Originally titled Heaven Sent
and recorded under the project title of Scorpion Wind, this 1996 collaboration between Douglas P. of neofolk group Death In June and experimental musician Boyd Rice initially faced legal problems with distribution and was considered "lost", unheard for a number of years. Almost a decade later it was re-released, under the title of Death In June & Boyd Rice's Scorpion Wind
Joined by percussionist John Murphy (of industrial pioneers SPK fame, along with The Associates & Current 93), this album was conceived around the time Death In June was hitting an arguable songwriting peak, after the fantastic Rose Clouds of Holocaust
(1995) and the lush, ambient folk of Occidental Martyr
(also 1995) and KAPO!
(1996). Recorded in Australia prior to Douglas P. and Boyd Rice appearing together in cult b-grade film Pearls Before Swine
, Scorpion Wind
could be considered a natural extension of the musical ideas present on both Occidental Martyr
, the perfect jigsaw piece locking the full picture into place being the presence of the spoken word delivery of self described Mr. Intolerance himself, Boyd Rice.
An understanding of the past of Boyd Rice might be necessary. A figure who has existed on the fringe of experimental music since the late 70's, Rice was one of the first musicians to consider using harsh noise frequencies along with such novel ideas as looping 60's pop samples to create something "subversive" and completely unheard of before. At least one of his earlier LP's, Pagan Muzak
was pressed with several tracks of locked grooves and multiple off center holes drilled for alternate user controlled methods of play. He was fond of torturing his audiences not only with his music but by shining out of reach lights in their faces. When he wasn't aiming to demolish musical standards (a photo of him circa late 1970/early 1980 kneeling with a sledgehammer amongst a pile of smashed LP's perfectly captured his musical philosophy), he made a name for himself as a prominent sound and film archivist, building a large and impressive collection of all manner of obscurity. He became close friends with Anton LaVey, and later the priest of Satan who would ordain Marilyn Manson into the church. He founded a Social Darwinist group called The Abraxas Foundation, which openly promotes ideas based around taboo subjects as authoritarianism, totalitarianism, misanthropism and elitism. He has appeared on countless talk shows, arguing his controversial opinions to figures as varied as christian evangelist Bob Larson, daytime TV show host Geraldo and even Tom Metzger, leader of the White Aryan Resistance. Oh, and he built a world famous tiki bar. Boyd Rice has clearly made a career out of controversy. But one thing has never been clear about the guy, and that is whether or not he is just trolling.
That's right, the man may or may not be completely serious. Who could say? If you are familiar with his work on any level, you may have this image of a childish brat in the back of the classroom who spent all his time trying to get the goat of anyone who crosses his path, and grew up clever enough to put a thorn in anyone's side. Maybe he believes some
of the things he says, but the line between the reality and fiction of Boyd Rice is blurred enough to cast severe doubt on the matter. This debate of the philosophy of the man is essential because at it's heart, Boyd Rice's yin is Douglas P.'s yang on the musical side on Scorpion Wind
. Rice spent a number of years collaborating with the artists of the british Neofolk scene, the many artists involved with Current 93, Death In June, Sol Invictus and Fire + Ice accused to this day of harboring cryptofascist ideals for ironic use of fascist and totalitarian imagery and having links in the past with such groups. Scorpion Wind
is perhaps the crowning achievement of all this confusion, or these contrasts
, if you will.
The musical side of Scorpion Wind
is flawless. From the jangly guitar arpeggios of opener Love Love Love (Equilibrium)
and it's sweeping strings, this is one folk release you know is going to leave an impression on the listener. Rice introduces his spoken word monologue, which is presented in a flat, emotionless voice which makes itself the ideal contrast to the levels of vibrancy the music is working on -
"The reprisals of the weak against the strong
Do not really come within nature
They do from a moral point of view
But not the physical
Since to take these reprisals
The weak man must employ forces he has not received from nature
He must adopt a character that he has not been given
The words reveal themselves as something vicious and biting in comparison to the music, which throughout the entire album is one of the most stellar collection of folk arrangements I have ever heard. The subdued percussion of In Vino Veritas
and its strings are heartwrenching, and presents itself quite a curiosity as Rice shares something of a sense of bleak humor in his own personal self reflection -
"I'm a man of the grain
I treasure my pleasure and cherish my pain
and won't someone pour me another martini? to sip whilst around the fire
Won't someone pour me another martini? and toast the worlds funeral pyre
The glass percussion present on Paradise of Perfection
is fantastic, providing something contemplative as musings about civilisation and history are touched upon -
"All men, in as much as they are not liberated from the bondage of time
Follow the downward path of history, whether they know it or not and whether they like it or not.
Few, indeed, thoroughly like it, even in our epoch
Let alone in happier ages, when people read less and thought more.
Few follow it unhesitatingly
Without throwing at some time or other a sad glance towards the distant lost paradise towards into which they know in their deeper consciousness
That they are never to peer
The paradise of perfection in time within so remote that the earliest people of which we know remember it as only a dream
And much of the album plays out in a similar fashion that is not worth developing on. The highlights of Scorpion Wind
and Funeral For 3
, two 13 minute plus tracks which are simply incredible. The centerpiece here is no doubt The Cruelty of The Heavens
however, an 8 minute long track with an epic, militaristic build-up which is one of those rare songs that comes along and manages to redefine the definition of epic -
"In the night, the dead stood along the wall, and cried, "We would have knowledge of God. Where is God? Is God dead?" God is not dead.
Now, as ever, he liveth. There is a God whom you know not, for mankind forgot it. We name it by it's name: Abraxas.
Abraxas standeth above the sun and above the devil.
It is improbable probability, unreal reality. Hard to know is the deity of Abraxas; it's power is greatest because man perceiveth it not.
From the sun he draweth absolute good, from the Devil, infinite evil, but from Abraxas: life.
Abraxas is the sun and at the same time, the eternally
sucking gorge of the void.
leaves the listener breathless throughout it's entire duration (which is no short order due to it's length), and alongside a slew of fantastic albums is perhaps the crowning achievement of the british Neofolk scene. It is spot on with it's lush folk instrumentation, which never feels lacking in atmosphere as Boyd Rice expounds his own perverse philosophies in the most thrilling way possible. A union between two prolific artists, both who have been on the cutting edge of certain forms of experimental music for years, Scorpion Wind
manages to be an album of perfect contrasts.