I don’t really care about the brew-ha-ha surrounding Neil Young’s decision to take all his songs of off Spotify. It’s his decision, plus I’m not a big fan of either Neil Young or Joe Rogan. What brothers me, though, is the way some people talk about it like Neil Young has morphed into some kind of authoritarian ideologue for…voluntarily deciding that he doesn’t want to share a platform with someone he disagrees with and hence requesting that his songs be removed from there.
Understanding this requires only a very basic examination of the concept of freedom of association. Freedom of association means that an individual has the right to voluntarily join or leave a group of their choice, that a collective entity has the right organize on behalf of its members, and that groups can accept or decline membership based on what criteria they decide. Based on that rather basic overview, there’s really nothing Neil Young did that goes outside of that concept. All he did was decide that Joe Rogan’s talking points about vaccines (which often objectively constitute misinformation) meant that he couldn’t share a platform with Joe Rogan, and requested that Spotify remove his songs, which they did.
Whether we agree with that decision or not, and personally I don’t really care what he does with his music, all this amounts to is Joe Rogan exercising his freedom of association. But apparently, exercising your right to freedom of association is not only worthy of mockery, for some it actually represents a form of censorship and authoritarianism. I can’t stress enough how backwards you have to get these concepts in order to arrive at that conclusion. True, Neil Young did ask for Spotify to remove The Joe Rogan Experience podcast from their platform on the grounds of Covid-19 misinformation, but when Spotify refused, he merely chose to leave the platform rather than call upon “big government” to censor the podcast, and from there Spotify took no action that was not in accord with the voluntary request of Neil Young. Perhaps if they decide to remove The Joe Rogan Experience as a response to some public outcry, then maybe we could theoretically talk about censorship, and even then you could also argue about freedom of association, since that also mean people or groups being free to decide who gets to use their platform based on their own criteria. The so-called “free speech alternatives” are if anything often more restrictive than mainstream social media. Gab can actually censor you if you post certain memes or porn, and even Trump’s new social media project bans speech that is deemed “hateful”. But every time I see that stuff, the people on those sites justify it. So whose freedom of association is valid and whose isn’t?
You know, everyone likes to quote George Orwell. Yes, even Marxists do it. Anyone who is even remotely familiar with his famous novel 1984 should recognise the concept of doublethink, usually defined as the practice of accepting two mutually contradicting beliefs and ideas as simultaneously true. In 1984, this happens as a result of indoctrination. But in the real world, people train themselves into it all the time, and Joe Rogan’s defenders demonstrate this process themselves. The usual example of doublethink given for the novel is that classic slogan, “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength”. But in the case of the Joe Rogan squad, freedom of association is oppression and voluntary acts unto yourself are compulsion of others.
There really isn’t much more to say here and it really is a non-issue, an inflated controversy, so let’s just leave that there.
Back in August this year there was a controversy surrounding the Steelfest Open Air festival in Finland, which for about a decade had been one of the nation’s most prolific extreme metal festivals and is set to return in 2022, after the global Covid-19 pandemic prevented them and several other music festivals around the world from playing. The festival also attracted attention for the fact that Sodom and other famous and respectable metal bands were set to play there, and that the line-up also contained several bands that could be classed as NSBM (National Socialist Black Metal). There was a string of middling to mediocre responses over this, and several bands eventually cancelled their appearance at Steelfest and distanced themselves from it while other bands stayed in the line-up and some performatively distanced themselves from Steelfest’s detractors. This week, months after the original controversy started, the magazine Bardo Methodology hosted an interview with Jani Laine, the organizer of Steelfest Open Air, to discuss the festival and the attendant controversy surrounding it. The interview was conducted by Niklas Goransson, and it was very much a soft touch.
The interview is divided into two parts, and thus two separate articles, the first of which begins with a hefty dose autobiographical content detailing how Jani became a part of the underground metal scene. While it’s definitely good for if you want to know how he became a musician and started his own band, that’s not what I’m here to talk about. It also contains a great deal of retrospection about how Steelfest came to be, with Jani recounting how it began as basically a private party among close friends featuring a lot of metal music and booze before gradually morphing into an incorporated open air festival. Right away, though, there’s a problem.
Among the bands listed by Jani, we see the bands Goatmoon and Satanic Warmaster listed as “Finnish underground bands” alongside Horna and Barathrum, and a little later Goatmoon is cited as a strong representative of the Finnish black metal scene alongside Horna, Impaled Nazarene, and White Death. Bands like Goatmoon are discussed without anyone ever bringing up the well-known, well-documented fact that they are open neo-Nazis. The explicit neo-Nazism of Satanic Warmaster is never discussed either. Or for that matter the Nazi ties of Horna, or the fascism of Destroyer 666, Peste Noire, Graveland, or Nokturnal Mortum.
Where the interview does actually talk about the issue of Steelfest and Nazism begins here:
While Jani’s concept might be popular among those who attend his events, it turns out that not everyone is quite as enthusiastic. A Finnish activist group wrote no less than four full-length articles about the 2019 edition, proclaiming Steelfest a nazi festival on accounts of hosting bands like MARDUK, MGŁA, HORNA, and SEIGNEUR VOLAND. The latter, an old French black metal band, share their perspective on the matter as part of the massive print-exclusive feature in Bardo Archivology Vol. 2. The activists also published a list of Steelfest’s business partners, urging likeminded readers to take action.
Yeah…definitely nothing Nazi about these guys, I’m sure. But what does Jani say?
This domestic group, which is what you might call our local ‘SJW’ network, has been pestering us throughout our entire history. Those articles are downright embarrassing in terms of accuracy. They name an individual who has nothing whatsoever to do with Steelfest, nor any parts of the organisation, as owner of our company. Also, they claim to ‘know for a fact’ that we arrange festivals with supposedly ‘problematic’ record shops and labels. In reality, we’ve never collaborated with any of those mentioned: we’re busy enough with our own events. Fact or fiction means nothing to these people; they will run with whatever fits their narrative, no matter if it’s sheer fabrication.
It would seem that Jani is one of those reactionaries who still gasses on about “SJWs” towards the end of 2021. Jani never once specifies which record shops and labels are being considered “problematic” and which Steelfest was said to have arranged festivals with. Variverkosto specifies that Steelfest cooperates with groups like Horror Shop (an NSBM oultet), Werewolf Records (a record label run by the guy behind Satanic Warmaster and which houses a lot of NSBM bands), and KVLT Shop (which is owned by Sami Tenetz from Beherit and sells a shitload of Nazi merchandise). Kvlt Shop has frequently participated in Steelfest, as does Horror Shop. Already I kind of suspect that Jani might not be telling the whole truth.
Of course, Niklas does not challenge Jani on any of this, and instead his next question is simply “Did anything change as a result of this?”. The answer is obviously no, and then Jani goes on a ramble about how everyone who thinks he’s a fascist is part of a fanatical cult that’s out to destroy his business.
Their main goal was clearly to – in one way or another – inflict as much damage to our company as possible and create problems for Steelfest’s business partners. You know, that’s how these cults work if you cross them: no interaction or attempted dialogue, just terrorising. Your only means of escape is to cave in and obey. Cancel your performance, issue statements in support of their agenda, and deny your own history. Should a member of your band be deemed questionable, he must be kicked out immediately.
How much power does Jani think the people at Variverkosto have over him and the Finnish black metal scene? Considering that Steelfest still went ahead that year, I don’t think Jani was in any danger of getting censored or terrorized. And terrorized by what? Boycotts? Aren’t you supposed to be about “strength and honor” and all that shit? Come on, get real.
Then comes the question of “Did you take any counter-measures?”, to which Jani says:
Well, we spoke with the police – ‘What the hell is going on? Is it even legal to spread disinformation about other people like this?’ After a short investigation by law enforcement, they explained that this is an insignificant but extremely active group who employ such tactics to draw attention to themselves, and in doing so promoting their political ideology. The cops said that we were well within our rights to press charges for defamation, ‘but all that would accomplish is bringing them closer to their goal’. Ever since, we’ve simply ignored the efforts of this irrelevant little group.
OK, so the Finnish police probably had a right-wing bias. Not the biggest surprise, all things considered. But what’s really interesting is when the cops apparently said that the Steelfest guys were within their rights to press defamation charges, but advised against it because “all that would accomplish is bringing them closer to their goal”. Why? I mean, if Jani and the cops are right and the anti-fascists really are just defaming them and spreading misinformation, why would pressing charges against them help the anti-fascists? To spread their political ideology by being defeated in court, in a case that I’ll bet few people outside the metal underground would know or even care about? Don’t give me that shit. I’ll bet that if Jani did press charges, the anti-fascists would present the case against them, and then there’s a good chance that it would have been shown that there was more going on with the Steelfest crew than just some dumb, edgy centrism.
It’s then claimed that the anti-fascists urged people to contact the city of Hyvinkaa to shut down Steelfest, and that this didn’t work (well, obviously it didn’t work, if the festival happened at all), and then Jani claims that many public officers and even local council members have been to Steelfest and thus “have seen with their own eyes that this festival is nothing like what these totalitarian cults paint us out to be”. The irony of somebody hanging around with fascists and outright Nazis complaining about totalitarianism seems to be lost on far too many people these days, but more importantly there is reason to doubt that this is the case since this is the festival known for featuring bands and fans openly sporting Nazi salutes. Then again, I’m sure Goatmoon can’t be in every Steelfest line-up.
Then Jani makes a lot of out there claims about left-wing critics, such as this:
But let us acknowledge one thing here: such methods aren’t even remotely rooted in a wish for a civilised society. What once started from the ‘left side’ of politics isn’t promoting social democratic views anymore, if it ever did. Quite the opposite. Threats, blackmail, sabotage, social media harassment – all the shit they pull is reaching proportions of religious persecution. And on that note, there is something I want to say about this. I’m sure you’ve noticed the increasing polarisation; how one is forced to pick a side. Bipartisan interaction is no longer possible, right?
And here I thought the left were supposed to be the ones playing victim all the time. There’s not a chance that many of the things he describes are even remotely true. If we strictly go by the exact account of things, which is that some anti-fascists reported on fascist/NSBM bands playing at Steelfest (which, I assure you, there were a lot of them in 2019) and called on people to basically boycott the festival, does this really sound like religious persecution to anybody? Because I don’t think it does. I think Jani is being deliberately hyperbolic in order to garner sympathy in a community and time where he knows he might be capable of getting at least some people to support his side of the story, and Bardo Methodology won’t challenge him for it. Nor will they ask the most basic question, and it’s basically the same question I put to Rhyd Wildermuth just a few days ago: why do you want bipartisanship with fascists?
