The Metal Noise: Stalaggh’s Projekt Misanthropia – at what point does music not become music?
“Aaaaarrrggghhghghhh” – Projekt Misanthropia
Now I am not going to lie to any of you, I cannot really say I am all that big on Black Metal. At this time I can probably only name you some of the big hitters, Mayhem, Dimmu Borgir, Emperor, Immortal, Gorgoroth, Enslaved, Cradle of Filth (controversial I know to mention them in the same breath), Burzum, and Darkthrone. The only Black Metal album (ignoring Behemoth, but absolutely listen to The Satanist) in my Metal Library is the classic (synchronized eye-rolling for some of you) De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas. And probably the only track I know that springs to mind is “Freezing Moon“.
The most recent piece of Black Metal news that I enjoyed was Fenriz (a multi-instrumentalist and mastermind behind Darkthrone) accidentally elected to his local Town Council a few years ago. When he realized that he might win he set up a campaign poster with a picture of him holding his cat saying, “don’t vote for me”. The only other one would be more recently when Finland’s Azazel opened at Steelfest Open Air and were completely wasted.
For the uninitiated, Black Metal has a mixture of mid-tempo drums and blast beats, toe-curling high-end screaming and down-tuned, distorted guitars with high use of tremolo picking. The highlights include Satanism, Lord of the Rings references, posing in forests, keeping it “Kvlt” and painting your face to look like KISS (only teasing Black Metal fans). A lot of their musical inspiration comes from earlier bands such as Venom, Hellhammer and Celtic Frost. The corpse paint was largely used initially by dead the original singer of Mayhem. Controversy has pretty much followed Black Metal from its very inception up until now. I could write a whole article just on that alone, but there are many books out that I am sure can do the subject far better justice than me!
Even with all the above though, I can appreciate some of what Black Metal has done (no not the Church Burnings, Murders and Naziism, the other bit) for the evolution of Metal. Black Metal pushed the boundaries of hard and extreme music, took metal into a different and explorative direction (working around a similar time to Chuck Schuldiner pioneering death Metal at Morris Sound in Florida) showing the world new levels of singing, guitar playing, drumming and songwriting. Black metal explored all sorts of topics and shows artistic licence at its best. Whilst tricky to find record sales for something like De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, a cursory glance on YouTube shows the full album played 3.3million at the date of writing.
Black Metal is still going strong today it seems, buts it is probably fair to say that its peak was in the early to mid-90s. Much in the same way as other sub-genres of Metal, Black Metal is looking to push boundaries even further to ensure (as cynics claim) that they can still be relevant. However, as Socio-anthropologist and filmmaker Sam Dunn commented, by the late 90s Black Metal had defined itself very rigidly, with Black from the 2000s becoming “fractured”. Worth watching the interview with Mayhem’s Necrobutcher on this topic, it is very funny!
This brings us now to Stalaggh. Not much for certain is known about Stalaggh. They classify themselves as a Black Metal project, rather than a band. And are a group of musicians (or musician) who are yet unnamed. There have been many rumours as to who these could be. Some have said it is a solo artist from Lebanon called Xardas (however, he stated on his blog that he remixed the first two albums but had no further association). And some say it is European musicians from countries including Belgium and Holland. Further, some claim that it is Xardas and another person from the UK is the promotor. There is a huge debate amongst the Black Metal fans, but in truth, the names provided are quite far under the radar for me. But it is safe to say it is highly unlikely to be Bruce Dickinson!
The name Stalaggh (for those of you unaware) comes from world war two Germany (of course it does). It is a corruption and shorthand for “War camps”. The extra “g” and “h” are deliberate, not to disassociate themselves, but to stand for Global Holocaust (again, of course, it does) but do not really appear to have any imagery or anything else in common. The collective is described as Nihilists or at least having nihilistic ideas. Though I can think of a plethora of words that I personally think are more appropriate!
Stalaggh – Projekt Misanthropia
The album in question is called Projekt Misanthropia. This is not their first album but arguably their most infamous. If you are looking for a short album review just type it in and Google will give you all the information you need. One of the most common phrases being “The most terrifying album of all time”. Another notable one was a journalist writing for Vice who described it as “…the ugliest, most horrific oppressive noise possible”. In short, it is a mixture of ambient, droning music and Black Metal, with quite chilling and horrific screams. All sounding like it as recorded by a Fisher-Price microphone. Typically, this is not really the sort of music I look out for, with the aptest metaphor coming from my extended Polish family – “I am from a different village”.
