I’m Just In It for the Riffs, Man: The Sacred Son Edition

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If you are truly, madly, deeply into [insert favorite metal subgenre here–although who are we kidding, it’s Black] metal and you are quite willing to give financial support to all manner of cretins, including documented werenazis, in order to obtain those sweet, sweet riffs that you cannot get anywhere else–not because you yourself are a cretin or a werenazi, rather because you don’t care about politics or ideology and you are perfectly capable of separating the art from the artist–then put your money where your mouth is and get a load of this: the debut album from UK independent onemanblackmetalband Sacred Son.

 

^Actual album cover

Originally, I did not have much to say about this album. I mean, sure, I felt vaguely compelled to write a few hundred or thousand words about that cover art in the context of black metal. But that would have required more stamina than I have these days. And I had too many other interesting promos vying for what little attention I could spare. And I haven’t been in the mood for this particular sort of black metal lately. So I was just gonna boil my thoughts on this thing down to a mini-review and leave it at that.

Or not.

Probably not.

I was probably going to write a review of my tap water instead.

And then, while I was procrastinating, something happened which compelled me to play the cynic for once and write about something which actually interests other people way more than it interests me.

In the short five or six hours since this album–more precisely, this album’s cover art–came to the attention of The Internet, a veritable kerfuffle has reached critical mass. Everyone in our little corner of the blogosphere (i.e., 10-15 people) is losing their shit over this cover. Some people are pissed; others are delighted; still others just don’t get it (or, the sane reaction: they just don’t care). Is there really anything to get?

Well, yes. Because cover art means more to metalheads than to any other genre-enthusiast. We obsess over it privately. We discuss it publicly (and at flabbergasting length). The most puerile among us probably even masturbate to it when it features that edgy badass sexy classy fucked-out genre trope: naked breasts. And even though tricks like this one here have already been pulled, releasing a black metal album with a cover like this is an audacious shot across the bow of everything that has (until recently) always made the music what it is.

The most famous–and therefore effective–example of cover art that had black metal purists pissing their chainmail comes from Deafheaven‘s

, an album of loud and pretty sounds which found their perfect visual reflection in that loud and pretty pink cover. Black metal’s favorite color is black–it’s right there in the title. And pink is pretty much the emotional opposite of black. So, want to cause a big to-do in the black metal world? Easy: Put out an album with an all pink cover. It is without a doubt that Dane Cross, the man behind Sacred Son, is aware of what Deafheaven did, why they did it, and why it was successful. It is also without a doubt that Cross would not have slapped this sun-dappled, un-black image on the cover of his album if Deafheaven hadn’t made so many waves by doing something similar first.

The difference being that, while the music of Sacred Son is loud, it is not pretty. Well, there’s like one pretty interlude which nods openly toward the whole blackgaze thing, but that’s it, I swear. Otherwise the album is a fairly straightforward onslaught of the usual suspects: mid-paced blasts, blurry-handed riffing and throat-rending shrieks. The production strikes up a nice treaty between clarity and bite. And there’s an ample helping of atmosphere which at times reminds me of a heavily simplified take on early Emperor.

While Second Son doesn’t make the slightest move toward reinventing the wheel in terms of style, there is more than one way to reinvent a wheel–and aesthetic presentation is one of them. Ultimately, is this cover a more bold move than the one from Deafheaven which surely inspired it? Though Deafheaven’s transgression will always feel greater by virtue of primacy, I’d still argue yes. But is the music packaged in that cover a more bold move than the stylistic expansion which constitutes Sunbather? No. Which is why genre purists or really anyone who digs a well-executed black metal tune should be eating this up and licking the plate clean. Despite what the cover art so brazenly suggests, there’s nothing flashy here, nothing shoegazy, nothing ostentatiously un-grim. And if you’re sitting there grimacing at your corpse-painted reflection in your computer screen and thinking “But I don’t hear any sweet, sweet riffs,” that is because you’re too busy listening to the cover image. You are guilty of the exact same foul that detractors of racism and nazism make when they judge certain black metal music on the moral disposition of its creators alone. Except of course that bigotry is horse shit and there is nothing even remotely morally dubious about slapping a photo of a handsome, short-haired dude on the front of a black metal record. But still.

It is 2017. Black metal needs to get over itself. It needs to move out of its mom’s basement, get a job folding menswear at Dillards, and let go of its pithy, childish pretensions of keeping metal dangerous. Even Five Finger Death Punch sounds dangerous to people who don’t like loud music, so . . . maybe certain subgenres are overcompensating?

