KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

2014 columns, Music

Queering the Power: The Soft Pink Truth’s Why Do the Heathen Rage?

by Chad Parkhill , July 3, 20141 Comment

At first blush there’s not much to connect the worlds of dance music and black metal. Dance music is primarily rhythmic, communal and hedonistic in intent, and historically associated with black, latino, gay and trans cultures; black metal is primarily textural and atmospheric, individualist and cathartic in intent, and born from a subculture of white and straight Scandinavian males – violently white and straight Scandinavian males, several of whom have been convicted of hate crimes.

Much of the appeal of The Soft Pink Truth’s new album, Why Do the Heathen Rage?, therefore comes from the frisson generated by the juxtaposition of these two very distinct musical genres and scenes. As its subtitle, ‘Electronic Profanations of Black Metal Classics’, indicates, the album is a collection of key songs from the black metal corpus reinterpreted as some explicitly queer and techno-tinged house anthems. However, there’s more to Why Do the Heathen Rage? than the pleasure of hearing po-faced, corpse-painted black metal turned into a vehicle for very queer forms of musical pleasure.

First and foremost, Why Do the Heathen Rage? demonstrates that despite their superficial differences, dance music and black metal have a lot in common. Both are oppositional musics born out of resistance to oppression: dance music as we know it emerged in New York City discos where a racially diverse gay, lesbian, and trans community celebrated its existence in spite of the visceral animosity that the dominant culture showed towards it; black metal began as a means to critique a form of Christian modernity prevalent in Scandinavia, and, in so doing, negatively articulate a neo-pagan or satanic nationalist alternative.

More than that, though, they share similar musical features: a disdain for traditional verse/chorus song structures; a fondness for repetition and extended duration; and an interest in deploying vocals as a texture or instrument rather than as a song’s focus. Why Do the Heathen Rage? makes explicit these connections, and in so doing implicitly poses the question of what historical contingencies made the two musical scenes so different – indeed, almost antithetical.

The conceptual sophistication in bringing together these two musical forms isn’t surprising when you consider The Soft Pink Truth’s pedigree as the dance-oriented solo project of Matmos’ Drew Daniel. Daniel is a latter-day polymath – not only a member of one of Björk’s favourite bands, but also an assistant professor specialising in Shakespeare at Johns Hopkins University and the author of an excellent book about Throbbing Gristle’s 20 Jazz Funk Greats.

Importantly, he is also a gay man who has worked extensively in the field of dance music while also being an ardent black metal fan despite what he sees as its very dubious politics. Why Do the Heathen Rage? comes with an essay penned by Daniel entitled ‘Confessions of a Former Burzum T-shirt Wearer’, which goes some way towards articulating his unease at being a fan of black metal and in some sense complicit in its less savoury aspects. Daniel has also put theory to practice by dropping a cover of Burzum’s ‘Rundgang’ from the album’s tracklist in order to deny Varg Vikernes any royalties from the album (the cover has instead been released online for free with the subtitle ‘Fuck Varg’s Racist, Anti-Semitic Bullshit Politics Forever!’).

As you might hope, there are some incredible moments of cleverness in Why Do the Heathen Rage?: a snippet of audio from gay bareback porn has been spliced on top of the line ‘Riding hell’s stallions/bareback and free’ in Venom’s ‘Black Metal'; a guest vocal from Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner transforms Sarcófago’s ‘Ready to Fuck’ from an ode to heteronormative sex to a house anthem about a strap-on dildo; and there are any number of samples scattered throughout these covers that enter them into an intertextual dialogue with core songs from the house music canon (plus, erm, Snap!’s ‘I’ve Got the Power’).

It even concludes with a parodic inversion of an existing parody of black metal (Impaled Northern Moonforest, a jokey side-project from AxCx’s Seth Putnam), and its cover – a line drawing featuring black metal longhairs in an orgy of gay sex and butchery – is entirely consistent with its premise. If there’s one criticism to venture of Why Do the Heathen Rage?, it’s that its hand-in-glove fit between concept (capably articulated by Daniel himself in the liner notes) and execution leaves the listener very little interpretative room. Daniel has contructed an impressive metatextual edifice, but one tightly and rigorously controlled, where the only sense of play possible is in Daniel’s own queer profanations.

Chad Parkhill is a Melbourne-based writer and editor whose work has appeared in The Australian, Killings, The Lifted BrowMeanjin, and The Quietus, amongst others.

ACO logo




9781863957434

Kill Your Darlings

What We’re Reading: Readings staff share their June picks

Looking for a book recommendation? Staff from Readings bookshop share what they’ve been reading this month. Read more »

lisa-gorton_the-life-of-houses

James Tierney

A Novel of Longer Exhalations: Lisa Gorton’s The Life of Houses

It’s sometimes said that each book teaches you how to read it. That each way of telling a story needs to not only beguile anew but needs to tutor the reader in the ways to best attend its pages. Read more »

9781743316337

Danielle Binks

Finding Books for Young Readers: The Reading Children’s Book Prize

James Patterson once said, ‘There’s no such thing as a kid who hates reading. There are kids who love reading and kids who are reading the wrong books.’ So how do we get the right books into the hands of budding bibliophiles? Well, the Readings Children’s Book Prize Shortlist is a great place to start. Read more »

clouds-of-sila-maria-1

Rebecca Shaw

The curse of the ‘gal pals’

