The sophomore effort

They say a band’s sophomore album is their hardest. Capturing success, catching lightning in a bottle twice — how do you manage that?

Of course, I’m suggesting I’ve had a “successful” second year of raising Gorgonna, and it’s been anything but that. Oh, it hasn’t been a complete failure either, but I’m trying to make this analogy work, okay?

Parental success is hard to measure — less so for famous musicians (I imagine you just check how many groupies you’ve got tucked away under each arm). There’s no quantifiable metric parents can look to that shows what we’re doing has much of, well, any effect on our offspring; those are rewards (or ramifications) we won’t see ‘til long, long into the future.

But for those of us putting the finishing touches on our children’s sophomore year, we’ve already seen the kinds of changes in store for them. Changes that weren’t creeping over the horizon, but were happening each and every one of 364 days. I watched Gorgonna morph from Baby into Toddler. I saw her successes — but I saw her failures, too. And now I’ve tweaked enough levels, run through the tracks enough, to fear that what’s happened in this second year could shape where she’s going for the rest of her life. It’s terrifying looking back on it, yet thrilling — I get an anxious pee-pee-in-my-pants-type vibe from it.

She’s pushing boundaries.

Some bands like to use their sophomore album to wipe the slate clean. Try new things. Step over the boundaries set in place by their first effort. In Gorgonna’s case, Year 2 was all about confronting those boundaries, comprehending them, and then trying to vault clear over them. In terms of complexity, she started looking at her AC/DC problems and began finding Meshuggah solutions.

Gorgonna became determined, spirited, even willful at times. She challenged our rules, trying to find our points of weakness (“maybe this time they’ll let me stand in my chair!”). And we’ve had to double our efforts to set those firm limits in place. Like a band whose hotel-room proclivities usually leaves the place in shambles, there are just some things a manager cannot allow. Not when safety’s at stake.

She’s improving her skills.

Bands that play enough together develop individually and as a unit. They improve their musicianship, expand their compositional creativity, or tighten up their live show. And I can attest (so far, anyway) that it’s been the same with my kid. Gorgonna is growing. Her skills — fine motor, comprehension, vocabulary, and love of reading — have risen dramatically over the past few months. She’s putting in the toddler equivalent of weeks at the rehearsal space, hashing out tunes in preparation of even greater feats. Some of her interests border on obsessive. It’s awe-striking, even scary in a way — and I’m the one who’s going to have to public-relate the shit out of her so those skills keep their upward momentum.

She appeals to different audiences.

Bands that change their sound enough the second go-around can alienate an established fanbase. Audiences expecting the same behavior as before can be sorely disappointed — that was mostly left behind with Baby 1.0, and it ain’t comin’ back. Gorgonna’s public presence — chill, reserved, inquisitive — has transformed with her increased awareness and mental processing power. She shies away if strangers (or even close relatives) look at her, but has little trouble in a roomful of strangers. This changes the “public performance” dynamic a bit, but for the most part Gorgonna’s simply more fun to have around with people she does know. She’s found a new audience — or at least a new style. And that’s changing the way I behave, too.


We can try to steer our progeny down certain paths, and occasionally these do result in short-term victories. But it’s the long-term that’s impossible to forecast; there’s too much daily interference obscuring those murky waters of divination, and we’re forced to focus on the present. “Please finish your peas,” or “let’s brush our teeth.” Maybe being present-minded is a good thing, but the sheer, unfathomable uncertainty of What Will Be is always, always scraping against my rear-most cranial zones.

Fathering Gorgonna is a binding contract. And, oh yes, it’s for life. The sophomore effort is simply the next step in a long, hopefully profitable career, but the stigma — whether that’s the Terrible Twos or the second album — is inescapable. Here’s hoping we all make it through.

An iconic picture of the band Immortal, gesturing emphatically, but holding tubs of Desitin in their hands.

Desitin – It’s like corpse paint for your baby’s butt

At first, black metal aesthetics and baby-related stuff don’t seem to have much in common. But as I’ve proven time and again, the two aren’t always mutually exclusive. Desitin, a popular rash cream for babies, happens to match up rather remarkably to everyone’s favorite evil (and occasionally unintentionally goofy) metal genre.

Let’s explore how Desitin and black metal mix!

Not-because-I-want-to-but-because-I-have-to obligatory disclaimer: This is NOT a paid review. I have NOT been provided with review copies tubs of Desitin for this blog. My opinions are my own and are for entertainment and personal semi-endorsement purposes only.

