overground scene

Viva Presidente Trump!
November 9, 2016, 6:36 pm
Filed under: people, social theory

There’s a silver lining to Trump’s victory. Trump’s election is a major blow to hegemony. It’s a blow to the widespread and commonly accepted idea that “our representative democracies are not a joke”. If Clinton had won the election then everyone would slip back to the fantasy that the “system is ok”; “Look at our respectable, by-the-book president”, while the USA would continue going around the world murdering people, and their repressive apparatus at home would murder African Americans on a daily basis. Trump is a joke, a dangerous joke, but so is the political/economic/cultural system in which he is situated, and there are no longer excuses for not accepting this fact.

Yet, this silver lining is also ambiguous. Waking up to the idea that the things we take for granted and consider common sense are deeply problematic could go either way. Fascist groups might use it to offer “alternatives to the establishment”. Of course, the idea that fascism is much different from the facade we call democracy today is in itself a fantasy. The other option is to engage society in a humanist critique of the existing political system, which is by no means autonomous, but rather linked to capitalism, racism, sexism, and so on. But this option has been preempted and incapacitated by centuries of developing inequality and alienation of the masses, so I wouldn’t count on it. The more likely alternative, which becomes increasingly plausible, is the necessity for grassroots resistance, even violent, on a daily basis. It all depends on when my generation and the younger ones will stop clinging on to dreams of a family and a nice house with a garden.

In memory of Lemmy

Almost seven months ago, Ian “Lemmy” Kimister, one of the most important figures of popular music, died leaving a terrible void in the hearts of millions around the world. This post is a small tribute to Lemmy’s awesome life and contribution to music. I draw on Lemmy’s autobiography (White line fever, 2002, co-written by Janiss Garza) and the documentary Lemmy: 49% motherfucker, 51% son of a bitch, to refer to some of the most important musical stations in his life.

Little Richard, a musical innovator and Lemmy's major influence.

Little Richard, a musical innovator and Lemmy’s major influence.

Lemmy’s music, in many ways, stands in sharp contrast to heavy metal, due to the former being deeply rooted in blues and rock ‘n’ roll and devoid of classical music influences that define heavy metal. What made Lemmy’s style distinct was his disposition to engage with and re-interpret new trends in popular music through his rock ‘n’ roll lenses. Behind a song like “Orgasmatron“, on first appearance a brutal heavy metal song, hides a classic surf-rock rhythm and chord progression, only slowed down, distorted, and accompanied by a a heavy growl.

Lemmy’s life had been soaked in Rock ‘n’ roll. He lived and breathed it in its first incarnation, that is, African-American musicians’ interpretation of blues and gospel music in the late 1940s-early 1950s. Some of the musicians that influenced Lemmy in this early period of his life include Little Richard and Chuck Berry, but also their white contemporaries, Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly. In his auto-biography he identifies Billy Haley‘s “Razzle dazzle” as the first Rock ‘n’ roll song he ever heard, although he considered Bill Halley’s music as inferior to that of his contemporaries.

Johnny Kid and the Pirates

Johnny Kid and the Pirates

Lemmy also lived first-hand the appropriation of this music by the first British musicians in the 1960s. He lived in a period during which hundreds of bands made by young English men and women started their careers by covering African-American rock ‘n’ roll, slowly embodying its logic. This period was followed by all these bands eventually spitting out their own interpretations of this musical tradition. The Yardbirds, a band which served as the breeding ground for some of UK’s most famous musicians (i.e. Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck) was one of his favourite bands. Lemmy is known to have claimed that The Beatles were and will always be the best band in the world, and he got to see them perform in the beginning of their career. Another one of the bands that Lemmy admired was Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, and one of their songs, “Please don’t touch“, was covered by Motörhead and Girlschool in their St. Valentine’s day massacre E.P.

It was within this context that Lemmy took his first steps as a musician. He played in some bands around London (e.g. P.P. Arnold’s band) and eventually in The Rockin Vickers, a rock ‘n’ roll cover band, which was quite successful for a while in the English north. Sam Gopal was one of the first bands in which Lemmy had a leading role. He sung and played guitar on their album Escalator, released in 1969. According to his autobiography Lemmy wrote almost all the songs on Escalator. What he misses to mention is that the music he wrote for one of the most beautiful songs on this album, “The sky is burning“, re-appeared in Motörhead’s album Snake bite love (1998). The song to which I am referring is the sorrowful dirge “Dead and gone“.

