H.P. Lovecraft, Jim O'Rourke, Morbid Angel, Necronimicon, The Metal Apologist, Trey Azagthoth, Trey Spruance, Van Halen

The Metal Apologist (Part V: Morbid Angel)

{from December 17, 2007}

Trey Azagthoth used to scare the shit out of me. As a young boy of 15, I came across an interview with Morbid Angel’s guitarist and sonic visionary in one of the many guitar magazines I was inhaling at the time. He described with complete candor and lucidity his belief in the Ancient Ones, the metaphysical entities that made up a polytheistic universe for the Ancient Sumerians. I still don’t know much about them (their ranks include Chthulu who’s probably gotten the most pop culture ink out of all them) but a cursory read of the Necronimicon and H.P. Lovecraft’s story of the same name will bring you relatively up to speed. Without going into too much detail, they will freak out any straight-laced, yet malleable, suburban kid from the Valley and shake his tenuous religious beliefs in the omnipresence of a God who will make everything OK if you just attend Sunday School. Of course, I speak of myself…

I was never one of those kids who could say something wasn’t real and then just believe that it wasn’t going to make me lie awake at night in horror. Whether it was The Ancient Ones, U.F.O.s, or Freddy Kruger, I was always pretty good at enabling these apparitions into being and allowing the thought of them to creep me out. Anyway, Mr. Azagthoth divulged that he finds great inspiration in these entities, and took copious amounts of drugs to commune with them through his music. These days he has developed a more complex, personal, and somehow universal philosophy of being that I’m sure doesn’t discard at least the basic tenets of his reverence to The Ancients but also manages to include self-help gurus, Deepak Chopra and Tony Robbins (I shit you not). Add to that his remarkably enthusiastic admiration of Eddie Van Halen (specifically I, II, Diver Down, and Fair Warning – the Ted Templeman sessions…anyone working on that box set?), Mozart (in hindsight, that’s not that weird – the dovetailing between death metal and classical…the bombast, the tonal/atonal balance, the harmonies…sorely overlooked), and, much later on, first-person online shooters like Quake and Doom, mystical texts such as the Qabalah…and here was a perplexing figure.

I read all this about Trey before I ever heard his music. And anyone who has ever done that knows how gargantuan their imagination can make the unheard music. When you finally hear the music in question, it tends to disappoint (Jim O’Rourke, in the liner notes to AMMusic, describes how let down he was by hearing KISS after reading so much of their hyperbolic press – was there any other kind of press for that band?) Well I imagined the most intense swarms of blue-gold airborne madness, guitars swirling around your head like Victorian vampire banshees over brutal machine gun drumming. And FUCK if that’s not exactly what it sounded like. “Blessed Are The Sick” made my jaw drop when I was 15. I wasn’t even sure if I liked it yet. It was overwhelming and weird and kinda horrifying. And yet all these years later, few metal albums sound as fresh and complex and utterly mad, mostly thanks to the guitar work of Trey Azagthoth. Despite his considerable technical prowess, it’s really his compositional vision for the guitar – which is virtually limitless and truly without peer in the death metal world – that offers a lens into his achievements. His work is more akin to filmmaking; many of his riff movements are set up like sequences in a Fellini film. Ecstatic, otherworldly, synaesthetic sound-images that evoke a multiverse with their own physics, logic, and gods.

It was only after years of cultivating my own approach to making music which included further processing the work of my forebears that I began to appreciate the intention of Trey Azagthoth’s statements from all those years ago. His philosophy is and has always been based on inspiration. And inspiration is very real. It is an animating presence inside the body that serves as the raw materials for manifestation – creative work, that is. Working with this feeling the artist situates themselves thusly: “While the tyrant was busy conjuring sweet wine from sour grapes, we were auto-cannibalizing raw angel flesh to resurrect long dead pagan gods who were forcefully obliged to brutally BUTTFUCK this man of the world into bloody remission” (poorly paraphrased from another Trey, Spruance of Secret Chiefs 3, in the liner notes to Second Grand Constitution and Bylaws). How can you create some serious fucking music without creating your own cosmology? I don’t even know anymore. I just thank Mr. Azagthoth for being a light and offering a way towards finding solace in the clarity and peace of your own way rather than being intimidated by the audacity of creating that idea in this world.

Cheers,
A

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2 thoughts on “The Metal Apologist (Part V: Morbid Angel)

  1. TRAWETS NILTGEOV says:

    Fueling terror was one of my adolescent pastimes, too. As was Van Halen. Really enjoyed this.

  2. Miskatonic says:

    I am no stranger to weird and scary cosmology because I grew up in an extremely devout LDS (Mormon) family/culture. Mormons take the afterlife very seriously. Mormons don't take as much flak for their science fiction like doctrines as Scientologists, but their doctrines are every bit as bat shit.

    My childhood/adolescent best friend got me into extreme metal, but he was very influenced by the Mormon church as well. He was charismatic and we spent countless hours going over all sorts of doctrines comparing them to what we were learning from our metal heroes. My faith was strong but nothing compared to his. He used to tell me that little men would come to his bed at night and torture him. He would tell me stories like that all the time and I could tell that he wholeheartedly believed it. I found out much later that he suffered from schizophrenia. That explains a lot of what we went through together, but at the time, we encountered some extremely scary shit. So, I completely get when you say that Trey Azagthoth scared you as a kid. He scared me too.

    My father is very devout but a kinder man you will not find on this planet. When he caught me and my friend with Blessed are the Sick he gave me a very affecting admonishment. All he said was, "Blessed are the Sick" and then he walked away. I'll never forget the tone in his voice. The fact that my father, a man of God would be so taken aback by the title of an album, lent a lot to it's mystique. It meant that if he could feel the evil, and be scared by it, then that evil must be real.

    Scary shit.

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