One of the most controversial points of this album though are the screams themselves. They are alleged to have recorded in a secure institution for the criminally insane. Further rumours have spread that some of the “vocals” contributed are from a man who stabbed his mother 30 times. Another contributor was a man who shortly after recording committed suicide. It is quite hard to analyze how true these claims are. If you are wanting to be “True Black Metal” and to be the most extreme, then I imagine these rumours would be the sorts of things you would want to have around you. The album is jarring to the extreme there is no doubt. A full-on assault on the ears that makes anything by Cannibal Corpse seem quite radio-friendly in comparison!
Interviews with Stalaggh are quite hard to find, as it is not always easy to know if you are talking to the right people. Another common rumour (as an interview reported on the Metal Injection website by Graham Hartmann) is that the collective abducted 7 patients for their recordings. The collective stated:
“The reasoning for recording the mental patients is because the band really wanted hatred and painful emotions to be REAL and truly felt. Also, we wanted to recreate the situation of the Stalag concentration camps in sound. The next recording was the vocals session which took place in the chapel of an old monastery that was no longer in use. The acoustics and atmosphere of that chapel were perfect for recording the howls and screams of the mentally insane. It was very hard to get access to that chapel, but we told the owner that we were doing this as a kind of scream therapy for the mental patients and finally he gave us permission”.
The group claims (possibly to quash the rumours) however that:
“One of our members works in a mental institution in Holland, so this is how we got access and permission to record. All patients who have worked with us gave their full written permission. One of the patients who suffers from schizophrenia even made the cover drawing of the Pure Misanthropia CD”.
These rumours do raise a few uncomfortable points. The first one being, although they (very kindly and uncharacteristically) asked the permission of the patients before recording their harrowing screams, are they in effect profiting off the misery and pain of those in society that are vulnerable? Secondly, should I even be shining a light on a group of individuals that are profiting from the pain of others? Thirdly, can we take anything anyone says about them seriously? For example, it could even be possible that the patients actively overexerted themselves once they knew of the recording. But I doubt we will never really know the answers to the above. Fourthly, am I ascribing my own sensibilities and morality on others purely because I do not agree, and this gives me a chance to sound morally superior?
One question (aside from the moral questions and rumours) though is, does this count as music? Yes – I hear the world of Black Metal screech, but I am not entirely sure. It must be true that some people like it (or are at least curious) as the album has 659,000 plays on YouTube. As I mentioned earlier in the article, music should be about being creative, pushing the boundaries and being progressive rather than simply conserving and preserving all the time. In this sense, and I guess for being very extreme, Stalaggh have been a success. I cannot think of much more than just actual screeching that could be more extreme (short of recording surgery with no anesthetic maybe) to try and go further.
However, (and that is a big however) whilst I can find some artistic nature, I am struggling to find the craft and musicianship. Creating something for the sake of being extreme rather than anything else, just seems a hallow. If the only objective is to shock and offend (which they did well) then that seems a bit boring, a bit dull, and ultimately not that inspirational. This has been done a lot of times, and in the end, becomes like Saw films. In that, if you have seen one, you have probably seen them all. If you add in as well that the skill of the musicians (albeit far higher than mine) is nowhere near the quality of other black metal artists. It does not seem to stack up that well. Maybe I am wrong!
Finally, I realize that I have probably not endeared myself very well to Black Metal fans. All I can say to you is – it is just an opinion. I am not God (that’s Rob Halford). I am some guy in a flat at 10:30pm writing on a laptop, wearing boxer shorts, an old Slayer shirt that (thanks to lockdown) is too small and drinking cheap lager. All debate is healthy and must ultimately be a good thing.
Quite often, I have the hope that someone may want to ask me about it. Perhaps educate me more. And by all, if that means you – do it! Just swearing at me and making threats is not going to make a difference. I get that already from my ex-girlfriends and they have had way more practice it at than you! If I have in any way upset you, I apologize. Please get in touch and help me learn the error of my ways.
As always, party on Dudes,
Read more of my thoughts and articles here: Joe’s Metal Jive
And as always: buy the albums! AMAZON.com
P.S – In case you are interested in learning about “entry-level” Black Metal, check out Jonas Ackerlund’s film adaptation for Lords of Chaos. This is based on a book which admittedly has been heavily criticized by some Black Metal musicians. But it is a really fun watch and an easy gateway to understanding some of the culture and background. There are also some great free documentaries on YouTube. The highlights for me being Until the Light Takes Us, Once Upon a Time in Norway and Mayhem: The Story of Mayhem.