Reviews

Nile Unearths Heavy New Album (Review)

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Nile’s newest album “What Should Not be Unearthed” opens up like a blast of fire melting the face off a demon. They’re back heavier and faster than ever. This is quite a feat considering that Technical Death Metal has been on the way out recently. And many Death Metal bands have gone towards a more progressive or groove driven direction; which is understandable, because it’s often hard to be even heavier than what already exists, especially after Death Metal has been a genre for 20+ years.

But Nile delivers a fist full of death metal that punches you in the face with its heavy riffs, dynamic tempos, and liquid hot solos. Some of the riffs are familiar, but there are definitely some clever new licks thrown in. And of course, this album brings together what Nile fans love – fast, death metal riffs mixed with middle eastern instrumentals and scales.

KARL SANDERS DISCUSSES HIS INTENTIONS AND OPINION OF NEWEST ALBUM

In an interview with Metal Wani, Karl Sanders (Nile’s Vocalist and Guitarist) said he wanted to take a different direction than their last album, “At The Gates of Sethu.” Sethu was a very clean and technical album, written for studio perfection. But as Karl says, this newest album was all about the fans, and giving them what they want. It was also more about feeling than technicality. “Is it heavy, does it emotionally move me?”

Many interviews and reviews have already dealt with the technicalities of the music. In short, I will say in this album there are more mid-range growls than the low growls of the past (I can actually understand the lyrics!). The guitars and bass are also turned up a bit higher in volume than previous albums. As George Kollias (the drummer) is quoted as saying, “I can’t hear my fucking drums!” (Metal Wani). In terms of skill level, the song “What Should Not Be Unearthed” was apparently one of the hardest songs George Kollias has played in his life.

But what I’d like to delve into is the meaning behind the music – the vibe – the soul of the album so to speak. Topically, this is about things that shouldn’t be unearthed (yeah I know, the title says that, duh!)

The following was said about the artwork: The story behind the title goes deeply beneath everything we have already known, and we may not be ready to face.  With the art I excavated the theories of an elder ancient civilization which could give the origin to ancient Egypt. That’s why you can find a new ingredient in the band imagery, pointing at some higher obscure intelligence, eroding and covered with time. (Nuclear Blast)

So there is definitely this theme of an eerie, and an ancient spirit being accidentally unleashed like some horror movie mummy.

But what no interview has discussed is the modern middle eastern implications as well.

CALL TO DESTRUCTION – OPENING ALBUM TRACK

The video for “Call to Destruction” very deliberately shows video footage of terrorist groups (like The Islamic State) destroying ancient relics. The lyrics very obviously point to this.

Call to destruction of the symbols of paganism
Grand monuments of idolatry
We must tear down these blasphemous edifices of heathenism

We must annihilate all that is pre Islamic
We must complete what the ‘Amr ibn al-‘As could not
We must tear down these relics of infidelity

Great and mighty works of blasphemy
Mountains of ancient heresy
Sacrilege encased in stone
From thousands of years before the Prophet…

So there is no mistaking that this is a theme (at least for that song). 

Nile doesn’t just discuss the ancient Middle East, they also discuss the modern Middle East as well sometimes. For instance, in the “Those Whom The Gods” detest album, there was the song Kafir, which is the word for “heretic” or “unbeliever” in Islam.

So now it’s time for my conjecture (JUST MY OPINION, NOTHING OFFICIAL): I think the Islamic State’s destruction of ancient relics is relevant to many of the themes of other songs in the album. That may have been unintentional or intentional on their part (I don’t know). I just saw a theme: a theme in terms of unearthing or destroying relics of ancient history that should remain untouched. And the actions of IS/ISIS fit into that theme. “Rape of the Black Earth” discusses destroying entire blocs of history, objects that have not been disturbed for millennia, and temples of the Gods defiled. “Age of Famine” also references unheard of atrocities, noble women becoming slave and whores, and children being dashed against walls, and people turning against each other…hmm that sounds familiar to what’s in the news.

Now am I saying this is what this album is all about? No I am not. Karl himself said this wasn’t a concept album.

