Monday, December 29, 2014

Ten of the best metal albums of all time - Part V: Winter - Into Darkness

Even in a review series about some of the very best metal albums of all time, a series which is obviously to be loaded with superlatives in every review, there's bound to be one album which stands out the most. And it doesn't matter into how many parts I decided to divide this series - I picked tenrather arbitrarily - but if it were only five, or up to fifty, this one album would always stand out above all others. This album is, of course, Winter's Into Darkness, the pinnacle, the crown jewel in the history of all forms of heavy metal, for all times to come.

"Words cannot describe..." is a phrase that is not only strangely overused in reviews of such amazing works of art, but also contradictory to the purpose of a review itself, since using words to describe is exactly what one attempts at doing in this endeavour. It is however the first phrase to pop into my mind when beginning to try to wrap my mind around how to get the mind-blowing quality of this album across to the reader. I feel like an astronomer who tries to describe the universe in a few drab technical terms, when in reality it takes a lifetime of internalising all its aspects to realise just how amazing and impressive is in its entirety. Into Darkness, likewise, is something I can only sketch out in a few well-intentioned but never sufficient phrases without ever scratching the surface of its grandness, and no potential listener reading this review will grasp the magnitude of what was put on record here by a few general descriptions of the elements that make up the album's sound.

It is no coincidence that I chose an analogy to describing the universe when beginning to delve into an attempted characterisation of this album, because as the universe is unimaginably big in spacial dimensions, Into Darkness is the same in audial ones. There is a gravity to every note played on this album that evokes images of solar system-sized giants pounding down on planets with star-sized hammers. It feels like the perfect embodiment of the sheer heaviness bands have been going for ever since Black Sabbath played the very first notes of their eponymous song, and that only Winter have reached in this magnitude, and one that can never be surpassed. The amazing production of course does a great job of accomplishing this, with its thick and massive guitar tone and the accompanying strong and heavy presence of the bass. But the major credit lies, as always, with the songwriting, as no producer or engineer has ever created a masterpiece in music, only songwriters have.

How to make heavy metal in all its diversity of subgenres as heavy as possible has been a quest from the start, with a myriad of approaches to achieve this feat, but no band ever succeeded to an extent as Winter did right here, and no one ever will again. The ingredients are fairly simple. Due credit has to be given to obvious influences such as Celtic Frost (in the more uptempo parts) or Amebix (when things slow down), but what Winter achieve here is primarily the result of their own, simple, straight-forward, but utterly effective songwriting choices. Every chord is played with just the right amount of power behind it, and sustained for just the right length, arranged into riffs in which every chord feels to up the ante and increase the heaviness of its preceeding chord. The sheer massiveness of these riffs is almost surpassed by how dark an atmosphere they create, something that only adds to their gravity. It once again brings back the analogy to the universe, and objects that are so massive that not even light can escape them.

Not to be outdone by the riffs, the rhythm section acts with the same remorseless dedication to flattening the listener into residue the size of atoms or smaller. The pounding, warlike drumming in particular is a showcase exercise in brutal efficiency. The analogies in my mind vary between a hammer and an anvil, and the chains of a tank, but either of them at a cosmic size. Sparse keyboards help add keep the density intact at any and all times, leaving the listener no reprieve from the suffocating darkness and gravity of the audial maelstrom created. And above all tower the vocals.

What John Alman delivers here is a performance unrivaled in the entirety of the heavy metal genre. Appearing as standard Celtic Frost-inspired barks on the surface, only lowered by about an octave, they reveal an unimaginable depth of emotional power after repeated listens. And trust me, once your mind properly processes this album, there will be many, many repeated listens. Alman's performance creates a variety of mental images, from a war commander of an army of some form of gigantic, horrid creatures ready to conquer the universe and plunge all civilisations across its span into perpetual darkness, to a mad preacher of some ancient cosmic religion shouting sermons of an impending doom for all that lives in the entirety of space and time. The feeling they create is absolutely huge and suffocating, and leave no doubt that the end of all is nigh, and nothing can be done to prevent it.

The conclusion brings me back to the initial phrase of words being unable to describe, and while I may have done my best for my words to accomplish anything nearing a worthy description, I must live with the realisation that it is simply not possible to put into words what only many repeated listens of the album can achieve. If there ever was any album that needed to be heard, and needed to be heard as often and intensively as possible, it is Winter's Into Darkness. This is the essential metal classic that requires a spot in every self-respecting heavy metal connoisseur's collection. Were I forced to pick a best album of the entire genre at gunpoint, I would name this as my first choice without hesitation.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Ten of the best metal albums of all time - Part IV: Demilich - Nespithe

You know, in that alternate universe in which time runs backwards, this album would be the world's most derided as having stolen every single idea bands had after 1993. You can think of whatever band in the world in the late 1990s or 2000s having a really great idea, and Demilich will have said "Hah, we'll take your idea and do it in 1993!" Basically, this album is the culmination of all cool ideas in metal from all the years after this album was released, but Demilich did them before they became cool ideas in metal as a whole.

The problem is that from a neutral viewpoint, amazing quality aside, it isn't very easy to sell this album to those not familiar with it. That is because describing the surface elements doesn't leave a very appealing mix in theory. For example, I will certainly never win an award for being the world's biggest fan of technical death metal, so if you came to me praising this amazing technical death metal album you think I should hear, I'd probably ignore you. Moreover, there certainly is no love lost between myself and death metal that infuses a strong sense of melody, so if you praised the great melodies on this album, hell would freeze over before you got me even remotely interested. Then to top things off you may begin to talk to about vocals that sound like a cross between belching and frog vocalisations, and you can be sure to have given me a mental image of an album I will certainly never give the time of day.

It is a bit of an odd thing that I not only checked this album out, but actually gave it enough listens to fully grasp the genius behind it, because I am usually impervious to the fierce word of mouth propaganda that led to my doing so in the end. The right amount of praise, with the right amount of thought put behind it, by the right people, usually not enough for me to budge, but! Combined with the level of intelligence and creativity seen in the songtitles, it was enough for an interest to be piqued. And just as tenacious as the concerns voiced in the second paragraph were prior to my subsequent indulgence, as swiftly they were washed away by the sheer quality of this album's writing and performance.

Nothing could be a greater mistake than avoiding what is being presented on this record based on what its surface elements look like on paper. It is not simply a question of the album being greater than the sum of its parts. That is an expression more adequately used for something the parts of which would have some appeal of themselves and being put together to something of high quality. In the case of the album I am reviewing, it would not only be an understatement, but the entire approach of that type of thinking would be fallacious. Because simply put, it's not a matter of a couple of good riffs strung up into something great. It's far more radical than that. The parts on this album, and that's the beauty of it, are actually anything but good or appealing by themselves. Take any riff, any melody, any bass line, any drum part, any frog belch, by itself it's actually quite awful. What Demilich does is to interweave these awful parts into a radiant piece of art. It's dumbfounding, but that's the power of amazing songwriting.

Both the sheer level of thought behind these arrangements and the keen instinct for their perfect interwoven combinations leave the listener astonished, almost in disbelief over how something so bizarre and unsettling can be made into something so grand. Every note seems to flow into the next as if written in cosmic stone at the beginning of time and discovered by still primitive humans via some bizarre scientific contraption. Every hit on the drumkit alike, and every utterance of vocalisation, it all fits together like a pre-historic puzzle to be solved once humankind has hit the right level of evolution. It all creates a certain aesthetic flow that can only be compared to the beauty of the workings of the universe themselves. It's a work of genius, no less can be said about it.

I realise that it will never be within my writing abilities to properly convey the majesty of this album's songwriting and performance, and that to many it will continue to be a candidate for dismissal based on it supposedly being just anothter faux-"strange" technical death metal album with too much of an emphasis on melody and vocals that to many can't possibly be taken seriously either by the person who performed them or the confused listener wondering what it was they were meant to accomplished. I don't think any of my ramblings in this review will make any difference to those reluctant about giving this album enough listens to fully immerse themselves in it and discover its genius. The fact that this is one of the best recordings in the whole of metal, and possibly music itself, remains.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Stray thoughts from last week - A mental health nightmare

This was a horrifying week. As you could read in my previous post "Retox", I had an outpatient psychiatric nursing service visit me once a week for a few years. Well, about a year ago, there was a problem between the social welfare office which pays for the service, and the service itself, about, as always with the social welfare office, "documents not being handed in completely".

First of all I had no money for all of November for that same reason. Bureaucrat assholes. Second, the social welfare office and the nursing service came to an agreement that the payments would continue, but work would only continue on the social welfare office's terms. And in their infinite wisdom they decided that work should no longer be done by nurses, who in Germany have no college education generally, but by social workers, who studied social work at university. Now I had a very good relationship with my nurse (hi, Harold! (not his real name)), but they decided it wasn't good enough. So a social worker was sent instead.

This week I kicked out the social worker. She kept whining my lovely dog would bite, because my dog barks at strangers. I told her again and again that in over five years my dog has never bitten a human being once, not even another dog. Nothing. No biting. She said it was too dangerous for her to have a barking dog that could bite any second (fuck you, asshole) around, and wanted me to dump it off at my parents' place every time she comes. I told her no. She told me, well, no other worker for the service will ever want to be in that extreme biting danger, either, since my dog has apparently bitten more than half the population of Germany. I told her to fuck off and closed the door. Emailed the service about a replacement who has more than two brain cells in her skull, no response.

