Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Let There Be Therion

Nikolai Saunders (2014) Arbor de Magistro. Fall of Man, 205 p.

It is by the drinking of the blood of Chaos or Tiamat, that the magician affirms the connection with the spirit they evoke. This congress is also known as ligatio. In this system ligatio consists of a blood pact made with the spirit in the form of the blood of Chaos. This blood unites the magician and spirit and makes use of the sinister formula of the Chaos Therion current. It is from the blood of the Mother that we draw a synergistic vortex of energy with the spirit and the forces of the aethyr invoked.
According to the background information provided by the publisher Arbor de Magistro, which is the first booklenght venture of its author, Nikolai Saunders, is built upon over a decade of practical magickal work. It is not, however, a theoretical representation or unification of that decade-long empirical research, but a grimoire in the true sense of the word. A handbook for those willing and able to follow its teachings to the complex chaos of spirits and aethyrs.

The basic caveat of Arbor de Magistro is that it is not a book for the beginners. There are a general commentary and introduction sections, which counts a total of 22 pages, but these two do not teach the basics of magickal practice. In fact, a bar has been raised considerably higher for someone deliberating a dive into this therionic stream; a potential candidate should be proficient in the basics of magickal work, but he/she should also have amassed a notable amount of experience in Enochian and Solomonic magick. Thus, someone just about to dip his/her toe into the world of spirits and aethyrs for the very first time should probably pick up some speed from the likes of Lon Milo DuQuette and Thomas Karlsson, and leave Arbor de Magistro for the future attainment.

Like already indicated, the flesh and bones of the book is a collection of workings, which are based on a fusion of Enochian and Solomonic magick. These two strands of magick combined together form a rather vast vistas for someone about to follow them to the fruition; all in all there are around 5000 different combinations of spirits and aethyrs.

True to the traditions involved, the author has laid out the workings in Enochian and Latin, which are accompanied with English translations. This means, naturally, that the actual reading material is quite sparse. Then again, grimoires are hardly sought and bought for a reading pleasure, right? The given workings are supplemented with photocopied sigils lifted, or so I suppose, from the author's magickal journal. These blesses the whole work with an air of authenticity. There are also a couple of  pencil drawings by an artist named Leonor V. Doria.

In sum, I would say that Nikolai Saunder's first booklenght offering is probably a gem for those who are in the position needed to dive into its complex and multifaceted world. It is also a fine yardstick for those still struggling towards the more elevated line of magickal practice; to be there somewhere, as a darkly shining diamond, to remind about the further goals.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Sidereal Journey

Holmes, Leo (2013) LeMULgeton - Goetia and the Stellar Tradition. Fall of Man, 105 p.

Humanity had once walked with the gods, learned many sciences from them, developed civilization and then was left alone to commit atrocities and terrible mistakes, like children without a supervising adult.

Leo Holmes' LeMULgeton - Goetia and the Stellar Tradition is the first installment in the Nox Sine Occasu series published by Fall of Man;  a series dedicated to works which are short of a book lenght, but still too long to be published in a magazine or journal.

Personally, I have cherished the basic idea of Nox Sine Occasu since the very beginning. By limiting the page count up to hundred or so, there's enough space and words available for writers to scale both heights and depths of their subject matter in an essayistic way, but there's also enough strain to force the study to a focused and dynamic form. LeMULgeton by Leo Holmes is a fine example of this.

According to the information offered on Fall of Man's website, the author of the present work, Leo Holmes, "has been studying and practicing magic for over fifteen years." It's rather easy to take their word for this, as there is, clearly, a solid and well-researched basis to this work. It's also worth to mention that the author has not limited his study to just readily available occult sources, but has, in fact, done quite a lot research beyond the occult confines, e.g. the works of controversial author and theorist Zecharia Sitchin.

