Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Julian Cope’s Album of the Month

Nefarious Artists

Nefarious Artists


AOTM #94, March 2008ce
NEFARIOUS ARTISTS (2002-2007) was invented by Julian Cope for the purposes of this review.


1.Bretwaldas of Heathen Doom (2006)A Thousand Blackened Whispers (3.29)
2.Autoa (2002)Breaking the Wall of Grass (8.07)
3.Reverend Bizarre (2003)Strange Horizon (13.52)
4.Groaning Ogres (2006)These Eyes (4.12)
5.Among the Missing (2007)Cease to Exist (11.05)
6.Furze (2003)Sathanas’ Megalomania (23.02)


Note 1: I received such a positive reception for February’s HARDROCKSAMPLER that I’ve decided this month to follow up the quest for where-did-the-hard-rock-go by taking advantage of the invented compilation phenomenon once again. But, whereas last month’s selection was a fairly historical overview, this NEFARIOUS ARTISTS compilation is instead just a subjective selection taken from all the most current (ie: 21st Century) hard rock that I keep on coming back to time and time again. Mostly, I’ve picked only the vastest epics for this month’s review, but the emphasis on instrumentals means you can really stretch out and get twatted while listening to this stuff. So sink, motherfuckers, sink!

Note 2: I intend to follow this first Hard Rock edition up twice in the future, with VOLUMES 2 and 3, the first being a Heathen Folk compilation1, the second a long Drone compilation.



It’s in Your Latitude

Inspired by the Bretwaldas of Heathen Doom, the NEFARIOUS ARTISTS cover design is a detail taken from this ancient flag of Mercia, whose capital — Tamworth — was my home during my childhood and in the post-Teardrop Explodes years.

Let’s face it, children, the music we choose to play day-in-day-out on our stereo systems is there to stop us from going fucking insane, to create a buffer between the so-called Real World outside and the one we’d like to imagine could be if only we were the kings and queens of our own fates, rather than having to defer to those grey-suited and non-Dynastical Greedheads who record our every move on CCTV and control our taxes, and those wear-a-dress women hater Religious Leader-types who try to control our inner life with their bizarre claims of unseen Gods and Devils. And in a world where everyone’s out to charm the dollar [sic] out of your pocket at any opportunity, that CD sitting in your ghetto blaster more-and-more comes to represent the level of your personal rebellion against THEM. So if you currently listen to la-di-da contemporary songwriters whose words have nothing to do with the time and culture in which they’re living or have lived, the chances are that you too are a la-di-da motherfucker who’s fairly comfortable with where the world is at. Then again, if you listen exclusively to stuff from Back In The Day, the evidence is that you gave up trying to change the world long ago, and currently spin stuff because you associate it with your own heyday (and are looking forward to the artist’s re-union shows as we speak). If you’re in neither category and are still searching… searching… endlessly searching for that musical Holy Grail, then welcome to the world I inhabit and mighty glad I am to know you… this Album of the Month is for you; you clearly NEED it as much as I NEED to deliver it!

Now, I'd be lying if I were to claim that this compilation was culled conscientiously from scores of tracks, because it was not. It was easy pickings and that’s a fact. Indeed, all I did was lob together my fave tracks from all those fairly current albums by bands/artistes who could be considered Hard Rock. Yes, I coulda represented more of that dark Germanic music that most successfully straddles metal and heathen folk (Cadaverous Condition, Waldteufel, Allerseelen all come to mind here); it’s surely useful enough to serve the mental health. And I certainly coulda let some Doom’n’Drone in there, as well (everything from Zeni Geva to Nadja via Marzuraan and To Blacken The Pages). But I decided to keep all such music back for NEFARIOUS ARTISTS Volumes 2&3, and instead concentrate on the matter in hand… which is Hard Rock. No, I ain’t gonna get into any fundamentalist questions about what constitutes Black Metal, Stoner, Space Metal, etc., because I don’t fucking care AND I ain’t no metal guy neither. Too old, doing it too long, just absolutely don’t give a fuck about any music but what grabs my tackle and hauls me screaming down into Hell’s Underworld. For the greatest rock’n’roll must always address its Muse, must woo its Muse, must feast between the open legs of its Muse… and the Muse of rock’n’roll is (as the painstaking Bon Scott made so clear) the Goddess (and Doorkeeper) of the Underworld: Hell herself. Which is probably why the music on NEFARIOUS ARTISTS errs on the side of bands from northern latitudes (all except the Basque trio Autoa), where the strong women have always held sway.2 Which brings me to another thorny ‘problem’ (should really be ‘issue’ but I hate that over-used word). You see, it may be an obvious observation to make, but the latitude at which artists are born and raised really seems to affect greatly the psyche of their work; the presence or absence of sunlight markedly affecting the manner in which the poet uses words, the composer’s choice of whether or not to opt for music with an emphasis on melody, rhythm and/or atmosphere, and the painter’s choice of whether or not to employ vivid or muted colours, or even to reject colour entirely and deliver an entirely monochrome vision. Which is why Heavy Metal originated in the damp and fertile Wodenist English Midlands, so far from where the desert Gods (and their paranoid priesthoods) had originated that their dryly paranoid Divine (Men Only) Message made no sense at all and was, with utter justification, laughed to scorn (just as the so-called Red Indian laughed at that same convoluted Christian story, when first informed by white missionaries). Anyway, most of the music chosen for this here compilation was recorded in the general Stonehenge/Avebury region of 50’ latitude, that is: in northern landscapes fertile enough to ensure that the womenfolk are, historically, strong enough to been landowners themselves and to have played a balanced role in society BUT not so far north that lack of sunlight has upped the depression levels to suicidal. And if that’s a strangely Feminist way of choosing which artists appear here, well, I admit it ain’t exactly the Pete Waterman Method, but fuck me backwards if it ain’t the Correctest! Onwards Motherfuckers!


