Autarcie could be easily dismissed for being assembled from the elements we expect from narcissistic yet generic post-black metal or “modern metal.” Instead, it presents to us a transition between black metal and either assimilation or a new form which is organic and local, and yet while the band does more with the elements of modern metal than that genre, its failure to conquer the modern mindset within precludes it from achieving the ancient sensibility and sensation of black metal, leaving it as identifiably “post-metal” in spirit but second-wave black metal in form.4 Comments
I. Degrees of an Allegory in Black Metal
Black metal, as any art, spans not only the musical, but the ideological as well as some kind of social component. Those who claim its flag range from popular musicians dressing up, to occult panderers playing at magickians, to extremists, to individuals that society would consider degenerates. There are more groups that could be mentioned but that we do not need to mention explicitly. Needless to say, all of these groups have a very different understanding of what black metal is, and what their seminal exponents such as Quorthon intended or what his work represents, or should represent, once it was out of his hands.75 Comments
Brazilian black metal band Mystifier outed themselves as avowed socialists, black supremacists, and evolution deniers in an unpublished interview from 1999 posted years ago to the Nuclear War Now! forum by the interviewer Werwolf.50 Comments
Despite being mostly in favor of the SJW infiltration of heavy metal, media sources sometimes reveal skepticism of this rigid mind-meld that is replacing quality metal with an inferior but politically-correct substitute. In fact, the political correctness is merely a method of inducing you to buy it because it has the right “message,” while ignoring the low artistic quality of the material as a whole.
But the SJWs don’t know that. They are not unique, having appeared first in the 1980s with a group that would not call itself politically-correct but acted the same way as today’s SJWs. As hardcore waned, local scenes arose in which people wanted to participate for social reasons: to be popular, find dates, have parties. Their music was not ground-breaking, so they took over with superior numbers, and used politics as a means of filtering out all other music. Thus they triumphed, and promptly made punk so boring it self-destructed in dissipation.
Today’s SJWs are not history students of hardcore punk or any other subject. Their goal is to make themselves important, and to seize control of a genre they think will give them social power, but they cannot replicate its greatness nor understand it, and so they are doomed to failure. What do they care, however — they will simply move on to the next genre, take it over, and have their five years of glory there too before covering up those tats and going to a cubicle job just like everyone else.
But doubt is spreading already. In an editorial over at Stereogum, Michael Nelson launches into the usual SJW rhetoric, and then does something really interesting. The article is a top 50 of metal of the year, but as is typical these days, it must editorialize. So he makes an introduction and then cuts to the real topic on his mind:
But mostly, more than ever before, metal found its very character scrutinized by a hyper-aware, politically divided public — a public largely informed by metrics-focused media outlets eager to weigh in on the issues of the day. This was a carryover from late 2014, when popular blogs like Metal Injection and Metalsucks ran essays with titles like “The Problem With Heavy Metal Is Metalheads: Stop Calling Everyone A Faggot” and “Why Is It Okay To Be Racist And Misogynistic About Babymetal?” And in 2015, the takes arrived on an almost daily basis, via articles like “Racism And Sexism In Heavy Metal Highlighted In New Study” and “Why Is The Convicted Murderer Of A Gay Man Being Celebrated At A Major Metal Festival?“
This past July, renowned metal journalist (and occasional Stereogum contributor) Adrien Begrand wrote a piece for Pop Matters titled “Some Talk, No Action,” putting the entire metal community on blast for failing to effectively flush out certain musicians whose art and/or actions seemed to suggest some form of bigotry or separatist ideology. Begrand called out by name such bands as Cobalt, Inquisition, Lord Mantis, and Bölzer, but he extended the indictment to include countless participants — primarily the media and fans who support (or fail to condemn) any artists who support (or fail to condemn) intolerant worldviews.
This is actually a good (albeit incomplete, but give him a break, he had two paragraphs) history of the explosion of #metalgate. In the late 1990s, the underground fizzled because it had no more greats to offer, and the imitators surged in. Since that time, record labels and hipsters have been trying to find a way to make rock and punk rock — which, unlike metal, which emphasizes transcending the individual, emphasize the importance of individual desires over attention to consequences — into a “metal flavored” form. This is an ideal product for local mediocre bands to make and labels to hype since anyone can do it so there can be a steady stream of profits. SJW-metal is just their tool of forcing everyone else out and taking over.