Lemmy on the far right sitting next to Hawkwind’s leader, Dave Brock.

His next major station was the psychedelic rock band Hawkwind, which he joined as a bassist and backing vocalist. Hawkwind played furious psychedelic rock, full of improvisations and chaotic arrangements. Lemmy’s new role as a bassist was a fortuitous one, as his recruitment coincided with Hawkwind’s bassist not showing up for a gig in London. Due to his previous experience with the guitar, Lemmy was predisposed to play the bass in a slightly unorthodox way. During his time with Hawkwind, Lemmy got the chance to live a lifestyle of abundant sex, drugs and rock’n’roll as a world-touring musician. He recorded three studio and one live album with them, before he got ousted due to what looks like personal differences with some other band members. The last song he wrote for them was titled “Motorhead“.

His ousting from Hawkwind left Lemmy disappointed, but full of experiences and confidence that he would use to pursue his own musical vision. Motörhead was created in 1975. By that time, and probably due to years of abuse (alcohol, drugs, smoking) his voice had already lost its youthful quality and had transformed into the raspy growl that would change popular music forever. According to his auto-biography, Motörhead (US slang for speedfreak) was fashioned after Little Richard, Hawkwind and MC5.

Motörhead ended up being the last major musical station in Lemmy life. During the first couple of years, the band was on life support, and just before its demise things started picking up for them. What is now considered as the classic Motörhead line-up consisted off Lemmy, Phil Taylor (drums), and Eddie Clarke (guitar), and the first album they recorded together was a masterpiece titled Overkil (1979). The title song is arguably the most devastatingly heavy song that had ever been recorded by that time, and there is no doubt that it opened the floodgates for what we now call extreme metal. Interestingly, the title tracks of the next three albums [i.e. Bomber (1979), Ace of spades (1980), Iron fist (1982)] were also the heaviest cuts in their respective albums. “Ace of spades” is considered an all-time classic, while several extreme metal bands have either covered “Iron fist” (Sodom in their “Persecution mania” album, 1987) or paid tribute to it (Entombed‘s “Serpent saints“, off the homonymous album (2007), alludes to “Iron fist” both musically and lyrically).

motorhead_another_perfect_dayThe next couple of albums (i.e. Another perfect day, 1983, and Orgasmatron, 1986), which are two of my all time favourite albums, included several line-up changes, resulting in a revamped sound. The next big change in the band’s sound came with the phenomenal 1916 (1991) album, which includes a more straighforward heavy metal aesthetic, on songs like “No voices in the sky” and “Nightmare/the dreamtime”, a metal ballad (“Love me forever“), and a stripped-down sorrowful dirge about dying in the battlefield (“1916”), alongside more typical Motörhead masterpieces (e.g. “Shut you down“, “Make my day”). Since then these elements became incorporated in Motörhead’s musical pallet, and with the stable line-up of Lemmy, Phil Campbell, and Mikkey Dee, they offered enjoyment, inspiration, and a cultural constant for many albums.

Motörhead has earned the title of the ultimate and most honest heavy rock band of all times, and Lemmy himself is being recognised as the ultimate heavy rock icon. By 1981 Motörhead were praised as gods. Lemmy has reiterated over the years that he always lived life to the fullest, and that whenever the time would come for him to leave this mortal coil he would go with no regrets and with being grateful for what life gave him. In 1980 he sung “that’s the way I like it baby, I don’t wanna live forever” (“Ace of spades”, Ace of spades, 1980). Lemmy’s life was enviable, and as he tells us in 1986, ‘I swear I can’t complain, if I die tonight’ (“Built for speed”, Orgasmatron, 1986). It feels unreal to know that Lemmy is gone. Listening to his songs will from now on break my heart, but as Lemmy said, “Everyone dies to break somebody’s heart”.


Reek the vote
June 7, 2016, 11:24 am
Filed under: people, social theory | Tags: , , , , , ,

Here are some thoughts on the upcoming referendum on the UK’s future with the EU. I will not try to predict what the outcome of this referendum will be, or what the outcomes of any outcome might be, because nobody knows. I just felt like reflecting on the phenomenon.