Bretwaldas in the mushroom woods


BATTLE STAFFS IN THE MUSHROOM WOODS by the Bretwaldas of Heathen Doom

BRETWALDAS OF HEATHEN DOOM/A THOUSAND BLACKENED WHISPERS
(Taken from BATTLE STAFFS IN THE MUSHROOM WOODS 2006)

Hailing from the same area of the Mercian Midlands as myself, the dark and heathen metal two-piece Bretwaldas take their archaic Dark Ages name (‘Overlord’, ‘King’) – along with most of their imager – from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle printed during the 9th century after Christ. And how Bretwaldas’ obsession resonates throughout their furious music, the atmosphere conjuring visions of damp forest temples of Woden, pungent with the wood smoke of council fires surrounded by be-helmeted tribal elders. Bretwaldas’ wonderful second LP BATTLE STAFFS IN THE MUSHROOM WOODS contains such gems of titles as ‘Paths of River, Root & Stone’, ‘Beneath the Eaves’, ‘Old Walls, Wild Woods’ and (get this’un!) ‘Hwicce Fif Ans’, named after the long forgotten southern territory of Mercia. Bretwaldas’ music, however, is frenetically current and is propelled by a post-punk energy and darkness that no pre-punk metal band ever felt the need to unleash (with the exception of Sir Lord Baltimore, natch). Fuelled as their music is by a pure Keith Levene/John McGeogh/Steve Jonesian out-of-control freight train metallic chordage and a delight in juxtaposing massive Sandy Pearlmanized guitar rock themes with gruff Midland vocals, Saxon song titles and Danelaw imagery, Bretwaldas’ music takes metal into those same underworld areas as punk rock was forced to address with the release of Joy Division’s UNKNOWN PLEASURES debut LP. Better still, these gentlemen appear to be still on the opening chapters of their musical chronicle.3 Yowsa!

AUTOA by AUTOA

AUTOA/BREAKING THE WALL OF GLASS
(Taken from AUTOA 2002)

Although this Basque stoner behemoth came to me via Marco Serrato of Orthodox, long ago before his own excellent band even existed, it’s still a rarity in this house that a full week goes by without my giving this mighty track a spin. Indeed, my missus blasts it her end of the house almost as often, and its acute angles and controlled feedback set up huge vibrations along our eaves that threaten to lift our sonic temple clear off the ground. And although ‘Breaking the Wall of Glass’ bristles with the kind of sonic heavy armour equivalent to the USAF’s most vicious of nightfighters, this Autoa crew was still enough in charge of their clean machine to throw it into some truly sprightly moves, at times changing up and down gears quite radically, before finally lurching to a dyslexic crawl trawl for the song’s massive tailout. Unfortunately, I’ve heard nothing more from these Luddites since their sole self-titled album almost six years back. Still, after unleashing this Fenris Wolf on to the rock’n’roll world, Autoa really need bring forth nothing more in order to be guaranteed their place in sonic history.

