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Blackened

Thoughts on the Sunn O))) show at the Brooklyn Masonic Hall on Sep 22nd.

--

I thought I had a grip on what Black Metal and Drone was capable of, and what it meant and all that jazz. After a life time of introverted depression, hate, fear, paranoia, suspicion and self-loathing, I discovered a new depth of darkness in music. And it was incredibly satisfying.

There was the obligatory twenty minute long wait for the Masonic hall full of a thousand people to be shrouded in smoke so thick the sole light became a blood-red star while a recording of chanting monks filled the space with an ominous dread. The stage was invisible behind the billowing smoke so when the band came on at half-past midnight, it was barely visible behind the clouds of vapor.

The music was as punishingly loud as I remembered, maybe more so, since the venue (allegedly) had no sound-restrictions so the band could feel free to play past the 130 decibel limit for live-venues in New York City. Chords resonated and then reverberated in the magnetic cabinets, and then the distortion took over, layering volumes of echo and reverb until the floors were vibrating under my feet, the vibrations ran up my bones until I could feel ever hair on my arm. My ears were plugged with soft rubber and still I felt a shiver of pain crawling down the back of my ear canal.

Maybe I should have stepped back, rather than being within ten, twelve feet of the stage. The New York Times reviewer said he went outside the venue and heard the band as it sounded after passing through the walls, and claimed the music needed open air to breathe, and I can see the point. The last time I saw the band, I said it was terrestrial music, planetary music, but I was wrong, or maybe the band has just expanded in scope and scale since then. It was now galactic music. The music was not just the sound of continents moving, but rather the nuclear chaos of a supernova or the ultimate radioactive madness of a black hole.

The medieval trappings of black robes only made the extraterrestrial nature of the music more vivid, as if we were witness to an extraordinary ritual of stargazing in which the participants were trying to manifest the ultimate darkness of the most brutal natural phenomenon and find in it, some impossible meaning. I would love to hear this music under the open sky in a grassy field. I would love to feel the vibrations as they traveled, not through concrete and wood floor, but through the bedrock of the planet, infused with terrestrial mystery.

Then Atila came out, dressed in a similar robe and intoned with his gravel-voice, a long stream-of-consciousness in English that was incomprehensible due to his accent and delivery, while the hushed, whispered Hungarian and Polish he added in as footnotes only made the performance all the more alien and terrifying.

The whole thing went on for a half hour, maybe more, and then Atila left, replaced by long, solemn, grieving notes from the horn of a trombone that appeared like a moon through the clouds, sonorously wailing as if mourning for a death. The guitars slowed down even more, leaving silence, gaps in the sonic assault. There was a hushed anticipation and then, I realized, the horn was not a farewell, but a herald.

As it vanished back into the smoke, Atila appeared wreathed in glass shards. If the music and texture wasn't enough of a hint of the galactic scale of the music, Atila in his star-man outfit would drive the point home. His hands erupted with red lasers that bounced off of his glass-covered body and head while the intensity of the music grew and his vocal performance become even more tortured and brutal and I couldn't tell if he was self-modulating his voice or if someone was putting his vocal signal through a distortion box.

The performance began to take shape, this wasn't just a concert with mood and texture but rather, an extended storytelling sequence, that needed no words to get the point across. All of Atila's black-metal experience came into sharp focus - his ability to make the ridiculously over-the-top costumes seem authentic and real, his ability to manifest a truly unnerving presence that transcended the music and costumes. This was real. This was terrifying. He wasn't trying to scare me. He was scaring himself. And that feeling was infectious.

It is impossible to see something of this caliber, of this scale, something that works so hard to immerse you into a world of its making and not be moved. Not be inspired. Not be carried away somewhere dark and dangerous and bring back a feeling of that underworld place. I lingered in the deadlands, illuminated by a red star, wreathed in smoke, ruled by hellish drones, and felt a cloak of some rich, black, velvet emotion wrap itself around me and its touch was not comforting, it sent a shiver through my bones but I tugged it tight around myself and was wrapped in a new skin.

