I am in no way being sarcastic when I say that Black Metal music and lyrics are indeed art. Thought provoking art no less. Now as to whether it is lowbrow art or highbrow art is for you to decide.
Unfortunately some Black Metal artists’ lyrics in question (see some Horna lyrics at the end of this essay) make some people, myself included, really uncomfortable. I can deal with the atheism but some people can’t. What myself, and a large portion of the general public (some of them are even Metal fans themselves) have an even bigger problem with are the NSBM (National Socialist Black Metal) lyrics dealing with racism, Satanism, Nazism and fascism in general.
I never really cared too much until some of these bands music/lyrics seemed to be used for a sort of call to arms. A call to arms to burn churches, discriminate against non-whites and the LGBTQ community and in some extreme cases to bring about a societal and racial war.
Black Metal and National Socialist Black Metal imagery is thought provoking enough to put a lot of people off. A non-Black Metal example is Slayer’s logo with the Falcon and sword. NSBM band Abgeneight’s logo is far from subtle incorporating an Aryan Nations logo in their name. Now combine the above imagery with racist and/or fascist lyrics and it all makes it hard to swallow for many people inside and outside of the Black Metal scene. Especially when it seems like, lyrically or otherwise, many Black Metal bands are NOT this way.
Some BM bands claim that these sort of racist and fascist lyrics are just sarcasm or that they are being ironic. Unfortunately some people will NEVER pick up on the nuances of said lyrics. I’ve read some lyrics by Taake, Horna (lyrics at the end of this essay), Marduk, Watain and Peste Noire and all of them seem to defend themselves in a similar fashion. Hoest of Taake a few years back performed in Germany with a swastika on his chest. Not only is this illegal in Germany but it is insensitive to the survivors and victims of the Holocaust and other despicable acts by Hitler. Hoest told his detractors that he was just trying to provoke a response and that they could, “Go suck a Muslim.”
Provoking a response is fine but Hoest should have known what he was getting into by wearing a swastika in Germany. Unfortunately by telling someone to, “Go suck a Muslim” it is the equivalent of a 6 year old saying, “I know you are but what am I?” when the 6 year old is insulted in the schoolyard at recess.
I also found the excuse that Taake performed in Tel Aviv pretty lame. It’s like when a white person is accused of being racist and they defensively respond by saying that they have a black friend. I was also wondering that since performing in Tel Aviv proves that you don’t hate Jews then would Taake perform in Gaza or the West Bank to prove that they don’t hate Muslims? I guess that time will only tell.
I have also read NSBM bands say that they can’t control their fans and that they are just creating and releasing confrontational art. Well that’s a great way to wash your hands of some of your over-zealous fans burning churches or performing racist acts of violence. Again, it’s a weak defence by NSBM bands that makes them dog-whistlers at best and gas-lighters at worst.
I’d like to point something else out here that not all BM fans will get the sarcasm, irony or the inside joke that BM bands are not Nazis. When growing up I listened to a lot of punk rock and hardcore and I remember seeing at a very young age the Sex Pistols wearing swastika-clad shirts. I hardly understood that they were being ironic, but then again I was barely a teenager. The same goes for songs like Chanel 3’s “I Got a Gun” or the “Dead Kennedys” band name. Until it was all explained to me at an older age it all went right over my head.
So what if Peste Noire meant no harm with his Black Face “art”? I can safely speak for my black friends when I say that Black Face is horribly racist. No matter how you want to spin it, it is racist and in some cases, even to me, is terrifying. Just to clear it up Black Face is representative of the whites being racist and oppressing the already oppressed non-whites. I also find it horrifying that in 2019 there are still white people who think that this sort of crap is OK. Especially when mass shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand and the incident in Charlottesville, North Carolina are becoming more and more commonplace. The sort of implicit incitement of the lowest common denominator of Black Metal fans is totally irresponsible. Beyond that it is totally criminal that any bands, including Black Metal bands, can get away with this dog whistling.
Most Black Metal bands also claim to be different from the masses with their art. They even claim that their corpse paint is unique but unfortunately to a layman’s eye such as mine, I can’t tell a difference between a non-fascist song from a NSBM song or even Marduk’s corpse paint from shitty KISS’s shitty make up either.
I find the corpse paint thing hilarious whereas a lot of Black Metal bands have no sense of humour about it or for that matter, much of a sense of humour at all. Just ask a Black Metal band or some diehard fans what they think of the New Zealand movie “Deathgasm” and you’ll see how funny they find it. I find Black Metal’s lack of humour frustrating because they can make fun of you, but don’t make fun of their uniforms.
