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Sunday 9 June 2019

Opinion: Anti-Fascist Black Metal & NSBM UPDATED (Essay By Paul S)

Discussion Of Anti-Fascist Black Metal and NSBM.

I love Black Metal. Out of all of the sub-genres of Heavy Metal, Black Metal is the one that speaks to me the most. Although I love it almost unconditionally, there is a part of Black Metal that has always bothered me a lot, to the extent that I feel deeply embarrassed of it. I’m talking about NSBM. For the uninitiated thats National Socialist Black Metal, Black Metal that is ideologically and lyrically obsessed with Hitler's National Socialist Party, yes that's Nazi Black Metal (I’ll be using the term ‘Nazi’ in this discussion, I’m not playing Richard Spencer’s dirty little game of re-branding Nazism as ‘Alt-Right’. I’m also not going to name any of the NSBM Bands, it’s easy to find them and I’m not giving them the oxygen of publicity).

About 18 month ago I was talking to a metalhead friend about Black Metal. I suggested that she have a listen to a particular type of Black Metal (atmospheric) as I felt it was emotionally close to some of the music that she listened to, and I thought she would get a lot out of it. I found her response a little worrying, “I don’t listen to Black Metal, I’m not a satanist or a fascist so I don’t think It’s for me.” She was someone who I know has been a fan of Heavy Metal since she was a teenager, she is very knowledgeable about Heavy Metal, and yet she thought Black Metal was only about satan or fascism? Was this really how Black Metal was perceived from outside? Do people automatically think I’m a Nazi simply because I’m wearing an Immortal shirt? My friend and I carried on talking, I explained to her how much of Black Metal was actually Nazi (very little), and I think I managed to convince her that her impression of Black Metal wasn’t accurate, in fact, I’m pretty certain she does now listen to Black Metal. I managed to clear up my friends misapprehension, but how many other metalheads have avoided Black Metal due to this perceived connection to Nazism? It’s not just how Black Metal and its fans are seen by people outside of the scene that bothers me. I have always been baffled by the use of Nazi and Fascist ideologies in Black Metal, anyone who knows anything about Heavy Metal or Black Metal should be bemused by the connection, it simply does not fit. Let me explain.

Fascism is a political ideology that emerged in the first half of the Twentieth Century. The term was first used by Benito Mussolini, when he named his political party Combat Fascism, shortly after the end of the first world war. Fascism is an ultra right wing ideology that is based on having a political and financial elite, who rule over the masses. Fascist parties and leaders tend to use nationalistic rhetoric, racism and prejudice against immigrants as a way to gain popular support. In 1930’s Europe the demonised minority was Jews as they were a convenient scapegoat. Hatred of Muslims is currently being used in Europe and America. It does not matter who is demonised and attacked, as long as they are ‘other’, separate from what is considered the mainstream.

This year in Poland there have been very large (numbers in the tens of thousands) far right marches and rallies, that have been attended by members of Poland's very far right government, where chants and placards have been calling for a “Muslim Holocaust”. Fascism is usually anti-democratic, fascist parties use democracy to come to power, before dismantling all democratic structures from the administration of their society. Fascism is about power, maintaining power and not allowing dissent by crushing freedoms and individuality. Fascism usually goes hand in hand with extreme versions of capitalism, both ideologies are based on exploitation of the weak or poor. The racist / anti-immigration rhetoric is usually used to distract people from the damage to society caused by capitalism. Fascism, Capitalism, Racism and hatred of minorities have been used for years to protect political and financial elites.

Nazism is an ideology that grew out of fascism. Created by Hitler, Nazism is an extreme version of Fascism. Fascism states that subjugation of certain parts of society is acceptable, that people of different races, sexes, classes, sexual preference etc. have different values, so discriminating against people based on these differences is acceptable. Nazism takes this further. Nazism states that not all races have a right to life, and that the extermination of those races is acceptable as it allows peoples that do have a right to life to have more space and resources. As Hannah Arendt put it in The Origins Of Totalitarianism “The principle difference between Fascism and Nazism is violence, mass murder”. If you display the swastika, if you do the Nazi salute, if you wear a T-shirt with the slogan ‘Hitler Was Right’ on it, then you are calling for racist mass murder. Not just condoning it, calling for it, you are screaming for thousands of people to be killed due to being slightly different from what the mainstream consider is acceptable.

