Saturday, September 23, 2017

Review: Allerseelen - Anubis/Chairete Daimones

After a small period of respite, Gerhard Hallstatt’s Allerseelen project has seen a burst of activity in 2017: a brand new album, Dunkelgraue Lieder, comes two years after their last album Terra Incognita; an appearance on the Alpha Ωmega compilation; and a brand new non-album single, Anubis/Chairete Daimones, the project’s first single since 2009’s Sonne Golthi-Ade.

Allerseelen 7" single - from personal collection

Allerseelen proper, since the 2010s, has definitely shifted its configuration from being a one-man project with a peppering of guests to something a more solid. The albums and releases have gotten more robust, while still maintaining that distinguished Allerseelen sound, with the same guest performers becoming more like recurring key personnel, with lots of crossover with collaborators of projects helmed by producer Marcel P. Marcel highlights this phenomenon in conjunction with his production duties for Anubis/Chairete Daimones:

The music of Allerseelen is constantly evolving with more styles, instruments, collaborators and even guest-vocalists. It’s a tapestry of music, if you will. A group-effort guided and directed by Gerhard. My part as a producer (totally separate from my part as a musician or vocalist) is to “bring everything together”. There are challenges, especially ambient noises (because some of the different track parts come from semi-professional studios). But over the last couple of years we’ve become a well-rehearsed and established team. Faye R. worked with me on Miel Noir songs, Voron and I have been doing a couple of tracks for Allerseelen together and Gerhard has come to rely on my production and arrangement ever since the MCD before the Rauhe Schale album. It may not be a “band” in the classical sense (like people meeting in real life and working stuff out in a room together), but it’s the kind of “musical alchemy” which Gerhard used to do by himself, done as a group.”

The first track, “Anubis,” features Algerian singer Faye R. on vocal duties. Faye R.’s cover of “Runes and Men” attracted the attention and friendship of Hallstatt and Marcel P., which opened up collaborations for both Miel Noir and Allerseelen. The Egyptian motif of “Anubis” was a natural fit for Faye R.: “...the song itself has that alternative Middle Eastern side which I already like, my voice is naturally like this, I embraced the song since the first time I heard it because I felt like it defined me.”

For Hallstatt, “Anubis” draws inspiration from a few different sources, the first being the Moon Tarot card as designed by Aleister Crowley and Lady Frieda Harris which depicts two towers with jackals. The dark imagery of the tarot card was the catalyst for the song, but Hallstatt also draws inspiration from coyotes, specifically a performance piece by Joseph Beuys, along with coyote quotations lifted from Carlos Castaneda and Charles Manson.



Anubis” is a jarring Allerseelen song in that it has a heavy metal atmosphere, without going full metal, showing the project actively incorporating other styles into the formula. The repetitive, gravelly industrial loops that is customary in an Allerseelen song are still present in the background, but emphasis has been placed on the metal-ish guitar, Arabian-inspired music flourishes, and the vocals from Faye R. which sound symphonic.

The second and final track, “Chairete Daimones,” is pure Allerseelen in both music composition and occult subject matter. Per Hallstatt, the genesis of the second track, “Chairete Daimones,” came from the desire to create a song about a Gnostic Ritual described by Friedrich Nietzsche in one of his letters:

[Nietzsche] decided to drink some red wine with friends who lived in other cities. At the same time [his friends] left [their] house[s] and drank on the street dark red wine – they drank one half but spilled and offered, sacrificed [the other] half of the wine to the demons with the words ‘Chairete Daimones’ (be greeted, demons). This was on 23rd October 1871, the exact time was ten in the evening. [Nietzsche] lived then in Basel, Switzerland, his friends in Berlin and Kiel. Demons in this context he did not consider as evil spirits but as benevolent powers, in the sense of the antiquity like Marc Aurel or also many centuries later in the writings of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.”

This is not the first time Allerseelen has explored the world of spirits, with the split album Barco Do Vinho with Sangre Cavallum and the song “Svyatoe Vino” from their Men Among the Ruins split album with Changes also being about libations. The music of “Chairete Daimones” throttles back to standard Allerseelen fare, with repetitive industrial loops and spoken-word style lyrics.