A good portion of Black Metal’s humour is directed at anyone who wants a safe space at a show. I have been to a great deal of shows with no safe spaces at all and at one said show I ended up going home with a sprained wrist and a minor stab wound in my lower back. Though I knew what I was getting into because I was up front at most of the show. Some people would like to enjoy the show without getting a sprained wrist or a minor stab wound. In my opinion safe spaces and non-safe spaces are both equally as valuable.
There is also a certain amount of hypocrisy involved with BM & NSBM bands alike when they are just trying to put out provoking or confrontational music but don’t want any restrictions on their art. The hypocrisy is that if you don’t want your art restricted then you can’t expect to have restrictions put on people’s reactions to your art. Whether that is rave reviews of your albums and live shows or Antifa protesting in front of the venues where you’re performing. You made your bed now you can sleep in it. I don’t agree with protesting in front of venues myself but I don’t blame Antifa for their actions against NSBM shows.
I think that if all that happens to you is a few protestors or a show being cancelled then consider yourself lucky. It is surprising that an individual or individuals don’t take matter into their own hands and silence you. Like someone may have silenced Ian Stuart Donaldson of the popular white supremacist punk band Skrewdriver. Reportedly a potential factor in his death in a car crash was that it appeared as if someone tampered with his shocks as well as placed a nail in one of his car’s rear tires.
My Grandfather, who fought Nazis in World War 2, would be aghast that fascism is taking root not just in Canada but now the rest of the world. I’m aghast too since the Nazi/fascist playbook never ended well for anyone but especially for the Nazi fascists. The prime example of this was the evening of June 30th, 1934 called “The Night of the Long Knives.” Which was early on in Hitler’s reign of terror and did not go so well for the uniform wearing Brown Shirts. So it didn’t go well for people in uniforms and it didn’t fare much better for people not in uniforms either. It didn’t go well for Jews, non-whites, homosexuals, and people with disabilities or even antisocial people either. What evidence do you have that leaders of any fascist regime would spare a bunch of people with long hair, piercings and tattoos? People like us (Punks and Metalheads alike) would most likely be some of the first to go because we are all (like Black Metal and NSBM bands think) quite different from the masses. Maybe Black Metal bands look like each other but in most cases we look completely different from the masses.
Back in the 1920s Hitler co-opted the real socialist party and their name and eventually renamed it the Nazi Party. He kept the socialist moniker to appeal to the lower classes and the disenfranchised, It would appear that NSBM bands are taking a page from Hitler’s playbook, again. Keep the Socialist title to make your vitriol sound more palatable to the masses.
You’d hope that my essay would provoke a few NSBM bands and their fans to read a few history books. You’d also hope that the Black Metal bands and their fans would agree with my provoking essay and show the NSBM bands and their fans the error of their ways. It’s not a stretch to say that I would like to be on the right side of history, something NSBM bands and their fans are not and will not be. Realistically this is a long shot and I know that I’m opening myself up to an attack from some Black Metal bands and their fans. But unlike a lot of Black Metal & National Socialist Black Metal bands and their fans I can sleep in the bed that I made.
“Noutajan kutsu” by HORNA
Kun kellot eivät enää saata hautajaisia
Kun talot myrkytetyt tarjoavat kuolemaa
Kun ystävien kanssa aamiaisen syötyään
Illallisen jakaa enää kirjo esi-isien
Kun kylät eivät ota vastaan muukalaisia
Kun hylättyä tietä suru yksin vaeltaa
Kun rauniouden suojaa ei etsi yksikään
Ja tervetullut on vain muisto entisten
Kun ei arkunkantajaksi suostu oma perhekkään
Kun yksin vuoteen omaksi jää viimehetkinään
Kun herramme saa vihdoin todistaa
Juudean kansan tuhoa ja kuolemaa
“Invitation To Retrieve” – Translated
When watches no longer serve as funeral
When houses are poisoned offer death
After having breakfast with friends
Dinner divides anymore into a spectrum of ancestors
When villages do not accept strangers
When an abandoned road grieved alone wanders
No one is looking for the ruin protection
And welcome is just the memory of the former
Invitator Invitation …
When you do not agree with your family as a recruiter
When alone the bed remains your last moment
When our Lord can finally prove
The destruction and death of the Jewish people
Invitator Invitation …
The last dance
Dance is charming