Nor will they challenge claims such as this:
Well, over the last decade we’ve witnessed the biggest transfer of wealth in recorded history. I don’t know, but one might think that something like this would warrant the slightest bit of concern from those who identify as being on the left side of the political spectrum. Instead, it seems to me as if the left has mutated and been subverted into its current incarnation – with their psychotic fixation on gender, race, intersectionality, or whatever the current buzzwords are. So, if the undivided attention of the left side is on these matters, rather than the biggest transfer of wealth in recorded history, then we must conclude that polarisation works. And then consider this: who is the winner when people are divided and fighting amongst themselves? Divide, conquer, and control both sides.
The suggestion here is that the left has chosen to ignore the issue of the largest transfer of wealth in world history in favour of a “psychotic fixation on gender, race, intersectionality”. This, of course, would require a great deal of ignorance about the left, which is noted for its proclivity to discuss economic inequality, gender identity, and race relations at once. You see, according to Jani’s smooth-lobed marshmallow brain, it is impossible for people to discuss multiple issues at the same time, let alone as being interdependent or interlocked with one another. Thus, he would have us believe that being a leftist means having to choose between talking about “identity politics” or talking about economics, even though every leftist talks about both, even the leftists that claim to hate talking about intersectionality. But for Jani this is all part of a conspiracy to divide and conquer the masses, whose puppetmasters “control both sides”. I wonder who Jani thinks these puppetmasters are, considering his known associations with neo-Nazis.
Niklas actually seems to think this conspiracy theory is valid, and devotes a paragraph not to questioning whether any of it is true or even who the supposed mastermind of it all is but rather to explaining what he understands to be the concept of dividing and conquering. Jani then further elaborates on his ideology of manic conspiracy centrism:
This is not about ‘NSBM’, nor is it about the left or right side of the political spectrum – that much should be blatantly obvious. And it’s working perfectly. The mindset of the left seems to be that banning someone or disapproving of their content, de-platforming or cancelling, will have the desired result: getting them to start ‘behaving’. This is because these people are under the illusion that everyone else is as they are. But such repression gives the ‘target’ a sense of self-righteousness and motivation to fight back. The ‘left-side’ doesn’t seem to understand this, so they push even harder. Of course, their counterpart isn’t much better. The ‘right’ has taken an underdog position and seems to think that all their beliefs are under assault, they imagine that anyone and everyone can be against them. So, once again society becomes more divided, further escalating conflict.
So, it’s not about NSBM (which for some reason he prefers to put in scare quotes), even though basically every problem with Steelfest ties back to the subject of NSBM, and it’s actually about how the left are all Stalinists who want to ban, de-platform, “cancel” (imagine still going on about that after the Matt Gaetz scandal) everyone they don’t like in order to get them to “behave” because they don’t understand this makes their targets self-righteous and gives them the will to fight back, who them cultivate the delusion that their beliefs are under assault and everyone is against them. Yes, the guy who’s convinced that a secret conspiracy is dividing society and causing him to be censored is somehow going to accuse someone else of having a delusional victim complex!
Following this Niklas moves on to the subject of Covid-19 and how devastated Jani was to have to cancel Steelfest because of it, and then the return of Steelfest being announced this year. Then we move on to part 2, which begins by talking about the controversy in August. Jani predictably masturbates about how he wanted to demonstrate “the old F.O.A.D. spirit” which he thinks is no longer present in some people but is alive in underground metal. If I’m being honest, I’d argue that there’s a certain “fuck off and die” attitude that anti-fascists and punks have always reserved against fascists, and that Lani has a hard time understanding that. He then proclaims that he will not negotiate with a third party about the Steelfest line-up nor “allow anyone to influence our decisions in any way, shape, or form”. When inevitably asked if he had any regrets about the Steelfest line-up, Jani says:
Definitely not. But did I learn a few valuable lessons here? Sure. Had I done things differently, knowing what I know now? Of course. Would I get rid of even one ‘no-name band’ if ten of the bigger acts – or their agencies – demanded it? Not a chance. This has been our firm policy ever since the very first event, Steelfest 2012, when some deranged SJW sect demanded that we cancel IMPALED NAZARENE on accounts of their political leanings, sexually suspicious lyrics, and whatever else. Obviously, we did no such thing.
I have no idea what he’s talking about. Maybe it’s one of those really way back things but I can’t find anything out about what Jani’s talking about here. I’m aware of Impaled Nazarene being controversial, but not because of anything sexual. The only controversy involving them I’ve ever seen around them involves politics, and on that let me just say this about Impaled Nazarene: I don’t think they’re Nazis, and I don’t think they’re necessarily fascists, but I do think that they seem to lean to the far-right. They’re pretty well known for promoting right-wing Finnish nationalism on albums like Suomi Finland Perkele (which has a song glorifying anti-communist violence in the Winter War) and Pro Patria Finlandia (which is probably even more cringe-inducing than it already looks), as well as standard edgy boomer-tier right-wing politics on their most recent album, Eight Headed Serpent (which features an abysmal whine-fest song called “Foucault Pendulum” as its closing track). So as far as I’m concerned, they’re at least an avowedly right-wing band, probably far-right if I’m being honest, even if that’s not neo-Nazism or fascism and some such. You can probably enjoy some of their stuff if you’re willing to look past that, gods know that still applies to Megadeth and they’ve had Alex Jones diatribes for lyrics, but I’m just saying this is what it is. To be honest, Impaled Nazarene is probably the least problematic band out of all of the bands we’ve discussed so far, but don’t get comfy, because that doesn’t say anything good about the territory we’re dealing with – this is the Finnish black metal scene after all.
Curiously enough, Jani tries to make this about honour:
The notion of backing out of an agreement with a band we’ve booked never so much as occurred to us. Our unrepentant attitude, fuelled by principles and core values, is all we have in this world; it is the essence of everything we do. If we were to sell out or otherwise lose that spirit, there can be no more Steelfest. I mean… okay, say I’ve invited a band to perform at our festival. Should I then call them back to say that they have now been ‘cancelled’ at the behest of a third party? Honour, dignity, and self-respect on that one? None whatsoever. There is no room for such concerns when I decide the line-up; the best bands will be booked, not those who are ‘woke’ enough.
Not wanting to go back on your word is one thing, being all about honour, dignity, and self-respect is one thing, being unrepentant about principles and core values is one thing, and if that was all there is to this whole thing I would probably respect the hell out of it for the militant metalhead attitude, but we all know that’s not the case. Jani thinks that people want him to only air “woke” bands, but that’s not true. The only concrete demand, if such can be called, is that Steelfest not be a platform for neo-Nazis. If the worst you could say about Steelfest was that Impaled Nazarene was gonna be on there, there’d arguably be no real issue, it’d just be kind of cringe that they’d be there all things considered. But instead, the problem with Steelfest is that they’ve been a haven for NSBM and fascist black metal bands and merchants for years and get to be a prolific extreme metal festival for it, all while the people who use their music and its subculture as a channel through which neo-Nazism can spread do so unabated! That is the problem, and until Jani and his defenders understand this the controversy will recur for as long as Steelfest is still a thing.
Of course, Jani will probably have none of this, and in fact he considers the entire controversy to be manufactured by industry insiders. He starts by talking about Sodom, saying that they played in Steelfest in 2013 with Horna, Satanic Warmaster, and Goatmoon and no one complained (which, if true, what the actual fuck?), then Niklas explained that Jani apparently had a chat with an anonymous industry insider, who sent him an email asking him to “make some decisions upon how you want your buisness future to be”. If we assume that exchange to be real, then what follows is of course Jani telling the insider to fuck off and supposedly it was then that everything kicked off. He claims that another insider tipped him off about a plan to organize false accusations against Steelfest, claiming they’re Nazis, for the purpose of “making them behave”. Who is supposedly organizing a shadowy smear campaign against Steelfest, or why tons of people condemning Steelfest and calling them Nazis would require a conspiracy of industry insiders to orchestrate, is never established, much less questioned by Niklas.
Jani shared apparent emails with Niklas, with one urging him to “cancel the questionable bands again or not”. Which are the questionable bands? Well, Graveland is mentioned. Graveland is to this day an NSBM band. They still re-release albums that feature songs with white supremacist lyrics, such Dawn of Iron Blades which contains a song called “Semper Fidelis” whose lyrics include a reference to David Lane’s 14 words, and its founder Rob Darken is a self-described National Socialist. It also appeared to include Archgoat. I haven’t seen a lot to indicate that Archgoat themselves are Nazis. That said, Archgoat did do a split album called Lux Satanae (Thirteen Hymns of Finnish Devil Worship) with Satanic Warmaster, who are so openly neo-Nazi that one of the songs within that same split, “Wolves of Blood and Iron” literally opens with the words “Sieg Heil!” before going into an anti-semitic lyrical tirade (this, by the way, seems to be the same song that appeared on Satanic Warmaster’s first album, Strength and Honour). This album is distributed by Hell’s Headbangers Records, an ostensibly non-Nazi record label, which I suppose goes to show the extent of their commitment to any principled opposition to Nazism. Since there are people who try to claim that Satanic Warmaster’s neo-Nazism is just some edgelordery from 20 years ago, I must point out that this split was released no earlier than December 14th 2015. And just to put another nail in that swastika-branded coffin, Satanic Warmaster released a song on a Satanic Skinhead Propaganda compilation in 2010, and songs like “Carelian Satanist Madness” which feature anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi lyrics are still re-released and played live to this day, so Satanic Warmaster’s NSBM trajectory is continuous, which it obviously would be because that is its musical and ideological identity. I have to repeat for emphasis: Satanic Warmaster is a Nazi band. Even if Archgoat weren’t Nazis or fascists expressly, it seems to me that they didn’t have a problem with the songs that Satanic Warmaster contributed, and I’m guessing that they’re fans of the band’s work as a whole. To call Archgoat “questionable”, then, is actually just being polite. It’s politically correct if anything else. Jani also mentioned Horna, which, as I’ve discussed already, has definite links to the NSBM scene. It kind of seems like Finnish black metal in particular has a lot of fucking Nazis in it, does it not?
Also, when Jani says this:
Oddly, this index of the unacceptable included several bands that all these agents were perfectly fine with when they played Steelfest in 2018 and 2019.
That’s not the counter-argument he thinks it is. All you’re establishing is that those agents didn’t have a problem with Nazi bands just a couple of years ago, and now they do. That speaks more to their priorities and their attitudes than to whether or not Steelfest is an NSBM haven.