So that's it? They cancel a vital service to me because a paranoid lunatic raves about my dog biting, when my dog has never bitten anyone? That's a fucked-up way to treat a human being in need. But I hated her anyway. She kept talking to me in baby language, like I was too stupid to understand a single word she said. I can't handle that. Either treat me as a smart human being with an illness, if I talked to you like a smart human being, which I always did, or get the fuck out, or I'll talk to you like someone from a trash talk show because you deserve it.

No idea what to do now, but that's what you get for life as a mentally ill person in Germany. I have committed no crime, I am certainly not retarded, and yet I am treated as both. Because I have a few panic attacks occasionally but otherwise am like every other normal human being. Going to tear this country apart with my bare teeth one day.

Alcoholism: A love story - Part IV: End of the line - Part II: Retox

With detox done in 2009 as detailed in my previous post, I entered a - by my standards - pretty long period of sobriety, initially with the intention of keeping it that way for the rest of my life. Mind you, alcoholism has a relapse rate of around 95%, but at the time I was confident I was done with the subject because I felt I had enough for a lifetime.

What happened after detox was a long period of attempting to heal. Trying to get my life in order again. Get out of depression and anxiety and panic attacks, start a job, maybe some day a family, anything. I must say that at the time were a number of things. There were my parents who one month after detox showed at my front door with a tiny black puppy and told me they think having a dog would help. It really did, and I love my dog more than anything. Another thing that helped at first was an outpatient psychiatric nursing service that visited me once a week and helped me try to learn doing normal things in my life again.

I went to an inpatient psych ward for two months in 2011, which didn't help one bit, but I met two of my friends there. Went to a day clininc in 2012, which at first helped a lot, but turned out to make me miserable because they left me with nothing to continue my progress with afterwards. I met a very nice girl there I briefly dated, and that's sort of how it started.

She liked to drink alcohol. She never asked me to drink with her or anything and respected my wishes, but at the same time it really got me thinking that I'd really like to be able to drink with people again on rare occasions. So I did an experiment, bought two cans of pre-mixed Jack Daniels and coke, and two bottles of beer, had them for a nice evening just to see what happens. Got a nice buzz, but what I was really curious about was whether or not the next day I would yearn for more, and I didn't. Not the next week, either. They told me since childhood that as a sober alcoholic, you drink one drop and you're all back in full on addiction. That didn't seem so likely anymore. And I talked to doctors about it, and they also told me I could drink normally if I didn't overdo it, and that the whole "one drop and you're back"-thing is nonsense.

So every now and then I would be drinking. About once a month at first. Then occasionally I did more than once. It took about a year of that to realise that there are still times I could go completely out of control and drink heavily for days. That's when the whole thing started to scare me. I will right into a clinic, the schizophrenia ward I have written so much about. But they didn't want to talk about alcohol, to them I was schizophrenic and nothing else.

After the schizophrenia it continued as before. Sometimes once a month, sometimes every week, all normal. Until a few months ago when things began to completely spiral out of my control. That was when the worst thing I ever did happened. I went to a bar with friends in a neighbouring city, planning to go home the same night. But I fell asleep in the bar bathroom, woke up there the next day, and continued drinking. The reason this was the worst thing I have ever done was because all the while my dog, which I love more than anything, was still at home without food and more importantly without walks. I have felt so rotten ever since, and I cannot live with it.

I still continued drinking, for about two months, but that's gonna end for the time being. My dog is just fine in case you wondered it got hurt. But I'm not fine about it.  I can't continue hurting someone I love, and I will try everything in my power to do differently from now on.

Ten of the best metal albums of all time - Part III: Slayer - South of Heaven

Slayer is one of those bands that is simply great enough to be included in any line-up of greatest bands, yet make it incredibly difficult to pinpoint an album that stands out the most. Sure, the general consensus is that everything from Seasons in the Abyss onward can be washed down the sewers with no one shedding a tear. But that still leaves you with a total of four classic album among which you have to pick out which one is the Slayer album, the one that ascends above the other, the one that soars into the highest heavens of lowest hellishness.

Since you already know my pick from looking a few lines further above, let me give you a quick rundown why the first three did not make the final cut. Show no Mercy certainly has riff after riff (and no mercy) to show for itself, but I must say that, simply put, it is just too upbeat for me. Too "moshing metal maniac" and too "throw the horns and drink the beer(s)". It's fun, yeah, when you're a teenager and just discovered trading recommendations with strangers at concerts where everyone's in leather and spikes, in between the merch stands. That's the kind of album it is, the kind of atmosphere it has to me. A metal party album with not much more behind it. Hell Awaits certainly is evil, and dark, and sinister, and I understand why it is so many people's favourite. But to me it is the polar opposite to Show no Mercy. The first one has all the riffs and none the atmosphere, the second one all the atmosphere but none the riffs. Either of course is an exaggeration, but it gets across my general feeling about the album. Finally, Reign in Blood goes too far on its gimmick to be the fastest thing ever, and aside from select songs has relatively little in the field of memorable riffs or memorable atmosphere. Sure, it's fun to blast and hate the world when you're in the mood, but honestly, because of that one-dimensional character it is my personal least listened to among the classic four.

South of Heaven, in turn, has everything. Everything I ever wanted from a Slayer record, this album has it. Every single note on it seems to be crafted to perfection. The album reeks of riffs, but never seems upbeat. And the album reeks of evil atmosphere, but never lets you down on intensity. Neither is the anger of its predecessor lost on it.

Slayer, here, simply know how to create perfect Slayer songs. It's like they looked at the first three albums and said "okay, we did riffy, we did dark, we did fast, now let's do Slayer." Because if "Slayer" was an adjective, it would describe the entire album. The songs are so incredibly well crafted, taking a good number of different bits for each song and just lining them up as a cohesive and ultimately decimating whole. They do it with such a way that if, for example, a song starts with an evil bit, and it segues to an aggressive one, the evil never fades away. Rather than part-after-part that you'd find on most thrash albums, everything flows into each other perfectly, everything becomes an integral part of a whole. And the whole is ultimate Slayer. The fictional adjective. And the noun.

And it's not like they just did bits and pieces of their previous works into some kind of mosaic of the past. The amazing thing is how the whole thing sounds completely refreshing simply by how much it transcends earlier outings. Here, they create an atmosphere that has never been there before, with a large set of riffs that showed a whole new side of them, and that probably no one expected.

This band's first four album should however be enjoyed as a whole, as each single one is essential. But if you are looking for utimate Slayer, this is your go-to record.

Ten of the best metal albums of all time - Part II: Mayhem - Deathcrush

In an ideal world, no list of best metal records of all time should go without a prominent mention of Mayhem's debut mini-album, because its overwhelming quality is not a subjective impression but an objective fact. A record of this magnitude hadn't happened in its field until the point it was released, and it certainly was never reached in quality and impact, neither by the band itself nor the thousands that followed. Like an alignment of all eight planets in the solar system in one straight line, this record is one of the rarest of occurances where just the right elements were combined by just the right people in just the right way at just the right time. If perfection in black metal had a name, Deathcrush would be it.

There is something uniquely feral about this mini-album, as if the musicians involved had been set out into the wild at early childhood with a set of musical instruments, and this record was the result of their channelling the lifeforce of the rugged Norwegian landscapes and the essence of the hardships endured trying to survive in such an unforgiving environment on next to nothing with only their primal instincts and an iron will to endure as tools at their disposal. This record typifies the strength of character necessary to survive in the Norwegian outback far away from civilisation far more than any release made by a Norwegian band in the 1990s or later, because it is so much more primitive in nature, and much more in tune with just how inhospitable Norway is away from human settlements.

And they really couldn't have picked a better introduction for the savagery they would unleash. "Silvester Anfang", as many of you know, is a piece by experimental/noise music pioneer and former Tangerine Dream member Conrad Schnitzler, who was contacted by the band for an introduction, and submitted this piece as his unique interpretation of the type of music they play on this mini-album. The result not only emphasises the feral nature of the music as a whole, but gives it a character far darker than the imagery I painted in my previous paragraph, as if this is not the work of human children set out in the deep forests for the entirety of their lifetime, but orcs from a fantasy realm such as Tolkien's, or, far more accurately, Morlocks from H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, living in the bowels of the Earth as the most brutal of savages, feasting on the flesh of their fair counterparts that once were their fellow human beings.

The thought of feral Norwegians recording a mini-album with no human contact prior, with the savagery of Morlocks, it gives me the chills, and so does the music found on this release. There is no other drummer in metal who's drumming I can describe as "tribal" as Manheim's, like the pounding in a death ritual of some rainforest tribe on Borneo. There's a certain marginally off-beat quality to it that makes it sound more like a group of individuals playing one part of the kit each rather than one person playing the kit alone. This tribal feeling is amplified by the heavy use of the toms, as well as the quality of the drum recording which has a strong feel of being done in a dense forest in the middle of nowhere. This really sets the tone for the feeling I described in earlier paragraphs, and it perhaps one of the defining characteristics of this record.

It is perhaps most fitting that the bass sounds like a form of war drum itself, having a quality more pounding and percussive than you would expect from a string instrument. Rather than a backing provider of melody as you'd find on any regular metal album around the same time in history, it punches the rhythms through your eardrums as if the instrument of a great orc army aiming to pound fear into the hearts of their enemies on the eve of battle.

