BASED VARG CAN’T BE BOUGHT

Varg Vikernes is one of the rare musicians in death/black metal that won’t sell his soul for the dollar.  In a new video posted to his Thulean Perspective YouTube channel, Varg has revealed that some scumbag promoter has at one point offered over £ 300,000 for him to do a live Burzum show in London.  While many in black metal swore never to play live, almost everyone ranging from Darkthrone to Graveland has given in at some point.  But with the most notorious metal musician in the genre’s history, blood is thicker than water and that’s never been more prevalent than now.

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Satanic and Norse Black Metal: A Comparative Examination of Philosophy and Staying Power

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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.

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#metalgate roundup: the censorship continues

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The ongoing rebellion against censorship in the name of social justice #metalgate continued this week when metal fought back against commercial assimilation. Commercial assimilation and social justice censorship have the same root, which is a desire to make metal “safe” so it can be sold to more people. This requires metal denying its inherently apocalyptic realist nature.

In the most recent case, doofus retailer H&M got trolled when it offered a new line of clothing with fake metal band logos on it, trying to assimilate metal’s subcultural style of dress so conformist herdsters can look like weekend rebels. A member of a goofy metal band thwarted the effort by inventing bands and histories that satirized the clothing line and tied it to nationalist black metal:

Henri Sorvali of Finnish metal bands Moonsorrow and Finntroll admitted to Billboard and Noisey that he is part of Strong Scene Productions, the “art collective” that set metal blogs buzzing by creating fake histories to go along with the imaginary metal band logos attached to some pieces of H&M clothing.

Sorvali says he and a group of people whom he declined to name launched the joke because they were angry at H&M’s campaign — which includes items like a bomber jacket and pants with patches styled to look like metal logos — because it was “selling people fake, imaginary stuff from a subculture that is based on honesty and being true,” he says.

…”There is so much controversial stuff which is definitely not suitable for mass marketing, and we wanted to bring the ugly side of metal to their campaign, to show that we as metalheads are more aware of the content you are selling people that you are as sellers,” Sorvali explained during a phone call from Finland. “There are so many things wrong with commercializing metal without knowing what they are selling that we felt that somebody has to make a statement about it.”

This counter-troll showed great ingenuity and has retailer H&M backing away in denial. The truth is that society fears heavy metal on two levels: conservatives fear it is eroding social standards, despite those standards having been obliterated in the 1960s and 1990s. Liberals fear that it is introducing unwelcome realism that clashes with their spectrum of belief, all of which is based in the Enlightenment idea of individual human reason being superior to natural order, including logic itself.

We shouldn’t forget that censorship of metal bands for being outrageous was common back in the day:

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And remains common to this day, for the same reason:

Politicians caught wind of Eat The Turnbuckle’s European tour before it made its way into Glasgow earlier this week.

Audiences get to listen to their ear-spitting death metal sounds while the members of ETT attack each other with an array of weapons including fluorescent light tubes and baseball bats wrapped in barbed wire.

But despite playing show in Edinburgh, they arrived at Glasgow’s Audio venue only to be turned away over concerns that the police would halt the gig, reports the Daily Record.

While Eat the Turdbuckle seems like a joke band designed to sell records for a gimmick, the fact is that metal’s focus on extremism, or a refusal to ignore the vicious and terrifying sides of life, has made it a target since its inception. Normal people dislike anything which makes them feel as if they are not totally in control of their own lives. Lyrics and imagery of disease, war, apocalypse and evil will disrupt the happy oblivion in which the normal person exists, which was the intent behind heavy metal’s founding: Black Sabbath wanted to interrupt the “peace, love and happiness” apologism for the daily oblivion of humanity, and to inject some “heavy” realism instead. Since that time, metal has continued doing the same when it is at its best, and when it is not so great, has managed at least parodic obscenity that ruffles the feathers of conservatives and makes liberals turn into nagging victim-baiters.

