Madder Mortem: “Sweating blood to serve the Beast”1
The Norwegian band Madder Mortem from Nord-Odal plays what can be said to be a surreally unyielding music of the uninhabitable and unavailable persistencies within man: a collection of unchastely-exalted hymeneal counterattacks, of frenzied invocations of the wilde-to-the-point-of-breathless devotions, of neo-dramatic futuristic dithyrambs and of deliciously-speculative incantations of the strong (crudely genuine) significances of tenacity, of determination and of enduringness.
Along the spellbinding and deep-and-warmly-dark-as-the-unseen-wounds bass-lines that embody the silent, unidentifiable and overwhelming terror and force of intrusion of the background (one unfelt as such until it is always already too late); and along the hypnotic elegance with which Agnete Kirkevaag’s vocals court tragedy, revealing its rare shades and intractable colours (and side-stepping its downfall precisely when it seems to embrace it and to dementedly venerate its fiasco) – all the songs of the band tell, on multiple voices, a stimulating story about ardours and addictions as part of that radical and ultimate type of conservation that goes against all odds and that manifests itself as perseverance and as insistence. These (the perseverance and the insistence) are presented by the band as two precursory and preclusive open doors unleashing a hard mountain air capable to maintain the scent and the intimately-fulfilling pleasure of their direction, despite all unfavourable winds, and even to take strange, archaic and extravagantly-reptilian delights at the sight of the approaching storms.
Should you ever become entangled in the secret venoms of yesterdays, and then consumed by their devious Proustian elicitations, Madder Mortem’s aggressively ambitious and ruthlessly genuine combination of some down-tuned yet sharp-cutting concretely heavy guitars, with a strongly cumulative incisive vocal style (capable to awake and to monumentally re-inject inescapable and inexorable thrills of demonization even in the most abstract and densely algebraic carcasses), will provide you with the final necessary confirmation that all your nectarous Carollian absurdities, distortions and other diffractions of perception, are actually friendly monsters constructing the real bases of your uniqueness and of your identification as openness to and as visceral intimacy with mystery (with mystery as the deepest and warmest dominant life-sustaining metaphor); that they are the cherished and the exquisitely flavoured savage (and sometimes also ferociously-murderous) fruits of nostalgia, building you up, nightmare by nightmare, in their strong, reinforcing scents.
And, indeed, whenever transposed into ingenuity, the Norwegian musical wistfulness comes across as a very unusual type of rekindling of the lost romances: at almost unbreathable heights of persistence, of endurance and of wildly-intimate enthusiasms, sprung up from devotions (there where distances become superposed and reveal the Power in its devastating undivided spectrum) the listener will love again the stranger who he used to be, and he will give back the heart to that inner stranger who used to love him.
Like Poe’s Roderick Usher, who was the only recorded mortal capable to paint ideas, Madder Mortem’s music makes us see the pain through musically-induced visual effects that penetrate the deepest springs of the Being in order to impress in there a taste of radical awakenings.
Such instilments will surface as a barely credible line of thinking, augmented by some extremely thematically centred bass-creases (performed in turns by Tormod Langøien Moseng, Paul Mozart Bjørke and Boye Nyberg), advancing and screwing themselves deep into the matters by means of the rare intimidating undulations of a paralyzingly-cold urgency: this is that very fabulously-cursed moment, situated in-between the sylphy energies of the day, when the weird facial patterns of the carnivorous hags (that we sometimes encounter in stains, in the patterns from our carpets, in the wavy wood fibres of the wainscot decorating the obscurity of the lobby or in the fainted, washy, evanescent and subliminal models of our faience in the bathroom) realize their lifestyle as that particular mischievous confusion brought forth by unannounced visitations.
And, without a doubt, in Madder Mortem’s way of giving the iciest and the most-difficult-to-travel-over-or-through flavours to tragedies, the resilient cynicisms from our unconfessed depths of distress (like nippy small ice-fragments eating the faces during winter’s blizzards), prove themselves to be those annoyingly-obsessive and viscerally-intimate scraps of sorrows and fears that outweigh our strongest essences, coming from the nightmarish worlds, and prospering in a mysteriously-dangerous way, behind the fragile skin of our eyelids.
