Holokauston – “Hymns for an Unavailing Tragedy”

Like heavy metal music, Classics, i.e. the study and reception of the ancient Greek, Roman, and Mediterranean world, does not belong to any one nation, culture, or ethnic group. The genre and field, respectively, suffer when narrowly defined as the province of “Western” culture (whatever that means, it being a modern construct). It is disingenuous to speak of either being “appropriated” by cultures that have not traditionally developed and participated in them. Both benefit from diverse, international participation.

This being the case with respect to both Metal and Classics, so it is the case when the two intertwine. Hailing from India, the solo raw black metal project Holokauston released the EP “Hymns for an Unavailing Tragedy” last year. The majority of the release consists of a veritable tragic trilogy (just like the playwrights of classical Athens would produce them), here based on the Theban cycle and the cursed house of Oedipus. The lyrics run through the famous myths told by Sophocles and Aeschylus: Oedipus cursed to unwittingly kill his father and marry his mother in futile efforts to avert Apollo’s prophecies, now self-fulfilled; the riddle of the Sphinx; Oedipus’ downfall and legacy as his sons Eteocles and Polynices battle each other for control of Thebes; their sister Antigone defying her uncle Creon as she dooms herself to die by granting Polynices his due burial rites.

This trilogy of songs is titled “Pessimism” I, II, and III. Holokauston follow the reading of Greek tragedy popularized by Nietzsche, that the genre was ultimately about pessimism, about how suffering is what gives meaning to life. Humans are the playthings of a cruel universe. Human attempts to impose law and order on our world, in the manner of Sophocles’ Creon, ultimately fail.

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