Thralldom
Black Sun Resistance
Total Holocaust
2005
A-



thralldom, the Black Metal duo consisting of Killusion (Ryan Lipynsky of Unearthly Trance) and Jaldagar has seized upon Empire’s rapid disintegration, slurping Mikhail Bakunin’s infamous aphorisms from academic Petri dishes and spitting them into all willing ears. Russian anarchist Bakunin, who noted that even a worm turns against the heel that crushes it, would find the current zeitgeist most compelling, as it encapsulates his version of the slavestate with a relentless symmetry: Submission and servitude have become resiliently invariant; the flow’s direction itself a numbing paradox: How is it that something so potent cannot proffer source? With disinformation draining fact of its content, the totality of our everyday takes on an eerily scripted air. The horror that snails through our routines isn’t as boyishly clever as Palahniuk’s “Project Mayhem;” nor is it as inauthentic as the corporate media’s “Operation Iraqi Freedom” sleepover. This is a dread that smacks of the ‘70’s celluloid crypt—a vault whose current cinematic plundering has yielded more smirk than shiver.

As USBM grows able horns, Europe’s have begun to dull. Perhaps they’ve been grazing too much and have chosen to not butt heads. Thralldom, whose meaty approach pulls from Damaged-era Black Flag as much as it does early Darkthrone, has set itself outside of the pigeonholes of trend, of taxonomy’s cold system. It’s significant that Lipynsky refuses to think of Thralldom in relation to the “Western Scene;” if Black Metal could ever grow in a vacuum, it’s Thralldom. Surprisingly, this self-employed stance works to great effect: In refusing to mingle with the moment, Thralldom posits an authentic perspective on the current state, one which hasn’t been fleshed out to such an extent since the American Nightmare was siphoned from its head and poured out onto our nation’s movie screens.

Horror films of the ‘70s were of a decidedly different breed than the recycled schlock that passes as a nod to the golden age of movies macabre. It wasn’t about buckets of faux blood then; directors like Romero and Cronenberg subverted the entire genre, twisting it into a vehicle for social commentary and satire. Especially Romero, armed with the young makeup artist Tom Savini, empowered those in the know with Dawn of the Dead, a film which cast Capitalism as contagion; materialists as matterless deadheads, a legion of zombies slowly swimming upstream to die all over again in the only place that penetrated any notion of the body animate: The MegaMall.

The unabated acquisition of ephemeral goods worked as a buffer; the more one accumulated, the less the rot reeked. “To buy” meant to “not biodegrade;” putrefaction, while widespread, smelled as so much perfume—rosewater for the decaying horde. Savini added an especially juicy touch: Fresh back from Vietnam, where he had served as a combat photographer, the young photag was given full rein to unleash the wealth of disturbing images he held tightly in his head. The realism of the “effect” was jarring; Savini knew what gunshots looked like; he knew how blood freely flowed; he’d seen limbs loosed from their bodies; he’d seen corporal perforations yawn in all their unadulterated gore.

Dawn of the Dead, of course, had to be updated, remade, re-released, tattooed with an entirely new UPC. It’s impotence was remarkable; after being able to download an MPEG of Nicholas Berg having his head slowly sawed off, or being able to see screen captures of people leaping to their deaths from the Trade Towers, horror films have as much bang as a handful of wet Snap-N-Pops. The aforementioned atrocities are what Lipynsky draws from, the bricks and mortar of his structure of dissent. “Black Sun Resistance is my statement of an American fed up with America,” said Lipynsky, “the lyrics are focused on occult tactics for increasingly dangerous and warped social chasms.”

It remains to be seen whether those tactics prove potent. If so, those able to refrain from chattering about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes might suddenly realize that we are living within our own horror film. Is it any surprise that the dark art could no longer be kept within the confines of its frame? The prescripted pestilence has pushed out of its rectilinear playing field; when demarcation melts away, the groupthink of collective gray matter lends itself to the porousness of a loofah, where mind isn’t the arena of idea, but rather a condition connoting the state of irrevocable absorption, an affliction exacerbated by the endless spools of image unwound from our myriad media outlets.

Predictably, one is compelled to wax nostalgic about signifiers devoid of the signified: There is no exercise as empty as freeing “Freedom” from its Currier & Ives sarcophagi. Thralldom, true to their moniker’s meaning, refuse to make music as vapid postulate. Black Sun Resistance is a tone poem for the tone deaf: Those that refuse to wake in Resistance’s alarm have already resigned their selves to the living grave, a pit noted for its plastic impermanence, populated with rhetoric that maintains its relevancy only via repetition.

Over and over again prayers prate like so many wordy crawls ambulating the feet of cable news station’s anchors. With so much filling the world there’s hardly anything to hold onto; “to overcome” is “to be overcome,” whether by hubris’ wax wings or its opposition atrophied in ability’s lack. Thralldom injects a much-needed authenticity into the limp arms of resistance. When Lipynsky shrieks, “the ancients will whisper into the ear of the corpse, tearing a hole wide as the sky into the subconscious of the Christian paradigm,” it’s hardly apocryphal.

Darkthrone’s Fenriz may have confided that he and Nocturno Culto implore the horde from the stage to do their dirty work; Thralldom sings about the work being done as it occurs. With so much cause & effect littering the land, it’s difficult to overlook the teleological bent that those pro and contra Christ share: Both sides believe there to be a time of reckoning, whether it be Rapture or Ragnarok; both hold fast to myth and its persuasive power; both think each other to be drowned in delusion, to exist asleep to the Age of Enlightenment’s argument.

Whatever the case may be, Lipynsky has continued to forge a highly creative and individual path within a genre seemingly in compliant stasis. Thralldom combines the violence of USBM’s Von with a dark psychedelic looseness, a hue as of late unmixed on the Black Metal palette. The penultimate track, “Sin is Necessary (As is Air)” shows This Heat and Thergothon to have more in common than one would think, with undulating electronics roiling behind a plaintive snare and hi-hat dirge. Other tracks, like “Soothsayer of the Red Moon,” and “Do not Speak of It Until the Gun is Fired” demonstrate classic Black Metal sprints with Darkthronesque double-barreled drumming, and an orgy of guitar sleaze that recalls Bathory’s first two LPs, Bathory and The Return. Even better are the vocals, which threaten to overtake the throaty spat of Katharsis’ scrabbled mouthpiece.

Adorno’s Negative Dialectics cites the Gnostic view of the “created world” as “radically evil,” a place where hope comes in the form of its complete negation—“a chance of another world that is not yet.” As Thralldom’s Black Sun Resistance unveils, the negation of that world is already underway, and Lipynsky is ostensibly one of the only musicians aware of it at the moment. Highly recommended.


Reviewed by: Stewart Voegtlin
Reviewed on: 2005-07-07
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