boilinginthehourglass

Morbidity, Transcendence unto the unkown, mindfucking audial torture and questionable production sound.

What makes good writing?

 

Good writing, what is it? Clinically polished grammar perfection? Clever wordplay and spin? Who knows, who cares. A journalists primary to job is to inform, explain and describe, all within the parameters of correct use of the English language and enthralling usage of the written word, all the while not straying too far from the point being made by your words.

As the pretentious, witty and borderline hateful 19th century playwright Oscar Wilde said “By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.” To some extent Mr. Wilde spoke the truth on the subject, especially when writing about music, the opinions and lives of musicians we write about help us to understand the heart and soul of the musician. The second hurdle is to put your understanding of the heart and soul of the musician into enjoyable and vibrant words.

 

Of course it is all too easy for a journalist to step into the realm of terrible, terrible writing, take unfortunate(and slightly creepy) Esquire writer Stephen Marche, whose 2012 interview with Megan Fox was hailed as “the Worst Thing Ever Written” by Vice magazine, in which cliché, creepy metaphors and overuse of said creepy metaphors where utilised to almost comical effect. This piece is a paragon of bad writing, the answers to the questions are often portrayed out of context, making Fox look even more stupid. To top it off Mr. Marche spends far too much time writing what appears to be love poetry “It’s not really even that beautiful. It’s closer to the sublime, a force of nature, the patterns of waves crisscrossing a lake, snow avalanching down the side of a mountain, an elaborately camouflaged butterfly.”

Of course from a creative writers perspective, some of the descriptive passages, taken out of context would seem to be rather beautiful, conjuring up beautiful literary landscapes. Understanding of context is what makes or breaks a piece of wordcraft. A science fiction writer giving long objective descriptions of scientific formulae, whilst technically relevant will win no favours, whilst a writer for a science textbook giving detailed descriptions of the potential of scientific theory will win even fewer favours.

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The role of the music critic

 

As musical weirdo extraordinaire Frank Zappa said “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” Then again he called his kid Moon Unit. From the perspective of a deep and sophisticated musician bound up in existential torment and conveying complex philosophical metaphors through song, it would seem that Mr. Zappa is right. The enjoyment of music is a completely subjective notion – who are we to tell people what is good and bad, Music has been a source of contention since we were banging rocks against the cave wall in a slightly less sinister and more musical version of the opening scene from 2001: A space odyssey.

The music critic’s job is first and foremost to explain and give opinion on whatever musical happening they have been assigned to write about, and inform the consumer whether or not an album is worth buying. However in these heady days of commercial control over the media, it can be very difficult for a music critic to be perfectly honest about the latest piece of musical garbage/paragon of audial sophistication that’s been churned out by the hated major labels, when print publications rely so heavily on revenue generated from major label advertising. This means that most major label albums get rave reviews, leaving trails of journalists weeping over the loss of their integrity, or laughing all the way to the bank. As somewhat jaded music writer Barney Hoskyns has stated “The sad truth is that rock journalism has become little more than a service industry, with scant critical autonomy and even less responsibility to its readers. We have all, in our different ways, colluded with the entertainment machine in its canny efforts to dictate what music sells.”

As Jessa Crispin, editor of tastefully named webzine bookslut stated “the tussle, the argument, the fun of criticism is now online” and to some extent she’s right, the internet has the expansive user-base to cover any and all niche genre’s, from post glitch-core-gaze-whatever to whatever rubbish Kanye West’s on about this year, you can bet there’s some guy with a blog, enthusiastically covering it, for fun nonetheless and because their doing it for free, they have no obligation to be polite about the biggest release of the month. In fact with the rise of those crazy hipsters and fashionable counter culture, it’s actually a very good way to generate revenue from ads if you laud the mainstream for its corporate banality and crimes against artistic freedom or whatever those more sophisticated than thou, contrary morons are whining about these days.

There is so much music out there, and too few official publications out there to adequately cover the expansive stomping grounds of the modern music scene. You don’t even need to listen to the voice of the music critic. So what is it that makes a music critic’s word so special? Surely no one can have a completely objective understanding of music. If you had that you wouldn’t be a music critic, you’d be an incredibly successful musician.

