Basically, the Truth About Puppets

01/06/2005 § Leave a comment

“I never said actors were cattle. All I said is that actors should be treated as cattle” – Alfred Hitchcock

Humankind is an unnerving pastiche of misfits, and ferries bring together the very worst aspects of the species in one convenient box-shaped melting pot.

I boarded the ferry from Holland to the UK not 45 minutes ago. We are at this point 30 minutes late leaving and the hordes are still spilling on in all their football-shirted glory. It’s like some kind of working-class parade, some kind of non-beauty contest. I feel as if I’m not in the right environment, that I’ve stowed away on the wrong carrier having been deceived by some bored and malicious stewardess. So now, on the deportment vessel from the Hoek back to the industrial wastelands of Harwich, I sit taking notes on the detainees. She’s probably grinning now behind her hair bob, mindlessly twizzling a Stena Line pen and chewing glibly and bovine-like on the thought that she’s sent me off to be digested in the tract of this monstrous monument to marine mass-travel with the rest of the classless cud.

It’s tragic to see the way that people can be, what they can become if left to their own devices. The Brits are an embarrassingly sour race. Their faces seem to hold the misery of years of underdevelopment and dénouement. What we lack, more than anything, is a sense of shame. But that, as with the Americans, is replaced with a sense of pride in what we are, whatever that may be. A sense of pride also in things our ancestors accomplished, but that we never did. A sense of feat and achievement in winning battles of every sort, but the only battle you’ll ever see these kinds of people winning are those based on pie-consumption.

But the English aren’t altogether a pointless race and every class has its lamentable aspects. We may have spent a large portion of our existence learning how to dominate other cultures, locking up minorities and imprisoning nations, forcing others to only now assert their independence from us, but musically, at least, we have a lot to be proud of. Not so much in the likes of Radiohead, Coldplay and Keane, but the other denizens of the alternative music factory. We should also not forget what we had to contribute in the way of genre creation. Black Sabbath were the reason that metal appeared, Paradise Lost are the reason that Gothic Metal exists, and therefore the reason why you’re reading this article now.

Pause. The couple next to me have given birth to a banshee. A sprawling, spittooned little dervish that slings saliva around as it screeches in an ear-shreddingly tinny pitch. Some people have no control over their offspring. Some people choose to have no control over them. Some people had control until they threw the towel in altogether a while back – too much like hard work – too much like effort – so muggins here has to abide the pasty-faced moron child while another gaggle of cardigan-wearing Kwik Savers enters the imaginatively-named ‘Ferry Shop’. Out of the corner of my eye I can see the infant spidering towards me, an overgrown mite in an orange babysuit. Maybe someone should tell these people they’ve given birth to a parasite. Maybe they already know and they’ll turn a blind eye while it attempts to sink its milk teeth into my arm. No, I can’t wait to be the proud father of an octoped either.

There are many similar theories on the origins of Gothic Metal and how the genre came about in the first place, but it also depends on how far back you’re willing to go, where you want to draw the line. Most people accept Celtic Frost’s Into The Pandemonium as the seminal Gothic Metal album since they experimented with placing female vocals alongside the heavier guitars which, I imagine, back in the yuppied and Thatcherite 80s, was a maverick thing to do, but how does that translate now? Anyone think of it as a masterpiece? Maybe, if you’re from the older genre and you remember metal’s heyday and perhaps the stuff bands are producing these days is not up to scratch for you. Another heavyweight that vies for the title is Paradise Lost’s Gothic, a gnarly Gothic Metal piece of gristle with female vocal passages dotted around sporadically. And then, of course, there is The Gathering’s Mandylion, the first metal album from the new era with all female vocals, and what fantastic vocals they are. I would say that no-one has come close to matching the perfection of Anneke from the first note of Strange Machines to the last of In Motion #2.

But how far have we come since then? The first band to properly utilise violins and choirs was Tristania, followed by Sins Of Thy Beloved. Since then, any band who could afford a violin wanted to get in on the act, and there are many bad copycat albums with drizzly, slurry violin-playing now. Take a look at Macbeth, early Naamah and dare I say it, Draconian. In spite of all the new bands making an appearance on the scene, no-one recently can contend with the masters. There is, however, a fine line between producing good music and your label telling you what to produce. Most of the major players brought out albums last year. This year, Leaves’ Eyes brought out an altogether terrible offering in comparison to last year’s; Epica brought out a Latin-inspired Gothic freakshow of an album, and we’re still waiting with baited breath to see what Lacuna Coil will come up with in answer to Comalies. After Forever also aim to jump the Transmission ship with Remagine. A year after Invisible Circles, maybe it wouldn’t be too unrealistic for one to assume that this, like the hastily-drafted Napalm effluent that was Vinland Saga, will not be altogether deserving of being called part of the band’s oeuvre.

All of a sudden, Gothic Metal is becoming a serious business. All of a sudden it’s becoming more fashionable to be alternative, but in an acceptable mumsy-loving way. The cyber-goths [whoever they are] must sneer at the nu-breed with their eyeliner and spiked hair, and as the genre becomes more popular, the Gothier Than Thou race will become more pretentious and more fierce. But in the meantime, it lacks a certain genuineness, a certain emotion, but we should have all learned by now that emotion has nothing to do with it when you’re making money. You want emotion in the music? Check out the smaller bands. You want feeling? Listen to the tramp of those who are not told how they should shape their music. At the end of the day, everyone is told what to do when under the control of a label. Labels are not charities. They do not exist to do bands favours. They are businesses, controlling their bands like metal marionettes and raking the cash in. Successful labels are not controlled by ‘artists’, but by businessmen.

It’s a sad fact to realise and many are in denial about it, which is why it’s important for the reviewers to write honestly, rather than pander to the needs of the well-oiled media machine. It doesn’t matter what business you’re in. In one lacking in honesty in so many ways, even the slightest tinge of truth can feel like a godsend. But you can’t please everyone, though you can try to please most of the people most of the time, though many don’t like having the scales lifted from their eyes anyway. We are all controlled by one hierarchy or another, and so in a way, we’re all in the same boat. Though next time I’d rather it wasn’t a ferry.

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