This pattern plays out in more areas than heavy metal. Canadian site Best Gore was censored for its publication of images that revealed both the dark side of life and, by showing that Canada isn’t the paradise under the control of a strong benevolent guiding hand that its leaders want you to think it is, revealing government ineptitude:

Mark was charged with “corrupting morals” under section 163 (1) (a) of the criminal code, for being the first in the world to publish a report on the gruesome murder of Chinese student Jun Lin, by alleged cannibal Luka Magnotta, also known as the 1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick video.

You can see the video below. If you have not figured out that this video might contain disturbing imagery, you have mental health problems. If you require special tags, warning signs and me to make a statement about how I don’t condone this and think it was a horrible tragedy and all the other fake altruistic boiler-plate salesmanship that political figures normally use, you’re a potato and should go somewhere else.

Update: Google has threatened to remove ads from our site because we hosted this video. If you do not believe that monopolistic corporations are as much a threat to civil liberties as government, you are not paying attention.

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What most people refuse to accept is that censorship is the norm.

People do not like feeling out of control, and they only feel in control when in denial of all the scary things they can’t control like… death, disease, war, apocalypse, evil, and everything else in heavy metal lyrics.

Consider the case of Girls and Corpses magazine, which has not only been banned several times from Facebook, but had censorship issues in other areas:

We’ve had some problems. We did a Religion Is Dead issue and Ingram, I believe, is in Tennessee. They made us bag the magazine, because we did a religion issue. They said it was because of nudity, but there has never been any nudity in the magazine. They didn’t like that we took on religion. We went after all religions and it was comedic. We had Jim Caviezel in the issue. I did an interview with him. We made fun of all religions. Have a sense of humor. The only one we really tiptoed around was Muslims. We love Muhammad. We didn’t tread there.

The editors of Girls and Corpses had this to say about the Facebook censorship:

Sorry I haven’t posed in a day corpses. I was ‘put on notice’ by Facebook after I posted a fully clothed photo of a female, that offended some loony chic who had her Bible Belt cinched too tight. This “community standards” thing at Facebook is censorship pure and simple. Mostly, the offended party is someone jealous of the freedoms that come with G&C Magazine or are simply a humorless twit. If you don’t like something at Girls and Corpses, feel free to just leave. Don’t go whining to Facebook that we have offended you with our images. If you are too sensitive and have no sense of humor why did you friend us in the first place? Girls and Corpses is an intelligence test. The smart ones get the gag and the dumb ones should just get out… preferably at high altitude.

They make an important point, which is that those who call for this censorship are fundamentally not ideological, but seeking a sense of power. They don’t understand it, or it conflicts with their vision of themselves, so they demand it be removed. Facebook, like any other business, does what it can to provide a safe environment for its customers, which means removing things that make people feel unsafe, like nudity, violence, gore, racial comments, sexual innuendo, etc. These things are not the offense that people actually have, which is fear of the bad things that happen which are associated with these ideas. They see the symbol and, like the superstitious simians that humans are, they figure if they can remove the symbol and by doing so remove the awareness in their own minds of what it stands for, they can be in control and feel “safe.” All of that is nonsense on a realist level, but it’s how most customers an voters react.

What this means for #metalgate is that we should not take SJWs seriously. They are no different than the church ladies and feminists who were complaining about Girls and Corpses or the outraged government servants who wanted the Luke Magnotta video removed. They see it as a threat to their personal power. They need a “reason” why it should be taken down, and so they fall back on using social conventions we cannot criticize, like “do it for the children” or “respect the victim’s family” or ideologies which claim to defend the pitied and helpless, like feminism, anti-racism, sexual equality and the like. We make a mistake when we think SJWs believe any of this stuff. In reality, they are using it the same way commercials use sex to sell beer or tough guy images to sell pickup trucks: they want to create a pleasant image, or at least one we cannot imagine criticizing, in our minds and then use it to sell us the product. In this case, it’s their power and importance, because without their outrage they would have nothing and merely be a group of weird-looking socially-dysfunctional mental defectives.

