Tape Wyrm VII – Writing About Music is Like… Tape Wyrm VII – Writing About Music is Like…

Metal Literature

The line “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” is a common quote used by people to express the banality of musical criticism. The quote dates back to 1918 from the essay “The Unseen World” by H. K. M printed in the publication The New Republic. The quote has become misattributed to a variety of sources including Martin Mull, Miles Davis and Elvis Costello. The original quote “writing about music is like singing about economics,” still expresses the illogical act of representing an auditory art with a literary one. The common use for this quote is mainly perpetuated by artists, musicians and pundits who see little value in music criticism. There is a latent context within this quote as it suggests music should be felt and not discussed as it crosses some sensuous boundaries. Nevermind that all the aformentioned practices are related to thought, creativity and reflection, the quote now stands as an automatic response from assholes who rely on cliché phrases to sum up their arguments. If my previous statement seemed a little harsh, it only stems from my continual love for discussing music as well as my library of metal books.

The musical arts and histories surrounding different styles have been the subject of wonderful books, essays and online music columns. The same can be said about heavy metal as it is the subject of wonderful books, essays and online music columns. Whenever entering into a new style of music, it is not uncommon to desire knowledge. In fact, I would argue that an unquenchable thirst for understanding is the cornerstone to any fascination. While the internet has certainly taken over a large part in the dissemination of information, books have also and will continue to play an important role in musical education.

If anyone remembers going to book stores, the music section was inhabited by one or two useful books along with 100 other books about Nirvana, The Rolling Stones and Beatles encyclopedias. This is not to say those bands do not deserve books dedicated to their memory rather there is little more to say regarding Woodstock and AC/DC. The fact that bookstores will soon be placed in the historical annals alongside Walkmans, 35 mm film and PDAs has only given rise to its faster more efficient digital marketplace. Buying books online allows the consumer to bypass four Motley Crue biographies for something more informative and possibly dangerous. Below are my recommendations for anyone interested in expanding their literary comprehension related to metal. Since the internet has rendered some users incapable of paying attention during a 300 page book, the act of reading without any hyperlinks, comment boxes or streaming video may seem daunting. If a reader requires a base level of interaction, they are always free to write notes in the margins. Stop being a fucking wimp.
Precious Metal (2009)
25 Extreme Metal Masterpieces
Edited by Albert Mundrian

Every so often, Decibel Magazine inducts an album into their Hall Of Fame. The series, which is now at 79, celebrates milestones in heavy metal and lauds certain albums which have become influential not only for the time but for the course of history. With each entry in the Hall Of Fame series comes a lengthy expose on the album with interviews and stories related to the writing and recording. Precious Metal takes 25 albums from their list and arranges them chronologically according to release date. Perhaps most engaging aspect of this book is its scope which does not rest in the highlights commonly associated with heavy metal. There will be no mention of Metallica, Judas Priest or Iron Maiden. When these obvious entries are removed, other albums of equal value can fully be recognized. To be fair, Decibel has the “every band member rule” where by every participating member must be interviewed despite their mortal status. This excludes, Pantera, Metallica and Death from ever entering the Hall Of Fame. Though intended to give full coverage on albums, Decibel’s Hall Of Fame does not lend itself kindly to departed band members nor bands with internal conflict. The result, however, are lengthy pieces done on bands who are more approachable and possibly more connected to their original fanbase. Precious Metal recognizes significance within the world of extreme metal by including albums by Repulsion, Kyuss, Darkthrone, Entombed and Sleep. This book should be viewed as a check list regarding mandatory metal albums and should give the reader things to talk about at their next dinner party.

Lords Of Chaos (2003)
The Bloody Rise Of the Satanic Metal Underground
Written by Michael Moynihan and Dirdrik Soderlind

And now we come to this book. To be honest, this book got me into black metal. My copy of Lords Of Chaos is creased, highlighted and annotated with various pens. Moynihan and Soderlind fully investigate the homicides and church arsons related to the 1990’s Norwegian black metal scene. While this book could have just been a sensational true crime piece, the authors dive headfirst into the scene with illuminating interviews, philosophical connections and convincing essays. Lords Of Chaos gives a setting and context for a dozen albums recorded during the early 1990’s. There are, of course, also downsides. Lords of Chaos is riddled with grammatical mistakes, poor instances of writing and uneven content. There is a large portion of the book dedicated to Varg Vikerness and his incarceration following the murder of Mayhem guitarist Euronymous. While it is interesting the first time, almost every book and movie spends a great deal of time on Euronymous murder leaving other subjects to relative obscurity. Regardless, anyone interested in a bizarre piece of history and the possibility of leaving with a list of albums will not be disappointed.