To be clear, I’m not advocating for the replacement of all black metal’s dark or gothic or satanic imagery with beaches and headshots of Forever 21 models. I’m just calling for a little perspective, and perhaps a smidge of self-deprecation. If the riffs are truly all that matters, then the presence of short hair and Wayfarer sunglasses and smiles and a Brooklyn zip code should not factor into one’s enjoyment of said riffs any more than it does when the riff-writer is an outspoken, card-carrying werenazi. Rather less so–that is, if you don’t currently hold the title of Lord of the Edge.


SACRED SON’S DEBUT ALBUM IS OUT NOW

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  • You are good and lovely and smart, Richter.

    • For real, this was pretty intriguing and it made me press play when he was talking a little about the music. So far, I’m jamming it, didn’t pressed play because I thought it was one of those Bandcamp crappy NYP album with loops made on cheap software. Is p good!

  • He needs a black hoooood to help maintain his anonymity.

    -Dr. Blasko Dunkeheit

    • Howard Dean

      For real. I’m 90% certain this is the guy I met outside of Panera one day who asked me to sign a petition about single payer healthcare.

  • WHO KNEWS RYAN FUCKING GOSLING COULD BLACK METAL, BRO?!

    WAYFARERS IS THE NEW PANDA PAINT

    HAIL SATAN AND HIS DEMONIC CAPITALIST ARTS! 666 LIKE MY CREDIT CARD LAST NUMBERS, THE NUMBER OF THE BEEEAAAAAASTSHGHGHG

  • sweetooth0

    The album is good (the second track on the album I’d argue is great). The cover bugs me, but a big part of the appeal of black metal is most definitely aesthetics. And this cover reeks of shitty hipster irony.

  • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

    HOT TAKE:

    Sunbather is a great album.

    *preparing myself for the tarring and feathering*

    • Señor Jefe El Rossover

      Lolbuttz

      • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

        No hipster fan here, but I’m a total credit-where-it’s-due kinda bloke. When a hipster manages to please my ears with his music, I’ll admit it.

        Still doesn’t mean I’m gonna accompany him/her to the local Starbucks to have a chai latte tho.

        • Lord of Bork

          You should, because chai lattes are delicious. And I say this as someone whose standard drink is just black coffee.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            I don’t like coffee in general tbh.

          • Dumpster Lung

            I just have chai lattes at home.

        • GoatForest

          Try out a mocha frappe. It’s like a caffeinated milkshake.

          • Kyle Reese

            You mean calorie bomb, gut buster. Iced coffee with almond milk from the pretty barista. If she quits, I’ll drink the swill at the office.

          • GoatForest

            It is indeed a calorie bomb. It’s so fatty, you could drink one and hibernate.

    • TheGranulatingDarkSatanicMilfs

      You speak the truth

    • Spear

      Didn’t care too much for Sunbather myself (I think So Hideous did all of that much better on Laurestine), but fuuuuuuck if their last one didn’t have some fantastic moments. Perfect blend of happy bits and nasty bits.

  • Dubby Fresh

    I find this album art infinitely more appealing than that of Satanic Warmaster’s new compilation. One is an intentional inversion. The other is an intentional pastiche (I reckon). Both are meant to play upon black metal aesthetics, but I can take the goofy one way more seriously than I can the serious one.

    https://f4.bcbits.com/img/a2574671601_10.jpg

    • sweetooth0

      I dunno, I think he looks cool on the Satanic Warmaster one. But I LOVE black metal aesthetics

      • Dubby Fresh

        It just comes off trying way-too-hard to me. Maybe I’ve been in too many mall knife shops, but this looks like the kind of picture a dude would take before settling down before playing Warcraft for 13 hours.

        I don’t mind theatrics and spectacle, but imagery that seems to attempt to invoke a sense of danger ends up looking cartoony. I much prefer Ulver-esque pictures of dudes in the woods.

        • sweetooth0

          nah man, give me spiked clubs, fire breathing, skull goblets, all that shit.

          • Dubby Fresh

            I suppose a more self-aware dorkiness appeals to me. And I own several swords *shrug emoji*

          • Show me your steel. In private. Now.

          • Dubby Fresh

            you’re gonna have to pay for that, chief

        • lol @ too many mall knife shops

        • GoatForest

          My little brother calls them “fantasy swords”. They’re a sure way to tell that their wielder has no clue about how swordsmanship. They are the opposite of intimidating.