Nelson goes on to look into the chaos that followed Disma being accused of being horrible Nazis, and he pretty much beats the SJW tin drum here, but then, something interesting happens:
The last thing any of us here wants to do is give additional exposure to artists who peddle or preach hatred or intolerance. The other last thing we want to do is act as some Orwellian thought police slowly sanitizing metal by doling out oxygen only to those artists whose views reflect our own, whose actions meet our personal standards of acceptability. It’s easy enough to treat Burzum’s Varg Vikernes as a pariah: The guy is an enthusiastic, unrepentant bigot and a convicted murderer. (It helps, too, that he hasn’t released a decent album since 2011.) I often wonder, though, how the world would react to “Angel Of Death” or “Unsuccessfully Coping With The Natural Beauty Of Infidelity” if those songs were released today. This is dark music! It’s not supposed to be safe! It can be safe, but nobody ever got into this shit because it was safe; we got into it because it was scary and transgressive and primal. Who are we to make it safe?
Then again, who are we to promote art or artists fostering unsafe environments?
I’m not winding up for some big, poignant conclusion here, sadly. I’m leaving this as an ellipsis.
There’s a certain subtle brilliance in this. The whole point of this lengthy introduction was to get himself SJW cred, then point out that censorship is just like the totalitarian ideologies that SJWs claim to dislike. In fact, Nelson writes that it is even worse, since it is done in the name of good, and points out that many of metal’s classics would not pass this test. Then he leaves the question up to us, since he obviously cannot directly contradict the herd or they will amass and ruin his life (or a least get Stereogum to fire him, and then mob his Facebook account!).
SJW is still a potent movement because it gives power to the unmemorable by allowing them to take down people better than themselves. It gives a voice to the mediocre and a reason why their mediocrity should jump the line ahead of artistic superiority. Like all mass movements, it is a revolt against quality, with the pleasant notion that everyone will be equally important concealing the reality, which is that when everyone is the same nothing good can rise. Metal stands against that, and this is why SJWs target it. But the tide is turning even now.11 Comments
Italian publisher Tsunami Edzioni has released Wolves Among Sheep: History and Ideology of National Socialist Black Metal, a book by Davide Maspero and Max Ribaric detailing the rise of this tributary of the black metal movement that officialized many of the right-wing and traditionalist leanings of black metal as a whole.
The publishers offer the following FAQ about the book and how to obtain it:
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National Socialist Black Metal (NSBM) remains controversial because global civilization has shifted leftward since the late 1940s with the fall of fascist regimes in Italy and later France, National Socialism in Germany, and Nationalist movements in Japan. However, starting in the 1990s when the 1968 generation took power in politics and media, a counter-movement has arisen which is critical of democracy, equality and diversity.
Sometimes this movement is merely anti-liberal, as with Michel Houellebecq in France, or libertarian as with the Tea Party and Neoreaction, but often it takes a more potent form. The original black metal bands from Norway, Sweden and Finland embraced the idea of nationalism, or a society being defined by its indigenous people, and rejected the morality of pity, equality and pacifism. Others took this farther and explicitly endorsed the older belief systems, not just National Socialist but the traditionalism of Julius Evola, the nationalism of pre-war Europe, and the monarchism and naturalism of völkisch conservatism.
During the early 1990s, when this material first emerged, I was unwilling to play such bands on the radio when I learned of their beliefs. Later digging found the nationalism of Bathory, the pro-Hitlerian sentiments of Morbid Angel, and the generally conservative — realism plus a belief in transcendentalism — surging through heavy metal. Then came Lords of Chaos and the interviews of Varg Vikernes, tearing the lid off any obscurity that black metal had regarding its anti-humanist views. For that reason, I report on them as they are part of the black metal movement and heavy metal, and it is better to have such things in the light than darkness.20 Comments
The casual observer seeing how metalheads and SJWs, who descend more from crustfund punk and emo than metal, might ascertain that the two groups are radically different. This observer might even note how many of the “tryhard” types are in fact thinly-disguised SJWs. But at first appearance, the reason for this separation will be misunderstood.
An average person will see metal as wild and lawless, like a combination of the Wild West and medieval Europe, where SJWs are more like modern Europe: very morally righteous, sensitive and inclusive. This difference separates metalheads from SJWs, but it is not the primal reason why the two are different. It serves as a guidepost to that end however.
Black Sabbath launched themselves during the height of the hippie period. At that time, the popular narrative that people told themselves was that history from the Napoleonic Wars to 1945 was just one big mistake, and the way to defeat it was love, through people power and pacifism and universal acceptance. Apparently none of these people studied history or they would have known how frequently this trope comes up, and how it usually ends! Black Sabbath saw through what these hippies were saying an argued it was more of the same, and that humanity was in denial of reality and has been choosing various “human realities” instead of actual reality, to its doom.
