THE SOFT PINK TRUTH is Drew Daniel, one-half of the Baltimore-based experimental electronica duo MATMOS. On “Why Do the Heathen Rage?”, Daniel explores and profanes the sound as well as the sometimes-questionable politics and philosophy of a well-selected collection of black metal covers in the form of winking, sexy club tunes.
Daniel’s work, both as SPT and with Matmos, has always had a strongly conceptual element, and this isn’t the first time he’s expressed an interest in harsher, more abrasive musical realms. He’s already released DO YOU WANT NEW WAVE OR DO YOU WANT THE SOFT PINK TRUTH?, an album of punk and hardcore covers. He wrote an entry in the 33 1/3 book series on THROBBING GRISTLE’s 20 Jazz Funk Greats. He also has a sincere love for black metal. He’s written a beginner’s guide to DARKTHRONE and essays with titles like “Corpsepaint as Necro-Minstrelsy” and “Confessions of a Former Burzum T-Shirt Wearer”. His picks for covers show a breadth knowledge on black metal: we’ve got VENOM, BEHERIT, SARCOFAGO, SARGEIST, DARKTHRONE, AN, MAYHEM, HELLHAMMER, and (hilariously) “Grim and Frostbitten Gay Bar” by Newton, MA’s own IMPALED NORTHERN MOONFOREST.
There are precedents for the cultures of black metal and electronica crossing paths. Fenriz of DARKTHRONE has professed a deep love of dance music and a number of these groups have experimented successfully with electronic sounds and textures . However a certain subset of black metal fandom is well-known at this point for the invective they spread at bands who deviate from the traditional black metal style. Occasionally, the purists have a point: not every deviation or experiment is necessarily successful. But by and large, this experiment is a success!
Drew Daniel (with some help from Antony Hegarty, Daniel’s boyfriend/Matmos partner MC Schmidt and members of HORSE LORDS, LOCRIAN and WYE OAK) have delivered a thought-provoking but also deeply enjoyable and loving send-up. The riffs and chord progressions are largely unchanged, except in terms of the instrumentation used to produce them. Daniels’ trademark dense, heavily-detailed production is in full effect, from the drum and bass take on HELLHAMMER’s “Maniac” to the soulful diva house on AN’s “Let There Be Ebola Frost” to the cheeky samples of Rihanna and SNAP!’s “I Got The Power”. The whole thing occasionally veers into a camp industrial style not dissimilar to MY LIFE WITH THE THRILL KILL KULT. Especially since once you remove the shrieked delivery and sometimes dodgy recording quality of the originals, some of these lyrics sound really homoerotic and occasionally downright silly. A lot of the lyrics, however, manage to retain every bit of their coldness and ugliness, and the album’s various singers do a great job of delivering the lines in a way that highlights both the goofy and the grim.
The lyrics are, of course, in some places pretty reprehensible. Black metal can be racist, homophobic, fascist, misogynist and just plain anti-social. Obviously there’s a larger dialogue to he had about the issues of enjoying art that you find philosophically questionable, especially as a member of a group targeted by that philosophy. Drew Daniel himself could speak to how that factors into this project much better than I could. Luckily, he did. So I leave you with the disclaimer he wrote to accompany this album’s release:
“Aesthetics and Politics are neither equivalent nor separable. Black metal fandom all too often entails a tacit endorsement or strategic looking-the-other-way with regards to the racist, anti-Semitic, sexist and homophobic bullshit politics that (still) pervade the scene, on behalf of either escapist fantasy talk, shaky invocations of art as a crypto-religious path to transcendence, or–the oldest cop out in the book–the quietist declaration that “I just like how it sounds.” Just as blasphemy both affirms and assaults the sacred powers it invokes and inverts, so too this record celebrates black metal and offers queer critique / mockery / profanation of its ideological morass in equal measure. Mixed emotions about a murky, diverse and self-differential scene are all very well, but, as Barack Obama is so fond of saying at press conferences just before legitimizing drone warfare, let’s be clear: No apologies, no excuses, and no escape clauses are hereby offered. Murderers are murderers. No safe space for fascist garbage. The Soft Pink Truth hereby abjures black metal homophobes, racists, and Nazis categorically and absolutely: MAY THIS CURSE BIND! Remember Magne Andreassen!”