroneTransilvanian Hunger
  • EmperorIn the Nightside Eclipse
  • MayhemDe Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
  • UlverBergtatt
  • BurzumFilosofem

Note: these albums are ranked by release date, not by any preference on my part.

The Second Coming

The Second Coming

by William Butler Yeats

 

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

The Need for Religion

“If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.” -Voltaire

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In my teens I was fiercely opposed to religion, in all its forms. I was an ardent atheist, and thought religious people were stupid, close-minded sheep, following the instructions of some ridiculous ancient book, not having the brain capacity to judge right or wrong for themselves. God, in my mind, was such an obvious falsity, such an obvious lie; how could anyone believe in such utter nonsense?

As I matured, my vicious hostility towards religion waned, replaced instead by a growing fascination. At first it was the Eastern religions (Hinduism and Buddhism) that drew my attention; later I grew interested in the ancient European religion (Germanic paganism, heathenism or whatever else you might wish to call it), stemming perhaps from my love of nature. Then, much later, I gained an interest in, and fondness of, Christianity; although I personally am more attracted to paganism as a spiritual belief. I had realized the need for religion, in myself, as well as in humanity itself; and while I yet had no firm religious beliefs, I frequently visited religious sites in my spare time.

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The need for religion is, I think, prevalent in all of us; if denied, it will take prominence in other forms: politics, social causes, even hobbies – these will take on a religious fervor in some. Almost all cultures and peoples that have ever existed have had a religion of some kind. I think it is safe to say that this religious desire is inbuilt in us at this point. It has been passed down to us through the ages.

As for morality, as many today claim that you can have a perfectly fine moral basis without religion, a secular morality as it were; I agree up to a point. Of course, you can have a workable, honorable morality without being religious, but how many do? Many atheists seem to be under the impression that most people are capable of producing a moral framework from scratch. I don’t think this rings true at all. Some might be able to do this, but for the vast majority of people, I think it’s safe to say that they just want to be led, to use what has already been put in place for them by their predecessors. They might alter some of it, but they’ll use most of it. They just want to live their lives, they don’t have time to ponder greatly over moral issues. They take their cues from their societies, and act in accordance with what they have been told is right.

What happens when societies no longer believe in religion, when they throw them away? In many developed countries it has been replaced with a sort of shallow nihilism, a general widespread depression, a sense of purposelessness. This ties in with the belief in a secular morality somewhat, as many modern day behaviors known to be harmful to the spirit, can not be discouraged without religion. In earlier times they were called sins. You’d be laughed at today if you tried to tell someone they were commiting a sin, because our societies (and by extention, peoples) no longer believe in religious morality.

This has the effect that many people don’t realize that some behaviors degrade them. We seem to have this concept in place that if it’s not harmful to others, it’s completely fine to do. I think this is a shallow way of looking at human nature. Behaviors matter. And perhaps more than is immediately obvious to us.

Nowadays it seems to be a more or less agreed upon belief (in the West, at least) that we are beyond religion, that we are so enlightened and rational that it is beneath us. This comes across as self-aggrandizement to me. We are not more intelligent than our ancestors, although many of us like to think we are. Even though some scientists have made tremendous progress, does not mean that the average person is any cleverer than his predecessors. Quite the contrary, since modernity allows for almost everyone to survive and procreate, regardless of their skill or intelligence or resourcefulness.

I believe a society need some sort of religious foundation that it espouses to its inhabitants. Of course, not all religions are equally preferable, but it seems to me that without a guiding force, like religion certainly can be, a society quickly degrades. But the people still crave a religion, somewhere deep inside, and so they look for it in unlikely places, unknowingly. Or they adopt a foreign faith.

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Recessional

Recessional

by Rudyard Kipling

 

God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle line,
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies;
The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Far-called our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding calls not Thee to guard,
For frantic boast and foolish word-
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!