Niklas doesn’t discusss the actual lyrical content of those bands. Instead he just takes the opportunity to make what is essentially a childish comment about how he finds his critics ugly:
Taking Steelfest’s Facebook page as an example, there seems to have been a substantial influx of new commenters around this time. Far be it from me to pass judgement based on someone’s physical appearance, but I’m not convinced that many of those voicing their concerns were intending to visit the festival in the first place.
This is another non-argument, but it goes to show something rather suspect. I mean, why does it matter what someone looks like when you are addressing what they have to say. I’m sure that many people wouldn’t listen to a Nazi even if the Nazi was, hypothetically speaking, the most beautiful woman in the world, and they would be right to dismiss that person for being a Nazi. If Jani sees fit to talk about honour, dignity, and self-respect, then in my opinion those things are diminished when you suckle at the teat of Nazism, and especially if you yourself don’t even own up to the ideology while doing so. Werwolf, the man behind Satanic Warmaster, is the perfect example: he sings about honour while parading the dishonourable ideology of Nazism, but all the while denies being a Nazi even though he literally writes Nazi lyrics. The man shouts Nazi slogans, brandishes Nazi imagery, and hangs around with other Nazi bands, but he doesn’t even once own up to being a Nazi, and so strongly denies it that he made a whole bullshit graph trying to show that he supposedly rarely he sings about Nazism. From a certain standpoint, where’s the “strength and honour” in that?
Then the interview discusses the bands Sodom and Samael, who were originally going to perform at Steelfest, having cancelled their respective appearances. Jani claims that Sodom were forced to cancel their appearance because of a coordinated harassment organised by entire networks, forums, and websites, and claims further that one such message board celebrated and took credit for Sodom cancelling their appearance. Of course, Jani won’t tell us which websites, forums, or networks he’s referring to. I almost suspect he may be trying to refer to the Antifascist Black Metal Network, a group that promotes black metal bands that are politically committed to resistance against fascism as expressed through radical left-wing ideology, but, to be honest, if he is then he’s stretching a certain amount of credulity. Again, how powerful or influential does Jani think these anti-fascists are? Are we supposed to believe that the Antifascist Black Metal Network has enough influence to orchestrate a massive campaign against Steelfest, in a subculture where if anything you’ll find a little too many people defending literal NSBM bands? If that’s what we’re supposed to believe, I would expect substantial evidence to support this claim. But I don’t expect such evidence to be forthcoming, so I consider Jani’s claim to be non-admissible.
Then we get into more cancellations. Apparently the band Moonsorrow cancelled their appearance in Steelfest, which of course Jani mocks. We’re told that Uada agreed to play alongside Graveland at Messe de Morts, which is very bad if true. Not only did Sodom, Samael, and Moonsorrow cancel, but so did Impaled Nazarene and Archgoat of all bands, as well as Havukruunu, Melechesh, Primordial, Dark Funeral, Ensiferum, Deicide, and Dismember. Once again, Lani attempts to frame this as a conspiracy to get metal bands to violate their principles:
There were a couple of disappointing moments, seeing certain high-profile bands cancelling. I had a good phone-call with one of them, which ended by him saying: ‘I feel ashamed, because we are pissing all over our legacy and I know it. This antifa shit, I’m totally against it – always have been. But we need to do this tour and some of the dates might be in jeopardy if we appear at Steelfest. I feel sick, but after discussions with our label, management, and agency, we have decided to cancel.’ So, after several conversations like this, it started to get under my skin. But I do agree with him on one point: extremely embarrassing indeed.
Again, he doesn’t exactly say who this guy is. It could be anyone. I don’t think that every band who cancelled did so for purely principled reasons, and I’ve criticized Sodom’s conflicting statements on the matter in my previous post about Steelfest, but I don’t think it is reasonable to assume that everyone who cancelled did so for opportunistic reasons. Hell, I’m somewhat confident that a lot of the people who played in Steelfest for years had no idea what they were getting into, and likely didn’t do any research into the bands they were playing with or the shops that were getting involved, because if they had done so they would probably never have considered going to Steelfest to start with.
Then, when asked if most of Steelfest’s problems were created by insiders rather than online blowback (the latter actually makes much more sense), Jani says this:
Yes, but they are connected. For agencies, managements, and labels, any such negative publicity is a serious threat to their revenue stream. It has nothing to do with ethical opposition to supposed ‘NSBM’, but rather proactive damage control. It’s about who is ‘problematic’ as opposed to politically correct, safe, or whatever else. These people don’t give a shit whether any of it is actually true, or what would be the morally right thing to do. They are not involved in black metal with spirit.
Insofar as supposedly nobody in the industry involved with promoting Steelfest had an issue with bands like Goatmoon or Satanic Warmaster before, he might have a point for once. But, I would say that within recent years there’s an increasing growth in political consciousness in parts of the black metal scene, particularly the need to create an explicit ideological counter-presence to the NSBM scene as well as the complacency with which it is sometimes treated. Bands like Caina, Gravpel, Spectral Lore, Mystras, Feminazgul, Dawn Ray’d, Trespasser, and many, many, many more all represent a growing scene of explicitly anti-fascist black metal, sometimes referred to as Red and Anarchist Black Metal (or RABM), and labels like Grime Stone Records make their zero tolerance opposition to NSBM clearer than daylight. None of these people have anything to do with Steelfest per se, but in the broader context of our times I’d say that people are more conscious of fascism nowadays, as the contradictions of capitalism lead onto the resurgence at growth of fascism throughout the world, people are getting up close and personal to the horrors of fascism in a way that perhaps they might not have been about a decade or so ago. Of course, this is not to say that there haven’t been anti-fascist and anti-racism initiatives in the metal community and rock as a whole for decades now, but there is growing consciousness and attention given to the problems of creeping fascism and unchallenged bigotry, particularly following certain episodes from otherwise mainstream or quasi-mainstream bands such as Pantera and Watain. To be sure, people can go nuts over it, and fanaticism and zealotry can inevitably be found in some would-be consumer watchdogs of the internet, but people can take the information they see and do with it what they will, and there is a clear desire to not let the subculture we love be given over to fascism and white supremacy. Thus, people are reviewing their listening choices more carefully than they might have in the past, and in sight of such considerations certain bands and certain festivals have been found wanting.
This is the principle of freedom of choice and association that Jani and his supporters won’t prefer to talk about, much less have you consider thoughtfully. What concerns Jani is being involved in black metal “with spirit”, and he believes that this means pulling out of Steelfest is unprincipled and a surrender to commercialism. I say that this says more about Jani’s ideas about black metal than about his critics. His ideas about “honour”, “dignity”, “self-respect”, and “principles” all seem to involve tolerance for NSBM bands. The basic problem there is that if those Nazis ever got the chance, they would jackboot all over you if you’re not one of them. At that point, all you’re saying is you’d prefer to caress said jackboots with your tongue. I can’t see what’s so manly, brave, dignified, or honourable about that.
Frankly, I see Jani as more politically correct than any of the people he’s complaining about, for the sole reason that he puts the term NSBM in scare quotes! He even refers to it as “supposed ‘NSBM'”. Thus, he’s suggesting that perhaps the bands everyone’s talking about are not NSBM. In which case, what would you prefer we call them? Considering the lyrical content of bands like Goatmoon, Satanic Warmaster, or Graveland, I fail to see what to call them if not NSBM or Nazis. Would he prefer that we call them “true kvlt black metal” instead? This is what by some definitions would be called political correctness. Jani would prefer that we not tell it like it is and call Nazis what they are: Nazis, that is. But I think there’s also more to it than that. He frequently says that he knows Steelfest inside out. If we take him seriously, that means he knows that there’s Nazi bands and businesses affiliated with it. If he knows this, then he knows that in order to keep Steelfest going he needs to avoid scrutiny from the wider community. To avoid scrutiny and accountability, he must make it seem that the problem everyone else is talking about doesn’t exist, so he has to deny that those bands are Nazis. Then again maybe he’s a fucking idiot anyway and he actually believes that they aren’t fascists.
So anyways the interview moves on, not to challenge Jani but rather to attempt to prove his point about scary cancel culture by pointing to an episode from last year in which the frontman of an unnamed “prominent American band” mentioned a Hate Forest album as his inspiration in an interview for Revolver Magazine, for which he received backlash and later apologized with some sop story about privilege. Yet again for some reason the band and its frontman aren’t named, and I can’t find the interview anywhere. So since we can’t address that subject directly due to a lack of information, let’s instead just address what Jani goes on to say.
Anything which might someday harm the band’s chances of performing at bigger mainstream festivals and venues is a financial threat. This is a business – so set aside your pride, mock your own history, and deny everyone who might be considered verboten. Of course, this is not tackling the situation but rather surrendering and showing acceptance to it. For me, the hardest puzzle to solve is what the hell some artists are thinking? Say some promoter warns them about performing alongside this or that act at some other event… to then see respected musicians comply and cancel so they can stay in the good graces of the very people issuing such threats. Seriously, what the fuck is up with that? Sacrificing both your credibility and any remaining respect from the underground just for the sake of bigger tours and mainstream festivals?
For me, the last sentence is the part doing all the work here. Credibility in the eyes of whom? He says the underground, but he should know that the metal underground does not consist only of people who salivate over fascist/NSBM bands like mindless dogs. In fact, who are you to say that the metal underground does not also consist of RABM bands, who aren’t particularly mainstream in their own right? For all you know there were lots of underground metalheads who were pissed at Sodom for playing with Satanic Warmaster. Are those people not “underground” according to you? Why? By what standard? And who are you to say? I guess the other sentence doing heavy lifting is “so set aside your pride, mock your own history, and deny everyone who might be considered verboten”. What history? What pride? Do you seriously think that every underground band likes the thought of being in the same sub-scene as Peste Noire, Goatmoon, or Seigneur Voland? Is this something to take pride in? Are you dense?
Skipping Jani’s prattle about how every non-NSBM band is a servant of the lords of commerce (something tells me this isn’t a reference to Hermes if you know what I mean), let’s address the part of the interview where supposedly musicians have spoken to Niklas saying that they knew that Steelfest’s line-up would be “spicy” (again with the polite language obfuscating NSBM) but said that Jani had “gone too far” this time. Considering that Jani was quite happy to have NSBM bands at Steelfest for years before, I’m definitely curious as to what you’d have to do in order to have “gone too far” this time. But this seems to be yet another of those questions I can’t get the answer to. But Jani’s response is typical at this point:
I don’t know who this says the most about: me or the artist claiming that I ‘simply went too far’. Consider for a moment what those words really mean. It’s not as if I sit down to calculate how many potentially ‘offensive’ bands to include. And offensive to who and from what perspective? For example, a domestic group that seems obsessed with Steelfest produced a list of what they claim to be nineteen confirmed ‘nazi’ or somehow nazi-adjacent acts. It spread far outside Finland and has now been shared widely across the world. Should I – or any other promoter – consult this list when pondering future bookings? Because it includes PRIMORDIAL, MOONSORROW, and IMPALED NAZARENE… all of whom cancelled Steelfest to distance themselves from bands accused of the same thing. I’m not trying to be naïve here, but you should ask yourself: where is the line? Who draws it? When is it enough?
