Said the Guests: Al Kratina
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Jordan and I have known Al Kratina for years. He's one of the smartest, funniest, and most horrible people I know. For at least ten years he has been spending his days watching movies, reading comics, and writing hate literature disguised as film and comic reviews. His horror films have been shown around the world, his sarcasm disguises a passion that rivals the world's greatest lovers, and I'm so delighted with what he's written for us here today. It's so good, it'll make you rip the heads off children. -- Sean

I hate music. Which is why I find it so strange that I compulsively read this site. I suppose I come more for the writing than for the annoyingly coy alt-pop songs sung by corduroy-draped guys trying to lay a girl in glasses who works at the coffee shop on open mike night. But really, I wouldn't know, because I never bother to listen to the tracks anyway. So, when I was asked to do a guest article, I thought I'd return the favor, and write about songs no one would ever conceivably want to listen to. If you do get through the whole thing, however, I promise you a treat.

The reason I hate music is the same reason that most people like it. It's familiar, predictable, and unchallenging, like a baby blanket you've had since you were born. I don't know about yours, but my baby blanket smells like piss and vomit, and I have no interest in reliving that level of familiarity. So, pretty much the only music I listen to is black metal. It's not that this genre is particularly innovative or inventive, or even all that good, it's just that the practitioners of the form seem to hate music as much as I do. It's as if they sat down, went through every record they could find, mainstream and underground alike, and decided to do the exact opposite of what they heard. Black metal songs have no verses, no choruses, melodies, or refrains. They shift tempos and time signatures seemingly at random, the music recorded as lovingly as you would videotape a snuff film, the vocals are usually comically obscured and mocking, and it's pretty much as deliberately far away from pop music as you can get while still using a guitar, bass, and drums.

Mayhem - "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" [buy]

The first band I'm going to give you the pleasure of skipping over and not listening to is Mayhem. The band was formed in the mid 80s in Norway by a guy named Euronymous. The band mates, including 17 year old schizophrenic lead singer Dead, all moved into a house together, and had a great old time, with Dead occasionally dressing in rotten, worm-infested clothes and breathing in the fumes of a dead crow he kept in a glass jar, and Euronymous keeping himself entertained by constantly telling Dead that no one liked him and he should kill himself. Eager to test out Euronymous' theory, Dead slit his wrists and blew his brains out the top of his skull with a shotgun. In a moment of poetic irony, Euronymous found the body. Distraught, he did what any guilt-ridden friend would do, which is run to the store, get a Polaroid camera, take photos that would later become the cover to a Mayhem record, cook and eat pieces of Dead's brain, and make a necklace out of skull fragments. Later, in order to complete the recording of their first album, Mayhem hired session bassist Count Grishnack, which proved to be a poor idea, because Grishnack promptly stabbed Euronymous to death, and is now serving a 21-year jail sentence. Want to hear the song yet? Didn't think so. The song is, of course, fairly awful, but notice how it doesn't really sound like anything that you've heard before, unless you happen to listen to a lot of artillery. The drums are fast, but the song is slow. The guitars are ridiculously down-tuned, but they're playing high-notes anyway, which makes little sense. I like how there's no verse or chorus, but the deliberately off-time vocals do modulate between someone sounding like they're vomiting, and someone bellowing like a beached whale, then vomiting.

Burzum - "Spell Of Destruction" [buy]

The next song is from a one-man band called Burzum. The one man in question is Count Grishnack, whom you might remember from the previous paragraph. Before he was arrested for murder, young Grishnack was being tried for the burnings of three churches in Norway. Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention that these guys burn churches a lot. Like a lot. Like 93 of them in the past ten years. When Grishnack was arrested, he was found with 150 pounds of stolen dynamite and plans to blow up a historic wooden church on a religious holiday. Why you would need written plans to blow up a wood church when you have 150 pounds of dynamite is beyond me, but then again, I'm not a psychopath. This song, "Spell of Destruction", is slow and moody, and not particularly contrary musically. It's a very simple guitar riff that quickly morphs into a hypnotic drone, but despite its aversion to traditional structure, it's not the music that sets this song apart. The vocals, which sound not unlike a woman getting eaten alive by something with sharp teeth, are what really do a number on me when I listen to it. Like a Michael Snow film, the experimental work of Burzum isolates one element of a song, and tortures it to death. Enjoy.

Emperor - "With Strength I Burn" [buy]

Emperor, also from Norway, have always taken their music to a level of seriousness familiar only to Ph.D electro-acoustic students and Radiohead. Consequently, they don't have quite the same drama in their personal lives as do the previous two bands. Except that the guitarist went to jail for burning down a church. And the bassist tried to cut a guy's face off with a serrated combat knife, and while he was in prison, his daughter died from a 'Satanic curse'. And the drummer killed a middle-aged man in Lillehammer Olympic Park. But other than that, they're doing well. Along with Dimmu Borgir, Emperor formed the foundation of the 'symphonic black metal' genre, which seeks to several all ties with traditional pop and metal, and bases its structure on the classical music of Wagner and Greig, building the songs around movements and layered instrumentation. This is actually a genuinely interesting concept, and it's too bad that the music still sounds like a machine gun fighting a chainsaw while Gollum sings a lullaby. Emperor has always had a talent for making a whole lot of incomprehensible and unappealing noise, but all of a sudden having one strong, powerful melody rise from within, like Excalibur rising from the Lake, or a dead body with an erection, and this song is no exception.