“EAT THE TURNBUCKLE VS NECRO BUTCHER at GWARBQ” Youtube video censored by Google, who own Youtube.

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#JeSuisCharlie and #metalgate are the same battlefield

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The outrage over a relatively minor terrorist event shows us that the nerve that was hit had to do with more than terrorism. The events at the Charlie Hebdo HQ called into question many of the most basic aspects of our society.

We do not like to admit it, but the shots fired in Paris are just the latest in what can be described as an ideological war. Those who control what we see, hear and read are able to control the next generation by instructing their assumptions about life itself. Every side in this battle is fighting to get its message into the mainstream and crowd out other messages.

When talking about dystopia, people are fond of quoting this book, so I’ll do the same:

“He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” ― George Orwell, 1984

This is a necessary consequence of both democracy and capitalism. If you control the message, you can amass a mob to be your personal army without them knowing it. If you tell people the sky is supposed to be green, and they see this in school, on TV and in print magazines, they will consider sky-is-blue people to be dangerous lunatics and ostracize them, which squeezes them out of society and eventually achieves total consensus.

Our modern society contains many competing groups and ideologies and each wants to control the discussion. In the meantime, the authorities and big industry want to provide non-answers to force compromise and the continuation of business as usual. This is why they always talk about peace, compassion, tolerance and empathy: those methods do not rock the boat or change its course at all, because they say that the problem is not the problem, but how we think about it. Just change your thinking!

In addition, these are popular ideas because they make us feel good, which makes them perfect products. People spend a lot of money to feel good. Whether it is buying an Audi to feel successful, taking Zoloft to feel cheerful, purchasing a copy of Mother Jones (or Fox News) to feel righteous anger and the satisfaction of being “right,” people like to feel good. And feeling good is all about changing your thinking, not addressing the actual underlying problem.

While 1984 was great, Brave New World may be scarier. As Amusing Ourselves to Death depicts, in Huxley’s vision of dystopia we are not controlled by a totalitarian government, but enforce totalitarianism on ourselves… in our best interests. People pursue pleasure, become oblivious to reality, and create instead a hateful society where boredom and misery dominate, but all the problems have been “solved” by enforcing compromise through law and technology.

On the other side of the coin, ideologues — including extreme Islam or whatever we’re calling it this week — seduce us away from the world of pleasurable non-meaning by appeal to our sense of being important. We fear irrelevance most of all, and dying in a blaze of glory for jihad, the environment, the white race, etc. appeals to those who have simply noticed how boring our society is. This side is fighting hard to get its message out there too. The pleasure zombies and ideologues are both vying for ad space… in your mind.

Metal is important because it does not subscribe to either of these extremes, which it portrays as two aspects of the same thing. Metal looks at reality itself, and sees the nature of life as power, and so un-does the reasoning behind the ideological and pleasure zombie groups out there. They hate it for that. Metal is the outsider, the kid who refuses to go along with the agenda that the teacher wants everyone to follow, the actual non-conformist. And in popular music, where Baby Boomer attitudes have held sway for forty years now, metal is the ultimate minority. We do not buy into the easy solutions offered by these people.

We do not seek “tolerance.” – Erik Danielsson, Watain

99% of the voices we hear in media are repeating the same easy lies to us. They are doing this to conceal the problem and lull us into easy oblivion yet again. Since metal refuses to play along with this agenda, we are a target. They want to take over metal and turn it into a different voice repeating another angle of the same crap the other 99% are repeating. They want to use us for their propaganda, much like Charlie Hebdo was counter-propaganda to radical Islam and got shot down as a result. The only honorable course of action, and the only one that is not a path to total irrelevance, is for metal to stand up and resist these attempts by others to make us tools of their system.

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