As a well-known humourless, angry, hairy arm-pitted, feminist lesbian, I encounter daily issues that I can place on a scale from things that mildly irritate me all the way to things that completely offend me. Read more »

2691149967_01b38304f3_b

Rebecca Shaw

Fuck Yeah: Swearing like a lady

I had been trying to pinpoint exactly why the HBO television show Veep brings me such joy. Yes, it is a very funny, very well-written show with a great cast, but that didn’t quite go far enough in explaining the immense enjoyment it gives me. The eureuka moment finally struck when I stumbled over a compilation video of the best insults from the show. Read more »

AnneEdmonds-300dpi-sml-860x450_c

Alexandra Neill

Curse of the Comedienne: When comedy comes before gender

At this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, I saw only shows by women. I did this for several reasons: to support great comedians, to force myself to see more shows I knew nothing about, and because I really like comedy by ladies. I also did it because I was curious. I love comedy, but increasingly have been bothered by the obvious gender disparity. Read more »

Zombies

Michelle Roger

It’s All Just Preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse

‘She’s just another Walking Dead hanger-on,’ I hear you say. Well, yes, I am partial to a bit of walker action. And yes, I may have entertained the odd erotic daydream about a crossbow carrying, scraggy-bearded redneck – but this is not where my zombie obsession began. Come gather around people. Hear my obsessive zombie-loving origin story. Read more »

tom-cruise-jack-reacher-premiere-postponed

Chris Somerville

A lit match in a box of wet dynamite: Tom Cruise is Jack Reacher

I first watched Jack Reacher a few years ago, in a spate of insomnia. The plot is a confused mess, both needlessly intricate and incredibly simple. I’m not going to go into it, mainly because I don’t actually know why the people in this movie do anything. Read more »

Partisan

Joanna Di Mattia

To experience the world with blinkers on: Ariel Kleiman’s Partisan

Partisan beautifully evokes that complex space between childhood and adulthood, when we start to question the worldview we have inherited – when we begin to see the world through our own eyes. It is both a coming-of-age story, and an innocence-coming-undone story. Read more »

Zombies

Michelle Roger

It’s All Just Preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse

‘She’s just another Walking Dead hanger-on,’ I hear you say. Well, yes, I am partial to a bit of walker action. And yes, I may have entertained the odd erotic daydream about a crossbow carrying, scraggy-bearded redneck – but this is not where my zombie obsession began. Come gather around people. Hear my obsessive zombie-loving origin story. Read more »

OITNB2

Anwen Crawford

Still in Prison: The limitations of Orange is the New Black

No, I haven’t binge-watched the entire new season of Orange Is The New Black in one sleepless, bleary-eyed frenzy. This season, the show’s third, doesn’t lend itself to that kind of viewing. The pace is slower, the cliff-hangers missing. Read more »

kim-kardashian-selfish-cover-main

Brodie Lancaster

We Are All Kardashians

For the past five years, I have loved and been obsessed with the Kardashians. Specifically, the E! reality series that made them famous. I often feel the need to intellectualise why I like these series and the people on them – you know, because I’m not a moron, and these are shows about morons, for morons. Read more »

ss_8df8236403f5aad45eeedd33d2bd545e45435b39.1920x1080

Katie Williams

The More Things Change: Choice and consequence in Life is Strange

You can either be a benevolent hero or a monster, but few games deal with the multitudes contained by actual people. And what does it matter, anyway? There’s no such thing as regret when it comes to in-game decision-making – not when you can so easily restart the game to see what outcome will result from choosing Option B instead. Read more »

svfw crop

Katie Williams

Silicon Valley Fashion Week?: Fashion, technology, and wearability

Last week saw the inaugural Silicon Valley Fashion Week? (yes, with a question mark) unfold in San Francisco. The show promised ‘drones, robots, and mad inventions’, and tickets sold out swiftly; attendees were clearly eager to see more inventive clothing in this heartland of nerds. Read more »

AnimalCrossing copy

Katie Williams

Digging For Meaning in Utopia: Storytelling in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing is a series of games in which – as my partner once remarked incredulously – ‘nothing ever happens.’ In its latest incarnation, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you become the unwitting mayor of a town populated by anthropomorphic, bipedal animals. Read more »

CrawlMeBlood_20150607_261_LoRes copy

Jane Howard

Adhocracy: Lifting the curtain on the creative process

Every June long weekend I wrap myself up in several extra layers and make my way to the Waterside Worker’s Hall in Port Adelaide for Adhocracy, Vitalstatistix’s annual hothouse that brings together artists from around the country for a weekend of creative development. Read more »

Orlando #2 - THE RABBLE

Jane Howard

This Is a Story of Artistic Excellence

This is a story of the first four plays I saw at Malthouse Theatre. It’s a story that can only continue as long as support for independent artists continues; it’s a story that can only keep growing as long as support for independent artists grows. It’s a story of where artistic excellence comes from, and how we get to see it on our main stages. Read more »

AnneEdmonds-300dpi-sml-860x450_c

Alexandra Neill

Curse of the Comedienne: When comedy comes before gender

At this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, I saw only shows by women. I did this for several reasons: to support great comedians, to force myself to see more shows I knew nothing about, and because I really like comedy by ladies. I also did it because I was curious. I love comedy, but increasingly have been bothered by the obvious gender disparity. Read more »