Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Self-released in 1993
Jeff Clayton: Guitars
Eric Clayton: Vocals
Dean Forsyth: Bass
Samuel West: Drums
Shadows may follow the man
One thing is leading the others
Follow the veil in my hand
Nothing deceiving my brothers
Look into my eyes, walk into my vision
Drift upon the streams, enter vast dominions
Welcome to my dream
Heavy Metal seeks to impose a reality. Pathos and drama presented as a spectacle meant not only to entertain, but to ensnare the hypothetical listener. Though we defecate most of what we consume, something must linger, time after time, something builds inside and affects in such a way that we cannot be said to have a capitalist transaction with it but instead an uneasy symbiosis.
The curious thing about the many realities that live inside us is that as roads to awe, they return endlessly in on themselves. Though there are higher places they might lead to briefly, they are not real, that is to say, they can not be communicated as a reality, they cannot be made stable and they cannot be graphed. The wilderness cannot be domesticated. The ultimate end of romantic art is a vague sense of inspiration, for what? Towards what?
It is no wonder that when pressed for it, most listeners of extreme music (or Heavy Metal in particular if you prefer) cannot quantify what it is they take from the music. They often attempt to divert the argument by exclaiming how if they were to try, words would cheapen that unquantifiable "it" that they return to. Whereas this might speak as to the lingual limitations of metalheads (or modern pop culture consumers broadly), it also betrays that there is something there that is worth protecting, something that the speaker feels tenderly about and that they will take special note not to blemish with easy talk, a fire they will not disgrace with lesser offerings. Can the gods, in 2011, still be angered by impudence?
As I've mentioned in the past, Heavy Metal music is so potent for a certain breed of teenager introvert because it seems so insular, so determined not to be scrutinized by outsiders and those who are false of spirit. Whatever meaning and inspiration the young listener takes from their favorite Heavy Metal records, they must wrestle the ghost, their "summoned entity". Look on the cover of "Live after Death" and tell me if you can battle the reanimated horror on the cover for his secrets of life and death. Do you dare?
Heavy Metal is not an easy friendship. If it were a bond it would eventually be akin to that of brothers (as the Manowar-speak, for all its gross commercial application, is not chosen in error), for as brothers quarrel and antagonize, they are also tied with illogical bonds of blood. To discover the potency of Heavy Metal, blood must flow. Again I am reminded of a thread on a metal forum where a man of at least three completed decades was railing against some other, more Dionysian black metal fan, whom exclaimed they like their beers and pussy in their metal. "Such things have no place in metal" he replied sternly, wizard glasses pressed closer to his eyes, "it is only meant for dark occult magickal studies". Do you realize how much a person has to suffer for Heavy Metal to say this, straight-faced, to the world? How much his early experience of growing up and his interpersonal relationships have been colored by the solitary ingress that some undead beast on a metal album cover inspired?
If you wonder how metalheads can be at once so elitist and insecure, start by examining their priorities in their teen age, as compared to their peers.
The paradigm of the mad alchemist up in their tower, concocting strange mixtures they only when they have felt them perfected do they intend to make public is another one I often employ. There's a mad brilliance in going through all the trouble to make a dense, unparsable artifact of romance, drop it in the culture flow, watch it sink like a stone to the dark depths below and then exclaim with pride "many will drown for years to reach the beauty I have created, and this is just as well!". I've been listening to, writing about and composing Heavy Metal for what is increasingly more of a candidate to be described as a "long time" (you know this once you realize more than half your life, and certainly all of the life that was worth it, has been spent around molten steel) and at the above description my heart still resonates warmly. It is I, I will dive into the mirror pool and I will unearth your beauty, or I will willingly drown and be forgotten, that is my gut response.
I believe most artists are secretly jealous of their listeners who reach the closest to the inscrutable core of majesty that they have - perhaps - by accident conjured. You, the close listener and appreciator of Heavy Metal, are neither friend nor brother to the musician that has created it, you are an usurper. They will begrudgingly tolerate and accept you for your patronage, perhaps. And if you show some free-standing merit of your own they will call you friend perhaps, but be certain, romance is a cruel mistress, it yearns for holocaust. The mad lover will kill every suitor first and then themselves to slide between her thighs.