First of all, this phenomenon reflects the fact that the ruling class is not a coherent group; the interests of different actors within the ruling class do not necessarily converge. I am not going to argue over whether the political elites are the representatives of powerful economic groups in society, I take that as a given. It would be interesting, however, to investigate properly whether Boris Johnson’s position and Cameron’s position on the referendum are consistent or not with the interests of their allies/friends in the economic field, or more precisely the economic/political field, what Bourdieu would call the field of power. My guess is that they are consistent.

Secondly, and linked to my first point, the referendum has nothing to do with democracy. It has to do with minor redistribution of power between different elite groups, and with designing a new status quo whereby the exploited will be exploited even more. Regardless of which group gets its way, all elite groups (even the “losers”) will continue occupying a privileged position in designing the strategies within which all the rest of us will have to make do. Regardless of who wins, the only certain outcome will be more exploitation of the dispossessed (remember if the UK stays in the EU it will negotiate its position therein). If you think that abolition of free movement of labour power in the case of a Brexit will negatively affect the manufacturing sector (because manufacturers will lose access to reserves of cheap labour), you are wrong. If cheap manual labour is what part of the economy wants, then the establishment will find a way to provide it, in or outside of the EU.

Thirdly, something that concerns EU immigrants in the UK, and linked to my previous point, the destiny of EU migrants in the UK is not going to change massively regardless of the outcome. If you are an EU citizen residing in the UK and you earn a lot of money, you will continue having the right to reside in the UK as long as you continue making loads of money. If your life in the UK is precarious now, it will continue being precarious regardless of the outcome. As I said earlier, this referendum is about re-designing the strategy of domination. If the UK decides to stay in the EU, don’t be surprised if some of the “rights” enjoyed by the precarious are taken away anyway.

Fourthly, ultimately the choice between EU and no-EU is a mechanism for legitimating the new status quo of exploitation.

It has been interesting (not really, I’m exaggerating) watching the different discourses being produced. As expected, EU membership is usually reduced to things such as immigration, lack of accountability, the TTIP negotiations, and contribution to EU budget by those in favour of “out”, versus sustaining peace in the region, workers’ rights, and controls over the corrupt British political system for those in favour of “in”. Believing that by voting in this referendum anyone has control over any of those issues, is just as big a fantasy as believing that the referendum is about democracy. The UK has been a part of the European project for almost half a century now. Did this stop the exploitation and alienation of the masses, injustice, or the emergence of a few actors with sickening wealth? No, it did not. Will exit from the EU stop plans to exploit the environment, workers, or mean that state resources will suddenly be allocated to the poorer strata of society? No, it will not. If you vote for exit hoping for less immigrants “stealing your jobs” or “ruining your culture” you’re in for a surprise. Similarly, in or out of the EU, workers’ rights might improve or deteriorate depending on what the ruling classes want. If the latter decide that better conditions of work might attract better workers or increase productivity (allowing for expropriation of more surplus value) then, in or out of the EU, workers will be presented with better conditions (I’m not even entering the discussion about what “better conditions” means and what role ideology plays in concealing the “real” conditions of existence).

Having said that, I don’t want to imply that the ruling class has absolute control or that it operates under conditions of “perfect information”, whereby it can plan an optimum strategy. Moreover, the way the political system works at a national level or the EU level is also extremely complex and full of uncertainty. The ruling class will also have to play it by ear, as its been doing anyway, that is why trying to outguess what the outcome of the referendum will mean for us is an exercise in futility. The less privileged will just have to make do with the new strategy presented to them when the time comes. Relative positions will not change significantly. If you occupy a relatively privileged position you should expect something similar regardless of the outcome. If you are fucked now you will continue being fucked regardless of the outcome.

To sum up, the choice between in and out of the EU is being caught between a rock and a hard place. It is an illusion of choice. And it is a legitimation of the process of a minor re-distribution of wealth between powerful groups in society. People will participate in the different discourses that the powerful produce and will vote based on their perceived interest on the basis of these discourses. I am not very familiar with UK party politics, but if the UK has historically constructed the EU as a scapegoat for everything that “goes wrong”, then I would expect a victory for Brexit.

