Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Snow, snow, snow

We are slowly being buried under blankets of snow here in Kingston.  I feel like the weather is trying to smother us, maybe hoping we will go away.  This winter in particular. And yet every spring, we re-emerge from the snowdrifts, shake off our jackets, and greet the sun with a relieved smile.

As a fan of metal music, something that I always try to do is understand the settings in which the music has been written. For example, when travelling through the oppressive heat of Florida in August, I could understand the maddening conditions that gave birth to the early death metal scene in the late 80's. Like paintings, and all other art for that matter, music is a social fossil, reflecting the sociopolitical climate of that time. Recently, I've been listening to a great deal of black metal recently.  Original stuff from the early 90’s.  After struggling with it for 10 years, I think I finally can appreciate it. It must be perceived as one perceives modern art.  It is isolation manifest.  It is also a paradox.  The themes of sadness and seclusion are made into a celebration, where screams of help are made to no-one in particular.  It is not something to be shared.  It is personal and introspective art, made as inaccessible as possible.  And yet these feelings are put into musical form and made available to the public, contrary to the messages it contained. I find this highly ironic.

I've always appreciated the musicianship on albums such as In the Nightside Eclipse and Sons of Northern Darkness, staples of my high school and university musical repertoire.  Now, there is something about A Blaze in the Northern Sky that totally captivates my feelings.  I can finally get past the firewall that was the low production quality and appreciate the thought that went into this album as a piece of emotional art, not as a technical one.  Not to say that Emperor or Immortal didn't produce any ‘emotional’ masterpieces, just none as raw as Blaze. The cathartic power of this music is absolutely invigorating. Despite believing so, I will never fully understand it. This is because I am not a Norwegian native in my late teens in the 90's. The feelings harbored that led to this music are not my feelings, at least not exactly. I can, however, appreciate them and what they have created.

Now, these are just my opinions, and to those who don’t listen to black metal, let alone metal at all, this music most likely all sounds the same.  Like you put a cheap cassette recorder through a drying machine filled with golf balls. However, I'm not going to tell you to give it a chance.  Remember, there is a reason you may not like it, just as there is a reason others do.