overground scene

An auto-biography of gig attendance #2: Cannibal Corpse, 1998

Each time someone poses the question “which one is your all time favourite gig?” my response is usually, “Cannibal Corpse”. I saw Cannibal Corpse in Woodstock Club, Peristeri (Greece) on the 25th of October 1998. The venue was small and claustrophobic, and would serve as the site for many other awesome gigs in the years to come. I was with two of my best friends (and one not that close friend), all of us big Cannibal Corpse fans. Cannibal Corpse shared the bill with Dark Funeral and Infernal Majesty. Although Gallery of suicide had just been released, we had already learned most of the lyrics by heart. My friends also liked Dark Funeral (one of them was obsessed with Vobiscum Satanas) but I didn’t. Infernal Majesty had just released Unholier than thou, a great album, and even though I wasn’t a big fan (I hadn’t even listened to None shall defy) I was somewhat excited to see them.

We arrived at the venue all pumped-up and with our tickets carefully bent near the bottom so that they could be smoothly ripped at the door, rather than being totally destroyed. It turned out that the people at the door did not tear up the tickets, hence the white line on the ticket on top of the date (see ticket above). I have absolutely no recollection of Dark Funeral playing. I remember seeing Masse Broberg in full leather and spikes, towering over me on his way to the stage. I also remember Chris Bailey, Infernal Majesty’s singer, in the crowd before they played, and I approached him, welcomed him and asked whether they would play “Roman song” off their latest album. I cannot remember his reply but I think they did play it after all. Again, although I remember enjoying Infernal Majesty, I don’t have any recollections as I was burning with anticipation for the headliner.

The year 1998 was a time when exposure to death metal videos in Greece was rare, so, speaking for myself, I didn’t know what to expect from a Cannibal Corpse gig. When the band started playing I could not believe my eyes. I was at the front of the stage, at arm’s length from Jack Owen, and I saw all the mind-blowing fret-work in all its splendour. I had never seen something similar in my life, and, suffice it to say, it changed my appreciation of death metal in terms of musicianship. Webster’s face was hidden behind his hair during the entire gig, and his stage presence was imposing. The band visited all the stops in its, already by that point, long and impressive career. At least one song was played by each one of their six albums. The awesome set-list included (not in order played): Skull full of maggots, Covered with sores, Meathook sodomy, I cum blood, Hammer smashed face, Starring through the eyes of the dead, Fucked with a knife, Striped, raped and strangled, Devoured by vermin, Perverse suffering, Puncture wound massacre, I will kill you, Disposal of the body, Gallery of suicide, Dismembered and molested, Headless (and I’m pretty sure they also played “Sentenced to burn”, although I haven’t written on the back of my ticket). The sound was perfect and the performance was immaculate. Every single moment was an amazing experience.

After the end of the concert we went outside to get some fresh air and catch our breaths. Soon after Corpsegrinder came out, and my friends and I surrounded him. He was in a good mood, and really nice to us. I mentioned his pierced tongue – which I had noticed during his performance – and he did some grimaces for us exhibiting his piercing. He signed our tickets. We then asked one of our friends who had a disposable camera to take a group picture of us with Corpsegrinder. We struck a pose and when he tried to take the picture he realised that he had used up all the film during the concert. So, we started swearing at him in Greek, and, of course, Corpsegrinder picked up the word “malaka” (wanker), and started repeating it in his funny, distinctive voice – a performance which brought about laughter from everyone in the vicinity. Owen also came out of the venue but he was quite withdrawn and walked around on his own. We approached him and asked for an autograph, which he gave, but he seemed almost sad. He quietly signed our tickets and walked away humming some kind of bluesy tune. After a while we got into a taxi-cab and headed home. The taxi-driver asked us if we were in a rock concert, and we said that we were. He was a middle-aged man, and had a macho-attitude typical for Greek taxi-drivers. After a brief period of silence, he addressed all of us with the question, “So…do you guys fuck a lot?”. We instantly burst out laughing, but I have no recollection of how we addressed his question. He then went off on a tangent telling us about his various “hot, young” girlfriends. He dropped us off, and we ended the night making fun of him in raspy voices, the result of our tormented vocal cords.