Triarchy of the lost lovers: 20 years on


I find it hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since the release of Rotting Christ‘s masterpiece Triarchy of the lost lovers (1996). Reminiscing upon the release of this album, my initial engagement with it, and the different ways in which it has been implicated in my life, the vast polysemic position that this album occupies in my biography is revealed. In this post I share some personal stories around what I personally consider one of the most beautiful albums of all time.

1198Rotting Christ occupy a prolific position in my personal biography as a fan of extreme metal. The very first album that induced me to the more underground facets of metal was a compilation cassette tape by Unisound Records, a Greek metal label. The title of this cassette tape was Into the catacthonium (released in 1994 if I remember correctly). I distinctly remember my friend Nick bringing the cassette tape to my house. Through this tape I was exposed for the first time to extreme metal, through the song “Primordial” by Mortuary Drape. I cannot remember for sure if that was the compilation’s opening song, but that was the one that I first listened to. While both of us thought that the singer’s screams sounded funny, I think it irrevocably infected us with the extreme metal virus. Two were the songs that I remember listening to from that tape; one was “Primordial” and the other “Saturn unlock Avey’s son” by Rotting Christ, off the album Non serviam (1994). Similarly, the initial contact with Rotting Christ was not one of unabridged enthusiasm and unconditional surrender. The music was indeed captivating, but the singer’s voice combined with his accent, especially the way he pronounced ‘volcanic explosion’, were hilarious.

Nevertheless, a big change had definitely taken place. Extreme metal did not go down very well with us, but it had our attention. The fact that Rotting Christ was a Greek band was also part of the excitement. Back then I was totally unaware of other Greek metal bands, so the idea that an extreme band was local, so to speak, was exciting. In hindsight, that was an illusion and an excellent example of how national identity works. The excitement that I would feel back in those days reflected a nationalist sentiment, the fantasy that there is a bond between me and a group of people who I would probably never meet and with whom I had very little in common.

The very little I did end up having in common with Rotting Christ would be taste in music. Of course, metal fandom is itself a whole different “imagined community”. Indeed, over the years I have come to realise that the majority of “metal fans” I have met throughout my life have completely different tastes than me, and relate to music differently than I do. In any case, to return to my previous point, even though “greekness” was in the realm of fantasy, I did share with Rotting Christ love for their music (assuming they were fans of their own music). My friend Mark bought “Triarchy of the lost lovers” in 1996, a few months after it came out. He brought the CD to our English lesson and we used my portable CD player to listen to it. If I remember correctly, he must have instructed me to skip the first couple of songs and listen to “Archon” straight away, the fastest cut from this album. By that time we were already listening to death metal and we were primarily intrigued by speed and intensity. I was instantly hooked and soon afterwards I too bought the CD.

1199Triarchy of the lost lovers is one of those rare albums completely devoid of mediocre moments. Every song is an instant classic. In contrast to most extreme metal, which is loquacious and dense, Triarchy is laconic. It has big openings that give the listener room to breathe and reflect on what they experience. Each musical sentence is a clearly articulated statement and it stands out. I would not use the term “riff” to describe this music; that would be reductionist. Only rarely Sakis (the composer) resorts to the short single-layered patterns that we often identify as riffs in metal music. Although laconic, his musical rhetoric is fascinating; each pattern consists of several layers that involve harmonisations, and a dialogue between primary and secondary melodies. The guitar solos are not ephemeral improvisations either; far from it, they are thought-through compositions in their own right (listen to the solo of “A dynasty from the ice“). Jim’s poems about mythical themes, epic tragedies, and uncanny horror stories, were an essential ingredient in Rotting Christ’s unique style of songwriting.


From left to right: Sakis, Jim, and Themis circa 1996

Back in the mid-1990s one of the best metal record stores in Athens was Metal Era, a shop owned by Jim “Mutilator” Patsouris, original bassist of Rotting Christ. Anyone into metal that grew up in Athens in the mid 1990s knew who the owner of Metal Era was. Over the years I saw many metalheads swarm around him, usually kids who saw him as a rock star. Back then me and my friends often wondered whether some of those fanboys were actually working in the shop for free. In any case, I was not far from being a fanboy myself, because in all honesty I did look up to Jim; he was part of an important chapter of extreme metal history. I too often used to hang out in the shop pestering him to play new releases. Some of the fresh releases or promo versions of albums I listened there over the years include Hypocrisy‘s Final chapter (1997) and Hypocrisy (1999), Hate Eternal‘s Conquering the throne (1999), Broken Hope‘s Loathing (1997), and Dismember‘s Hate campaign (2000). At some point in the late 1990s, after he had quit the band, we ended up talking about Rotting Christ and I told him that Triarchy was my favourite album by them and one of my all-time favourite albums overall. I remember that he was surprised, in a very humble way, and told me that it was his favourite Rotting Christ album too.

