In my every growing personal relationship with Satan, I find that a healthy sense of humor is necessary to be able to ride the waves crashing on the night's Plutonian Shore. I started digging into the burnt end of metal on a lark and found that it's particular hammer rings a bell in me I never heard otherwise. But, since I am no longer 14, and have come to terms with the fact that the world is a terrible place and yes, they actually are all out get me, the only armor that will keep the tentacles of Cthulu from drawing me in is humor.
Take for instance this interview with Gaahl, the lead singer of Gorgoroth.
Best interview ever. Gorgoroth, named for the blackened plain of death in Mordor in The Lord of the Rings (I looked that up, I swear! I didn't just already know that!!) is almost like the AC/DC of black metal. They never drop their cartoonish character, have maintained a consistent image and message of Satanic rock power since their inception, and much like their Aussie counterparts in hard rock, they undeniably kick ass. The men of AC/DC are well known for being the hedonists they profess to be, and accordingly, Gorgoroth is alleged to be a troop of bad motherfuckers in their own right. Gaahl was recently released from prison on a charge of beating another man and threatening to drink his blood (one wonders if there is a simple police code for "assault with blood drinking" in Norway, given the reputation its black metal community has garnered). Gaahl proclaimed his actions were in self-defense and his own mother testified that because of his vehement vegetarianism, he would never drink someone's blood. I believe him, and even if it wasn't, who hasn't wanted to do that to some idiot at a party?
Gorogorth's latest album Ad Majorem Sathanas Gloriam ("For The Greater Glory Of Satan" in Latin) is slab after slab of well-heeled malevolence that has enough hooks to engage those of us who toil away on the surface in our arrogant stupidity, unwitting targets for an apocalyptic onslaught from below. The hounds are released on the opening track "Wound upon Wound," an adrenaline overdose of thrash guitar and monster growls. It is like being picked clean by a swarm of flesh-eating flies, in a good way. This gives way to "Carving a Giant" which adopts almost a straight up Iron maiden swagger at points until Gaahl summons the dark one in the midst of it.
It's not all sturm und drang here. "Sign of an Open Eye" is a mid-tempo dirge built around a rising sigh form the guitars, interspersed with spoken segments in English, saying things about beauty and open eyes. It's actually a rather pretty song lying in the middle of this snake pit. Evil pretty, like spires of hellfire pretty, but pretty nonetheless. "White Seed" is a blur of drums and haze, like a train wreck is being run through a delay, or that perhaps a tornado was conjured in the studio when they recorded it. Like a fight in old cartoon, fists and horns intermittently appear in the cloud.
All this builds up to the final countdown of "Prosperity and Beauty" where the band is thrust to edge of the precipice, howling and thrashing against the wind. I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of malevolence of this band, or any of the other bands in this bleak corner of the musical map. Their motives are not what really get me anyway. It's the heroic nature of their particular mix of the British metal of my junior high days and underground evil. I have to look at this music with a sense of humor to be able to take it seriously, and maybe it's because I'm removed from it. But then, isn't the devil usually depicted laughing, while the bastions of Christianity can muster only the weakest of smiles? The end times are coming, and my money is with the ones that approach the hour with weapons drawn and a smile on their face.
I wish I could take full credit for the title of this article, but it was fully ganked from my friend Fred Weaver with his kind permission. And then I twisted it around and usurped for my own nefarious purposes! Hail!
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com