Even though LeMULgeton is very heavy on theory and, conversely, very light on practice, it's not an academic study on Goetia and its relation to Stellar Tradition - or, more precisely, on Lemegeton and its relation to Mul.Apin. There is a rather extensive listing of source materials at the end of the book (pp. 103-105), but those are presented as Further Reading; in the actual text sources are quoted in a loose, non-academic manner. There are same exact source references, but most of the time those are evaded and only authors and their works are mentioned. That's hardly a major problem when considering the nature of the work at hand, but, nevertheless, exact source references have their undisputed virtues, which should be taken into account, e.g. saying that Kenneth Grant has written something about the mysterious LAM in his Typhonian Trilogies is information, alright, but it's not very practical information, whereas the exact source reference would give an interested student a shortcut to actual resources.

As for the actual aim of the work at hand - that is, linking 72 Goetic demons to Sumerian astronomy - well, Holmes builds up a very meticulous study, to say the very least. He admits that it isn't possible to establish a logical order in which those two can be related (p. 28), and goes on from there to gather all the circumstantatial evidence to construct his case, e.g. similarities in the names of Goetics and constellations. Accordingly, there's a wealth of valuable details to be mined here for someone with an interest of going deep in his personal studies.

Even though it is rather easy to recognize the fact that there is a solid research behind this work, it is just as easy to pinpoint those passages where the author has gone from where the fence is the lowest. A prime example of this being the seventh chapter: Crowley, Grant, Lovecraft and Others (pp. 72-83). To me, personally, this could have been one of the most interesting chapters in the whole book, but then Holmes gets his "quote mode" on and cites H. P. Lovecraft's short story Polaris in its entirety, after which he cites a long passage from The Call of Cthulhu. And that's not the end of all quoting - he sums it all up with a quote from Anton LaVey! The thing is, direct quotations have their well-grounded uses, but to build almost a whole chapter on nothing but quotes goes far beyond those justified uses and makes a rather lame impression.

The criticism notwithstanding, LeMULgeton - Goetia and the Stellar Tradition is nevertheless an intriguing and valuable contribution to its subject matter, and will be a fine acquisition for those interested in expanding their knowledge on what has been termed The Grimoire Tradition. It is, as already stated, very light on practice, but there's enough cues for the intrepid and intelligent to build up his own praxis. There are some imperfections both in the text and in the layout, but nothing amounting to a major problem. Basically, they are errors which could have been evened out by an extra round of proofreading, and thus nothing to worry too much about.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Rest in the Arms of the Dragon

Karlsson, Thomas (2014) Amongst Mystics and Magicians in Stockholm. Belzebez. 140 p.

It is in the nature and the periphery that the divine is most evident. That which is called supernatural is really only that which is currently unknown or unusual. When nature was the everyday environment, man came into contact with the divine through temples and other buildings, but now when most people live in cities and buildings are what they mostly see, then nature is the place where we can find the supernatural. 

Thomas Karlsson's latest literary work, Amongst Mystics and Magicians in Stockholm, is focused on initiatory experiences he and his fellow travellers went through during the first years of Dragon Rouge. He himself describes it as a 'reading mystery', which should act as a key to the other side of reality. Thus the dedication to Lilith - she being the gate to the unknown in the initiatory scheme of Dragon Rouge.

It's rather easy to agree with the author on his perception; Amongst Mystics isn't a matter-of-fact, bloodless and dry academic presentation on Dragon Rouge, but more like a travelogue with a sinister and paranormal twist. Karlsson's academic background and his obviously wide erudition shines through, but in Amongst Mystics he's not writing as doctor Karlsson - he's more like a traveller of unknown plains telling his wild and astounding stories by the campfire.

The story told in Amongst Mystics is full of intrigue, interesting characters and paranormal happenings. It doesn't mention Indiana Jones - or Michael A. Aquino - but the connection seems to be there. Especially through one of the most colorful characters - Varg;

At the same time he [Varg] was grounded, street smart, and completely disrespecful to all powers, both earthly and otherworldly. He happily provided old gods and demons with playful nicknames. After having invoked the demon Beelzebub with grave seriousness, in a dark room only lit by black candles, and filled with heavy incense, he could suddenly round off the ritual by announcing that Bubbe, meaning Beelzebub, thought that we should go and have a beer at pizzeria. (p. 19)

Varg's outré approach to the questions of an occult nature notwithstanding, he obviously had been quite well-connected to the American occult underground and had, even, met Anton LaVey himself (p. 21). But, even though LaVey and his Church of Satan is brought out in a just mildly critical light, Varg's as well as his fellow mystics' interests seem to steer much more towards Aquino's Temple of Set, which comes out in a much more positive light (p. 21, 37-38, 100-101). This have been said, it would have been interesting to read how far the connection between Dragon Rouge and Temple of Set actually goes - just some old ties and shared mytho-philosophical interests, or something more? But, Amongst Mystics is the first part of the trilogy, so maybe those new additions will shed some light also on this question.