Or maybe the whole album was really just Karl describing his hatred of unearthing the precious Earth metals that create cell phones (see interview).(Or maybe that’s a joke…)

The last song is “To Walk Forth from the Flames Unscathed.” So perhaps this is somewhat of a hopeful ending to an album with several songs about the destruction and violation of ancient history.

Evil to Cast out Evil is a killer track. Check that out to get a further taste of the delicious mayhem that is Nile’s newest album.

EVIL TO CAST OUT EVIL


RELEVANT LINKS

Official Nile Site

Get new album here

2015 Europe Tour

2016 Tour Dates


Rik Garrett’s “Earth Magic” Photography Book – Witches of the Earth

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Rik Garrett‘s “Earth Magic” photo series has recently been collected into a book, and is now for sale here (US) and here (International). “Earth Magic” portrays women in nature, in a raw, but very natural way. The women are one with the landscape of the wood, mysterious weavers of the weird within the forest’s primordial depths.

In the making and binding of the book, Garrett was inspired by the style of the Malleus Maleficarum, which was a sort of pocket-book for witch hunters in the 15th century. Garret’s intent is obviously more positive, but his theme is similar. If you are looking for witches in the forest – this is what they might look like.

Each book contains 13 photos (like the number of members in a coven) and each book is different. The pictures are picked from a pool of 30 total photos and randomized. So even if you buy two books, they will most likely be different.

Here are some photos from the Earth Magic series:

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The Remaking of the Galdraskræða (Icelandic Book of Spells)

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The tradition of magic among the native Icelandic population goes back to ancient times. Magic was an important part of life, and mastering it was vital to interacting with nature and controlling one’s destiny.

Jochum M. Eggertson (better known as “Skuggi” meaning shadow) collected these spells into a book called the Galdraskræða. The first edition of this book was published in the year 1940. It was only published in a limited edition of 150 copies. The book contains nearly 200 spells and an ensemble of runic letters. Since there were only a few limited editions of this book sold onto the market, the book was very difficult to find for several years.

The book has been republished recently with easier to read designs drawn in red (in order to represent blood).

Read More About The Book 

Purchase The Book (Note, it is written in Icelandic)


Druidcraft by Phillip Car-Gomm – A Merger of Witchcraft and Druidry

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Book Available on Amazon

A Podcast about the book from Phillip Car-Gomm


THE BOOK STRUCTURE: 

PART FICTION, PART REALITY, PART SPIRITUAL JOURNEY

Phillip Car-Gomm’s “Druidcraft” is a must read for anyone who is interested in both Druidry and Witchcraft. Now, in writing this book, Car-Gomm is not insisting that Witches and Druids everywhere must join forces together. Rather, he is saying that it is fine if you prefer to be just a Witch, or just a Druid; however, if you are interested in both of these paths, that it is perfectly reasonable to combined them together.

Druidcraft is an easy to read guide for those interested in this synthesis of spiritualities. Rather than being an Instruction Manual, it is part fiction, part non-fiction and part spiritual journey all blended together.

Each chapter begins with a Bard telling a story, just as the teachers in the old Bardic schools did. Some of these stories are old Celtic tales with their structures intact, and then with some of the tales, Car-gomm tells them in a new way. Car-gomm refrains from explaining the stories too much, stating that the power of each tale lies in their ability to sneak past the rational mind. Car-gomm takes the reader to a mythical school in the Otherworld named “Avronelle.”

Each tale is followed by a colloquy – which is a dialogue between a teacher and student. This was a common technique for learning among the Ancient Greeks and (theoretically) the Ancient Druids. After the colloquy is a practical section with a series of lessons that give suggestions on how to work with the presented ideas. Car-gomm makes it clear that these aren’t ideas set in stone, but a set of guidelines. The practical section is then shortly followed by the Historical Section.

Through this structure, Car-gomm explains the Druidcraft approach to magic, healing,  and seasonal celebration – as well as giving a brief history of Druidry and Witchcraft.


