Carving A Mixtape – Exercises In Black Metal: Vol. 1

Ever since kindergarten, I have been obsessed with the idea of sharing music with others. Generally, this came in the form of stolen Billy Idol or Led Zeppelin cassette tapes from my parents until that fateful day I discovered how to re-record over any commercially purchased cassette. Once I gathered enough blank cassettes, or better yet self-improvement talk tapes, I used this exact device to record over them. The majority of my weekends, once I was finished playing outside, were spent calling rock/hip-hop radio stations and requesting songs I liked. Then, I sat by My First Sony and waited around for hours until the songs I liked to came on the radio so that I could hit the record button as soon as the song started. The attached microphone came into play as well, as I used it to introduce tracks to the future lucky recipient of my custom-made mix.

Mixtapes are a lost art of the past, and the pedantic nature of those who still love making them is often taken for granted. Yes, the painstaking process of recording over cassettes wasn’t anyone’s favorite, but the beauty of the mixtape was that the recipient could not easily skip around from track-to-track; the mix would have to be listened to from start to finish, just as its creator intended. Mixtapes were also a way for those without music instrument / production training or who just weren’t born with the ability to write good songs to feel musical. Today, a few seconds of searching for a program and a few hundred dollars invested could make you an electronic music producer. We live in a society in which people all want to create something, and that’s not a bad thing. However, a few of us would rather sit back, listen, study and learn.

Over the past few years, I have made numerous mixes for friends and acquaintences alike, and the lack of feedback I’ve received from the majority of those people has always been a bit perplexing. But should I really be upset about that? Of course not! Given the amount of people that most likely throw a bunch of songs they like into iTunes, hit the shuffle button (the bane of my fucking existence), and have the audacity to call it a mix, it might feel like a daunting chore to listen to a modern mixtape. But you see, some of us mix-makers treat our music the way Rob Gordon does in High Fidelity. Whether someone sets up a Dropbox mix for you or just sends you a list of YouTube links is no reason to assume a lot of thought and careful planning didn’t go into the mix, especially when they have taken your tastes into great consideration.

Let’s switch our conversation for a moment to something many of metal’s outsiders have recently taken a liking to, namely black metal. It’s always been fascinating to observe the sheer amount of people at shows talking about bands like Dragged Into Sunlight or Cobalt, but haven’t ever heard any of the roots of where that music came from. I say it’s fascinating, because the first time my young teenage brain ever tried to process early material from Blut Aus Nord or Emperor I thought shrapnel blessed by the Dark Lord himself was ripping through my eardrums; it scared the fucking shit out of me. Perhaps age has something to do with it, sure, but there’s more to it than just that. The occult is cool and intriguing, now. Young adults oftentimes sit over coffee and discuss the political ramifications of the lack of social inequality in an increasingly globalized world while wearing fucking Mayhem or Burzum t-shirts. In short, what once had to be hidden… what once wasn’t cool… is. But God dammit, fucking learn about what this music really is before you attempt to look nifty while every phrase that comes out of your mouth is said in the absolute daintiest way possible. Like lost sheep, or the majority of fans at a Watain show, you search for true darkness but you’ve somehow ended up at Hot Topic. Let the hate flow through you if you want to be dark-n-edgy™, for it is the recipe that hath created the delightful riffage you pretend to enjoy.

Assuming you, good readers, are actually here to learn, let’s talk about the mix at hand. Over the past six months or so, various people in my life have asked me to create a black metal mix for them. To say I took it seriously is quite the understatement, since this mix has literally been in the works since the close of our previous calender year. The criteria for the mix are as follows: First, the mix consists of what I feel are the greatest black metal songs to represent the decade of naughts. Second, I chose not to include anything that was not good ol’ hateful black metal in its purest form, as first wave-sounding bands contain many elements of thrash and plain old rock-n-roll, and modern-wave black metal albums from this period of time utilize many progressive and electronic techinques that don’t stand up to the sheer amount of devastating riffs in this mix. So no Negura Bunget or Deathspell Omega this time around, folks. I wanted to construct a mix to awaken and inspire your inner, most beastial selves so that you might become Sith Lords, not paint oil-based renditions of sunsets. Third, nothing about my selections has anything to do with obscurity or lack thereof. Some of these songs have tens of thousands of plays on Spotify, and others have less than a few hundred on YouTube. Fourth, the mix is to represent the years 2000-2009, with only one song representing each year. The final rule is that I have allowed myself to only use each band once, which was the absolute most difficult part of this process. Allow me to provide an example of the mental gymnastics I went through to construct this thing:

Konrad’s Desires: “Hmmm, okay well everyone knows I’m obsessed with The Ruins of Beverast, and although this song is absolutely mind-blowing and belongs on the mix, perhaps including something off of Meilenwald’s Nagelfar is enough.”