In support of “NO”: the Greek case against austerity
July 3, 2015, 4:49 pm
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I decided to write this post after having come across quite a bit of misinformation and idle talk on the issue of the Greek crisis and its adventures with the European Union and international financial institutions such as the IMF. My aim is not to address the way in which different actors and media frame the crisis. What I want to do with this post is to clarify some points regarding the character of the EU, the role of Greece within the EU and the EMU, and, finally, to express my support for the campaign against austerity measures in Greece and explain why I think that the Greek government should continue resisting.

Some background information on the European Union, the Economic and Monetary Union and their ideology

I want to start this account with a brief discussion on keywords of the crisis which are being used in everyday parlance in a catachrestic way, and, by doing so, provide some basic information on the way that Greece is implicated in the European Union and the Euro Area. Starting with the very basics, the European Union and the Euro Area (Economic and Monetary Union) are not one and the same. The European Union (EU henceforth) is a peculiar organisation which combines intergovernmental and supranational elements. While it is being constituted by nation states through the signing of international treaties (intergovernmental element), those same states transfer part of their sovereignty to the EU, giving it power over its constituent parts (supranational element). In simple words, the EU has been invested with powers that in ever-expanding areas are superior to national laws.

The EU evolved over more than half a century into what it looks like today. Important treaties in the history of the EU include the Treaty of Rome in 1957, the Single European Act in 1986, the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992, the Amsterdam Treaty in 1997, the Treaty of Nice in 2000 and the Treaty of Lisbon in 2007. During these 50 years what we call today the EU evolved from a simple trade union that allowed the tariff-free movement of goods among European countries, to a much more complex organisation comprising a common market and endowed with significant political and judicial powers. The Economic and Monetary Union (EMU henceforth) represents one stage of EU’s evolution. This stage, however, is a stage in which not all countries that belong to the EU participate. The EU member-states that participate in the EMU are characterised by an integration of institutions not only as far as their economic policies are concerned, but also includes their monetary policy.

There is a wealth of debate on the driving forces behind European economic and political integration, namely the EU. Many scholars make sure to emphasise that the EU was a project whose primary aim was to secure peace among European nation-states. The way these political elites envisioned peace was through interdependence. The idea was that if the prosperity of nation-states depends on one another then there would be no war. This rationale reveals a lot about how these political elites perceived the world. It is a rationale underlain by a realist approach to international relations, whereby nation-states are selfish actors within an anarchic system. But it is also a rationale underlain by the belief that economic liberalisation is the key to growth and prosperity; a belief that by removing economic barriers across nation-states everyone would benefit. That would happen, according to orthodox economics, either through each country specialising in the industries in which it has a comparative advantage (so one country would produce food, another country would produce cars, etc.) or even specialising in goods that are complementary (one country would have the expertise in producing cars, but it would import the raw materials from other countries). In any case, each economically liberalised country would end up with sectors in which it has a comparative advantage whilst all countries would be organically glued together because they need each other, hence prosperity and interdependence. The EMU represents one of the final stages of this plan, a stage where even monetary barriers are abolished.

The problem with this master plan, to begin with, is that economies are not rational entities. As Karl Polanyi would say, economies are formed by people and other factors of production such as the earth and weather that are irrational. The even bigger problem, in my opinion, is that this plan has always been a capitalist one. When the EU political elites think of prosperity they think of the prosperity of their class and of the classes that own them, that is, the economic elites. Never in the European dream there has been the desire to abolish exploitation, alienation and human suffering. The political and economic elites, of course, would once again resort to economics and argue that when industry thrives then conditions of labour improve. Again, even if we ignore false consciousness or the existence of ideological state apparatuses controlled by elites which stifle any prospect of resistance, and even if labour conditions are improved, nobody ever suggested that prosperity would be equally distributed among the people. The European dream has always been the capitalist dream of the political and economic elites.

Accordingly, the EMU is part of this capitalist dream. It is the dream of those who possess economic capital to further capitalise on a strong currency, the dream of bankers for whom increased competition with fewer rules implies the endless creation of new financial products, the dream of politicians whose friends (the economic elites) are satisfied, and the dream of service providers and manufacturers to capitalise on ever-expanding mindless consumerist masses carefully produced discursively over centuries of ideological control.