By the time the show ended, it was two in the morning. As we left, as I plucked the ear-plugs from my head, the hall was still vibrating with the sound of the performance. Nick looked at me and shook his head. "I can't wait to sit in my car and hear nothing but silence," he said. Exhausted, my head and ears vibrating and ringing painfully, I could only nod in agreement.

The audacity of automobiles

Sometimes I catch myself in the act of getting into my car and realize what an act of audacity it is that I can manage to keep climbing back into that metal box that will soon be hurtling at 70 miles an hour down an asphalt road alongside other such metal boxes, all under the control of humans with other things on their mind than keeping safe.

I've had several really bad accidents. Once I slid sideways into a guardrail off of ice with enough force to buckle the rail and leave the car hanging off the edge while shattering the glass. Then there was the time I pulled into traffic without looking left and a huge truck slammed on its air-brakes with enough force to melt its tires to keep from vaporizing me. The worst was the time, I spun out during a snow storm sideways and the car ran up a hillside and slammed into a tree with enough force for the tree to rip open the metal body of the car and embed inside the car about six inches behind my head. I don't know what miracles of physics and math kept me from dying in any of those situations. I still have mild shudders and shocks when I think back to those moments and wonder how I didn't die then.

Today wasn't that bad, by far, but it still made me chuckle. A car was in front and to the left of me on the Grand Central by Laguardia. His tail-pipe was rattling pretty bad and then it just came off. It fell off his car and since traffic on the GCP is ridiculously tight and fast in the mornings, and so there was a car right behind him. I watched with a helpless certainty hoping nothing would happen to me - how could it? I was a lane over and two cars back - but I had nowhere to go, all I could do is slow down a bit to get away from the impending accident, so I did.

The car behind the junker tried to go over the metal but no luck, the metal slid under the tire and there was the sick crunching sound of metal on metal, metal on tire, metal on asphalt and then came went flying out from underneath the car, as if flung with even greater force and speed straight towards me.

Primal instinct made me put up my arm and I tried not to swerve - I'd crash into a car on either side, so I stayed straight and my eyes squeezed shut to the sound of the loud, metal, crunch of the pipe on the window and the door inches from me. And then it was over. Everyone kept driving. The window didn't shatter.

I passed the junker as he pulled over but I was running late so I didn't want to stop. It was some kid, late teens, he looked really scared. At the office, I parked, and looked at the car. Poor thing had a long smear of a bone-white scar just below the window. A foot up, a foot in, and who knows, maybe it would've gone through the window and struck me in the face.

But it didn't. So I worked all day, and shortly, I'll go back downstairs, climb back into the metal box, and drive home.

Upcoming Concerts

A few shows I'll be at in the coming weeks that I'd love to see some of you at as well:


- Tuesday, September 22nd: Sunn O))), Earth, Pelican, Eagle Twin @ Brooklyn Masonic Hall
- Thursday, October 29th: Mastodon / Deathlok @ Hammerstein Ballroom
- Tuesday, November 17th: Skinny Puppy @ Nokia
I haven't listened to this album in so long that every song is like a trip back in time, late nights in diners, driving alone through Poughkeepsie in that black, haunted car with the moon-roof open and the songs blaring, the Catskills burning under a twilight sky and the spires of that ever-watchful bridge casting long shadows over Route 9. The familiar streets of Westchester, the only one awake in the car while everyone else slept and I drove home at three, four, five in the morning.

These songs take me back to that time without a pause and I'm twenty, twenty one, twenty two years old, from a life I can barely recall, a time I can barely comprehend. Back then, I thought, life would be magical if only I... something. Something like what I have now. Today, I look back and think, I caught a glimpse of some dark and moving piece of magic in all those adventures.

And maybe the fact is that there is no such thing. Subjectively Times seem more or less than they were and never the here, never the now, never the this. We've been over this, I've said as much, more eloquently before, I think, but then, the last time was different. I didn't have a slim sliver of a shade of mortality staring me in the face. Even now, it isn't anything real, nothing dangerous, just a reminder of appraoching middle-age that brings with it words like "Biopsy" and instructions like "Take this pill every morning before breakfast and this drink before bed every night."