Once again, the group is not named. I’m not sure, but I think he might be referring to either the Antifascist Black Metal Network or the RABM subreddit. I’ve seen different websites and pages discussing which band is suspect or not, and on this basis I think that there isn’t the kind of totalitarian orthodoxy that Jani appears to suggest. I personally lean to the idea that a band is fascist insofar as express fascism is a part of the band’s musical output and creative identity. In other words, a band isn’t fascist because one of its members has problematic or right-wing views on an individual level, separate from the music or creative project as a whole. The project itself has to be a vehicle for fascistic messaging or sympathy in order to be a fascist band. A good example of this as applied to a more generally right-wing nationalist ethos moreso than fascist is in the band Winterfylleth: it’s not just that the band has members that consider themselves conservatives or English nationalists, but when you look around you find that English nationalism, and I mean not even in a “neopagan” sense but more like some kind of secular quasi-folkist worldview, is a core part of the ideas that the band wishes to express in their music under the guise of Anglo-Saxon heritage. That, incidentally, is the reason I find myself unable to conscionably support them, particularly as someone who favors Welsh independence and opposes English colonialism (seriously just listen to Iselder). Of course, things can get a tad more complicated than that. If I’m not mistaken Acherontas didn’t claim to be a Nazi band for many years, and yet I would say they’re at least Nazi enough to appear at the Asgardsrei festival, a notorious and prolific NSBM festival in Ukraine which also serves as a hub for far-right terrorists. Then again, the signs of Acherontas possibly being an NSBM band were there if you knew where to look. On their 2014 split album, Pylons of the Adversary, you can find a stylized Sonnenrad (the Nazi sunwheel symbol) on the back. I should also note that, contrary to Jani’s simplistic morality, just cancelling your gig at Steelfest might be good, but doesn’t make a problematic band not problematic at all. It just means they’re not totally bad.
I tend to think that the best way is to check band by band, especially because tends of non-Nazi/non-fascist bands can appear on fascist labels, probably not even thinking too much about it half the time. The story of the one-man atmospheric black metal Galdr is informative in this regard. Galdr was once signed onto Darker Than Black Records, who hosted their debut album in 2011. Although it doesn’t look like every black metal band their is NSBM, and Galdr themselves never were, Darker Than Black Records is owned by Henrik Möbus and his brother Ronald Möbus, both of whom are members of the notorious NSBM band Absurd. But Draugr, the man behind Galdr, was as I just said never a Nazi, a fascist, or even particularly right-wing. Before 2019 he described himself as kind of a liberal, and an apathetic one, but one who wasn’t always comfortable with the people in Darker Than Black Records, especially after they kept sending him smashed up CD cases of his albums. Since 2019, Draugr has come out as an anti-fascist and an anarchist, publicly denounced and distanced himself from Darker Than Black Records, repudiated his former beliefs along with all forms of right-wing politics, and now his debut album is on Unity Temple, which from what I’ve heard donates some of its profits to left-wing causes. I’m sure Jani would like to assume that Draugr has sold out his own pride and history to “the woke crowd”, which to be honest says more about Jani’s own beliefs than anyone else’s commitment to black metal.
Now, I thought that the interview would never bring up the fact that Goatmoon and their fans raised Nazi salutes during one Steelfest. But it turns out that they did, albeit as the only accusation they do acknowledge as legitimate. But they still don’t acknowledge it as neo-Nazism. Instead they only misleadingly refer to it as “radical content”, which could mean anything that even remotely appears to be against the current system. Still, it seems to be one of the only instances in which things like this are brought up. In any case, Jani responds as follows:
Sure, but the notion that I would align ideologically with every single one of the hundreds of artists who played at Steelfest over the past nine years is beyond ridiculous. We have hosted many acts with diametrically opposing positions on both religion and politics, so this assumption that we would favour one over the other makes no sense. Without exception, bands are selected on the merits of their artistic output – not whatever personal viewpoints the individual musicians might hold. I do not ask prospective bookings to fill out questionnaires declaring each member’s standpoints. I simply don’t care or even want to hear about anyone’s opinion. Left, right, centrist, or none at all… don’t care, not interested.
This doesn’t really address anything except to show where Jani stands, or more specifically his ostensible lack of a stance. We already know that Jani has had lots of NSBM bands in Steelfest off the back of them being “true underground black metal”. If that’s what he means by the merits of their artistic output, well then all that tells us is that he can be swayed by the merits of songs that begin with “Sieg Heil!”, quote the 14 Words, and glorify totalitarian genocide, and might presumably be utterly repelled by music that explicitly politicizes against those things judging by his reaction to anti-fascist initiatives. In fact he explicitly praises bands that continue to play with NSBM bands and condemns whose who disavow them.
When Niklas asks if Jani has any responsibility to ensure that fans aren’t subjected to extremist propaganda (read: fascist propaganda; again, extremist can mean almost anything), Jani says this:
As the organiser, our main concern is that everything taking place both on and off stage falls within Finnish laws and regulations. Those who find the presence of certain bands upsetting can simply stay in the beer tent when said acts are on stage; or, better yet, avoid the festival altogether. Totally fine. The same applies if our events are too ‘multicultural’ or ‘degenerate’ for you. Certain organisations have made us aware that they don’t tolerate Steelfest as we’ve always had visitors and performers from many different backgrounds – be it ethnicity or sexual orientation. The reason we are targeted from all directions is because we refuse to pick a side.
I somehow doubt that any fans of Steelfest are going to find anything too “multicultural” or “degenerate” for them there. If you happen to be a fascist and a black metal fan at the same time, odds are either “degeneracy” isn’t that big a problem for you considering the transgressive nature of the genre as a whole, or your idea of what is “degenerate” doesn’t include black metal for whatever reason. I also don’t believe that there are too many organizations that hate Steelfest because they have non-white and non-straight performers, not least because the “certain organisations” Lani mentions are, as usual, unnamed. The fact that Kvlt Shop sells actual Nazi merch and hangs around Steelfest, and the fact that Horror Shop also does white power and hang around Steelfest tells me that these people don’t see anything about Steelfest that’s too offensive for their sensibilities. But the idea that there are fascists that hate Steelfest’s guts, even though Finland’s most prolific NSBM bands as well as NSBM bands outside of Finland all gathered there, lets Jani engage in all manner of centrist self-righteousness about how he is hated by everyone because he refuses to pick a side. Well, cowardice was never considered a virtue, and refusing to stand against fascism could be interpreted as cowardice, at least if we aren’t supposed to take it as de facto support for fascism. But more to the point, Jani isn’t telling the truth here. He isn’t refusing to take a side, because he has already taken the side of the NSBM bands who played at Steelfest, by defending their inclusion and condemning whose who oppose them on ideological grounds. The claim to ideological impartiality is, at least in practical terms, is not to be taken seriously.
Niklas again takes Jani’s side here, and here again we see a certain fear-mongering about anti-fascist initiatives:
There are potential long-term perils with all these arbitrarily compiled lists. Not only do they deter promoters from booking the bands in question, but – now that performing at the same festival as someone deemed dodgy is also a factor – agents will not want to let their property anywhere near them.
What agents are getting their cues about who’s fascist and who isn’t from lists of bands compiled on Reddit or some other web page? Again, how much power do the anti-fascist movements actually have over festival organizers and agents for high-profile metal bands? I should stress again, this is the same subculture in which bands like Behemoth aren’t totally reviled over the fact that its frontman Adam Darski hangs around Rob Darken from Graveland (who, I should say once again, is a self-described Nazi) and talks about how much he hates Antifa. Whether that’s a bad thing or not, it’s really up to you to decide that, though I would imagine Jani would think it’s so epic that he’ll try to get Behemoth to play at Steelfest one day. But seriously, I have to stress, these people actually seem to believe that a couple of internet lists actually have the power to decide who gets to play or not play at high-profile extreme metal festivals, and those who don’t conform will be ruthlessly persecuted. Considering that if anything bands like Satanic Warmaster still get to carry on with their overt neo-Nazism widely unchallenged, I’d say that such efforts, if they did exist, are surely proving ineffectual, though it’s honestly much more accurate to say that Satanic Warmaster aren’t being persecuted anywhere. I mean, fuck, even Vice seemed to take it at face value that maybe the guy from Satanic Warmaster wasn’t a Nazi, and that tells you all you need to know about the band’s status. If there is a massive Antifa conspiracy to throw right-wing black metal bands into gulags as Niklas and Jani seem to suggest there is, then I’m just not seeing it.
Skipping to the very end, it’s all ultimately very self-congratulatory from here. Utimately even if Jani expects the “mess” to worsen for him over the next few years, he also sees it as an opportunity for “the underground” to delve into deeper paths of extreme metal, and further as a “great cleansing”, in which “real black metal” (by which he means, the bands that are still willing to hang out with Nazis) will retreat from the mainstream and “back into the depths of darkness”, which he also seems to think is already happening. I guess one could make the argument that this is indeed a good thing, since that means we don’t have to deal with Goatmoon, Satanic Warmaster, Graveland, or their allies again. Black metal, he insists, will prevail regardless of “aging has-beens playacting ‘black metal’ for the masses to consume”, by which he of course means bands who complain about Nazis being in Steelfest. I do believe black metal will prevail and continue to be a worthy artform, but it’s not that it will prevail regardless of people who oppose NSBM, but rather it will prevail regardless of NSBM, and regardless of Steelfest, and regardless of you, Jani Laine.