It’s applied liberally.

Corpse paint adds an air of mystique, an element of the frightening unknown for those who choose to don its alabaster appearance. The rest of us plebs can’t possibly grasp its trve kvlt significance, but if there’s one thing our fragile minds can understand about corpse paint, it’s that you don’t modestly powder it on — you fuckin’ slather it. Anything less leaves you looking like a beach-bound tourist. I can’t vouch for how much a single trip to ULTA costs the members of Behemoth, but I’m sure they need a bag attendant to carry it all out. “Slaves shall serve,” indeed.

Desitin is applied in similar amounts, although the surface area you’re working with is much, much smaller. You only need a good finger dab or two (might I suggest the pointer and pinky fingers?) to completely de-Satan a baby butt rash with Desitin — a little bit goes a long way. I’m no brand loyalist, but it’s been nearly two years since I bought this two-pack off Amazon, and I’m just now dipping past the halfway mark on the first container. Value and effectiveness? That’s my fucking kryptonite.

It’s grim.

You’d think that corpse paint lends itself an irreplicable aura of grimness — a serious dedication to the dark arts whose might cannot, under any circumstance, be matched. But really, Desitin is no different, for what could be grimmer than the somber affair of reducing a rash from a child’s butt? It’s not easy work — you’ll set yourself upon the dreary task, knowing you’ll have to withstand an arching back, kicking legs, and vile, hate-spewing screams. It’s like a scene from The Exorcist, but with way more vomit potential (after she’s been eating nothing but corn and raisins all morning, you’re the one who’s going to end up losing their lunch).

It’s divisive.

If those wackos in Mayhem are to be believed, corpse paint is named for the appearance that fully alive individuals take on when they want to look like a bloodless deader (although I’d imagine making a Norwegian person’s already-sun-deprived pallor even more pallid wouldn’t be too difficult). If that sounds morbid to you, then ignore the part where Mayhem’s first vocalist, Dead, often said to be the purported progenitor of the practice, used to huff dead birds while performing live on stage. Or the part where Mayhem’s then-bassist Varg Vikernes stabbed guitarist Euronymous over twenty times and took pictures of his corpse. Or the part where drummer Hellhammer has said, in summary, that black metal is “only for white people.”

And that’s just one band.

There’s such a strong public association between corpse paint and black metal that any makeup-wearing modern band is assumed to have some kind of satanic or misanthropic tendencies. (Judging by how long KISS has been hellishly stringing us along with farewell after farewell tour, I’d wager that’s not too far off.) But black metal seems to attract individuals who subscribe to all sorts of shitty behavior and ideals.

But despite black metal’s controversial proclivities, this is one instance where the baby example may be more extreme than the metal one. Where Mayhem, Emperor, and others among the esteemed black metal elite have shunned corpse paint for the simple, petty notions of “it’s too mainstream” or “it’s lost its meaning,” Desitin detractors have much more dire reasons for not being fans.

A quick glance at the World Wide Web yields queries of whether Desitin is safe or not. People from about the mid-to-late-2000s point the finger at a several ingredients. Although Desitin mostly contains zinc oxide, it also contains butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), a food additive that is listed as a carcinogen in the state of California. The ingestion of large quantities of BHA have had certain effects on certain mammals, but reading about it makes my fucking head spin. Luckily, the FDA has provided a tl;dr for those of us whose brains have only enough room to remember the personnel lineups of every Megadeth album:

“While no evidence in the available information on butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) demonstrates a hazard to the public when it is used at levels that are now current and in the manner now practiced, uncertaintied [sic] exist requiring that additional studies be conducted.”

Basically, “questions remain.” If that doesn’t sit well with you, then definitely do your research (and keep in mind that “Desitin cancer” is a search term you’re likely to come across). Don’t be afraid to dive deep and read up on opinions from all sides, no matter how extreme.

So why am I using Desitin if there’s even the slimmest chance it could have ill effects on my dear, darling Gorgonna? Well, that’s a good fucking question. Desitin is to me what Dimmu Borgir is to black metal — it’s the mainstream choice. I can hardly conceive of what other diaper rash creams are available on the market. Like, maybe there’s a Gnaw Their Tongues-equivalent out there, or an orthodox anti-cosmic atmospheric rash cream that would turn ouchie skin from the hue of a boiled lobster to a fuzzy pink peach. Clearly, I’ve got my own research to do, but until then, I’m going to be livin’ for givin’ the Desitin its due because it’s worked for us so far. Ignorant? Lazy? Could be, but I — unlike some ass-backwards individuals out there — can change my ways.