So, how does an authoritarian, deeply controlling, capitalist loving doctrine fit in with Black Metal? Black Metal is a musical style that has always championed individuality. One of the main reasons Black Metal has so many sub-genres and sub-sub-genres and sub-sub-sub-subbity-sub-genres is due to this love of individualism. Bands are criticised for sounding like other bands. Experimenting and combining different musical styles is SO Black Metal, no other genre of metal would have produced Enslaved, Sigh, Thy Catafalque, Solefald, Ulver or A Forest Of Stars. A political ideology that hates individualism and has as one of its aims a population that thinks, acts and feels the same way is the antithesis of this. If Black Metal was naturally a right wing thing, then the level of creativity and individuality that it contains could not exist.

Nazism is about authority and control of a population. To put it bluntly, you do as you are told or you are killed. So, Nazism is about conforming, it’s about being good. Conforming? How is that a trait of Black Metal? If Black Metal is anything, it’s Rebellious. NSBM bands are telling you obey, to observe the rules, to be good little children that do as their leaders tell them. At the moment America has a very right wing President who is supporting White Supremacists (Basically American Nazis who are obsessed with inbreeding), so at the moment American Nazism involves saluting the flag and supporting the president. How is this rebellious? The world we live in is very right wing, how is supporting an ideology that is a slightly more extreme form of the status quo an act of rebellion? It isn’t, not in any way. Most NSBM bands would happily agree with anything that is published in The Daily Mail, included in a UKIP pamphlet or broadcast on Fox News. All the views put forward by NSBM bands are the height of conformity, masquerading as some form of revolutionary act. Stop telling me to be good and conform, I didn’t behave when my parents told me to, I’m buggered if I’m conforming because some corpse-painted Nigel Farage say so.

Anti-individualism and pro-conformity aren’t traits I’d associate with Black Metal. Maybe rampant capitalism and commercially, are essential qualities of Black Metal? No, not even close. How many times have you heard of Black Metal bands only releasing 500 copies of an album, and then only 250 on tape and 250 on vinyl? How many times have you heard of Black Metal bands having no band pictures, or not allowing journalists to know who they are? Joseph Goebbels pioneered many techniques that are still used in the PR industries, the rampant saturation of advertising and marketing we have in our society grew out of Nazi experiments with propaganda. Nazi Germany was probably the most effectively branded society in history. Strong Brand Identity? Again, the opposite of what we see if we look at Black Metal. Fascist and Nazi societies tend to have very commercialised media and culture. The Nazi’s were massively supported by large corporations.The Holocaust was sponsored by major brand names that would be recognisable to anyone reading this today. A scene as underground and anti-commercial as Black Metal does not fit into this at all. Also the home made, do it yourself ethos of Black Metal is far closer to a punk, and therefore Anarchist (non-authoritarian Left wing) outlook than an ultra-commercial Nazi one.

Right, well capitalism is out then, maybe this is about Satan, maybe the connection with Satanism is how you get Nazism into Black Metal? I am an atheist, I take as much notice of Satanists as I do of Christians; none. I was, however, raised in a very, very christian household. I am aware of the Fall of Lucifer myth that is common to the Abrahamic religions. As I understand it, Lucifer and the other angels that rebelled against god, rebelled because god would not give them free will. Angels were gods slaves, and lucifer led a rebellion against god to free himself and his fellow angels. Lucifer free’d slaves, Lucifer was an anarchist rebelling against an oppressive, authoritarian leader. Germany was a devoutly Christian country in the first half of the twentieth century, Hitler used this, he compared Nazi leaders to saints and himself to Jesus Christ. No matter what the plot lines of Indiana Jones or Hellboy films might suggest, Hitler was not Satanist, Nazism isn’t getting into Black Metal that way.

O.K. so Satanism is out then. Odin, maybe Odinism is a way to crowbar Nazism into Black Metal, could it be those pesky Vikings? I have seen statements from NSBM bands claiming that they follow a belief system called Hitleric Wotonism, a combination of Nazism and Nordic Mythology, Mein Kampf with added Odin. No, that doesn’t work either. Although viking raiding parties are very well known, the vikings weren’t all about violence and conquest. They also used their seafaring skills to trade and settle areas. In viking society, authority was from a Ground Up model, not a Top Down model (authority is given from the masses to leaders that are accountable to their people, rather than authority being forced on them from an unaccountable authoritarian leader). Viking society was much more like an anarchist society, far less hierarchical than an extreme right wing society. People were governed by consent, involved in their own government, not by a threat from above. There were far fewer coercive laws and always an option to opt-out.

