"OldBoy becomes OldBoy (Of the Fens)"

oldboyofthefensThe survival rate in the gothic country genre is disturbingly low. The "british rural realism" duo OldBoy is an outlier in the depressing statistics. OldBoy was formed in 2007 by Adrian Hunt (vocals, guitar) and James Campbell (multinstrumentalist). To mark 10 years since they formed as a band, they have released the retrospective ‘OldBoy Of the Fens’. The album (digital only) features tracks selected from the bands six releases to date. You can listen and buy the album here (opens in a new window). The compilation is a good introduction to the band. But, you got to have all six original albums. Furthermore, as OldBoy go forward into their second decade as a band to aid in distinguishing themselves from other artists they will adopt the subtitle ‘Of the Fens’ in promotional literature, i.e. OldBoy (Of the Fens). I think this change is a good idea since there's a lot of confusion with the South Korean mystery thriller and neo-noir movie from 2003 and the two remakes with the same name. What I like about OldBoy (and respect them for) is their honesty, unwillingness to compromise and endurance. There’s no anxious glancing sideways, only a consistent implementation of their ideas. After ten years they decided to add a subtitle, that's all. I'm looking forward to ten more years with stripped-down to the bone arrangements and lyrics about death, doom and despair. 

 

 

  

"Doom Let Loose"

doomletlooseI'm old. In fact, my age stands the comparison with Methuselah. As you get older flashbacks comes more often and lasts longer. You begin to think about why, when and how you stumbled into gothic country music. Black Sabbath definitely played a part in this progress if you can call it that. At the time - and with their down-tuned riffs ringing in my ears - I didn't realize the full magnitude of their gothicismus. Recently, I've been absorbed by their equally impressive as implausible history. In short: it's the story of Tony Iommi, Bill Ward, Ozzy Osbourne and Geezer Butler hailing from Aston, a gloomy industrial suburb of slightly less unglamorous Birmingham who changed heavy metal for ever. I got down to work, as always, with an scientific approach. In practise, this means that I googled "best book Black Sabbath" to get recommendations. A lot of books showed up in the search results. Then I made an assessment. Let it be said. Most of the books are pure crap. However, I found five distinctive books which also constitute the standard references. This is my assessment: "Rat Salad: The Classic years 1969 - 1975" by Paul Wilkinson. This personal and fan-inspired book focus on the first six albums. The second book is "How Black Was Our Sabbath: An Unauthorized View from the Crew" by David Tangye and Graham Wright. The two authors were part of the Black Sabbath crew. The book is truffled with piquant anecdotes and trivia. The book focus on the period 1969-1979. The third book is "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" by Joel McIver. It's a thorough book. The fourth book "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath: The Battle for Black Sabbath" by Garry Sharpe-Young is another notable book. This book focus on the period 1979-1995. However, the definitive book is "Doom Let Loose: An Illustrated History" by Martin Popoff.

"Doom Let Loose: An Illustrated History" is a massive piece in many respects. The dimensions are 8x0.8x10 inches (20,3x1,9x25,5 cm) and the weight is 2.2 pounds (1 kg). The book contains 355 pages with 373 graphics, consisting of 127 band photos and 246 memorabilia and record sleeve shots. Doom Let Loose was published in 2006 on ECW Press and is long out-of-print. Used copies are expensive. But, I'm a lucky bastard and found a copy in very good shape on Tradera (Swedish eBay) for 150 SEK (which is approximately $17).

Doom Let Loose explains how the classic albums and songs came to be and is meritorious written in chronological order. The chapters are divided in each individual album and it's consecutive tour. The book deals with the strains of relentless touring, psychiatric and physical problems, legal disputes, alchohol and drugs. Black Sabbath gives the concept of consumption of cocaine a new and deeper meaning. "Lying snowblind in the sun" in Los Angeles, CA. You get new insights. For example, the house on the cover of their debut album is Mapledurham Watermill, located on the River Thames in Oxfordshire. N.I.B. or Nibby is Bill Ward's nickname (a very popular misconception is that the abbreviation stands for Nativity In Black). The leather trousers they wore in the beginning of their career were made of car seat leather from a Birmingham car manufacturing company. You will also find out why Bill Ward wears red tights (belonging to his wife) on the cover of their sixth album, Sabotage, which many - including myself - also consider their "last". When "Technical Ecstasy" was released in September 1976 even I realized that, sadly, it was all over. Nothing lasts forever. Even the longest, the most glittering reign must come to an end someday.

 

  

“The necessity of content gardening”

content gardeningExactly three years ago I launched this website. The first blog entry I ever posted had the fateful title "So it begins...". Two years ago I posted a one-year anniversary blog post with the expectantly title "So it continues..." in which I discussed the past, present and future for the site. One year ago I posted a two-year anniversary blog post with the prosaic title "And so it goes on and on and on and on and on..." in which I did some merciless following up. This time I will focus on web content gardening in general and with respect to this website in particular.