WITCHCRAFT AND DRUIDRY

HOW ARE THEY SIMILAR? HOW ARE THEY DIFFERENT?

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For those of you unfamiliar with the ways of Druidry and Witchcraft, they may seem like one in the same to you.

How are Druidry and Witchcraft Similar?

Both are Neo-Pagan paths that explore the Pre-Christian world of magic, the elements and nature spirituality. Both paths even follow an 8-fold, wheel of the year of holiday festivals that are connected with the rhythm of nature. Even more striking is the fact that the Neo-Pagan versions of these paths were founded around the same time – somewhere in the 1960’s. To clarify, I know that the revival of Druidry happened about 300 years ago during a period known as the “Druid Revival.” Yet much of the way that modern Druidry is practiced today has been shaped by the founding of OBOD by Ross Nichols in 1964 (and ADF arrived later in the 1980’s). Wicca, alternatively, is a religion based on witchcraft, was founded  by Gerald Gardner in 1954.

How are They Different? 

Phillip Car-Gomm summarizes the differences below.

“Wiccans were interested in magic and spells, while Druids were more interested in history, the old Celtic myths and a ‘spiritual’ rather than ‘magical’ approach to life (page 14).”

In my opinion, Wicca has a more standardized version of spirituality: there is definitely a God and Goddess, there is definitely karma (results of the magic and energy you put out into the world), there is a specific way of doing magic that involves specific tools, there is the “threefold law,” and the “do as you will as none are harmed” rule of ethics.

Druidry is much less regulated, with more of an emphasis on spiritual exploration and learning magic through a journey. Most of the Wiccan texts I’ve read have had a “1,2,3” approach to spell craft, while Druid texts end up telling an old tale that reveals the lesson. The specific worship of a God and Goddess is less emphasized in Druidry. ADF is a much more, clear-cut polytheistic Druid organization. OBOD on the other hand, leaves the decision on how to see the Gods up to the practitioner. For this reason, it is not unusual to bump into a Christian Druid who is involved with OBOD.

Yet Druidcraft is a path for those who would like to combined both aspects of Druidry and Witchcraft together. Phillip Car-Gomm has the following to say about this spiritual synthesis:

“Many Wiccans have become interested in the history of the Druids, in Celtic myths, and in Druid animal and tree lore. At the same time, many Druids have become interested in the more intuitive and magical approaches to life that are found in Wicca. If you talk to people who are interested in Wicca or Druidry you will find that most of them are drawn to these spiritual paths for the same reasons.   In the past, subjects and disciplines were kept within defined boundaries. Today, we understand the value of synthesis, synergy and interdisciplinary studies. This is the spirit in which this book is written – to contribute to the field, not to detract from the uniqueness of each approach.”

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“Living Asatru” by Greg (Dux) Shetler – Book Review

9 out of 10 Vikings Approve This Book

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(I couldn’t find a good picture of the book on the internet, so I just used my webcam)

Get “Living Asatru” on Amazon

I don’t have enough book reviews on this blog. Let me correct that statement, I don’t have ANY book reviews on this blog. This is a dire situation that needs to be hastily corrected. So here I go!

This is a great short, simple and affordable book on the religion of Asatru. It is a total of only 88 pages, but covers a lot of territory. It gives a basic overview of the Norse Gods, The Lore, The Runes, Customs, The Nine Noble Virtues, Holidays and pretty much anything that you should know if you want to call yourself a follower of Asatru. This is a great little handbook to have at your side if you are either just starting to learn about Asatru or want to review the basics.

It would take me forever to explain the basics of Asatru, so I’m just going to delve into my favorite parts of Shetler’s book. He stresses the fact that this is not an authoritative source on Asatru, but merely an interpretation. It’s not a bunch of commandments carved in stone, it’s a set of guidelines for living. After all, the book is called “LIVING Asatru.” My favorite part of the book is Greg’s discussion on ethics. I won’t go into all the details, you can buy the book if you want that, but I will go over some of the key concepts covered by Shetler – in terms of how to live an ethical life as an Asatruar.