In human experience, our most common error is self-delusion. When that is discovered, we usually choose another self-delusion. The classic example is the alcoholic who runs into the arms of a tent revivalist, and becomes addicted to another set of false promises. Another is the woman who flees her marriage only to find out years later that the new boyfriend she chose is a lot like the last husband. Voters run from one party to another, as they go from one cell phone company to another, thinking that “the other guy” might have answers. And he never does. The reason why is that he is also selling an illusion, because only illusions sell.
This leads us to why metal is different from rock and why it is the natural enemy of SJWs: metal is against illusions. SJWs want you to pick one illusion over others, but metal points out that whatever is popular is illusion and is wrong. We need some other way of looking at the world than what “most people” want to believe is true about it because it makes them look good, feel important and think they are unique. Humanity is basically a large organic machine for producing lies, and every group wants us to substitute their lie for the dominant lie, but all of these lies have their root in the same idea: that what we feel, judge and emote is more important than reality itself.
Look at politics. It is a wasteland. As notorious shock realist author Tom Wolfe once wrote in a letter to a friend:
The Republican Party as now constituted is obviously too stupid to survive…. What is to be done? Of course, that was Lenin’s line and the only lucid one he ever wrote. The answer is nothing. America’s position is unassailable. We are the imperial Rome of the 3rd Millennium. Our government is a CSX train on a track. People on one side (the left) yell at it, and people on the other side (the right) yell at it, but the train’s only going to go down the track. Thank God for that. That’s why I find American politics too boring to write about. Nixon is forced from office. Does a military junta rise up? Do the tanks roll? Give me a break.
Let us separate “rock music thinking” from “real world thinking.” Not in the way that our great-grandparents did, where rock was bad and work was good, but in the manner of people who recognize that popular music is entertainment which pretends to be profound, but is the opposite of art which explores profound subjects through realism. Entertainment wants you to think it has all the answers, but ultimately it is a social phenomenon, like chatting up a girl near the keg at a frat party. It says what flatters its listeners. It wants them to think they are profound, interesting, vivid, heck… it wants them to think they are the stars on the stage… because that sells rock music, and lets all these musicians and labels and journalists keep up the nice cushy lifestyle instead of the job managing a Target or 7-11 they would have had, had rock not come along.
Rock music thinking is advertising. It wants you to think that you can be all the cool in the world for just this one next purchase, whether a tshirt or CD. It needs to offer you highly dumbed-down and simplified ideas that make you feel like you are in control of the world. Why get into the nuances of international politics and millennium-long analyzes of the health of empires? Just say “love is the answer.” All the people will flock to that, not so much as they are idiots — although most of them are — but because they are self-deluding. They want that easy, convenient answer because it makes them feel in control.
SJWs are part of rock music thinking. They have gone from “love is the answer” to “tolerance is the answer,” forgetting that like so many Utopian quests this one will involve denying human nature and human needs, and as a result will require increasing degrees of force to make it work. They also ignore the somewhat banal reality that people mostly do not like each other and tend to associate in groups of people like themselves as a barrier to the broader world. In consequence, what SJWs preach is illusion just like the other illusions. Look at them all.
The public conservatives in this world are arch-dumbshits who think that if they adopt liberal ideas about equality, but keep industry and war going on, we will somehow turn out OK. Their great fiction is that if you just go to a job and spend all of your life there, and then manage your affairs responsibly, society will somehow follow your lead. Actually, they never think that far, because they are dumbshits, as mentioned above.
Liberals also fit in the dumbshit category. They think that if every person is just “free” and “equal,” society will magically self-organize into a permanent Burning Man of love and happiness. They ignore the fact that most people are inveterate liars who avoid the truth compulsively, and that what makes happy societies is forcing those stupid fucks to obey reality instead of their own neurotic, fruity minds. Liberals also like to give away things for free, taking from the useful and giving to the useless and spending themselves out of money, at which point their societies collapse. Europe and the USA are about to collapse from this phenomenon. More dumbshits.
Nazis — and I really don’t want to get into splitting hairs about who’s a fascist, a neo-Nazi, a white nationalist, a racialist or just a bigot — are also in the arch-dumbshit camp. They are SJWs of the far-right. Where SJWs think that tolerance is the answer, Nazis think that intolerance is the answer, and that if we just remove the mud races and Eternal Jews everything will be OK. This ignores the problem that most white people are stupid as bricks and dishonest as whores, and that our society needs a redesign from the top-down not bottom-up. I think Nazis more resemble Communists than they want to think. They are right in that diversity has never worked throughout history, but wrong in who they blame, which joins them in the dumbshit camp.