Some people have pointed out that Niklas never once thought to discuss the fact that Steelfest’s line-up also consisted of Inquistion, a band whose frontman Dagon was convicted of possessing child pornography back in 2008 and whose work has also appeared on a compilation from Satanic Skinhead Propaganda, an outright NSBM label whose owner Antichrist Kramer also designed artwork for four of Inquisition’s albums. Yeah, I’d say that’s valid to talk about in relation to Steelfest. I would add further that they don’t talk about Nokturnal Mortum being on there, which is relevant because Nokturnal Mortum, although they claim to have renounced Nazism, are still an NSBM band and have played in the NSBM festival Asgardsrei. Or how about Destroyer 666, whose “classic” album Unchain the Wolves is essentially a white supremacist album and who still seem to write fascist lyrics into the present. But at the same time, what would be the point of discussing them? Jani would simply dismiss it all even if Miklas brought it up, and I’ll bet that Miklas himself probably didn’t think it was worth mentioning either, possibly because he doesn’t accept that these fascist bands are in fact fascist. The truth of the matter is that they don’t intend on discussing fascism creeping into extreme metal, except insofar as it’s to say that you are the real fascists for criticizing them.
Overall, this interview was lousy. It barely addressed the concerns that anyone had about Steelfest, it definitely wasn’t very objective, Jani was barely asked any difficult questions, he wasn’t meaningfully challenged over any decisions he’s made that might have enabled the NSBM community in some way, and both Niklas and Jani seem intent on obfuscating the very subject matter they’re trying to discuss by withholding crucial information, mainly names, about the subjects and examples they discuss in service of their overall argument. That last part in particular is deeply suspicious to me. It tells me that perhaps there is something being intentionally hidden, possibly because other metalheads would easily check them on it and point out problems if they actually named names.
Those who think that fascism and Nazism should not be allowed to creep into extreme metal, and whose love for black metal in particular does not force them to agree with Steelfest’s attitude towards bands like Goatmoon, Satanic Warmaster, or Graveland, or the other fascist bands we’ve discussed, will not be satisfied by Bardo Methodology’s interview or by Jani Laine’s excuses, and will not accept efforts to softball the presence NSBM in extreme metal communities.
To all fascists and their sympathizers like Lani…F.O.A.D.
I’d like to just give a special shout out to Astral Noize for their exposes on Marduk, Mgla and Horna, Variverkosto for their exposes about not only Steelfest but also the broader Finnish NSBM scene and its networks, and the Antifascist Black Metal Network for making me aware of the story of Galdr. Your anti-fascist work has informed the creation of this post, and it’s only right that I express solidarity on behalf of the broader goal of opposing NSBM.
Something happened recently in my home country, and by my home country I mean Wales, that I would like to take the time to talk about. There was an announcement from Iselder, the one-man Welsh black metal band whose lyrics are dedicated to the cause of Welsh nationalism, which looked initially like an early retirement. Here’s what Gofid, the man behind Iselder, said on the band’s Facebook page:
Today was meant to be a day of celebration. Today was meant to be the day where all my hard work paid off. Today was meant to be the day where my second full length album, Metel Du Gwir Cymreig, was finally released. However, that’s just not the case.
It’s been almost two months since I was arrested on suspicion of inciting arson/criminal damage due to the “Burn Your Local Holiday Home” parody t-shirts, and the lyrics from the song “Llosgi Bwriadol” from the upcoming album. In a cruel twist of fate, my day started the same way it did on September 15th, with a loud knocking on my door. Panicked, I quickly got dressed with my heart beating through my chest, only to realise it was just the postman delivering Christmas presents I had ordered the week prior. If anything this made me realise how deeply this has effected me, with something as simple as a knocking on my apartment door triggering flashbacks and major anxiety.
Due to my PC being in police custody still, I don’t have access to the masters to be able to release the album, or create the merch people had ordered. I also don’t have the means to ship out CDs of past albums, t-shirts, patches, or other merchandise due to those also being seized. My main passion of creating music has been stripped away from me, and my emotional outlet locked away for an uncertain amount of time.
I don’t have much left to say except thank you (or diolch in my native tongue) for all your support over the past couple of months. From comments to private messages, you’ve been nothing but supportive of me throughout this whole ordeal, and I wish there was an easy way to repay all of you for your kindness.
It seems that Gofid got arrested in September, as he recalls in a comment he was accused of inciting or at least encourgaing people to commit arson and property damage. Not even violence, just property damage. This seems to be over his satirical “Burn Your Local Holiday Home” shirt, which parodies the archetypal church burning meme, based on the church burnings that occurred throughout Norway in the early 1990s. The charges are obviously spurious, since in order to book him for those shirts you’d have to arrest every purveyor of church burning shirts everywhere. But Gofid’s arrest seems to have resulted in his personal computer and merchandise being confiscated by the authorities, held in custody for an indeterminate length of time, which means that Gofid is presently unable to press his upcoming album, “Metel Du Gwir Cymreig”, or release new merchandise. At present, it is still possible to support Iselder by buying from his record label, Marwolaeth Records. Marwolaeth Records has explained in a post that Metel Du Gwir Cymreig is currently postponed until sometime in 2022, and it remains possible to pre-order it on Bandcamp, if you’re willing to wait for it.
At this point, I think it’s necessary to explain what the deal is with holiday homes, and why they’re such a pain in the ass from the perspective of Welsh nationalists/independence supporters. A holiday home is basically a second home rented out for people to temporarily live in while they go on vacation. In Wales, the increasing concentration of these second homes is seen to have a negative impact on the local community, contributing to a broader housing crisis by pushing up housing prices for people living in Wales trying to buy their own home. This problem is not only economic in nature, but it also has some cultural implications, with young Welsh speakers being driven out of the housing market by soaring house prices created by the proliferation of holiday homes owned by English speaking holiday-goers, which would contritbute to the decline of Welsh national identity. From 1979 to the 1990s, there was a radical Welsh nationalist group called Meibion Glyndwr who were responsible for burning holiday homes in Wales that were being used by the English bourgeoisie. Back in the day, rich English people, including politicians, would buy up second homes in Wales as vacation residence, which made regular housing in Wales much more expensive, and Meibion Glyndwr was formed as a kind of violent response to those conditions. It’s that history that Iselder is clearly drawing on in their satirical imagery.
Apparently, though, drawing attention to this reality through black metal satire is offensive enough to get you arrested and basically kill your musical career. I suppose this is England’s way of colonizing Welsh art while it still can.
I’ll be honest. I wasn’t expecting this to happen to anybody. I mean, I get that black metal is one of those artforms known for certain brushes with the law. Varg Vikernes was arrested for killing Euronymous (the latter of whom also probably wanted to kill him) as well as in connection with the church burnings that took place in Norway, members of the Greek black metal band Nergal were arrested because the police thought they were involved with a murderous “Satanic cult”, Dagon from Inquisition was arrested for having child pornography on his computer, and a few other black metal bands have also been involved in crimes. But Gofid didn’t do anything illegal, much less wrong, and he gets arrested and has his work stolen by the police. Meanwhile, there are actual fascist bands out there who get semi-mainstream status in the world of black metal. And I don’t just mean bands with problematic assocations like Marduk or Dissection. I mean actual, bona fide, white supremacist and fascist bands whose lyrics are based on white supremacist ideology. High-profile bands like Satanic Warmaster (an outright neo-Nazi band), Graveland (who still releases albums that glorify “the white race”), Destroyer 666 (whose first album literally had lyrics glorifying white pride politics and still has fascist lyrics on their later albums), Nokturnal Mortum (who still perform at NSBM music festivals), Acherontas (who also performed at an NSBM festival and whose later albums seem to contain thinly-veiled fascist lyrical themes), Black Witchery (who have quite a lot of anti-Semitic lyrics), Nyogthaeblisz (whose lyrics are not only anti-Semitic but also seem to be drawn from the Order of Nine Angles), and Peste Noire (a band that uses a Nazi prison gang symbol and whose music is all kinds of racist), to name some notorious examples. Not to mention whole record labels, even ones that have mostly non-NSBM/fascist bands, being owned by Nazis/fascists, like Iron Bonehead Records (run by an apparent neo-Nazi named Patrick Kremer), Nuclear War Now Productions (run by a racist biotech CEO and Yukio Mishima fanboy named Yosuke Konishi), and World Terror Committee (run by Sven Zimper, the vocalist for the NSBM band Grand Belial’s Key who was also in another infamous NSBM band called Absurd).
I haven’t seen any stories of any of those guys getting arrested or having their homes busted open by cops to arrest him for white supremacist lyrics. In fact, I’m willing to bet that merely being accused of being a Nazi is the only real trouble they’ve ever had to face in their lives! Meanwhile a left-wing/left-leaning black metal musician who just makes songs about Welsh independence, history, and heritage gets arrested and has his music confiscated probably just for scaring some dumb settler-colonialist Anglos and/or their snowflakey sympathizers.
Words can’t express how much this aggravates me. Gofid can’t play, but fascists are out there enjoying celebrity status and make money off their music, and even get to be in festivals where they can faciliate connections with actual far-right terrorists, and I haven’t seen them suffer any real social consequences, apart from occasionally getting “cancelled”, and then having the voices of concerned metalheads against fascism deal with the possibility of being drowned out, not even necessarily by fascists, but by whiny, reactionary, often “apolitical” consumerists who don’t want to even wrestle with the challenge of just dealing with any concept of problematic faves. That’s just fucking horrid. But, I guess it’s a pretty good reminder of which side the state is all too often on, don’t you think? I mean, if Nazis and fascists aren’t being arrested for glorifying violence against Jews, but you can be arrested for satirically condemning the existence of second homes owned by English capitalists, then you know for a fucking fact that the capitalist state has a habit of tolerating fascists while persecuting radical leftists. Remember that for the next time somebody tries to whine about how the radical left control everything because some liberal politician said “Black Lives Matter” once and then never talked about police brutality again.
All that said, I say we ought to give the British state the middle finger and show some solidarity to Gofid and his band Iselder. I don’t usually do pro bono promotions like this, but what do you say about showing where you stand by buying whatever you want from Marwoleath Records! I know I intend to! Show Gofid some love and give the Welsh black metal scene a chance, and don’t give even a penny to the fascists who are laughing at you while you help them piss all over your freedom!
Oh, and one more thing. While Iselder has been getting shut down by the cops, I notice that Winterfylleth, who are practically an English nationalist band, got to play in Cardiff twice last month. Let’s not give them any money for them to go on interviews to whine about “Cultural Marxism” and Antonio Gramsci. Support Welsh, Scottish, and Irish independence! Support Iselder and Marwolaeth Records! Reject English colonialism!