The same can be said about pre-roman Anglo Saxon society, much closer to an anarchist model, rather than Fascist. Although, with the last 2 points, I should say that comparing ancient societies with modern political ideologies, is always going to be problematic. Many early forms of government were due to necessity caused by scarcity of resources and low population densities. It is pointless to try to compare Pre-industrial with Post-industrial, repressive societies. So many of the factors needed for a repressive regime are not present in a Pre-industrial society; mass transport, mass communications and mass media infrastructure are all essential for the control of the masses in a fascist or nazi society, so the lack of them makes ancient Nazism an impossibility . Any attempt to connect ancient societies with extreme right wing ideologies is deeply disingenuous.

Fascism and Nazism are both openly racist ideologies. Heavy Metal grew out of the Blues, a type of music intimately associated with Black culture, that was an important source of identity and strength during the oppression of people of colour, and in the civil rights movement. If The Nazi’s had won the second world war, or if Britain had gone fascist in the 1930’s, the British Blues explosion of the 1960’s would never have happened. No Hendrix coming to this country in 1967 and influencing just about everyone who had ever picked up a guitar. No Cream, no Blue Cheer, no Earth Blues Band, no Black Sabbath, so no Heavy Metal, and by extension, no Black Metal.

Nazism and Fascism also tend to be homophobic as well. Apart from Black Sabbath, probably the most important band involved in the formation of Heavy Metal was Judas Priest. Lead singer of Judas Priest and all round Metal God Rob Halford is gay. If fitting in with your NSBM orthodoxy means hating Rob Halford, well, that's just about the least metal thing I can think of. Also, Rob Halford is responsible for the ‘look’ that we associate with Heavy Metal, maybe the NSBM bands and fans should think about where the leather and studs they wear came from.

There are also bands who use Nazi semiology whilst claiming that “We are not a political band, so it can’t have been a political act”. Well once you Nazi salute or use the swastika you have made your band into a political band, that's how it works. Do a political act, you’re a political band.

As you have probably picked up already, If I was going to ascribe a political ideology to Black Metal (I’m not sure if we should be making music fit in with political ideologies, but I didn’t start this, the NSBM bands did), then it would be Anarchism and not Fascism or Nazism. Black Metal simply isn’t authoritarian, commercial, conforming, controlled or narrow in its outlook. Black Metal is wild and free, Black Metal feels like anarchism.

For quite a few years I’ve been bothered by NSBM, but I’ve also been bothered by the attitude of a lot of Black metal fans to NSBM. The occasional bit of condemnation of the metal media, along the lines of “this publication does not agree with, or condone the views etc.” just doesn’t cut it. It felt like metalheads are a little embarrassed of speaking out, terrified to say what they think in case someone accuses them of not being ‘Cvlt’ or ‘True’. Other extreme genres, particularly those that grew out of Punk like Hardcore and Grindcore are happy to have a go at Nazis. Napalm Death have been telling Nazi Punks to Fuck Off for years. I agree with Dietrich Bonnhoeffer when he said: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” (Bonnhoeffer was a member of the German Resistance to Hitler, he was murdered by the Nazi’s 2 weeks before the end of the Second World War) So, in the last couple of years I’ve been pleased to see that Black Metal has started to kick back at these viscous, deeply un-metal idiots. The first band I was aware of were Dawn Ray’d. Although Dawn Ray’d have an anarchist stance rather than strictly anti-fascist, as anarchism is the political opposite of fascism, they have clear anti-nazi sentiments. Dawn Ray’d have been joined by a whole host of other bands that are taking an obvious anti-nazi attitude to Black Metal, but also an obvious anti-NSBM stance.