The far-left might be even stupider. None of them realize that the ideas they are chasing are from 1789 and 1867, but go back even farther to the religious fanatics of the 1500s. They are claiming very old and debunked ideas as a “new way” that will somehow magically avoid all the problems that human society has known since the dawn of time. If we all just went vegan, listened to posi-techno, and gave everyone free money, they think, all causes for conflict would be eliminated. But life is a cause of conflict because that is how it negotiates change so that the more realistic prevails over the self-deluding. Humans don’t want to be reminded of that, because it points out that Darwinistic natural selection (DNS) might take our lives at any moment if we delude ourselves, yet self-delusion is our nature. I see the far-left as overgrown children trying to pretend life is not happening to them.
Libertarians are like Nazis: extreme dogmatics who do not realize the leftist roots of their own philosophy. The idea of the free market I get and support because it allows better products and services to become available without some bureaucrat giving them the rubber-stamp. In fact, the libertarian idea of replacing most of society with a market has merit. The problem is that then we’re back at conservative anarchism where we assume that magically, the tiny group of people doing the right thing will win out over the self-deluding herd. Ain’t gonna happen. Libertarianism is another form of voting where the good people neutralize themselves by never, ever stooping so low as to tell others what to do, and then the masses roll right over them on their way to the Budweiser, light cigarettes and sugary cheeseburgers.
I’m not sure there are any other philosophies in politics worth considering. Anarchism is fun because in small groups, people who know and like each other can collaborate, but it falls apart after that. Communitarianism and distributism and all those other hybrids are ways to try to make socialism work within some kind of cultural context, but those fall apart because the idea of getting free stuff beats out any conditions placed on it. Traditionalism is interesting, but it’s basically Nietzsche for Christians, which makes it less useful, and the idea that religion can substitute for the structure of society — which is generally culture, leadership and religion, informed by economics — is laughable in itself. Same for Rastafarians and atheists I suppose.
Delusionists want to ignore the obvious: this world is hell. We have made a disaster out of civilization and are leading ourselves to collapse. There is no escape from the end, at least until we stop our fundamental error, which is assuming that delusion can substitute for realism, which is just like the alcoholic insisting that he’ll be OK if he only drinks clear liquors, or the tent revivalist telling you that all will be okay if you just believe and ignore the world around you (including the hand in your pocket). Humans tend toward self-deception because it flatters us that we are in control. Politics reflects this with many varieties of denial.
The point I make in insulting every political group that I can think of is this: metal wants to end human delusion, and everyone else wants their type of human delusion to be “validated” by everyone else. This is why metal hates SJWs; SJWs are apologists for our current society because they believe that with just a little tweak to our delusion, we make make the illusion work, when metal reminds us that we are the new Roman Empire falling because we have introduced too much internal conflict and lack a shared purpose. You can only have a shared purpose if you are focused on reality, and as human societies grow and become wealthy, they empower their people to deny reality and become self-deluding. Metal wins over all these silly varieties of illusion.21 Comments
From its very inception with Black Sabbath metal has always placed a special emphasis on a realism that looks beyond human “nature” and its caprices. We can safely ignore the hedonist tendencies of certain styles of metal imitators and detractors who musically, ultimately took more from the rock and hippie attitudes than from metal. It is also important to clarify that most modern bands, especially past the 1994 mark, are followers and imitators who were not born into the music out of a deeper mindset. In a rather tongue-in-cheek manner, they enjoy the music’s aesthetics while they jest about the lyrics and apparent driving motives of extreme underground innovators, naming them conspiracy theorists or deluded savants, because what the greats say goes against their own culture-dictated values. They ignore that Beethoven, the original creator, is born not when he starts to write great music (which happened at a relatively young age) but when he finds ulterior motivations(circa the sketching of his 3rd Symphony); transcendental visions of a greater humanity born out of fraternity and the individual struggle for self-improvement through suffering push his music towards new landscapes until the day he dies.
Black Sabbath is metal incarnate because not only is it from them that the genre evolves musically, but the very essence of everything that makes metal what it is is reflected in their lyrics. A curiosity for occult knowledge or mystic experience through various means, the so-called worship of power and an apolitical realism that attacked the establishment and that in its time was confused (and probably marketed) as hippie flower-power are all manifest in the band’s first few albums. The three elements ultimately boil down to the search for a truth that lies beyond human construction. Of course, because we are humans, all we have is our human brains and our human motivations — this is something we cannot escape. So what is there left to take a hint from? Nature. The same nature that gave birth to us as a species. The nature that produced an environment which gave rise to our own human “nature” (two different uses of the word nature, for those not paying enough attention).
