Posts Tagged ‘Coroner’

Well, my scheduled posts have long run out. If anyone’s actually following this blog, sorry about that. I’ve been super busy. I may have mentioned this a while ago, and I’m incredibly inconsistent, but I’m taking a long break from writing fiction and have dived into my first nonfiction project: a band biography of the Swiss tech-thrash band, Coroner. “Tech-thrash” might be the best overall description, but it’s more than that.

So far, it’s been great, but a tremendous amount of work — much of the press is non-English, so everything has to be first transcribed and then translated. It’s very time consuming and doesn’t require a ton of thought. I spent 5-6 months doing that until we ran out, but just recently, three more folders have been located, so I’m gearing up to get back into that.

It’s an unusual perspective to have — to look at all of these interviews, features, and album reviews that span about a decade, get them in chronological order, and see how the land had lain. Plus, all the shows/tours, the various releases — the studio albums, the singles, the video, etc. Not to mention keeping track of what was going on with their record label at any given time. It’s a big ol’ puzzle and a lot to line up. The text language barrier, frankly, is the most time-consuming part, but once I start really digging into the information, that’s when it begins to become slightly overwhelming. But…it will all come together, and bits and pieces are, so that’s encouraging.

Two members are currently working on a new album, so contact is minimal, but what’s really pushing this forward is the engagement of the third, who is no longer an active member (though actively into his own excellent project). He photographs and sends each press piece, which is a massive amount of work on his part, and I would have little to work with otherwise. It also helps that he’s enthusiastic and uncommonly kind. I’ve found a lot of fanzine pieces on my own, but his efforts have absolutely quadrupled my reference material. At least. And I’m so, so grateful.

I’ve also commenced actual Zoom interviews — well, one, with him (that helps!) — which is really very anxiety-inducing, as I’m usually pretty terrible with real-time human interaction. He made it very easy, and that’ll go a long way in making me more comfortable to move onto the rest (which is a lot).

So, at this point, I’m still piecing everything together chronologically in order to get some kind of actual, workable outline together; will be returning to transcribing/translating more press; and moving forward with more interviews. Oh, and all the background reading apart from band-specific press. It’s a lot — I just took a week and minimized what I was doing every day just to get some headspace, which I should do now and then, but otherwise, it’s 5-6 days a week, 8-10 hours a day. I think I need to accept that this will take longer than assumed, which is fine, really. I just like to see progress. And I really do need to carve out my weekends — I’ve got plants coming to put in the ground. I’m all vaccinated and the weather is getting nicer — I should maybe think about seeing other human beings in person. And I need sunlight. Hahaa…

One unrelated thing going on is this: A couple of years ago I bought this sweet-ass Iron Maiden Spitfire with the idea that my brother — who puts together military plane models in his spare time — would put it together for me. I finally dropped it off to him a few weeks ago and he’s super into it, which is great! The idea was to get it done and hang it in my office as 1) a commemoration of that tremendous 2019 show, where I finally got to see them live and the almost-scale Spitfire for Aces High blew my mind; and have a nice thing that my brother will have basically made. He’s going all out, doing Battle of Britain research — he’s actually changing up the bottom design to be more historically accurate, and he just suggested the other day to get a ME-109 Messerschmitt to create dogfight in my office (and so he can play around with various model-building techniques!), which I absolutely approved. So, eventually, I will have Eddie in his Maiden Spitfire taking out a Nazi flying above me while I work.

Good times!

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Homwewood Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Pa.

To be honest, I have spent very little time on this blog lately. All the posts from The Beast of Gévaudan and Florida Man were scheduled months ago, and while Beast ended a whole ago, Florida Man has just come to an end (citations notwithstanding). And from those citations, Florida Man Friday will continue, I believe, at least until March. [I need to update the Florida Man table of contents, which I will, soon.]

So, what’s been going on…well, I started work on my first non-fiction book — a band biography of the fabulous Swiss tech-thrash trio, Coroner. Super excited about it. I’ve been digging into old magazines and fanzines (which really are a little social habitat of their very own — taking me way, way back to my teen years) and sorting through the many varied releases, both official (yay) and pirated (boo-hiss). I’ve collected what is probably the most complete collection of tour dates and am reaching out to gig attendees for their best memories of particular shows. I’ve got a bunch of contacts, kindly provided by Marky, but have yet to really reach out for interviews, as I need to get solid with all of this information myself before I start bothering people with questions, especially questions relating to activities from, geez, 30+ years ago. All in all, happy with the work, happy with the progress, happy thinking it through and putting things together.

