Monday, August 30, 2010

Music Review - Drudkh - Songs of Grief and Solitude

For the uninitiated, Drudkh are a band from the Ukraine who play a fairly decent style of folk/black metal, with emphasis on a mournful and at times dreamy atmosphere. I'm not one of their many, many fans who revere their music; actually so far I've only liked on average one or two songs per album they've made. However, this album, Songs of Grief and Solitude, caught my ear and has pretty much hooked me.

The biggest reason I like this album is because it's entirely acoustic. Acoustic guitars, flutes and a few percussive moments take the place of the normal guitar and black metal drumming, and the result is quite interesting. There's no vocals except for the odd whisper here and there and the songs are very, very, repetitive. This actually reminds me of Hex(or Printing in the Infernal Method) by Earth in that this is probably as close to drone as you can get in terms of musical writing without actually being drone. The mood is generally somber and mournful as is the norm for Drudkh, and if one knows the history of their home country one can see how this is a completely appropriate atmosphere to want to achieve. The repetition really is what makes the atmosphere what it is; gentle guitars and flutes playing very simple folksy melodies for nigh on 40 minutes can be quite an experience if the music is well composed, and I believe Drudkh more or less nailed it here. A lot of the music particularly the bits with the flute remind me of Native American music; it has that same feeling of being close to nature.

There's no flash here, no solos, nothing that will really make you stop and take note of what you just heard. This is gentle, somber music that takes one to the vast plains and forests of the Ukraine, under the stars beside a crackling fire. Songs of Grief and Solitude has become the mainstay of my pipe and cigar smoking playlist, especially when I smoke outside with the sunset.  This is a relaxing journey through Drudkhs homeland, and a terrific piece of acoustic/ambient/slightly drone music. This music feels like nature, if that makes any sense. Relaxed, mellow, organic, ambient and even a little drone-ish, Songs of Grief and Solitude is well worth your time.

Music Review - Antestor - Martyrium

Antestor is a band that means quite a bit to me. They were one of the first metal bands I ever listened to and I consider their music to be some of the finest extreme metal ever released. Martyrium, the debut album by Antestor, hearkens back to before they were a sweeping symphonic black metal band to when they were a fairly simple black/death/doom metal hybrid band, and this album while not their personal best is one of my favorite metal albums.

Slow, heavy and atmospheric is the formula here. At times the music does get faster, but even the fast parts aren't even super fast. There is a lot of clean guitar playing in the background, especially during the solos and slower moments and it really adds to the feel of the album. The tone of the guitars is pretty interesting in that it's not very "heavy" sounding but still manages to actually BE heavy. The use of a few different styles is also intriguing; the music here ranges from almost pure death/doom to blasting black metal to somber and gothic moments saturated with mournful keyboards, and in a few cases all three of those styles are interwoven with fantastic results. A weaker aspect of the music is the production, specifically the drums; they have no power whatsoever and when the toms are being pounded on in slow and steady fashion it comes off as amateur sounding. The bass and snare sound fantastic, but there's just no power in the toms.

The vocals, by Martyr, are fantastic. His low, guttural growls are some of the best I've heard in metal and his higher pitched screeches sound absolutely depraved. His baritone clean vocals, while probably not technically "amazing" fit the music perfectly, especially on the third track, "Depressed," where used with mournful piano and guitar create a truly depressing feel.

The weak point of this album, unfortunately, are the lyrics. Christian in nature and English by what appears to be very poor translation from Norwegian, they are so poorly worded that they almost sound comical at times. I don't blame the band for not being English scholars, but some of the lyrics are downright laughable. Skip over the liner notes if you want to continue taking the music as seriously as it wants to be taken.

What I find most interesting about this album is the mix of styles, in an era where this was far from commonplace in the metal scene. Like I said above, goth, black, death and doom metal all come together on this album in such an almost perfect way it's almost strange and to my knowledge rarely if ever used by bands of the day. While this is a pretty normal practice today among metal bands, I think I give Antestor credit for being among the (if not THE) first to combine all such styles in such a good way.

