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Black metal is like metal on a miniature scale: it has its peak periods, alternating with periods during which the scene appears to be stagnant, and critics proclaim the imminent death of the genre. In the late 1990s, black metal was moving ever further away from its stated principles, as bands either began to move towards the commercial banality of mainstream acts like Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir, or were desparately trying to incorporate elements that had before been absent from the genre (electronics, drum computers, etc.), with varying results.
Bleak, harsh, misanthropic black metal never really went out the door, though. It just went back underground, whence it came. In recent years, there has been an upsurge of exciting bands carrying the flickering torch of the black metal underground. Surprisingly, the focus of the scene appears to have shifted to the North-American continent, traditionally a stronghold for death metal but not a prolific producer of good black metal albums (it would be fascinating to investigate why death metal, which its comic book approach to death and gruesome matters, has more appeal to Americans than the much bleaker and minimalistic black metal). Amongst the best of the recent innovators we find San Francisco-based one-man projects Leviathan and Xasthur, as well as Krieg who raised some eyebrows by including a Velvet Underground cover on their recent The Black House album.
Another relatively new band hails from Canada and goes by the name of Lust. Like Leviathan and Xasthur, Lust is a one-man project led by a man that goes by the maniacal alias of Sabazios Diabolus. Whereas the aforementioned artists focus heavily on atmospherics, creating at times what sounds like ambient dreamscapes, Lust is an altogether different proposition, for which a single word serves to characterize it: chaos. Hardly ever before have this reviewer's ears been graced by a sound so completely demented, deranged, anarchic, threatening the listener like a primordial force conjured up through dark ritual from an era long forgotten, in which brutality and madness reigned supreme. While giving the free hand to chaos, the music is at the same time rooted strongly in the present, indicated by the inclusion of several clips from (religious) horror movies, which have a truly terrifying and disconcerting effect for a change.
Where the album will be problematic for any but the most ardent black metal adherents is in its portrayed philosophy, which indicates a strong affinity to Nazi mythology. The mythical (but very real) Castle Wewelsburg, Nazi UFO lore, Hollow Earth theories, and resurgent atavism are presented at full force, and those disinclined to step over such hurdles should best stay away as far as possible from this album. Luckily, this reviewer is able to approach such material armed with the knowledge found in author and scholar Nicolas Goodrick-Clarke's seminal tomes The Occult Roots of Nazism (New York University Press, 1985) and Black Sun (New York University Press, 2003), which goes a long way to dispel these and other beliefs held by the post-war Nazi movement. While it would be too easy to dismiss such opinions as pure nonsense (this belittles them, and rather they should be taken on in a more serious manner), it is hard to attach too much merit to anyone who thinks that Trevor Ravenscroft's Spear of Destiny is based on facts rather than fiction. Lust's adherence to the Aryan philosophy is underlined by the inclusion of a Spear of Longinus cover (Longinus was the Roman soldier who pierced the side of the crucified Christ, depicted here in the cover art as an Aryan warrior wearing a swastika armband).
That said, the music stands up on its own, and never fails to deliver the goods. Hardended black metal fans who like to make up their own minds and go the extra mile, and are into Ildjarn, Blasphemy, Beherit, or Black Witchery should do well to check this album out. Given its limited print run, it is destined to become somewhat of an underground classic with the potential to influence many future black metal bands who are currently pondering where the genre could go. It certainly illustrated that black metal is still alive and fresh, and will be a source of boundary-smashing ideas for years to come.
In dealing with the material and ideas presented here, it would be best to give some thought to the following quote, taken from Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedictus XVI:
Truth is not determined by a majority vote.
Originally posted at www.musiquemachine.com