Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Veles- Black Hateful Metal

Was having a conversation with a friend earlier, in which I declared that I was not going to buy records below a certain level in any given genre. For metal, the dividing line is probably Dismember's Like an Ever Flowing Stream. If every metal record I buy is better than Like an Ever Flowing Stream, I'll be happy. If an album is worse than that, it doesn't mean it is "bad," but it will eventually be superfluous.

Demonstration: for hundreds of years, Roman literature was the greatest in the world, and yet only one great Latin epic is still read: Virgil's Aeneid. Hardly anyone reads Lucan's Pharsalia (The Civil War), a verse epic of Caesar's war with Pompey. Posterity has an immense flattening effect. But Lucan, I assure you, is not "overlooked." It's just that, none of us are friends with Lucan, no one is going to get laid by reading Lucan on the subway, etc. It's in the public domain, and not "rare." 

This is how all subsequent music that is not, let's say, The Beatles, will look in 500 years. Miles Davis, Black Sabbath, and Philip Glass will all be Lucans to the Beatles' Virgil. Conclusion: there is no need to be sentimental about what is TRULY mediocre, namely the stuff that is far below The Beatles, far below Black Sabbath, far below Morbid Angel, the truly 10th-tier music that we spend most of our time listening to, recommending, and watching live. If you like Morbid Angel, obviously you should check out Deicide, and if you like Deicide, there's an entire rabbit-hole to go down...  But there needs to be a line drawn long *ahead* of concepts like "proficiency" or "good for the style"--if we are to have any time or money or headspace for truly worthy art. 


Veles' Black Hateful Metal is definitely on the other side of that line. This is a very curious album, but far from essential.  At one point in time, I would have praised it for being "raw," "avant-garde," "unique," "truly innovative," "a worthy successor to Graveland's Following the Voice of Blood, a personal favorite of mine," and "a step in the right direction for black metal." It IS all of those things, to be sure, but it is also unlistenable, which trumps all other argument. And, it can't really be considered a metal record, since virtually any electric rock or blues record is "heavier" than Black Hateful Metal.

This is extremely simple black metal, very fuzzed-out, and Graveland-influenced. The melodies are very pretty and there is no attempt at technicality or an "epic" vibe. The drums are almost inaudible, and I don't think they could swing a bass-player for this session. Seemingly no attention has been paid to sequencing, after the first song (an instrumental by Graveland's Darken). Songs stop for no reason to allow pointless instrumental meandering, and then start up again mid-blastbeat. There is a true sub-demo quality, almost like a rehearsal tape, that leaves one thinking, "This would be cool if they entered the studio and put this down properly." Sadly, in the pretentious KVLT delirium of the black metal scene, that did not happen, and so Veles are poorly represented--their own fault. 

Everything that a fanboy would say about this record: avant-garde, astonishingly raw, path-breaking, etc., all of that is true, and black metal would have done much better to have pursued this highly-melodic path, with no idea of aggressiveness or spooky satanic sounds... but the same point is made on Graveland's stellar Following the Voice of Blood. This album is a neat artifact, and certainly not generic, but in a genre over-given to excessive and pretentious "raw" recordings, this is an ugly extreme.

On a brighter side, the CD of Black Hateful Metal also contains a superbly-recorded demo, The Triumph of Pagan Beliefs. For sequencing purposes, this has the unfortunate consequence that you have to listen to a superfluous ambient OUTRO to the album, and then a superfluous ambient INTRO to the demo, but... once it starts, it is superb, really great black metal in the style of early Emperor. The difference between these recordings is jarring, because the riffs are not *so very* different, but everything (even a bass!) is audible... the channels are even separated. For fans of early Emperor or Graveland's The Celtic Winter.

In summary, this is an interesting document of a cool Polish metal group going off the deep-end, while somehow never leaving the Graveland playing-grounds. They earn points with me for taking their musical vision to its extremes, but the result is a complete wreck. One would do better to buy this CD than virtually any nowadays kvlt black metal, but that advice will go overlooked by teenagers everywhere out for image & parent-offending noize foremost over the strange pleasures afforded here.

Score: 2 stars/ 5 (**)
Best songs: "The Dawn of New Empire," "The Majesty of War" (Demo)

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