the back of the station wagon is saturated with a buff grey as the paint blooms into decay under the never-withering beat of the sun. a duffel bag smelling of a hundred cities and small towns, the water bottle washed nightly in gas station bathrooms, the list of addresses to visit when in foreign lands, a guitar case beat to hell and a good pipe with tobacco next to comfortable walking shoes. in the CD case, the survivors of sudden impulses to find liquid capital prompted by used CD stores, the burden of moving, the callousness of borrowers and carelessness of lenders.
Enslaved - Vikinglgr Veldi: this album is green, which reflects its natural balance of emotion and perception, not at all the constant angry howling of most metal albums. Songs are lengthy, folkish pieces with lots of powerful fast riffing balanced by contemplative, Romantic melodic work, arrayed in simple motifs.
Ildjarn - Ildjarn: what metal should be is a culmination of popular music, the angry frenetic sensation of moving through a modern society without letting it take over your brain, translated in fragments of melody which cover a spectrum of emotions under that general feeling. Ildjarn is that. Tiny riffs, repetition, oddly poetic and sometimes awkward song structures, feeling.
Emperor - In the Nightside Eclipse: A vast beauty discovered within the urgency of natural survival, this album is an assertion of grandeur against the mundanification of modern time. Adventure is created in the dark spaces of advancing twilight, and honor praised. A hybrid of rock music and classical, with mental focus borrowed mostly from the latter.
Incantation - Onward to Golgotha: what a death metal album should be. Lengthy neo-chromatic melodies stretch like ladders over a broken wasteland as rhythms surge together in a wash of chaos from which order emerges. Like the moments before passing into a lull watching rough countryside pass, it is profound aggression which contributes to a function of no such polarized nature.
Deicide - Legion: Evil is complexity, in layers breaking apart across a fundamental line of opposition, flowering into discourse of themselves, then reflexively generating motifs referential to major concepts in oblique ways. Like racing through a maze that extends in all directions at once.
Immortal - Pure Holocaust: A dark emotion, of desire to grasp life and live it passionately, to be at oneness with the universe and yet to be moving independently, this album is blurspeed melody sweeping over drumming dismissed by its near uniformity as rumbling indistinct background accompaniment. There is truth perceived and translated in these Romantic and passionate arias to darkness.
Demilich - Nespithe: Quirky, eccentric, intricate music that takes the premise of death metal and uses it to develop melodic concepts around a few motif centers, taking the collage of randomness that is postmodern music and focusing it instead on revealing a hidden story.
Burzum - Daudi Baldrs: Written on a computer synth and smuggled out of prison on a floppy disk, this work is its creators tribute to the Norse legend of Balder's death, a metaphor for loss of heroism and the end of the world. It is not preachy; there are no lyrics. Deliberately very simple, ambient, repetitively-layer use of transcendent melody and empty spaces for emphasis. Sublime.
Tangerine Dream - Phaedra: Treating sound like flesh, they shape it; it forms scenarios which are (a) setting including landscape and (b) action and evolution of character perspective. There are normal instruments, guitars and synthesizers, and a lot of generated and found sound utilized. It is a descent into the subconscious and then a great revelation in the mundane. The perfect antidote to popular music which tries to convert all emotion into a focus on a single moment.
Null - Ultimate Material III: Shaped from pure distorted wind tunnel holocaust noise, this music is ritual that follows the steps of initiation and, to those who can hold on to the serpent's tail, brings stages of revelation, conflict and finally resolute peace.
Kraftwerk - Radioactivity: Concept album based on the role radio waves, including radiation, exist in our lives. So subtle most of its fans didn't notice. The music of Kraftwerk is bouncy, 1970s-club influenced abstract percussion patterns and fast riffs on keyboards, somewhere between Franz Schubert and Judas Priest.
Fripp and Eno - The Essential Fripp and Eno: Guitar run through massive delay provides the keyboardlike basis for these small poetic works that, lacking percussion in the traditional sense, are more varied in phrasing and rhythm than popular music, which gives them an ability to be contemplative and appreciated for their internal content.
While 5% of what I listen to is the above, most of my listening at this point involves Indo-European classical music. Here are a few favorite names, described:
Herbert von Karajan - a conductor who captures the stormy Faustian spirit of European classical music, probably the best for Beethoven and Brahms that I've heard. He also does a good job of converting Mozart from silly technical exercises into music which reveals a depth of spirit.
Carlos Kleiber - another fantastic conductor who takes the passion of his pieces and applies it to their structure, resulting in interpretations far closer to the concept of the creator. Most conductors are either by the book or sentimental fools who standardize the music to one emotion (Klemperer, Solti and Bernstein are guilty of this), making highly intelligent works that cover a range of emotions into technical exercises within one interpretation. Kleiber does not pervert work in this way.
Ludwig van Beethoven - I like almost everything I've heard from this composer, if interpreted correctly. Furtwangler does a decent job of his symphonies but I like the von Karajan works the best.
Ottorino Respighi - the origin of all modern cinematic music, passionate but playful.
Johannes Brahms - as European Romantic music developed, it became clear this man understood the concept in ways others did.
Robert Schumann - similar to Brahms, but with a greater practical darkness in his worldview. Probably had trouble dealing with most people (because of their lack of contemplation).
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - originally, I detest this composer for some of his set-pieces which seemed to me to be trivial pop music laid out in technical exercises. Some of his work still strikes me as such, but, remembering the circumstances of its creation, it is easy to recognize why such work exists. Find a good conductor and his symphonies and shorter pieces come alive, if you avoid the ones written to pacify stultified wealthy patrons.
Claude DeBussy - explores the spirit of modern music with an impassioned heroism that converts it from pointless drama into an ever-deepening connection to life.
Carl Nielsen - a Danish composer who is "post-Romantic" but exhibits a good deal of Romantic influence on his works, as well as a stormier, more structuralist ultra-modernist component.
Andres Segovia - this man opened my mind to new uses of the guitar. He takes it from the level of an advanced accompaniment with garish solos to a full voice, capable of holding its own. It's amazing so few others have seen this possibility, for all the work done with guitars.
Edvard Grieg - Norwegian Romanticist, nationalist composer, who saw nature inside of everything and brought it out in its conflicted, ever-evolving glory.
Franz Schubert - A talented creator of melody who used simple structures, in layers (similar to Deicide's "Legion" above), to distill vast potential into a few meditative thoughts.