In a telling interview with Pitchfork, Drew Daniel, mastermind behind The Soft Pink Truth, describes the appeal of his new record: “‘Who is the audience for this? Who in the world wants to hear this?’ Nobody, basically. Black metal people aren’t going to like it because it’s faggoty disco, but actual dance music people aren’t going to like it because it’s weird people screaming about Satan.”If your interest is piqued, then you’re probably its target audience - if, in fact, this record has one. But I suppose that’s the case for any pet project of an artist.
“Pet project” being the key description of The Soft Pink Truth’s second covers album, Why Do The Heathen Rage? Following a series of takes on hardcore punk called Do You Want New Wave or Do You Want The Soft Pink Truth?, Rage sees Daniel converting black metal classics by Venom, Darkthrone and Mayhem into EDM and IDM-fused house.
Now, your opinion of black metal as a genre will likely determine how you view this record before ever hearing it. Black metal interpreted through dance music? At first glance, it seems like a silly concept for an album, if ever there was one. And you certainly don’t have to be a metalhead to come to that conclusion, either. Daniel sorta admits as much: “[Rage] celebrates black metal and offers queer critique, mockery, and profanation of its ideological morass in equal measure.” OK, less silly than, say, pretentious. So: we have satire in bed with observance and commentary next to…Well, lyrics like “Oh lady, start to suck me/Because I’m ready/I’m ready to fuck.”
What we also have here is an incredibly entertaining house record. By itself, Rage is great material for a rave. It ebbs and flows at the right points (including a spoken word intro to set the mood), and can jump from pulsing synth-driven EDM to ‘90s big beat without losing momentum or coherence. And, while it’s effective in getting you on the dancefloor, the real joy of this record is in the little details that Daniel buries throughout. Whether it’s the use of a MIDI harpsichord in Mayhem’s “Buried By Time And Dust” (or the “Planet Rock” sample) or the sudden appearance of Snap!’s “The Power” midway through Sargeist’s “Satanic Black Devotion,” Daniel clearly wanted this album to be a treasure trove of discovery for music fans. Perhaps the most telling moment of Daniel’s attention to detail comes during Sarcófago’s “Ready to Fuck. The song finds Jenn Wasner teasing you with the lines, “I will lick you/of the feets ‘till the head.” The third line, “making you feel torrential orgasms,” is only half-quoted by Wasner. She stops short of “orgasm,” both literally and figuratively, electing instead to only repeat the first three words. When the time arrives for the key word, an audible orgasm is used in its place, thereby creating a more stimulating effect than a simple utterance of the word would cause.
Yet, one must keep in mind that these are black metal songs to fully appreciate them here; instead of hearing repetitive lyrics about moving about the room, you get carnal desire and Satan: “Naked bodies fuck/Fornicate on Christian altar/Living in eternal lust/Sodomites and blasphemers.” And don’t forget murder: “Possessed, by the demon’s rule/Insist, cleaving victim’s skulls/Torture, I don’t kill in vain/Mortals, they will die in pain.” In addition to keeping the lyrics intact, Daniel also ensures that metal vocal stylings are used right along side singing: Screaming from Terence Hannum on “Devotion,” snarling on Beherit’s “Sadomatic Rites,” and, curiously, talk-singing on Venom’s “Black Metal” from Bryan Collins all add to the inventiveness of this collection.
Whether Why Do the Heathen Rage? is a massive troll by Drew Daniel, an homage to the genre (even with the acknowledgement of homophobia within it by a openly gay musician) or somewhere in between is truly anyone’s guess.That you can find enjoyment in the record peering through any of those three lenses speaks to Daniel’s achievement. Rage is, by turns, ridiculous, overly-serious, and self-satisfying. It’s also one helluva EDM record and an intelligent send-up of an otherwise difficult-to-work-with (and work in) music genre. Which brings me back to the opening quote - does this record truly have a target audience? Or an audience at all? I don’t know. What I do know is this: whether it does or not, I’m a fan.