Chapter 57: Of Whales in Paint; in Teeth; in Wood; in Sheet Iron; in Stone; in Mountains; in Stars

A recent roommate often left issues of heavy metal magazines in the bathroom. Many of the bands featured in these magazines had hard-to-pronounce, possibly Norwegian names and featured epic cover art involving seven foot tall men wielding twelve foot long swords. The magazines used medieval words like “hewn” in their album reviews. I was never sure how conscious the bands were of  their theatrics, but the uncertainty made that brand of metal compelling for me — it existed in a nebulous realm, outside of the earnest/ironic dichotomy of most people’s perceptions of the world.

Chapter 57, “Of Whales in Paint; in Teeth; in Wood; in Sheet-Iron; in Stone; in Mountains; in Stars,” finishes a three-chapter discussion of whales in art, the gist of all three being the difficulty of capturing the true likeness of a whale, as “the living whale, in his full majesty and significance, is only to be seen at sea in unfathomable waters.” In contrast to the realistic “mechanical outlines” of formal art, the representations that work, Ishmael claims, are those that fall into what we might now label “outsider art”: a placard of a legless ex-whaler on the docks, or the likenesses of whales hewn (there’s that word again) into natural forms (cliffs/shorelines, stars, clouds) by the perceptions of the men who hunt them.

All metal, even the mainstream stuff, achieves this effect to some extent. I tried my hand at a metal song this week, which in many ways came off more like a Misfits song, but then, I can’t tell if Glen Danzig is serious either.

Chapter 57: Of Whales in Paint; in Teeth; in Wood; in Sheet-Iron; in Stone; in Mountains; in Stars

Crush uncrushable seas beneath a tempest’s tail.
Spur impetuously into the primal.
Right or Wrong, the trained of form will miss you.
God alone can carve you

Into the mountainous,
Celestial countenance,
Into the stones and bones
And token homes of sailors’ souls.

Fight the kraken where the bastion overflows,
And no striation could subsume the war machine.
Weak or Strong, a man could never tame you.
May God impress your savage form

Into the mountainous,
Celestial countenance,
Into the stones and bones
And token homes of sailors’ souls.

[instrumental]

Weak or Strong, a man could never tame you.
May God impress your savage form

Into the mountainous,
Celestial countenance,
Into the stones and bones
And token homes of sailors’ souls.

(c) and (p) 2008 Patrick Shea
Words and music written by Patrick Shea August 16, 2008
All parts performed, arranged, and recorded by Patrick Shea March 22, 2009

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