The EMU and Greece

In order for the EMU to succeed in making the political and economic elites even richer and the masses even more docile and destitute, it had to be created very carefully. The question that European technocrats had to answer was, “How do we create a strong currency that has credibility?”. When the EMU was designed in the Treaty of Maastricht it included considerations regarding monetary prudence of member-states. Later on in the Treaty of Amsterdam the Stability and Growth Pact was introduced and has been reformed over the years. According to this, member-states should keep their government deficit and debt low and in check (3% and 60% of GDP respectively). These conditions mirrored the belief in European political and technocratic elites that a prudent macroeconomic policy was the bedrock of a strong currency.

In order for member-states to be able to abide by the guidelines of the Stability and Growth Pact they should fulfill certain conditions. The debate on this issue has been brilliantly summarised by Nikos Koutsiaras (2005) in his textbook Understanding Economic and Monetary Union. At the heart of this debate is the need to avoid asymmetric shocks within a single currency area like the EMU. Some scholars emphasised the importance of mobile labour, so that if one country’s economy is declining and there’s surplus labour this labour could move to another country whose economy is contracting (migration). This is how cynically people’s lives are viewed by economists and technocrats. Other scholars emphasised that a single currency union should be formed only by countries who have similar business cycles. Other scholars mentioned the desirability of a centralised fiscal authority that would distribute wealth among countries. Finally, some argued that the more countries engage in economic relations the more their economies adapt to one another, rendering asymmetric shocks less likely.

In other words, if there is free mobility of labour among countries who want to form a monetary union, if there is a centralised fiscal authority, or if the economies among countries are similar, or there’s evidence that over time different economies start to converge, then the conditions for an optimum currency area exist. The reason why these conditions should be fulfilled is that problems in one part of the monetary union can infect the entire union, hence the credibility of the euro which threatens the profits of European big corporations and those political elites that support them.

Greece, as well as other European economies such as Spain and Portugal, represent these asymmetric shocks. Greece is an economy in trouble that despite being peripheral can compromise the entire Euro area. A big government debt creates difficult dilemmas for the European Central Bank. To begin with, EMU members should not owe much to markets because then it creates simultaneously the need for a the Central bank to print more money in order to reduce the debt, increasing inflation and hence the value of money over time, reducing the incentive for investments (and increasing incentive for consumption). At the same time, the intervention of the European Central Bank in the Greek economy creates what has been termed as “moral hazard”. This refers to the idea that other EMU members will think that if one country’s politicians can be non-prudent with their spending so can they (since they want to increase their votes), because the European Central Bank will eventually step in and save the day. At the same time, if the ECB does not intervene it gives the impression of instability, scaring away investors and harms the credibility of the euro.

EU’s defeat as a blow to the neoliberal doxa

In the present case, however, if the EU gives in to the requests of the Greek government is risks something even bigger. If Greece gets away with resisting austerity it means that it succeeds in pushing back the boundaries of the neoliberal doxa. If the Greek people support with their “NO” the Greek government’s efforts to alleviate suffering by spending money on the unprivileged and taking money from the economic elites, they resist an ideology which glorifies extreme inequality and the extermination of the masses. The EU’S political and economic elites cannot allow this to happen. They refuse to allow a dissenting voice, such as this of the Greek government, to shape the discourse on capitalism. What is at stake is the neoliberal doxa. Syriza is a radical party only within the context of extreme neoliberalism. Syriza is not against capitalism. It just wants a different capitalism, one with a more humane fac(ad)e, endowed with all those characteristics which give the impression of fairness. Still, within the present context Syriza’s efforts are noble. If Greece wins this small battle the power configuration changes. More people and political parties around Europe might be inspired. The more supporters this movement gathers the more dissenting voices will start contributing to the discourse on neoliberalism and social and economic inequality. Voting “NO” to austerity is not a panacea and the long-term effects are unknown, but it is a form of resistance which is necessary. Voting “YES” to austerity means acquiescence in the enslavement of the non-privileged, it is complicity in the further establishment of a system whereby the economic and political elites cause the pain, suffering and destruction of the lives of millions.