The guitars themselves provide all the melody, and they are likely the element of the music most in tune with the analogy of feral children left deep in the forest with only a musical instrument and nothing other but their wits to survive. They grind at you like both the anguish felt by being abandoned and not knowing whether or not you'd survive each new day, and the triumph of having overcome this challenge. They are more than mere metal riffs, they are raw expressions of that raw, feral anger felt by such an abandoned child, and the strength of character it has built through mastering this most hostile of environments. In such a way, they are the most true metal riffs ever written, the most honest, the most brutal, the most unforgiving, and the most triumphant.

Vocally we are treated to shrieks and howls which round off the whole experience. Almost like an afterthought, they integrate smoothly into the inhuman inferno unleashed by the instruments they are backing. Like celebrations of the glory of the ritual performed at the hands of these inhuman creatures. It is the combination of all these elements into one grand performance that really matters. Something that transcends anything civilised, anything with the classic understanding of trained musicians in a disciplined environment. This is how music today may sound if all higher culture had never came to exist, and merely the technology for musical instruments had advanced.  Music that forgets the last thousands of years of musical development and instead celebrates a ritual of the utmost primitive, and thereby utmost primal.

Of the vague top ten in this review series, this is easily a contender for the top spot. One of the brightest (or darkest) beacons of what metal music is capable.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Alcoholism: A love story - Part IV: End of the line - Part I: Detox

Back in summer 2009 when my drinking habit was so extreme and the physical dependency so bad that each day was constant suffering, I reached this point at which I decided life like that was no longer worth living. So I committed suicide. Well, actually I didn't, I'm still here, but I did the next best thing: Decided it was time for a change.

Getting into a detox clinic is actually easy as pie. You go to a doctor, say you need to go to detox, get a referral to a hospital, then call there, talk about what you need for a few minutes, then call every day before 10am or so to ask if a bed is available. I did that for about a week, then the nurse at the phone told me to pack my stuff and come over. It's actually kind of amazing that I remember the daily phonecalls, as I don't remember getting the referral or packing my stuff, but I know I did those two things. Life was extremely weird for my memory back then, something either stuck or it didn't. But I digress. I sort of packed stuff and asked my mother if she would kindly drive me there, though not before I had a good number of morning drinks, because I was scared and needed to calm myself. She agreed, and off I went.

I know somehow I ended up in the hospital and some talking to the nurses was done, of which I remember nothing. I do remember I was tested with 0.25% blood alcohol, which seems accurate for my mornings. Had I arrived in the evening the number might have been a tad more over the top. I know I somehow got into the room I would sleep in for the coming two weeks and my stuff ended up there, too, but again memory of that escapes me. After that, things began to clear up a lot though...

...and I don't mean that in a good way. For alcohol, you can quit cold turkey, but there is a risk of death because withdrawal simply overwhelms your body. So it is generally recommended to use a mix of drugs to help keep your body somewhat settled so that you can quit without the risk of death. This mix of drugs does not actually make the withdrawal any less excruciating (despite the generous amount of sedatives), but it keeps you alive, and at the time I sort of thought that was a good thing. The big problem is that these drugs also interact with alcohol, so they are not supposed to be given above a blood alcohol level of 0.08%. And THAT was the really hard part. Because as you know, I suffer from heavy panic attacks already, that's why I did the drinking in the first place, and alcohol withdrawal strongly amplifies the panic attacks, which is why I wanted to quit drinking. But the time span in between the 0.25% I came in with and the 0.08% I needed was one of the worst times of my life, because I literally thought I was dying the whole time. I couldn't breathe worth shit, and I couldn't feel my heartbeat, my head experienced the strangest sensations and numerous parts of my body went numb at irregular intervals. Add some serious chills to that and you just know this is what you feel when your life comes to a slow and horrifying end.

When the time came for me to get the mix of drugs, which felt like eternity and left me feeling like a wreck, it was quite a liberating experience, because while the sedatives didn't do all that much, the mere fact that something was given to me had a very calming effect for me at the time. I still had bad panic attacks after that, but the most horrifying part was over, I felt like I was being taken care of and not left to die. That kind of describes the rest of the day after the excruciating first hours: A lot of  panic attacks, but a somewhat calming feeling of being in a hospital and being taken care of.

The next few days were more of the same but in different intervals. The panic attacks were no longer as frequent as to completely prevent me from going outside for a smoke and talking to other patients regularly, which made things a lot easier, and while my drugs were gradually reduced I got the feeling of my body settling down into a state that could be managed. The only big issue was that the doctor at the ward clearly didn't know what he was doing as he prescribed me 10mg of fluoxetine (Prozac) for my panic attacks, which I know now is the most ridiculously low dosage of one of the most ridiculously ineffecient antidepressants.

The remainder of that week got a little better every day, still with panic attacks, but no longer those extreme ones you get from alcohol withdrawal but the "standard" ones I as a person with panic disorder just have. Then after a week we had one of those days you just don't want to experience in detox, with a suffocating 37C with high humidity. That's really bad timing, nature! Unfortunately for me that ended up in my having an epileptic seizure. You know, it's not uncommon for people in booze detox to experience seizures, but when I first talked to the doctor when I got into the clinic he said it was prevented in 99% of all cases. So yeah, I'm officially a one-percenter (just had to do that reference). For me, it was really no big deal, I don't remember it, you never do. But it meant staying another week, and it sure as hell frightened my mother who was visiting when I had the seizure. They did a lot of tests on my brain anyway, and I am told that I am not epileptic and that I will probably never again have a seizure, and to this point I never did, so all is well.

Really, overall it was mostly a boring experience, so for all of you who are reading this and currently drinking heavily, but too scared of detox I can say it really isn't all that bad. The big catch really is the first day, and you just know a day like that feels like eternity. But if you would rather kill yourself slowly than make it through one horrible day, that's kind of a backwards logic. I think dying from liver failure might be a tad more awful than one day of a continuous and horrifying panic attack, besides the fact that the latter is indeed horrifying, it is over the next day and you're alive. I wouldn't want to repeat the experience, but it certainly was a thousand times better a decision than the alternative.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Ten of the best metal albums of all time - Part I: Sempiternal Deathreign - The Spooky Gloom

Many people track back the origins of death/doom metal to either or both Paradise Lost's slowing down the ugly death metal that swept over from overseas on their debut and Winter's apocalyptic deadening-up (opposite of livening-up, if you've never heard the term before it's because I just made it up) their massive Celtic Frost influences. And rightfully so, these two bands really got this sub-subgenre kicking and provided a template for following bands to expand and transcend, or in some cases merely imitate. That does not mean, however, that there weren't some early pioneers going for a similar approach. These must not be considered more influential because they did their stuff earlier, like some historical revisionists would have you believe, but looking back from the mid 2010s to the late 1980s they can give you a good insight into how young musicians approached the idea of coalescing death and doom metal influences into a new style of music.

Alongside Americans Dream Death, who basically took a Celtic Frost template and injected a little more of a death/thrash type of aggression into the heavy parts while slowing down and expanding on the slow parts, Sempiternal Deathreign from the Netherlands is most likely the closest to proper death/doom metal the 1980s ever came. They might actually have had their share of influence on later bands, as a whole slew of Dutch death/doom bands would follow in similar footsteps, and it is possible that even Asphyx might have been familiar with them and drawn ideas from them. Outside of the Netherlands, however, I don't know if there were all too many people familiar with them before the rise of the internet made them all the more accessible.

Sempiternal Deathreign, completely lacking any advance knowledge of what death/doom metal was supposed to sound like by 1990s standards due to their limited psychic abilities, crafted a sound that was unlike anything else at the time and is unmatched to this day. Not content with simply slowing down parts of the death/thrash that was so prevalent in the underground in the 1980s, they are one of the few examples of bands to play what I call "literal death/doom", as in literally taking influences from both death metal (in its mid-to-late 1980s shape and form) and traditional doom metal, rather than just the former with an emphasis on slow parts. In fact, the traditional doom metal influences on this album have such a strong 1970s sound to them that they couldn't be further from "slow death metal". It's kind of hard to pinpoint the exact sources, as my knowledge of 1970s music is thankfully limited, though Black Sabbath is always a safe bet. But quite frankly, many note progressions in this album's atmospheric doomy parts, such as the guitar solos in the opener and closer, or the opening riff of "Devastating Empire Towards Humanity" (after the intro), remind me a lot more Flower Travellin' Band's Japanese interpretation of Black Sabbath's sound. Whether this is a direct influence, or whether the Dutch and the Japanese simply interpret Black Sabbath in a similar way (with the Dutch you never know), I do not know, but it's the closest comparison I can make. Some of the more meaty doom parts in which the rhythm guitar dominates also have a Pentagram feel to them, and there are a number of bits and pieces that might not have looked out of place on a Witchfinder General album.

But no matter what their direct influences were, they most certainly succeed at giving this album a unique hazy feel, like something you would hear in a morbid hippie commune intent on murdering Hollywood stars, had the hippie movement extended its reach into the 1980s. What really drives this image home is the sheer viciousness and malevolence of the equally important death/thrash type of parts. Sort of a cross between early Slayer and Possessed after one too many cups of coffee, they rampage through your speakers like the Tasmanian devil on the worst choleric fit of his life. That the band is not as tight as aforementioned American professionals (though not sloppy in any way, either) further enhances this feeling, as if the whole band is literally releasing all the pent-up rage of a lifetime. What really helps drive this point home is that the vocalist sounds completely off the hinge in a way that was far ahead of its time and probably is without match to this day. I can sort of compare it to Pestilence's/Asphyx's Martin van Drunen or whoever does the high-pitched vocals for Macabre, but much more honest and far less gimmicky than either. I can't help shake the mental image of the crazy, long-haired guy from Police Academy when I listen to his performance, he literally sounds like he has all screws loose in his head, and a few extra in his pocket. The way this is laid over the frantic blasting of the drums and the often nearly grindcore-like buzzsawing of the guitars makes these parts deliciously barbaric.