Highlights of this album for me would have to be "Depressed," with its gloomy keyboards and dark vocals; the title track/instrumental with it's brilliant drumming and use of clean guitars and transitions from blazing fast to slow and somber; and the closer track, "Mercy Lord," which while having a rather awkward opening minute and a half or so builds to a brilliant black/death/gothic/doom masterpiece complete with soaring female vocals and organs. "Mercy Lord" definitely ranks as one of Antestor's best songs and is a powerful way to end to the album.

Martyrium stands as the debut album of a brilliant band, and while not a perfect album by any means, there is enough good music here and enough interesting style and combinations of styles that any metal fan should be more than satisfied by this record.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

But for the Grace of God...

One of the, if not the most important teachings of Christianity is the ideal of Grace. Paul taught it, St. Augustine expounded on it and helped to use it to shape Christianity into what it is today and Christians everywhere profess to believe in it. It is the core belief of the faith; that no matter what sin we commit, from the most vile rape and murder to the most simple covetous or lustful glance, God's grace is enough to cover it and to redeem us from it with no questions asked and no remembrance of the sin. Paul was a persecutor of the early church to such an extent that after his
conversion believers were still terrified by him, yet he believed in this ideal so strongly that he was able to say that as Paul, he had not sinned. Grace is not something that allows the believer to sin with the intent to repent only to go back to those sinful ways and repent insincerely. Even the most wretched sinner can be saved, if his heart is truly set on repenting and receiving forgiveness and grace for his sins, and this is the subject of the hymn "Amazing Grace," which is universally recognized for both its power and truth. With grace, our fears are relived. We no longer worry about our eternal destiny. Those fears are gone, nothing more than powerless shadows deserving of nothing more than our scorn. It is the Grace of God that allows the believer to exist in the fallen state that he is in and still perform his duties for God here on Earth. That divine Grace, totally beyond our comprehension in every way is the cornerstone of the Christian faith and what separates the faith from so many other beliefs and what truly allows for one's life to be freed from bondage and to live as God would have them live on this Earth. It is something to remember for when one feels like they are nothing more than a wretched sinner undeserving of any respite, which is a feeling that everyone has had at some point. When sin crouches at your door desiring you and you open it and are taken by it do not waste time in self-condemnation rather offer your sin up to God and receive the grace that was bought and paid for by pure and righteous blood and it is in that blood that we find our solace and our redemption and our strength and it is but for this Grace of God that we will go into His kingdom instead of eternal damnation and separation from His presence and Love.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


I'm not someone with tons of ambitions. I'm pretty easily contented, and whether that's a good or bad trait is another debate entirely. But something I've wanted to do for nearly as long as I can remember is to trek on foot somewhere absolutely remote, such as the Yukon Territory and simply survive. There's somehting that's always intrigued me about that part of the world, just the sheer loneliness and harshness of it appeals to me in a way. To be alone for a long period of time surrounded by nothing but the vast wilderness in every direction just surviving and trying not to die is something I truly hope to accomplish one day before I die. I'm not sure why, as most people don't find the idea of trying not to die to not be one that is super appealing, but the idea really just stirs something in me, and when I think about it for long periods of time I have to really resist the urge to throw away everything I have and run off into the wild. If I had to guess I'd say that it's the last little bit of primal instinct that every human has that also accounts for our inherent fear of rain and the dark and it's something that in myself I wish to preserve because I believe that in that primal wildness lies a part of the nature of God that we are close to forgetting and losing.

Perhaps one day the chance will be granted to me to live out this wish I have. Until then I'll content myself with my urban existence and life of school, work and thought.

Friday, August 20, 2010

You know, its interesting...

How the love of God works.

I was driving home from work tonight during a heat lightning storm, which, if anyone here hasn't ever witnessed one, is one of the most beautiful things you can see on earth. I was listening to a live version of "Awesome God" by Rich Mullins and he was talking about how bizarre the love of God is from our point of view being that someone so utterly alone and so far above humanity would desire us so much that He would create us in His image and become one of us in every way so He could help us be more like Him. 

