Malos' Totally Professional Reviews: The Descent of Man
On what was technically Sunday morning on November the 24th in the year of somebody’s lord 2013, in a fit of sleep depravity, I made a terrible mistake, and let Dr. Ambiguous challenge me to a dare. He challenged me to listen to Sabazius’ song The Descent of Man, a song that lasts 11 hours and 17 minutes, and then provide a review of it. I say all this as evidence that Dr. Ambiguous is not a good person, and should be plotted against in future forum games. However, my word is my bond, and I have listened to the song, and am reviewing it. I am not, however, going to provide a link to this song in my review, because unlike the doctor, I love my fellow man. I will, however, make a confession: for a large portion of the time that I was listening to this hellish, unsuccessful tuning session, I was listening to the far superior music over it. I could still hear the song, but I was soothed slightly be being able to hear people with actual talent.
Hour 1: I am yet to hear something that can be called a rhythm. So far the only things I’ve heard are single droning bass notes from poorly optimized speakers and a painful screeching noise that entered around the 15-minute mark. While that livened things up a bit, keep in mind that violent electrocution will also liven up a peaceful nap. Symbols are banging randomly. During this hour I listened to the work of the band Pomplamoose. They have two rules for their music.
• What you see is what you hear. (No lip syncing for instruments or voice)
• If you hear it, at some point you see it. (No hidden sounds.)
I like these guys a lot, in part because they are very talented, but also because there is a great passion for music in their work, a drive to create something great by themselves, without relying on a machine to create your voice, as so many artists do. I suppose Sabazius was trying to create something great by themselves, in their own special way. Or they’re just really committed trolls.
Hour 2: The screech dominates. There are a few brief screams that made me perk up my ears. Dear god, what has this done to me? I’m only two hours in and screaming impresses me.
Hour 3: There are drums now. A rhythm as developed. I don’t know how long it will hold out. I’ve started watching episodes of the Daily Show from the Week the Iraq War started. I wasn’t really conscious off the war at the time, and it’s surreal to look back and see what the mood was like right on the brink of a seemingly inevitable war.
Hour 4: The rhythm has changed a certain amount. The guitar is now strumming in a basic quarter note pattern. I am listening to this after playing in a concert at UCLA. I played more notes than this guitar while warming up. I played music with tonal shifts. I played music with heart. I played music that was written to evoke some kind of feeling, often several feelings within a single piece. What were these guys thinking when they decided to record this? And I quite purposely don’t say “when they wrote this,” because no sober person could feasibly write this train wreck of nothing down and still go on to record it. And even if you are high when you write it, at some point within writing, preparing, and recording this thing, you have to run out of weed long enough to look at it and realize that it is terrible.
Hour 5: During this time I started plotting revenge on Ambi. I haven’t worked out all of the kinks yet, but I can say that it involves cockroaches and Lady Gaga.
Hour 6: To be honest I’m not sure what happened during this hour. I vaguely recall speaking in tongues, calling on the ghost of Sergei Rachmananov to come up from hell and entrap Sabazius in a room where he was loudly playing the piano for all eternity, but I may have just been eating a tamale.
Hour 7: I spent this one working on my college applications. I must say, while bouncing around the internet trying to find the right box to click is a frustrating experience, I’m very glad that most schools in the US have gone paperless by this point. Makes the grumbling, frustration, and cursing at the College Board over being rung out for money to verify numbers all the more efficient.
Hour 8: I’ve been watching vlogbrothers videos this hour. There is a pretty lifeless rhythm going on. You know, “lifeless” is probably how I would describe this entire song. Can I stop now?
Hour 9: Vocals! Around the half hour mark there are actual words spoken! Those words? “I!…am!…I!” Yes, yes you are Sabazius, though your grammar could use some work. Also, your basic understanding of what music is, what can be done with a guitar, and what constitutes lyrics.
There is a form of torture that involves the torturer playing loud music at all hours of the day to keep the victim from sleeping. It occurs to me that the existence of such things as Sabazius, it’s genre, and the birth 10 hour+ videos on Youtube has allowed people to bring this form of torture to them.
I will say this, though: in the second half hour, this song gets a pretty good, if repetitive, rhythm going that grooved well with a rage-filled discussion I was in on the IRC.
Hour 10: This is the part where I get serious. For these last two hours, I decided that this would play in the background of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite and Rite of Spring. First, the Firebird. You can find the rendition I listened to here, and get some expert wrist-flapping as a bonus. The Firebird Suite is a symphony about a mystical beast called the firebird, it’s waking, it’s movements, and the lulling of it to sleep again, followed by a triumphant finale. It’s considered by some to be Stravinsky’s best work, as it is the last piece he did in the old style of music. There is a sweetness to it, even in the harsher moments. When you listen to it, you can get a sense of a story folding out through the music. I have a fondness for this piece because the lullaby of the beast contains a very good bassoon solo, something fairly rare in classical music, but something Stravinsky would add in his next piece as well, The Rite of Spring.
Hour 11: I said before that the Firebird Suite was considered by some to be Stravinsky’s best work. Well, those who think that way absolutely hate this piece. I said that bassoon solo’s were uncommon in classical music, and though this one contains one, this piece arguably isn’t classical music. This symphony was, in its time, revolutionary, as it represented a break from the music of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Stravinsky used chords that had never been used in symphonies before, and explored sounds that weren’t used by any of his predecessors. When it was played for the first time, the audience was so upset that they began to riot in the hall. But this didn’t deter Stravinsky. He continued writing music in this style for the rest of his life, in spite of the backlash he received and the calls for a return to his old style. A man allegedly offered him a million dollars to write another symphony in the style of Firebird, but he refused out of artistic commitment, and the fact that he was already rich and famous. Stravinsky’s work, along with the work of some of his contemporaries, fundamentally altered symphonic music, allowing it to grow in ways that many wished it never had. And I wanted to listen to this symphony for my final hour because it is an incredibly lively piece, and it contrasts well to the slog in the background, but also because the change it brought about affected the future of music as a whole, instilling a long-forgotten drive for experimentation, and in doing so created a space in which things like The Descent of Man could exist. Stravinsky is the godfather of Sabazius, and as torturous as these hours have been for me, I think he would be proud to know that things like this can not only exist, but be listened to by thousands of people because of him, and therefore better things can as well.
Hour 12: There is about 15 minutes in this hour that I will dedicate to parting thoughts. I will also be dedicating it to Matthew Notch’s album It’s Dangerous to Go Alone. There are a number of words that I could use to describe this recording. Uninspired. Non-music. Dieambidie. But I think what you need to know is that I was only able to get through this by allowing it to play in the background of other things. This experience has gone by fastest when I’ve been doing other things, but has been most worthwhile when listening to other music. That really summarizes my thoughts on this whole thing: Listen to other music.
TLDR: There’s a low drone, a high screech, and sometimes drums. If you’re reading this, you should definitely listen to this song, as it will instill in you the invaluable trait of patience.
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