As love will die within the force
That drains is from the grail
She drinks the blood of prophets
And she drinks the blood of saints
Between her legs they crawl in torment
For the souls they lay to waste
Upon the altar, the sacrifice begins
The dragon takes another, and feeds upon his sins
To live and breathe again
I have argued that Heavy Metal is a solipsist reflex. What beauty is there that you found, you stole, so on. Capitalist terms can and have explained the transaction of such art. Where did you buy your first Heavy Metal record, anyway? Did you climb a mountain for it? Did you cross unknown lands? Of course not. However romanticism has a slightly different aspect to it that cannot be explained in the words of commerce, one cunningly complementary to the main thrust of pathos, the lust for death, that is so infinitely marketable. In order to kill one must create. The romantic desires power to affect, to shape the outer as a testament to the control of the inner. This world must burn, must be raised to the ground and then the destroyer shall rebuild it in great splendor. This betrays that the outer shell, so distrusted and maligned by the dark hearts dreaming in the darkness, now in their thirties and still dreaming of 'occult studies' in their small bedrooms while their mother sleeps just a cold wall away, is something of importance. The romantic desires the world to enter them, they desire for themselves to have a place in the world. They only way for the romantic to achieve anything, really, is through sacrifice. All art for them is a sacrifice, even if the smoke that rises to the night sky, heavy with the vitality of burned flesh is meant for an unfathomable shade, a spectral god that nobody can really identify, a symbol of the great self.
Come before the sacred heart and sacrifice the mind
Come before the silent invitation to the signs
Let us enter frightened ones, suppress the need to hide
Let us cross the river's streams unto the other side
Out in the distance of all time and space
As the Force of the Entity reigns
The process of creating art is in this light a process of diminishing the self, cutting off the offering to burn, and then instead of waste in dissipation (which, in lack of monetary returns, is the only way the Capitalist can describe the act of creation), the hope is of impregnation of the outer world. It could be said that the only reason society tolerates the mad shaman, the reclusive poet and the drunken writer of low repute is because in the end, in how they offer to their higher, dreaming selves, they offer to everyone else as well. The act of creation, even if meant in the narrowest egotistical sense, is inescapably a step outside the self. It is illogical as it is economically counter-intuitive.
Heavy Metal often is concerned with satanic or demonic forces and much is made of that. The most popular modern interpretation of what the impulse for bands to glorify dark forces might signify is comfortably capitalist. Praising satan, the light-bringer, is to praise individuality and personal accomplishment. All these satanic bands can be read as if they're rational egotists, effectively creating monuments to their own imagined greatness. If you can sell it, then it must exist.
Elements of this reading I've often endorsed and felt to be true with stipulations. However in discussing the curious case of Saviour Machine, a band often considered to be 'christian metal', I have to discuss how the exception underlines the rule. What if in the glorification of any higher force (as satan, or the old gods surely are) is more important than the identity of the entity and its ethical demeanor (if any)? Is there truly such a great difference between those that glorify Azazoth and those that plead for communion with the Pantocrator?
White metal and black metal, the difference can be argued to be an aesthetic. It is the small mind that immediately rejects one of two siblings because they are wearing the wrong colours, in the end they are so much alike. The impulse of both is the offering to awe, a minor transcendence that connects all living beings through hope.
Follow me in madness, follow me in fear
Touch me in your silence, rape me in your tears
Let the sea sadness free the chosen one
Legacy of horror, manifest the son
If there is a God that Saviour Machine are calling towards in their debut album, its face is obscured by the killing light, much like Apollo, much like the great devil, Satan, much like the visage of the sun itself. Tributes to the eldest of all gods, do they bring us together or tear us apart? Saviour Machine do not urge you to join a church, nor do they have any judgment of non-believers to offer. Their faith is in freedom itself, an existential teliosis. Their burnt offering cannot be described in commercial terms because it has not moved me to either endorse any superficial creed or belief system. It has only inspired in me to keep on living, to create in turn and offer what I can, hoping to unlock something of myself I dread to realize exists. It can be said that Romance, the most selfish of fervors, leads to this.
There's no ephemeral salvation here (if anything this is a tortured record) but an inspiration of more lasting impact. The language used is universal, the symbols employed can be understood by any man of any creed. The message is as clear as it has ever been: to find oneself one must risk, they must create, and to create one must sacrifice with no small desires of immediate returns, only that though many drown in the darkness of their ingress, the few will find a way to unearth their capacity, a freedom that has been given back though always possessed.
Without hate, without pain
Without suffering insane
Without death, without fire
Without lies that feed the liar
Without war, without games
Without fear to take the blame
Without fame, without power
Without drugs to heal the coward
Without violence, without rape
Without sickness, without plagues
Without judgment, without crime
Without hope, without time
Without two, without three
Without torture over belief
Bring us love
Let us see
Set us Free