2020, eh? Sucks. Since about March, I’ve seen/heard much commentary on the difficulties of isolating/quarantining, but I have to say, I didn’t start getting itchy until about August or September, and only then when it really hit home that I couldn’t leave the country. For whatever reason, that bothered me more than being stuck in my house. Well, there are known reasons that I won’t get into, but suffice to say, I needed an attitude adjustment, which I managed, and now I’m back to what I suppose many writers do — we stay home, researching and writing. Though, admittedly, it’d be much easier on everyone involved, and faster, if I could hop on a plane and spend a few weeks in Zürich to physically go through these zines and mags myself. Otherwise, I’m relatively content to keep riding this out in my study.

Been painting a little, too. It functions as meditation, so I do both. Hit the gym (the garage). Deal with my fluctuating perimenopausal hormones — what a complete fact of life shitshow that’s been.

In terms of Covid itself, it’s inching ever closer. For months it had been friends or family of friends, which is disconcerting enough, but lately, it’s been friends and family, directly. My sister and her guy have just pulled through, though she was at the ER yesterday for Covid-related pleurisy, which, apparently, can be an issue even in the recovery phase (she’s okay so far). Thankfully, an elderly aunt tested negative. And friends, whom we care about as much as family. So far, though, no one’s been admitted to hospital and everyone’s recovered or recovering.

It’s fucking wild out there. Everywhere (for the most part), but we must concede that the United States has screwed this up probably more than anyone. We can blame Trump, sure, and he deserves an ass-load of it, but honestly, much of this was basic common sense. Basic survival instinct. That should have kicked in, right? What can we say about a society who’s collectively lost its foundational instinct for survival? Well, not much good can be said of that, and it speaks volumes to where we’ve been politically and where I suspect we’ll go. Unfortunately, even if the knuckle draggers are a minority, that’s all it takes for a virus to spread out of control, and the majority suffer for it. We can say the same politically, and despite the light reprieve, I don’t have very high hopes that 2022 or 2024 is going to mitigate the condition of the society that welcomed this entire mess. I think we might be too far gone. But, who knows…?

Speaking of how suck-ass 2020 has been — we had seven cats and now we have five. I can’t even go into it, it’s so heartbreaking, but basically we lost two of our most vulnerable, most in need of care, rescues — one to FIV in July and the other to kidney disease just a few weeks ago. I won’t go into it, but suffice to say, the deaths weren’t easy and the gaps left are huge, because they required so much. I know, I know…cats. But it’s hard to take responsibility to a living, sentient being and not be able to save them from everything. We did the best we could under the circumstances, which weren’t easy. But moving on, because this is depressing…

Since the scheduled posts are largely up, I suppose I will have to post here more actively. which is fine, but don’t expect me to blow your mind every time. I’ll talk about whatever I’m working on, whatever’s going on and immediately on mind, and I don’t know…cat pictures. Plenty of those. Well see…

I’ll leave you with some Watchtower, the chapter for whom I just finished reading in Mean Deviation.

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Therapists all over the world, when hey throw up the word “underrated” in their word association tests — which they surely do, right? — the top response must certainly be “Coroner.” And then the patient wipes away a single tear to move stoically onto the next word, though he or she is broken inside. Which is why they are there in the first place. But I digress.

Holy shit, do I love me some Coroner. “Underrated” is too mild a word. That they did not continue past Grin is a crime against humanity. Though we can be thankful that they reunited for fest tours and whatnot, felt out the environs, and have moved on to the “new album” phase. It was announced quite some time ago, but as of April of this year, they’ve assured us via social media (written in stone) that this year’s the year of recording. Which is about as close to “good news” as we’re going to get here in 2020, the Year That Isn’t.