Nature worship is misconstrued by cynics as either an extreme and retrograde cultural suicide that proposes we abandon the cities to go back to living in caves as wild animals, or simply a kind of replacement for any religion as a different set of beliefs that at the end lead you roughly towards the same goal. What a proper nature worship really entails is not a blind respect for other living creatures at the expense of human well-being, but rather an enhancement of the latter through a mindful and knowledgeable understanding of our relationship to the rest of nature as an ecosystem. In other words, beyond this bubble of social constructions that leave us oblivious or simply make us insensitive to the full extent of the consequences of our careless actions three or four generations into the future (think of uncontrolled population growth and greedy depredation of resources in order to get more money, yet another human illusion to maintain greater mirages).
Realism is here referred to not as the selfish conception driving a Machiavellian politics, but rather the philosophy of forming opinions and taking decisions based on a nihilist but profound understanding of the relative situation of ourselves as humans. The profound understanding is a necessary appendage to the nihilist mentality because otherwise it can very easily degrade into hedonism or other kinds of short-sighted foolishness. An understanding of the inherent necessities we have as humans, both physical and psychological, can lead us in a very few particular directions. As I see it, we either embrace the rest of the ecosystem as something to worship and live in as vital to us in our everyday lives and long-term decisions as a species, or we develop the technology to live independently from it. So far, we are at a crossroads where we are at the brink of destroying the balance of this planet’s system beyond repair, and we do not possess the technological means to live without Earth: precisely because our motivations have been too short-sighted, driven by immediate or selfish profit.
Rocket’s engines burning fuel so fast
Up into the night sky they blast
Through the universe the engines whine
Could it be the end of man and time
Back on Earth the flame of life burns low
Everywhere is misery and woe
Pollution kills the air, the land, and sea
Man prepares to meet his destiny
Rocket’s engines burning fuel so fast
Up into the black sky so vast
Burning metal through the atmosphere
Earth remains in worry, hate and fear
With the hateful battles raging on
Rockets flying to the glowing sun
Through the empires of eternal void
Freedom from the final suicide
Freedom fighters sent out to the sun
Escape from brainwashed minds and pollution
Leave the earth to all its sin and hate
Find another world where freedom waits
Past the stars in fields of ancient void
Through the shields of darkness where they find
Love upon a land a world unknown
Where the sons of freedom make their home
Leave the earth to Satan and his slaves
Leave them to their future in their graves
Make a home where love is there to stay
Peace and happiness in every day.
The direction from or mentality with which we approach problems is a non-trivial factor in the resulting answer. If we approach the matter of how we should conduct ourselves from the top-down viewpoint that what matters is this or that political scheme as a result of our “rights”(more human constructions) or needs only, and without acknowledging that our needs depend on and arise from our the rest of nature on Earth, then we will always lose sight of the whole picture. This human-only vision traps us in a political/theological game which gradually becomes more and more alienated from the real struggle for survival played against and within our place in the universe.
Metal was given birth by those who despise petty human society and is continued to be upheld as the greatest art there ever was by those who have come to this ultra-human vision. To us, every vacuous formality is a burden, every accepted social deception that is taken for granted by the herd can be confusing because we are expected to follow it despite the fact that even the sheep know it’s complete bullshit. Most sheep know it, but they know it is in place for everyone to be happy and shielded away from each other, but most importantly, from reality. True metal stands against all of that. Not as a statement of individuality like most modern bands who care about being politically-correct and are given free reign to pose as some sort of social-cause rebels, but as an acceptance of the harsher truths of reality and how they make the upsides even more intense and worth living for.
“This beginning then reaches out to future historical outreach, especially by teaching what humankind does not wish to comprehend, in spite all the immense hardness of history, does not want to understand, something that perhaps only latter days will learn after reaching the nadir of destruction and devastation — that life need be understood not from the viewpoint of the DAY, of life merely accepted, but also from the view of strife, of the night, of POLEMOS. The point of history is not what can be uprooted or shaken, but rather the openness to the shaking.”