But the significance of this album goes beyond simple fascination with the songs. This album is the primary material of many fond memories over the years, one including my younger brother. For a brief period around ’96-97 my brother became interested in the music that his older brother (me) was listening to. One of the songs he used to love was “Snowing still” off Triarchy. Near the end of that song there is an atmospheric passage during which the singer narrates in Greek. This part of the lyrics was omitted from the lyrics in the booklet, and the even more annoying thing was that neither me nor my friends could make out what was being said. My brother wanted to know the lyrics, as it was one of his favourite songs, so I asked Jim to jot down the lyrics on a piece of paper and write a dedication to my brother. Jim was very gracious and indeed wrote down the lyrics in a piece of paper that I’ve kept inside the booklet since.


“Black swans bring tears over his dead body – by dawn they’ll be lying dead together” – Dedicated to our friend Anthony (Jim Mutilator)

Triarchy is undisputedly an extreme metal album, yet it is very difficult to classify it. I personally think that it singularly occupies its own category. Over the summer holidays of 1997, I decided that this album stands out as one of the very few albums where each single second is characterised by sheer perfection. I used to think back then that any band would kill to have even one of the “riffs” on that album. Its melodic dimension anchors it to traditional metal, which was my great love, but also to other styles, such as popular and folk Greek music, that resonated with my habitus. Twenty years have passed since I first listened to it, and today I simply confirm what I had already thought 10 or 15 years ago: Triarchy of the lost lovers is a timeless masterpiece whose significance will only increase with time. Every day that goes by is and will be a reminder that what this band achieved in terms of aesthetic expression and inventiveness cannot be repeated, so this unique example will be admired and treasured.

We will remember them…but for what?

Every year on November 11, and the period leading up to this date, many people around the UK participate in various rituals that aim to commemorate all those soldiers who have sacrificed themselves “fighting for freedom”. The most common ritual of memorial day is wearing the red poppy, a red paper flower, as a symbol of remembrance.

One of the bands that have written songs partially in remembrance of those who died in wars is the British death metal band Bolt Thrower, and the songs I have in mind are “For victory”, off their album For victory (1994), and “Granite wall”, off their album Those once loyal (2005). The opening verse of “Granite wall”, for example, says:

Those that fell today shall be,

in solemn sculpture cast,

always held in reverence,

in memory of the past.

The last two verses of “For victory”, an unbelievable, hauntingly beautiful song, are taken from Binyon’s poem “For the fallen”:

They shall grow not old,

as we that are left grow old,

age shall not weary them,

nor the years condemn,

at the going down of the sun and in the morning,

we will remember them.

These two albums happen to be my favourite Bolt Thrower albums, which I also consider two of the best death metal albums ever made. Bolt Thrower is a band whose lyrical themes revolve almost exclusively around the topic of war. However, they most certainly do not glorify war. On the contrary, they are critical of it and view it as a scourge of humanity, the root of most pain and suffering in our world. When it comes to those two songs, however, I disagree with them because I disagree with what we are supposed to remember. Bolt Thrower seem to omit something from their narrative.

Each person who wears the red poppy participates in a particular discourse. Wearing a poppy has come to signify “gratitude towards those who died so we can be free”. However, this is only part of what happens in wars. This particular framing ignores the fact that soldiers die to protect the political and economic elites’ wealth and power. Soldiers are primarily sent to protect the ruling elites of each nation-state. The political and economic elites do not fight in any wars. Instead they send armies of soldiers to fight for them. Those soldiers come from the dispossessed strata of each society, and they become soldiers because they are forced to become soldiers, directly or indirectly. The status quo can force people to become soldiers by leaving them no other options for earning their livelihood. It can also force them to become soldiers by inculcating in them the idea of patriotism. Patriotism is the fantasy that one is part of such a thing as a “nation” which is exceptional and sacred.