Örlög

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According to Shetler, Örlög is a partly inherited and partially self developed component of the soul which is strongly influenced by fate. “The Örlög was determined independent of man’s laws, and is based entirely on the results of one’s actions (page 27).” Shetler goes on to say that while Örlög sounds like Karma, it is different. “While karma is distinguished by ‘good’ and ‘bad’ karma…Örlög is independent of these things.” Basically, the actions you take will cause results to happen to you – Duh! If you are honorable, you will find yourself surrounded by honorable people and if you are dishonorable, you will be surrounded by dishonorable people. If you eat that tempting, but expired hot-dog you bought at a gas station, you might get sick.

Your Örlög is your “spiritual momentum.” So what is “right” or “wrong?” Shetler says that “there are no such things (page 27).” What there is instead, is acting in a way that makes you desirable to society. If you think about it, every society has had similar – but different ideas of what is right and wrong. So there isn’t an absolute set of rules of what is “good.” Rather, we all try to act in a way that is most beneficial to our kinsmen. That brings us to our next concept.

Frith

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(Dawww, look at the happy viking family. Source)

Frith is our obligation to the welfare of others. Frith itself is a kind of “peace.” This isn’t the same as a total lack of violence. Rather, it is a commitment to acting in a way that will prevent your actions from having a negative effect on those you owe frith. So who do we owe frith? Shetler explains that while we owe frith to varying degrees to all the living things around us, our blood-kin are owed the greatest frith of all. Below our blood relations are members of our “tribes.” “In modern society, we each tend to live in a number of tribes all at once – our schools, clubs, employers, sports teams and circles of friends (page 31).” The more we move outwards, in terms of how close the relationship is, the less frith owed. For example, you owe more frith to your mother than the neighborhood delivery guy. Now, you should still be nice to the delivery guy, because he effects your tribe to some degree (getting your package on time and so on), but if you had to make a choice between saving your mother’s life or the delivery man’s life, you would obviously choose your mother. In frith, the greater obligation takes place over lesser obligations.

How All This Applies to Ethics

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What I enjoy about Shetler’s book is that he presents a common sense approach to morality. For example, the ten commandments present an “absolute morality” literally carved in stone. “Thou shalt not kill” is one of the Ten Commandments…and yet the bible is replete with tales of God’s people killing other people. Shetler argues that real life ethical situations are much more complex than a simple “thou shalt not ______.” Ethics in Asatru, according to Shetler, is connected to frith. What actions are the most beneficial to your kinsmen?

Now with killing, Shetler states that you obviously shouldn’t kill someone for flattening your car tires. In this situation, “the harm you inflict is way out of line with the harm they sought to inflict on you (page 38).” However, if you are in a home defense situation, the considerations are different. The costs of action need to be weighed against the costs of not acting. If someone is simply stealing something, it may be prudent not to take their life. The harm of killing this person may be greater than losing a new laptop. But if they are putting the lives of your spouse and children in direct danger, you might consider taking action.

So, there isn’t necessarily “right” and “wrong” here, but the actions that best reflect your commitment to frith and that have a positive impact upon your Örlög.

Also, by doing what is best for your kinsmen, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should pillage and raid nearby neighborhoods to feed your family. While Shetler recognizes the need that his ancestors had for such activities (poor soil and low resources), modern times are different. We now live in a heavily interconnected world, so our actions in the global community have a greater effect on one another than they did in previous times. Shetler elaborates on this more.

Shetler has many other ethical situations that apply to lying, stealing and cheating, but you’ll have to read the book to see those.

All in all, this was a very helpful and enjoyable book. Many key concepts that I had previously been confused about were made simple. Thanks Greg! If you think you would like this book, you can find it here: “Living Asatru” on Amazon. 


Why Pixar’s “Brave” Movie Should Be Called “Pride”

The bears I surveyed gave this movie a C+. 

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(SPOILER ALERT!)