Choosing Death (2004)
An Improbable History Of Death Metal and Grindcore.
Written by Albert Mundrian

I was debating between two death metal books for this section. The other book in contention was Daneil Erkeroth’s Swedish Death Metal. Erkeroth’s book is a fantastic dive into an often overlooked form of metal history. Swedish Death Metal also comes with a wonderful A-Z guide regarding essential Swedish Death records. While Erkeroth’s book is fun and delightful to read, Albert Mudrian’s history of death metal is so comprehensive, is its intimidating. Albert Mundrian, editor for Decibel Magazine (and editor for Precious Metal) investigates the flowering of death metal and grindcore as it stemmed from the early 80’s. The book discusses the tape trade which perpetuated the underground as well as the formation of now legendary bands. The book also comes with an introduction by famed DJ John Peel and is one of the last things Peel would write before his death in 2004. The book, like any good musical books comes with, what the author, to be a definitive list of essential death metal and grindcore records. Mundrian’s list begins in 1987 and spans nearly 20 years. Choosing Death for all its textbook entries also comes with half page spreads of promo pictures and various ephemera from the glory days of death metal. When the universities eventually realize my talents for teaching college level courses on metal, Choosing Death will be a required book and most certainly will be on the test.
Sound Of The Beast (2003)
The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal
Written by Ian Christe

If you are thinking of purchasing an encyclopedia of heavy metal for your coffee table, just stop now. If you desire a condensed history of heavy metal which inevitably leaves out 75% of contributions, then make it the Sound of the Beast. This may sound negative but it is not, well maybe a little. When writing a history of anything, it is impossible to include everything important as well as making it interesting and easy to understand. Sound of the Beast skips along heavy metal’s history admirably hitting major milestones. Christe, like other metal authors, has a focus. While Precious Metal, Lords of Chaos and Choosing Death focused on the deep underground, Sound of The Beast soars along heavy metal’s mainstream and midground. If it was discussed in Rolling Stone, it is covered here. This again, may sound negative but it is not … well, maybe just a little. Heavy metal’s mainstream can be as interesting as its moody underground brother. Sound of the Beast occasionally dips into the underground with black and death metal but is mainly more concerned with music most commonly associated with the general term of metal. Black Sabbath, Slipknot, Van Halen, Kiss, Twisted Sister and Metallica all have large roles in the development of Christe’s metal history. In fact, the largest criticism is the author’s love for Metallica and his world where all things come from Metallica. Regardless, If you know nothing regarding the world of heavy metal and a comprehensive history of grindcore does seem like your thing and you do not want to take the time read Wikipedia articles then this book is for you. If you know who Venom is then you may be better off somewhere else.

Recent Recommendations.

Wolves In The Throne Room – Celestial Lineage

Alright this is it. Thanks for coming out. Turn off the lights before you leave, I need to go now. Releases by bands who have already had tremendous success in the previous years always come with a short intake of breathe. If you read Tape Wyrm Volume V, then you might have noticed Wolves In the Throne Room’s enormous role in the development of a distinct black metal style dominant in the Pacific Northwest. Releases by Wolves In the Throne Room always comes with a certain sense of weight and pause. The band’s newest release Celestial Lineage will bring to a close a thematic trilogy started in 2007 with Two Hunters. The only single released thus far is the above track which also debuted on NPR. “Woodland Cathedral” does not showcase the blistering black metal side rather the calm and collected chants of guest vocalist Jessika Kenney. If this track interests you then the whole of Celestial Lineage will be surprising and rewarding. currently, the band is embarking on a long North American tour which will, finally, reach the east coast. There should be no reason why you would pass up this opportunity.

8/28/2011 Olympia, WA [check wittr.com for location]
8/31/2011 The Medusa – Minneapolis, MN
9/01/2011 Reggie’s Rock Club – Chicago, IL
9/02/2011 Rudyard Kippling – Louisville, KY
9/03/2011 The Mockbee – Cincinnati, OH
9/05/2011 Jamestowne Hall – Saginaw, MI
9/06/2011 Soybomb HQ – Toronto, ON
9/08/2011 Death Church – Montreal, QC
9/10/2011 The Kave – Bucksport, ME
9/11/2011 Providence, RI [check wittr.com for location]
9/12/2011 The Bell House – Brooklyn, NY
9/14/2011 Washington, DC [check wittr.com for location]
9/15/2011 Broad Street Ministries – Philadelphia, PA
9/16/2011 TBA – Bethlehem, PA
9/17/2011 Strange Matter – Richmond, VA
9/18/2011 Legitimate Business – Greensboro NC
9/20/2011 JD’s – Sheffield, AL
9/21/2011 The Little Hamilton – Nashville, TN
9/22/2011 Magnetic Theater – Atlanta, GA
9/23/2011 The Chop Shop – St Petersburg, FL
9/24/2011 The Farside Collective – Tallahassee, FL
9/25/2011 New Orleans, LA [check wittr.com for location]
9/27/2011 Austin, TX [check wittr.com for location]

Unkind – Harhakuvat

Holy shit. If one ever needed the musical equivalent to being thrown out of a large window then Unkind has all the requirements to be the one throwing. Unapologetic, brash and aggressive as a pissed off grizzly bear, this Finnish d-beat outfit has the tenacity to suplex your grandmother at Thanksgiving. What? Does this sound ridiculous? So does Harhakuvat. Relapse Records has unleashed one of the most furious albums of the year along with the band’s back catalog which also possess zero downtime. Grab that whiskey bottle because that motherfucking television is starting shit again.

Yob – Atma

Bands which take psychedelic music into its most heavy potential are merely fulfilling the style’s capability. I mentioned this concept (Tape Wyrm V) with Greek Stoner doom pantheon known as Brotherhood of Sleep. Yob is very much like Brotherhood yet with more of a penchant for doom and ridiculous mythology. Yob’s journey into the marshy lands between psychedelic rock and sludge metal come with a driving force which emanates energy and slight pessimism. Atma is the band’s sixth record and second release on Profound Lore. In 2009, following a four year hiatus, the band came back with roundhouse kick of an album with The Great Cessation. Atma is cut from the same sludge cloth and could be considered apart of their very deep second wind.

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