Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hideous Gnosis Reviewed @ Aquarius Records

From Aquarius Records:

This one almost doesn't require a review, pretty much every truely obsessive black metal fan is gonna want this, whether they actually read it or not. And having only dabbled, it's hard to say how many folks, metalheads in particular, are actually gonna want to delve into this, a collection (often in expanded and revised form) of essays and documents that were presented late last year at "Hideous Gnosis", a symposium on black metal theory (yes, a symposium on black metal theory), which took place in Brooklyn in December of 2009. That said, we also can't imagine a metalhead who wouldn't feel like they had to have copy of this on their bookshelf, if they have any intellectual pretensions whatsoever (which this sure does), or sense of humor (which perhaps this does as well).

The real question regarding Hideous Gnosis is whether black metal does indeed have some sort of lofty academic underpinnings, or is this academic study of the genre simply another example of hipsters trying to legitimize something that appears to be, at its core, raw and underground and visceral and personal and pretty much diametrically opposed to any idea of scholarly study or academic examination? Which thankfully is discussed quite a bit in this book, in the form of several essays, but via the inclusion of comments from the symposium's website, both positive and negative, plenty of them mean, some of them funny, and a few measured and thought out. But it's good to know that the very fact that there exists an academic black metal symposium is in itself worthy of debate, keeps Hideous Gnosis somewhat grounded.

There are definitely some interesting essays here, one in particular that focuses on black metal's reliance on climate, as in grim and frosty and cold, etc. The most interesting to us, are also the ones that are easiest to read, the ones NOT mired down in academic grad school doublespeak, there are plenty of examples of essays that seem interesting, but require digging though a malfunctioning thesaurus to get to the root of what's really being said. There is an excerpt of Brandon Stosuy's in progress oral history of American black metal (featuring our very own Andee) which was also printed in a different form in a past issue of The Believer, which is definitely cool, there's Hunter Hunt Hendrix of Liturgy's confusional analysis and dissection of "Transcendental Black Metal", and so it goes, the collection slipping back and forth, striking a pretty good balance, between people who love black metal who just want to dig deeper, and explore a music they love and discuss it with other like minded metalheads, and the flipside, dry, academic treatises on various elements and aspects of black metal, a bit too removed from the actual sound, and the fucked up ferocious intensity that is what makes the music truly appealing for us. But again, that doesn't mean those pieces aren't a blast to read, some might win you over, others actually do offer up some keen insights, and some seem to exist simply as fodder for merciless mockery. But really, in some weird way that does essentially reflect the genre as a whole, there are dabblers, there are folks who take it WAY too seriously, people who love it and live it, others who are merely fascinated or curious or even repulsed. It ultimately doesn't matter, like the spate of recent black metal docs, online blogs, if you're into black metal, for whatever reason, you're probably gonna want to read this, even if it pisses you off. ESPECIALLY if it pisses you off. An essential, and maybe controversial [addition] to your metal music library.


  1. Black Metal has a lot of history in it and you are right i am definitely going to get this, there is no need to read the post the know that this is a most have

  2. Love the cover art here on this post and it completely matches the idea of Black metal's reliance on climate, as in grim and frosty and cold. I like it. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I like that - "ESPECIALLY if it pisses you off." Right on. This is what its all about anyway. Its about not conforming to the mainstream. - Adam

  4. I read Brandon Stosuy's piece in The Believer and think he's someone who really understands Black Metal theory and his insights are to the point and accessible. - Jill Copper