Konrad’s Rules: “Sure, take TRoB off, but that means you’ll have a gap for 2007, won’t you? Which bands had the best albums from that year? CobaltFuria? You know damn well Svartsyn‘s Timeless Reign and Inquisiton‘s Nefarious Dismal Orations kick the shit out of those other bands, and you’ve already used them in the mix.”

Konrad’s Desires: “Well that’s no problem, since I really can’t pull Svartsyn‘s track from 2000 because that one is far too important, I’ll just make Inquisiton my 2007 choice and fill in the gap for 2002.”

Konrad’s Rules: “Okay, well the best thing that fits in now is something from Anaal Nathrakh‘s Total Fucking Necro, but not even discogs knows when the hell that album was released. 2000? 2002? 2003? Mick Kenney probably doesn’t even know. They’re also kind of part grindcore.”

Konrad’s Desires: “Fuck you, dude. Alright, I’ll just switch the Beverast for Horna and fill in the 2002 gap with Satanic Warmaster.”

Yeah, yeah, I know you get the point. The thing is, I didn’t do this for myself. I did this for the people always searching for new, empowering music. And while I will admit there’s nothing more exhilarating than spontaneously stumbling upon an album that just floors you on your own, it helps when others show you the light from time-to-time. I say light, but what I’m really doing is stealing your flashlight / helmet / trail mix and pushing you into an endless tunnel of eternal darkness and damnation (okay, maybe I’ll let you keep the trail mix). There is hate inside all of us. Control it, channel it, embrace it so that it does not devour you. Without further ado, I bestow unto you the greatest “trve” black metal tracks from 2000 to 2009, limited to one song per year, and one band per mix. Enjoy!

[KONRAD KANTOR]

SVARTSYN – TUNNELS OF HIS MAJESTY

[…His Majesty, 2000]

While not giving anything away, the endcaps of this decade were handed to well-deserving Swedish bands, with Svartsyn putting out some of the most criminally underrated material from its debut onward. Although the band significantly bumped up the production values on its 2007 Meisterwerk, Timeless Reign, the riffs of this track were more than enough to send it to the very top of the list of songs that inspired a decade full of revamped, riff-oriented black metal. With song structures that leave listeners with surprises around each new turn-of-the-corner, Svartsyn has left us with some of the most exciting moments of the naughts.


NAGELFAR – MEUTEREI

[Virus West, 2001]

Boy-oh-boy, it’s crazy how much of a difference one little letter can make. While oft confused with the very popular yet marginal band Naglfar, Aachen-based Nagelfar would become the precursor to both Ván Records and its seminal solo-project, The Ruins of BeverastNagelfar‘s discography is quite short, with only two official releases in the nineties and one in the naughts. Although lineup adjustments were a common occurrence for Nagelfar before its eventual breakup, the two members who remained constant were guitarist Zorn and drummer Alexander von Meilenwald. The duo’s ability to construct songs of epic proportions was unique to say the least, as it was not uncommon for songs to run well over ten minutes in length. As shown by “Meuterei’s” glorious outro, Zorn and Meilenwald had the unique ability to throw in elements of neoclassicism while still staying relentlessly true to the black metal genre.


INQUISITION – INVOKING THE MAJESTIC THRONE OF SATAN

[Invoking the Majestic Throne of Satan, 2002]

Although two-piece bands are not terribly uncommon, it is a thing of glory to witness Inquisition perform live as such. Maintaining its lineup of founding member Dagon and drummer Incubus since the release of its first full-length, the Colombian-American cosmonaut cult truly laid the groudwork for all of its future albums with sophomore effort, Invoking the Majestic Throne of Satan. Although the Robin Williams’-era Popeye vocals are a turnoff for some, the trademark “twang” of Dagon’s distortion and bridge manipulation coupled with Incubus’ love of the slow-paced military march set Inquisition apart in both substance and style.


SATANIC WARMASTER – A WOLF CRIES IN ANGER

[Opferblut, 2003]

Solo-artist Werwolf wrote an enormous amount of riffs throughout the entire decade, but equally important to Lauri Penttilä are his lyrics, imagery and philosophies behind the music. The sheer amount of bands throughout Europe that have been influenced by Satanic Warmaster is quite impressive, and although owning every single piece of the Warmaster catalogue is indeed superfluous, releases such as Opferblut or Carelian Satanic Madness are nothing short of mandatory, and will have you swimming in a sea of splits and singles in no time at all.