As far as I know, most black metal bands keep corpse paint to their faces; everything else is sealed away behind layers of black leather and silver spikes. Sounds to me like a prime environment for chafing, where a little zinc oxide might be appreciated. Desitin’s ability to soothe rashes of seemingly any potency can’t be discounted when you’ve got incantations to spew and beats to blast, so maybe we’ll start seeing some endorsements soon. At the very least, if black metal bands began hurling tubs of BHA-addled Desitin into audiences instead of pig’s blood, I can’t think of anything more brutal.

Verdict: It is your Desitin-y

Diaper rashes are inevitable and uncomfortable. Have a means to treat them for the sake of your kid, but do decide if Desitin provides the best means to achieve that. Find a solution for diaper rashes that sits right with you and your child.

Sweet Release: Corpus Christii, Havukruunu, Pyramaze,Wolfbrigade (4/23 – 4/29)

A week’s worth of exciting releases — that’s what I’m gonna try to encapsulate with Sweet Release. Although I liked the format of digging into a single upcoming offering, the fact is — THERE’S TOO MUCH COMING OUT. I just can’t highlight all the releases I want to cover, so I’m cramming them all together for one great big excitement dump that I can clear with a single wipe. God, what a gross analogy. Being a dad hasn’t changed my sense of humor one bit.

Corpus Christii – Delusion (4/28/17)

One thing that first attracted me to black metal was its stark alien sound in comparison to other general types of metal — its eerieness punctuated by inhuman screams and cries. But what I’m finding more interesting these days is when the vocals sound distinctly human, but an incredibly impassioned one. And in that respect, Corpus Christii is firing on all cylinders.

“The Curse Within Time” isn’t just tinged with that zeal — it sounds drenched in it. The vocalist sounds like he’s belching fire from a combusting ribcage, snarling his words louder and louder as the flames rise around him. The rest of the music is just as captivating, shifting between a tasteful, head-nodding main riff and full-bore blasting.

Havukruunu – Kelle Surut Soi (4/29/17)

Mature, melodic, and utterly triumphant — that is what “KVainovalkeat” is by Finnish pagan black metal band Havukruunu. The track opens up with a frenzied melody like wind whipping through a ravine, a clarion call that leads to a full-blown avalanche of blast-beat aggression.

Five-and-a-half minutes seems to be on the short side for songs by bands I like these days, but Havukruunu tightly packs a storm into a snowball, an ice-cold projectile that grows and grows over time. By the time I reached the end with a Borknagar-esque bridge, I was already frozen on the spot in awe of what Havukruunu was able to accomplish.

You know the aftermath of the Liu Kang/Sub Zero fight in Mortal Kombat? That’s how I feel after listening to “Vainovalkeat,” and I can only imagine what the rest of Kelle Surut Soi will to do me.

Pyramaze – Contingent (4/28/17)

I feel like Pyramaze is one of the very last power metal bands I can give a complete shit about. And not just because what they’re doing is so vastly different from the tropes of that genre, but also because my history with them is so strong. They are my band. Their major lineup change from 2015’s Disciples of the Sun — one of my AOTYs — put them even further from the traditional power metal path with former-producer-now-guitarist/songwriter Jacob Hanson manning the helm, and Contingent seems to have stayed that particular course.

The few singles I’ve heard sound solid, with more of what I’ve always loved about Jonah Weingarten’s heart-wrenching piano melodies and Morten Gade Sorenson’s bombastic, arresting drumming. Only now those are under the guidance of the new blood, and they couldn’t be moving into smoother waters. Hopefully the album’s name isn’t a Final Fantasy-type thing, and that Contingent isn’t critical to their future success, as I feel the next era in Pyramaze’s career is only just getting going.

Wolfbrigade – Run with the Hunted (4/28/17)

Give me all your metal and punk and no one gets hurt. Hand it all over — no, put Wolfbrigade on top. I haven’t been jamming on “Warsaw Speedwolf” for over a month to have you holding out on me now. That’s it — not nice-and-easy-like, I want it fast and rude. This is crust, not crumpets.

Now that the release of Run with the Hunted, these d-beating Swedes’ 9,000th album (give or take a few thousand), is within my hungering sights, I’m positively ravening for more.