Vocal lines are no longer memorable in death metal

Virtually every death metal band from the first wave had its share of infectious vocal lines. From Deicide to Dismember, death metal fans grew up memorizing and screaming morbid lyrics in much the same way their baby boomer parents may once have creamed their pants to The Beatles. Now, there is a school of thought that considers vocals and lyrics in death metal as somewhat superfluous to the actual music; while one can certainly enjoy death metal on instrumental terms alone, vocals when done right can be a useful percussive instrument, and when combined with evocative lyrics can enhance the band’s themes, perhaps just as much as the music itself.

This is not intended to be the usual “metal is dead, woe is us” screed; for all our frustration with hipster, manic-depressive attention whores co-opting our music, death metal continues to be in relatively rude health. But more to the point, just how many memorable vocal lines have we heard in death metal these last fifteen years? Forget being compelled to learn all of ‘Immortal Rites‘ by heart, can those reared on today’s death metal even think of something as succinct yet so legendary as a ‘Confront me!‘ or an ‘I’ll find peace when I’m God!‘ For all the tributes, both sincere and trendy, to old school death metal, it is curious that this one aspect seems to have flown entirely under the radar of new death metal musicians.

Perhaps vocalists aren’t considering themselves singers and lyricists anymore. Older bands came from a milieu that much closer to more traditional rock n roll where the singer’s participation in those twin roles was as important as the underlying instrumental arrangements. However, with the advent of Suffocation‘s syncopation-driven grinding and Incantation‘s chromatically-intense death metal, both styles that have since come to dominate the genre, vocal space that was once exclusively reserved came to be at a premium. Vocals slipped obscurely into the background as a mere coloring drone, and lyrics, not required to conform to set vocal niches anymore, became far more stream-of-consciousness, at times tediously abstruse. Neither development was favorable to presenting songs in the erstwhile “macabre parable” format. In some ways, severing that last association with accessibility was an inevitable progression for a music that takes pride in being extreme, but also lost in the process was a certain individuality and a once-vital tool for connecting with the listener.

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Howie Bentley’s mastery of heavy metal

Rarely has a heavy metal songwriter working in different genre paradigms been as masterful over both expressions as  primary songwriter Howie Bentley of Cauldron Born and Briton Rites. The first project is neoclassical, swords and sorcery power metal and the second Hammer Horror-styled southern-fried speed/doom, but common to both is Bentley’s utmost command over the language of heavy metal itself. Where other bands may give the impression of conforming to set genre templates, Bentley appears to actually think in this music’s syntax the same way one’s thoughts first arise inside the mind in a shape closely approximating the language one is most familiar with. To Bentley, that native language is heavy metal, and everything he transforms from mind to materiel nothing less than molten steel.

For a long time, critics of traditional heavy metal have regarded its lack of structural ambition as the one litmus test by which to hold it inferior compared to intricate styles like death metal. It is an unfair standard by which to judge heavy metal, for this music’s aim first and foremost lies in rousing the spirit to arms, and not always through an exhibition of structural brilliance. Rather, what structure exists is there mostly to usher in and enhance those moments of punch-drunk invincibility. This again devolves to the distinction between hearing and listening, where listening involves conscious attention and dissection as opposed to hearing which is a more supine, intuitive experience, a “byproduct of existing” if you will. Heavy metal for the largest part ought to be heard than listened to; it shuns the overly critical ear but lays its treasures bare to those still capable of suspending cynical disbelief.

Cauldron Born‘s Born of the Cauldron, a classic in the true metal underground, however succeeds at both aspects, marrying progressive cohesion that can satisfy the most punctilious eye with slivers of traditional, riding-the-wind heavy metal bombast. Bentley’s playing is virtuosic and aggressive, Shawn Kascak’s bass alive and writhing like one Geezer Butler, the two combining to send these songs in myriad directions on the turn of a dime, now theatrical like Geoff Tate and early Queensryche, at another time indulging in heavy metal righteousness after the best fashion of USPM classics like Jag Panzer and Agent Steel, at home with the technical dalliances of a Mekong Delta, and still yet not averse to the quasi-exotic stylings of an Adramelch. For those in the know, these are impeccable references, the tonal richness of Born of the Cauldron bearing it out in the fullest; Bentley can and does shred like a bumblebee, but it is the consummate skill with which he weaves the many disparate threads into fist-shaking unison that cements this album’s legendary status.