A new controversy caught my eye as a metalhead. A few days ago the veteran thrash metal band Sodom attracted backlash over their scheduled appearance in the Steelfest Open Air Festival, a metal festival in Finland dedicated mostly to underground black and death metal bands, in 2022. The reason why that’s proving to be a bit of a problem for Sodom is that, while there are respectable bands in the line-up, the some of the bands in Steelfest’s 2022 line-up include noted NSBM (that’s National Socialist Black Metal; literally Nazi black metal) bands. These include Graveland, Nokturnal Mortum, and Satanic Warmaster. The man behind that particular band is so adamant that he is not a Nazi that he went out of his way to make a graph supposedly showing how little he sings about Hitler or Jews. Of course, a quick look at such material as “Return of Iron and Blood“, “Strength and Honour“, and “Carelian Satanist Madness” quickly dispells said notions, as does the fact that material like that is still played live in more recent years and a compilation of NSBM songs was released as recently as 2017. One wonders how Werwolf could make that graph to try and exonerate himself. This isn’t even a new thing for Steelfest, either. In 2014, Steelfest had Goatmoon, a notorious NSBM band, in its line-up, and, as you would expect, both Goatmoon and the attending fans performed Nazi salutes at Steelfest. So, from that standpoint, Steelfest has kind of a history of openly promoting NSBM and having open Nazism promoted on stage and celebrated by both bands and fans. You don’t have to be politically correct to see why that’s a problem.
As it stands, Sodom have made their statement, and so has Steelfest. Sodom have stated the following on September 1st:
Hey pals! To get it right up front. Once again, we distance ourselves from bands that abuse their musical platform to express their political views, whether right or left, to the outside world. But we stand for freedom of expression for everyone and we won’t let that talk us to death. When the Steelfest promoter booked the show with us at the end of 2019, these supporting acts and the billing were not even up for discussion. So we have a valid guest performance contract. We are currently clarifying the legal situation. We generally perform on behalf of ourselves and our fans and not for the other bands.
The politically correct bands, whatever that means, are in the majority at Steelfest. Will they all cancel their performance? We will definitely talk to the organizer again about this situation and will form our own judgment.
We can’t always please everyone and we don’t want that at all, but if we have to bow to some kind of political pressure every time, then we artists/musicians can soon quit our jobs. And after 40 years in this exciting business, I don’t need any instructions about what to do or not.
We have a strong fan base in Finland and many are happy to see Sodom again receiving a special setlist exclusively. After this long dry spell, we are of course happy to be playing in Finland again. This is our job, our passion. That’s what we are living for. We won’t let that talk us to death either and decide for ourselves. We will of course keep you up to date on the current state of affairs.
But don`t forget…Sodom stands for freedom, peace, justice and democracy. And that’s all that counts. Cheers ,)
Sodom also initially said yesterday that they would try to return to Finland as soon as possible, “hopefully under better circumstances and with a little more poisitive vibes and party atmosphere”. That said, despite all of that, Sodom have announced today that they will be cancelling their appearance at Steelfest, “solely on the basis of our own conviction”. It certainly is a strange turn considering that Sodom initially didn’t want to be “pressured” into cancelling, partly on freedom of expression grounds and partly on financial grounds (evidently this was going to be one of their first shows since the pandemic rendered concerts impossible). Now it seems that this has changed, citing their own conviction. One wonders what that conviction was. But, given that Sodom have never been a pro-fascist band, perhaps they realizing that partying with Nazis and having others join them in doing so wasn’t worth the money, and we can all be glad for that.
As for the organizers of Steelfest, they’ve put up their own, much longer, and honestly even worse statement. To summarize, they complain that multiple agencies have contacted Steelfest to ask them to cancel some bands for being problematic (which is funny, did they ever get asked this when Goatmoon showed up in 2014?), and have declared that they will not let any agencies decide what bands should be cancelled. They claim that they reject any political movements and racist ideologies that want to use metal as an expression of their movement, which is just bullshit since they’re fine with NSBM bands being there and have been for years, NSBM being a sub-genre of black metal that exists precisely to take up black metal as an expression of Nazism in exactly the way Steelfest claims to oppose, while going on to declare that they will not take sides because “all sides are equally repulsive”, which is just that classic, childish centrist horseshit that serves only to defend fascism by saying that opponents of fascism are morally equivalent to the fascists they fight.
Satanic Warmaster, for their part, have come out in support of Steelfest’s statement, and of course they would since it defends them in practice, adding yesterday that they “draw the line in front of extortionist booking agencies and external influence that has it’s roots much further than within the metal scene”. It should be worth noting that last month they also shared a post from Werewolf Records complaining about a “new obviously moral policy” from Metal Archives, specifically their apparent decision to label Werewold Records as an NSBM label, and whining that “such moral crusades are not the responsibility of a website many consider a reliable and neutral source”. Well, the label itself is run by Werwolf, the man behind Satanic Warmaster, which as we’ve established is an NSBM band, but maybe by checking their band roster we can see why Metal Archives felt the need to do this.
Although not all of the bands there are NSBM, there are some notable NSBM bands on their roster. Besides Satanic Warmaster, and any other bands run by Werwolf, their current roster of bands includes Goatmoon, a well-known NSBM band whose lyrics frequently reference the “Aryan” race and its fantasized triumph over “subhumans” and other Nazi tropes, as well another NSBM band called Hammer, whose logo features a swastika and whose only full-length album is literally called “Shoax” (a reference to the Holocaust, or Shoah, and the belief that it never happened). There’s also White Death and Ymir who, while they aren’t overtly NSBM, do have songs that talk about “Aryans” and “the race of wolves”. Their past roster also includes bands like Aryan Blood, who definitely wear their NSBM convictions on their sleeves, Wodulf, a Greek NSBM band who also appeared at the Asgardsrei Festival (basically an NSBM festival) in 2019, Vothana, an American NSBM band run by a guy from Vietnam, Eisenwinter, a Swiss NSBM band who are about as brazen as Aryan Blood are, Evil, a Brazilian NSBM band not to be confused with the much cooler Japanese black/thrash metal band of the same name, Forest, a Russian NSBM band, Mastema, a French black metal band whose songs have such titles as “Killer of ZOG”, “Death to Z.O.G.”, and “Auschwitz”, Satans Sign of War, a German black metal band whose self-titled album contains several Nazi songs, and Hunok, a Hungarian black metal and dark ambient band that seems to have Nazi leanings. So, with this in mind, I’d say that it is definitely not inaccurate to refer to Werewolf Records as an NSBM label.
By the way, if you look at Satanic Warmaster’s album “Nachzehrer”, released in 2010, you will find that Michael W. Ford, the famous Luciferian Satanist occultist who founded the Greater Church of Lucifer, wrote lyrics for the track “Utug-Hul” under the alias Akhtya Nachttoter. So Michael W. Ford, who swears that he left the Order of Nine Angles because it was too fascist for him, seems to have had no problems working with someone who makes Nazi black metal. Just take that in so as to have no illusions about where Ford stands on fascism and Nazism.
But anyways, how do we deal with all this? There’s always talk of political correctness whenever we have to discuss fascism in metal, mostly from people who, as always, are motivated primarily by consumption. You saw it in the people who defended Phil Anselmo’s drunken white power salute and attacked Rob Flynn from Machine Head for calling him out. Black metal, though, is a very strange case. There are a lot of grey areas that result from the fact that even non-NSBM bands sometimes tend to sneak some fascistic or racist leanings in somewhere (I can think of such examples as Baptism, Impaled Nazarene, and Carpathian Forest for instance, funny enough two of those bands are from Finland), or just have musicians who are kind of fascist in some way even if it doesn’t reflect in their music. Of course, another part of it can stem from the fact that, for many, it can just be an edgy teenager phase, like when Darkthrone released. On the other hand, there are also some seriously committed fascists in the scene as well. Burzum are especially problematic in this regard in that they are still sort of celebrated today even though released plenty of stuff with Nazi imagery in the past and the man behind Burzum, Varg Vikernes, is essentially a prolific racist both past and present.
As an unrepentant black metal fan, consumer, and connoissuer, and as someone whose spent time in rather disturbing or just really edgy corners of the internet, I can attest to what it’s like to walk on the edge and carefully, or sometimes not so carefully, parse through boundaries with just good edgy fun on one side and morally reprehensible ideology on the other. Appreciating black metal as someone who isn’t a far-righter or a fascist or a Nazi can mean being very careful with your black metal to sort between who is and isn’t a Nazi, not just so you don’t wind up banging your head to Nazis but also so you don’t end up giving Nazis any money. I think dealing with the minions of the Order of Nine Angles within the Left Hand Path should give you a very good lesson as to how important that is, and since the O9A can sometimes have its claws in black metal bands too you need to be even more careful, especially knowing what Kevin Bolton’s been up to during the 1990s. One either enjoys black metal indiscriminately, which is fairly impossible without being willing to co-sign all sorts of immoral or just sloppy bullshit, or one enjoys it diligently. It’s what allows to enjoy some very edgy and even somewhat problematic material, whilst also avoiding the defence of open bigotry as a form of artistic expression.
The political correctness angle is worth returning to for multiple reaons. Obviously when Steelfest invokes it, it’s opportunistic radical centrist bullshit when considering that the line is being used to defend avowed Nazis like Satanic Warmaster, but it’s also true that black metal is, in certain ways, definitely a very “politically incorrect” genre, not in the sense that it’s all whiny right-wing bullshit (although I am looking squarely at certain bands for being precisely this) but because it prides itself on disturbing the boundaries of sensibility and good taste, which is definitely where many grey areas come in. When it comes to black metal bands, as long as they’re not avowedly fascist or Nazis, I definitely think there’s room for Amber A’Lee Frost’s idea that even reactionaries can make good entertainment or art, so long as that’s all it is. You can’t appreciate black metal if your only criteria for appreciating it is that it reflects progressive values or something to that effect, because black metal is definitely not for people who like to marinate in feelings of hope and goodness (mostly because black metal takes pleasure in disrupting those things), or who can’t derive those things from the visceral darkness it speaks to (and I understand that, for most people, that’s very difficult).
The term political correctness has been taken up by the right-wing as essentially a catch-all term for any and all progressive or left-wing political tendencies, but in its strictest sense it just means the insistence on rigid conformity to political orthodoxy, and in the original left-wing usage of the term, political correctness was a way of designating dogmatic adherence to the line put forward by the Communist Party in Russia or other Communist Parties and setting that line above independent thought and socialist principles. Before the late 1980s, the term was frequently used by libertarian socialists and feminists to mock authoritarianism and, for them, being politically incorrect meant insisting on unbridled freedom of expression, particularly sexual expression, and defying the party lines of authoritarian socialists. In a vague sense, the right-wing recuperation of this term does carry echoes of that meaning as well, but for them this meant that the otherwise powerless left was in fact the ideological orthodoxy of the day and that defending the powerful and systems of power constituted the real political incorrectness. Such an absurd reversal of roles has allowed “political incorrectness” to serve as a softballing or excusing of fascism as a kind of rebellion simply because it upsets most people, when in reality fascism always imposes a political correctness of its own when put into power, and psychologically fascists and hard-rightists end up being slaves to their own political correctness and become thin-skinned, because tyrannical orthodoxy and reactionary hostility to difference is the function of authoritarianism in all its forms and particularly within the right.