As a last but mercilessly insidious (both threateningly seductive and sneakily suffocative) ingredient of this invasion of the alleys between the days of the mildly warm and soothingly-glowing dreams and the aggressively synergistic nothings, the drums seem to reproduce, in a jazz(y) style affiliated to the celebratory high fashion of the postmodern pastiche (where pastiche is assumed by the band mainly in the form of the nu metal / nü-metal), Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Pit and the Pendulum”. Effortless but impulsive, the blast beats are there to complete a music set out to awaken dangerously unpredictable and dangerously divergent memories, feelings and senses of the Self. Like Poe’s pendulum, Mads Solås’s drumming style strikes grimly the loneliness of an impersonal, ghastly and haunting space situated between distress and expectation, in order to craze and crack the masks of time piled-up in there, until they break down and allow the traveler to reach and to face directly (while still alive and passionate) that which time has always announced: the violent emptiness of matter and of energy, their implacable, unchanging lights over the razor-sharp ridges of the discouraging inner mountains (abrupt thoughts), overbalanced forward into deserted and desolated ruined geometries.
Here is where the rarest and the cruellest of all flowers grow, and the album “Eight Ways” invests such contortions of beauty into darkly-wild intimacies with crucifying and with superiorly-threatening psychotic rewards:
“Also noteworthy is the guitar tone, especially the clean sound. It is the epitome of lush, bringing the King Crimson influence out of nowhere straight to the table.
Eight Ways is hard to pinpoint as far as its status of enjoyment goes because its melding of unconventionalities with dynamic clichés is frankly remarkable. Think what you may, you’ve never heard something like this before. Listening to this is like being swept away to a blue-filtered meadow picking flowers only with the biggest thorns while smiling unmercifully. Madder Mortem is without doubt a black sheep in the metal scene, and that’s just how it should be because not everyone can appreciate such rare flowers.”2
Undeniably, BP M. Kirkevaag’s, Patrick Scantlebury’s, Odd Eivind Ebbesen’s, Eirik Ulvo Langnes’s and Christian Ruud’s guitars perfect a maddening picture which uses instead of strident colours, electrocuting cries of painfully rearranged vertebrae, and they are there to batter our strongest walls to the ground and teach us how to feel, live and think outside the cultural box… there to provide us with the necessary strong rhythm that could release us back into the wild, among real beasts and among the insanely-intense flavours and seasons.
Philosophically judging, we are dealing here with a musical attempt to profile the possibility of envisaging and of reflecting on the phenomenological units as such, without concepts. Silhouetting the phenomena as nothing but phenomena is like taking a ride through the dubious foggy niches of the matrix of all stimuli (especially through those carved with lies and deepened over night with betrayals), with the aim of palliating the human paranoia, the one which makes all weapons be slippery from perspiration and all muscles be but sadly transplanted contractions and abbreviations of death-wishes. More precisely, Madder Mortem sings about that blind but always massively-thirsty receptivity of our consciousness that embodies and instantiates the colourlessness of the archetypal void. The one which sustains, nevertheless, the outstanding logical grids of the human intellectual weight in this universe – the great or perhaps the greatest absorbers of light and stabilizers of demented fluxes and unconscious prolific hazards. This phenomenological achromia reflects, in fact, the intimate and infinitely unconfessed consciousness of time – its continuous and monotonous surplus linked to the devastating but revealing monstrous monotony of a repetitive sound.