But, paradoxically, Howie Bentley’s talents are fully appreciated only after hearing the more primitive but equally fascinating For Mircalla, his other project Briton Rites‘ debut released some thirteen years after Born of the Cauldron. The building blocks here are immense monolithic: Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Witchfinder General, and the classically-tinged sludge of Sonic Excess-era Crowbar, but out of these incipient foundations, Bentley finds a way of superseding them all – yes, even Black Sabbath – in terms of sheer narrative development and potential listener participation. Sticking to the tried and tested blues scale for the main meat of these songs, his control over rhythm, tempo change, and accompanying chord progression is so absolute that not once does Briton Rites sound like just another stoner band going through the motions; for instance, hear ‘Vampire Hunter, 1600‘  – finally my sword pierced his black heart, the vampire met his end. It was not just the sword of steel, but my faith that helped me drive it in – for how seamlessly he marries the tonnage of Master of Reality with the twinkling athleticism of prime NWOBHM. Phil Swanson’s strained voice, derided in some circles, and his penchant for the cleverly inflected phrase actually imbues these Satanic tales with an authenticity reminiscent of a once similarly ridiculed Ozzy Osbourne. The duo’s chemistry is undeniable and creates an atmosphere authentic yet fun, and reminiscent of the on-a-budget crypts and castles that were once the haunts of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.

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Deceased – Ghostly White (2018)

In classic heavy metal manner, Deceased make evocative songs centered around instantly identifiable melodies. The band has ever been at pains to distance itself from all death metal references, at least as they are conventionally understood, and Ghostly White only reaffirms that strange reclusive mindset. More apt instead to consider Deceased a heavy metal band with an overwhelming fascination for death itself, in allegorical, mythological, literary and literal senses, always presented through the band’s distinctively traditional and classy take on horror. Band founder King Fowley experienced serious health troubles in the time between Supernatural Addiction and As The Weird Travel On; intentionally or not, a palpably tragic tonality entered the band’s songwriting at about the same time. Lyrics, always underrated with this band but a cut above average too, began embracing a more stoical view of life and death. The outcome has been surprisingly layered and poignant and a treat for heavy metal fans.

As ever, Voivod‘s first three albums remain an integral part of the Deceased DNA on Ghostly White in the way they make use of dissonant chords and punk/grind rhythms to advance those chord progressions. The perfect fifth of the rock power chord is used only at the onset of a blatant melodic motif, but the meat of these songs is composed almost entirely of clanging note combinations. Like Immolation but in a completely different context, Deceased find a way of giving shapeless dissonance shape; the band’s approach, unique in heavy metal, is to disregard that they are in fact using atonal sounds by making phrases out of them as one would from more harmonious elements. An isolated dissonant chord by its own makes little musical sense, but by ringing a number of them into viable formations, Deceased enforce their own peculiar logic on the listener.

The narrative development on Ghostly White is atmospheric rather than structural. It is an important distinction, perhaps best summed up by the difference between hearing and listening. While listening entails conscious attention, hearing simply happens as a byproduct of existing. Deceased in my opinion are better heard than listened, an observation that might subject the band to accusations of inertia and fans of being happily passive in their appraisal of music. But there need not be any disrepute in this; yes, Deceased use many speed metal tropes inherently containing a certain amount of filler, but the way to develop an appreciation for this band is by letting those same tropes wash over you as tension-building devices while anticipating the one moment of delicious dread that creeps in from the fringes of awareness.

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Ruin – Plague Transmissions Vol. I (2017)

Ruin from California released one demo back in 1991 before disbanding. This compilation contains recordings of those tracks as well as new music released by the band on various splits since reforming in 2015. The style here is death/doom but don’t let that by-now prosaic description chase you away: the two components are perfect counterparts on these songs, the death metal grinding in irreverent Impetigo fashion while the doom straddles the chest with claws around the throat. This is truly punishing extreme metal, at home in the rumbling low end, with each motion carrying the bite and spite of the flagellant’s whip.

There is a refreshing unambiguity about these songs. Chord changes traverse discrete intervals across the spectrum yet retain consistency of dark, dissonant tone throughout. Never shy of breaking into an impromptu skank beat when the muse calls, Ruin hearken back to the the early 90s when bands like Impetigo, Hideous Mangleus, Phantasm, and Hemdale bled the edges between death metal and punk to present a specifically gruesome vision. Liberal use of audio clips from macabre horror and 911 telephone calls might make the overly serious listener dismiss the band as parody, but to the vast majority of the underground that came of age with horror cinema and metal as constant companions, these flourishes are joyous relics of a time our music has unfortunately forgotten about and genuinely add to the depraved atmosphere Ruin strive for.