CLANDESTINE BLAZE – FALLING

[Deliverers of Faith, 2004]

Mikko Aspa, most known for his work with Deathspell Omega, is perhaps the most decorated vocalist in Finland, or black metal for that matter. Although his career as a multi-instrumentalist is not limited to Clandestine Blaze, it is Deliverers of Faith where we see Aspa in his finest hour. Almost Burzum-esque with its low-fi production values and that nerve-wracking feeling of I-know-you’re-not-a-natural-born-percussionist-but-you-still-haven’t-missed-a-beat-yet drumming, tracks such as “Falling” or “Winter of White Death” aren’t trying to be anything perfect, or even polished for that matter. Deliverers shows us that there’s still room in the modern era for the style of black metal that dominated the nineties. This time around, however, the darkness and negative energy dominating Aspa’s music is much more real.


TAAKE – HORDALANDS DOEDSKVAD PART III

[Hordalands Doedskvad, 2005]

Taake, much like its Norwegian contemporaries that helped spawn the second wave of black metal in the 90s, has always incorporated a raw, crusty punk vibe to its music without adhering to outside genre structures. The band’s three album run up to this point in its pre-banjo-strumming career was pretty much flawless, and Hordalands Doedskvad‘s III has been a seminal part of Taake‘s live performances since the band’s inception.


MGLA – MDLOSCI I

[Mdlosci, 2006]

Mgla, being comprised of two young Polish men at the time of this release, had already partaken in the three-part Crushing the Holy Trinity split with some of Northern Heritage Records’ heavy hitters, but Mdlosci would be release that went on to shape the band’s extreme rise in popularity not even a full decade later. Two things stand out on this track: First and foremost, the extravagant overlapping of tremolo melodies that take place a minute and a half into the song are the foundation upon which all of Mgla‘s extraordinary songwriting is built. The combination of drummer Darkside’s relentless build-up in concordance with perfectly interwoven guitar and bass notes are enough to tear a hole in the universe. Secondly, singer/guitarist M’s over-the-top nihilistic lyrics set the tone for thousands of future converts to latch onto a band that justifies, better than any other musical outfit, the love of hating one’s own existence.


HORNA – SANOJESI ÄÄRELLE

[Sanojesi Äärelle, 2007]

Sorting through every single release that songwriter Shatraug shat out over the last decade is somewhat of a daunting chore due to the vast inconsistency between each release. Although Horna is just one of his many bands, it served as his primary outlet for both the good and the bad. With over twenty five Horna releases from just 2000-2009, Sanojesi Äärelle, which narrowly beat out the difficult-to-find Viha ja viikate EP, is the band’s pivotal effort of the decade. Although the production values and quality of riffs from album-to-album require frequent listening-ear resets (this double LP clocks in at over 90 minutes in length), the title track’s central riff at 1:40 proves that, although rare, triumphant songwriting is possible with a more downtempo format. Narrowly defeating The Ruins of Beverast‘s track off of the massively important Gott in uns split — which was a little too doom-y for this mix — this extended effort is mandatory listening.


BEHEXEN – WHERE THE DEVIL SPOKE

[Behexen / Satanic Warmaster, 2008]

Group think ain’t always a bad thing, especially when it comes to true dedicated worship upon the altar of the Dark Lord by those who live in a very, very, very cold climate. Although Behexen‘s lineup has changed from time-to-time, the mindset that was externalized over the end of the decade represents a group more likely to actually worship the head of the goat as opposed to studying Blavatsky, Crowley or Myatt. And my, does the sincerity come through in this short but powerful split. Although “Mouth of Leviathan” kicks off the four-song EP in exciting fashion, “Where the Devil Spoke” is easily the more ruthless of the two.


ARCKANUM – ÞYRPAS ULFAR

[ÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞÞ, 2009]

Chaos-Gnostic / Anti-Cosmic Satanist and solo mastermind of Arckanum, Shamaatae, worked incredibly hard to put out amazing EPs and LPs in the 90s and early naughts, but not even Kostogher or his essential split with Svartsyn or could have prepared anyone for the face-melting madness that descended upon us at the close of the decade. And what a way to end a decade it was. The crisp, clean production of… Let’s call it Eleven Thorns… would go on to resemble a more modern approach to black metal without euthanizing it. All of the magic and folklore behind one man’s unique ideology go on to prove that no matter what you believe, when you truly worship that thing, whether it’s dark matter, the destruction of the cosmos or a pig’s head, power will flow forth. This album bites down hard and doesn’t ever let go.

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Posted by KK

Staff Bartender — I also write about music on occasion.

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