Agnete Kirkevaag interprets and entrenches this achromatic (or, at least, difficult to stain with standard dyes) aggressive and majestic monotony at the level of Giorgio Agamben’s “Voice”, in an attempt to open the infernal sphere of utterance as what it is and as what it has always been in itself – that is, as a vortex of primeval meaning made of original (infernally and eternally authentic), acute articulations:
“The voice – which is assumed by the shifters as a taking place of language – is not simply the phoné, the mere sonorous flux emitted by the phonic apparatus, just as the I, the speaker, is not simply the psychosomatic individual from whom the sound projects. A voice as mere sound (an animal voice) could certainly be the index of the individual who emits it, but in no way can it refer to the instance of discourse as such, nor open the sphere of utterance. The voice, the animal phoné, is indeed presupposed by the shifters, but as that which must necessarily be removed in order for meaningful discourse to take place. The taking place of language between the removal of the voice and the event of meaning is the other Voice, whose ontological dimension we saw emerging in medieval thought and that, in the metaphysical tradition, constitutes the originary articulation (…) of human language. But inasmuch as this Voice (which we now capitalize to distinguish it from the voice as mere sound) enjoys the status of a no-longer (voice) and of a not-yet (meaning), it necessarily constitiutes a negative dimension, It is ground, but in the sense that it goes to the ground and disappears in order for being and language to take place. According to a tradition that dominates all Western reflection on language from the ancient grammarians’ notion of gramma to the phoneme in modern phonology, that which articulates the human voice in language is a pure negativity. In fact, the Voice discloses the place of language, but in such a way that this place is always already captured in negativity, and above all, always already consigned to temporality. Inasmuch as it takes place in the Voice (that is, in the nonplace of the voice, in its having-been), language takes place in time. It is chronothetic.” (Agamben, 1991, p. 35)
To see and to even be able to instantiate the instance of discourse as such, that thing which is simultaneously a no-longer-now and a not-yet-now (an inexorable, interminable and eternally-aggressive and infernally-sublime nowhere, invading, swamping mercilessly and snuggling darkly into the “spaces” between the “no-longer voice” and the “not-yet meaning”) is to have access to the absolute possible negativity of the ferocious fertility (the Death which excretes or literally dies life) – to that feature or streak of our world that can never be erased (from any surface and in any time), because it is the very spirit that sustains the spatial and the temporal coordinates of all structures. This attendant spirit that retreats into the darkest and deepest intangible secret seed of the human eye (or, better said, that disappears behind the meaning, allowing itself to be removed [cast into the trans-energetical shadows] in order for the meaning to appear and to occupy the intellectual, the imaginative and the sensorial spotlight) is the principle of the blood, or the blood that has no new color yet, eternally lying beyond the known limits and the safety of all established organic forms, as a liberated and liberating wilderness. As the ultimate inaccessible nature of the Self, its ipseity or the hunter’s magic instinct revealing itself only during the greatest encounters, the Voice is the place where the daimons are truly free: they exchange places, parallel each other and confront each other as faces of adventure and of exaggeration, sustaining in perfect equilibrium that ultimate dark nameless memory that cannot be constituted as part of any humane memory or of any human present.
The fascinating ambition which governs the musical universe of Madder Mortem is to stage a perfectly and disarmingly natural pandaimonic outbreak of this Voice. The theme per se constitutes the ideatic kernel of their exuberance of expression and it is present on a variety of “key-songs”, where Agamben’s Voice actually speaks through Agnete Kirkevaag’s unique ability and readiness to neutralize the common perception, at dementedly high and theatrical frequencies, and to render things readable again as phenomenal intensities and no longer as “mere”(abstract) units of language. In order to understand this ultra-bombastic theoretical claim – this absence that refuses to let its scar heal and that keeps obscenely and dreadfully open the dark abominable call of its wet wound; this diving into the memory of the centuries with the help of the hammer’s virile generosity – we will try to explain the principle, for reasons clearly restricted to introductory purposes, as applied on the lyrics of one important song in this regard: “Evasions” (the rest of the key-songs [such as my “My Name is Silence”, for example] concatenating and clustering on this theme, will be given a detailed progressive analysis in the second part of this study):
“All your talk amounts to nothing
And that nothing’s not for me
Through a thousand smooth evasions
Your voice still rings in my ears
If you’d remember who you were
I could take hell out of your care
I could give you all I am
No more syllables to hide us
Fate dead within our hands
No more shadows and contortions
We have run out of lies
I could leave you undefended
Always hurting, always wrong
Leave you wanting and dependent
On a hope that’d let you down
But still your voice retains the phantom
Of all you wanted to be
I could give you all I am
Say my name
No more words to hide us.”