Neither the soldiers of a country on the defensive nor the soldiers of a country on the offensive benefit from war. Both armies are tools in the hands of the political and economic elites in each country. In the end of the war, regardless of who wins or loses, both armies are left in misery. The army of the winning country – the part of the army that survives that is – as well as all those in the lower ranks of society who now secured their “freedom” do not change their destiny. They continue to be part of a system where they are exploited (through exploitative labour, precarious lives, and false needs) while the ruling classes continue “freely” to exploit them.

So, when I listen to those songs by Bolt Thrower, or Satan‘s “Cenotaph” off their brilliant come-back album Life sentence (2013), I do not disagree with their desire to pay tribute to those who died. But I disagree with their failure to acknowledge that those soldiers entered wars that were waged among the ruling classes of different nation-states, who used soldiers for their own benefit. I therefore think that if people want to pay their respects to those who died, they should invent a new ritual that acknowledges that “we will remember all those who were sent to their deaths by the ruling elites of different nation-states who either started wars to increase their wealth and power, or entered wars to guard their wealth and power”. This is a ritual I would not mind participating in.

A brief rant about social media “activism”
December 6, 2015, 7:49 pm
Filed under: people, social theory | Tags: ,

I am responsible for the bombings in Syria as well as the suffering of people experienced here and in other parts of the world, and so are you. Please accept my apologies if you spend your disposable income (minus what you spend on basic needs such as food, clothes and shelter – that does not include conspicuous consumption) on helping out people who cannot satisfy those basic needs. I certainly don’t. I do work hard in order to be able to afford a flat, and I also go out for drinks, coffee, and I buy records. I don’t feel bad that I do all those things. But from now on, I will not act as if I am contributing in making this world a better place, because I am not. Instead, I choose to enjoy my life rather than making my life a bit shittier in order to make someone else’s life a bit less shitty. Capitalism is a zero-sum game. And if I behave like I am making the world a better place by opposing the Syrian bombings on Facebook, or by writing a post on my blog, I am a hypocrite. And I could shout out a dozen social theories to absolve myself of the real responsibility of making the world a better place ’till I’m blue in the face, but this does not matter anymore. I could talk about the fluid channels of new communication technologies and how power flows through them rather than concentrate on traditional centres of power, and I could talk about discursive power and that every little thing we do to challenge hegemonic discourses matters, but I won’t, because all these things mean shit if when I leave my keyboard I continue living my hegemonic lifestyle. Thinking that I am resisting because I use social media to criticise authorities (and coincidentally show off what an awesome activist I am) is insulting. If I did anything to pose an actual threat to the system I would be in prison. And the way social media work to absolve us of our real responsibilities is sickening. This is exemplified in crap like #notinmyname. I hate to burst your bubble but it is in your and in my name. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t suggest that laughable acts of resistance are worthless. On the contrary, their disappearance would mean unconditional surrender. What I do say is that, from now on, I would like to be a bit less insulting towards all those generations of people whose utter misery makes my life a little bit nicer (and no doubt some other people’s life a lot nicer). A different approach to social media “activism”, such as pointing out how our everyday practices enable the perpetuation of oppression and suffering in the world, would be much more honest and respectful.

What happened to us? #3 Edge of Sanity and Dan Swano

A classic break-up was the separation of Dan Swano from the rest of Edge of Sanity in 1997. Back then Dan was widely perceived to be the creative force behind Edge of Sanity’s music, if not the undisputed band leader. I remember that when Cryptic came out and Dan was not part of it, it was not received well among me and my friends, and Dan’s absence was the main reason why. Back then I viewed it as an incomplete version of Edge of Sanity, but over the years I have come to appreciate it and now I consider it as one of the best Edge of Sanity albums and definitely one of the top Swedish death metal albums of the late 1990s. A few years later, in 2003, Dan resurrected the band without the other four members and released Crimson II, which is my least favourite album by them.


From left to right: Benny Larsson, Anders Lindberg, Andreas Axelsson, Sami Nerberg, and Dan Swano.