Graveworm - "Losing My Religion" [buy]

There, that wasn't so bad, was it? Now, it's time for your treat, which is R.E.M... Horribly mangled, as it should be.

[Al Kratina is clinically depressed and lives on a couch in Montreal. He is also an award winning filmmaker and writer. Currently, he writes for The Comic Book Bin, the largest comic and collectibles website in Canada, as well as for his own, shockingly unpopular movie review blog, The 16mm Shrine. In 2006, he will be directing a spec TV pilot, and a music video for math rockers Officer Girl, as well as working on the feature film version of his short film, Alex, Vampire Slayer. ]

(Previous guest-blogs, in and out of the Said the Guests series: Eugene Mirman, artist Dave Bailey, Agent Simple, artist Keith Andrew Shore, Owen Ashworth (Casiotone for the Painfully Alone), artist Kit Malo with Alden Penner (The Unicorns) 1 2, artist Rachell Sumpter, artist Katy Horan 1 2, David Barclay (The Diskettes), artist Drew Heffron, Carl Wilson, artist Tim Moore, Michael Nau (Page France), Devin Davis, Will Sheff (Okkervil River), Edward Droste (Grizzly Bear), Hello Saferide, Damon Krukowski (Damon & Naomi), Brian Michael Roff, Howard Bilerman (producer: Silver Mt. Zion, Arcade Fire, etc.). There are many more to come.)

Posted by Sean at May 10, 2006 3:00 AM

My cheeks are aching from laughing so hard. This is really good writing. And I'm really sorry to say that I actually absolutely fucking love these tracks... Classics!!!
..but then again I'm norwegian and rather fond of black metal.

I strongly recommend 'Dunkelheit' from Burzum's album Filosofem.

Anyone writing this good, with knowledge of the black metal scene AND obviously into comics, is a near and dear friend of mine!

Skål, kosmonauter!


Posted by Kenneth at May 10, 2006 6:20 AM

This is the funniest entry I've read here in awhile. Good show.

Posted by Tuwa at May 10, 2006 7:11 AM

Yes I truly enjoyed this passage and I hate to admit it, even the music!

Posted by (Aunty) Debbie at May 10, 2006 7:58 AM

This is probably the worst post I've ever read here. I'm sure you'll make up for it tomorrow, though. This is guy is no doubt reading double checking these comments all day...making sure he's as cool as he thinks he is. How'd you guys find Andrew Earles' grandfather, anyway? Go back to sleep, Al.

Posted by Tim at May 10, 2006 11:23 AM

superb post, mate

Posted by jon cale at May 10, 2006 3:15 PM

Thanks for pointing that out Al. I was wondering why I kept coming here.

Posted by Half at May 10, 2006 4:20 PM

"machine gun fighting a chainsaw while Gollum sings a lullaby"

This is the best line I've read all week! And that is precisely what it sounds like. Great post!

Posted by Karin S. at May 10, 2006 4:47 PM

Ash! Have you shaved that thing off yet?

Posted by Rin at May 10, 2006 5:50 PM

Best post ever!

Posted by Jonathan at May 10, 2006 10:50 PM


actually, i've just finished the book "lords of chaos" which is a nonfiction chronicling of the birth of black metal in norway & the fantoft church burnings ... leading up to metal in germany and the US .. a fascinating read, more rooted in psychology than a simple date & evolution fetish, which, if i wanted to read, i'd find a textbook -

in any case, if anyone here listened to this music or just liked the norwegian soap opera that comes part & parcel with it, i heartily recommend the book. it's by michael moynihan.

Posted by mr john fury at May 10, 2006 11:04 PM

listening to that rem cover, i thought, hmm, they should do 'the final countdown'.

Posted by - at May 10, 2006 11:07 PM

you're a genius
it's been a long time since i read someone's writing and said "this guy is a lot smarter than me"
i almost made a post on my own blog about that exact Mayhem story a few months ago
best new writer i've found since sean
i'm gonna read your site forever now

Posted by noah at May 11, 2006 1:42 AM

It was an enjoyable read, a thousand hails! Perhaps as a follow-up you could write about doom metal, which I think takes antimusic to even more of an extreme than black metal, though in the completely opposite direction! Bands like Sunn 0))), Skepticism, Thergothon and Boris are slowly torturing the life out of traditional music.

Fans of these songs also check out Countess, older Bethlehem, and Graveland.

Posted by nogger at May 11, 2006 4:12 AM

next to the red river posts, this is the best thing i've seen in a long time... and i don't even care for black metal so much.

Posted by silasdreamed at May 11, 2006 9:00 PM

why did you make me waste those precious minutes of my life?

Posted by tim+ at May 18, 2006 1:11 PM

Posted by jeakelin at May 19, 2006 3:36 PM

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about said the gramophone
This is a daily sampler of really good songs. All tracks are posted out of love. Please go out and buy the records.

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about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

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