It never ceases to amuse me when newer, politically “woke” listeners try to drag extreme metal into the realm of social conscience by equating it with ethical notions like justice. Singing pro-this and anti-that lyrics over randomly distorted music that only tenuously borrows tropes from death metal and black metal does not make it so. Through all the years of listening to this music, I can honestly say that not once have I associated extreme metal with issues of social import. I have been empowered by it, certainly, but at no time has it made me feel like extending that empowerment to others or taking up cudgels on behalf of those that are “oppressed”. I have considered it an intensely private and individualistic music, advanced by an unremittingly bleak view of mass humanity that is almost Darwinist in tone. The virtues I have detected and interpreted in it have been founded on contempt for others’ existential turpitude. One might say that I am merely feeding my own personal misanthropy into the music and drawing false inferences, but I turn that observation around at the musicians in Ruin and the many other true death metal and black metal bands of history, and ask: is that not really so?

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Desultory – Through Aching Aeons (2017)

Many bands from the classic era of death metal suffered ignominious and often self-inflicted downswings in fortune. The mood that once prevailed to inspire an entire generation of metalheads changed into something altogether base and material in aspect. Following the precedent set by Metallica, a previously noble band like At The Gates streamlined their sound to the point of banality and struck gold. Others strove likewise only to see their legacies tarnished beyond the point of no return. For Desultory, that nadir arrived with 1998’s Swallow The Snake, an assortment of Pantera and Korn cliches that to all appearances embarrassed the band into an early retirement.

A friend suggests that age and maturity grant at least the more percipient among musicians with a wider perspective on the transgressions of their past. So would seem to be the case with Desultory‘s staggered rebirth over the last ten years. Over and above the obvious rediscovery of the sound which made them a band to be reckoned with in the first place, the overwhelming feeling on Through Aching Aeons is that of an ensemble trying to atone for previous sins, not to whatever fans might be left, but, crucially and as would befit a true repentance, to themselves.

The Desultory sound is one part chainsaw Swedish death metal and the rest exquisitely catchy melody. A cursory listen may make Through Aching Aeons seem little different from any other band flaunting these stripes, but where once-contemporaries like Autumn Leaves and In Flames resorted to blatantly mainstream maneuvers, Desultory‘s melodic accessibility on this album does not come at the cost of songwriting integrity. What might initially sound like a made-to-order speed metal riff, bouncing and chugging away to redundancy, is invariably built on and extended with painfully acute harmonic sense; in the greater reckoning, these feverish exertions create intricately textured songs with very real identities and a vague wistfulness.

That melancholy is the defining characteristic of Through Aching Aeons and great European death metal at large. Not given to despair, rather it is the strange bottom-heavy feeling one experiences while reminiscing over a special time of life. The lot in the present might be perfectly satisfactory, but knowing that that time and the situations and actors involved in it are gone forever breeds a certain restlessness of spirit and the realization that you just might be less than you once were. Through Aching Aeons is one of the most sincere expositions of such subjective notions in recent years and a fine way for the band to bow out.

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Harsh noise

Under the right circumstances, possibly at the right time of day, listening to harsh noise can be a meditative experience; if per chance you are involved in an activity demanding mental concentration, it can even provide the kind of unemotional, unprejudiced, and unmusical background that drowns out distractions and spurs productivity. It seems counter-intuitive to use noise so, especially to those of us in developing parts of the world, where noise factors into every waking, and sleeping, moment of life: unregulated construction, chaotic modes of transport, above all the dense, omnipresent press of human beings and the veritable Tower of Babel that rises from their interactions, make us treasure the rare instants when things are calm and tranquil. To despoil those moments by listening to something like harsh noise, as entertainment no less, seems like an act of sadomasochism.

But a recent month-long stint working nights led to quite the opposite realization. Staying up through the night at first disturbs and then rewires the body’s diurnal rhythms. From the overstimulated trappings of daytime living, the individual is thrown into the almost physical stillness of night and therefore in some way must come to be psychosomatically altered. Given such a reconstitution of mind-body makeup, music that holds one’s attention during the day may conceivably lose that appeal into the small hours of the night, too. Its structure feels oppressively restricting and its emotional resonance becomes cloying; in other words, the qualities which drew one to it in the first place can now only engender indifference. This music feels out of place in the social vacuum that now envelopes the individual subject, its virtues of past now like so many distant and petty machinations incapable of piercing through to that alienated mental sanctum.

