Album of the Day: Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath


What is this that stands before me?
Figure in black which points at me
Turn around quick, and start to run
Find out I’m the chosen one
Oh no!


While Sunn O)))’s “Báthory Erzsébet” may stand alone with regard to the utilization of a lead singer’s genuine terror, the eponymous first song from the eponymous first album by the unquestionable Black Sabbath was the logical conclusion to Robert Johnson in establishing a musical legacy of concurrent familiarity and alienation in the face of evil. Although arguments over who constitutes “the first heavy metal band” rage on, even ignoring the unforgivably boring candidates like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, and instead acknowledging the proto-Oh Sees stoner psyche of Blue Cheer, the proto-industrial barbarism of Cro-Magnon, or the para-ecclesiastical gothicism of the band who just straight-up called themselves H.P Lovecraft, Black Sabbath are most certainly what Foucault might consider the instigators of heavy metal’s discursivity.

What sets Black Sabbath so apart is the manner in which they managed both to establish a genre, and play with it, all at once. They draw the defining line in the sand that demarcates “heavy metal,” and yet decide not to step fully over it – combining old psychedelic rock practices with an unabashedly ominous aesthetic, they defy conventional temporality by introducing the house style both for the original genre of heavy metal, and for its descendant subgenre doom, concurrently.

And this brings us back to that opening track. Though the inside of the gatefold is indeed an upside-down cross, Ozzy is predominantly seen wearing his the right way up: the fear, the horror, the dark premonitions are all in many ways the church’s own. Nevertheless, the figure of Satan throughout Black Sabbath’s work is compellingly inconsistent, at times acting as dark tempter of souls, pitiless judge of hawkish capitalists, and looming harbinger of unknown yet surely awful fates. Indeed, Satan’s multivalence is as such that all things in the world may be definable in relation to Satan, including and especially God, who exists less as a presence, but as a name, cried in vain at the sight of the demonic, and seemingly very real, figure in black.

An alternative to the pantheistic understanding of God as residing within all things, the chilly – if suspiciously sweet-smelling – world of Black Sabbath’s Black Sabbath is one of pandemonium. Though we may rebel, our battle cry is one of terror, horror, and dread.


Big black shape with eyes of fire
Telling people their desire
Satan’s sitting there, he’s smiling
Watches those flames get higher and higher
Oh no, no, please God help me!


When all this is ended
As cruel as I am
Remember how I loved you
But that nothing, nothing can stand

My friends all wear your colors
Your flag flies above every door
But bitch, I smell you bleeding
And I know where you sleep

Do you doubt me traitor?
Throw your body in the fucking river
I’m the cuntkiller

And I don’t eat, I don’t sleep
I don’t eat, I don’t sleep



Marcuse and Returning to Returning to Freud

During a talk at Goldsmiths, University of London, on the then just-released fourth volume of Foucault’s History of Sexuality series, Les Aveux de la Chair, Stuart Elden referenced Foucault’s proclamation “I have never been a Freudian, I have never been a Marxist, and I have never been a structuralist,” indicating that, whilst it was certainly true that he was not those things by the time of his death, one could well make the argument that all three statements were, indeed, a lie. Whilst History of Sexuality vol.1: The Will to Knowledge takes considerable pains to quash the “repressive hypothesis” upon which Marcuse’s Freudian, Marxist, structuralist critique is certainly based, I believe there remains just enough of a (for want of a better term)  proto-poststructuralist insight in Eros and Civilization that some influence must be extant.

Indeed, to borrow from a passing joke made by Negri that, at some point in his career, Marx must have read some Foucault, I myself suggest that, when we read Marcuse discussing the “sub-individual and pre-individual factors which (largely unconscious to the ego) actually make the individual, [revealing] the power of the universal in and over the individuals” (p.58), or his appeal to the potentially liberationist pursuit of making, or indeed returning the human body to the status of “an instrument of pleasure rather than labour [or, indeed, ‘desire?’]” (p. xvi) that Marcuse as early as 1955 must have attended some of Foucault’s 1980s lectures in which he calls for the undoing of the psychoanalytical obsession with desire, and instead for a turn to an analysis and activation of pleasure.

It is certainly interesting when reading “What is an Author?” to see the firmly anti-psychiatry Foucault indicate both Marx and Freud as “instigators [or founders] of discursivity,” and then proceed to discuss the latter in such a way as to provide philosophical justification for his rival Lacan’s own “return to Freud” (returning in this case meaning not “setting our watches back to,” but rather “engaging with, reinterpreting and repurposing where necessary”). This exact passage might similarly provide justification for Marcuse’s own pursuit, only Marcuse would likely refuse the notion that his “return” is anything akin to Lacan’s, disparaging as he does so routinely the “neo-Freudian schools.”

Marcuse’s invocation of the libidinal drives of the subject, and their imbrication in various discourses and technologies of civilization, may to a certain degree also prefigure Jean-François Lyotard’s Libidinal Economy, although in many ways it is rather more timid in its analysis, largely due to its fairly singular emphasis on repression, rather than dissimulation through channelling. Similarly, Marcuse’s emphasis on the performance principle’s relation to the deathly Nirvana principle, contrasted to many of the concepts of libidinal excess, as discussed by Lyotard, jouissance as imagined by Lacan, or limit-experience as pursued by Bataille, does still allow for desire to maintain a productive capacity (not a position I would immediately associate with a traditionalist or anti-neo-Freudian – or, indeed, Foucauldian -model) that it might have been a significant contribution to the more postmodern analyses of Deleuze and Guattari. And yet, when Marcuse’s name is briefly and sporadically mentioned in Anti-Oedipus, it is with an air of polite disappointment that he “touched too lightly.”