Limited to 200 copies, the Anubis/Chairete Daimones single is handsomely packaged: a white 7” vinyl with a hint of marbling, in a foldable sleeve with dark-impressionistic artwork by Laetitia Mantis, who has had artwork featured on releases from Allerseelen alumni projects Fahl and Sagittarius. Consumers who purchase the 7” directly from New Era receive an additional foldable sleeve with the band name and release title stamped in gold foil. Allerseelen being released by New Era seems like an odd choice since that label focuses on black metal. Per Hallstatt though, it was at New Era’s request that Allerseelen release a single with them: “The owner of the label asked us if we have something dark that may fit. So we decided to record for this special edition [release] two songs that have a rather dark and demonic atmosphere. Or twilight atmosphere. ...[We had a] layout that concentrated on the colours of blood and night but then thought that white vinyl could be a perfect contrast.” As nicely packaged and presented the release is, having a digital copy would have been a nice medium to have available, though it might degrade the limited/special edition aspect of the release.


Because of this, the Anubis/Chairete Daimones 7” single is a curio release, probably geared more toward the die-hard Allerseelen fans and completionists rather than a casual listener. Both songs are executed well though and are canonical-sounding Allerseelen songs, with “Anubis” in particular showing unique dash of metal infusion.  

Official Links

Bandcamp: https://allerseelen.bandcamp.com/


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Essay: Tobe Hooper, Laibach and Martial Industrial Music

On Saturday morning, August 26th, influential horror director Tobe Hooper passed away.1 Hooper was legendary for his film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), which is a landmark film in its influence on the horror genre. Hooper directed many other films, such as Eaten Alive (1977), Poltergeist (1982), Lifeforce (1985), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), and many episodes of horror and scifi television series through the 90s and 2000s.

While Hooper’s influence on cinema is legendary and well documented, it should come as no surprise that his influence was felt in other media as well. Industrial music has had a long relationship with sampling dialog and sound clips from films and incorporating them into compositions. Such sampling has been a hallmark of various industrial music genres, a practice that Simon Reynolds recognizes goes all the way back to Cabaret Voltaire2 and many of Hooper’s films have been used in such a fashion.

Skinny Puppy, the Canadian outfit who solidified sampling as an industrial staple due to their prolific usage of the practice, visited Hooper’s work in a handful of their songs. Their song, “Blood on the Wall” from Bites samples The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,3 while both “Shadow Cast” from Cleanse, Fold and Manipulate4 and the live version of “Dig It” from Ain’t it Dead Yet?5 samples The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Front Line Assembly makes extensive use of sampling sound effects from Lifeforce in their songs “Modus Operandi”6 and “Paralyzed”7 both from Hard Wired, and the dialog in “Circuitry (Complexity – Remix by Haujobb)” from the Circuitry EP.8 Xorcist follows suit with the heavy Lifeforce sampling in their songs “Pray”9 and “You are the One”10 from Damned Souls and “Be With Me” from Phantoms.11

In the realm of martial industrial music, Tobe Hooper’s presence can be felt via genre progenitor group Laibach and their album Kapital. Kapital, released in 1992, saw Laibach shift way from pure martial percussion to embrace more electronics. The album, released shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, repurposes Karl Marx’s themes. Per an older incarnation of the unofficial Laibach fanpage: “Laibach turns its attention away from totalitarianism and warns the newly freed Eastern Bloc of Capitalism. Kapital is Laibach's rewriting or sequel to Karl Marx's Das Kapital to make it relevant again for the future.”12 The album is certainly an oddity in Laibach’s repertoire, perhaps showing the band at their most experimental between their bombastic martial-industrial of the 1980s to the more Wagnerian-techno and Neue Deutsche Härte sound of the latter 90s. The album contains a rap song, “Hymn to the Black Sun,” (an oddity in the industrial scene), the songs on every version of the album (vinyl, cassette and CD) differ from each other, and the release is almost purely electronic with a substantial quantity of lyrics being sampled from films. All the dialog/lyrics from “Le Privilege Des Morts” is taken from Alphaville: une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution (1965, Godard),13 while “Regime Of Coincidence, State Of Gravity” is made up predominantly of samples from THX-1138 (1971, Lucas).14 The various versions of “Wirtschaft ist Tot”15 opens with a foreign language newscast of sorts.

Laibach's Kapital and Wirtschaft ist Tot from personal collection. Photo by Michele Brittany


Much in the vein of Front Line Assembly and Xorcist, Hooper’s presence on Kapital is felt in the song “Young Europa Pts 1-10” in that the song is entirely made up of samples of both dialog and sound effects from Lifeforce.16



Young Europa Pts 1-10” is a hallmark song on Kapital in that it is probably Laibach’s first purely danceable, techno song in a traditional sense. The linear booklet notes list no lyrics for the song (not even the lines of dialog from the film), but instead the 10 parts of a Young Europa:

  1. Volga
  2. Zest
  3. Diminuendo
  4. Mémoire
  5. Nacht des Traums
  6. Meat and Dream
  7. Mezza Voce
  8. Masha
  9. Faith in Ferro-Concrete
  10. Pro/Forma17


The song edits, loops, and repeats the the vampire’s line “Come, be with me” over and over, with the song ending with the line “Our bodies are not important.”18 A Marx reading of this song could be taken in a few different ways. The title “Young Europa” could refer to a newly unified Europa, after the fall of the wall, much like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon. The early 90s Europa was a new, re-birthed, and in essence “young” in this regard. The vampire’s lines, “come, be with me” said seductively, can be seen as the alluring nature of capitalism and commercialism in which the Eastern bloc would be flooded with as new markets for the West had now been opened up. And yet, the lines are said by a vampire, and thus giving into her (and by extension, capitalism) will have negative consequences. The danceable nature of the song adds a courtship element as well.

Laibach has always been known for their subversive nature in their music, in particularly their martial covers of Queen’s “One Vision” and Opus’ “Live is Life” released as “Geburt einer Nation” and “Opus Dei” respectively from their Opus Dei album in 1987. Kapital sees Laibach continuing their modus operandi of subverting meaning from other works into something new, but in this case, rather than covering songs in their iconic fashion, they turned to sampling instead. Tobe Hooper was given the distinctive Laibachian-honour in this regard, as elements (dialogs and sounds) from his scifi horror film were re-appropriated into something else. “Young Europa Pts 1-10” has a distinction of being an accessible Laibach song. Prior to this, Laibach’s abrasive martial and bombastic percussion, combined with totalitarian imagery made the group intimidating. Kapital, and songs like “Young Europa Pts 1-10” would see the group shift into more commercial and radio-friendly sounds, as would be seen on the next albums NATO and Jesus Christ Superstars. In this regard, Laibach certainly gave into Hooper’s vampire’s tempation.

Come, be with me.”

Endnotes

1. Pat Saperstein, “Tobe Hooper, ‘Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ and ‘Poltergeist’ Director, Dies at 74,” Variety, last modified August 26, 2017, http://variety.com/2017/film/news/tobe-hooper-dead-dies-texas-chain-saw-massacre-poltergeist-director-dies-1202539868/.

2. Simon Reynolds, Rip it Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978 – 1984 (New York: Penguin Books, 2006), 101.

3. “Skinny Puppy- Blood on the Wall,” YouTube video, 3:00, posted by “LuvMyLedZep,” Novemeber 1, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8c6CsQL752o.

4. “Skinny Puppy - Shadow Cast,” YouTube video, 4:23, posted by “SkyussValley7,” February 10, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy8hh1IDD80.

5. “Skinny Puppy – Dig It (Live),” YouTube video, 6:26, posted by “nettwerkbackstage,” March 27, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pr36nfq9zdg.

6. “Front Line Assembly – Modus Operandi,” YouTube video, 5:50, posted by “Isriot,” May 28, 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhEDhp8SQgc.

7. “Front Line Assembly – Paralyzed,” YouTube video, 5:31, posted by “Toheeyoh,” September 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkjlNbm_56Y.

8. “Front Line Assembly – Circuitry (Complexity mix by Haujobb),” YouTube video, 7:35, posted by “Cl0udchaser,” September 23, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCnsRY7tIfA.

9. “Xorcist – Pray,” YouTube video, 5:24, posted by “nicelydestroyed,” May 7, 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAIbGohOn7o.

10. “Xorcist – You Are The One,” YouTube video, 5:18, posted by “nicelydestroyed,” November 20, 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnDOC30zLGs.

11. “Xorcist – Be With Me,” YouTube video, 5:17, posted by “Heisenberg Enigma,” July 10, 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAWuXhF7wyk.

12. “Kapital,” The Unofficial Laibach Site, accessed August 27, 2017. https://web.archive.org/web/20080615005421/http://www.gla.ac.uk:80/~dc4w/laibach/kaply.html.

13. “Laibach – Le Privileges des Morts (KAPITAL), Unofficial video, 2014,” YouTube video, 5:38, posted by “Laibach,” February 26, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--IcZadVuj0.

14. “Regime Of Coincidence, State of Gravity,” YouTube video, 7:27, posted by “Laibach – Topic,” January 25, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtNWGJAXTwQ.

15. “Laibach – Wirtschaft ist Tot,” YouTube Video, 3:46, posted by “Laibach,” October 11, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r634VNemWAg. The official video for the song is taken from the
Wirtschaft ist Tot (Metal Mix – Short Version)” which is found on the single and is a shorter, differently mixed version than what appears on the CD album.

