Sunday, October 4, 2009

Electric Wizard - "Funeralopolis" from the CD Dopethrone


Electric Wizard Dopethrone CD cover
Bloom County's very own OpusAs our flightless friend next door so insistently reminds us, it can be a difficult thing to try and control the connections that our brains make as we digest the various media that come our way.

Our crania at the mid- and lower levels are always trying to fashion these connections, whether we notice it or not; it's sort of a survival mechanism, I guess. But I don't believe the brain features an apparatus for testing the validity of these connections: it just keeps constructing them, and the strong survive while the weak will die.

And in the meantime, at the upper levels of your consciousness, well, you're just gonna have to deal with the half-naked exploding porpoises, or that annoying Fishheads song, as they cavort gleefully and annoyingly through your head.

Or even with the dilution of Electric Wizard--whom you would have thought presented enough of a sensory onslaught to drill a singular hollow of their own into the brain's flexible rubber sheet, without having to borrow power from any other media-memory-- and the way their subsonic doom metal becomes intertwined tightly and quite against my will with a science fiction story certainly as mind-blowing, and just as frightening, as their own uncompromising work, but otherwise not really related at all.

"Funeralopolis" is just the sort of extreme music I'm drawn to. It (and the rest of Electric Wizard's work, apparently) is sort of an experiment to see what happens when you focus on one component of the music (in this case sheer, soulcrushing heaviness) to the exclusion of all else.

Interesting, and admirable, by its ownself. This song works best at a level of volume most accurately described by its sound pressure. So why is it impossible for me to consider the song except in light of this science fiction story I first read three years ago?

It's weird.

The story is Alastair Reynolds' "Beyond the Aquila Rift," and though the strong connections my brain has instinctively made between it and "Funeralopolis" have as their foundation only a coincidence of similar setting, they have been reinforced through a much more primal reponse.

The accident of common setting--what my mind had originally seized on before reinforcing the connections on a deeper level--lies in that both the Electric Wizard tune and the Reynolds' novelette are set on an asteroid.

OK, so it goees on to talk about corporate maggots and nuclear warheads ready to strike, stuff that the Reynolds story has nothing to do with, but the first line of "Funeralopolis" goes like this:

Funeral planet, dead black asteroid
where Reynolds tells us (at least at first) that his story is set on a station that is
just a warren of tunnels and centrifuges dug into a pitch-black D-type asteroid, about half a light-year from the nearest star.
Pitch black, goddamn right. Just like the tarrish nature of Electric Wizard's music, just like the burrows Reynolds later reveals, and the shapeless forms which crawl through them.

The truest connection between these two pieces that in some ways couldn't be more dissimilar is based on fear, man.

Both the A-list Doom Metal of "Funeralopolis" and Reynolds' story (which made Dozois' Year's Best compilation) are fucking designed to scare.

I'm not sure whether the science backs me up on this or not, but I think that the slow and the downtuned as required by the Doom Metal freaks is inherently frightening. Even if Ozzy had been singing about seven swans a-swimming on "Into The Void," it would have still been scary. It's physiological, the way that infrasonics and subsonics act on the body and the brain, raising the blood pressure, increasing unease.

Then add in the morbid lyrics, and the way Jus Oborn's howled vocals are distorted into something just this side of inhuman. Yeah, "Funeralopolis" is scary.

And "Beyond the Aquila Rift" may be the scariest science fiction story I've ever read. Talk about someone meeting their Doom: Reynold's universe is a little too rational to do that Doom metal staple, the Judeo-Christian moralist judgement thing, at least not overtly.

But his narrator has committed the sin of deceit, and then he commits a sin of a much more serious nature right in front of us. Can the enforced solitude he ends up facing--a solitude which makes the one faced by Michael Collins look like a Saturday afternoon at Michigan Stadium--really be considered in any light other than that cast by an almost-Biblical sense of punishment through exile?

And what's scarier than a punishment deserved?

So, then. Asteroid? Check. Blackness of texture, check. Scary? Check.

It's not a lot, not really. But apparently the correspondences are just enough to tie these two works together in my brain, and probably permanently, too, now that I've written this.

Both Reynolds--perhaps the greatest writer at short lengths in modern scifi--and Electric Wizard--perhaps the heaviest band who've ever existed--do the Weird Tales thing quite well, thank you. But the weirdest thing of all is the unit perched inside our skulls, processing it all.

Electric Wizard - Dopethrone - 2 - Funeralopolis.mp3

192 kbps mp3, up for six weeks (or more) (Right click and save as target)

Alastair Reynolds - Beyond the Aquila Rift.html

File both under: A sense of dread

2 comments:

tad said...

Rastro: My Ghod. Welcome back! I don't know Electric Wizard, but I've read the Reynolds story, great stuff -- & if U want more scary/desolate SF U might try James Tiptree Jr.'s "A Momentary Taste of Being." I think it's about the darkest, most hopeless thing I've ever read. & it's brilliant, of course.
... & what's up with that vacation U took...? -- TAD.

tad said...

Rastro: 4got 2 mention previously that Reynolds' "Beyond the Aquila Rift" reminded me, oddly enuf, of a Caribbean cruise I 1nce went on a lifetime ago -- just the atmosphere aboard the space station, & especially that room where R hero sits discussing his current situation. There R big rooms & cafes on cruise ships that (at nite) give that same feeling of floating in deep space. Strange but true. Wonder if revealing this info will cause a plunge in Royal Caribbean or Carnival cruise-line stock? "Don't waste yr $$$, stay home & read Alastair Reynolds -- it's almost like Bing there...!" -- TAD.