Monday, 12 April 2010

Hideous Gnosis - Black Metal Essays

Last winter, the Black Metal Theory bloggers held a symposium in New York discussing theories of Black Metal. Or as they say on their blog:

"Not black metal. Not theory. Not not black metal. Not not theory. Black metal theory. Theoretical blackening of metal. Metallic blackening of theory. Mutual blackening. Nigredo in the intoxological crucible of symposia."

The symposium is now available in book form - Hideous Gnosis.  Looks incredible. We have ours on order.  Here's the contents list.  Brandon Stosuy's USBM piece is even titled with a fucking Bone Awl album name:

Steven Shakespeare, “The Light that Illuminates Itself, the Dark that Soils Itself: Blackened Notes from Schelling’s Underground.”
Erik Butler, “The Counter-Reformation in Stone and Metal: Spiritual Substances.”
Scott Wilson, “BAsileus philosoPHOrum METaloricum.”
Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, “Transcendental Black Metal.”
Nicola Masciandaro, “Anti-Cosmosis: Black Mahapralaya.”
Joseph Russo, “Perpetue Putesco – Perpetually I Putrefy.”
Benjamin Noys, “‘Remain True to the Earth!’: Remarks on the Politics of Black Metal.”
Evan Calder Williams, “The Headless Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”
Brandon Stosuy, “Meaningful Leaning Mess.”
Aspasia Stephanou, “Playing Wolves and Red Riding Hoods in Black Metal.”
Anthony Sciscione, “‘Goatsteps Behind My Steps . . .’: Black Metal and Ritual Renewal.”
Eugene Thacker, “Three Questions on Demonology.”
Niall Scott, “Black Confessions and Absu-lution.”

DOCUMENTS: Lionel Maunz, Pineal Eye; Oyku Tekten, Symposium Photographs; Scott Wilson, “Pop Journalism and the Passion for Ignorance”; Karlynn Holland, Sin Eater I-V; Nicola Masciandaro and Reza Negarestani, Black Metal Commentary; Black Metal Theory Blog Comments; Letter from Andrew White; E.S.S.E, Murder Devour I.

Watch this while you read on:

Until we get out teeth into it and bring you our own opinions, here's what Aquarius Records, arguably the nucleus of the USBM scene have to say about it:

"This one almost doesn't require a review, pretty much every truely obsessive black metal fan is gonna want this, whether they actually read it or not. And having only dabbled, it's hard to say how many folks, metalheads in particular, are actually gonna want to delve into this, a collection (often in expanded and revised form) of essays and documents that were presented late last year at "Hideous Gnosis", a symposium on black metal theory (yes, a symposium on black metal theory), which took place in Brooklyn in December of 2009. That said, we also can't imagine a metalhead who wouldn't feel like they had to have copy of this on their bookshelf, if they have any intellectual pretensions whatsoever (which this sure does), or sense of humor (which perhaps this does as well).

The real question regarding Hideous Gnosis is whether black metal does indeed have some sort of lofty academic underpinnings, or is this academic study of the genre simply another example of hipsters trying to legitimize something that appears to be, at its core, raw and underground and visceral and personal and pretty much diametrically opposed to any idea of scholarly study or academic examination? Which thankfully is discussed quite a bit in this book, in the form of several essays, but via the inclusion of comments from the symposium's website, both positive and negative, plenty of them mean, some of them funny, and a few measured and thought out. But it's good to know that the very fact that there exists an academic black metal symposium is in itself worthy of debate, keeps Hideous Gnosis somewhat grounded.

There are definitely some interesting essays here, one in particular that focuses on black metal's reliance on climate, as in grim and frosty and cold, etc. The most interesting to us, are also the ones that are easiest to read, the ones NOT mired down in academic grad school doublespeak, there are plenty of examples of essays that seem interesting, but require digging though a malfunctioning thesaurus to get to the root of what's really being said. There is an excerpt of Brandon Stosuy's in progress oral history of American black metal (featuring our very own Andee) which was also printed in a different form in a past issue of The Believer, which is definitely cool, there's Hunter Hunt Hendrix of Liturgy's confusional analysis and dissection of "Transcendental Black Metal", and so it goes, the collection slipping back and forth, striking a pretty good balance, between people who love black metal who just want to dig deeper, and explore a music they love and discuss it with other like minded metalheads, and the flipside, dry, academic treatises on various elements and aspects of black metal, a bit too removed from the actual sound, and the fucked up ferocious intensity that is what makes the music truly appealing for us. But again, that doesn't mean those pieces aren't a blast to read, some might win you over, others actually do offer up some keen insights, and some seem to exist simply as fodder for merciless mockery. But really, in some weird way that does essentially reflect the genre as a whole, there are dabblers, there are folks who take it WAY too seriously, people who love it and live it, others who are merely fascinated or curious or even repulsed. It ultimately doesn't matter, like the spate of recent black metal docs, online blogs, if you're into black metal, for whatever reason, you're probably gonna want to read this, even if it pisses you off. ESPECIALLY if it pisses you off. An essential, and maybe controversial [addition] to your metal music library."

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