Harsh noise, however, is different in that it is not music but rather an auditory – but all too often also a surprisingly physical – experience. It does not play to the same gambits that anything remotely construable as music does; instead, it discards all putative judgement through musical tone and immerses the listener in an ocean of shifting pitches. Patterns manifest themselves in an impersonal and mechanistic fashion, as brief spikes standing out in relief against the greater wall of noise. Do they have real existence in the design of this noisescape, or are they something conjured up by an overwhelmed mind grasping, desperately hoping, for something familiar to orient itself around? In all events, what is incredibly abrasive initially slowly ascends through degrees of intensity until the listener reaches a plateau of equanimity beyond which no further heightening of sensation can happen. At this stage, the noise is no longer on the peripheries of the listener’s consciousness but has actively embedded itself into his perception of being. He has become indivisible from it, and it from him, in an intermingling as elemental as the pressure of wind beating against the eardrum and the flow of blood through the vein. By the time he reemerges out from this bath of hiss and hum, his listening palate and mental space at large are thoroughly cleansed and the purest of silences rushes in from all corners with healing motive.

On one level it feels pretentious to read such depth into noise, but as fans of metal we might be guilty of approaching it with a flawed perspective. We are innately suspicious of postmodernism and its constant realignment of historical boundaries. Noise in its harshest, most distilled form, however, stands even farther afield of those boundaries, and if used judiciously can legitimately contribute towards enhanced insight across various aspects of experience.

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More Fool Me

How do you engage with somebody on a point of dissent when they don’t have the required vocabulary, literal or experiential, to do so? There is great wisdom in ceding ground when one doesn’t possess that vocabulary, but there is even greater wisdom in acknowledging that dearth in the first place. The latter unfortunately is a rare quality indeed, hence the incessant ego-fueled wrangling we witness over subjects that ideally should be approached with an inquisitive mindset and not a confrontational one. But deep-seated insecurity manifests itself in just such fractious ways. The insecure individual would rather feast on his opponent’s – or should I say someone he perceives to be an opponent – frustration, and come away smirking with a misleading “ha! I showed him!“, rather than accept that the role of the learner in a conversation is not an inferior one, that mutual participation enhances both parties’ qualitative experience: the “learner” learns, obviously, and the knowledge-giver gets a chance to examine the sanctity of his opinion.

Experience and knowledge builds up cumulatively, but you don’t know that when you are busy being a vindictive viper out to guard its feeble nest. An acquaintance of mine, someone who we would call a fairweather metal fan, meaning he does not obsess over its mysteries the way the rest of us do, can’t for his life understand how I can enjoy old Immolation more than new Immolation. He has heard all the big names, and more than a few obscure ones, over the years, but in passing and not with any deal of energy or conviction. Therefore he is sincerely flummoxed over my preferences, because new Immolation has loud, shiny production and attractive melodies, and aren’t those the be all and end all of music?

I am amused and sense what’s happening here. I tell him that it’s no crime to like what you like. But he persists in his inquiry, and like a fool I take the bait and try to put into words things that should never be put into words. I talk to him about how the band no longer jams as a unit in the same location but instead overwhelmingly depends on Bob Vigna to send in ideas from whichever part of the country he is in. How this splintered songwriting process has taken a toll on the cohesiveness of the music. How parts are now written to accomodate Steve Shalaty’s staggered drumming style, but in probability the situation is the other way around. How there is overconscious development of mood instead of the spontaneous atmosphere through death metal on the old albums.

On and on I go, rummaging through my head for other points pertaining to Immolation, many of which can be found on this blog. Not to prove a point, because debates are very much not my thing, but because it really is fun to talk about metal. But I can sense his eyes glaze over; you see, he doesn’t know about such things; let knowing well alone, he hasn’t even imagined that music can be thought of in such terms. But instead of it being a revelation of sorts to him, that music can indeed be an entirely different dimension of being, he fumbles about for something with which to knock me off my tenuously preserved composure. He says, “Ah, I don’t know, man. Nothing has ever quite thrilled me as much as Immolation. Deicide, for example. Blame it on God! I always found them too funny. Never understood why you liked them so much.