It is perhaps most of all within its status as sociological ur-text that Eros and Civilization‘s shortcomings lie.


Album of the Day: Werewolf Jerusalem + The Rita + Vomir – Threesome Slitting

Although, with such a record, there is an urge to be such an expert in the nuances of harsh noise wall, that one could pick out a specific frequency and specify the individual source, I cannot help but feel that would rather defeat the intention of Threesome Slitting as a collaborative piece. Rather, approaches and aesthetics form an assemblage as constant as it is fractured: a battle in which all sides achieve ultimately the same ends.

Richard Ramirez and Romain Perrot, under their respective monikers of Werewolf Jerusalem and Vomir, emphasize notions of immobility in their work: the former labeling his output specifically as “static noise,” whilst Vomir’s various drives to categorize proudly the (or at least his) HNW aesthetic have included the pithy statement “no change, no development, no remorse.” Sam McKinlay as The Rita, especially in his more recent work, tied as often as it is to the topic of ballet, naturally conjures images of motion, even if these images appear in their own way frozen, as photographs of a whirling dervish, limbs appearing at once viscous and effervescent. An ectoplasmic multiplicity. Certainly, the influence cinema has had, at least on Ramirez and McKinlay, by virtue of their recurrent acknowledgement, if not use as a source, of giallo invokes certain questions of tensions between meanings located in horizontal vs vertical modes of temporality.

Accordingly, the violence of this record – and it is, most assuredly, a violent record – is the polar clash of a frenzied paralysis. Slamming against a door, locked from the other side, or struggling and failing to free oneself from bondage. A heart pounding against a chest. A body convulsing on the floor, bleeding out from the jugular vein. Threesome Slitting‘s invariable privileging of the lower end of the sonic register only furthers the affect of suppression, a sense of muffling, gagging, even when played at the appropriate, wall-shaking volume. And yet, there is not the air of introspection I have come to expect from each individual artist, in their own idiosyncratic modes. Rather, the sound forever retains a closeness, but one still of the most thinly bridged distance. The proximal, coercive alignment of a victim, and the killer, slitting their throat.

Album of the Day: Burning Star Core – mes soldats stupides ’96-’05: Amelia

Album of the Day: Lingua Ignota / The Rita – Commissioned

Film Review: We are the Flesh (Emiliano Rocha Minter, 2016)


(originally published 1st July, 2016)

I hesitate to give any real synopsis as part of this review as it is a delirious enough experience to make it unclear what would be a spoiler and what would not. Suffice to say, my assumption of Tenemos la carne / We are the Flesh‘s premise on the basis of the (still very good) trailer with regard to narrative events and character dynamics was pretty much erroneous, though for all the better, as my anxieties about this simply being a Mexican answer to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre were quickly allayed.

Instead, We are the Flesh appears to be the brainchild of Alejandro Jodorowsky and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, not to mention Jean-Luc Godard, the late playwright Sarah Kane and a whole host of video artists, devised theatre groups and installationists. The premise meanwhile combines what appears to be Catholicism, folklore and fairy tales, with a central figure whose name may be Mariano who appears and acts all at once akin to Charles Manson, Rumpelstiltskin and the Devil incarnate (no pun intended). The first act, amongst other things, details the transformation of an abandoned floor on an abandoned office building in an unexplained post-apocalyptic landscape into a womb-cave that may act as venue to each character’s Id to fully express itself. The film’s themes of sexuality, violence and cannibalism all have direct connections to psychoanalysis, as much as they do to the concepts of sin, and both are exploited to full symbolic effect in the film. Meanwhile, We are the Flesh rallies between states of modernism and post-modernism as the “film itself” struggles and seemingly fails to contain the jouissance within – visuals break to singe photographic frames as someone foams at the mouth; a sex scene turns into a music video shot in heat-cam and, later, another sex scene reaches a level of volatile intensity that the film distorts and colour-shifts into oldschool anaglyphic stereoscopic vision.

At pivotal moments (though I may not intend the pun, I’m not so sure the filmmakers don’t) throughout the film, the camera appears to spin 360⁰ in a style highly reminiscent of other recent Satanic Mexican art film Lucifer (interestingly enough, I believe the titular character’s actor, Gabino Rodriguez, may make a cameo in We are the Flesh though I’ll have to check when IMDb is more accommodating)’s use of “tondovision.” At others, it exploits a fantastic score, masterful editing, and psychedelic post-production values to elicit anything from empathetic lustmord to kolpophobia (at these points, one may detect faint echoes of William S. Burroughs’ writings in Central and South America, above my personal favourite, all Cities of the Red Night).

If We are the Flesh may be understood as a response to anything, I feel inclined to view it as a response to Ben Wheatley’s infinitely disappointing adaptation of High Rise, whose ironic detachment from the narratologiccal grisliness was far too distant in the former and far too “stylish” in the latter – certainly a word of which all film-goers should be wary, due to its typical indication of little more than plenty of shiny things in the mise-en-scène. In the papier-mâché catacombs of We are the Flesh, nothing shines, though the entire film glows with an intoxicating, evil beauty of which I cannot wait for my next fix.