Archive for the 'Book Reviews' Category

Feb 25 2014

Sing Omega

Today, I received something momentous and beautiful in the mail.

Goodies in the mail today!

Goodies in the mail today!

Sing Omega collects the lyrics (and more, and less) of David Tibet, from 1983-2013, in reverse chronological order, beginning with I Am the Last of All Field that Fell, and ending with Nature Unveiled  and LAShTAL.

This is a beautiful book.

Have I read all 550 pages in the 2.5 hours I’ve been home?  Of course not. But I know most of the book’s contents anyway, having been a fan of David’s band, Current 93, for quite some time now.

Around the time I discovered Coil (late 90s), I became aware of Current 93. Like Coil, the only way to find Current 93 (and Death In June, and Nurse With Wound, and sundry other bands that would eventually -for a while- fall under the “World Serpent” umbrella), was if you were at the right music store, at the right time, and happened to have a good chunk of money in your pocket. This made taking a chance on a band that you instinctually knew you would fall in love with at some point in your life, difficult, to say the least.

Occasionally, I’d run into a used CD.  My first actual Current 93 purchase was the EP, Crowleymass, which is, perhaps, not the best place to start. Later, a gifted copy of In Menstrual Night enlightened me a bit further as to what might be happening, even though there was still no reliable (and affordable) source for any other albums.

I still only knew Current 93’s reputation more than I knew the music.

It took moving to California, and the Bay Area for me to finally be able to investigate Current 93 (and the other bands I mentioned above) in a manner that allowed me to fall in love with each of them, as I had always known I would. The album that changed everything for me was All The Pretty Little Horses – simultaneously chilling, hypnotic, and possessing an unearthly aura of mystery; so beautiful, in fact, that I couldn’t stop listening to it.

I finally “got it.”

I’ve since amassed a rather extensive C93 library.

David Tibet’s songs – both musically and lyrically – are like nothing else you’ll ever hear. At times maddening, jaw-dropping, and transcendent, his songs are visionary, and completely support the term “apocalyptic folk” (in every sense of the term) that has been used to describe them. To listen to them is to immerse yourself in Christian esotericism the likes of which hasn’t surfaced in centuries – yet there is still a sense of play, innocence, and wonder. It is these wild juxtapositions (not to mention my genuine love of the music) that keeps me coming back for more.

Is that someone's signature on the Customs Declaration?

Is that someone’s signature on the Customs Declaration?

I’d always hoped that one day, I could pore over Tibet’s collected writings.

That day finally arrived.

The book does not disappoint.

If Thee Psychick Bible by Genesis P-Orridge is a textbook in magick and a manual of techniques, Sing Omega is pure gnostic revelation. If Tibet’s lyrics enrapture the listeners of his albums, the written versions are no less powerful. “Did I just hear that?!” can now not only be double-checked, but reviewed in context with other lines in each song, as well as with Tibet’s full body of work. Connections that may have eluded a listener, are now available for the reader to find.

Long Satan and Babylon went walking...

Long Satan and Babylon are walking…

The book itself is a hardcover, clothbound, with a ribbon bookmark sewn in. The book is 560 pages, contains not only lyrics for Current 93, but also previously unpublished poems, and lyrics written for other artists. The endpapers are facsimiles of Tibet’s handwritten lyrics for “The Invisible Church” from I Am the Last of All Field that Fell, and “I Looked to the Southside of the Door” from Birth Canal Blues.

As if all of this wasn’t full of enough awesome, there’s also an afterword by Thomas Ligotti.

The first edition is a print run of 930 copies, un-numbered.

You can get your copy for £41, directly from David Tibet.

I have no idea how long these will last.  I worried (unnecessarily, it turns out) that the week I had to wait between the day they went on sale, and the day I had the spare cash to order a copy would be my undoing. I don’t know if future editions are planned or not. If this plays out like Tibet’s other publishing endeavors, I suspect once these are gone, they’ll start commanding high prices on the secondary market.

This is a book to be enjoyed, picked up, perused, delved into, and referred back to, and savored. I had long hoped that a similar book would be published with Jhonn Balance’s writings – alas, it was not to be (yet?).

I am beyond grateful that Sing Omega has incarnated.

Given the prolific nature of Tibet’s musical output, I eagerly await the second volume.

I would also be remiss if I did not mention Current 93’s latest album, I Am the Last of All Field that Fell. This album continues the maturing of Tibet’s music that began with Black Ships Ate the Sky. It features a number of guest artists, including Norbert Kox, Nick Cave, and John Zorn(!) – this is beyond apocalyptic folk and neo-folk, and moves into an even more complex style of composition that only continues to innovate and challenge – and I mean that in the best way. The Black Ship sails onward to new but no less haunting waters. Even if you’re not familiar with Current 93, this is one well worth your time and money.