(Madder Mortem, Evasions)3
The song “Evasions” lets the Voice weave a bizarre incantation in the form of a supreme (in the sense of impossibly-irresponsible) representation of and meditation on the human becoming: it basically speaks about re-incarnating our beginning in order to meet face-to-face the force of our beginning and to save ourselves through the force of that beginning (which is that of a perfect crime) from all the rapes of falsity to which we were subjected in perverse linguistic secrecies, which ended up poisoning our essences (decreasing and confusing their intensities).
By giving a dreadful equivalent to the discarnations of the summer’s end, the song “Evasions” nervously and radically unveils, at the seething limits of the will, the demonically painful opening up of the human being (the Dasein) “out of its captivity in the entity, to the openness of Being”, that is, to the supreme shifters and to the originary structures of transcendence – now governed, affirmed and retraceable solely along the nostalgia (“But still your voice retains the phantom / Of all you wanted to be”, Madder Mortem, Evasions).
This opening coincides (or it reproduces at the level of the contemporary cultural feeling and intuition), as stated before, with the very first taking place of language and, along with it, of the human consciousness; with the infernal and divine shivers that accompanied the originary creative articulations. Thus, this opening proves itself to be a disclosure of the place of our unnameable and unconceptualizable origins, namely, of the place where language and our consciousness has been forged continuously since the first temporal presences had agitated the inanimate fields and seas of blunt matter. This stirring up (injection with anguish) was introduced in its quality of prime human ontological condition as a direct result of the tension existing between something sublime (ramified within all subliminals and conditioning them draconically) that reveals itself but that cannot be captured into words (the words remain meaningless and impotent in front of this terrible and shocking presence and readiness of energy) and something profane which cannot live and outlive itself (in its will to life and to meaning) but by responding in some way to this presence and readiness of energy (by constantly trying to translate and find acceptable equivalents for that extremely strange “something” which makes all the difference between a desperate prayer and a hateful heresy; and, generally speaking, all the differences between the unique and the distinct qualities of life).
This tension is the absolute phenomenological basis of the event of the taking place of language – as an ambition to understand the first and the most important meanings of Darkness and of Light, as well as the reasons and the techniques of their dispersions and redistributions into reflections, shadows, shades and echoes. Striving to find the word for the word itself and to make the discourse speak its origin (express things with an energy and with a trans-essentializing shining drawn directly from its initial taking place), reproduces at the level of language Pygmalion’s ambition to bring his sculpture to life by re-settling the prime matter of that sculpture on the coordinates that still communicate with (lead to) the transforming vortexes, in whose “amidst” the things (the objects) are yet alive and talk to each other, while their supervising creators communicate only by setting their eyes on the object of their desire and by adjusting the density of their looks to the weight of their thought:
“Thus, in the essay on The Origins of the Work of Art, Heidegger evokes the resoluteness intended in Sein und Zeit and presents it (as, in essence, a ‘letting-oneself-be-called by the Voice’) on the horizon of will; not as a will to anything or as the decisive action of a subject, but as the ‘opening up of Dasein, out of its captivity in the entity, to the openness of Being’, that is, as the experience of the Voice in its capacity as supreme shifter and originary structure of transcendence (…). And in The Question of Being, the dimension of Being is defined as Zusammengehören von Ruf und Gehör, ‘belonging-together of the call and hearing’, that is, again, as experience of the Voice (…).