However, it would matter little how great the doomy parts and the fast parts are individually if they were put together poorly. And this is really why I praise this album so highly, because the songwriting, the crafting of a uniform whole from the disparate parts is impeccable and nothing short of amazing. There never is one transition which does not exhibit a coherent flow, parts go from one to another seamlessly and show an effortless talent for musical storytelling, taking the listener on an emotional journey from low to high and back again without any of the shifts in mood ever feeling abrupt or out of place. The forgivable horror camp of the lyrics aside, I feel myself transported into the world of prehistoric barbarians, with scenes of battle and scenes of pre-religious spiritual experiences showing different sides of their lives.

In essence, this is a perfect album to lean back and enjoy the experience. But it does not end there, as it is just as perfect for many other purposes you would want a metal album for, such as having a few beers with friends, or living out some pent-up emotions, or simply appreciate just how amazing this form of art can be. It is one of the most "complete" metal album I know in this regard, as there is not a time or situation in which I would find it inappropriate to play. An absolute classic in metal history, and the history of death/doom metal in particular. And an essential purchase, should you find a decently-priced copy. If not, be glad that we live in a time in which every classic is being reissued, and that this album may hit the market in an all new version soon!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

My thoughts on "true" black metal

Black metal should have been left to die twenty years ago. Everything that needed to be said had been said by then, and everything since then has just been attention whoring with shitty music.

So-called "true" black metal, the way I see it, is even below the retro thrash and retro doom trends that have sprung up in recent years. The reason it is below those is because those two were just passing trends that a lot of people picked on one day and that were gone two or three years later. "True" black metal has been going on non-stop since all the way back in the early 1990s when the first bands began to imitate Darkthrone, Burzum, Mayhem and other big names. It has had nothing to say that was worth saying from the beginning and it remains unchanged in its monotonous inanity to this day. Why can't that fucking trend die like the others? It is as torturous as being force-fed Toxic Holocaust and Municipal Waste knock-offs for two decades. Why do people feel the need to play the same music that's been played a million times, paint themselves like clowns and moan about Satan or nihilism or whatever other shit they dig out the cliché box? Shut the fuck up, you're pathetic.

There is nothing "true" about this garbage. Dressing yourself up like Dead on the Live in Leipzig cover or Zephyrous on the A Blaze in the Northern Sky cover and calling yourself "true black metal" makes about as much sense as dressing yourself up like George Washington and calling yourself a "true freedom fighter". There is nothing fucking "true" about dressing up like those who were.

I get that albums like Under a Funeral Moon and Det Som Engang Var are really impressive. I get that a band of violent church burners and murderers playing such great music is a really captivating thought, too. And I get the psychological connection of wanting to be a part of this by association. I get all that because I can relate to the feeling, because I played black metal in the past, I did the music, the face-paint, the stereotypical lyrics, the unreadable logos, the tapes limited to half a copy, I can relate. However, once my body rid itself of the last remains of puberty hormones I quickly came to the realisation of how pathetic that whole circus really is. Think about it: You're taking something that was once great and making a cheap mockery of it. And you're making an ass of yourself in the process with your shitty music, painting yourself like a clown, copying logos, spewing random lyrics that have no worthwhile message, and so on. You're not going to become Varg, Fenriz, Dead or Euronymous in the process, you're only going to be a pathetic loser.

You're really pissing on a legacy here. It became hard to even listen to one of Darkthrone's classics without any association to the shit idiots like Kanwulf or Akhenaten played soon after springing up. You are defiling something that, despite the obvious hype making it seem bigger than it was, had a sense of grandeur and nobility to it, if left to stand as a monument to itself. You are the type of people who, seeing great achievements of civilisation such as the Great Pyramid would fuck it up by building a thousand of your own pyramids around it. Entering the pyramid, seeing the ancient hieroglyphs that have endured millennia, you would have nothing better to do than smear every wall inside the structure with your own hieroglyphs like urban ghetto gangta vandals. You're not "keeping the spirit alive", you are hammering nail after nail in its coffin with every note you steal from Transilvanian Hunger.

Then, to make it worse, you feel like you need to slap your own twist on it and pretend it's the "true spirit of black metal", making your band about suicide and proclaim that's what black metal was always about,  making your band about racial purity and proclaiming that's the "real" message of black metal from the start, or how about reading a few books on occultism and mangling the contents through a thesaurus? Yeah, you are really making a unique statement here, and always make sure yours is the only statement that reflects the spirit of black metal and everyone else gets it wrong, because you are the expert with your band formed in the 21st century shortly after you've heard your first black metal album. You and the thousands of other "true" black metal drones sounding just like you.

If something is great, you don't need to repackage it and sell it as your own. That's not "true". That's false. Appreciate the greatness of the original and leave it as a unique product of a unique set of people at a unique time. Because that's what it will ever be. The only actual "true" black metal is the black metal released up to 1994. What came after that is just a bunch of losers trying to get a piece of the glory-pie. Don't take part in it, don't support it, don't condone it, don't tolerate it, don't give it the time of day. Black metal is a rotting corpse thanks to you people. There's no need to further defecate on its grave, is there?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Restoring sanity to veganism

Parts of this post are taken from this post at the Seitanic Vegan blog I am a co-admin at.

I'd like to devote this post to talking about veganism. I was inspired to write this post by my co-admin of the blog linked above complaining about nobody reading said blog. The thing here is that nobody who isn't into veganism doesn't like to read about it, and there's a reason for that. Let's face facts here, veganism isn't commonly associated with normal, good, decent people eating a different diet. It is associated with nutjobs like PETA, the Animal Liberation Front, people who throw buckets of red paint at others, people who demonstrate at McDonalds, people who call everyone else murderers and animal abusers, people who, if you mention eating a non-vegan diet to them, use every slur in the book to paint you as a horrible bigot and "speciesist" as they like to call it. People who use their lifestyle choice to feel morally superior to others. People who want everyone else to be just like them, and if they refuse, they're worse than Hitler. In short: Assholes.

This, in a nutshell, is why regular people avoid veganism, avoid reading about veganism, and avoid talking to vegans. Because they don't want to waste their time with assholes and don't want to become assholes themselves by association. The public image of vegans and veganism is somewhat akin to nutjob cults like Scientology, being this brainwashed mass of zombies with no free will or purpose beyond what they are fed by the cult and whose only goal in life is to indoctrinate others. No one wants to become such a person, no one wants to talk to such persons, no one wants to be associated with such persons. Why would they? The people and organisations mentioned in the first paragraph are worthless scumbags and I certainly wouldn't want to be associated with them in any way despite my dietary choices.

So what we need to do here is restore sanity to veganism. First, to shun such people described above in every possible way. And second, bring to the public's minds normal, decent people such as ourselves who made our choice for a variety of reasons, but not to see ourselves as morally superior or others as morally inferior, and not to indoctrinate your loved ones into a soulless cult of obedient drones. Regular people, no better or worse than anyone, who simply eat different food than most people but are otherwise just like everyone else. People of all colours, cultures, classes and creeds. People who won't hate or condemn you if you eat a steak or an omelette, but simply make a different choice of what to have for dinner. People such as myself, my Seitanic Vegan co-admin and girlfriend, and many others who have a sane approach to veganism. And believe me, sane vegans are by far the majority, they are simply drowned out by the more vocal, loudmouth nutjobs who hog all the attention. And this post is my first step towards diverting attention from PETA and its braindead cronies and shift the focus of the public towards those who don't misuse veganism to give their miserable lives a purpose and a feeling of moral superiority, but simply want to live their lives like everybody else.

As for myself, I am not actually fully vegan yet. I did quit eating meat altogether, and I have quit eating eggs, and I gave up most dairy (cheese, yogurt, etc.), but because in Germany soy milk is twice as expensive as cow milk and I drink a lot of tea I am currently still using cow milk while I am short on cash. I am hoping that within the next three months I gain the financial security to embrace veganism fully. Still, considering that a bit of cow milk every day is the only non-vegan vice I have left in my life I am hoping to be able to contribute to this blog properly.

I am the type of person who, not only because my venture into vegetarianism and soon veganism is fairly recent, but also because I currently see insurmountable odds, am not particularly preachy about this choice. The reason I see the odds as so overwhelmingly against veganism is because, quite frankly, most of us haven't even learned yet to treat other human beings with respect. We can't even manage to do that. We still hurt people because of the colour of their skin, insult them for what type of relationships they desire, enslave them because of what continent they were born on, exploit them because of what social class they were born into, and so on. All the while toasting our planet, poisoning our oceans and decimating our forests. It's obvious the vast majority of us are nowhere near mature enough to embrace a sustainable lifestyle.

Gloomy outlooks aside, while we can't make choices on how others run their lives, we can still make choices on how to run our own lives. We might not save the world or even make a dent in the system of decadence our vast majority embraces, but we can live our lives in a way that feels good for us. We can make sure not to gorge ourselves on poison that causes all sorts of diseases, decreases our quality of life and contributes to making us less happy altogether. And why shouldn't we? You have to weigh what you are losing - chunks of chewy stuff that without spices doesn't taste much like anything - and what you are gaining - a rich diet full of flavours and textures. And an overwhelming abundance of nutrients, most of which you didn't even know existed.

