The Soft Pink Truth

Why Do the Heathen Rage?

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In much the same way that the Soft Pink Truth was conceived on a dare, the concept for the project's third album came about while Drew Daniel was working on Matmos' The Marriage of True Minds. That album's cover of the Buzzcocks' "E.S.P.," which featured doom metal vocals courtesy of Bloody Panda's Gerry Mak, motivated Daniel to examine his love-hate relationship with black metal. A fan of the style's intricate, punishing sonics but not so much its homophobic history, Why Do the Heathen Rage? is Daniel's attempt to resolve loving black metal's aesthetics and hating its politics by giving some of the style's definitive moments house and techno transformations. His reconfigurations of these songs are equally literal and inspired: the album begins with an invocation worthy of any proper black metal album, but Daniel borrows the text from gay activist Arthur Evans and exchanges lines like "By the rose in my chakras/I tap the androgyne" with Antony Hegarty. Later, his deconstruction of Venom's "Black Metal" -- the track that started it all -- combines spiky industrial gabber beats and samples of gay porn. The academic rigor he brings to the album doesn't diminish its pleasure: Why Do the Heathen Rage? is often witty, particularly on "Grim and Frostbitten Gay Bar," a cover of a song by the Anal Cunt black metal parody side project Impaled Northern Moonforest that features the joyous keyboards from Rihanna's "We Found Love" chopped into seizures and closes the album by sending it down the rabbit hole. However, Daniel's goal isn't sheer wackiness. In some ways, Heathen's revamps are even more sinister than the source material. By stripping away the noise, Daniel gives these songs' lyrics more attention and makes their rage more precise. On the version of Mayhem's "Buried by Time and Dust," Daniel's partner MC Schmidt brings a discipline to lyrics like "I've been old since the birth of time" that suggests a vampire carefully biding his time rather than exploding in bloodlust. Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner gives AN's grisly "Let There Be Ebola Frost" a sensual overtone that, coupled with escalating house beats, makes it sound like a club hit from hell -- which is about the highest compliment this kind of project can get. Somehow, Daniel manages to remain true to the spirit of black metal and dance music and combine them in ways that fit each song, whether it's the way that "Satanic Black Devotion"'s IDM rhythms evoke a mutation of double kickdrums or the dazzling collage of plunderphonics, house divas, vocoders, a vogue ball crew, and screaming that used to be Darkthrone's "Beholding the Throne of Might." While the audience for this particular juxtaposition of styles might be more limited than either of the Soft Pink Truth's previous albums, Why Do the Heathen Rage? is brilliantly executed. Equally critical and affectionate and entirely fascinating, it's some of Daniel's most personal music.

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