It should not surprise us that, as in every conception of the event of language that places in a Voice its originary taking place and its negative foundation, language remains even here metaphysically divided into two distinct planes: first die Sage, the originary and silent speech of Being, which, inasmuch as it coincides with the very taking place of language and with the disclosure of the world, shows itself (zeight sich), but remains unspeakable for human words; and second, human discourse, the ‘word of mortals’, which can only respond to the silent Voice of Being. The relation between these two planes (taking place of language and that which is said within it, Being and entity, world and things) is once again governed by negativity; the demonstration of Sage is unnameable in terms of human language. (There is no word, the essay on George will say, for the word itself. Discourse cannot speak its taking place; […]) This can only correspond (ent-sprechen, ‘un-speak’) with Sage through its own disappearance, venturing, like the words of the poets, to that limit where the silent experience of the taking place of language in the Voice and in death is completed (sie – the poets – wagen die Sprache, […]). The double nature of showing and signifying in the Western conception of language thus confirms its originary ontological significance.” (Agamben, 1991, pp. 61-62)
As a master of cruel caprices and of sublime dramas made of storms and fecund stress, Agnete Kirkevaag effectively impersonates this fundamental negativity which sustains all spheres of influence (understood as shifters but also as the the non-I which loosens, tightens or simply dismantles and radically changes the root or the source of the thickness of the unthought pressures regulating the relations of power) – the Voice – as a portal (in Dan Simmons’s sense of “farcaster”) into atrocious grovelings and as a ripple effect (an effect from an initial state of intensely darkened unapproachable light that is followed both outwards and inwards incrementally) that forces distances to become meaningless, allowing instantaneous trans-mutations and and re-emplacements of the Self. Such an art unleashes and then upholds a tunnel network of clarities of senses and of clairvoyances into the nature of the Voice, with the same allure that Harold Bloom would assign to Emily Dickinson’s poetry. And so, what Bloom said about Emily Dickinson’s magic influence over the reader, perfectly applies to Agnete Kirkevaag’s capacity to vocally reduce a whole phenomenal sphere to its major, pure and winsome code (unyielding principle), along a mouth-expression which reproduces the previously mentioned phenomenal opening (as a disclosure of the place of our unnameable and unconceptualizable origins):
“Her canonicity results from her achieved strangeness, her uncanny relation to the tradition. Even more, it ensues from her cognitive strength and rhetorical agility, not from her gender or from any gender-derived ideology. Her unique transport, her ‘Sublime’, is founded upon her unnaming of all our certitudes into so many blanks; and it gives her, and her authentic readers, another way to see, almost into the dark.” (Bloom, 1994, pp. 308-309)
Yet, one should not overlook the fact that the cohabitation in quintessential metaphors and allegories (the ultimate sublimations achieved in the human language4) with the call of the underlying primordial energies of creation and of destruction, remains inevitably a tribute paid not directly to the original sources, but to a third, intermediary deity: Time – or the conclusive principle of all transformations and influences and the amniotic medium that allows the unfolding of all modes of ontic instituting and perception, and of all the types of awareness. To nose aesthetically the place of the Voice (the atemporal interval that allows the taking place of language), to actually be able to come up with a name for this divine and sinisterly-prolific poetic silence, is to regain the lost clarity of the channel binding the conscious to the subconscious, and to reconquer the temple of human dignity, one made of predicates heavily discharges into subjects like machines guns emptied with frenzy into enemies.
Agamben, Giorgio. (1991). Language and Death, The Place of Negativity. Translated by Karen E. Pinkus with Michael Hardt. Minneapolis, Oxford: University of Minesota Press.
Bloom, Harold. (1994). The Western Canon, The Books and Schools of the Ages. New York, San Diego, London: Harcourt Brace & Company.
Scruton, Roger. (1997). The aesthetics of music. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
1 Title extracted from the lyrics of the song “Scourge Of Iron” by Cannibal Corpse, album “Torture” (2012). http://www.darklyrics.com/lyrics/cannibalcorpse/torture.html#1: consulted on the 1st of December 2013, 20: 51 p.m.
2Sputnik Music, Review for „Eight Ways” written by fireaboveicebelow:http://www.sputnikmusic.com/review/31406/Madder-Mortem-Eight-Ways/, consulted in the 26th of November, 2013, 14:30 p.m.
3http://www.darklyrics.com/lyrics/maddermortem/desiderata.html, consulted on the 3rdof February, 2014,10:15, a.m.
4 “There lies, in our most basic apprehension of music, a complex system of metaphor, which is the true description of no material fact, not even a fact about sounds, judged as secondary objects. The metaphor cannot be eliminated from the description of music, because it defines the intentional object of the musical experience. Take the metaphor away, and you cease to describe the experience of music.” (Scruton, 1997, p. 92)