There were two reasons I was initially excited to see this movie: a fascination with Ancient Celtic Myth and the fact that this was Pixar’s first movie with a female protagonist as the lead. Yet watching this film left me feeling like this was the “C” student who I was expecting to make an “A.” On this blog, I admit to feeling silly for criticizing a movie made for children. Over all, the movie wasn’t terrible. I still walked away from it being somewhat entertained. But there was also something about this movie that left me feeling frustrated.

PIXAR’S FLIMSY ATTEMPT TO CREATE A STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER

I feel like “Brave” was Pixar’s attempt to make a strong female character, since they have been criticized for being something of a “boy’s club.” Yet instead of coming off like a strong, female Celtic warrior the likes of Boudicca (a woman who destroyed three Roman towns and nearly kicked the Romans out of Britain), Merida – the lead – remains a prissy, self entitled teenager who seems more likely to whine about doing her math homework rather than leading her clan to greatness.

NOTES ON THE MOVIE ITSELF

Brave itself is a movie that takes place in an idealized 10th century Scotland. The animation and scenery is remarkable, in this aspect, Pixar does not disappoint. Directors Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman both also have Scottish roots, which gives the film some authenticity.

The beginning of the movie seemed promising. Merida is a princess with remarkable archery skills. She wants to be a powerful warrior like her father, King Fergus. Yet she remains trapped by her mother with the responsibilities and traditions of being a “prim and proper” princess who doesn’t “put her weapons on the dinner table.” Eventually the day comes when it is time to marry Merida off to the future leader of another clan. Politically successful marriages were vitally important to the survival of a clan. These marriages were key in bringing peace to two different clans that may have ended up declaring war on one another. The Ancient Celtic Goddess Brigid herself played an important role in bringing peace to two warring tribes after her son was killed in battle.

Different clans come together in order to compete for Merida’s hand in marriage. The sons of all the clan leaders end up being quite unsuitable – suitors. In cliché movie fashion – they are all miraculously a bunch of bumbling doofuses who can’t tell an arrow’s tail from their own faces. I understand the element here was to introduce comedic relief. Yet I found it incredibly disappointing that ALL of the men in this movie were incompetent. The mighty king Fergus can’t even give a speech without his wife’s assistance. This element made the movie more frustrating and stereotypical than funny in my opinion.

The reality is that the Scottish clans of these times had an intense focus on warfare and raising up powerful warriors. The son of a clan leader would’ve trained his whole life in different skills of battle: sword fighting, archery and hand to hand combat. The idea that all the suitors would be this incompetent is just as insulting as it is stupid. But then again…I remind myself that this is a kid’s movie and I must suspend some expectation of reality here…

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With a lifetime focused on physical training, like throwing logs and boulders, it’s likely that the Scottish Suitors may have looked something like this. Heart melts! Merida, if you don’t want any of the suitors, I’ll take all four. Mwahhaa!

MERIDA VIOLATES TRADITION

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Merida ends up competing for her own hand in marriage – which violates all protocols of tradition – and wins. This horrifies her mother – the Queen – and increases the rift between the two. After a fight, Merida ends up running away. At this point in the story, I was expecting some heroic adventures and deep life lessons. Instead we get some wacky hijinks where Merida ends up using a witch’s spell to “change her mum” – the most vague request you can make of life altering magic – and ends up turning her mother into a bear. This is bittersweet considering that King Fergus is a mighty bear hunter.

MYTHOLOGICAL CONNECTIONS?

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Perhaps there may be some mythological significance to this transformation considering that shape shifting magic was a common theme in Celtic Mythology and that Artio herself was a mighty Bear Goddess.

However, getting back to the movie plot, the rest of the movie tediously makes its way through Merida trying to turn her mother back into a human. There are a lot of shenanigans that ensue which provide some slapstick humor and some clumsy plot development.

BRAVE IS NOT SO BRAVE

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(Now that’s what I call Brave!)

Our heroine also does not prove to be very “brave” either. When she comes close to having a fight with a real bear she ends up screaming and curling into a ball out of fear.

