December 30, 2010
I have a terrible problem. I'm in love with someone, but sometimes they act like a total dick and I'm embarrassed to be around them. Yet when it's good it's really good, and it almost makes me forget I that sometimes I want to break the mix-tapes they've given me and walk away and never hear from them again. That someone is Enochian Crescent, and their dickishness comes from comments like 'If queers try to hit on you, just beat them up, the sentences will be much shorter (than murder)'.
(stupid fake lyrics are how I show bands that I like them)
Enochian Crescent, for the uninitiated, is a black metal band, formed in 1995 and based in Helsinki, Finland. Their vocals are demonic shrieks and howls. They have blast beat drumming and distorted guitars, which they are capable of playing at blisteringly fast tempos, although several of their songs are somewhat slower (and their style and subject matter more varied) than you might expect from the genre. I came to the band through their phenomenal third full length album, 2006's Black Church. I expected the black metal staples of Satan, blasphemy and the occult, and the album certainly delivers, although not always in a conventional way.
To begin, the song Chalk Face explores the relationship between Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene, arguing that they were married. As far as the blasphemy goes, proclaiming that Jesus married a whore may nowadays be as mundane as a Dan Brown novel, although lyrics featuring a choir of latex nuns and mention kisses of semen and passion go some way to spicing things up. The occult gets name-checked in Hendekagrammaton; the name of a star whose supernatural light will migrate our souls into the cosmos. Or something. And of course Enochian itself is a purportedly magick occult language, created in the 16th century by Englishman and reluctant wife-swapper John Dee, who claimed he used it to talk to ‘good angels'.
(the dark lord is pleased with your colour palette)
I expected Satan to be a prominent theme in the lyrics, but he hardly shows. Refreshingly, other deities get a look in: Hindu deity Shiva is busily doing a dance to destroy the world on Tridents Clash, in which the band chant ‘Om namah shivaya' (the same mystic mantra as is in Eat, Pray, Love, showing how metal memoirist Elizabeth Gilbert really is). Greek mythology is touched upon too, with mention of ‘Tartarean abodes'; Tartarus being a super-under-underworld, as far below Hades as heaven is above earth, according to Zeus (Tartarus is also where niece-seducing enthusiast Sisyphus resides, repeatedly failing to roll his boulder up a steep hill). There's one passing mention of witchery and fallen angels, and of a daemon who apparently likes to wake singer Janne Kuru (metal name: Drakh Wrath) up in the morning by whispering warnings in his ear, too quickly for him to understand them, which must be terribly annoying. Yet Satan only briefly makes an appearance in the final song Black Church, and even then he seems much more of a metaphor for vice. In this, perhaps the strongest song of the album, Drakh draws a comparison between Jesus and Satan as ‘tortured lords' and with the line ‘deceivingly faithful to measures but not right' appears to pose the question: if people proclaim their Christianity whilst carrying out morally questionably actions, which figure are they really worshipping? I may be putting words into Enochian Crescent's multi-headed mouth with that analysis, but with it the question did cross my mind that, underneath all the blood and corpse-paint, are Enochian Crescent perhaps conservative moralists?
(I'm not too sure, but I think this is Victor Floghdraki, Dr von Pfosforus, Drakh Wrath, Black Vomit Bolton, Mathias Pharmacist)
Apparently not, I would discover, after reading an interview with them, conducted by Kai Mathias Stalhammar, where Kuru answers a question about whether or not he's had any success performing magick rituals with the line ‘Success? Well, if it can be seen as success when the local priest's child died just after birth, when certain nasty spirits were sent to his direction just a few nights earlier'. He also makes statements such as ‘If I ever were to be committed for a murder, I wouldn't be committed for a murder of a homosexual, but an enemy of my faith. At least then the time spent behind the bars would be worth it... a christian, a jew, a catholic, an orthodox, a moslim or a priest (the most desirable choice of prey!) would be far better suited victim for a Satanist'.