I have made this choice to live a healthier life by adding all these nutrients and removing all the poisons that come with animal products, and to live a more satisfying, rewarding life by treating myself to all these different flavours and textures. It's not a choice I made to save the world in between tree-hugging sessions, it's a choice I made for myself, to help me feel better, or more succinctly put, to make my life better. I think this is something everybody could get into, but they don't have to. Besides one brother, all of my family and friends eat meat and animal products, it's no big deal to me. They simply made a different choice than me, and that makes them no better or worse than me, and I am not going to judge or condemn them, because they aren't actually doing anything wrong. They are just living their lives the way they enjoy it, as we all should. Of course I would like veganism to be on the increase, and I'm pretty sure it is, but why harass people and make them feel uncomfortable at best and aggravated at worst just because they live their lives differently? Isn't that how most vegans complain we are treated? Shouldn't we treat others the way we would like to be treated?

So here's my offer: Show up at The Seitanic Vegan some time, read our posts, find out more if you're curious. If you don't want to, that's fine, too. We're not here to push our lifestyles on you. And seriously, fuck PETA.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Alcoholism: A love story - Part III: The strangest night of my life

So in the previous installment of this series I have talked about the very worst time I had during the years of excessive drinking, in a future part I will talk about some of the very good times I've had during these years, but for this part I am going to get into one particular night that sums up just how excessively I did live my life back then. Must have been some time around 2007, but I really don't remember, weeks, months and years kind of blended into each other back then and I couldn't really tell what was when besides certain key dates such as relocations. I know it was in March because it was related to a friend's birthday, but what exact year I really don't know anymore.

It started off as a fairly normal day waking up in my old apartment, doing my thing browsing and chatting around the internet like I have done since 2001 or so to this day. Had a few drinks, had some food, regular day. I was invited to the birthday party of my friend Oliver (not his real name), though, and I was looking forward to it. I was a much more social person back then. Never had many friends, could count them on one hand, but I enjoyed being with them and was generally more outgoing thanks to them. Again, not much more, but compared to the time since I lived in my current apartment with almost no contact to anyone I was definitely more of a people person. Oliver just had a new apartment - his first - near the city center like mine, and it would be a good opportunity to meet him, drink beers, meet my other punk friends and have fun.

I have to add that while I considered myself a metalhead (heavy metal fan to those who don't know) for most of my life, I never really hung out with any other metalheads. All those people ever talked about was work and cars and dick size comparisons and other working class prole things, it just wasn't for me. I despised all those things. I was always a guy who was more for hanging out with the punks. Rarely the clueless punk kids who just acted out because daddy didn't love them, but the guys who were a bit older and actually meant it. People who truly embraced the lifestyle out of conviction. Those were the people who were much more compatible to my lifestyle of misanthropy and self-destruction (at the time) than any working class stiff metalheads. Just felt I needed to add this paragraph for perspective.

So in the evening I went to Oliver's place with a slight buzz already. We went to the grocery store to buy a ton of beer, and one by one a handful of people showed up, mostly the people I described in the previous paragraph plus two or three more "regular" alternative people. So we drank. In between beers, a few guys had pot with them, and while my pothead years were long over (quit smoking it regularly in January 2004), when I was drinking with friends I didn't mind a hit from a joint every now and then. We definitely had a good time enjoying each others' company and the increasing mental haze caused by the beer and the pot.

Eventually a decision was reached to go out. We were all in great moods, and the evening needed to continue at a different location with more people. Back in the day, like today, there was really nothing ever going on in this city, except back then we had monthly goa/psytrance (I never did know the difference between those two genres) parties at the local "alternative" club. Basically, the music is fast techno type of stuff with psychedelic effects, the decorations at the parties also had a psychedelic tone, the crowd was mixed between hippies and alternative people for the most part, a good number of techno people unfortunately, and all sorts of extreme outsiders that did not fit anywhere else. As you can imagine from this description there were a lot of drugs going around, especially since back in the day the cops had not yet caught on to what goes on at those types of parties. Initially I just came to drink beer and meet friends, but things don't always go as you originally thought they would go when you're drunk...

It all started when I was offered a line of amphetamines (aka Speed), then another, then a third. I really didn't care about these things back then, especially when drunk. It's a decent drug, I had used it before, but just a small handful of times because it is expensive and as a jobless drunk I was chronically out of money. Kind of comparable to a high dosage of very strong coffee, fires you up and motivates you. Not bad when you're at such a party and want to stay awake and energised. Eventually I met my friend Martin (not his real name) and we talked about this and that, he was a good friend at the time and I spent a lot of time with him. Soon after we met we got the idea of acquiring some Ecstacy. I was extremely short on money, so was he, so we could only get one pill for both of us and each had half. That one's an entirely different beast than amphetamines. It's sort of a "happy pill", and in fact there are antidepressants with similar active ingredients, except at a much lower dosage and chemically dampened. Imagine it in a way as relating similarly to antidepressants as amphetamines relate to coffee, with the former in each case being a dozen times more potent. Suffice to say I was really hyper and spaced out at that point.

But, you know, I was a drinker, so my main priority was more beer, and that's how it went really crazy, as I was out of money and had to ask my friends if I could have some of their beer. Eventually I began really phasing in and out of reality, which I attributed to the Ecstacy, but my friend Martin was beginning to wonder why half a pill would affect me so much. After a few minutes he met up with me and told me that my friend Thomas (you guessed it, not his real name), who I had scored a full bottle of beer from, had told him that he forgot to tell me he had liquid LSD in the beer he gave me. Nice thing to forget. If you have read my previous posts you know that I suffer from an anxiety spectrum disorder, meaning my mind frequently gives me panic attacks, which is why I have stayed away from hallucinogenics for all my life. The potential for horror in my mind is just too big. But there I was, on a wild cocktail of various drugs with LSD topping it all off. That surely promised to be a night to remember.

I cannot really tell you that much about the hours that ensued, because all the stuff I had in my system didn't do much good for my memory, but there are a few things I clearly remember, and a few things I've been told. I remember that a guy I hardly knew but who was friends with the friends of mine who were there was taking care of me almost the whole evening, keeping me in good spirits and keeping me distracted so I wouldn't drift off into something dark and horrid. To this day I am thankful to him for that. The other thing I remember is that for an hour or so while I was sitting at a table with that guy, a young girl I didn't know was at the same table, yelling at me the whole time about how I was wasting my life. It seemed like a dangerous combination with the drugs, but it was really quite entertaining, and I was amused at her whining more than I was bothered by it. One thing I remember is that it was too noisy for me inside the club and half the time I didn't understand what she said, so I asked her if we could continue talking outside, and she gave me this really disgusted look. I was thinking of outside the door where everyone could see us, and I didn't get what freaked her out about that at the time, but in hindsight I quickly realised what she must have been thinking my idea was. Oops.

As for the rest of the evening, I do not remember a thing, but I was told that I was wandering through the club in sort of a Johnny Depp Fear & Loathing meets Pirates of the Carribean impression and that I was obviously enjoying myself and that everyone was glad I handled it so well. Somehow I ended up home and slept it all off, and life continued as normal. I never had such an experience in my life ever again, I never touched more than one hard drug in one evening since then, and even touching a single one at all only happened a handful of times in the following year or two until I moved to the suburbs and cut off contact with everyone. I certainly never touched LSD again, despite having a good time in that one evening. It was an experience that would forever stick with me as an adventure, but also as a warning, and it is not something I would ever get into again.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

No tolerance for idiots

I do not tolerate people who's intelligence is not above average.

There, I said it. My Australian friend Steve (not his real name) read through my blog the other day and told me a few of my posts come across as very arrogant. Well, Steve-o, you're in for a real treat, because in this post I am going to step so far into the territory of complete and utter arrogance that you're going to hate me for the rest of your life. Because, quite frankly, I've had it with idiots. My best friend Sebastian (also not his real name), also of above intelligence, has a real issue with stupid people, so much that he'd like to see them all dead, that he'd like to see a virus designed to target only those less fortunate upstairs. I think of myself as less extreme, but there are days such as today when I find myself almost agreeing with his views.

As some of you know I have a Facebook account. And for about half a year I had been in a group that had absolutely nothing to do with my usual interests, counted over ten thousand members and consisted almost entirely of what you call "normal" people, the type of people you see everywhere, on the streets, in the city, at your job (well, not at mine), at the doctor, in the bank, in the theater, in the bus, anywhere you go. The type of people who don't differentiate themselves from everyone else in any way and form one large, gray, anonymous mass of disposable filler. These people are not inherently bad, many of the greatest minds in history were such "normal" people. Sure, Einstein had funky hair and Nietzsche had that cool moustache, but essentially, almost all the people responsible for all the leaps in human "progress" in the past few thousand years were fairly normal-looking people.

The problem is that these great minds are an absolute and complete exception to the rule. This rule is that for all the "normal" people you see, you can safely assume that a large number of them are complete idiots. And you can safely assume that the vast majority of these idiots likes to run their big mouths nonstop, on subjects they don't know anything about, about issues they don't understand in the least bit, with "thoughts" that don't have even the tiniest fraction of substance or merit. Now, to be fair again, those exist a-plenty in any given subculture, but only among "normal" people do they form this overwhelmingly large, crushing mass that there is no escape from wherever you go. Because be realistic: Fed up with idiots in the heavy metal scene? Don't go to heavy metal concerts. Fed up with idiots in the goth scene? Don't go to goth parties. Fed up with idiots in Star Trek fandom? Don't go to Star Trek conventions. Fed up with idiots among "normal" people? Well, you're shit out of luck, there is no place you can go to escape them. They are everywhere, they shove themselves right in your face everywhere, you have to look at them everywhere, you have to hear them talk everywhere. And I simply cannot tolerate it anymore.