–Jan Patočka, The Beginning of History
Only Death is Real
Blind lies rise
Eternal sweet fire
One with soul
Licking throne of gold
Soul of bricks
Plague of deaths
Hate rise/fill my eyes
Those with no eyes
Blind to see (him)
Those with no eyes
Come feel inside
Souls of fate
Those with no eyes
Blind to see
Breath now, worship (him)
Warm caress of fire
Breaks the pulse
Close your eyes
Trying to discern a coherent ideology or philosophy behind the Black Metal movement,even if we’re only considering bands from a specific time and location, is automatically something of a losing proposition. Each band has its own idiosyncrasies which often conflict with the principles of their peers; bands’ philosophical stances are often transmitted only through totally over-the-top, gonzo lyrics; and, in a lot of cases, the bands were just making shit up as they went along without really thinking through what they were espousing. That said, there are still themes, principles, and behaviors that are common to multiple artists within the genre, and it’s even possible to sketch out rough groupings from these shared characteristics. In this article, I’m going to explore one of the bigger divides stemming from the early Scandinavian black metal movement: Satanic black metal and Norse black metal. Based on the philosophies of these groups, I think it’s even possible to project the future trajectories of these genres as social movements.
One of the biggest philosophical distinctions in Black Metal is probably between Satanic Black Metal and Norse Black Metal. Here are the differences in really, really broad strokes:Satanic black metal developed first, and as time went on pagan themes were often incorporated into the work of Satanic Black Metal bands. The two schools ended up splitting, however; adherents of Norse |Black Metal (many of whom previously endorsed Satanic ideologies) openly disparaged Satanism as juvenile and went off to do their own thing. Satanic Black Metal musicians, to whom Black Metal was defined entirely by its devotion to Satan, viewed the bands singing about Vikings and Odin as heretics or traitors. In this article, I’ll first discuss Norse Black Metal and its prospects as a genre before moving onto Satanic Black Metal, which, I think, has a more fruitful future ahead of it.
Norse Black Metal (hence, N.B.M.) musicians profess a devotion to the mythology of the Germanic tribes who inhabited northern Europe during the first millennium CE. Like Satanic Black Metal, N.B.M. is hostile to the Abrahamic religions, especially Christianity, which it considers an oppressive, invasive religion. N.B.M. musicians frequently lament the mass conversion of northern Europe to Christianity from roughly 800-1200 CE, and the destruction of pagan communities, art, and ways of life that this demographic shift brought with it. N.B.M.’s adherents see themselves as the only ones in their society who haven’t been brainwashed into giving up their true cultural heritage, and they fight to try to restore the old ways and kick the foreign religions out. Varg Vikernes, the musician behind Burzum and the murderer of , is a prolific author on the subject and is probably the single most prominent figure in both the musical movement and the related pan-European political arm, The Heathen Front.
N.B.M. musicians, strongly influenced by the unabashedly racist (or “racialist,” as he tends to call himself) Vikernes, often draw the lines between enemy and friend among ethnic and nationalist lines, which tends to make the genre insular, exclusive, and marginal. Ultimately, this is its greatest weakness: no matter how magnificent its music is (and don’t get me wrong, there is some great N.B.M. music out there), the N.B.M. ethos is perpetually preaching to the choir. By rooting its philosophy and social organization so deeply in considerations of ethnic and national divisions, rather than opening it to any like-minded individuals, N.B.M. has set a hard cap on its spread and influence within the wider global culture.
If you’re not a “Nordic, heterosexual [with] a Pagan ideology,” N.B.M. doesn’t really have much to offer you beyond the actual aesthetics of the music (and, to be fair, Vikernes has usually kept his political stances out of Burzum’s music; as he says, there isn’t anything in the music itself that would stop a “a Christian-born black gay feminist converted to Judaism… or worse; a Muslim” from enjoying one of his records, that certainly doesn’t apply to all N.B.M. bands). In terms of the philosophy espoused by N.B.M. musicians, if you’re not down with thinly-veiled racist and nationalist positions, you’ll probably not be able to stomach much N.B.M. rhetoric.
For this reason, it’s unlikely that N.B.M. will continue to grow much outside of its target demographic in northern Europe. Even the recent upswing of nationalist, xenophobic sentiment in Europe holds relatively little promise for N.B.M., given its radical opposition to the Christian values that most conservative European nationalists hold near and dear. Without a radical reorientation of N.B.M.’s priorities and inclusivity, it’s likely the genre will continue to grow more and more isolated and radical until it collapses into irrelevance.
Satanic Black Metal (“S.B.M.” or “Orthodox Black Metal,” as it’s sometimes been called) has, I think, a much more interesting future ahead of it. Drawing from the occult aesthetics of first-wave black metal bands like Venom, Bathory, Celtic Frost, and King Diamond, S.B.M. coalesced in Norway in the late 80’s, employing over-the-top, almost absurdly self-serious devotion to Satan and evil for evil’s sake. The Oslo-based S.B.M. band Mayhem is arguably most directly responsible for the rise of the movement, with founding member Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth and vocalist Per “Dead” Ohlin initially crystallizing the movement’s philosophy and aesthetics, respectively.
