November 19, 2011

Growling Screaming Art

32 years ago, I wrote an article about a local band called Tunnel Canary.  It was called, Tunnel Canary Hates You.  Besides being the first article written about the band, it was probably the only article written about the band for 30 years.
Tunnel Canary was and is the creation of Nathan Holiday, who at the time went by the name Aleh Fitzgerald.  He has had a few names in his lifetime, but safe was not one of them.  Never would anyone call Tunnel Canary safe.  Hated by the punks, they were the ultimate punk band.
Their best performances were live on the street with Aleh playing his wall of noise guitar- loud, transgressive, yet to my ears beautiful and almost symphonic in nature.  Judy or Ebra as she was called then, was the "singer".  As you can hear on the link on YouTube, she took the screaming vocals of Mars, and Lydia Lunch and pushed the envelope.  It was a direct action aural attack on the consumers who passed by on the street.  Time has not dulled the power of this music.

Another woman artist who is often called a screamer is Diamanda Galas.  Galas has an eight octave range, and is closer in nature to an opera singer than punk.  Her Litanies of Satan with the wicked Wild Women with Steak Knives was an introduction for me to her art.  I think the first songs I heard from her were on a Henry Kaiser/John French record at my friend and band mate Alex Varty's.  Henry Kaiser was a good friend of Alex and John French was the original drummer Drumbo from Captain Beefheart's Magic Band. Today
I was listening to a Scandanavian interview with Diamanda Galas this morning.  It starts at about the 17 minutes mark.  She talks about her voice and how her father wanted her to play the piano, but not to sing, because singers are just a step from whores.

Before the 17 minute point,  the same interviewer speaks with Angela Grossow, the growling singer of Arch Enemy.
Angela discusses the "growling" technique favoured by the black metal/death metal singers today.  To see her sing is a beautiful thing.  I find the music, lyrics and fashion a bit comic book, but this woman is the real deal.  Angela- call me.  You need a 53 year old sax player.

Recently, I have been getting into black metal.  Clearly I have listened to extreme music for years, but this is the first time I have sought out a Metal genre.   In past, I have disdained the moronic lyrics, obsession with Satan, Dragons and medieval monsters.  Speaking of monsters, we come to Varg Vikernes, the 
Norwegian black metal musician, writer, philosopher and religious, political and nationalist activist, arsonist and convicted murderer. Yes you read that right.  Convicted murderer and arsonist.  Killed a singer from a rival band Mayhem for personal and political reasons.   Varg is Burzum, a symphonic black metal band from Norway.  I wonder what Varg thinks of the Norway shootings, where all the children were killed by a madman.  Nothing would surprise me.   What did surprise me was the beauty of the music that comes from this racist, anti-semetic murderer.
Check out Jeg Faller by Burzum from the album Fallen:

Here is the English translation:

I Am Falling
High up there I stand in time;
in the green, beautiful and warm,
strong tree crown, in white clouds,
surrounded by the beautiful and friendly few.

I am falling.
All the way down.

High up there I stand in time;
on the top of the world tree's crown.

From high up there I fall from time;
down into the bottomless, empty and timeless.

The tree's rind changes in the fall.
Branches and boughs, leaves and nuts,
rush by me in tremendous speed.
The roots and the ground comes nearer.

My time disappears to somethwere else.

Into death, from death.
Into life, from life.
Downwards and across the river
without a source.

Into darkness, from darkness;
into cold, from cold.
Through time, from time;
to where the deities smile.

I drink from the river of forgetfulness,
row dryshod across the river of hate;
sail with the wind,
to the end, beginning and meaning of the devine powers. 

Another band on my radar is Arabrot.  

Here are the lyrics to their song: 
Madonna was a whore  
We picked dirty on Mother Teresa,
... Melanie Nelson and Ofelia,
..queen Sheba!
Madonna was a whore!
Say whore!...
Marie Antoinette
Whore, Lolita!...
...Venus will never...
Madonna, Madonna was a whore!
...Venus will never...
Madonna, Madonna was a whore!
Madonna was a whore!
Madonna was a whore!
Madonna was a whore!
...Venus will never...
Bring it up Queen Marry!
Madonna, Madonna was a whore!

Their new release is called Solar Anus- how often do we hear metal bands reference Georges Bataille?

The title and part of the thematic inspiration of the album is from the french literate Georges Bataille. Like Bataille, Arabrot is fascinated by the joy and energy of unifying the high and the low, the filth and the pure, the animalistic and the divine in man. In songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Kjetil Nernes’ own words: 
Gold indicates the sun as we hail Bataille’s take on the subject of abjection. Solar Anus betokened the Golden Calf - juxtaposed between utmost evil and greater sanctity. Such as the eternal radiance of heaven or the egregious iniquities of the abyss. Or the alchemist of The Holy Mountain converting faeces into gold. 

There are many interesting links on their website too.

One of my favourite black metal bands is a Washington state band called Wolves from the Throne Room
Winter is coming... is the line from Game of Thrones.  The game here is Wolves.  Their newest release is Celestial Lineage.  Go on You Tube and listen to an interview with their drummer.  I know, drummers should never speak.  But often they demonstrate an unlikely intelligence. 

"Who cannot live with honor must die with honor." 

As I have said a few times in this post, there is almost a classical aspect to much of the black metal sounds.  The guttural growling may be the polar opposite of opera, but their tragic songs and emotions share similar roots.  
This is how we go from Galas to Callas.   If you have been drawn to this post because you love black metal, check out Tunnel Canary, Diamanda Galas, and also Maria Callas.   

If you have not heard Maria Callas, that is a tragedy.  Below we have her singing Madame Butterfly.

Maria Callas - Madame Butterfly

Madame Butterfly is the opera based on a story of love, deception, honor and death.  
Could be the theme of a death metal song.   

Angela?  Are you listening?  
Do I have the write the Death Metal opera of Madame Butterfly?  

I think I will call it Motherfucken Assault and Buttery.  Better start growling.  

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