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.