          • GrumpDumpus

            DOES HE HAVE A GOOD WORD FOR WHEN BANDS PULL THE SAME SHIT WITH FIREARMS I SUGGEST CHERRY GLOCKIN’ DADDIES

          • GoatForest

            I think that’s a good term.

    • Lacertilian
    • RJA

      You really find the sacred son cover “appealing” in any way – I mean the SW cover is same old shit for sure, but Jesus Christ – I literally thought Joe photoshopped himself onto an album cover!

      • Dubby Fresh

        I like absurdity, tbh. I took it as a very goofy, tongue-in-cheek thing bordering on absurdity.

        • RJA

          We’ll have to disagree on this one Mr. President, which we usually don’t do. I think we may have on the subject of doughnuts once.

          • Dubby Fresh

            Jelly doughnuts?

          • RJA

            That was it! you’re the degenerate who likes jelly doughnuts!

          • Dubby Fresh

            no i hate them

          • RJA

            well shit, I hate them too! must have been something else!

          • Ted Nü-Djent ™

            Whoah. How can you hate jam donuts? They’re magnificent.

    • Sir Ukkometso The Based

      Tbf Satanic Warmaster is garbage.

  • Señor Jefe El Rossover
  • Howard Dean

    I’m only into bands for the cover art. I can now thoroughly separate the cover from the riffs, because I only listen to the cover art.

  • Personally I think it is kinda neat. Not everyone who likes black metal or metal has to look like a face-makeup-looking-fool. Clean cut looking people can be cvlt too, right?

    The potential butthurt is pfunny, too.

    • sweetooth0

      agreed that you don’t have to “look the part” but I feel like the album cover should reflect the content of the music as one artistic expression, and this just clashes horribly for me. Take Anaal Nathrakh for example, they look like two totally non-descript dudes. But they don’t plaster their vacation photos on their covers.

      • Lord of Bork

        I think that the album art is an extension of the artist’s intent for the music, whatever that may entail. Often that’s going to overlap, as you said. But not always.

    • Dumpster Lung

      I do think that, in going against typical metal aesthetics seriously (and not in a tongue-in-cheek way, which is what I’d consider Sacred Son’s approach), then the lyrics and everything else would probably fall in line with that departure too, but judging from the song titles, it seems that ONLY the cover is different. Even the logo is pretty normal for black metal.

      If the lyrics exist in the realm of fantasy (demons murdering angels in the dead of winter and all that), then it makes sense for the art to do the same. If the song titles and lyrics (if they were printed) came off as a dude dealing with dark personal stuff, then maybe the cover would actually feel like it wasn’t as out of place, as odd/unexpected as it would still be at first glance. You could take it to mean your problems don’t go away just because you’re on vacation, or some other kinda bullshit like that.

      We’ve overthought the hell out of this thing, so I’m just trying to see where else we can go with it at this point 😛 Regardless, I do dig the music for sure, and I like all the discussion the cover art has generated, even if what that mostly says about us is that we all need to chill way the fuck out haha.

      • Kyle Reese

        If it was night time and soaked in moon light, perfect place for one to throw their body off the cliff and surrender to entropy.

        • GoatForest

          Hey, don’t knock it till you’ve tried– oh, wait, nevermind…

    • GoatForest

      Ahhh, the old “serial killer” approach. Seriously though, my band’s lead guitarist is very clean cut. You would never in a million years think he listened to metal, let alone played in both a black metal and a death metal band.

  • Howard Dean

    The Polish black metal band Darzamat used some random photographs for cover art occasionally, and they’re so kvlt they’re are barely ever discussed:

    https://www.metal-archives.com/images/1/1/5/9/11594.jpg?5918

  • Señor Jefe El Rossover

    I’ve still yet to listen to the album, but I’m genuinely curious due to the points made here by Richter and a few opinions I’ve heard from some people. As far as visuals go, I’ve always thought artwork should reflect the music and should let alth audience know what’s in store. In the age of Black Metal Taylor Swift shirts, this, to me, looks like a rapper trying to capitalize on the growing popularity of black metal aesthetics in pop culture. Had I found this while browsing online, I’d probably pass it up. Just doesn’t look like something I’d jam normally. Did I just “judge a book by its cover”? Yes, of course I did. With so much music out nowadays it’s hard to hear everything, so I rely on the visual key to intrigue me.

    Luckily, dedicated writers and engaging articles like this key me in on things.