Even though Karlsson's latest literary output is spread all over the esoteric map - e.g. Kabbalah, Goetia, ghosts, hauntings, you name it - there seems to be a stout philosophical foundation to support all those diverse pursuits. That is, a strong opposition to nihilistic tendencies of the age, which used to be bonded together under the term 'Generation X';

The newspapers had by this time begun to write about Generation X, "the ironic generation", who dismisses life as joke and leads the life of a slacker, without goals or direction. We did not recognise ourselves in that description. We took up a contrary position by outright opposing everything that had to do with "the ironic generation". We took movies like Excalibur dead serious, and loved its bombastic dramaturgy accompanied by the most bombastic musical pieces by Richard Wagner and Carl Orff. We felt that there was a higher mission for those who had the ability to see it, and at one point we even appointed ourselves to be "the non-ironic generation". (p. 58)

In this day and age an outright opposition to symptoms of the twilight West has a proclivity to turn into an unquestioned 'traditionalism', which usually translates into all sorts of wishful thinking about possibilities provided by the Catholic Church and other such moribund clutches. In most cases such a 'traditionalism' - with its dogmatic adherence to a dying faith - becomes just another mask for the general weariness of today's world. Representatives of the non-ironic generation focused in and around Dragon Rouge, on the other hand, seem to have been able to avoid the trap of 'traditionalism';

We were highly critical of religious dogmaticism and fanaticism, but we were convinced that nihilism, ironic cynicism and lack of commitment that characterised so much of our generation left the door open to all manner of fundamentalism. (p. 58-59) 

So far so good, but, still, one endowed with a sceptical mindset might ask a question or two about how far these good intentions of Karlsson and his fellow draconians have, actually, carried them? To elaborate, in recent years there have been a couple of rather notorious suicide cases, which have had quite a striking resemblance to the magical interests of Dragon Rouge. I am well aware of the fact that those suicides didn't happen under the banner of Dragon Rouge - but under the banner of another Swedish secret society - but, still, it makes one wonder; does Sitra Ahra provide a positive and evolutionary opening - or is it just a shortcut to nothingness?   

Finally, a word about the print product itself. Amongst Mystics is a cute little paperback with very minimal, yet very appealing visuals. I suppose - and hope - that the following publications by Belzebez will follow the same line. For being such a small book (140 pages) it is rather pricey, though; £34.00. Then again, that's quite an understandable price for a book published by a small publishing house. In any case, I would strongly recommend Belzebez to pay more attention to proofreading of their publications - a round or two of intensive proofreading would have done wonders for Amongst Mystics.

Amongst Mystics and Magicians in Stockholm is still available from Midian Books, so if you are at least slightly interested about Dragon Rouge - or about inner workings of a secret society in general - you should probably acquire a copy. It makes an entertaining and intriguing read - it is, to wit, a reading mystery.

Dragon Rouge: here.
Belzebez: here.
Midian Books: here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Transition Towards Silence

Kriegsmaschine (2014) Enemy of Man. No Solace. 46 min.

How would you measure ruin?
How would you assess fall?
How would you separate sins when all bear the same mark?
When I was advised to give a listen to a band called Kriegsmaschine hailing from Poland there was a certain edge to be overcome, a nagging devil in my head saying 'Dont' waste your time, you'll be just disappointed.' But, still, I decided to oppose the devil and acquired a copy of Enemy of Man.

There's no denying that the devil was playing with a winning hand. Polish black metal have always have a sinister charm of its own, but there's also been a certain shortage of fine Polish black metal since... well, since the 1994 e.h. The glorious year after which a Hitlerian-Lovecraftian apocalypticism was put on the shelf and replaced with a much more family-friendly approach. There was a distinct demand for that, then, if that actually amounted to anything. It didn't, if you ask me. Well, that's not the whole truth, of course, and there's some rather heavy counter-arguments, e.g. Cultes Des Ghoules and MGLA. The last mentioned sharing members with Kriegsmaschine.

