Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Top 10 Black Metal songs


The Norwegian police - Protect & Serve Satan.
(Pic : Peter Beste via blackmetal.hu)

Ah, black metal! With its low-fi quality, focus on atmosphere and association with  the occult it's perfect for the run up to Halloween. The difference compared to other "spooky bands" is that, more often than not, black metal bands really buy into it.

I don't listen to much black metal. I don't own a wristband covered in spikes, I don't wear corpse paint and I'm not Norwegian. So this list is as much "black metal songs Owen has listened to" as what I think a Top 10 would be.

Most black metal sounds as if it's recorded on toys - like those plastic drum kits with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck on the front - but with someone screeching through white noise. Most if it is, to be frank, a load of shit. But there are pieces of nutritious corn within that shit.

10. Venom – Black Metal

                         

Wor Toon's Venom produced this seminal track (and album) in 1982, including the first use of the term "Black Metal" (AFAIK). Also, they're one of the first metal bands to use Satanic imagery as a positive thing, while the likes of Black Sabbath did it with a "this is something to be afraid of" vibe. It sounds more thrash/speed metal than what evolved into black metal, but it clearly inspired later bands.

9. Dimmu Borgir – Sorgens Kammer (Del II)
       

                         


A controversial choice, seeing as Dimmu Borgir – despite being one of the bigger and more successful black metal bands – are seen as "sell outs". That's because black metal fans tend to be unforgiving when it comes to "purity", or "kvlt". This track marked the moment Dimmu Borgir shifted from a purer form of black metal to the more progressive, theatrical sound they're associated with now.

8. Immortal – At The Heart of Winter

                         

Without question, black metal bands like the cold, snow and being in the north. Immortal are associated with sillier videos and taking the black metal aesthetic to its extreme, but they're one of the few black metal bands with a sense of humour. Perhaps including the best intro of any black metal song, At the Heart of Winter is a grim epic, and a worthy, frostbitten national anthem of Mighty Blashyrkh.

7. Dissection – The Somberlain

                         

From their debut album of the same name, it's a black metal/melodic death metal classic (yes, there's a difference), and is said to be highly influential on both subgenres. A pulsating, relentless track that grinds the skull into dust, and creates a cold atmosphere of mournful dread.

6. Mayhem – Freezing Moon

                         

You can't have a black metal list without featuring Mayhem who, along with Gorgoroth, are the runaway "bad boys" of black metal (understatement of the century, their history reads like an Eli Roth horror). Not the most cheerful lyrics, vindicated as the lyricist committed suicide and band "mates" made necklaces out of his skull fragments, using his suicide scene as an album cover. I told you the band's history was horrific, didn't I? To prove how iconic/infamous Mayhem are, the intro sounds similar to Impaled Northern Moonforest's parody of the subgenre.

5. Darkthrone – Transilvanian Hunger (sic)

                         

The perfect example of black metal's low-fi aesthetic. To the untrained ear it's barely audible, and sounds like being stuck in the middle of a blizzard. A Gothic epic about vampires, what's not to like about that? It's also one of the few black metal songs that sounds better in acoustic.

4. Dimmu Borgir – Broderskapets Ring


                         

Another controversial choice as 1996's Stormblåst is either considered weak and boring, or hailed as one of Dimmu Borgir's masterpieces. A slower, more mellow, more melodic track here, but keeping the epic scale and atmosphere of dread typical of black metal. I don't think you'll find many black metal songs making unironic use of a piano either.

3. Bathory – A Fine Day To Die


                         

One of the old school. Despite having one of the creepier openings, it's about presumably Viking battles instead of a celebration of the occult. It sounds like a battle too; the contemplative, depressive "calm before the storm", crossing suddenly into the battle itself. I'm sure anyone who turned the volume up will know the moment the parts change.

2. Emperor – Inno A Satana

                        

What is it about debut albums? It's poorly mixed - you can barely make out the vocals - but in black metal what's new? An example of the more blatant Satanism and Paganism, this atmospheric track combines monk-like chanting with a soaring, symphonic background which puts you in a place you would rather not be. There are also hints of Opeth within this, especially the intro. It's great for getting Jehovah's Witnesses – and pretty much anyone - off the doorstep.

1. Satyricon – Mother North


                        

It's one of the first black metal music videos, perhaps helping cement black metal stereotypes. You also can't tell whether it's a heartfelt soundscape of a Nordic lifestyle and belief system long lost, or social misfits who like to wear face paint, play drums really fast and "sing" in constipated screeches. Yes, the video's silly and the vocals are cheesy, but if you were looking for one song to encapsulate all of black metal this would be it.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Waaaah! Bodyfor-orm....Bodyform for men!?