Classic, isn’t it? And more fool me. With age, I find I am as likely to give someone the benefit of the doubt as I am to dismiss them outright, but the former almost invariably leaves me burnt and needlessly aggravated. How then does one engage on a point of dissent with someone lacking your literal or experiential vocabulary? Judge the spirit in which they make their approach. Gauge their body language. If they seem amenable to a healthy exchange of ideas, then by all means indulge in it yourself. If, however, they’ve come to prove a point – and they leave blatant hints to this effect throughout, you just have to not be bloody naive to see them – simply ask them to fuck off.

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Krisiun – Scourge of the Enthroned (2018)

Up till Ageless Venomous, Krisiun played a furious, if slightly unmemorable, style of death metal consisting almost entirely of cyclical, tremolo-picked riffs. From Works of Carnage onwards, that came to be replaced with the preponderance of a staccato element in the songwriting, culmination of which was the surprisingly accessible Southern Storm. However, as Immolation have gradually discovered over the last fifteen years, overuse of staggered riffing can interrupt song flow and even open the door for other more undesirable elements like groove and melody as artifice to creep into a once-uncompromising music. Krisiun have not been immune to these failings either, so it is interesting that Scourge of the Enthroned arrives as possibly the third incarnation of the Krisiun sound.

At a high level, Krisiun have essentially combined the previous two aspects of their technique. The cyclical nature of riffs is back, but not always in the erstwhile near-black metal style; instead, now, the staccato is as likely to be incorporated into the actual body of the riff itself as it is to serve its traditional role as riff demarcator. A somewhat vague impression to explain, but to these ears this effect is achieved by chopping up the individual riff into discrete portions by way of overt trills and palm-mutes. In other words, these riffs repeat as much as anything on Black Force Domain, but in micro increments, at the interstitial level.

On the periphery of this new mode of attack also lie the by-now ubiquitous arpeggiated dissonant stylings of orthodox black metal. It is strange how these flourishes have come to be a part of the repertoire of even experienced bands; they add no individuality to songs that are already difficult to individuate, but like the flamboyant understrike so irresistible while signing a document, guitarists seem compelled with an involuntary reflex to emphasize their riffs with these addendums.

To their credit, and unlike a band like Adversarial, Krisiun don’t get entirely carried away with the new toys in their creche, and look in equal part to their own past for inspiration. Within the very specific niche of Brazilian death metal and bands like Raebelliun, Horned God, Ancestral Malediction, and Ravager, Scourge of the Enthroned occupies a no less violent spot. Krisiun‘s finest hour may have come and gone, and while they will never truly rise out of death metal’s second tier, this is still a refreshingly no-holds barred comeback from a veteran band.



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Monstrosity – The Passage Of Existence (2018)

While Monstrosity albums from the 90s are true genre staples, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that the band have come to be so well-regarded by the underground as much for staying out of the spotlight as they have for their music. One hopes the underground detests attention whores and prima donnas; Monstrosity have been anything but, making appearances without undue fanfare and then disappearing as inconspicuously leaving well-wishers in a state of perpetual speculation. But with years falling away like so many leaves in between albums, one wonders about the muse that has motivated Lee Harrison & co. to assemble the current batch of songs. With time comes even greater technical proficiency and hopefully wisdom too but is such protracted pensiveness really beneficial to a music as spontaneous as death metal?

The Passage Of Existence is not as intimately confrontational as the band’s first three full-lengths. It does not contain the speed-drenched rhythmic violence of Imperial Doom, a quality that saw the band making hairpin bends in songwriting without missing a beat, or the sheer bullish swagger of Millenium. In Dark Purity introduced more deliberate melodic phrasing that helped the band move beyond its formative influences in Slayer into an altogether more menacing direction. On this album, Monstrosity wrote legitimately epic, technical death metal as opposed to mere spidery exercises in adrenaline, using contrasting textures to embellish the struggle between light and dark.

Rise To Power continued in the same general vein as In Dark Purity, perhaps even upping the intensity, but while being serviceable for its time and a near replica of the previous album’s breathing patterns, it is not blessed with the same meaning; the cadences have lost their metaphysical significance and verge on the gratuitous, much like any other album from this shapeless, forgotten period in death metal history. Spiritual Apocalypse, notwithstanding token efforts at variety through a new vocalist, some melodeath riffs, and extravagant but out of place guitar solos, ultimately followed Rise To Power‘s lead, in an unfortunate trend of diminishing returns.