It appears that several factors contributed to the break-up of this legendary line-up responsible for some of the greatest and most innovative albums in the history of death metal. According to an interview with Dan, he was kicked out of the band in 1997. His exit, according to him, was the company’s (Black Mark) decision. From his account of the situation it is unclear why the label had to choose between him and the rest of the band to grant permission to use the name Edge of Sanity. It is implied that him and the rest of the band were two entities by that point, so the label decided to go with the entity that resembled more a functioning band, and that entity was the one with the four musicians on board (Andreas, Sami, Benny and Anders) rather than only Dan. 

I was unable to find official accounts on why by that point the band was split between Dan and the other band members. However, there is plenty of information available to help fill in this gap. First of all, there is evidence to suggest that Dan and the rest of the band had different, potentially conflicting, creative visions and drew inspiration from different genres; Dan from symphonic rock, pop and soft rock, the rest of the band, extreme metal and punk. Both Andreas Axelsson and Dan have made this claim (see here and here respectively) and from Andreas’s account it could be inferred that different creative visions can be a problem. Conflicts based on creative differences have also been implied by Dan, who has argued that the rest of the band refused to incorporate more Gothic rock elements in the band’s style. Sami Nerberg has also suggested that Swano’s departure was a positive thing as the band’s style became more coherent.

The notion that Dan was the leader of the band could have been another cause for conflict among band members. Sami has even insinuated that Dan had taken over the band (read an interview with him here). While this is also the popular sentiment, in another interview Dan does not take credit for the significance/legacy of Edge of Sanity, and explicitly points out that Edge of Sanity’s magic was a collective effort. However, his discourse farther ahead suggests that he does consider himself the quintessential element in Edge of Sanity’s sound. He was indeed bitter about the rest of the band recording Cryptic without him, saying “[Crimson II] was revenge towards the other guys for doing the Cryptic album”, and he goes as far as to describe the latter as “anti-Edge of Sanity”. For him, the legitimate Edge of Sanity vision corresponds to his own, and the Edge of Sanity chapter should be closed accordingly. 

Linked to the previous argument, there is also a chance that Dan and the rest of the band drifted apart over the years because Dan did not think highly of others’ (apart from Benny’s who is objectively a genius) musical skills. I remember reading an interview back in the day on a Greek metal zine on which Dan explained that the reason he played on the songs he composed on Infernal was because the others couldn’t play them properly (if I remember wrong someone could correct me?). This might have been a reason for Sami, Anders and Andreas to dislike Dan.

Dan has also acknowledged that while the rest had always been friends with one another beyond the band, he was an outsider. His association with Sami, Benny, Anders and Andreas, was only in the context of Edge of Sanity, a band that begun as one of his numerous projects. Not being friends outside of the band meant that it was easy for them to drift apart.

It should also be considered that different band members were differentially invested in the band. For example, in the case of Dan, Edge of Sanity was only one thing amongst other important ventures such as his recording studio and his other projects. In a 1996 interview with Andreas on Chronicles of Chaos, the interviewer asks him why the band does not tour much. Andreas’s answer suggests that the reason behind the band’s reluctance to tour was Dan’s job as a studio owner. It could be hypothesised that the rest of the band considered Dan an obstacle to the band’s success.

Finally, we should not ignore that the death metal genre was dying in the late 1990s, and morale was low for many death metal musicians who felt that the potential for money or recognition was limited. For these reasons, maybe Edge of Sanity was not a priority for Dan in the mid-90s. Indeed, recognition seems to be an important consideration for him. On this interview he very eloquently describes his conscious effort to associate his music on Crimson II with the Edge of Sanity “brand”, because it would receive the attention it deserved (in 2003 when death metal was again on the rise), instead of being overlooked under a different, unrecognised, moniker. 

Nevertheless, it looks like Dan and the rest of the band did not end their creative relationship bitterly. Dan has suggested that his decision to resurrect the band back in 2003 was not done against the will of the old band-members, and Andreas argued a few years ago that him and Dan were still good friends. Since the first and second demise of Edge of Sanity, Dan has been involved in numerous bands, either as a producer or as a musician. I thought that the Moontower album was an excellent example of progressive melodic death metal. The Jesusatan album with Infestdead as well as the first album he did with Bloodbath were also ace. Benny Larsson now plays in the death-thrash ensemble Plague Warhead. Andreas remains rotten to the core with his new incredible band, Tormented. Dan, Andreas and Benny released the crust album Total Terror in 2009.