What.
(Pic : depend.com)

The beauty of the free market, is that it allows people to make a living for themselves by offering solutions for problems that don't exist.

We have, for example, push-up bras for men, things to stop your phone falling down the toilet and - judging by infomercial gifs - it appears Americans have serious trouble pouring drinks.

US company Depend produce products that deal with incontinence - a worthwhile thing and no laughing matter.

We all know there are loads of products out there to help women and girls deal with the crimson tide of the uterine navy, or the unpleasant side effects of forcing babies through the pelvis.

Depend have turned to men, and want to help us deal discretely with the horror of "post void dribbling".

It's not incontinence as incontinence is a very specific term. This problem, however, is a result of bad design of the male plumbing. I'm sure you'll want a technical explanation, and naturally I'll oblige.

Female urethras are short and straight, causing problems in themselves, but not relevant here. Male urethras are longer – at least four to five times longer than females - and shaped like a stretched and curved "N".

Although both males and females have two sphincter muscles to control urine, there are key differences. In men one of the sphincters also serves to prevents both urination and ejaculation at the same time (for her [or his] pleasure) and semen entering the bladder.

If any urine gets reservoired in one of the bends, is trapped by clothes, one of the sphincters spasms or is tightened too soon, or if the prostate is enlarged, then the remaining urine trickles out at some point soon after you think you've finished.

It's likely happened to all males at some point, but it's hardly an issue as long as a man changes their clothes at least annually. It's nothing compared to what women have to go through post-childbirth, or what men endure after urosurgery either.

Although the ancient martial art of "dickshaké" doesn't always fix it, trying to make out it's an issue worth spending money on is taking the piss.

I wonder how they would advertise this though. Men riding bicycles, wearing white trousers and frolicking through fields on a summer's day? Lots of blue liquid? Being reassured that nothing should get in the way of the modern man?

And male tampons? I'm....I'm just not going there.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

We should not fear our new robot overlords....

(Pic : Aaron Beck)

As revealed in the Welsh budget yesterday, Wales will soon have a robot that eliminates cancer with extreme prejudice. Speaking of robots, Boston Dynamics seems to be a rather "interesting" company to work for, developing lots of other robots with varying uses.

There's PETMAN, with a light for a head. It can't be pushed over :

                                   

Here's PETMAN in camouflage, and sporting a not-at-all-terrifying featureless human-like face :

                                   

Next there's Atlas, which is a bit drunk and stompy at the moment. One day those rocks will be human skulls. It also can't be pushed over :


                                       

The Wildcat, which has the gait of an overexcited Jack Russell and could probably carry three or four times its own weight in high explosives :

                                   

The LS3, a mechanical horse that can cross unrelentingly across any and all terrain:

                                   


Last, but not least, there's Big Dog....which can throw cinderblocks about 20 feet. The weight will go up and the distance will grow longer.

                                  

These things are being funded by the Pentagon. The "That's so coooooooool" thoughts soon turn to, "The robot that runs like a cheetah, bounding towards me at 30mph, has been designed to kill.

"The robot carrying a gun in the background, strutting across all terrains as easily as John Travolta down Times Square, has no qualms about blowing everyone's head off."

The next logical step - based on the above examples - would be a grip that can apply a thousand pounds of pressure per square inch around a human throat...."To carry shopping."

Sunday, 6 October 2013

FTL : Who wants to be a starship captain?

Transfer Picard to the FTL universe and he won't have time to
dick around with smiley faces. The likelihood is he'll be a frozen
corpse floating for all eternity through space.
I've recently been pointed towards an indie game called FTL : Faster Than Light, developed by Shanghai-based Subset Games. It's a real time strategy/space simulator where you control a ship and crew through a series of missions, "chance cards" and dangers.

The basic story is that you're in charge of a (customisable via unlocked items) "Federation starship"  on an important mission across seven levels of space, being pursued constantly by rebels. You pick your ship, pick your weapons and you have an opportunity to buy more weapons or crew members at various stores dotted around the maps.

You weigh up the sorts of choices that face the greats of the sci-fi soap opera genre, except the likes of Jean Luc Picard clearly had it too easy.

The events are randomised, so no two games are the same. Believe me, there'll be a lot of games as, although the learning curve is steep, it lulls you into a false sense of security. One minute you could ensure a quick victory against a weakly-armed drone, thinking "this is easy", the next you're boarded by pirates or aliens.