A Dream Within a Dream

A Dream Within a Dream

by Edgar Allan Poe

 

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

Thoughts on Abortion

Abortion rates in the West are staggering. According to WHO, there are approximately 125,000 abortions worldwide, daily, which adds up to between 40-50 million, yearly. I suspect I have a fairly standard right-wing stance on the issue of abortion; I think it’s wrong, except in very extreme circumstances, such as rape, deformity in the child, or when it endangers the life of the mother.

If you want to have sex without getting pregnant, you have a plethora of options; there are contraceptive methods for every color of the rainbow, it seems, and perhaps even more. There are numerous ways to prevent pregnancy. If you still manage to get pregnant, it is no one’s fault but your own.

It seems to me that the pro-abortion (or pro-choice) side are looking for ways to not take responsibility, and ways to not call it murder. “It is not really murder, because it’s not a child yet, it’s a fetus!” Well, you’re still killing what would have been your child, aren’t you? Whether or not it is yet a child is irrelevant, you’re still killing the child growing inside you because it is inconvenient for it to do so. To make such a distinction only serves to distance yourself from the reality of the situation, to not make yourself complicit in the killing of children.

The pro-choice side is deeply nihilistic (this goes for most of the modern West in general, sadly), and life has no inherent value to them. It is all about them and all about the present. They will argue in favor of anything that will let them continue in their current, shallow fashion. It is not convenient to have a child, therefore abortion (nevermind about adoption).

Leonardo da Vinci, 1452-1519; The Virgin and Child

Burying Your Head in the Sand

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In the wake of the very recent terror attack in Stockholm, I decided (against my better judgement) to read the mainstream news coverage of the act. The first article I came across was one which related prime minister Stefan Löfven’s reaction to the atrocity. Predictably, he intends to do nothing. Instead he insists that “terrorists can never win against Sweden”, to which the obvious reply is, they already have. To simply insist that terrorism can never win like it is a magic spell that will simply make it so, is delusional at best.

I am deeply saddened that the Swedish people don’t have leaders that intend to protect them, to do whatever is in their power to prevent further attacks. The truth is that the Swedish elite is so spineless, so utterly ball-less, that they would rather their own people were raped, maimed and killed than do what was necessary to see this madness come to an end. What is the publicly elected in Sweden for if not to have the interests of the Swedish people at heart? To simply maintain an economic unit? Would it not be truly worrying if the Japanese government threw the Japanese people to the dogs? Or the Indian? Would there not be something deeply wrong with these societies? Then why is this more or less accepted when it is the Swedish government, or the German, or the French or British?

To Stefan Löfven (and all the other politicians in Western Europe, for that matter), should you by some freak chance ever read this: Get your fucking head out of the sand, take responsibility for your actions and do whatever is in your power to help your people. You have blood on your hands right now. Grow a pair of balls, you eunuch, and do something. Now. If you do not, the public will never forgive you, I assure you; and you will be remembered as a weakling and a traitor.

To the general public: hold your elected responsible. They have pushed for this, for years and years they have pushed for this (for their own monetary gain) while their peoples have taken the consequences; numerous dead (and many times more wounded) in terrorist attacks, countless women (and even children) raped; as well as a general falling level of security in our countries. Some neighbourhoods in our major cities are now so unsafe in fact that they are labelled “no-go-zones”, where even the police or medical services do not enter. There are now also many cities in Europe in which the main (ancestral) population is now a minority; if nothing is done, there will be many, many more.

I, for one, have had enough of terror attacks, and suspect that most people would agree with that statement. I just hope they realize that this cannot be solved by chanting that terrorism can never, ever win; of course it can.

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A Nice Cup of Tea

A Nice Cup of Tea

by George Orwell

 

If you look up ‘tea’ in the first cookery book that comes to hand you will probably find that it is unmentioned; or at most you will find a few lines of sketchy instructions which give no ruling on several of the most important points.