But back to Facebook, which was what started this fit of intolerance that lead me to write this post. I told you about this huge group I was in, full of these "normal" people, most of which were complete morons. I never really contributed it, because in every thread I saw there, after about three or four responses it would start with the idiots running their mouths, starting to insult people and acting like they know everything better. Now, it would be foolish to judge people on Facebook for their spelling and grammar, but that's a bit of a first clue to tell how these people - native speakers - weren't exactly gifted. But it was really the content that was telling. These people wouldn't know a thought if you shoved a cable in their brains and uploaded Stephen Hawking's bibliography straight to their neurons. But they thought as themselves as the wisest people in the group, telling everybody else how to run their lives. And god were they insufferably self-centered about it. They thought of themselves as the standard everybody else should be measured by, and if you disagreed you'd have twenty posts worth of insults hurled your way.

Mind you, this is perfectly natural on Facebook, where people can hide behind their computers and fear no consequences. In real life you'd assume that they were a little more conscience on how they run their mouths because they could end up with a fist placed right in its center, but they really aren't. Facebook, in this respect, is an accurate reflection of how idiots behave in real life. And so it went. I made a post, and it didn't take more than a handful of posts for them to flock to take the stage for the retard show. First I was naive, then stupid, then I was told to cut my hair, then I didn't understand what they were writing, then I was told my posts were not worth reading, then a few more insults. The problem with this was that the guys did not even understand my post and were running their mouths on something they thought I had said because they lacked the basic reading comprehension to put together in their little brains what I had actually written. Classic internet story, no? No, classic real life story, too.

That really is the problem, that they are everywhere you go, whether online or offline. And they always think they should flap their lips and that everyone should listen to what they are saying. And fuck, am I sick of it. There really is nothing I can do about it, I can't make people smarter, and I don't agree with Sebastian's virus idea. But I can stop tolerating it right now. I can tell myself, and let them know, that they are not worth the air they are breathing to me anymore. I can make the decision for myself to only hang around my own kind anymore in the future, and that whenever I have to deal with idiots from now on, I can make it a point to let them feel that they are beneath me. I am through with seeing these people as my equals. I don't believe in equality anymore. These people are not my equals. They are lesser beings. And while they are too stupid to ever realise that, they can at least feel that I think of them that way.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Alcoholism: A love story - Part II: The year of hell

As I was contemplating how to properly kick off this series after the overview provided in its first post, I had many ideas on where I could start. I could have started at the beginning, how it all began, or started with the great time I had in the early days of entering a state of alcoholism. But I decided against it, because, simply put, for all those young readers out there who are thinking about a "career" in the field of alcoholism, one should not start with the good and glorify the alcoholic life, despite the good times I did in fact have, but instead give you a clear warning that with the good, you are entering sort of a bargain in which your books are balanced between great times on one side and truly horrifying times on the other. In essence, before you considering living the life of an alcoholic I want you to know what you are getting yourself into.

I know a lot of you who lack experience may think that detox is the worst that can happen to you in your alcoholic life besides a slow, agonising death from organ failure, but it really isn't. Detox for me lasted two weeks, and while the first two or three days were abysmal indeed, most of the rest of it was just boring. Nah, the worst period of your life as a drinker is the time prior to detox, the time you are a heavy alcoholic.

Clinically, you could define being a heavy alcoholic by physical dependency, which is true, but doesn't really say much to the average person. To me, it is more succinctly defined as the time when drinking stops being fun. This is, in part, due to the physical dependency that sends you through the horrifying experience of withdrawal symptoms every morning so that you need to reach a high enough level of inebriation to enter a state of normalcy, but, to add insult to injury, is also in part due to the insanely high level of tolerance you develop that it takes ridiculous levels of drinking to ever reach that level - a process which often consumes half the day or more. And many times you would not even reach that level despite drinking all day, eventually only passing out due to exhaustion from the stress caused by withdrawal.

To me, this was compounded by the fact that in 2008 I moved from the city center where all my friends lived and where I could go to the parks or in a pub or many other places, to an apartment far away in the suburbs owned by my parents because no other landlord would take me. Essentially, I lost all diversions and external stimuli, and drinking quickly became all I ever did. This was the beginning of what I call "the year of hell".

Every day would start the same way. I would wake up, and for a few seconds I was very clear, very calm, still half asleep but feeling fine. Withdrawal kicked in just a few seconds after. For me, it took the shape of massive panic attacks. I would feel this intense nausea coupled with an insane fear of choking to death on my own vomit - in fact I would feel my vomit creeping up my throat into my windpipe, which obviously was imagined, but felt very real at the time. This was combined with a feeling of my throat tightening up making it near-impossible to breathe at all. Obviously my first impulse after waking up was rushing to the desk and mixing myself a cocktail. I could not drink hard liquor straight-up because my stomach was so fucked that it would lead me to vomit right away, including the feeling of choking to death on it, so I mixed about a quarter glass of hard liquor with three quarters of beer, making a drink that was about 10% alcohol. Because alcohol abuse leads to a very parched mouth, I could only take very little sips, and even those were hard to swallow, and the taste of the hard liquor made me even more nauseous. But it had to go down, there was no other way. I drank one glass, which with the tiny sips that took forever to swallow and the occasional upchucking lasted about an hour, and then I was back to square one, because after this glass I was feeling exactly the way I was before I started drinking, it had no effect whatsoever. So another glass, another hour of nausea, upchucking, choking, panic attacks and what basically amounted to near-death-experiences.

This went on for hours. All the while I tried to somehow distract myself from the panic attacks for just a few seconds of comfort, but if I did that and snapped out of the distraction, I would just end up feeling exactly the way I did when I woke up, and needed to start the whole routine over again, despite having six beers mixed with half a bottle of hard liquor in my system again. So again with the 10% mix, tiny sips, nausea, upchucking, choking, panic attacks, you get the idea. A lot of the time I was so worked up that I was pacing all the time, trying to take deep breaths but just gasping for air like a fish out of water, trying to drink water to alleviate my parched mouth - but that would only diminish the effect of the alcohol, and I am man enough to admit that sometimes I would just be sobbing like a little girl, which again only made me feel more nauseous and more like my throat was tightening up. Whether I would somehow calm myself down by the time it was evening was never certain. At the height of the year of hell I at times had two bottles of hard liquor and two sixpacks of beer in one day and still felt no effect. And forget about ever getting drunk, you're not even getting close. You're lucky if you feel sober after a day of non-stop drinking.

So many things were out of the question due to this routine. I could only eat every couple days when I hit a rare calm-ish moment, and even then only a small amount was possible until I would start freaking out again. So I was quite underweight, about ten kilos below the healthy minimum, twenty kilos below ideal weight. Personal hygiene was also not possible, because I would never be calm enough to do anything about it, and in the rare cases that I was I would be completely freaking out in the process and be a wreck after I was done. I was very lucky to be in an apartment owned by my parents because paying bills or even opening letters is also not something you generally do when you're stuck in a routine that needs you to just drink non-stop to somehow keep it together. Eventually I had a psychiatric nurse coming to my apartment once a week so that with his support I could at least go to the grocery store if I felt calm enough, which a lot of the time I didn't and begged my mother to do it for me. It is in no way a sustainable life, because if I didn't have that support, I would not even have had a way to buy booze. And without having the luck that my parents own an apartment that was free I wouldn't have had a place to live, either. Life in that state was doomed.

It took a long time for me to decide to go to detox, because honestly, in that state that's a hell of a scary thought, but there was no future, not even a near future, going on the way I did. I had made my decision and talked to my psychiatric nurse about how to go about it. The final nail in the coffin was when I went to my doctor (general practicioner) and had him examine my blood in case the doctors at the detox clinic need to know anything about the state of my body, and a week later I got a letter from his office saying I "urgently" needed to come in. Went in with my mother, and the doctor told us that I was in the early stages of cirrhosis. Okay, yeah, definitely detox. Made an appointment in early August of 2009 and got a spot in mid-August. The year of hell was over.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Tales from the schizophrenia ward - Part V: Therapy?

Anyone who voluntarily enters inpatient life goes into a clinic with the expectation that he will receive help with his/her mental issues through therapy. Some of the veterans might go only for changing their medication, but to those who are new to the routine, medication is either perceived as a necessary crutch to support actual therapy, or entirely unnecessary while therapy does the actual work. Well, I can only speak from my experience, and from the experience of the many people I have met during my three tenures as an inpatient, but frankly, therapy is a load of crap.

First off, you know how politicians always whine about how the government is out of money? Yeah, that's when they privatise government-run institutions. That is what happened to mental hospitals all over Germany, and probably most other countries in the western world. And once they're private businesses, it's all about economics, which translates to firing just about anyone but a skeleton crew. I have spoken to people who are a few years older than me who have been to mental hospitals prior to privatisation, and they told me they had a jam-packed daily schedule of various therapies. After privatisation? Well, read the first part of this series (incidentally the first post in this blog, easy to find), and if you decide to go inpatient, prepare for eight to ten hours a day of smoking cigarettes, because thanks to economics, clinics are now very spartan when it comes to giving patients something to do.

And that is just the quantity. When it comes to quality, things get even more dire. There were two branches of therapies, one branch was therapies offered inside the ward by members of the staff, the other was therapies outside the wards in buildings specifically hosting these therapies, offered by staff wo were paid just for doing these therapy programs and nothing else.

