Mental illness tried to kill me, and destroyed my ability to listen to music – until Abbath saved it

Close followers of mine on Twitter may have noticed that I’ve tweeted bugger all about new music for about a year.

This is for a simple reason: shitty mental health. The kind of shitty mental health that can fuck your entire life up very quickly, and becomes a genuine threat to your life.

And just when it seemed to have got to its worst point, it got yet worse, and robbed me of my ability to listen to music – and music was the one thing that had never let me down.

For clarity, when I say mental illness stopped me listening to music, what I mostly mean is new music. What had been completely wrecked was my concentration, meaning anything which requires much thought – such as reading long blocks of prose (eg – long-read articles or books), or trying to take in music I didn’t already know – was difficult to impossible.

If I tried to listen to a new album (or even an old album I wasn’t very familiar with), I’d get about 15 minutes in, realise my attention had wandered badly and that I’d not taken in half what I’d listened to, and have a crippling attack of anxiety that would last for an hour. I tried multiple times to overcome it, and failed every time. And each time, it made me resent it more.

Quality had nothing to do with it. I wasn’t listening to new shit and thinking, “This sucks!” in an attack of Boring Jaded Arse syndrome; I was hearing stuff I could tell was good, but rather than feel the positive emotions that should provoke, I was fighting off an avalanche of anxiety, and a reptile-brain claustrophobia that meant I had to turn the music off.

Abbath press photo 2019.jpg

Considering music’s been my go-to when I’m feeling shit for 20 years, and that my general mood was about 17 rungs below “feeling shit”, this was a bit of a disaster. Inevitably, with the help of a few podcasts (thanks especially to Blood & Mud, The Football Ramble, and We Have Ways Of Making You Talk),  I managed to muddle through and not do anything too permanent to myself. In a way, it served as an excuse to inflict on my better half go on a nostalgia trip of my favourite shit.

But given I’d spent a decade basically living for new music, this was a deep loss that wasn’t going away – especially since I could barely go on the internet without being reminded of all the great stuff I was missing out on.

I’ve made no secret of my belief that Immortal are the greatest thing in the history of things, and that Abbath is the greatest frontman who has ever or will ever lived in any kind of music. So, with Abbath putting out a new album, I thought I’d give it one more try. In my head, if I couldn’t listen to Abbath’s new album Outstrider, I couldn’t listen to anything. And of course, that was the first record in the best part of a year I got through all the way – and fucking loved.

Abbath is a frankly ridiculous riffmonger at the best of times, but Outstrider is right out of his top drawer. It’s like At The Heart Of Winter with Damned In Black‘s short sharp bastard shock songwriting and All Shall Fall‘s sense of epic, combined with a few more melodic reminders that Abbath fucking loves Kiss and Motörhead. It’s bloody ace and I love it right in the face. It makes my flagging soul want to get up off the mat, strap on some leather, spikes and warpaint, and march off to join the frosty evil fight.Inter Arma Sulphur English album cover artwork.jpgAfter Outstrider, other bands took up the torch – most notably the fabulous, wonderful, terrifying, peerless and soon-to-be-spoken-about-with-whispered-reverence Inter Arma, whose latest masterpiece (their third in a row) I’m just as much in love with as Outstrider. But it was Abbath wot won it first.

Abbath’s music has revived a part of me I was starting to think was dead. Now, I just have a year’s worth of music to catch up on.

I have stumbled around the usual sources to find out what came out from about August 2018 to now that might interest me, and I’ve cobbled a listening queue together (list is at the end). As part of my attempts to get my head straight, I may do some blogging about the interesting bits, just for the hell of it. If there’s anything you’d like to recommend to me not on the list, hit me up on Twitter.

The point to all the above, though, is this: mental illness is a bastard arsehole that doesn’t give a shit about what’s important to you and may even actively wreck the things you care most about. Take it seriously, and get professional help.


Listening pile – July 2019

3Teeth – Metawar
A Forest Of Stars – Grave Mounds And Grave Mistakes
Alice In Chains – Rainier Fog
Allegaeon – Apoptosis
Amon Amarth – Berserker
Anaal Nathrakh – A New Kind Of Horror
Antigama – Depressant
Artificial Language – Now We Sleep
Astronoid – s/t
Basalte – Vertigo
Behemoth – I Loved You…
Candlemass – The Door To Doom
Clutch – Book Of Bad Decisions
Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult – Mardom
Darkthrone – Old Star
Deafheaven – Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
Deathspell Omega – The Furnaces Of Palingenesia
Devin Townsend – Empath
Dream Theater – Distance Over Time
Employed To Serve – Eternal Forward Motion
Entropia – Vacuum
Fever 333 – Strength In Numbers
Fleshgod Apocalypse – Veleno
Fluoride – Disentaglement
Full Of Hell – Weeping Chair
Grand Magus – Wolf God
Horrendous – Idol
Kampfar – Ofidians Manifest
Laster – Het wassen oog
Makkmat – Beina Brenner
Mord’A’Stigmata – Dreams Of Quiet Places
Outer Heaven – Realms Of Eternal Decay
Pig Destroyer – Head Cage
Possessed – Revelations of Obilivion
Rammstein – Rammstein
Rotting Christ – The Heretics
Sabaton – The Great War
Sanhedrin – The Poisoner
Saor – Forgotten Paths
Sleep – The Sciences
Soen – Lotus
Soilwork – Verkligheten
Spirit Adrift – Divided By Darkness
Sunnnnnnn O)))))))))) – Life Metal
Swallow The Sun – When A Shadow…
Ultha – The Inextricable Wandering
Waldgefluster – Mondscheinsonaten
Whitechapel – The Valley
Within Temptation – Resist
Yellow Eyes – Rare Field Ceiling

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