Calling out NSBM bands for what they are: conforming racists who are so part of the status quo it would be laughable if some people didn’t take them seriously. Bands like Libtrigger,, Underdark, Twilight Fauna, Void Ritual, Kosmogyr, Forbihavet and Neckbeard Deathcamp (I’ll be reviewing both Neckbeard Deathcamp albums after this discussion, in fact this whole article started as a review of their original album), have stepped up to push in the opposite direction. These Black Metal bands have been joined by bands from all over the Heavy Metal world, so we also have Nekroi Theoi (Death Metal), Stormland (Death Metal), My Lonely Sea (Post Black Metal), Violet Cold (Post Black Metal), Ithaca (Hardcore), Allfather (Hardcorey doom or Doomy Hardcore, I’m not totally sure how to class Allfather, but whichever way it is, their riffs kill fascists, and that's what matters!), Redbait (Crust Punk), Misandr (Harsh Noise), Hellripper (Black Thrash) and many, many others. There are more and more new bands every day, the Anti-fascist metal scene is one of the most exiting areas of music at the moment. It’s not just bands, where you get a scene full of bands, you will also find record companies as well.

There are now several Record Companies that specialise in bands with an overt Anti-Fascist stance, the music is extreme but the ethos is welcoming and inclusive. Some that have this overt Anti-Fascist outlook are: Tridroid Records (@tridroidrecords), An Out Recordings (anout.storenvy.com), Music For Liberation (musicforliberation.com), Alerta Antifascista Records (@DoomrockShop Doomrock.com), and Astral Noize Records (astralnoizeuk.com). There are also record companies that are officially apolitical, but seem to only be signing bands that have an ethical outlook. Probably the most well known of these would be Prosthetic Records (prostheticrecords.com @prostheticRcds) who have a roster of bands that shows a clear intent not to sign ‘problematic’ bands. Also most Anti-Fascist bands would have problems with being on a record company with NSBM bands, so if a record company has lots of Anti-Fascist bands on their books, then they are probably safe. Here's a few that I’ve been advised are decent: Yehonala Tapes (Bandcamp, Facebook), Vendetta Records (vendettarecords.de), Pushteek Records (Bandcamp), and Exalted Woe Records (exaltedwoerecords.com). All these companies are on Bandcamp, I’ve put in website and twitter names if they have that as well. I’ve just scratched the surface, I’m sure there are many more out there, Happy Exploring!

It’s almost as if there was a massive number of metalheads who felt the same way about NSBM, and were just waiting for an anti-fascist heavy metal movement to start! A lot of the bands are very wary of letting people know who they are, as the reaction from the NSBM world has been very angry and violent (it’s amazing how easily triggered these Nazi snowflakes are). The people who are behind these bands are taking a real risk by attacking NSBM. Now THAT is radical, THAT is rebellion. The natural place to find Anti-fascist Black Metal is on Bandcamp and Twitter, have a look at a few bands, they’ll help you find more (this is a proper musical movement after all), and have a listen to some truly radical bands.

I’m sure that there are NSBM fans reading this and composing threats and insults about me, they’re probably using words like Loser, Faggot or Poser. I’m probably making them incredibly angry as they don’t have the intellect or knowledge of politics or history to counter any of these arguments. They are probably clutching at their tiny, tiny penises for comfort. To these people I’d like to take this opportunity to say: Stop telling me to conform, don’t tell me to be good, how dare you tell me what music I can and cannot listen to, and I don’t want to sound intolerant, but: Bugger off out of my sub-culture and stop embarrassing the rest of us who aren’t braindead racist arseholes.

And, one last point about NSBM; Hitler hated music that was not traditional and German, he was a particular fan of Bavarian Oompah bands. So maybe NSBM bands should put the guitars away and should start learning the Trombone or the Tuba.


Neckbeard Deathcamp:White Nationalism Is For Basement Dwelling Losers (Prosthetic Records)

As you’ve probably picked up from the piece above this, Neckbeard Deathcamp aren’t a fan of NSBM. I can’t tell you anything about the members of the band as no information is available due to the level of risk Anti-fascist bands take criticising Nazism. As America is a country where White Supremacy and guns are legal, speaking out is risky. Neckbeard Deathcamp play War Metal. That's the most extreme form of Black Metal that exists. It’s deliberately difficult and impenetrable, war metal bands go out of their way it alienate their listeners. The music is low-fi and as brutal, fast, and nasty as it’s possible to get. To my ears the style is quite similar to Black Witchery. A lot of metalheads will not like this album, it’s just too extreme. I’ve always quite liked War Metal, it is niche, but if you want staggering brutality, there really isn’t anything that will touch it. This album has horrific, de-tuned, dense riffs, echoey guttural vocals and blast-beats that, well, sound like a war.