That should do for an introduction. Hence, let's bow our heads and follow penitently that faint gleam of bottomless perdition - to ashen havens and to beyond.

Mein Gott, mein Gott, warum hast du mich verlassen? ich heule; aber meine Hilfe ist ferne. Thus opens a slow and anguished descent towards the hell made of pathological and pointless repetition and horrors that lies therein. This hell - our world - in which a genuine metaphysical horizon doesn't exist no more and have been replaced by gross materialism and its even sillier counterpart, that is primitive superstition, doesn't allow for a positive rebellion. It's only the simple-minded and stupid who still entertain illusions of change. Most of them are, of course, nothing but paper tigers living their fantasy lives on the pages of some shitty 'zine. For the rest, for those who are still standing on their feet, such illusions doesn't exist. There's only anguish - and a dire sense of abandonment.

In the Enemy of Man a sense of abandonment seems to haunt every intricate riff, every deliberate rhythm, every harrowing word. It's just there, like a shadow of death which robs even the last bit of joy from life. This sense of abandonment also ties the album to an integrated whole.

As I have already hinted, Enemy of Man is first and foremost an integrated whole. It doesn't have much highlights. Nor does it have any lowlights. But, still, it has a quality of persuasiveness which draws you in and which keeps you in. The music flows forth naturally and with ease, even though this is not 'easy music' in any sense of the term. There's no hurry - and there's no blast beats - which allow compositions to flower into massive sound monuments. Perhaps needless to say, but Enemy of Man is best enjoyed with headphones during twilight hours.

Thus, it seems that the poor ol' devil lost this round. But worry not, he'll get his revenge sooner or later. Should you have your own personal devil in your head, just forget him and his omniscient criticisms. He doesn't know everything - and about modern-day Polish black metal he probably knows nothing at all.

Kriegsmaschine's Facebook page: here.
Kriegsmaschine on Encyclopedia Metallum: here.
No Solace website: here.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

O Easter the Most Peculiar Time

Jumalhämärä (2014) Songless Shores. Ahdistuksen Aihio Productions. 18 min.

Sleep peacefully, brothers
It's warm and cozy
Be at rest, be the offering
Remember to flog your children properly

Bells chime hollow - You are invited! - to be accompanied with voices from afar. An erratic and tribal metal sets in. A feverish nightmare pounding my already fragile psyche. A chthonic voice crawls forth from underneath the cold and moist Finnish soil, and those pale, shadowy figures... covered in blood, smiling. Welcome my sacred brethren of 1931.

Acoustic and electric guitars coil and interwine together like those twin serpents of life and death - red and black, of course - and lead the way to a foggy realm made of ambient hum and chanting choir. Everything seems to be out of place in this realm, and yet a crooked smile still lingers on my face.

Slowly, little by little the chanting choir is drown under a barrage of noise and clutter coming from an unknown source. The rusty dagger - a family treasure of sorts - in my hand comes to life. Pulsating, enticing. The bread and wine of nightmares is laid upon a cold stone, and those howls... Verily, O verily I know what is to be done.

A strange clacking rhythm draws me out of a momentary fall to an inner blackness. In a short while the choir returns, their voices rise towards a starlit sky which is barely visible from these timbered chambers. Such a beauty, such a numinosity! Warm tears run down my blood-stained face... O Easter the most peculiar time!

Coming clean about it, I just cannot write a 'normal album reviews' on Jumalhämärä's releases, and that's a distinct winning point for them if you ask me. Why? Well, basically I differentiate good musick from bad musick by the following maxim; Good musick translates into a graphic and vivid story in my head, while bad musick just doesn't do that. Call me hidebound, naive and simpleton, but I just couldn't give a flying fuck about writing reviews which focus on 'blast beats', 'production values' or 'scene merits'.

Then again, there's most certainly more to the Songless Shores than just being a catalyst for one man's storytelling exercise.