Euronymous was more or less solely responsible for developing the misanthropic, elitist, self-consciously ‘evil’ streak that came to characterize this genre. He saw himself as the de facto leader of the entire Norwegian black metal movement, and he established a record store, Helvete, and a record label, Deathlike Silence, around which much of the early Scandinavian scene revolved. Aarseth embraced the Euronymous persona, sporting a full-on Fu Manchu style mustache and portraying himself as some sort of snooty, mysterious, Satanic noble who determined who was and wasn’t “true” black metal.
Whereas first wave black metal bands could often be vaguely tongue-in-cheek in their invocations of Satanism, S.B.M. was apparently deadly earnest; Euronymous served as a kind of whip for the Scandinavian scene, enforcing strict self-seriousness upon the genre. A second-wave black metal musician could never break character, or they would be immediately branded as posers chasing the Black Metal trend and ostracized. Helvete’s status as a genre mecca afforded Euronymous a mechanism for creating an in- and out-group, thereby allowing him to enforce a certain amount of ideological orthodoxy within the early Black Metal scene.
While this level of loose ideological control was possible, it’s still hard to discuss the early S.B.M. bands’ actual ideologies, because most of their “philosophy” was essentially performative. A lot of what the musicians ended up saying in interviews was ad-libbed to further develop the reputation (and ultimately the myth) of the black metal scene. Whatever seemed “extreme” or “brutal” was adopted, which included everything from Dead’s self-mutilation during sets to mounting impaled pigs’ heads on stage to burning down historic medieval churches (it’s worth noting that Vikernes, who was Mayhem’s bassist at the time, is widely considered to be responsible for kicking off Black Metal’s arson campaign). The bands reveled in media attention and they wanted to portray themselves as mysterious, dangerous figures. As such, they were willing to say whatever seemed most likely to give that impression and keep them in the spotlight. Much of what was said in interviews was said primarily for shock value, with little or no belief behind it, and some things which were initially stated for shock value later became dogma.
To put it crassly, the individuals creating this music were kids cobbling shit together as they went along. I don’t say that to disparage their work (in fact, as a Satanist myself, I’ve been prompted to confront many interesting ideas through their music and actions), but rather to stress that any discussion of these bands’ ideas necessarily entails a certain amount of piecing together half-formed, sometimes contradictory ideas. There’s no authoritative Satanic Black Metal manifesto out to neatly enumerate the core tenets and principles of the genre. In fact, there isn’t even a canon of philosophical remarks; it falls to fans to extract, interpret, and build on the incomplete, scattered ideas found in S.B.M. works.
As for what I personally find compelling in Orthodox Black Metal philosophy, I think its emphasis on dogged, uncompromising contrarianism is underappreciated. Norway in the 80s and 90s was an incredibly socially homogenous society, and the Scandinavian Black Metal movement grew in opposition to that fact. It starkly inverted the values and moral beliefs of society, forging a bizarre, counter-intuitive way of life: whatever society has deemed “evil” was to be pursued by Black Metal musicians as the highest good. It wasn’t hedonism or objectivism or any sort of LaVeyan bullshit like that; it was literally evil for evil’s sake.
Considering the ubiquity of Abrahamic religion in the western world, Satan is a natural figurehead for such a movement. If society’s very concepts of good and evil are largely derived from Christian morality, embracing “evil” doesn’t necessarily entail immoral behavior, but rather a rejection of the moral codes imposed by conventional social and religious authority. This type of Satanism is radically individualist, and it encourages idiosyncratic moral reasoning, non-conformity, and rejection of blind deference to authority. If you strip away all of the incendiary shock tactics and cheap nihilism of the early Norwegian movement, this is, I think, the most potent philosophical strand conveyed through it.
It is, I think, largely due to this egalitarian, individualist tendency that S.B.M. has been proliferating in recent years. As education improves world-wide and individuals become more and more secularly oriented, this brand of Satanism becomes more attractive to a wider segment of the population, who have been frustrated and stymied by outdated, authoritarian religious sentiment. Satanism can serve as a unifying banner dedicated to checking the role of traditional religions in society and politics. The Satanic Temple, for instance, has organized numerous campaigns in the United States in recent years to promote progressive political action and minimize the religious right’s ability to legislate morality. Its lobbying efforts and lawsuits have helped stop attacks on women’s reproductive rights, efforts to sneak religion into public schools, and restrictions on same-sex marriage. Because they are defined in opposition to the strict, authoritarian morality of the Abrahamic religions which still plays an undue role in political and social affairs in nominally secular countries, Satanic movements like these are increasingly becoming attractive means of political and ideological organization, especially for those most directly affected by religion’s influence.