Of the first branch, there were psychoeducation, metacognitive training (MCT) and integrated psychological training (IPT). The theory behind these is to educate you about your illness and thereby better help you manage it. In practice, and anyone who has been through any of those three can confirm it, all three are a complete waste of time. Psychoeducation tries to explain what is causing your illness (they don't really know) and how the medications they give you alleviate the symptoms, but you can tell half of it is guesswork because science just hasn't made it that far yet, and it doesn't help that they stretch material anyone of average intelligence can learn in 20 minutes over seven units that are one hour each. Metacognitive training attempts to teach you that your perception can deceive you if you don't know the whole story. Yeah, really. How that isn't obvious to everyone is beyond me, but again they stretch it out over weeks in hourly segments repeating the same idea over and over again. Finally, in IPT we played some word games and a board game, neither of which seemed to serve any purpose. I usually understand the intended purpose of therapies in principle even if I do not think they are very useful in practice, but IPT honestly just seemed like a way to kill time.

The second branch, by comparison, seems a little more like some sort of effort was put into giving the patients something to do other than sitting on a chair looking at spreadsheets. I did music therapy for two hourly sessions twice a week, which was a small handful of patients jamming on instruments with the music therapist. Fun, but not much more. Supposed to improve group interaction or something, but no one really listens to what anyone else is playing. I also did a drumming group twice weekly, which was a group of people with congas (African drums) sitting in a circle playing the same simple rhythms every single time. That one wasn't even fun.

The four main therapies you had to pick one from were painting, dance and theater, gardening, and animal husbandry. Painting was exactly how you imagine it, a bunch of people painting pictures. There were three different groups with different therapists, one of them more by-the-book painting by rules, the other more free-form, the third one I don't know. I was at the more free-form group two or three times and the atmosphere was very awkward, people were just doing their stuff and there didn't seem to be a point to any of it except keep people busy. Dance and theater I did not attend, but it was the most popular therapy in the clinic, so I heard a lot about it. Apparently they did half an hour of aerobics, then did improvisational theater. I do sort of see what they are aiming for with this, aerobics, like any physical exercise, has been known to be beneficial for people's mental health, and I guess with the theater they are supposed to train their interpersonal skills, or something? Seems like one of the more decent ideas there, but it wasn't compatible with my social anxiety so I never tried it out.

Gardening was what you imagine, taking care of the plant life around the huge clinic grounds. You even got paid for it, €1.50 an hour, €3 per unit - there were two units a day, but I only took the afternoon one because in the mornings I did music therapy and drumming. Since I was there in winter there was no actual gardening to be done, so I got to rake leaves every day. Fun. Guess this therapy is supposed to simulate a work environment. I just went because of the €3 and because the ward staff badgered me to pick a therapy (or else), and it seemed like the least stupid one. Animal husbandry was the same as gardening, except with animals rather than plants, also with the pay. I didn't take it because I thought it would be mostly scooping poop, but in hindsight I'd rather do that than rake leaves.

What the four have in common is that they are about as mentally challenging as an Adam Sandler movie, which is why I hated the two of the big ones I tried, the two minor ones, despite being music-related, and most certainly the ones offered at the ward. And none of them provide any therapeutic benefit for your illness, either, because they don't have anything to do with it. Those are the two big problems, and a third problem is that they only take up very little time of the day, so you have nothing to do for most of your time. But let me focus on the two big ones.

What really bugs me is that so many people I met during my stay at the schizophrenia ward were of above average intelligence, yet all of us had to pick what can only be appropriately called "idiot therapies." Could have done so much to challenge our brains, flex our cognitive muscles, but instead we were treated like we had Down's syndrome. The official explanation is that psychotic people are too easily stressed out by using their brains, but that's a load of crap. Being treated like toddlers was far more stressful. And why in blazes was there no group therapy where we could directly exchange experiences with our illnesses? Before privatisation every ward in every clinic everywhere in the country had a ton of that, and I have heard so much good about it, yet that seemed to be the first they got rid of when making their new private business more "economic." All we got were patronising toddler therapies that did nothing but kill time, and didn't even kill very much of it because we were still bored two-thirds of the day.

And no, you can't opt out. You have to take therapies in the morning and in the afternoon, or else. They never told me what they would do if I refused to do any of that nonsense, but considering the variety of ways they blackmailed me throughout my stay I figure I'd rather do my pointless music therapy and raking leaves than deal with whatever they would have decided to throw at me. If anyone who runs a private mental hospital ever reads this I can only respectfully request something that stimulates the brain a little, or something in which we can confront our illnesses, or both. Don't save money in areas that benefit your patients, that's like a steakhouse only offering bread because steaks are too expensive - hint: people go to steakhouses to have steak, that's what the business is about. You're a mental hospital, people want proper therapy. That is the service you are supposed to provide, so do it.

Tales from the schizophrenia ward - Part IV: It could be worse...

You know, going by the accounts of this series' first three parts you'd probably think that I had a hellish time at the schizophrenia ward, but it really wasn't all that bad. Yeah, the Haldol stories I talked about in parts II and III were pretty damn bad, and the boredom detailed in part I was somewhat bad, well, mostly inconvenient, but as a whole, I didn't have such a bad time, and neither did many of my fellow patients. Sure, none of us had the best time of our lives, that's in the nature of such a place, but there was a good spirit between patients, a spirit of camaraderie and at times - after a while - even friendship. We hung out, talked, had fun, it was pretty nice a lot of the time. So while some aspects of this episode of my life and the lives of those around me at the time were pretty dismal, sometimes you gotta see things positively and think of the less fortunate.

And we did think of the less fortunate, because there was no way around it. That is because half of us - excluding myself - were the less fortunate prior to their joining the ward I was at. This ward was what they call an "open" ward, which means you agreed to come there, you were free to roam the clinic area, and you were free to leave if you should choose to do so. And where there is an open ward there sure enough was a "closed" ward not far away - about 50 meters from our building, the building next door. This was a place where you'd be brought against your will because you were deemed "a danger to yourself or others", and where you could not leave the ward (either entirely or just for a stroll) without express permission of the doctors. Once doctors decided you were no longer a danger to anyone you would be sent to our open ward, mostly to get your meds down and prepare you for release. So a lot of the people I met at my ward were at the closed ward next door prior to my meeting them, and the first-hand accounts I heard from them were truly horrifying.

One big issue is that in most clinics, there are numerous different wards, each with a different focus. When you decide to become an inpatient by yourself, you have your doctor sign you up for the ward that is deemed appropriate for your diagnosis and you wait until there is a free bed. When you are brought to the clinic against your will however they obviously can't keep you in the ambulance for a week until a bed in a ward appropriate for your diagnosis is free, so when one isn't, you are simply redirected to another closed ward with a different focus in which there is a free bed. This is problematic because most patients' diagnoses require a long-term stay at a ward that offers long-term therapy, but because such wards do long-term therapy, rotation is lower and a bed is less likely to be free at any given time. Wards that do have a high rotation and therefore are more likely to have a free bed are those for short term intervention in an acute problem - most commonly detox or suicidal ideation/suicide attempts.

Since I was at a schizophrenia ward, the majority of people there suffered from schizophrenia or related illnesses such as schizoaffective disorder. So most of those who had been in a closed ward prior to their arrival at the open one I was at were committed there as a result of such a heavy psychotic episode that they were deemed a danger to themselves or others. Now most people who have never experienced a psychotic episode or similar phenomena will never quite understand what happens inside these people at the time, and from my own experience I can only relate to the intense paranoia that my diagnosis (obsessive-compulsive disorder) shares with schizophrenia. Now imagine being in a state of intense, overwhelming, unmanageable paranoia and being committed to a mental hospital against your will (which is bad enough), but because there is no free bed in a ward appropriate for your symptoms you end up in one place with 20 Russians on heroin withdrawal or 20 suicidal people who are intent on trying to end their lives any chance they get. To call that counterproductive would be one hell of an understatement.

But let us assume that you do get a place appropriate for your symptoms, a closed schizophrenia ward, as a good number of people I have met did. Here's where the really ugly truth comes to light: Doctors and nurses, no matter how much training they have received and how competent they are assumed to be, do not know how to handle people who are experiencing a heavy psychotic episode other than with mental and physical violence. You read correctly. This is the "enlightened" 21st century and we live in what supposedly is one of the most civilised countries on the planet, and patients at mental hospitals are being treated with violence by the staff. They are not being beaten or anything like that, but the mistreatment that is going on can only be described as violence. I have heard many such examples by a number of patients, but one in particular stuck in my memory the most as one of the most horrifying stories of mental hospital abuse I have heard in my life (so far):

There was this young woman, a bit younger than me. She was experiencing a massive psychotic episode and wanted to go to the clinic. Naturally, she wanted to come to an open ward since it was her choice to come and she was not a danger to herself or others, but there was no free bed, so they wanted to send her home until something opened up. She however was in a horrible state of mind and felt she desperately needed help, so it was arranged that she could go to a closed ward for a time. While there, her psychotic episode got worse and she was freaking out. Not in a way that would endanger herself or others, but in a way that was horrifying to her. Doctors, unwilling to deal with her, had a perfect solution: Trying to give her Haldol. Now she worked in the field so she knew very well what Haldol was, and she was extremely paranoid about it, so she refused. Here's where it gets ugly. The staff's reaction was simply beyond disgusting. They strapped her to a bed, and she knew from her experience in the field that they would want her pants off, so she begged them not to do it because she had been very badly raped. Two nurses, both male, ripped her pants off anyway. They injected her with the Haldol she refused and left her strapped to the bed overnight. They left a bedpan for her to pee in, despite her saying that she can't do that, so she didn't get to pee for, if I recall correctly, over 24 hours. Once they let her loose from the bed she had massive renal colics and spent the next day lying in a bathtub crying in pain. That was Christmas Eve.

