Mountains of Silence: Drone Metal Recordings as Mystical Texts

By Owen Coggins.

Published by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

I use “drone metal” as a loose label for the music of various groups such as SunnO))), Earth and Sleep, involved in making sound at the limits of heavy metal while also drawing on classical and jazz avant-garde traditions, and world sacred musics. These musicians make frequent use of various religious, mystical or occult signs, sounds, and practices in their music, as well as drawing on spiritual themes in music. I suggest that these recordings are not only art about mysticism, but can be understood as mystical texts in themselves. I invoke the work of Michel de Certeau on mysticism, in which he locates “mystics” in “manners of speaking”: ways of using language against itself in order to gesture towards the unsayable. I outline how, in recordings, artwork, surrounding discussions, performance and listening rituals, similar features and practices can be discerned in drone metal texts as the codes of music are similarly strained in attempts at transcendence. Given that Certeau historically situates mystics at a time of epistemological transition from the authority of scripture to a modernist hermeneutics, I offer some speculation on the implications of hearing these contemporary drone metal mystical texts as noise in a contemporary transition to an economy of pure information signal.

Keywords: Drone Metal, Certeau, Mysticism

The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp.21-32. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 506.500KB).

Owen Coggins

George Brown College, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Owen Coggins has studied philosophy (BA) at King’s College and religions (MA) at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He specialized in music and religions, researching such topics as apocalypse and political liberation in the gospel blues of Blind Willie Johnson, musical and experiential epistemologies in Rastafari. A dissertation on the performance of Sufi music in the UK was based on time spent playing music with the Hussain Brothers Qawwali group. Owen is currently based in Toronto, where he is researching contemporary spirituality in noise music. He has previously lived, worked as a teacher, and played trumpet in the UK, Mexico, Bolivia, and Nepal.