1. penalfire says

    The last decent records I heard were Meshuggah’s Koloss and Machine Head’s
    Unto the Locust. Darkness Within deserves special mention. Great long
    build-up of tension. Swarm and the Demon’s Name are Surveillance are
    relentlessly brutal.

    The last genuinely great records were Meshuggah’s obZen and Fear Factory’s
    Mechanize. I can listen to Mechanize (song) in an endless loop for days,
    although Gene Hoglan has really pared down his drumming from the days of

    Otherwise metal is dead. Last indispensable record was A Sceptic’s Universe
    [sic] from 2001. About the only good thing to result from Ayn Rand is the
    song The Fountainhead.

    . . .

    I have a small reproduction of a Zurbarán painting on my desk:

  2. ponta says

    I crossed my eyes real hard, but I couldn’t see anything! Worst 3-D image ever!

  3. says

    Stoked to see a metal discussion.

    Agreed on Meshuggah and Fear Factory.

    I think the newer things that I love are on the edges of metal, in some ways: progressive or post or whatever…

    Ihsahn continues to release astonishing albums: if you’re not listening to him, you’re missing out.

    The Faceless are releasing amazing, complex stuff.

  4. says

    In terms of visual arts, I was wondering about the role of technique: is it possible to create great art without a very high level of hardwon skill and technique. I suspect many schools focus on ‘expressing emotions’ to the expense of requiring students to develop real skills. I already realise that sounds curmudgeonly, but I hope the question is more interesting and less obvious than simple binaries.

  5. penalfire says

    The extremes are the only places where metal is doing anything interesting;
    but unfortunately the newer bands have no grounding in the classics and
    have no idea how to write songs. Mustaine wrote highly technical songs with
    constant riff changes; but the riffs were strung together logically. These
    newer bands need to first study Sabbath / Priest / Maiden, then Megadeth /
    Metallica / Slayer, then they can move onto Death and Carcass. They seem to
    think good song writing is packing in as many different riffs as possible.
    That’s only part of it.

    Metal craftsmanship started to decline in the 90s, starting most obviously
    with Death (Chuck could write great riffs, but they were often
    non-sequitur). Now the best of the technical bands are 20-30 years old.
    Meshuggah / Fear Factory can write songs with all their wild experiments.

    I had never heard of The Faceless; I listened (randomly) to Faceless

    This is rather arbitrarily put together. Some of the individual riffs are
    interesting, and of course the musicianship is excellent, but it all sounds
    built upon an unformatted riff tape.

    This is what the metal scene has become. Completely splintered with no
    leadership. There are endless indistinguishable bands like The Faceless.

    A similar band, but one that makes an attempt at coherence, is Arsis. Lots
    of quality neoclassical riffs, sometimes put together coherently. We Are
    Nightmare was good for a few listens.

    Ihsahn’s best work was Prometheus. Everything came together on there. He
    somehow blended Baroque counterpoint with blast beats, with techno, with
    death metal groove riffs. That record kind of came out of nowhere, and for
    a long time I regarded it as highly as A Sceptic’s Universe. A real example
    of what technical music could accomplish if composed properly.

    In the technical death metal scene I did like Martyr for a while. Warp Zone
    has a great opening riff. But again, everything is a bit too randomly

    Probably the newest band that I like is Gojira. Some of the riffs in
    Vacuity are as first-rate as anything in Metallica / Megadeth / Slayer.

  6. says

    Ihakhtsara @ 9:

    well, I recently made this hat for a uni assessment.

    Very cute! I can’t get away with wearing a cloche, but I love the style.

  7. says

    Thanks, Caine, but I think we’re probably mostly-done with the discussion, and it wouldn’t make sense to copy and paste what’s here to there. With your indulgence we might just wrap it up here.

    (Side note: so far no-one has taken up my question on ‘technique’ in visual arts… maybe it’s just a tedious or over-worked discussion, but I’d be intrigued.)

    I think the things Ihsahn has done on Das Seelenbrechen and the new one Arktis are highly composed as songs. The elements are diverse but they combine to create a particular vision.

    It seems as though you have a particular sense of what constitutes a coherent composition. I can understand that, and of course it’s both a taste and a technical discussion, but it always worries me a bit when someone says “All the good art was made in the past”. It seems like a form of myopia. Most often it’s a combination of the impact things made on us when we were new to a genre and played one album a million times, plus the filter of time, that keeps the good and discards the bad. There are a million extreme bands around now, and maybe a handful of them will endure… but we’ll assume the ‘teens’ of this century made great music because we listen to those few outstanding examples and forget the rest.

  8. says

    (sorry, the ‘teens’ being 2011-2019, not teenage artists: there are some amazing young players, but most of the people discussed here are almost as ancient as I am)

  9. Brother Ogvorbis, Fully Defenestrated Emperor of Steam, Fire and Absurdity says

    Caine @13:

    There is a music thread here:

    Which has apparently timed out.