Lyrically, this is going to annoy all those oh so serious NSBM fans. The album mercilessly rips the piss out of the NSBM scene, the music, the culture, the ideology, nothing is safe. Humour has always been an effective tool against extreme political ideologies. Thats why satirists are the first people to be arrested when a despot comes to power. Nothing destroys the veneer of power more than being laughed at. Neckbeard Deathcamp are in the same business as Charlie Chaplin was in, when he made The Great Dictator. Song titles like XXXL Obersturmfuhrer Leather Duster, don’t really need to be explained. They also rip into the behaviour of Neckbeards online with the wonderfully titled Please Respond (I Showed You My Penis). The album is brought to an end by an outro called The Fetishization Ov Asian Women Despite A Demand For A Pure White Race, which is an industrial noisescape, with a pretty intelligent voiceover that deals with how people are conned into these beliefs. This is a really extreme album. It won’t be to everyone's taste. I really like it, and I love the band simply for existing. Anyone who can annoy this many Nazi’s, is alright with me. 8/10

And in case you missed it their new album:

Neckbeard Deathcamp: So Much For The Tolerant Left (Prosthetic Records)

Neckbeard Deathcamp are a bit of an enigma. Hated by fascists, loved by anarchists, communists and anti-racists. Very little is known about the 2 main members or the live members (Neckbeard Deathcamp are now a live entity) of the band, according to their Bandcamp page they are based in Bordeaux, France, although that is probably just to troll Nazi poster boy Varg, who now lives in France (where he was arrested a couple of years ago for far right terrorism offences). So Much For The Tolerant Left is their second album, the follow up to last years White Nationalism Is For Basement Dwelling Losers. Musically this is war metal, so everything is pushed to ridiculous levels of extremity and savageness. This massively over the top approach to sonic extremity will put a lot of people off, war metal is purposely impenetrable, and difficult. This extreme music, mixed with a political and ethical standpoint that is diametrically apposed to some of the grandee’s of black and war metal elite, has gained the band the tag of ‘Joke band’ to a lot of fans of those Grandees. So, let’s deal with this label first.

Yes, Neckbeard Deathcamp use humour to attack the far right. The cover of Richard Spencer being wedgied by a spiked arm-banded hand is funny. Ok, if you like Richard Spencer it isn’t funny, but then, if you like Richard Spencer enough to be upset by this cover, you probably didn’t have a sense of humour in the first place. Also, song titles like Shitpostnacht, and What Are The Cargo Pockets For Lanza Extra Mags?, are also funny if you aren’t a nazi. However, using humour as a weapon against the far right, is a very well used way of attacking Nazism, just look at Charlie Chaplin’s Film The Great Dictator, Neckbeard Deathcamp are just continuing this tradition is taking the piss out of pathetic Nazi losers.

The accusation that Neckbeard Deathcamp make music that is a joke, is also not really a valid argument. The riffs are simple and brutal, the pacing is insanely fast, and the vocals drip reverb and staggering aggression. Or, to put it another way, it’s war metal. If Neckbeard Deathcamp are a joke, then so are all war metal bands, you can add Revenge and Black Witchery to the ‘Joke’. There are some really great, filthy riffs on here, the aforementioned track What Are the Cargo Pockets For Lanza Extra Mags? has some cracking second wave black metal riffs in it. The opening riff of Bricks Out For Harambe have a blackened grindcore feel to them that is really great. So the riffs are sickening and extreme, whats not to like about that?

Personally I really like the vocals, the reverb makes them sound ridiculously huge, and if people are complaining about that, then that shows an issue with war metal rather than specifically with Neckbeard Deathcamp. Another note about vocals, this album features vocals from Karl Willets of Bolt Thrower and Memoriam, and Denis Boardman of Doom; any other war metal albums have vocals by Extreme Metal royalty? No didn’t think so. This is not an album for the faint hearted (Musically or politically), it’s extreme and nasty, and it really upsets Nazi’s. What more do you want from your war metal? After all, isn’t this sort of extremity meant to upset people? 8/10    

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