Assessment

I read an article where it became known that your website, with the proper content gardening, could live forever. I suspect that "forever" actually means foreseeable future and not indefinitely. The article highlights three important aspects: the value of old content, the low cost of old content and making time explicit. The interesting thing is that this foreseeing article is almost twenty years old (!) and still valid, read more here (opens in a new window). The bottom line is keep your web content updated, remove dead links and use time stamps. It's as simple as that. But, it's very hard living by these rules. My old friend Mikael (site architect and professional web analyst) gave me some initial advice of what I should do to get a well-groomed and manageable "garden". That's why the site looks like a website for a government agency. To my knowledge, there's only one dead link on the site. It links to the Obscurometer, read more here (opens in a new window). The Obscurometer was taken down by its creator for a complete overhaul, but was never reintroduced. The site now seems to have been hacked. I kept the link to the website in some vain hope that it will resurrect from the dead. I really liked the basic idea. Instead of focusing on popularity, it focused on obscurity. It would have been almost scientific to be able to monitoring the obscurity in the genre and analyzing changes in small fractions of percent.

Visitor statistics

On November 20, 2014 the visitor counter passed 10 000. On July 5, 2015 the visitor counter passed 20 000. On March 5, 2016 the visitor counter passed 30 000. On October 21, 2016 the visitor counter passed 40 000. Today, the visitor counter shows 46 277 visitors. This is far more than I could ever dream of.

Flaws

Besides brutal content gardening, I take some pride in that the site is up and running twenty-four seven. I can proudly say that there's been no disruptions of any kind during the last year. Moreover, it seems that the futile war against spam referrals (ghost traffic in order to inflate and magnify the senders website) has been temporarily won. My friend Mikael created an ultra-efficient spam crawler filter. However, the war is not over. They will come back.

Menu status

There are 62 articles published under the menu "Articles". The "Artists" department is a simple table overview, but one of the most visited pages. At the moment there 128 artists. There are links to the "Albums" department and, where applicable, a link to ”Articles”. The "Albums" department consists of plug-in product (Music Collection). The "Lists" department (artists, albums, songs and miscellaneous) contains 27 lists. The Miscellaneous department still only have 8 links, but on the other hand a beautiful ivy stem. At the moment there are 84 blog entries. My initial aim was to write at least one blog entry per week. Never happened. It's better to aim high and miss then aim low and hit. The "Contact" form works as it's supposed to.

Reflections

In the anniversary blog entry last year I wrote that the website growth rate was decreasing rapidly. Of course, it’s expected when the number of articles increases and the most important artists and bands are covered. Here's some hard facts to back this up: there are only 4 new articles, 7 new artists in the table, 10 new lists and 11 new blog entries. Not an overwhelming high production rate by any standards. In my defence, I have a new job since April 2016 which is very demanding. In fact, it takes a ridiculous amount of time and energy. In the blog entry I also wrote that I would probably be back next year with a poor excuse regarding the "unrevealed project". But this year I have a good excuse, a job-related one. The "unrevealed project" has exactly the same status as last year and the year before that, still pending. It seems like this project is only getting further and further away and the whole idea is starting to look like naked self-deception.  

Future

The regrowth in the gothic country genre is disturbingly low. The future for the genre is unknown, but the prognosis isn't very good. Because of this it's important to document the genre before everything falls into oblivion. Time for digging, raking, sowing, watering, fertilising, weeding and reaping in the plethora of the gothic country music. I will go on untiringly within the limits of family, work and other duties.

 

 

"Headed Nowhere Tour 2017 is headed here"

TPB European tour 2017Those Poor Bastards, a.k.a. the "Prophets of the Country Doom", are coming to Europe. To my knowledge, this is their first tour in Europe. This is the biggest thing since powdered milk and could only be matched by a tour with Sons of Perdition. For those unfamiliar with Those Poor Bastards let me quote them: "I'm warning you friends, this is not the sanitized, safe, and clean as the neighborhood ball country bullshit you're used to. No, this is country music as it was meant to be, raw and bleeding." They will tour in the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Russia from April 20th to May 6th (see preliminary dates and venues on the right). Touring in Russia isn't standard procedure for a band from Wisconsin (or any band). However, the Russians are very committed to "death country", especially the "evil doom" branch. The gloomier the music, the happier they will be. Maybe, the dark streak in the music of TPB fits their very troubled mindset all too well.         