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Nov 25 2013

New Process Church Book

Published by under Book Reviews,The Process

KevMitBuchAs it is,

The Process Church of the Final Judgment continues to slowly reveal itself.

Kali-Yuga Editions has published a 555 copy limited edition book by Alessandro Papa based on two large boxes of original archive material he received from an unnamed former member of the Church.

The Process: Archives, Documents, Reflections, and Revelations is an amazing resource, largely consisting of reproductions of internal documents, publications, photos, artwork, and assorted other goodies, straight from the source.

I’ve only just begun to peruse my copy and am already impressed. I’m not sure what the “official” way to order a copy is, but I got mine on eBay (presumably from Kali-Yuga?  The seller is in Italy -as are Kali Yuga- and everytime a copy sells, they re-list with a fresh copy).

210 pages of goodness.

I still maintain that the true story of the Process Church is even more fascinating than any of the myths and legends surrounding it.

Additional Recommended Reading:

Also check out the band Sabbath Assembly, who have released two albums (so far) of interpretations of Process Church hymns.

So be it.

 

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Nov 13 2013

Storm of Steel

Published by under Book Reviews,Ernst Jünger,WWI

Storm of Steel by Ernst Jünger

Storm of Steel by Ernst Jünger

I’ve been reading Ernst Jünger’s book Storm of Steel, about his experiences in WWI. Jünger fought for the Germans, so this is a bit of a different perspective than the usual. It is also one of the most harrowing accounts of war I’ve ever read – almost to the point of absurdity.

The book is littered with passages like “so and so was walking along and had his throat taken out by shrapnel. Then there was a gas attack.  The rains came, but these caused the walls of the trench to disintegrate, revealing the bodies that had been buried in them the summer before…”

Here’s a fascinating story about a fellow soldier named Eisen:

Eisen was no taller, but plump, and having grown up in the warmer climes of Portugal as the son of an emigrant, he was perpetually shivering. That was why he swore by a large red-chequered handkerchief that he tied around his helmet, knotted under his chin, claiming it kept his head warm. Also, he liked going around festooned with weapons – apart from his rifle, from which he was inseparable, he wore numerous daggers, pistols, hand-grenades and a torch tucked into his belt. Encountering him in the trench was like suddenly coming upon an Armenian or somesuch. For a while he used to carry hand-grenades loose in his pockets as well, till that habit gave him a very nasty turn, which he related to us one evening. He had been digging around in his pocket, trying to pull out his pipe, when it got caught in the loop of a hand-grenade and accidentally pulled it off. He was startled by the sudden unmistakable little click, which usually serves as the introduction to a soft hiss, lasting for three seconds, while the priming explosive burns. In his appalled efforts to pull the thing out and hurl it away from him, he had got so tangled up in his trouser pocket that it would have long since blown him to smithereens, had it not been that, by a fairy-tale stroke of luck, this particular hand-grenade had been a dud. Half paralysed and sweating with fear, he saw himself, after all, restored to life.

It was only temporary, though, because a few months later he too died in the battle at Langemarck.

I’ve never been in combat. I have no concept of what it must be like.  I’m sure, 100 years (almost) after Jünger wrote this, much has changed.  I also suspect much has not.

Perhaps the old cliche “war is hell” is appropriate, in the sheer insanity of it all. I honestly cannot imagine or comprehend.

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Sep 18 2013

Book Review – XTUL: An Experience of The Process

ProcesscrossWhen one travels in certain circles, one inevitably finds allusions to something called “The Process.”

At first, The Process is elusive; merely hinted at.  Or, at least, that’s how it was “back in the day.”

Finding The Process, then, becomes a hunt. Is it a Skinny Puppy album? Is it a book by Brion Gysin? What about Alfred North Whitehead’s Process and Reality?

Eventually, as one chips away at the mystery, The Process reveals itself a little further.  It becomes The Process Church of the Final Judgment.

Are any of these things related?

Yes, and No, actually.

The Skinny Puppy album was the result of Ogre being introduced to The Process Church of the Final Judgment by Genesis P-Orridge of Psychic TV / Throbbing Gristle fame. Gen was also familiar with Gysin’s book, and had made numerous references to it as well as the Church in many of his own creative endeavors. The Process Church also clearly influenced Gen’s own Temple ov Psychick Youth (TOPY).

The Process Church was also tied (dubiously) to Charles Manson in The Family by Ed Sanders (they later sued, and subsequent editions of The Family make no mention of them), and additionally to David Berkowitz by Maury Terry in The Ultimate Evil.

