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Hideous Gnosis: Black Metal Theory Symposium I Paperback – January 31, 2010
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"Pretty much every truely obsessive black metal fan is gonna want this, whether they actually read it or not. . . . An essential, and maybe controversial [addition] to your metal music library" -- Aquarius Records --Aquarius Records
"The essays are all exercises in passionate engagement, intellectual without being dryly academic . . . an exhilarating example of how to write about music as if it matters."
Enjoyable reading for anyone interested in the more extreme forms of metal and contemporary theory --Culture Magazine
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These conference proceedings were published in 2010. Interestingly, no academic identification is given for any of the presenters, a few of which are given in Ratliff's NYT article.
As with most edited volumes of conference papers, I find some more interesting than others. Some of it frankly strikes me as the most esoteric and irrelevant metaphysics, but that is presumably what can be expected at the intersection of popular culture, literary theory, and philosophy.
Among the best contributions, I found, were Evan Calder Williams's "The Headless Horsemen of the Apocalypse," and the rejoinder by Benjamin Noys, "'Remain True to the Earth!': Remarks on the Politics of Black Metal."
Says Williams, "Black metal is the failure of dialectical reason. And for that reason, it is a razor-sharp capture of a stuck-record world it rejects, even as it cannot think beyond it." (132) He speaks of "...the war fought between two totalities, between black metal's endless antagonism and liberal capitalism's eternal present." (133)
Noys challenges Williams's more generous reading with an interview with a leading French black metal musician, Sale Famine of the band Pest Noire, who argues that black metal can be nothing but nationalist and ethnocentric, in the finest tradition of the Thirties movements in Germany and Italy.
Clearly Noys identifies one strain in black metal -- clearly too, there are others.
Brandon Stosuy's interviews with ABM musicians and participants (American Black Metal, known in Europe as USBM) is one of the best contributions, and makes clear that the music and the scene has moved far beyond the days of church burnings on Norway in the early Nineties. (Stosuy runs the "Show No Mercy" metal section of the Pitchfork website.)
Steven Shakespeare focuses in his essay on my favorite black metal band, the Oregon-based Wolves In The Throne Room, which was inspired by Earth First! and advocates a deep ecological worldview.
I'll close with a WIITR lyric quoted by Shakespeare:
"You are a daughter of heaven
12 stars circle your brow
But you do not see them and the rain pours down
Our time in this garden is past"
(verified library loan)