Those Poor Bastards will be passing through Sweden. In Sweden lives very few, but dedicated, music lovers with a strange appetite for miserable and primitive old-time gothic country music. Those Poor Bastards are booked for three concerts in Sweden: Stockholm, Göteborg and Eksjö(!). The choice of Eksjö surprised me, since it's an old town from the 14th century and former centre of military establishments with less than 10 000 inhabitants. But maybe Eksjö is a gothic hub that I have overlooked despite my thorough and intense studies. Everything is possible. Those Poor Bastards are going to play at Debaser Strand in Stockholm, which is a perfect venue for this kind of music. However, at the moment there's no information on Debaser's website and the concert isn't confirmed. The same goes for the other two concerts. Let's hope for the best and plan for the worst. I'm curious about who will attend the concert since there are no reference studies for Sweden. I will devote myself to participant observation. I will attend incognito as the Ambassador. What I do know is that it's going to be a blast. Their latest album “Sing It Ugly” takes distortion to a new level. It will be great to see and hear them live. It may very well turn out to be a once in a lifetime event. I don't want to miss this for the world. If I have the time I will write a review. Someone has to take on the important mission and document for posterity. Someday it will all be over.    

 

 

"What to expect and wish for in 2017"

2017chronicleNow is the time to speak about the state of the (gothic) nation. As the self-appointed Ambassador of the Swedish Embassy of Gothic Country I have the privilege to write impertinent notes. I believe in one-way communication. That's why there are no commentary fields on the site. Today's society is smothered by constant weighing and measuring. The written word is dying or at least in sharp decline. Someone has to make a stand and write a text which at least contains one main and subordinate clause. When you live in a remote country like Sweden there's a huge geographical distance to the gothic country scene (actually, it's very questionable if a scene exists) and perhaps a monocular overview of the genre. Distance isn't necessarily always a disadvantage. This is my third country note (since the site was launched in March 2014). In this note I look back on 2016 and make wishes for 2017. Historically, my track record for wishes coming true isn’t impressive. On the contrary, it’s very depressive. But, hope is the last thing to leave a human being. Given the very brutal, not to say, hostile environment for this kind of music you have to choose between being an optimistic fool or a negative bastard. Personally, I tend to move freely between these positions depending on my mood or the situation.

The gothic country genre is endangered and at risk of extinction. The regrowth is close to zero. The field lies open for tiresome epigones and they are really on the move. A good friend of mine tried to tell me that there's a time and context for everything. I suspect that the best years have come and gone for the genre. Despite these disheartening facts there’s a drizzle of new album releases. However, the general quality of the music has deteriorated. New albums are often disappointments with few exceptions. The biggest disappointment this year was “Star Treatment” by Wovenhand. It didn’t come as a big surprise. For every album (last three) their sound has become harder (and less interesting). Their enigmatic soundscape is long gone. This album is on the verge of unlistenable. The Handsome Family, superstars by gothic country measures, released their tenth album, “Unseen”. It was critically acclaimed. I feel a bit lukewarm about this album. It isn’t bad in any way, but definitely not their finest hour. The same goes for “The Commandments According To Slim Cessna's Auto Club” by Slim Cessna's Auto Club and - with the catchy title - “Eating Meatballs On A Blood-Stained Mattress In A Huggy Bear Motel” by The Dad Horse Experience. But all are not disappointments or lukewarm experiences. On the positive side, there's a couple of albums like "Redemption & Ruin" with covers by The Devil Makes Three. Their version “The Angel of Death” nails me to the wall. “Sing It Ugly” by Those Poor Bastards (takes distortion to a new level), “Thicket” by OldBoy (high delivery dependability) and “Gathered Blood” by Sons of Perdition (will not be accused of repeating themselves) are all three very good albums. Last, but not least, “Shy Ghosts” by T.K. Bollinger really knocked me off my feet.

I had three wishes for 2016. None of them came true. The first wish was a new gothic country album by Christian Williams. The second wish was a sophomore release from The Victor Mourning. This particular wish has become somewhat of a tradition. The third wish was to acquire at least one of the hard-to-find four missing albums (read more here) and to get all albums from the defunct label Devil's Ruin Records. I'm not an unreasonable or greedy man. I only wish for the same three things in 2017. What about next year? Plans are just plans in the genre. Palodine had plans to release a new album in 2016, but didn't for some reason. Speak of the devil and he shall appear. Palodine just announced that their new album "Melancholy Trucker of Death" will be released on Bandcamp next week. Maybe Slackeye Slim will come forward and release a new album. That would be great. Reverend Glasseye has returned after several years of obscurity. His new band Gun Mother will release the debut album "These Golden Threads" at a time undetermined. The adjective “undetermined” sounds ominous and definitely has a more vague meaning in this context. Let’s hope for the best, prepare for the worst and plan to be surprised. I'm cautiously negative about 2017. You have to build resilience in the face of adversity. To quote Leonard Cohen who passed away in November: “I’m ready my Lord”.

 

 

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