While I don't entirely agree with every part and parcel Rich Mullins believed, I do believe he was one of the greatest men of God to ever live and certainly one of the most heart-after-God men since King David. Just to read his songs is enough to know that he had a relationship with God that is like that you would have with your wife or husband or lover in the most intimate way and it is this kind of relationship that God desires with every single human being that has ever been created and not only does he desire it but his love goes so far beyond what any lover could ever give you that it makes even the most close of relationships seem pale. 

I'm going to quote one of my favorite dialogue from recent literature, which I believe makes the point far better than I ever could.


Doctor Manhattan: Thermodynamic miracles... events with odds against so astronomical they're effectively impossible, like oxygen spontaneously becoming gold. I long to observe such a thing. And yet, in each human coupling, a thousand million sperm vie for a single egg. Multiply those odds by countless generations, against the odds of your ancestors being alive; meeting; siring this precise son; that exact daughter... Until your mother loves a man she has every reason to hate, and of that union, of the thousand million children competing for fertilization, it was you, only you, that emerged. To distill so specific a form from that chaos of improbability, like turning air to gold... that is the crowning unlikelihood. The thermodynamic miracle.

Laurie Juspeczyk: But... if me, my birth, if that's a thermodynamic miracle... I mean, you could say that about anybody in the world!

Dr. Manhattan: Yes. Anybody in the world... But the world is so full of people, so crowded with these miracles that they become commonplace and we forget... I forget. We gaze continually at the world and it grows dull in our perceptions. Yet seen from another's vantage point, as if new, it may still take our breath away. Come... dry your eyes. For you are life, rarer than a quark and unpredictable beyond the dreams of Heisenberg; the clay in which the forces that shape all things leave their fingerprints most clearly. Dry your eyes... and let's go home.

What a powerful ideal...the miracle of birth and life in itself is possibly the greatest testament to the value and worth of a person. Like the above characters, I forget by how many miracles I am surrounded by every day. Think how God must feel, with that love for every single person as if they were the pinnacle of his creation, which they, I and you are. To not consider a human just a set of cells and electrical impulses and animal instincts but the greatest single miracle in existence changes how you look at people. In a sense, yes, humans are nothing, dust in the wind, vagaries of perception, with love and emotions being no more than the temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose. 

But in another sense, in the greatest sense, we are everything. The apple of God's eye. The greatest miracle he ever conceived. The thing he created out of nothing less than a pure burning desire to fellowship with in the most intimate way possible. Something that God loves in a way no human can even remotely begin to fathom. In that sense, we as creations are nothing less than the most immense and essential thing ever created, birthed out of a love so fiery and intense and so beyond comprehension that the Creator would take on our fallen and feeble form and die a sickening horrific death so that we could be with him if we so desired. 

Which is what he desires.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Haiti Pt. 2

This is a link to all the updates of the trip to Haiti that was undertaken by my church's youth group, courtesy of It says everything that needs to be said about the trip and the pictures say far more than I ever could, so please, check out the tweets and the accompanying pictures, and feel free to shoot me any questions you have about anything concerning the trip.

Friday, August 6, 2010


I'm going there today, for 10 days. I'll begin writing again when I return. Luck may be wished and prayers may be prayed. Goodbye, modern world.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Border Trilogy

I fished the Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy roughly a week and a half ago, and I've not been able to read anything since. The trilogy really knocked the wind out my reading sails, and I don't think I've ever had that happen to me before. Not even The Lord of The Rings trilogy was quite as much of a punch in the stomach as these books were, and that's really saying something. There was so much simple and profound truth in the Border Trilogy it was almost hard to take in, and the style made it a harder task than usual to read. They were something of a chore to get through at times, as three books of stream-of-consciousness writing can be a challenge to read one right after the other. But what I loved was that without writing a single emotion into his stories, McCarthy made them some of the most emotional stories I've ever read. There's a level of personal honestly and feeling that tells me these books had to be a reflection of the author.

This post isn't really much more than my rambling on about what I think about this trilogy, so I'm going to wrap it up now and just say that I highly recommend this trilogy. This is a moving, powerful and profound set of works that really show Cormac McCarthy's strength as a writer and prove why he is among the best living writers we have today.