16. “Laibach – Young Europa, Pt. 1-10,” YouTube video, 6:14, posted by “Neo Platonist,” October 19, 2008. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gvd9jomIUJw.

17. Laibach, Kapital, Mute, MUTE 61282-2, 1997, compact disc.

18. “Laibach – Young Europa, Pt. 1-10.”



Bibliography

Alphaville: une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution. Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. 1965. New York: The Criterion Collection, 1998. DVD.

Front Line Assembly – Circuitry (Complexity mix by Haujobb).” YouTube video, 7:35. Posted by “Cl0udchaser,” September 23, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCnsRY7tIfA.

Front Line Assembly – Modus Operandi.” YouTube video, 5:50. Posted by “Isriot,” May 28, 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhEDhp8SQgc.

Front Line Assembly – Paralyzed.” YouTube video, 5:31. Posted by “Toheeyoh,” September 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkjlNbm_56Y.

Kapital.” The Unofficial Laibach Site. Accessed August 27, 2017. https://web.archive.org/web/20080615005421/http://www.gla.ac.uk:80/~dc4w/laibach/kaply.html.

Laibach. Kapital. Mute. MUTE 61282-2. 1997. Compact disc.

Laibach. Opus Dei. Wax Trax! WAXCD 030. 1987. Compact disc.

Laibach. Wirtschaft Ist Tot. Mute. CD MUTE 116. Compact disc.

Laibach – Le Privileges des Morts (KAPITAL), Unofficial video, 2014.” YouTube video, 5:38. Posted by “Laibach,” February 26, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--IcZadVuj0.

Laibach – Wirtschaft ist Tot.” YouTube video, 3:46. Posted by “Laibach,” October 11, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r634VNemWAg.

Laibach – Young Europa, Pt. 1-10.” YouTube video, 6:14. Posted by “Neo Platonist,” October 19, 2008. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gvd9jomIUJw.

Regime Of Coincidence, State of Gravity.” YouTube video, 7:27. Posted by “Laibach – Topic,” January 25, 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtNWGJAXTwQ.

Reynolds, Simon. Rip it Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978 – 1984. New York: Penguin Books, 2006.

Saperstein, Pat. “Tobe Hooper, ‘Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ and ‘Poltergeist’ Director, Dies at 74.” Variety. Last modified August 26, 2017. http://variety.com/2017/film/news/tobe-hooper-dead-dies-texas-chain-saw-massacre-poltergeist-director-dies-1202539868/.g

Skinny Puppy - Blood on the Wall.” YouTube video, 3:00. Posted by “LuvMyLedZep,” November 1, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8c6CsQL752o.

Skinny Puppy – Dig It (Live).” YouTube video, 6:26. Posted by “nettwerkbackstage,” March 27, 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pr36nfq9zdg.

Skinny Puppy - Shadow Cast.” YouTube video, 4:23. Posted by “SkyussValley7,” February 10, 2012. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dy8hh1IDD80.

Xorcist – Be With Me.” YouTube video, 5:17. Posted by “Heisenberg Enigma,” July 10, 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAWuXhF7wyk.

Xorcist – Pray.” YouTube video, 5:24. Posted by “nicelydestroyed,” May 7, 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAIbGohOn7o.

Xorcist – You Are The One.” YouTube video, 5:18. Posted by “nicelydestroyed,” November 20, 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnDOC30zLGs

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Review/Interview: Ostara - Runaway Horses

Since the autumn of 2016, there has been flurry of activity for Richard Leviathan’s Ostara project. Firstly, Ostara released a new album, Napoleonic Blues, on vinyl back in October (note: my review of this release can be read here at Heathen Harvest), with a digital version via Bandcamp and a digipack CD version being released in January of this year. As with Ostara’s prior album, Paradise Down South, Soleilmoon handled the physical versions of Napoleonic Blues. In between these releases, Ostara saw a handful of live performances as well, with an Australian concert in December and an appearance in Nuremberg in October.