It's possible that this is some dark Finnish humour that is not translating well into Australian English, as it is also possible that Kuru is employing his Drakh Wrath persona to make comments he may not personally align with, but which appear fitting with the extreme and brutal mythos of the genre (much like golf-enthusiast and born-again Christian Alice Cooper appearing as a murderous necrophiliac when in character, to draw a comparison which will probably grievously offend the most devout black metal fans). However, what leads me not to give Kuru the benefit of the doubt is that he is speaking on the topic of the very real murder of Magne Andreassen. In 1992, in one of the most notorious incidents associated with Nordic extreme metal, Emperor drummer Bård G ‘Faust' Eithun responded to the unwanted sexual advances of Andreassen by stabbing him to death in a forest. Now Kuru is not condoning the murder of Andreassen, but he is advocating violence based on sexual preference, which is sickening, and not in an enjoyable, theatrical, extreme metal kind of way. That he claims he would murder an enemy of his faith makes him no better than those he would most rally against with his art.
All of which leads me to my predicament. Flippant jokes aside, I'm more in love with Black Church than I have been with any other album in a long time. Yet the lead singer appears to be an intolerant dick, so I'm not sure how to feel. I've long pondered the line between the artist and their art, the demarcation of signifier and the signified, the object and the subject. Are artists their work? Is the work the artist? I don't think American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis shares the same ethics as his literary serial killer Patrick Bateman, though some reviewers do seem to confuse the two. And if one scholar can see Hemingway as a sexist author with one-dimensional, disempowered female characters and another can interpret The Old Man and the Sea as a work of egalitarianism, where the sea is gendered feminine and is on equal footing as Santiago, they can't both objectively be right. But as objectivity does not exist in the appreciation of art, they're both kind of right. And that's the best I can say, ‘kind of'. I don't think the artist is one's interpretation of the art; a simple example of this may be that many of us have met a celebrity that we really admired, only to be underwhelmed in person (I believe ‘don't meet your heroes' is the popular expression, and John Safran, I'm talking to you). Or we might have built up a metal band in our mind who fail to live up to our notions of the theatrical facade we've softened and romanticised the genre to be. So I guess it follows that the art is not the artist. Yet I do think they're linked; separate but linked. Kind of. It's subjective.
(me, in more metal times)
So can I still enjoy Enochian Crescent when I think they're douchbags? Can I like Chris's songs after he beat up Rihanna? Can I appreciate Hitler's watercolours after his political stint? Is it ethical for people to still purchase albums by alleged child pornography enthusiast R Kelly? Or the films of statutory rape aficionado Roman Polanski? Should this apply to all their work? Should I still feel uneasy if I find myself enjoying a Polanski film produced before he was a rapist? Are not the past versions of ourselves innocent to the monsters we become? What if the artist receives no financial or egotistical empowerment from our purchase and enjoyment of their work, like the convicted-of-sexual-abuse and also rather dead Tupac Shakur? Or what if I am a best-selling novelist who writes chapter one of a book before I murder somebody, chapter two whilst I'm murdering somebody, and chapter three after I've reformed from being a murderer? And then I go back and excise chapter two altogether? But it's such a good chapter that I donate it to a starving orphan who releases it as a novella for their own benefit?
I'm not sure what to do. To hire a personal ethicist to appraise my CD rack is one option, but I have a feeling that if I decide not to financially empower people whose ethics and beliefs are not exactly mine, then I'll never be able to buy anything. Never again listening to the CD I love and badmouthing Enochian Crescent at every opportunity is another option. Or a third could be to continue to enjoy their music, and if I ever get a chance to speak with them, tell them how much I love their band and how disappointed I am with some of what they've said, hear them out, and see if we can make this relationship work.
April 5, 2010
Things I Shouldn't Have Done is up to #24 and can be found here. Missing chapters are only on Facebook.
Unsolicited Cat is back on its quest to be easily accessible to a wide audience here.
January 26, 2010
Things I Shouldn't Have Done is up to #22 and can be found here..
There is now some writing up in the writing section.
Philosophy, Ethics, Maturation, and He-Man hits #15 and is becoming slightly more legible but in no way more palatable here.
Octobet 24, 2009
Philosophy, Ethics, Maturation, and He-Man is a new webcomic and the first nine can be found on Wordpress here.
Also: another homage can be found here.
August 30, 2009
YOUR BAND FAIL is a new music-hating music review and can be found here.
My awesome absurdist calendar can be found on this page.
Another Things I Shouldn't Have Done can be found here.
August 15, 2009
AngusStirling.com has a new face and new content.
August 4, 2009
A confessional webcomic. I'm real sorry, you guys. More…
August 4, 2009
A comic about emus what live in the sea. Outsider art meets um... emus. More…
My name is Angus, and I draw and write things.
l'm not very good at drawing.