Is this where I came from? #3 My Bloody Valentine and Psychotic Waltz

In previous installments of the “Is this where I came from”  series of posts, I have addressed the influence of British heavy metal on Swedish death metal and German power metal. In an effort to seek more obscure influences across genres rather than the more obvious ones within the same genre (for example, how the main riff off Iron Maiden‘s “The Wickerman” is exactly the same as Judas Priest‘s “Running wild“) I will go out on a limb in this post, so to speak. In this the third installment I hypothesise the possible influence of an alternative rock band from Dublin, Ireland (My Bloody Valentine) on a progressive metal band from San Diego, California (Psychotic Waltz).

My Bloody Valentine – Soft as snow (but warm inside) (1988)

My Bloody ValentineMy Bloody Valentine is a band that pioneered the shoegazing genre. The first time I heard about them was through Napalm Death; MBV is one of the bands that Barney usually mentions, alongside the Swans, when he accounts for the more atmospheric influences of Napalm Death. MBV’s first album, Isn’t anything, is the only one I have heard from them and is quite amazing. An old school garage/rock ‘n’ roll spirit hides behind a veil of melancholy and uncanny noise and dissonance. “Soft as snow” is the opening song of the album.

Psychotic Waltz – Lovestone blind (1994)

psychotic“Lovestone blind” comes from Psychotic Waltz‘s third album, Mosquito (1994). In this album, the complex orchestrations and instrumentation used in the previous ones were to a large extent abandoned in favor of a more stripped down and direct sound akin to the, at the time, burgeoning grunge sound of the early 1990s. Indeed, harmonic progressions that remind of Nirvana, The Fluid, or Soundgarden, and so on, can be found here and there throughout this album. It is probably my least favorite PW album, although songs like “Haze One”, “Mosquito”, and “Cold” are all-time favorites. One of the less obvious influences of PW however, I think comes from My Bloody Valentine. “Lovestone blind” is mainly built around grunge-y dissonant harmonic progressions and an equally abrasive chorus. However, three minutes into the song, the band goes into a slow atmospheric part. During this slow part, Lackey starts singing the final verse, “now they look into the eyes of a silver screen can of lies…”. The harmony and feel of this passage is very similar to the melody of “Soft as snow”.

The untouchable elite
November 14, 2008, 11:15 am
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Some of the Hedge Fund managers partly responsible for the global financial crisis, not only blamed the system they created but also explained us the conditions under which one is allowed to be irresponsible and greedy without feeling guilty. Apparently, if you have struggled your whole life to finally achieve a huge pay you are allowed to be corrupt. Furthermore, if your parents were poor and struggled to raise you, you then qualify for being greedy and corrupt. Last but not least, if your paycheck reflects the returns to your investors (god forbid!) then you are allowed to try to be profitable by bribing politicians, coming up with new toxic financial products, and so on. These are the concusions from the testimonies of George Soros, Philip Falcone and John Paulson. Here is the article from the Financial Times. And here is the article from Napalm Death…

2008 playlist

The year 2008 has been musicwise a good one, since some of my favorite bands released an album. Some other bands not so favorite, also put out some really nice music that accompanied my restless winter and summer this year. Tiamat released an interesting album after many years of stalemate (i.e. since A deeper kind of slumber), Motorhead unfortunately were unable to surpass their previous perfect album (i.e. Kiss of Death) and made a boring album with sole interesting moments those that try to copy their past, Dismember released a monstrous album impresively executed, Benediction released a huge masterpiece I have already listened a million times and I only have it one week! I here propose a 2008 playlist with my personal best songs for 2008, put together in a way that makes sense:

1. Dismember –Combat Fatigue

Combat fatigue could likely refer to the infinite studying during this winter and summer. An excellent song, one of the best songs out of Sweden for many years. It sets of with a riff that could only be written by Sarcofago of the INRI era! It continues with a simple and steady heavy beat and an old school Dismember riff. The chorus is massive. and for the final lines a totally new enthralling riff enters with Karki’s transfixing interpratation eventuating in the initial sarcofago-riff. Confusion-Angst-Fear-Tiredness and drums-monotonous riff-vocals tear the place apart.