I trust her enough to have told the truth when she told me this story. If you don't think something is very fucked about that, you clearly lack a basic sense of humanity. That is the type of stuff that is done to thousands of patients in hundreds of clinics all over Germany. So yeah, what I experienced where I was at was nothing. Fifty meters away in the building next door, things were a lot worse.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

My thoughts on Encoffination

I have already written a post detailing my thoughts on the old school death metal revival, but I think the band Encoffination deserves to have a post of its own because it is a band that, in my opinion, really stands out. Not in a positive way, but not in a negative way, either, which makes this subject matter all the more complicated to deal with. Really, how can you stand out but neither in a positive nor a negative way? It seems to be impossible. Encoffination however have found a way, their own, bizarre way.

To give you a brief overview, Encoffination is a side-project of members of some old school death metal revival bands people go crazy about but that are not even worth being mentioned by name because they are so unremarkable. With this band they are attempting to create a slower, more apocalyptic style of death/doom metal that has been likened to Incantation's slow moments, though without any of the morbid character evoked by John McEntee's blasphemous creation so many years ago by use of these meticulously written riffs in which every note is honed to perfection, and each note preceeding it and each note following it is crafted eloquently to serve as both contrast and balance, creating the unique sense of audial morbidity Incantation are known for. Encoffination, while similar on the surface, and thereby compared to Incantation by people who only look at the surface of music, are nowhere near such dimensions, and I'll tell you why.

Simply put: Encoffination have no riffs. I don't mean that in the way many metal reviewers say it, that they don't think they have good riffs. I literally mean they have nothing you can identify as a riff. I have over a thousand Encoffination plays on and I don't remember a single riff. Sure, you could say there are riffs but they're simply not memorable, but that wouldn't be true, because even when you are listening to them there is nothing in the note progressions that you can put together in your head to form a riff. They simply noodle one tremolo-picked note for 2-3 seconds, then another, then the first again, then the second, then repeat that one or two halfsteps higher. That or some minor variation on that goes on for the duration of each song. And I do mean every song. There is no variation whatsoever, it's always some note, some other note, a lot of repetition, and eventually the song is done and the next song does the exact same thing.

On first thought, that sounds like it couldn't be any more negative a description, but as I said in the first paragraph, it actually isn't. Yeah, Encoffination's music is absolutely dismal, but not necessarily in a negative way. It sucks all life out of you, again, not necessarily in a negative way. It is, I think, where this band's music succeeds: It is bleak beyond description. There is this utterly nihilistic approach to music that is rarely heard in metal, because usually bands want to evoke emotions, they want to make you enjoy yourself, or feel energised, or invigorated, or strengthened, anything, they all want to stir up something inside you. Encoffination do no such thing. Not only do they seem not to care what you feel, they seem to have this intense aversion against you feeling anything at all, except their music does not express aversion or any other emotion. They take the most dismal and lifeless elements of bands such as early Mortician or Rigor Sardonicous and dampen the emotional release further to a level of non-existence.

Of course you could say that they are simply incompetent songwriters, that they really are going for that Incantation vibe and intensity and that they do want write music that is emotionally engaging, and that they simply fail at it because they don't have the talent to get anywhere near pulling it off, but I don't believe that. I base that on the fact that in their other bands they do display the ability to write tunes that are "catchy" and "energetic", and the fact that they have kept doing this exact type of music since 2008 and show no desire to deviate from this bleak, nihilistic approach to songwriting in favour of something that "gets the crowd moving." No, I firmly believe that this is what they set out to do, and that it is their goal to create the most dismal, soul-sucking and lifeless music possible in the metal framework.

As you may have noticed, I have not said a word yet on whether I enjoy their work or not. I really think I can't, because like I hinted at in the first paragraph, I don't perceive this music as either positive or negative. I don't think this was intended as good music or bad music, either. Some bands are likened to a force of nature, and I'd say Encoffination can be likened to a complete absence of any force of nature. I think the best way to describe this music and close this review is by using the following little analogy:

Religious people say there is life after death. Atheists say there is nothing after death. Imagine if both are partly correct, that there is life after death, but there is nothing there. Imagine the moment of death passes, and you suddenly find yourself in an environment of absolute nothingness. No people, no landscapes, no stars or planets, no gods or angels, no ground to walk on, no light, no sound, no matter, no energy, just nothing.  Ladies and gentlemen, if that is existence after death, Encoffination is the soundtrack.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The mutants are revolting: The treatment of the mentally ill in today's society - Part IV


Once you have that diagnosis in your life, you are never going to get rid of it, and everything is going to be so much harder. The problem is that psychiatrists hand out this diagnosis like candy without ever questioning its validity, because for them, it is the easiest way to deal with you. They use this diagnosis to not have to deal with whatever actual problems you may have, because the beauty of a psychosis diagnosis, to them, is that psychoses are so broad that you can attribute every single possible symptom to them. Depression, mania, social anxiety, agoraphobia, panic attacks, dissociation, depersonalisation, whatever you can think of, they can all be bent and shaped to fit into a psychosis diagnosis, and the psychiatrist will no longer have to do any work trying to get to the root of your problem or make an effort to fix it, because whatever symptoms you may have, it's just your psychosis, and here, have some antipsychotics, come back in a month, and if the meds don't work have some other antipsychotics.

In this post, I have detailed how my paranoid schizophrenia diagnosis came to be about a year ago. But it did not start there. Diagnoses from the psychotic spectrum have been following me since 2010, shortly after I began serious psychiatric treatment after my alcohol detox. I was suffering from massive social anxiety and panic attacks at the time, which in fact was why I was drinking so much alcohol that I needed to get to detox, and I certainly did not have the strength to detail all my symptoms for the psychiatrist by myself, and instead let him ask his questions and answer them as best as I could. These were some really broad and general questions about my panic and anxiety and eventually the conclusion was reached that I am suffering from general anxiety disorder and was given medications with anxiolytic effects (as detailed in the post I linked in the beginning of this paragaph).

Eventually however, I was cornered on my agoraphobic symptoms, and the question arose - I am sure almost everyone who has been to the psychiatrist has been asked that - if, when outside, I felt like people were watching me. Well, yeah, isn't that a natural instinct of any herbivore? Guess not. And it's not like I look particularly ordinary with my long hair, beard, heavy metal or horror movie shirts, camouflage pants and heavy boots. Of course people are looking at me. And of course I feel even more like people are looking at me when I'm in the middle of a panic attack and feel like the whole world is collapsing onto me. But there it was: My new diagnosis was schizoaffective disorder. Psychosis.

Had I had the knowledge of the strength to protest back then I would have, because that's just not me. It does not reflect me or my illness in any way. But at the time I did not know anything about the subject matter and didn't even know that much about myself, and I trusted the psychiatrist to use his knowledge and competence to improve my situation. I did not realise that this would become a stigma that would make any further treatment impossible because every time I went to any psychiatrist since then, I would always be treated for the psychosis diagnosis and every symptom I had would either be somehow attributed to that diagnosis or deliberately ignored.

I have been an inpatient three times since then, the last of which was the stay at the schizophrenia ward I have written four posts about to this point, and nothing has changed. I can try to reason with the doctors, I can try to explain things to them, my symptoms, how I feel, how I perceive things, what makes my brain tick, to no avail. The only thing it has accomplished was worsening my diagnosis from schizoaffective disorder to paranoid schizophrenia. And it's just so wrong. I do not exhibit any symptoms that define a psychosis at the core. I suffer from major depression and an anxiety spectrum disorder known as obsessive-compulsive disorder, with an emphasis on panic and anxiety. I did not self-diagnose this, I do officially have these diagnoses next to the psychosis, and they are true, as they match the symptoms exhibited through my illness spot-on. But schizophrenia? Where? How? Did these guys listen to a word I said?

You'd assume that one wrong diagnosis among three is no major issue, but it becomes one whenever you seek treatment for the other two diagnoses but are only ever asked about the wrong one, and are only ever "treated" (ineffectively, as there's nothing to treat) for the wrong one. With each time I have seen a new psychiatrist I have become more and more desperate to have my depression and anxiety treated, because not only did these issues become increasingly overwhelming as they were left to grow unchecked, but the helplessness you experience in the face of their increasingly overwhelming power and the fact that they remain untreated despite you practically begging on your knees for them to be looked at drives you to a point of despondency. And the reaction is always and will always remain that any attempt to seek help for illnesses that are killing you from the inside is that they are deliberately brushed aside and that it must be your psychosis acting up. Why not have some Haldol?

If you have a psychosis diagnosis and know it does not apply to the symptoms you feel, don't let them get away with it. Fight to have it removed from your file. Make them listen to you. Find people who are in a similar situation, support each other, pool your resources, raise awareness. This is a crime against humanity and it cannot continue. We must end this despicable practice right here, right now. If all they want is to give us a diagnosis that shuts us up and which cannot be legally disputed because every possible symptom can be twisted to fit their diagnosis, just so they don't have to do any work, they clearly took up the wrong profession and should lose their license to practice medicine. It's time we made sure that happened.