While most of the contemporary black metal allows itself to be used as a vehicle for the 'second religiosity' - usually in a fully unsconscious manner - by accepting an universal and multiculturalist paradigm of the twilight civilization, Jumalhämärä seems to steer in the opposite direction by choosing particular over universal and cultural over cultureless. This provides them an opportunity to dig deep into the soul of Finnish man, which lies dormant under a foreign morass. This - a distinct Finnishness, that is - is a major factor in the Songless Shores, just as it was in their anterior opus Resitaali (2013). Genetically coded black metal, anyone? Well, at least my genetic programming responded in the affirmative.

The previous version of this review - lost once and for all thanks to Google fuckup - had some name-dropping used as a way to provide pointers for those who might be interested in the Songless Shores. Here they are again; Yrjö von Grönhagen, Clandestine Blaze, Hildegard von Bingen and Throbbing Gristle. Use your imagination to figure out how they connect - or if they, actually, connect at all.

Jumalhämärä on Encyclopedia Metallum: here.
Their respective record label: here.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Monumental Journey

Ordinance (2014) Relinquishment. Ahdistuksen Aihio Productions. 65 min. 

Praying for the days to end
The ages to lay to rest
A journey monumental in
Tears, burden and pain
The heavens to collide
And the earth to form its grave
Epochs of glory
Aeons of might
Detrimented by time
- Peregrination unto the Inevitable

Through years and miles innumerable. Once you push 'play', it is rather easy task to recognize the fact that these Finnish full-lenght debutants most likely didn't stumble upon black metal just yesterday; the sense of acquired-through-practice mastery simply oozes forth, distinctly and convincingly. Accordingly, it is not so surprising that Relinquishment goes far beyond your average black metal debut, in terms of both content and style. 

Vague figures, contourless shapes. The grand dance of malignant shadows is initiated with a sombre and ominous Relinquished, which is followed by a more truculent track, The Shadowcast. Thereafter the dynamic interplay of forces beyond the ordered universe goes on until the whole affair is wrapped up by feeding the putrid remains to god - and offering the soul to Satan. Hence, the circle is completed. 

There are Mysteriis here - of Satan and other sinister beings - and I am pretty sure that these fellows have skulked, every now and then at least, in the Forests of Witchery. There might even be a gentle tint of good ol' Sweden here. You know, before the current superstitious craze with ghosts and other such hoi polloi nonsense Swedes were pretty fucking badass - they were decorating trees with dead nazarenes while singing hymns to their blood-loving gods of the old. Well, not much allegiance to those times exists in the world of today. Sadly. 

To drag this down to a more earthly level, what I find very appealing in this debut offering of Ordinance is the distinctly nineties feeling all over the whole work; the songcraft, the melodies, the acoustic guitars, the general atmosphere, and so on. Even though Relinquishment is very melodic album when compared to those of the 'regression is progression' commandos, the general atmosphere always stays in the dark and ominous side.

Motley shapes of pallid grey. There are mysteries here, but there are flaws also. In fact, there are two major ones. 

First of all, the sound policy most certainly does not do justice to a fine songcraft of Ordinance. They would have needed more firepower, more edge, and more punch. With these homespun, organic sounds they are like a mighty thousand-headed army equipped with nothing but a stack of wooden swords. They may cause their enemies a respectable amount of bruises, but most likely they are not going make it to victory. 

Secondly, the vocals have a distinct lack of power and ferocity. While Relinquishment was spinning in my player, one thought rose over and over again into my mind - Spit it out! See, they have lots of good vocal arrangements and they even have experimented with vocals in a rather intriguing way - including an Attilaesque touch in Ascending unto the Unknown - but most of the time vocals come out as pretty lukewarm and half-hearted. Perhaps that is the way they wanted to have it - a disconsolate message should be delivered with the right tone? - but personally I would opt for a more savage approach.       

Surefootedly I lift up to step forth ahead. Well, let's hope that they will, actually, live up to their own words. In any event, Relinquishment is a fine offering for discriminating connoisseurs of ominous sounds and somber vistas.

Ordinance at Encyclopedia Metallum: here.    
Ahdistuksen Aihio Productions: here.