Thursday, September 15, 2016


Broadening My Musical Horizons

At the urging of my acquaintance/friend, the Satanic Mechanic* Sam, I went to the Rotting Christ show at the Marquis Theater (and pizza kitchen) at 20th and Larimer last night for four metal bands.

I'm not going to talk about the first three but to say one was from Montreal and another from the Netherlands and Kiss didn't do them any favors by making face painting popular.

Rotting Christ is a Greek, atmospheric Black Metal band (and if you know what I'm talking about in that description, you already know more about modern metal music than I do--heck, I might know more about rap than I do about metal). And I thought they were great. Best concert I've been to in a while. They've been at it for about 20 years (and I guess 20 years of success and excellence gets you gigs in front of 100 people on your tour in atmospheric Black Metal circles). The core is the lead singer/rhythm guitar and his brother the drummer, but the bassist and lead were great. Sam thinks they are the pretty boy props at either end of the actual talent of the group. Kinda. The lead singer has a kind of Greek Orthodox iconic Jesus face and hair style. An ironic iconic face given the name of the band.

Let's get the name out of the way. Christology in the Catholic Church (See Catechism 465) declares that Christ is 100% divine and 100% human at the same time. The empiricist in me doesn't like that because the sum of the parts should add up to 100% not 200%, but he's God. He can do what he wants. So if Jesus is dead as a human from Friday early evening to Sunday early morning (abut 36 hours?) in Judea in early Spring, it's logical to think there would be some decay of his human body. So the in-your-face name is not as blasphemous as I suspect the band thinks. I don't feel that my consignment to Hell was sealed because I attended the concert. I know this is heresy, but I continue to believe that God does not sweat the small stuff, falling sparrows notwithstanding. Knowing about something and actually caring about it enough to do something about it are two different things. Back to the music.

There is a sameness to the music even from band to band across sub group categories (here Death Metal to Black Metal, I was instructed), but that's not an actual criticism. What we now call classical music has a sameness too. What makes the similar music enjoyable across a wide path of listeners is subtle variations on the similar theme. Let me expand on that. The near perfect building in Athens, the Parthenon, had along the sides of the spaces above the columns a series of metopes punctuated by other decoration. And the metopes were of different subjects for each of the four sets. The one that has the most surviving panels was about the battle of Lapiths and Centaurs. So it's Lapiths and Centaurs, Centaurs and Lapiths all along the south frieze of the building. That's a pretty narrow subject matter but each metope is unique, different from the others in framing and composition--subtle variations on the theme. Despite the similar theme, most people think the metopes sculptures are art very high in the pantheon of excellence.

I have to admit that I didn't hear a lot of the words being sung by any of the bands (perhaps 3%); it was all pretty much Greek to me. This was not only because of the guttural, back of the throat voice most of the singers use but also because the music was loud, really loud. But I'm sure these songs are no less profound than rap or pop or what we call just plain old rock and roll. I'm not sure the words of the songs are their biggest selling point.

Here are some minor things I noticed. I didn't recognize a single guitar by make or model the whole night. That's probably on me. There was not a lot of hair product being used by these guys. I don't know if that is a reaction to the "hair bands" of the 80s and 90s (whom these guys would probably call pussies) or if it is a utilitarian concern that flipping the hair requires limp, slightly greasy hair to work properly. And they do flip their hair, a lot. Either back and forth or in a sort of propeller pattern by rotating their heads in a circle as they crouch down. That's the only choreography metal seems to indulge. Extended guitar solos are rare--20 seconds was the longest duration I noticed. The beat indeed invites a movement of the head up and down. You can't help it. There's a drive and intensity to good metal bands that seems to be sorely lacking in plain old rock and roll.

I'm not a fan, yet, but I can see what the fuss is all about. The deepest I got into metal was liking Queens of the Stone Age quite a lot. Real metal fans would know I'm just barely across the line with that.

*classical reference


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