This is curious, not only because tea is one of the main stays of civilization in this country, as well as in Eire, Australia and New Zealand, but because the best manner of making it is the subject of violent disputes.

When I look through my own recipe for the perfect cup of tea, I find no fewer than eleven outstanding points. On perhaps two of them there would be pretty general agreement, but at least four others are acutely controversial. Here are my own eleven rules, every one of which I regard as golden:

  • First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays — it is economical, and one can drink it without milk — but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’ invariably means Indian tea.
  • Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities — that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britanniaware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse; though curiously enough a pewter teapot (a rarity nowadays) is not so bad.
  • Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it out with hot water.
  • Fourthly, the tea should be strong. For a pot holding a quart, if you are going to fill it nearly to the brim, six heaped teaspoons would be about right. In a time of rationing, this is not an idea that can be realized on every day of the week, but I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes — a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.
  • Fifthly, the tea should be put straight into the pot. No strainers, muslin bags or other devices to imprison the tea. In some countries teapots are fitted with little dangling baskets under the spout to catch the stray leaves, which are supposed to be harmful. Actually one can swallow tea-leaves in considerable quantities without ill effect, and if the tea is not loose in the pot it never infuses properly.
  • Sixthly, one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours. Some people add that one should only use water that has been freshly brought to the boil, but I have never noticed that it makes any difference.
  • Seventhly, after making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing the leaves to settle.
  • Eighthly, one should drink out of a good breakfast cup — that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind one’s tea is always half cold before one has well started on it.
  • Ninthly, one should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste.
  • Tenthly, one should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all; indeed in every family in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject. The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.
  • Lastly, tea — unless one is drinking it in the Russian style — should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tealover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.Some people would answer that they don’t like tea in itself, that they only drink it in order to be warmed and stimulated, and they need sugar to take the taste away. To those misguided people I would say: Try drinking tea without sugar for, say, a fortnight and it is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your tea by sweetening it again.

These are not the only controversial points to arise in connexion with tea drinking, but they are sufficient to show how subtilized the whole business has become. There is also the mysterious social etiquette surrounding the teapot (why is it considered vulgar to drink out of your saucer, for instance?) and much might be written about the subsidiary uses of tealeaves, such as telling fortunes, predicting the arrival of visitors, feeding rabbits, healing burns and sweeping the carpet. It is worth paying attention to such details as warming the pot and using water that is really boiling, so as to make quite sure of wringing out of one’s ration the twenty good, strong cups of that two ounces, properly handled, ought to represent.

Tea

 

The Shadow Over Stockholm

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There is a shadow over Stockholm, and over the rest of Sweden; and in fact over the much of the West itself. This shadow is spreading and now covers almost all the European countries, leaving destruction in its wake. Few attempt to banish this shadow; most prefer instead to cower before it, hoping to be spared.

I hope something good can come from this tragedy, although I suspect the public will simply light candles and pray for Stockholm, and then patiently wait for the next attack, when they will again light candles and pray for whichever city happens to be the center of another attack. And of course endlessly repeat to themselves (and anyone who’ll listen) NotAllMuslims, NotAllMuslims.

My deepest condolences to those affected by this terrible act. And to the politicians and journalists who have worked so tirelessly to bring this about, a very sincere fuck you.

Let Those Who Are in Favor with Their Stars

Let Those Who Are in Favor with Their Stars

by William Shakespeare

 

 

Let those who are in favour with their stars
Of public honour and proud titles boast,
Whilst I, whom fortune of such triumph bars,
Unlook’d for joy in that I honour most.
Great princes’ favourites their fair leaves spread
But as the marigold at the sun’s eye,
And in themselves their pride lies buried,
For at a frown they in their glory die.
The painful warrior famoused for fight,
After a thousand victories once foil’d,
Is from the book of honour razed quite,
And all the rest forgot for which he toil’d:
Then happy I, that love and am beloved
Where I may not remove nor be removed.