    Which is why I am posting this here as music is as close to art as I get (not that I am all that talented (I’m not) but it is creative expression).

    Because I have many songs which sound better on banjo than guitar, I finally bought a (used) six-string banjo (or ‘banjuitar’) for my folk singing.

    Back to lurking.


  10. chigau (違う) says

    Are fonts an art-form?
    well, of course
    Are some better than others?
    well, of course
    Is this new one at Pharyngula total shite?
    well, of course


  11. blf says

    First look at the Smithsonian’s museum of African American history — in pictures: “The Guardian was invited for an early viewing of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is scheduled to open in late September. The expansive 400,000 square foot exhibition space is still awaiting many of its exhibits, but with its larger artifacts already in place, it is a building already able to tell its story”.

    Inside the new Smithsonian: a vivid exploration of African American history:

    Much-anticipated museum, due to open in September, is a stunning tour of black history and culture that guides visitors from Africa to the White House

    Ninety feet belowground in Washington DC, less than two miles from the White House and the Lincoln Memorial, stand a segregated rail car, a slave cabin and a Louisiana prison guard tower. These restored and reassembled relics of slavery and segregation in the US, testimony to the march to freedom of black Americans, now form part of one of the country’s most keenly anticipated museums in recent history.

    “This story of African American culture is infused throughout the planet, all over the globe. To have it memorialized here in a living way — not just about the history — but looking forward to the future is really something special,” said Phil Freelon, one of the architects who designed the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is scheduled to open in late September at a cost of over half a billion dollars.


    Though it carves a broad three-storey relief into the national mall, most of the museum’s real estate is below ground level. The front lawn is, in fact, an eco-friendly “green roof” for the space that sits below, and a giant circular skylight juts up from the grounds to help illuminate the underground portions.

    The structure is modeled on a traditional wooden column design borrowed from the Yoruba people, in present day Nigeria, said lead architect David Adjaye. Wrapped around the glass is an intricate bronze lattice intended to evoke the ornate ironwork of 19th-century enslaved black metalworkers in places such as New Orleans and Charleston. Adjaye called the pattern “a 21st-century interpretation of this history of these craftsmen who have been invisible”.

    Museum staff stress that a major focus is to bring a new dimension to a history that has often depicted enslaved Africans as interchangeable brute laborers, rather than the skilled craftspeople, agriculturalists and artisans many were.

    When the museum opens its doors to the public, visitors will be taken first to the bottom level, one of thee underground concourses. “As you go down the elevator, we literally have markers on the wall that show the transition over time as you go down from current day to 15th-century Africa,” said Mary Elliot, one of the curators.

    The music in the elevator will match this journey, rewinding from contemporary to ancient African rhythms. The first exhibits here highlight the diversity of cultures among different sites on the continent where enslaved Africans were shipped from.

    Then comes the slave trade. […]

    As visitors continue on they will move through the American civil war and Reconstruction, and on to exhibits from the early part of the 20th century. Hanging from the ceiling, restored in shiny army navy and gold, rests an aircraft of the Tuskegee airmen, the highly decorated second world war black pilots that fought against the Nazis for a country that would not let them train and fly together with their white counterparts.


    As visitors move through exhibits, working their way up the museum’s six levels, they will eventually pass through the historical collections and into the cultural galleries, divided up into film, sports, stage, and the visual arts.


    Section curator Dwan Reece said the intention was to tell the story of African American music “not from the point of view of looking at it as a hall of fame but as a story of artistic expression, self-actualization, social protest and community building”.

    At the end of the cultural galleries, visitors are faced with a panoramic view of the national mall including the Washington Monument grounds, the White House and Arlington national cemetery. Adjaye call this a critical moment “where you can maybe look at America in a different way{…} and maybe you’ve learned something through this experience”.

  12. Rob Grigjanis says

    W.H. Auden

    Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
    Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
    Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
    Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

    Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
    Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
    Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
    Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

    He was my North, my South, my East and West,
    My working week and my Sunday rest,
    My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
    I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

    The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
    Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
    Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
    For nothing now can ever come to any good.

  13. Rob Grigjanis says

    chigau: Yeah, I’m fine, thanks. The events of Sunday morning made me think of that poem.

  14. Gregory Greenwood says

    I just found a trailer from comicon for the forthcoming DC Wonder Woman movie slated for 2017. While the perennial scourge of boob armour is annoyingly very much in evidence, overall it looks like it will be fun, and Gal Gadot’s interpretation of the character was still one of the high points of the at times rather ropy Batman Versus Superman film during her brief appearances on screen, so a full movie revolving around that character has plenty of potential.

    That, and I can already hear the distant susurration of outraged MRAs and their bruised fee-fees – you just know a movie like this is going to drive them absolutely up the wall (irate demands for a boycott are inevitable at this point), which is reason enough to go and see the movie in and of itself.