The Passage Of Existence drops belatedly into this staggered timeline, retaining much the same line-up from Spiritual Apocalypse. Obvious immediately is the greater attention to individual song theme, something sorely missing on the previous two albums. The band achieves this identity partly through a juxtaposition of traditional death metal dissonance with heavy metal overtures, an unlikely marriage at first but which in the grand telling creates unified and even evocative narratives. As expected, rhythm guitars are intricately syncopated, dripping with melodic information and often in harmony during riff refrains. Lead guitar, however, is frequently given over to overt 80s Shrapnel Records-style acrobatics, and while one can admire the skill required to play these parts, acknowledge the role of the lavish guitar solo in bands as diverse as Immolation, Brutality, and Intestine Baalism, Monstrosity in an effort to accommodate these technical showcases shift the chord bed below them in undesirably saccharine directions.

Which is unfortunate, because these are well-written songs capable of standing on their own with minimal embellishment. Floridian death metal, gritty as it can be, has never shied away from instrumental flash, but there still is a fine line to be toed in terms of preserving the mood of the song. Monstrosity, like old Kataklysm, even make the enhanced melodicism work at the level of the riff, but ideally should have exercised more control over the lead guitar’s contributions in the studio.

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Profanatica’s artful simplicity

All music ever aims to do is capture one aspect of psychology with sincerity and a degree of verisimilitude. Music doesn’t necessarily have to cover the entire breadth of human emotion; such a task is not only near-impossible, but also undesirable and frequently prone to a cheap consumerism of the soul. Emotional states aren’t ephemeral except perhaps in the pathologically ill; a state of mind exists with consistency and duration, and therefore, if music is the balm one chooses as accompaniment, then it only makes sense to listen to something that is resolute in ambition and delivery.

This dynamic becomes all the more enjoined on the minimalist musician on account of the redundancy inherent in his art. Because he willfully denies so much of the musical vocabulary otherwise available to the rest of the world, he is forced to focus all the more acutely on the slice of psyche he chooses to expose. When this approach is used merely as ruse and trend, without any basis in conviction or imagination, it can easily become tedious, but the talented artist employs this form of musical-intellectual asceticism to capture his audience ever more securely in a communion of will and thought.

There have certainly been many projects, in and outside of metal, more musically minimalist than Paul Ledney’s life’s work in Havohej and Profanatica, but that hasn’t saved Ledney from accusations of peddling a boneheadedly simple and rehashed music. That he has remained steadfast to the anti-Christian vitriol of younger years also renders him easy prey to horn-rimmed hipsters mouthing witticisms like “you hate Jesus Christ, we get it already!” But realistically, in what way exactly would these critics want him to diversify? Should Ledney conveniently surrender his blasphemous preoccupations at this late date and become yet another politically aware cosplayer in what already is a nauseatingly saturated political climate? Moreover, does anyone truly think the few textures he employs in his music are suited for any purpose other than religious desecration?

Profanatica sounds the way it does for a reason. Unlike something abstract and essentially non-committal like ambient or noise, Profanatica has very real emotional logic about it, only that that logic is the obverse of anything carrying an even tenuously positive connotation. Vomiting on Christianity is but the surface aspect of an undeclared ideology that in fact thrives in a valueless aether. Whatever one holds sacred to the point of it actually becoming that individual’s identity, to the point where the individual ceases to be an individual in the real sense, this ideology ridicules. Christian, Satanist,  Black, White, Hindu, Muslim, Antifa, Alt-Right, Metalhead even, any label whatsoever regarded and co-opted with self-serving pride comes under its ire.

One is almost tempted to call such a destructive ideology, if it is indeed what Ledney purports to, fatalistic, for what good is negation for the sake of negation? I like to think of it as a kind of nativistic individuality, where a person’s innate but initially obscured sense of being comes to be realized and consolidated at a relatively young age, somewhere in between the time when the haze of childhood indoctrination wears off and the bombardment from competing philosophies begins. This does not mean that the person stops growing or absorbing valuable sense-data from his environment, rather that this constantly fluctuating environment can never make corrosive inroads into that being which is now nothing less than iron-girded. Nor does it mean that he lacks agency if need be; he can and should act, but the thing to consider is that he now takes stands with prejudice according to the dictates of that being and the gravity of the situation, and not because he’s expected to or came to be under the proprietorship of a mass-market label promoting some ideologism fundamentally alien to him.

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