The ProcessWho were these people who made up The Process Church? Was it a Satanic “cult” responsible for all kinds of bloody mayhem? Was it still active? Who was this charismatic leader, Robert de Grimston? Did The Process do all of these things, or were they somehow caught up in the Satanic Panic of the 80s-90s? What about their vaguely swastika-like symbols? Why was nobody coming forward?

For a long time, the silence was deafening. Rumor and innuendo fueled speculation that maybe these really were people not to be messed with. Their original publications only added to the mystery. Jehovah? Christ? Lucifer? Satan?  Sex? Death?

It seemed that The Process was going to remain a mystery; something to be studied only by its artifacts and by extrapolations, guesses, rumors, and conjecture retrieved from an almost Strugatsky-like “Zone.”  The one book about them, Satan’s Power: A Deviant Psychotherapy Cult by William Sims Bainbridge (review forthcoming) was, and is, out of print, expensive, and difficult to come by.

Then, in 2009, the doors opened. And they opened wide.

4PFeral House published Love, Sex, Fear, Death: The Inside Story of The Process Church of the Final Judgment by former member, Timothy Wyllie (review also forthcoming). This book reaffirmed the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction. The reality behind The Process was far more fascinating than any of the rumors and legends that they had spawned. Shortly after Wyllie’s book, the band Sabbath Assembly released their first album, Restored to One, rock “interpretations” of Process Church hymns. It, and its follow-up, Ye Are Gods, have become two of my favorite albums. The songs are catchy, and the mythology of The Process Church is utterly captivating in the context of songs that sound somewhere between Coven and 60s Jesus Music. Feral House published a second volume onThe Process Church, Propaganda and Holy Writ of the Process Church of the Final Judgment, reprinting the (in)famous and long sought after issues of the church’s magazine, focusing on sex, fear, and death.

XTUL: An Experience of The Process by Sabrina Verney

XTUL: An Experience of The Process by Sabrina Verney

In 2011, another former member, Sabrina Verney, stepped forward to offer an account of her time with The Process in her memoir, XTUL: An Experience of The Process. Verney’s memoir is interesting in that she joined and left The Process just as it was making the transition from psychotherapy group to religion.

XTUL is an account of a young Sabrina rebelling against her stifling upper-class upbringing in England, and her quest for self-knowledge. She is first introduced to The Process by a boyfriend, and the two of them follow the group first to the Bahamas, and then to Mexico (“Xtul” – pronounced “shtool” is a small village on the Yucatan peninsula where they settled).

What makes Verney’s (and Wyllie’s) account fascinating is the portal it provides into the groups inner dynamics. Like any organization, there was a definite pecking order within The Process, with Mary Ann (not Robert!) de Grimston emerging as the true leader. At times, life in Xtul sounds idyllic – a return to nature, and simpler ways of being. Unfortunately, nature showed just how much of a force it was to be reckoned with, pummeling the community with a massive hurricane that should have, for all intents and purposes, killed at least a few of them. Yet, they all survived.  And this, became a defining moment for the group.

Shared experience of cataclysmic or near-cataclysmic events can often cause an intense bond to form between people. For a group that had already become extremely close through communal living and intense group psychotherapy exercises, it is not that far-fetched to see how a religious movement was the next logical step.

2272146022_625a41a8cdSabrina’s time with the group was cut suddenly short.  It is revealed that during her time with The Process, her father had been working with other parents to have their children taken from the group (Sabrina was 19 at the time, I believe). Sabrina and a few others were taken away shortly after the hurricane, and were only allowed minimal contact with Process members afterwards. From a legal standpoint, it only makes sense that the de Grimstons allowed for their departure. They had enough other things to deal with at this point.

As a fellow seeker, I understand Sabrina’s desire to belong to something bigger.  The questions she was asking of life are similar to the ones I’ve asked. Would I have joined The Process?  I can’t say, either way. There is an allure to their mythology and symbols. As I mentioned above, the hymns (as covered by Sabbath Assembly, anyway) are catchy, and some quite beautiful.

At the time, there wasn’t an extensive public knowledge about the dangers of “cults.” While The Process Church of the Final Judgment certainly had some of the usual problems that these groups tend to have, they seem to be far less sinister than their reputation would have you believe.

Eventually, Robert and Mary Ann de Grimston split, and the inevitable schism arose. Mary Ann took the group through a few variant stages, and finally morphed into the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah.

As for Sabrina?  She seems to have found herself.  She later returned to Xtul, long after The Process had left.  She seems to have found closure, and I am happy for her.

She also makes some amazing sculptures.

 MTM

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