--

In the woods on Sunday, I leaped from rock to tree, jumped over branches and scrambled up rocks, some primal instinct in me kept me going even when my lungs were burning. I stopped, when I could go no further and leaned over panting, sweat dripped off my nose and made a Rorschach pattern on the dead leaves, pitter-patter, salt rain. When Eric and Donna caught up to me, I ran again. I jumped and I ran, and I picked up sticks, dead sticks, broken sticks and I threw them as hard and as far as I could, some went into the twilight sky and I heard them crash into the leaves somewhere far away. Others ran into branches and fell in my sight, their flight aborted. I picked up other sticks, longer and thicker sticks and I broke them on trees, the impact sent a shiver up my arm to my elbow and my hands were numb from the impact. Wood splintered and disintegrated, flew in a hundred directions. Three hours and then I was ready for more, wanted more, wanted to reach the point when the third, fourth, fifth wind would keep me going until I collapsed, depleted of life.

Two days later, my body ached, but it was a good ache, the kind of thing that makes you aware of things done, dirt under your nails, sweat stains on your clothes. Dream of green places full of silence. Full of nothingness. Full of emptiness. Full of a vibrant green absence of light where the trees are so thick, even the grass doesn't grow.

I didn't think I'd make it this far, I didn't want to make it this far, but now that I'm here, I don't want to be anywhere else.

Thirty

Always thought I'd be done by now. Lights out, chairs turned over table, last one out lock up the place, a fond look back and then that would be it. Instead, thirty has become a look into the future. Doctor's visits don't end with, "I'll see you next year," they end with references and appointments for more test and invasive procedures that you have to go tell your boss about so that you might take a day off, and you apologize, "I didn't know or I wouldn't have taken all my vacation time."

Now the dusty, routine of days rolls by and every attempt to do something more than just sit and relax feels like a chore, and another done instead feels like a wasted hour, a wasted night. I stare at half-written stories and the weekends fall away and the weekend come so soon, and the months vanish in a blur of cool, warm, hot, cool sensations that pass for seasons and the sunlight glares through windows until I cannot bear its darkness, its lightness so I turn on the electric lights, to pollute the sun, make the light all even, so that someone comes home and says, "Where are the lights on?" And I have no answer. Sometimes, rarely now, late at night, I sit trapped in a cocoon, the night is my cloak, I wrap it around me close, the music fills my ears enclosed by headphones, and it is my cloak, I press myself into its folds, cursors blink at me while letters appear, and in that moment, I can pretend there is meaning after all, meaning of my making and it doesn't matter how many ghosts stand looking over my shoulder.

Loneliness creeps in even when I'm surrounded by company and community. An angst that I cannot shake leaves me ever feeling as if I have my face pressed to a frosty glass, forever and ever. Depression comes, depression goes, the number of the psychiatrist sits on my phone, and I stare at it, trying to gather up the guts and just dial the fucking thing and become another statistical element of modern life, a person incapable of dealing with this artificial cage of reality, these jobs, these numbers, these banal routines, these empty rituals, until any meaning is leached and existence becomes so hard to quantify, to dignify, to reason away...

...and another weekend looms. Dates to keep. Smiles to plaster on. Doctors appointments to make. And suffocate the anxiety of the coming procedures, physical, mental and otherwise.

Vampire: The Dark Ages Chronicle Start

Since so many people commented on my status when I said I was excited about running a Vampire: The Dark Ages game (based on the OWoD) I thought you might enjoy following the short campaign as it goes along.The following is a primer for the game that I wrote up.

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One of the reasons I wrote up all that stuff in the last update was to sort of out myself, and the amount of time I've spent on this game in the last few months. I've been hungry for something more, something substantial, I miss doing projects and completing them, and seeing the end result of work that took me hours, days, weeks to finish.

I really miss making really short, animated films. They were ugly and weird and bad, and I never showed them to anyone, but I enjoyed making them. I also miss writing. And drawing. And music... I force myself to make time for it, but in all my pursuits, this is where I am the weakest and this is what calls to me the most.

But. Anyway.