Timeghoul- Perfection in the form of Progressive death metal

Man’s betrothed to time
Life a pageant of decay
All have a grain of sand
In the shower of the hourglass

 Timeghoul where spawned by the elder gods somewhere near Missouri in 1987, originally named Doom’s Lyre (changed to Timeghoul in 1991). Their discography, encompassing (sadly) the only two demo’s they released(“Tumultuous travellings” and “Panaramic twilight” between 1992 and 1994, during the heyday of death metal’s popularity, and eventual fall from grace as blastbeats, speed, cookie cutter vocals and cannibal corpse emulation overcame the atmosphere and groove that had made the early Death metal scene so great. The band went on to play what is generally considered some of the best progressive death metal ever recorded.

Melding cold, precise prog thrash guitar pyrotechnics reminiscent of bands such as Watchtower or Nocturnus (Yes I know Nocturnus is a death metal band, but listen to “thresholds” and tell me you don’t hear Medgadeths riffing style lurking within its obtuse sci fi structures). Mournful  doom death passages(particularly in their second demo)are utilised, informed by bands such as paradise lost and My dying bride and accompanied by lush choral synth arrangements similar to those utilised(again)by Nocturnus, lending an extra layer to the sci fi atmosphere of the music. These slower passages often harmonized by eerie Gregorian vocals, soaked in reverb.  The band also utilised the jazz fusion tonality, off the wall structures and juxtaposition (I would explain what juxtaposition is, but Google is a thing y’know) typical of fellow prog death bands such as Atheist, Demillich and Death. The structuring was also somewhat influenced by classical music, given that  one of the members was a trained classical composer, these structural extravagances were present not only within the wider form of the songs, but also apparent in the way the individual riffs were structured and transitioned. Topped off with strange ambient passages utilise crystalline synths and distorted spoken word which conjure up images of a futuristic lovecraftian nightmare.

The production sound, while rough and somewhat primitive, is not so rough and primitive to someone accustomed to early 90’s DM demo’s which is most likely the demographic of timeghouls music, and this article/blog to some extent, so I wont spend any time dwelling on it.

Timeghoul’s subject matter was based around sci fi/fantasy themes taking influence from Norse mythology (Rainwound), Dungeons and Dragons(a creature called the gut was the lyrical inspiration for Gutspawn) and even a strange theory about the Himalayas being created from a large chunk of (Saturns moon) Mimas after an ancient nuclear war. The sci-fi themes transcend the lyrical content, utilising odd time signatures, juxtaposition, reverb out the arse and the occasional layered synth break to create a strange and unsettling, otherworldly atmosphere. This is especially prevalent on the two tracks of the “Panaramic twilight” demo; “infinity coda” and “boiling in the hourglass”. The one thing I find remarkable about Timeghoul is that they pulled off the whole “sci-fi themes” thing without overuse of synths, something I don’t think has really been done since.  “The siege” on the other hand, creates a morbid, forlorn atmosphere, more along the lines of a work of fantasy. The song describes the fall of a besieged garrison, slowly dying and eventually accepting death as the invaders come to murder them, (apparently)allegorical of a man going insane. Deep shit right there folks.

Timeghoul’s musical works still stand up today, showcasing a tasteful contrast to modern tech death bands, who, instead of attempting to create interesting and deep musical soundscapes, instead wish to play as technically and fast as they can, in order to showcase their fretwanking abilities. Interestingly this is what seems to happen to most progressive music scenes; they die once the spirit ,the groove and the feel of the music is removed by fretwankers. Thankfully due to the rise of the internet in the past decade, bands such as Timeghoul are seeing a resurgence in popularity, however we sadly wont be seeing any more material from Timeghoul, probably ever, according to their website. Some would say it’s a terrible shame that Timeghoul never made it, but I believe its good, many progressive death metal bands such as Atheist and Cynic were booed and generally disliked by fans when they toured, leading to their eventual demise’s in the mid 90’s, the same thing would most likely have happened to Timeghoul, I believe it is their legacy to remain an obscurity, something for people to find on a tip from someone on an obscure metal forum and be pleasantly surprised.

I’ll normally be supplying DL links on this blog, but not for this band, I have too much respect for Timeghoul to do that. Its not difficult to find the bands discog on mediafire or whatever.

Image

The artwork for the 1994 Panaramic twilight demo

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