Ostara's Napoleonic Blues, CD version (personal collection)

February, however, saw Leviathan do something expected: out of the blue, he released a digital only single for a song called “Runaway Horses” on Bandcamp. Posited as a non-album single, “Runaway Horses” isn’t quite a companion to Napoleonic Blues, yet it isn’t totally divorced from the album either. Leviathan explains how the song came into being as such:

It's a completely new song that was in the repertoire just before the release of the album and has a somewhat different mood and quality from that collection and thus could be a prelude to what is to come. Sometimes a song comes into being and stands out, insisting to be recorded, like an omen seeking fulfillment. I remember when Death in June's "Leopard Flowers" was released separately from Rose Clouds of Holocaust and really stood apart from that work while complementing it quite beautifully.1

Per the text on the Bandcamp page, “Runaway Horses” is inspired by the 1969 novel of the same name by Japanese multi-genred artist/writer, Yukio Mishima. Mishima has has a profound influence on the neofolk scene (as well as other underground genres of music). Douglas Pearce of Death in June has expressed Mishima being his favourite author next to Jean Genet.2 References to Mishima can be found in songs on The World that Summer3 as well as the grey-market boxset release of Tribute to Yukio Mishima & Jean Genet which contains a live Death in June performance from Japan.4 “Raio No Terrasu (Jesus Wept)” on Current 93’s Dogs Blood Rising references Mishima’s play Terrace of the Leper King.5 Les Joyaux De La Princesse’s Erik Konofal has expressed influence from Mishima6 while Die Weisse Rose’s release Kyrie Eleison contains a quotation from him.7 Leviathan explains how he became exposed to Mishima’s work and his influence in Ostara’s “Runaway Horses”:

I started reading him at sixteen when I read Temple of the Golden Pavilion and then proceeded to devour the rest of the novels and short stories. Runaway Horses was an enduring favourite, along with the rest of the four books of The Sea of Fertility. I think Mishima was unique as a writer and quite literally as an author of his own destiny, his death by suicide being the final act of a living book in which the man and the mask, the pen and sword became one. His personal fanaticism, his coupling of aesthetics and the martial spirit is rare in the modern age but it can be inspirational to others when it is brought into the light as a living example beyond nostalgia or illusion. While many are drawn to the life and the cult of his personality, it is through reading the work that you discover how his obsessions with beauty, mortality, history and fatality are presented in a very human, conflicted and ambivalent way. It's never just about heroic ideals and spiritual principles. At the centre of everything is the way in which the characters think, act and interact, mostly as tragic figures seeking something enduring in a life doomed to dissolution and decay. It's that 'runaway' sense of a fanatical urge to live, act and die with absolute resolution regardless of the consequences that inspired this song. It is ultimately a kind of liebestod, which is why I designed the artwork and video around some striking photographs I have from a geisha performance I attended in Kyoto in 2014. These complement the romantic and erotic themes of the song quite well.8

Taking the text and music as is, independent from the influence of Mishima, “Runaway Horses” sounds romantic. The song is in the vein of Leviathan’s iconic neofolk-pop style, yet it is “beatier” as there is a toe-tapping rhythm to it. There is also this feeling optimism to the song. Closing ones eyes, one could picture a heroic narrator saving his betrothed, riding off into the sunset together. This interpretation, of course, has little in common with Mishima’s Runaway Horses, but that is perhaps indicative of the multifaceted nature of the lyrics. They can be an extension of Mishima’s work, or something catered uniquely to the listener. Typical neofolk songs that pay lip service or tribute to a literate source are not usually written to be consumed in a variety of means. Intentional or not, “Runaway Horses” is definitely multifaceted. This attribute, combined with Leviathan’s pop/folk stylings makes “Runaway Horses” an extremely attractive, standout song.

"Runaway Horses" graphic used at the Ostara Bandcamp page

The song may be confined to Bandcamp for the time being, but Leviathan has greater plans for it: “Bandcamp is a nice way to showcase music but the goal is always to extend that effort towards an album, which is where it will eventually end up. I acted on impulse with this one and the reaction so far has been fantastic.”9

“Runaway Horses” can be found via streaming or purchase here: https://ostara.bandcamp.com/track/runaway-horses-single


Official Links

http://www.ostara.net/ - Official website for Ostara
https://ostara.bandcamp.com/ - Official Bandcamp page
https://www.facebook.com/ostaramusic/ - Official Facebook Page

Endnotes/Citations

1. Richard Leviathan, email message to Nicholas Diak, March 14, 2017
2. Andreas Diesel and Dieter Gerten, Looking for Europe: The History of Neofolk, trans. Markus Wolff (Zeltingen-Rachtig, Germany: Index Verlag, 2003), 91.
3. Ibid., 91-92.
5. Diesel & Gerten, 63.
6. Ibid., 325.
8. Leviathan, email.
9. Ibid.

Bibliography

Diesel, Andreas, and Dieter Gerten. Looking for Europe: The History of Neofolk. Translated by Markus Wolff. Zeltingen-Rachtig, Germany: Index Verlag, 2003.

Ostara. Napoleonic Blues. 2017 by Soleilmoon. SOL192CD. Compact disc.

Ostara. “Runaway Horses.” 2017 by Bandcamp. No catalog #. Digital download.