And yes, it’s minus Marky Edelmann, but everyone seems to be at peace with that, most of all him, so we can accept that. In addition to drumming, though, he was not only the graphic mastermind behind the band, he was the lyrical composer. In 1993, Joe Mackett of Riff Raff commented on the absence of “lyrical sexism,” to which Edelmann replied:

We hated the cliched things. We tried to go a different way, even in the covers. I don’t like just telling a story. It leaves it more open for the listener.

In 2012, when asked about his lyrical approach, he had this to say:

It was a simplicity I was looking for. English is not my mother tongue. It was odd for me to try to find the right words. I wanted to express in few words what I wanted to say. At the beginning, you have a book, at the end, twenty words: that’s actually what I was trying to do.

For someone who likes to write stories based on other peoples’ songs (heh…) this is just perfect. It’s true, Coroner’s lyrics, while entirely sufficient on their own and for their purposes, absolutely leaves things open for the listener, and the writer. And it’s safe to say that Coroner’s lyrics frequently read — and this is a positive in my book — as they they may not have been written by a native English speaker. That’s not to say they are “incorrect,” as that’s not the case. But it is to say that Edelmann’s use of the English language is quirky in a way that, to the English-speaking ear, sounds strange, though if you spend another 3 seconds on it, you’ll find that not having English as your primary language gives one a certain amount of creative freedom that does not come off as a bad writer abusing a thesaurus (and that is always refreshing).

Take “Divine Step,” from Mental Vortex, for instance:

This is the last hit
Your heart will beat
Into this world…
This is the first step
Your soul will take
Up to the sky…
No time to pray ‘cos you
Can’t stay where words
Like that would count…
Face the moment
That you feared and
Glide outside your brain…

This is the last hit your heart will beat into this world. This is the first step your soul will take up to the sky. No time to pray ‘cos you can’t stay where words like that would count. Face the moment that you feared and glide outside your brain.

Just in terms of assonance and consonance, there’s a lot going on there, inside a single line, but also bleeding from one into the next, or skipping — you have to take the block as a whole prior to the chorus. Also, each line ends, not with a rhyme, which would be the obvious thing to do, but with words that act as a kind of sonic punctuation, either sharp (sky & count), or blunt (world & brain) — and I’ll venture to say that Ron Broder’s delivery accentuates this point. Then, there are the words associated with actions of the heart — hit and beat. Both are synonymous verbs for a violent act, which makes this (the very moment of death, no matter the cause) seem violent in and of itself. “Hit” is rarely, if ever, used in association with a heartbeat, and here the use is jarring and new, thus intriguing. The “beat” refers to the heartbeat, but is used as a verb. “Into this world” gives it an agency which, under the circumstances, is a little disconcerting. And juxtaposing the idea of facing a moment of fear (that sounds stressful) with simply gliding outside one’s brain (that actually sounds relaxing). Well, you know when one has resorted the using “juxtapose” in the critique, the critique has worn out its welcome, though I could add more here.

MentalVortex Cassette

And all of this follows through the rest of the song, and although I’m fascinated by it, I know that, in terms of writing a story to “Divine Step,” these linguistic tricks are harder to sustain in 1) a longer work of prose (without becoming too poetic), and 2) to really capture the resonance of the song itself. It’s just harder, if not impossible, to work out. I can use a few turns of phrase, to draw a line from song to story, so it will largely be between me and myself. I know this is a niche thing I’m doing.

So, why “Divine Step,” then? Two reasons: First, it’s the moment of death. The entire song is basically a six-and-a-half minute cliffhanger. And you’re left hanging. You will find out if your heaven is colored black and you will find out if your suffering will find an end…but not here, not anywhere in this song (the tunnel footage in this video is obviously a draw on the well-established tunnel-and-bright-light metaphor for the near-death experience or the straight-up afterlife, but as you are about to emerge, it simply goes bright and you have no idea what’s on the other end). I like the open-mindedness of it (death is the classic, eternal cliffhanger), but also that, ultimately, it is literally a six-and-a-half minute song about a moment in time, perhaps only a second or two, between life/what you know, and death/what you don’t know (and thus fear).

What takes place in that instant? What is the thought? Is there one? And as the song goes, what is sin? And who is God?

Second, the musical structure of the song. I didn’t think too much about the structure of Carcass’s “Heartwork” for Dark Foul Light. There was a lot to work with linguistically so that’s where I gravitated. Though I’m (obviously — I am a huge nerd) taken with the lyrical content here, though for different reasons, the real draw here is how the song unfolds musically.