With a soundtrack reminiscent of Moon, the game's been compared to an episode of Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica or Firefly. Mirroring the infinite opportunities in space, the difficulty level is sometimes punishingly hard because :

You really shouldn't have chosen to help that "friendly ship".....


You chose the wrong star system to jump too....

You run out of fuel.....

You chose to jump to a Rock people home world sector "for the challenge" instead of the civilian sector....


Your oxygen supply has been taken out and your shields are dampened by an enemy weapon....



You get boarded by four Mantis and they slowly rip apart your ship killing your crew members one by one....


You opened the doors to the vacuum of space to put out a fire, but your door systems have just been taken out by an enemy missile. They stay open. And you've been boarded by four Mantis and they slowly rip apart your ship killing your crew members one by one....

You get all the way to the very end, surviving numerous battles, surviving numerous boarding parties, then you come across the Rebel Flagship....



Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Porn on the Brain

Porn is so ubiquitous nowadays, even perfectly innocent
tandem bicycle accidents meet Rule 34.
Pornography is usually framed by how it affects women and girls in areas like body image, sexual/gender exploitation and objectification (as covered on Oggy Bloggy Ogwr with regard Page 3). Nobody has really questioned the impact using pornography has on men and boys.

Channel 4 attempted this with Porn on the Brain. I say "attempted" because the show came across as slightly alarmist, lacking complete scientific credibility and ended with an obvious conclusion : sex and relationship education needs to be more comprehensive and start at an earlier age, so kids don't learn about sex from porn.

I have an open mind on whether pornography is harmful or not, and I can see valid arguments on both sides of the debate. I think this programme over-generalised to such a degree that it was hard to take seriously.

The stand-out moment - and I think anyone who saw it would concur - was a guy suffering from a self-diagnosed pornography addiction, who upon seeing a girl in a pair of hot pants needed to dash into the nearest pub toilet to....relieve himself. This was described by the presenter - in the manner of a golf commentator - as,"There he goes....He's gone in for a wank."

I'm not taking the mickey, I thought he was incredibly brave to appear on camera. Things started to get amusing though when group therapy was suggested for his "addiction".

I picture the first meeting of Masturbators Anonymous. Men sit in a circle, with a stereotyped hippy counsellor leading the group saying, "We have a new member today." One of the men stands up hesitantly; half-ashamed, half-nervous, and says, "Hello, my name is X and I'm a furiously compulsive wanker."

It's a very modern thing for people to read too much into something, reducing everything to the medical or psychological.

Getting a stirring in the loins when seeing someone attractive is normal. It was his reaction that was abnormal, and yes, a little disturbing. It could be a physical (maybe he has a problem meaning he needs to ejaculate regularly) or general self-control issue as much as a possible addiction. Porn might not even be linked to it at all.

Brain activity in areas associated with reward or addiction doesn't mean proof of addiction. It could just as easily mean pleasure. The same areas would light up if someone who really likes chocolate ate chocolate or someone who really like exercise exercised. Something that's "compulsive behaviour" isn't formally categorised as an addiction either.

There are tenuous links between violent pornography and sexual violence, but those links aren't conclusive and it's simplistic to put all the blame on pornography alone. It's likely there are underlying problems that could be overlooked in favour of an easy answer.

In the same vein, rape is about exerting power rather than sex. Glorifying violence might lead to more violence, for example, but that doesn't mean that those committing violence have been driven to by seeing violence alone. There's even some evidence that porn reduces sexual crimes, presumably because those who are only mildly or moderately inclined to carry out such acts have an outlet. Those more heavily inclined might go through with it anyway.

You can ban porn. You can "do something about it." You can't ban childhood sexual violence or traumas. So, in order to feel good and productive, some people opt to blame the thing they can ban and can control rather than deal with the uncomfortable fact that the human mind is more complicated that we think.

Then there's porn itself. There is a law of the internet – Rule 34 – which states that "for any conceivable subject, a pornographic version exists." It means we can see porn absolutely everywhere :

                                         

Pornography has gone to such self-parodying extremes now, I'm surprised anyone can take it seriously. A lot of porn out there nowadays seems more funny than erotic. There's probably a porn out there of a skydiving clown being pegged by a pre-op transgender male dressed up as ET. If it doesn't exist now, it will by next week.

There are three things you can take from Porn on the Brain:
  • There needs to be more research done, as all that exists at the moment is anti-porn moralist arguments and pro-porn nit-picking with little hard evidence to back either side up.
  • Porn should be restricted to adults, but that's hard to do as most internet filters don't work.
  • As said earlier, sex education should start much earlier and be more comprehensive.
Tell us something we don't know?

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