    • Dumpster Lung

      We all kinda kept going in circles in the Facebook discussion. Some interesting points were brought up and made, but it was basically just arguing over and over and over. I can’t believe it didn’t even occur to me to link the aesthetics-to-music relationship to politics-to-music, though. What a twist! Even after we killed that horse in the first hour and beat it into a formless paste by this afternoon, he still found a new angle from which to approach it.

  • I <3 Richter's writing so hard.

  • Elegant Gazing Globe

    The gimmick worked.

    • Señor Jefe El Rossover

      It did.

  • My take: the metal world in general takes itself WAY too seriously almost all the time. Dudes are wailing on about Satan, fighting religion, slaying dragons, wading into battle, etc. and so many can’t step back and see how truly ridiculous it all is and have a good chuckle at their own expense.

    • Lacertilian

      Pretty much, I saw this email come through, noted an interesting cover choice, and thought it sounded pretty good. Sent to Richter and forgot all about it until nerds started losing their shit and fighting about it everywhere yesterday.

    • Kyle Reese

      I don’t know. I think you’d be surprised by the artists take. At least, in half the cases. The metal community is the one that has to trve kvlt everything.

  • i would gladly crack open a cold one with Sacred Son

    • Lone Biker of the Apocalypse

      Better make sure it’s strictly a micro-brew.

      I kid I kid. Kind of.

  • Rolderathis

    There are some cool riffs and a bit of atmosphere here. Album cover is kind of funny, kind of annoying to me. I’d buy it if the songs were more interesting tbh.

  • RJA

    Serious question – I am a black metal nerd in a way, however I don’t spend a lot of time out on the internets – what are the places where people are “losing their minds” about this album cover?

    • the place you don’t visit. Facebook

      • RJA

        Ah, that explains it – never trust what anyone is saying/doing on facebook!

        • it’s a heckin’ drug, man. nothing but shit on there but i can’t quit.

          • Dumpster Lung

            The Toilet’s FB is the good shit, though.

          • Spear

            Sometimes.

    • Howard Dean

      I had the same question, my good dude.

  • GoatForest

    This Sacred Son has some tasty riffs. The cover affects me not. By the way, I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and I formally declare NSBM to not be black metal. So let it be written, so let it be done.

    • GoatForest

      Seriously, “Apocalyptic Winter” makes me want to play with fire.

    • GrumpDumpus

      SO NSBM MUST STAND FOR NATIONAL SOCIALIST BULLIED MEDIOCRITY

  • Count_Breznak

    Defewen simply sucks, this does not.
    ..nothing really outstanding, tho, either.

  • Dumpster Lung

    Other theory: This dude is about to commit brutal, cold-blooded murder (or maybe confess to a recent murder near where that photo was taken, or on the same day), and this cover art will be ironically very dark after the fact.

    I’m mostly joking, but that’d be some real fucked up shit if that actually went down, and then it’d also be trve, kvlt, etc.

  • Lone Biker of the Apocalypse

    Legit hypothetical question to myself…would I still enjoy Immortal’s earlier work if the album aesthetics were different than the cover art? I honestly am not sure what I would think if I saw/heard this!

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9097b546741e66a25a037b3515242fcd07467fd298ebe1030fde0fa8c1bc3e55.png

  • Pagliacci is Kvlt

    My first thought was: this is just the last Cover of Night album with a dude added.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/eb4e4c599fdbbf4be7c46b505d298fee8a053779e97d8283a1fd28f3eaad9778.jpg

  • Butts4Gutts

    What if the dude on the cover of this is not the actual guy from Sacred Son?

    • GoatForest

      Ooooo. Conspiracy.

  • Kyle Reese

    Hey, if you don’t have a fucking forest to hop around in, why not hop around those cliffs? Anyone on the edge of suicide could see that those cliffs are perfect for throwing their loser-ass ass over. And get mangled on the rocky crags below. As for the dude in the photo who I’m assuming is the one-man-band. He wants recognition for his art. Which is fine. But trying to look all cool and attractive on your cover art isn’t gonna land you chicks. They’re either gonna A) ask about the music and say “eww” or B) actually listen to it and say “double-eww.”

    • That dude doesn’t need to make music to get chicks. The chicks already come to him.

  • GrumpDumpus

    IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR RIFFS WHY LISTEN TO BLACK METAL WHICH IS JUST STRUMMING MINOR BAR CHORDS FOR 10 MINUTES

  • GrumpDumpus
  • NDG

    Nice write up, Richter. I agree, let’s get some perspective…it’s about the riffs, man.

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  • Choo-Choo

    Super late to the party, but this is the right take.