I am not a musician, so time signatures are like math to me — I’m not going to sit here and discuss it without my lawyer (that’s how bad my math is). But, obviously — being the Rush fans Vetterli and Broder were, there’s some wacky stuff going on here (it’s Coroner, this is not unusual). Odd signatures aside, I’m drawn to the varying speeds throughout — galloping and fast, like stream of consciousness, then circular, and then it slows and becomes dreamlike, only to gear back up to another gallop, and so on…

That’s attractive to a writer. How to use language, story, sentence structure and length (paragraphs as well) to impart the sensation of fast or slow, straight or curved. Well, I imagine it’s a lot like the way you do with with music, only the instruments are different. So, that’s my challenge here and why this song out of so (so) many brilliant Coroner songs to choose from. This is a band I’ll likely return to in the future for story mining — they’re just so, so good.

To finish up here, I’ll say this about Coroner — I don’t care when the new album comes out, as long as it eventually does. And I am entirely open to the band’s new sound/content/incarnation, because they have always been underrated. They’d been gone for so long, and they were such a tremendous band, frankly, that the world gets anything new from Coroner, at this point — we’re just lucky, and we should be open to whatever it is they want to give us at this stage in their trajectory. And the fact is, as far as I’m concerned, if it doesn’t push all of my buttons (because we all have our own subjective pleasure buttons — I hope they name the album that: Subjective Pleasure Buttons. Coroner, that’s free for you to use), I doubt my enthusiasm could be dampened. I just love that they’re back, they exist as an entity, and as individuals, they’ve decided to take this on, move forward, and see what happens.

I look forward to mining the new album, whenever it comes out, for story fixin’s.

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Several years ago, I published two collections called Despumation (they’re actually still available: Here No. 1 & here’s No. 2). I was hoping to take it further, but I vastly overestimated the number of competent writers who also listen to extreme metal. The submissions were…bleak, and I don’t mean that in a metal way. It was rough, so I shut it down. Though I did not contribute to these, I did write one story (with the intention of writing more, enough for a separate collection of just my own stuff), which you can find here (along with a bunch of other great metal-based stories), or you can just read my story up on Wattpad.

It’s called “Dark Foul Light” and it’s based on Carcass’s song (not the whole album), “Heartwork.”

I got a message from a reader on Wattpad who read it because it ranked well with the #Carcass hashtag, and they liked it, but they found the story wasn’t what they were expecting. And, I get it — they’re absolutely right. Though, if you’re very familiar with the song, you’ll find the lyrics throughout, which is where I started when I developed the story altogether.

Anyway, it occurred to me that perhaps I could blog about that process. A lot of the submissions I got for Despumation were attempts at a fairly literal interpretation of relatively concrete lyrics, which, with pretty limited metal tropes, tend to end up being about the same sort of things — murder, violence, satan, etc. Very little variety. I get that it seems like a pretty obvious way to approach this kind of endeavor: concrete lyrics, concrete story ideas, literal story. But I found that if you open the song pool up to more abstract, conceptual lyrics, 1) you have much more to work with, and 2) the places you can go with it expands tremendously.

And you will definitely end up with stories that your average headbanger wasn’t expecting — and may not even like, which is a shame. But, as a writer and a metal fan, it’s deeply satisfying, and frankly, it’s a better story. Start with the lyrics as a foundation, and then do a little research about the band to find your setting, character names, etc. That then directs you to peripheral information that, while having nothing to do with the song per se, captures the culture the band was operating from, among other things. Another thing you can do, if it works, is use the structure of the song to set the pace. That’s a challenge.

There’s a lot you can do with it, other than simply find a song that already tells a rather direct story (which, in metal — as with any genre, I’m sure — tends to be fairly limited). Not that there’s anything wrong with using a song that really tells a story already — one can always expand on it. But, I find it less satisfying and it keeps you boxed in, in terms of creativity.

So, next Metal Monday, I’ll tell you how I came up with the story of “Dark Foul Light,” and from there, I’ll tell you how I’m currently devising a story based on Coroner’sDivine Step” from the Mental Vortex album. Yes, I’m back on the metal-based story wagon — working on that collection again.

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