HARBINGER OF METAL by Reverend Bizarre

REVEREND BIZARRE/STRANGE HORIZON
(Taken from HARBINGER OF METAL 2003)

For myself, the epically slow and braying post-coital nostrils-flared genius of this strident end-of-the-millennium love song resides in its cantankerous refusal to be hurried along. It’s as though this cumbersome Finnish trio had visited Père La Chaisse cemetery, voodoo’d Ye Lizard King awake temporarily and invoked the Victorian Long-Minute in order to slow time down as far as they could, so that they could manufacture an entirely new vocalist out of zombie Jim. Sung by Reverend Bizarre’s immaculately-named bassist Albert Witchfinder, the esteemed and magnificently ludicrous baritone results that we hear on ‘Strange Horizon’ are central to creating that all-pervading atmosphere of … well, of danger on the edge of town and riding the highway west, uh, baybee! Largactyl Metal indeed; this entire song is a 45 played at 33, a Soul Train soul classic re-run in slomo, entirely preposterous and totally ruddy brilliant. Completed by guitarist Peter Vicar and drummer/organist the Earl of Void, the Rev’s endlessly monotonous ‘Strange Horizon’ not only grabbed me by the throat from the first moments of its chilly opening guitar chimes, but also hails from their 74-minute-long EP HARBINGER OF METAL (in interviews, the three band members display a truly touching poetic devotion to the Heavy Metal cause). Search me how something almost the length of a rugby match can claim to be an EP, but if Reverend Bizarre can summon up such massively timeless works as ‘Strange Horizon’, then I – for one – am determined to accept their extremely singular metaphor.

Untitled EP by Groaning Ogres

GROANING OGRES/THESE EYES
(Taken from un-named EP 2006)

This brilliant track doesn’t just rip it up, it sends it out as hate mail. The voice is a dead ringer for Montrose’s Sammy Hagar hollering their ‘Space Station #5’ with a backing band comprised of 66% FIELD RECORDINGS FROM THE SUN-period Comets on Fire, and about 34% ‘Flowers Must Die’-period Ash Ra Tempel. Just, motherfuckers, THAT good and out-of-nowhere. I mean, Groaning Ogres sent me this all casual like, on a 4-track CD-R without a sleeve, nuthin’. I don’t even remember where they came from, and cannot google them because it just brings up ogres that groan. Still, listen up to these vexèd grooves and drink into your consciousness just how healthy rock’n’roll must still be in 2008CE when unreleased contemporary stuff this good exists… And fuck Back In The Day, NOW is the fucking bollocks.

CEASE TO EXIST by Among The Missing

AMONG THE MISSING/CEASE TO EXIST
(Taken from CEASE TO EXIST 2007)

If truth be told, this song is quite unlike the brief thrash tracks that London’s Among the Missing are best known for. However, the band returned last year with a new singer, nay, a whole slew of new singers, and a new LP entitled CEASE TO EXIST whose second side annexed and occupied a whole new territory, resulting in several long tracks of Cinemascope size. The fabulous title track showcased here heralds a heady and bizarre amalgamation of proto-metal and dark psychedelia, the kind of nihilistic post-Syd Barrett Floyd that Alice Cooper (the original band) was attempting (and generally failing) to purvey on their two Straight Records releases (EASY ACTION and PRETTIES FOR YOU). Not so Among the Missing, however, for this 11-minute burn-up crashes into our consciousness with a veritable tsunami of guitar overload, thereafter establishing a brain-tingling and mind-manifesting death dance. Indeed, if you imagine Amon Düül 2’s CARNIVAL IN BABYLON incarnation invoking Canada’s Simply Saucer’s take on Alice Cooper’s darkest and most skeletal LOVE IT TO DEATH-period, then you’re possibly approaching the pleasure centres of this weird-ass track. Whew! Meditative as fuck, ‘Cease to Exist’ is a shamanic dance on an early morning beach that sustains despite all the instruments having been broken, the bleary-but-still-amped musicians unbothered that they’ve been reduced to continuing their grooves by gnashing their teeth, and beating on shells and ‘found objects’.

NECROMANZEE COGENT by Furze

FURZE/SATHANAS’ MEGALOMANIA
(Taken from NECROMANZEE COGENT 2003)