Here’s what I’m trying to get at. If the idea is that you have to make it so that every black metal band on scene has to be left-wing some way, then, yeah, that would be a form of political correctness in the loose sense at least. But, from my perspective, what is expected of Steelfest is not a form of political correctness, or at least that is not what I expect. I don’t expect Steelfest to cancel every band with vaguely right-wing members in it. I only expect them not to support open, self-described, confirmed Nazis, and especially not people who try to lie to everyone and say they’re not Nazis while still giving Nazi salutes (as is the case for Goatmoon at least), releasing white supremacist material to this day (as is the case for Graveland), and performing at Nazi music festivals (as is still the case for Nokturnal Mortum and Goatmoon). If the Nazis want to play, they should do it on their own, go and fuck off to Asgardsrei or wherever they can congregate by themselves while leaving the rest of us alone. Meanwhile everyone else should really stop giving them support, and stop making excuses for Steelfest and other festivals giving a safe space for Nazis, because that is de facto Nazi apologia.
As you may already know, I frequently listen to black metal and typically enjoy doing so. Because of that I tend to dip back into a lot of black metal songs from all over the years, and I also tend to listen to compilations as well as albums. I even went out of my to pick up a black metal vinyl while out in the capital city for its own sake (that vinyl, by the way, is Darkthrone’s newest album). Sometimes I pick things up from the scene, curiosities as such, and one of them is a possible conception of Odin as “the dark light”.
Take for example part of the lyrics of “Verborgen in den Tiefen der Wälder…” by Bergthron:
Verborgen in Wäldern, die niemand kennt
geschützt durch Bäume, wenn das Licht Gottes brennt,
leben wir… wir, die dieses Licht nie sahen,
nur Dunkelheit… Odins Licht…
“Dunkelheit” in German translates to “darkness” in English, and that word is recognizable as a name of one Burzum’s songs, from the album Filosofem. The lyrics posit darkness is “Odin’s light”, in opposition to the light of God, from which the trees of the forests offer protection. In what sense could darkness be the light of Odin? It’s certainly not an idea I’m familiar with in Norse polytheism, both ancient and modern, so might it be a specific product of the 1990s black metal scene? I suspect Burzum may have had similar ideas floating around. According to a Deprived zine interview conducted in 1995 about the Burzum album Hvis lyset tar oss, Varg Vikernes said that the album was about how, what the Christians called light, he would call “darkness”. It is perhaps not unreasonable to assume that what the Christians call darkness, Varg would call light. The same interview also sees Varg talk about his Odinist beliefs, so perhaps Odin is his light? Varg has himself talked about Odin as the adversary of the Christian God, and a lot of this is very probably projected from the “Satanic” background from which black metal emerged. It’s also true that, during the reign of Christianity, Odin was considered either another devil or a name for The Devil himself, and Odin and the other Norse gods were treated as companions and servants of the Devil in order to solidify the grip of Christian faith on the Scandinavian and Germanic cultures. It also helps that Odin has some very dark and grim aspects that don’t feature in modern sanitized depictions of him, being considered the lord of the ghouls and the hanged and a putrefying varg (wolf) being an emblem of his power, to say nothing of Odin’s nature as a psychopomp carrying the souls of the slain.
It is easy to see why black metallers would end up more attracted to Odin and some variety of heathen religion surrounding him than to Satan and Satanism. Satan is but the accusing angel of the Old Testament, who morphed into a principle of abstract evil to counter God’s good, and became the scapegoat of a religion that cannot justify why the Good God lets evil into the world. Odin, by contrat, could not only be seen as an older deity but is a much more manifestly complex deity than the accusing angel. Much more than the god of war who ruled the Aesir as he’s seen today, he was a god of knowledge and wisdom, of divine ecstasy and inspiration (what is often called “divine madness” today) from which his very name derives, of magic (even feminine magic), of poetry, of the dead (or, at least, those slain in battle), of necromancy, and a patron of outlaws just as much as rulers. A magnificently rich deity, it’s not for nothing that the Romans considered him to be a foreign version of their god Mercury, since Mercury, or Hermes, was also a trickster figure who carried the souls of the dead and was worshipped as a patron of theives and necromancy, and as a matter of fact the Romans referred to Wednesday (named for “Woden’s day”) as “Mercurii dies”, the day of Mercury.
Unfortunately we do not get much closer to grasping ideas of the “dark light of Odin”, so all I can do is insert my own interpretative efforts, and in this regard, something from Jung is perhaps informative. Jung talked about “the light of nature” as the “ignis mercurialis”, the underworld fire synonymous with “the pagan cosmos and aion”. The light of nature in Jung’s thought was the light that shows humans the workings of nature in the manner of natural-mystical “revelation” as opposed to the light of God, that is the light of theology and ecclesiastical revelation, and the former is associated by Jung with pagan knowledge and the latter with Christian “knowledge”. And of course, the light of nature was signified by Mercurius, or Mercury, Hermes, the Greco-Roman chthonic god who the Orphic hymns described as a “divine revealer”. Jung often compared Mercurius with Lucifer, the Devil, and treated them as archetypal aspects of each other, and in some sense it’s not for nothing that the Devil in Christian cultural mythology resembles more a pagan god than the angel he was in the Bible. Insofar as the Devil could be thought of in those terms, he seems to be a chthonic god par excellence, constructed specifically to take on a role similar to Hades and taking together many different aspects of various gods, not to mention being identified with Odin by Christian missionaries. If Odin is a “dark light”, then we might say that, from a black metal perspective at least, and perhaps even from some sort of left hand path pagan perspective, he is a represenative of the light of paganism insofar as Hermes/Mercurius was.
To be honest, I initially ignored the brew-ha-ha surrouding the pop rap singer Lil Nas X, his Satan shoes, and the song it was supposed to market, despite the fact it dovetails into the subject matter of Satanism. At the time I looked on it as a classic moral panic against “Satanism” in pop culture and thought little of it. Then I got alerted to a video released in April by a guy named Jonathan Pageau about Lil Nas X’s song, around whom the Satan shoes were marketed, and I decided that I simply had to write a response to it, and maybe advance some new takes in the process. Pageau’s video is titled, and I’m being serious, “Montero and Wandavision: How Satanism Functions”, and in it he argues that Lil Nas X, and Wandavision as well, are promoting Satanism through this engendering the decay of “Western civilization”. Also he apparently argues not only that witchcraft is real but also that the Malleus Maleficarum was an accurate account of the practice of witchcraft being played out in the present day. Or at least he argues for the relevance of what the Malleus Maleficarum says in a very roundabout way.
For context, the main subject of all this is “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”, a hip hop song made by Lil Nas X and released in March 26th. The song is about Lil Nas X struggling with being gay in the context of his Christian upbringing, deep down wanting to have sex with men, and eventually embracing his sexual identity and owning what society perceives to be its subversive nature as part of that. To promote the song, Lil Nas X and Nike collaborated to release a series of custom Air Max 97 shoes referred to as Satan Shoes, which are essentially just sneaker shoes that sport Satanic imagery and supposedly made with a drop of human blood. Naturally, this courted controversy among idiots looking to use their faith as a basis to attack Lil Nas X for being gay and accuse him of seducing the youth into Satanism just like they said about every other pop musician ever. Evidently Jonathan Pageau, a Christian artist (he makes Orthodox icons for a living) and public speaker about symbolism and myth, is one of those idiots, but as you will see he goes above and beyond with his insane takes on the song.
Mindful of the fact that Pageau’s video is 36 minutes long, goes all over the place, and in general it can take me quite a bit of time to write response posts such as this, I will do the best I can to not make this too lengthy a post. So in that spirit, we’ll focus mostly on some very specific points/claims made by Pageau. For our purposes, this means ignoring everything about Wandavision in the video that isn’t otherwise pertinent to everything else we’re covering. The actual video is about both Lil Nas X’s song Montero and Wandavision, but I mostly just want to focus on his commentary on Lil Nas X and all things Satanic.
Right from the get go, we are shown that Pageau has no real idea who Lil Nas X is, and condescendingly treats him as someone “desperate for attention”. Regarding “satanic tropes and moves”:
None of it is arbitrary, but like any system of meaning, it rather has a strange coherence. This coherence can give us a few clues as to why this imagery would be used to attract the type of attention someone like Lil Nas X desperately needs in order to stay relevant in a post-Christian, blase, porn-infused, hungover culture.
Anyone who knows anything about Lil Nas X knows that he isn’t the kind of guy who would be “desperate for attention”. He shot to viral fame in 2019 with his single, “Old Town Road”, which stayed in the Hot 100 chart for 19 weeks, and since then he went on to be the most nominated male artist at the 62nd Grammy Awards, of which he won two awards (one for Best Music Video and another for Best Pop/Duo Group Perfomance). “Old Town Road” is still considered one of the most popular songs of the last few years, so needless to say he’s not exactly starved for attention. But even if it was all a scheme for attention, could we not say that it worked? And if it did, could we not make the argument that we in fact are not in a “post-Christian” age? If we were, then would we even be discussing any controversy relating to the opinions of religious Christians? After all, if we were in a post-Christian age, then Christianity would be irrelevant in the way that pre-Christian belief systems are generally considered to be irrelevant now. But then I suppose that, by “post-Christian culutre”, Pageau really means a generally secular culture where Christian religion isn’t forced on people by society at least in the way that it used to be, where Christianity has lost some of the power and influence that it once had, and irreligion, atheism, or alternative spirituality are experiencing some growth and openness.
After remarking dismissively about the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, as I suppose he should, Pageau begins to describe the music video for “Montero” and its imagery:
So the Montero video is a rather disturbing sight to behold. In a world inhabitated only by versions of himself, Lil Nas X sings about his intimate encounter, let’s call it, and his obsession with a man who has the same name as him, Montero, and Call Me By Your Name is the unofficial title of this song. The video is ultimately about one thing. It’s about pride. This self-love is represented as an exploration of the strangeness and idiosyncrasies of one’s self. Self-seduction, self-victimizing, self-abasement, self-gratification, and ultimately self-crowning. In speaking to his self-named lover, Montero tells us that “I’m not fazed, only here to sin. If Eve ain’t your garden, you know that you can.” And so pride as self-love appears ultimately as a sterile revolution against the natural patterns of the world. A desire for the world to be solipistic, to be contained by my self, for the world to be in my image, and a desire to be free from the usual constraints of natural patterns and cycles of being.