2. Hail of Bullets – Advancing Once More

The album about war this year is the one released by “Hail of Bullets”, even though Dismember is about war as well. Martin Van Drunen leads this all-star band. Gebbedi, of “Thanatos” fame, is on guitar and Ed Wardby, of Goreferst, on drums. The song, as the album in general, reeks of Gorefest. The heavy Gorefest riff in the begining leads slowly to an impressive old scholl outbreak in the middle of the song. The riff reminds of “Death”, of the Leprosy era. Van Drunen’s vocals make me feel like time has stopped in 1995.

3.  Deicide – Horrors in the Halls of Stone

Probably the best song in the new Deicide album. I liked this album more than the previous one, which I found ok but shallow. This song is hellish and heavy in the beginning, not similar to anything Deicide have done in the past. The riff in the 1:48 and the grinding part however, is 100% early Deicide! A riff so simple and old fashioned, but no new band could pull off. Benton is repugnant.

4. Tiamat – Until the hellhounds sleep again

Even though because of songs like ‘The equinox…’ the new Tiamat album became so loved, my favorite and the one I listened more was this one. Scary atmosphere and a great chorus.

5. Portishead – The Rip

Maybe the song I listened more from the new album. I am ashamed to speak about it. It speaks for itself.

6. Hellacopters – I just don’t know about girls

The final Hellacopters album is unfortunately their worst because it is comprised of cover songs. However, almost all songs are very good. My favorite ones are the one from Asteroid B-612 (this one) and the amazing cover of Dead Moon’s ‘Rescue’. ‘I just don’t know…’ is perfect for Nicke’s voice and has an amazing chorus.

7. Disfear – Testament

One of my favorite records this year is the new Disfear. That song is among the ones which blew me away. See past post for more (i.e. Who’s who? About Disfear and others).

8. Disfear – Get it off

The killer opening track of the new Disfear. It signposts the period when I indeed had a lot to get off my back.

9. Unleashed – The greatest of all lies

A perfect song from the new Unleashed album, in order to get back to death metal. Death the way ONLY Unleashed know how to play. I dare anyone to point me towards another band that does what they do.

10. Benediction – Dripping With Disgust

PROBABLY THE BEST SONG FOR THIS YEAR. Benediction released a fuel injected death metal masterpiece. Nevermind the drum machine (I don’t know for sure but it sure sounds like one). Pure inspiration and early 90s feeling from one of Britain’s finest! The singer has gone mad in this album. I don’t think death metal has been more honest and furious for a long time. The best intro ever, best chorus ever!

Let me introduce myself…
July 4, 2008, 10:28 pm
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I am Split, and this blog is my first attempt ever to communicate with people I do not know through the internet. This blog will hopefully satisfy my need to bring forward and discuss issues around popular music, that I so much love. This need is even stronger at this time of my life, that I live in a new environment in a foreign country (UK), away from Greece where I grew up and from my friends with whom I used to spend hours talking about our favourite and not so favourite bands.

Even though my need for songs is insatiable, and hence I am open to all kinds of different genres to be able to feed it, I still have to call myself a punk and a death metaler, based on two criteria: time (number of years I listen to the specific genre and hours per day) and space (space my records from the specific genre take up in my collection).

Some of the functions of genres, in my opinion, is that they allow communication between musicians and their fans, they reduce uncertainty, reinforce tastes, and create and satisfy desires. My favourite sub-genre is what today is known as “old-school Swedish death metal”. Of course when I started listening to it, it was just Swedish death metal. Later on as new elements were introduced and the old sound begun to die out, the label “old school” was introduced. Favourite bands of that period include Dismember, Entombed, Unleashed, Grave, Comecon, Edge of Sanity, At the Gates, Carbonized, Tiamat, and so on.

As far as my other favourite genre is concerned, Punk, then I would have to say that the American west coast scenes are what I love. The interesting thing about hardcore-punk, is that the bands that defined the genre, at the  same time set so high standards that no band since has managed to surpass. The adolescents, circle jerks, D.I., True Sounds Of Liberty, Social Distortion, Agent Orange, Descendents, are the most representative sample of bands that marked the beginning and the end of a genre.

The above are scenes that have oligopolised my interest for many years now and will probably continue to do so for many more. I will use this space to talk about records and bands that I love and about the things they make me feel and think, how I think they influence my life, comment upon new releases, and more philosophical quests as well.