As you might have noticed (all 3 of you who read this still) I've begun writing again, but I'm on vacation for a few days starting Sunday, so I'll see about updates from the road. Maybe so, maybe no. But the trip is through New England, and every time I go through there, I wind up returning with some idea for a really long, complicated project.

My first trip yielded my first book, for example. I'm hoping to be similarly moved. But I'd also love to return with a small, rough, finished project. I'd love any suggestions you might have - let me know and if I get one I like, and manage to execute it, I'll put it up for everyone to gawk at.

(Also: I've been listening to Black Tape For A Blue Girl all the time lately. Seriously, like... All. The. Time. It's kind of awesome.)
So, here it is. My sordid World of Warcraft history. Skip it if you're not interested. :-)

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Craving Winter

I'm tired of this heat, I'm tired of this green, this vibrant blue outside my window. Inside the box of my office, everything is an ugly yellow and I want to hide from it all in a cold, cold place.

Snow falls inside my head, small, tiny flakes, filing up the sky, falling down in spiraling patterns carried by cutting drifts of winds that make any pattern impossible to map. And I imagine, the city, the town, the village, crawling with traffic, busy, hurried people run to shop, filling their carts with food and wine to keep warm by, and I imagine driving home, sitting by the window, in a house full of warmth, full of company, outside it's so gray, even in the late morning, early afternoon, the clouds make it seem like dusk, and we huddle around a table, warm and full, and the candlelight is enough to make it all magical.

One of my favorite memories of my brief time living in the dorms in college was the miserable, heavy, endless snowfall in Rochester. The whole place was coated in snow all the time and I secretly loved walking that half-mile back late at night from the labs, alone, with the wind cutting my ears and the frost collecting on my face. There was a lonely, chilling beauty to that and I can't explain it.

Later, when I lived in my first apartment and drove all over the place along the Hudson Valley, the snow was another companion, a snarling Wendigo beast that threatened to eat me up. Twice, I stumbled into terrible, terrible accidents and survived by some dumb luck. Lonely and alone, I remember the cold, chilling gray of those days and sometimes, I remember little else but the gray.

But now that I have a lovely warmth to embrace me when I get home, I crave to be cold and frozen, coming home, hungry for a human contact that I know will fill me with life.

Sleepwalking

I feel a deep restlessness, a hungry yearning, a yawning chasm down in my stomach that will not be filled up and images haunt me. Images of apocalypses, chase after me.

Dreams of pale wintry skies where the thinness of the atmosphere is made clear and you can see past the clouds to the cold darkness, as if through the skin of an old and dying man and see the blue veins, the muscles and bone underneath. Visions of broken castles on water's edge, full of broken men and women, black silhouettes under the yellow sky. Nightmares full of this yellow light, this ugly yellow dust that rises from the desert and cloaks everything, there is something insidious, something insect-like in this hideous crawling tension across my skin. The grains of sand flood into my mouth until I choke.

And awake in the apocalypse. There is no fear of nuclear winter in me any longer, nor does the idea of global warming make me quiver. The personal apocalypse is far more terrible. Everything begins and ends with my perceptions and when I feel selfish like I am today, when I feel utterly disconnected, the apocalypse is mine, and mine alone, wrapped up in these nightmares, these recurring images, these chilly winter skies, these lifeless oceanic waters, these broken towers casting long shadow fingers to pull me in, these silhouettes swallowed into their black halos, these caves yawning up into the stars as if to swallow them, these hungry dust storms eroding everything they touch until all features are smoothed away to leave a blank face. Empty city, haunted city, hungry city, compress me within your wet, brick walls, your cobblestone streets, your rainsoaked skies, your cemetery face with a thousand gravestone teeth, grinding me into wet paste so I might stretch over you like skin.

These dreams, these nightmares, these places in my astral-space, these horror-sanctums, these fantasy-endings, they will never leave me, and I will be incomplete without them, but to take a day, an hour, a minute when I do not feel their eyes all on me, beckoning me, cloyingly tugging with their bony fingers, their face disguised by a hood, and I fall back in love with the decay, the gloom, the pain of a bleeding cut that I pick and pick and pick watching the red rise to the surface and somehow, keep the blade from making more cuts, draw new lines in fresh human parchment.