June 18, 2015

Black Metal, First Person Views and Goats

Black Metal, First Person Views and GoatsAbove image inspired by the cover of Aderlating, Black Emperor At The Temple's Gate

Growing out of heavy metal bands there is now, and has been since the late 1980s, a darker, more ideological musical genre of "Black Metal." Black Metal is often anti-Christian, Satanic and generally rather bleak. The above image is from the cover of an album of Dutch "Black Ambient" band. Black Ambient is an even bleaker offshoot of Black Metal, without even the aggressive vocal energy.

A couple of tropes that are frequently found in Black music (Black Metal and Black Ambient) are bleeding and goats. The name of the band, Aderlating, to which this cover art belongs means "blood-letting." Another, Finnish, Black Metal band is called "Impaled Nazerene" where, apparently, the "impaled" refers to the use of a stake to kill a vampire. In other words it seems that the Finnish band is seeing some equivalence between Jesus the Nazerene and a vampire, or blood-sucker, and presumably a reciprocal desire to make the blood-sucker bleed.

There may be a just little, metaphorical, truth in this. Jesus in those who have faith in him, becomes the cranial interlocutor to whom one narrates oneself, as one as one is transformed from the animal, complete with blood, that one once was, into merely the bloodless hero of a self-narrative (see e.g. Dennet, 1992). Contra the anti-Christian ethos of Black Metal however, it seems to me that Jesus is an attempt to cure a disease that was present prior to his arrival. From the age of two or three, as soon as we find ourselves able to represent our "selves", or even our actions (c.f. the lonely Bonobo, Kanzi), we enjoy cognising ourselves from the point of view of an aldernator. That is to say we enjoy our self-representations so much that we suck our own blood, or eat ourselves, in the sense that we de-animate ourselves or make ourselves narratival. At the same time, due to the silent, self-sacrificial nature of Jesus - especially if imagined on the cross for instance - the internalization of the Christian interlocutor may well in fact, on the contrary, silence self-speech, and thereby re-animate. Indeed, as may be seen in the Eucharist, Christians believe themselves to be be reanimated through the receipt of Christ's blood, or indeed eating his body.

Another trope common to Black Metal is the goat. The aforementioned band, Impaled Nazarene, always includes at least one song about a goat, or goats, in each of its albums. Goats are thought to be popular in this genre due to their association with the devil. Goats are generally argued (at least according to wikipedia) to be associated with the devil due to the horniness, in both the sexual and literal sense, of male goats, as exemplified by the somewhat obscene lyrics of one goat song.

It also occurs to me that both goats and the "Black Emperor" pictured above may have a similarity with first person views.

Notice the back light rays and the large size of the Black Emperor's nose which is rather goaty. From a McDermottian (McDermot, 1996) first-person-made-third-person, perspective it could be said that there is a big nosed Black Emperor at our "temple's gate," or perceived entrance to our mind.

The use of the goat to represent Satan may in part also be due to the size of Goat's noses and the spread of their eyes. From a first person perspective I have a giant nose and eyes wide enough to encompass the earth. My first person perspective of myself is also perhaps the closest I get to becoming aware of that animal, with blood, that I once was. I wonder if I narrate myself to my first person view of myself, which I may be dimly aware of as a person.

This possibility, that my blood is being sucked, or I am being "eaten" by a giant, in the above sense, may explain the long tradition, and current popularity, in the form of Attack on Titan, of the related giant attacks little humans trope. My favourite is probably still this image, painted by my mother, where I realise that I had expressed the central idea of this post in a comment four years ago.

I also like the way in which the Black Emperor, above, appears to be wearing some sort of headdress or wig. This makes him look a little effeminate. Much of the anger of this musical genre seems to me to stem from the fact that its proponents are dimly aware that they have something feminine inside themselves, a prospect that most more full blooded men find enraging. I find myself to be less angry than ashamed.

The darkness of the eyes of the Black Emperor combined with the rays, which suggest back-lighting, remind me of the way in which, as I look out of the utter darkness of my goaty face, past those giant noses at the light, I wonder if the light is not in fact that which is doing the looking. The light may be behind the cavern of my eyes, not in front of them. If only I could wipe the mirror clean. Silence.

Dennett, D. C. (1992). The self as a center of narrative gravity. Self and consciousness: Multiple perspectives. cogprints.org/266/1/selfctr.htm
McDermott, Le Roy D. (1996) "Self-Representation in Upper Paleolithic Female Figurines." Current Anthropology 37. no. 2 (April 1996): 227-275. faculty.ucmo.edu/ldm4683/1.htm#

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