This streak of Satanic thought is not exclusive to secular, western society, though; in fact, it holds the most promise in less permissive, more theocratic countries. In recent years a small but growing number of musicians in the Middle East have begun to play Black Metal as a means of expressing individual freedom and attacking the oppressive religious society around them. Three years ago, a woman-fronted black metal band called Janaza, purportedly from Iraq, made news across the web for its track, “Burn The Pages of Quran.” While doubts about Janaza’s authenticity have surfaced, there are plenty of real Black Metal bands in strongly Islamic countries, and the principle behind them is still compelling: Islam is an Abrahamic religion closely related to Christianity, and in Middle-Eastern countries it plays an even greater social and political role than Christianity does in the west. It’s natural, then, for dissidents in these societies to employ Black Metal to oppose the repressive religious tendencies of their society in the same way, albeit with much higher stakes, given that members of these bands could face the death penalty for blasphemy if their identities were ever discovered. In an interview with Vice, Mephisto of the Saudi Arabian black metal band Al-Namrood (“Non-Believer”), expressed the appeal of black metal in predominantly Islamic countries:
Christianity nowadays is passive. The church doesn’t control the country. I think whatever rage that people have got against the church cannot be compared with Islamic regimes. You can criticize the church under freedom of speech in European countries, but you can’t do that in Middle Eastern countries. The system doesn’t allow it. Islam has inflicted more authority on the Middle East than any other place in the world. Every policy has to be aligned with sharia law, and this is happening right now in 2015. We know that, 400 years ago, brutality occurred in the name of the church, but the same is happening right now in this age with Islam.
Recent events like the Arab Spring have shown that there is a growing population in traditionally Islamic societies that wants to catch up with the rest of the world’s secularism and individual freedom. Since conventional means of dissidence are outlawed, Satanic Black Metal, as a marginal, outsider movement itself, seems to be the perfect outlet for this dissatisfaction. In fact, I wouldn’t be very surprised (or dissatisfied, for that matter) to read about a series of ultra-conservative mosque burnings in the near future. Whether it’s against conservative Christianity or radical Islam, free-thinking individualists worldwide can unite under the banner of Satanic Black Metal to work for a world free of theocracy and religious authoritarianism.
All in all, it’s an exciting time for Black Metal. With the rise of online distribution and music sharing, it’s never been easier to disseminate new albums and spread niche genres like Black Metal across the globe. While I don’t think Norse Black Metal is going to have much enduring appeal without opening itself up to the rest of the world, the Satanic Black Metal movement seems to be waxing, and I’m excited to see what comes out of it, both musically and socially.33 Comments
Tags: aesthetics, al-namrood, Black Metal, blasphemy, Christian, elitist, Euronymous, ideology, islam, LaVeyan, Mephisto, misanthropic, pagan, Philosophy, Quran, Satanic and Norse Black Metal: A Comparative Examination of Philosophy and Staying Power, Scandinavian, varg vikernes
Black metal band Kaeck showed the world a glimpse of its first offering today with “Holenmuur.” As this new band composed of Sammath, Noordelingen and Kjeld members prepares to introduce itself to a new generation of fans, this track provides the first glimpse of its fusion of war metal and melodic vitriolic black metal.
As our first glimpse of this band asserted:
To the experienced ear, comparisons arise immediately to Impaled Nazarene and Zyklon-B, both of whom used the blasting full-speed attack with undertones of melody to its advantage. A more bestial presence occurs here, taking influence from both the death metal crossover of later black metal and the burly high-intensity rhythm and noisy attack of war metal. The result melds sawing riffs with rising hints of melody and then runs that violence into archly ascending phrases which emphasize a union of the aggression and the beauty into a rejection of all but the pure feral naturalism of both beast and forest. [I]t achieves the rhythmic intensity of current metal in concert with the elements of black metal that made it the most enduring underground metal genre, namely its ability to find purpose in nature and alienation from the corrupted mess that is our society. Both listenable and true to its genre roots, Kaeck opens a door to new possibilities in black metal.
Look for more from this promising old/new fusion that upholds the spirit and outlook of the old underground!
Update: Kaeck has added a second track.