Eventually Merida discovers that she must “mend the bond destroyed by pride.”After this revelation, I was hoping some life lesson would emerge about the destructive effects of pride – but in the end this was all muddled by some vague lesson of each person being allowed to choose their own path. Merida does not end up getting married, the unsuitable suitors go home, and there is not much clear indication of what happens to the rest of the clan as a result. 

The reality is that the clans would’ve probably declared a brutal war on one another, destroy their alliance and bloodshed would ensue. Merida’s actions did nothing to benefit her people or her family. The desire to doom the future of one’s entire clan for one’s own selfish interests is not “brave,” it is selfish and “prideful” and frankly is a perfect description of what is wrong with modern values today. Actual Celtic history is replete with tales of women who knew how to fight – and there were women who even had their own fighting schools. Yet most Celtic men and women did what was good for their tribe and not necessarily what was best for themselves. If we are to learn from the past, we must learn to do what is best for those around us – not simply living for our own selfish ends.

LACK OF CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT OR STORY ARC

I think the problem here is that the boys at Pixar really had no idea how to develop a powerful female lead. They couldn’t conceive of an independent and strong female without also making her selfish and prideful, not really heroine material. A good character is also someone who has some kind of challenge to overcome. I suppose the challenge here was to mend the bond torn by pride – but she didn’t really end up making any major sacrifices or concessions for her prideful behavior. She was also a great archer from the get-go, so there wasn’t really much to develop on that end either.

WANT TO A GOOD KID’S MOVIE ABOUT A FEMALE HERO? 

WATCH MULAN

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A much better children’s movie about a strong female lead was Mulan. She joined the army not out of some childish fantasy, but in order to save the life of her father, who was becoming too old to realistically defend himself in armed combat. She also isn’t a “Mary Sue” who ends up miraculously being good at combat either. Mulan was somewhat clumsy in the beginning and actually has to train and work hard in order to become a powerful warrior. In the end, she makes tough decisions and harsh sacrifices in order to save the nation of China. What’s even better, is that Mulan the Disney movie was actually based off a true story.

While Mulan was fighting to save the nation of China from Hun invasion and inventing clever war tactics, Merida was busy throwing tantrums and getting freaked out by Bears.

WANT TO SEE SOME STRONG CELTIC WOMEN WHO ACTUALLY EXISTED? 

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Check out my page on the topic.


The Hobbit, When Simple Folk Become Heroes

9 Out of 10 Dwarfs Approve of This Movie. 

 

The significant thing about this movie to me wasn’t just the dwarf battles, the beauty of the elves, or the godly power of wizards. The most powerful thing to me was that in a world full of magical, mythical beings, it is the simple folk who are the heroes. Tolkien chooses Bilbo Baggins, a mere hobbit, to be his protagonist. Bilbo leaves behind a domestic life of worrying about his doilies and when he’s going to eat second breakfast – to running from Orcs, finding treasure, dining with elves, and exploring the depths of Goblin infested mountains.

Why does Tolkien choose a Hobbit for his hero? Gandalf explains:

“Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of everyday kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.”

In triumphing over evil, we often think we need some kind of superman to step in and save the day. That we need the most powerful of armies or the most famous individual. But sometimes the most effective thing, can be a simple act of everyday kindness and hospitality. Even you – yes little old you – can make a difference! How many would be suicides or shooters were prevented by someone who had enough love and kindness to be that person’s friend? How many times has your life been saved by that friend or neighbor who took the time out of their day to help you out?

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This movie is a reminder to me that we can’t forget the everyday, simple kindness of folk. That perhaps, the modern evils of our time reflect a more isolated society where people take less and less time to help one another out – let alone even know their neighbor’s name. There has been a loss of kinship and brotherhood in this “every man for himself,” “me first,” “consume as much as you can”generation.

It was ultimately the hoarded wealth of the dwarf king Thrór that lured the dragon Smaug to destroy his kingdom. Smeagol too is broken down into a pathetic and lonely creature as a result of his obsession with his precious – the ring. As values shift towards self ascension and money, the world ultimately gets subsumed by a great evil. Maybe we should be a little more like the hobbit and less like a Smeagol in our every day lives.

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Picture Source