Led by that most singular Black Metaller, the artist known as Woe J. Reaper, Furze’s dark rites are so deeply felt, so painstakingly expressed, so entirely realised that I’ve failed in two separate attempts to make NECROMANZEE COGENT (the massive double-LP whence this track came) into an Album of the Month; I just can’t do literary justice to this gargantuan work. Recorded over several years by Reaper and his murky accomplices, NECROMANZEE COGENT was so thorough that it brought forth an entirely complete and brand new world, a world beyond words, beyond sounds, a world in which even the basic syntax of sentences is questioned before being dashed on the rocks of Woe J. Reaper’s melted plastic brain. After I had searched the libretto for clarity, but could make neither head nor tale of the printed lyrics, I hunted down one of Reaper’s interviews for revelation, but I was again scantily rewarded. And so I’ll admit that, yes indeed, tacking a description of such an achievement as ‘Sathanas’ Megalomania’ on to the end of NEFARIOUS ARTISTS is something of a giant cop-out, but I don’t have the wherewithal to inform you of its importance in any other manner. As regards the album itself, well kiddies, from the vocal-only incantations of the opening track ‘Séance’, via the epic ‘Dodrikets Fremtred’, to the record’s conclusion via the side-long 23-minutes of ‘Sathanas’ Megalomania’ (presented here), this Furze debut is so over-achieving that it’s funny. I’ll happily admit that, on the first few listens, the track appears as disjointed and bitty as T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Wasteland’ (and appears at first to suffer from that same sort of attack of Cultural Kleptomania). But, as listeners gradually subsume its vital canon of riffery into their etheric bodies and let themselves sink into its all-pervasive mystery, ‘Sathanas’ Megalomania’ emerges as one of the greatest ever rock’n’roll masterpieces; an Iommi-fest worthy of its own heathen religion, for shit-damn-sure. Its seemingly ever-unfolding ritual builds further and further, reaching epiphany after epiphany, then re-aligning the launch pad and rising still further. Indeed, in the dying moments of ‘Sathanas’ Megalomania’, that final scything fuzz riff (the one that denotes the track’s true tailout) effervesces with such sheer and brutal elemental energy that it’s in danger of inspiring the listener to start again from the beginning, even as it’s simultaneously ushering your exhausted post-orgasmic self out of the building. A simple itemized description of the track’s musical contents would do nothing but reduce considerably the awesome magic of ‘Sathanas’ Megalomania’, suffice to say you should all … give it time, brothers’n’sisters. Give it LOTS of time. Hell, I cain’t even bring myself to buy UTD (the latest Furze album) yet, as I’m still struggling to get over this one!

Furze leading light Woe J. Reaper



A Bold Summing-Up

Somewhat unfortunately, for this month at least, a simple ‘There ye have it, Motherfuckers’ will have to suffice as an ending. For there is, in truth, no end to this story; Hell, it’s still barely begun … still in the writing as we speak. Moreover, to those of you rock’n’roll fans who’ve dug this compilation deeply, but have yet to form your own band, I implore ye: “Do it! Do it now!” By this time next year, you could be helping bring down the Greedheads with state of the art sonic weaponry (and in the colour of your own choice). Now, that’s surely gotta count for something.



FOOTNOTES:
  1. As the first four Black Sabbath LPs attest, some of the greatest folk music of the past hundred years has been played not on traditional acoustic instruments, but channelled through solid slabs of wood with names such as Gibson and Fender etched upon their hafts. While so-called folk artists of the ‘50s and ‘60s mostly concentrated on (rescuing from obscurity then) singing rebel songs of the recent centuries, the actual cataloguing of today’s event was left to a select few rebels who were affected enough by the dystopian alienation of urban and suburban life to actually mention it. In this way, Black Sabbath’s own canon has contributed vastly to late-20th Century myth, from their more general 20th Century folk themes (space travel on ‘Into the Void’, marijuana as the new blessed sacrament on ‘Sweetleaf’) to far more specific current folk tales, such as fleeing from murderous skinheads (‘Fairies Wear Boots’), and (best of all, surely) in Geezer’s clever nursery rhyme interpretation of ‘Iron Man’, poet Ted Hughes’ post-WW2 Cold War new-myth.
  2. Even today, modern Heavy Metal bands that hail from Mediterranean climes often employ Northern imagery to illustrate their muse, as much out of tradition and need for (ouch) authenticity. As my dear friend the Spanish poet Annexus Quamm has often pointed out to me, where the Pope still holds sway, there remains a general belief in the power of the Big Man as being the all-powerful representative of the Divine Order. And, even now, it’s impossible to imagine that Tony Iommi’s 1971 lyric “Would you like to see the Pope on the end of a rope?” could have emanated from anywhere but the heathen/secular north.
  3. Having been raised in Tamworth, former capital of the great Dark Ages territory known as Mercia, I’ve also been intrigued by Bretwaldas’ brother band Symbel, run by guitarist Sceot Acwealde. Last year, I also totally dug Symbel’s wonderfully named LP ALE WHORES OF MERCIA. Symbel (pronounced ‘SÛmbell’) take their name from an ancient Anglo-Saxon drinking ceremony and dedicate their records “to all those of positive heathen intent!’ Right on, Brother Motherfucker.