Grandma got blasted in the face by a Panzerfaust: Combating Christmas music No. 1
I saw a snowflake yesterday. Can you believe that? A blasted snowflake. I consider the first snowflake to be an an ill omen, a harbinger of awful, awful things to come. First, and try to keep up here, it means it’s almost time for snow. Fuck snow, shoveling snow, scraping snow off your windshield, walking through snow, falling in snow, being shoved into snow, having snow shoved into your pants, being blinded by sunlight reflected by snow, and all things made of snow [UPDATE: There’s snow everywhere]. Second, and by far most offensive, it means Christmas music.
You can’t escape it. For two months straight it’s blaring through grocery stores, restaurants, commercials, cars being driven by morons, the for-some-reason-open windows of your neighbors’ houses, and apparently invisible loudspeakers somewhere high in the sky, persistently seeking to drill itself into your earholes through any available medium like some formless, malevolently jolly entity. God forbid you want to go pick up a gourmet cheese ball and crackers from the market without being ass-blasted by the same five corny, hackneyed recitations of lame-ass sleigh rides and promiscuous moms getting frisky with bearded intruders at night set to unbearably cheery music. Barf/10.
I believe that the Gods ov Metal watch over us and know our plight. In mercy they sent the warriors of black metal in two waves to lay the groundwork for an alternative to winter-appropriate music that would mature into the very antithesis of our ever-jingling enemy. Counterbalancing its insufferably cheerful warmth with grim and frostbitten hatred. Joy with misery. Contentment with void. Light with dark. Good with evil. Gifts with grossly exaggerated medieval weaponry. Rosy cheeks with corpse paint. Studios with hand-held tape recorders.
There’s a wealth of eminent wintry black metal bands you can enlist in your battle against holiday music, many of which you probably already know quite well. Darkthrone, Immortal, early Blut Aus Nord and Enslaved, Taake, and many others evoke the deadly drab of blizzardborne landscapes with striking effect. In this series (which, as clearly indicated by the “No. 1” in the title, will probably recur throughout the holidays) I want to briefly mention a few lesser-known records that I keep in my Scroogey rotation ov stubborn cantankery every winter. Then I’d like some recommendations from you, for our enemy is belligerent and numerous.
I: PAYSAGE D’HIVER – PAYSAGE D’HIVER
A three song, 55-minute demo by the prolific Tobias Möckl (perhaps best known for his work in Darkspace). As suggested by the album cover (one of my favorites ever) Paysage d’Hiver is dying in the middle of a blizzard translated to musical form, a seldom-relenting squall of composed gale and ice, simultaneously freezing your flesh and flaying it from bone. When the ruthless whirlwinds of tremolos, blasting, and dreary violins do occasionally let up, ambient and acoustic calms conjure a gleam of faint hope, a placid break in the wind or a thin shaft of sun through small crack in the charcoal sky. Those moments exist for the express purpose of being promptly snuffed out. Feliz Navi-DEAD, you motherfucker.
Paysage d’Hiver – Paysage d’Hiver | 1999 | Get it
II: AURVANDIL – YEARNING
The first full-length from the French band Aurvandil, Yearning draws heavily from the early masterworks of Emperor and Enslaved. At once both cruel and beautiful, its blasty, 90’s-reminiscent flurry is offset by melodic (though heartrendingly melodic) passages and undertones that wouldn’t feel out of place winding through the more dismal strains of an Agalloch album. A man wanders through a frozen landscape of snowclad mountains and forests, equal parts tranquil and dire. Kept warm only by his pure and burning scorn for all things. Especially fucking Christmas music. A bleak and affecting listen. Good for extinguishing any semblance of joy, cheer, warm fuzzies, etc. Happy holi-DIE, ASSHOLE.
Aurvandil – Yearning | 2011 | Listen to the rest
III: WALKNUT – GRAVEFORESTS AND THEIR SHADOWS
Actually not named after a tree nut but the ancient Norse symbol, the valknut (valr: “slain warriors,” knut: “knot”), Russia’s Walknut clearly take cues from Burzum in their slow to mid-paced approach to raw, buzzing atmosphere. Hypnotically plodding and zoned-out, with the tortured wails of Varg and the dramatic, powerfully somber melodies of Drudkh. Graveforests and Their Shadows echoes the moderately slow and immoderately frigid termination of life and fervor. Winter’s cold, lichen grip and its creeping advance toward your throat. Do you see what I see? DEATH AND THE ENDLESS VOID.
Walknut – Graveforests and Their Shadows | 2007
IV: KROHM – THE HAUNTING PRESENCE
Krohm, while less suffocatingly raw than what I ordinarily look for in joy-slaying, holiday-destroying black metal, do not skimp on the despair. They let their compositions breathe, sighing with open atmosphere. In comparison, The Haunting Presence is almost welcoming in its spaciousness, though once lulled in you’ll find its scope taking on a new meaning. An inhospitable wilderness; colorless, forlorn, bereft of life. A tragically hopeless journey through an iced-over expanse impartial to your inconsequential life. All things silent but icewinds, the sharp crunch of snow under your feet, and your fading breath. Deck the halls with YOUR LIFELESS FVCKING CORPSE.
Krohm – The Haunting Presence | 2007 | Buy & Listen
Do the right thing this Winter by shoving Rudolph the red-nosed poser into the locker ov hell and blasting all holiday cheer into eternal obscurity. Keep an eye out for the next edition of Combating Christmas music for some more of my favorite ways of fighting bad winter music with good winter music. What do you recommend for people that want to destroy joy this holiday season? Do you actually like Christmas music? If so, what do you think might be wrong with you?