DAMN THAT SONG IS HEAVY: Giles Corey - "Blackest Bile"
“Sometime in the spring of 2009 I tried to kill myself. Six months before that, I used a Voor’s Head Device for the first time.” –Giles Corey
A Voor’s Head Device is “a hood worn over the head to induce mild asphyxiation and hallucination. Take a plastic bag, preferably opaque and black, and puncture it with a needle many times, enough to create a steady but insufficient supply of air. Sew this bag into an outer bag, this one made of black cloth. Affix to neck with a belt.”1
Giles Corey is the solo project of Dan Barrett, who you may know from the band Have A Nice Life. If you know that band, that should already indicate to you just how draining this is. The emotionally taxing album opener ends with a recording of Dan using this grim accessory, culminating in an attempted suicide.
If the name Giles Corey sounds familiar, that would be because he is an historical figure during the era of the Salem witch trials. Giles Corey was arrested at 80 years old for practicing witchcraft. At his trial, he refused to plead neither guilty nor not guilty.
At that time, refusing to plead one way or the other would subject the defendant to undergo being pressed in an effort to force them to plead. After being stripped of all of his clothing, a massive board was placed on top of his chest. Atop of this board, they placed larger and heavier rocks until Giles Corey either pleads or dies.
While undergoing this abominable torture, he never cried out in pain, experiencing this horrendousness in silence. He was asked if he would finally enter a plea numerous times, and he always responded with “More weight.” Those are his last words after suffering like this for two days.
“I open up my heart and stick my fingers in, but you will never want what I have to give.” – Blackest Bile
What even is black bile? Up until the advent of modern medicine, there was a prominent medical system developed by Hippocrates (yes, that guy from the Hippocratic oath) known as humorism. Humorism is all about having these four core bodily fluids, called humors, that affect all of your personalities, behaviors, moods, emotions, physical health, mental health, morals, dreams, etc.
Some of the many ways that these humors were used to figure things was by whether or not you had an excess of any one of the four, a deficiency of any one of the four, or a perfect balance amongst them all. This was developed even further by pairing each of the fluids with a temperament. Each of the fluids with their paired temperaments are as follows:
Blood – Sanguine (optimistic, social, extroverted)
Phlegm – Phlegmatic (calm, dependable, affectionate)
Yellow Bile – Choleric (irritable, charismatic, passionate)
Black Bile – Melancholic (analytical, quiet, creative)
By now it should be pretty obvious that all of those personality type tests that you saw while taking your Intro to Psychology class started here.
An excess of black bile was said to cause melancholia. (No, not your favorite Lars von Trier movie, although the 19th hole may have some relevance here). Dictionary.com defines melancholia as “a mental condition characterized by great depression of spirits and gloomy forebodings”. That is probably the most succinct way that someone could characterize my feelings for this song. This song is rooted in desperation, yet due to the aforementioned ‘gloomy forebodings’, there is no more energy being used to fight that depression that has been closing in. Instead, it’s about letting that depression take over, about being done with trying to fight it. There’s no more hope in this situation, and there’s no more hope in the future.
The way the song kicks into life about halfway through feels as though the historic Giles Corey was persevering and belting out another “More weight”. The ship is sinking. He may be dying, but that is because he’s accepted the fate that he’s chosen for himself. The depression has truly set in. Pile on more weight, physically and emotionally, and ramp up the intensity of this song because death won’t be achieved until our bodies and minds can’t bear any more.
The Giles Corey album was put out on Barrett’s own label called Enemies List, and these guys, to me, are total Party Smashers. This is just the beginning of their About page:
"We do whatever we want.
Most of the time, that means putting out music.
We put out music that we make.
We also put out music that we like.
We do everything ourselves, because we love doing it.
We keep our costs very, very low.
Because of this, we are able to put out music at a time when the music industry is collapsing in slow-motion.
That’s fine with us.
We believe in all of the following: complete self-autonomy, cooperation towards shared goals, contradictions, home recording, home distribution, idealistic capitalism, creating art as if no one else existed, the necessity of doing Awesome and Intense things with your life, being prolific, and not letting anyone ignore us, no matter what."
Giles Corey despite being released back in 2011 is finally being pressed on vinyl via The Flenser.
Listen to this album in its entirety here:
Photo: http://www.last.fm/music/Giles+Corey/+images/a94d0513000544bd8b08bd619bea864d by danbarret