It is very important to understand what Pageau is trying to get at when he talks about things like “solipsism”, “pride”, “self-love”, and “revolution against natural patterns”. To do that, we need to remember the context of the song. It’s about Lil Nas X coming to terms with his homosexual identity, his struggle with his own self-denial in the context of a Christian upbringing, and eventual embrace of his identity as a homosexual. Where might “solipsism”, “pride”, or “narcissism” come in? Pageau will never outright say it, but it seems obvious that he is trying to say that homosexuality represents a deviation from the natural order or “natural patterns and cycles of being”, as set by God, and that the desire to be accepted for being homosexual is a form of solipistic rebellion against nature. His interpretation requires the ignorance not only of the fact that homosexuality was more or less normal in much of the ancient world (with Rome being a notable outlier), but also of the context of Lil Nas X’s own struggles with self-denial of his own homosexuality. Indeed, to underscore that, we need only address the lyric that Pageau quotes here: “I’m not fazed, only here to sin. If Eve ain’t your garden, you know that you can.” This is actually a reference to the fact that homosexuality is considered to be a sin in Western Christian culture, euphemistically hinting at the “forbidden” nature of the relationship that Montero wants to be a part of. Eve would be the woman in his lover’s life, the woman that he was probably partnering with as an act of self-denial to hide his real sexuality from a society that would not approve of it, and if this woman isn’t around to know about it, then perhaps Montero and his lover can freely pursue a homosexual relationship. All of this seems a lot more sensible an interpretation than some abstract nonsense about how Lil Nas X is declaring war on nature and God by being gay, which, on top of just putting words into Lil Nas X’s mouth and being homophobic, is Pageau looking at the satanic aesthetic and from there referring to the myth of Satan falling from heaven and projecting that myth onto the Montero song/video in order to working backwards towards his conclusion. If Pageau were a much more straightforward and honest man, he would be forthright in simply stating his opinion that homosexuality is “unnatural”, but perhaps he knows that this would ruin his effort to position himself as a somewhat respectable presenter of Christian mysticism, which is built on the ability to exploit ignorance.
He seems misinterpret another lyric as well:
He tells his self-named lover that he wants to, let’s say, I won’t quote it exactly but, let’s say, to put a child in his mouth. This is of course the ultimate image of sterility, of solipsistic dreaming, of this imagination which is taken up in fantastical places but does not produce body, community, or cohesion, but only causes revolution, fragmentation, and ultimately loneliness.
For starters, the correct rendition of the lyric is “Shoot a child in your mouth while I’m ridin'”. And all of that elaborate interpretation might seem compelling to someone who has no idea what Lil Nas X meant by that, but as to its actual meaning? It’s just slang for ejaculation. He’s jacking off into his lover’s mouth, basically. Riding is very obviously a reference to a sex act, which presumably ends in said ejaculation. It’s just Montero wants to do with his lover. That’s it. Now I’m sure that, as a Christian, Pageau would obviously have a problem with any form of ejaculation that doesn’t take place inside a woman’s vagina in the context of marriage, but it is not obvious what’s so sterile, or solipsistic, about jacking off in a guy’s mouth, except for what Pageau won’t tell you, which is that he thinks homosexual relationships in which men have sex with other men for pleasure is inherently unnatural and therefore solipsistic because it supposedly is at war with nature. Again I would note that many societies such as China, Turkey, and many African countries for instance considered homosexuality to be perfectly normal, and in fact during the age of European colonialism there were Moroccan visitors to France who were offended by the fact that French men did not engage in sexual relations with men. It was only after the West came in, conquered those countries, altered their societies, and spread the narrative that they were conquered due to their “decadence”, that attitudes towards homosexuality would change.
So we find Montero under the tree of knowledge in the primordial garden, where he is first frightened but then seduced by a serpent figure. The serpent figure is a hybrid in the traditional Renaissance depictions of the serpent, which has often been linked to Lilith by historians. The hybrid also takes on the image of the alien, so of course this hybrid alien demon serpent figure is one that has become the narrative monster of conspiracy theorists from David Icke to QAnon. So it could be easy for many to dismiss all this as a kind of trolling, and this is indeed the game being played, I think. But there’s something else going on, because even if it is just trolling the question remains, why does Montero invoke this very precise imagery in this video? To gain attention? To provoke? To subvert? Well yes, yes, and yes, but, the error that we might make is to believe that it stops there, that such an answer somehow explains what is actually happening.
With that, let’s cut in to explain what is actually happening. Since the serpent in the Garden of Eden is brought forward, it’s worth returning to what we discussed earlier, about the line in the song that says “I’m not fazed, only here to sin. If Eve ain’t your garden, you know that you can.”. We’ve already established that the line is a reference to how Montero tells his lover that he wants to pursue a homosexual relationship with him and that, if his female partner isn’t around, they can do so in his house without her knowing, free from prying eyes. The imagery of the Garden of Eden is an obvious call to the theme of sin. Traditionally, this means the first sin committed by Adam and Eve (or rather, first Eve and then Adam, establishing woman as the first sinner in an obviously misogynistic fashion), which leads to mankind being expelled from the garden by God. But in context, the “sin” as it relates to Montero is the “sin” of homosexuality, or more accurately the fact that society and his upbringing traditionally perceives homosexuality to be a sin against God. Lil Nas X only came out as gay in 2019, and around the same time “Old Time Road” was released, so he only felt comfortable being open about being gay to the point of declaring himself as such relatively recently in his life. Before then, he repeatedly denied the suggestion that he might have been gay, and apparently there was and might still be some apprehensions towards homosexuals within the country and rap music scenes. With that in mind, you can understand the lyrics of Montero in the context of homosexual desire and the struggle to find acceptance and fufillment, and the imagery in terms of that self-acceptance manifesting in the willingness to take on the subversive reputation of that: as in, “if I have to be a sinner, then so be it, I’ll embrace that if it means I’m happy with who I am”. It’s just about coming to terms with being gay, albeit in the context of a song about sex. Of course, if it actually were a Satanist message (and I maintain that it isn’t), then I suppose Anton LaVey did capture it best when he said “if you’re going to be a sinner, be the best sinner on the block”. But that has little to do with the message of the song. Montero doesn’t want to be a sinner, he just wants to be happy with being gay and have sex with men, and he just happens to be prepared to take on a subversive and sinful edge as a way of embracing his sexuality in a way that, ultimately, doesn’t actually lead on to a religious (or anti-religious) break with mainstream culture. Pageau speaks of how the imagery crystallizes the fears of many people, but what he won’t tell you is that it’s only bigoted Christian conservatives like himself who have any fears about the song or the video.
So in the video, after his seduction by the serpent, it follows Montero to a kind of coliseum where he’s chained and judged by cross-dressed versions of himself. He’s then stoned by these dusty zombie figures that are replicas of him, and then he’s finally killed with some disturbing sex toy.
That’s a buttplug, dumbass. Ever heard of it? More to the point, why do you think the people judging Montero and stoning him to death are all versions of himself? It’s because that scene is his own self-denial. He is a homosexual, but struggles for acceptance within society, and for him, like many other homosexuals, this has sometimes unfortunately meant that they may go through a process where, in order to be accepted by society even if that’s not for who they are, they find themselves internalizing society’s contempt for homosexuality and the premise that homosexuality is abnormal or that there’s something wrong with them, which is then explained away by homophobes as a kind of natural inner monologue that informs them that there is indeed something wrong with them, and so they judge themselves as sinners just for the “high crime” of existing as homosexuals.
He ascends into the sky to meet a shadowy angel, but this pole, this pole/lance, shoots up from below, and as Montero grabs it he begins to slide down in the guise of a pole dancer into the belly of Hell. And let’s be honest if there ever was a perfect representation of the, let’s call it, ontological reality of pole dancing, I’m pretty sure this is it. The pole coming up from below is of course an inversion of the spear of St. Michael, which is portrayed in medieval imagery as pinning down the great serpent, that is Satan, coming from above. And now this spear/pole is coming to claim Montero from behind, with all the undertones that that also includes. So even though it’s coming from below, it’s nonetheless this axis mundi, the axis of the world. It nonetheless is this hierarchy which connects heaven and earth together, though now it’s not a hierarchy seen from the side of the traditional ladder you see in icons of the ladder of divine ascent, which is going up in humility, worship, and self-transformation, but rather it’s this coming up from behind of revolution.
This is all already a lot to take in as is and he goes on about how the lance coming from behind is a metaphor for being chased out of heaven, but rather than put all that forward let’s just get to the point. When Pageau talks about the pole coming up from behind, I’m amazed he doesn’t do this but I think back to the lyrics when Montero says “Shoot a child in your mouth while I’m ridin'”. Montero is “riding” his partner, and while in heterosexual sex this would mean the woman “rides” on top of the man’s penis while he lays on his back, in a homosexual context this would instead involve a form of anal sex. So if the pole is coming from behind then in my opinion it’s pretty obviously sexual symbolism. But for Pageau it’s not as simple as it obviously is, and instead what would in context be a sexual reference becomes for him a symbol of ontological descent and revolution, spiralling down an inverted hierarchy towards Hell and damnation instead of ascending the hierarchy towards Heaven vis-a-vis the axis mundi and the divine ladder. This apparently is the “ontological reality of pole-dancing” (trust me, you will never find anyone else utter such a lunatic phrase), it’s a man sticking his penis in another man’s ass, which is apparently supposed to be a kind of “revolution”. The context of “revolution” here is clear, when paired with terms like “fragmentation” and “loneliness”. He means revolting against God, alienating yourself from God, and therefore sin, which is anything that separates Man from God or God’s will. Homosexual sex is therefore cast as a revolution against “natural patterns of being”, meaning God’s order, and is therefore a sinful inversion of Christian symbolism. So, again, we have a rather thinly disguised expression of religious homophobia.
So we see the movement from the periphery, we see it from the wheel that’s wrapped around the axis, which turns and slithers and seduces onlookers by its changeability, and by leading them into their passions.
Just bringing this up because, in the actual video, this commentary is accompanied by an image of a circulating image of the Ouroboros, the classic, ancient symbol of a serpent biting its own tail forming a circle, and it seems to me like Pageau is conveying a rank misunderstanding of the symbol. People bring up the Ouroboros image all the time and use it as an expression of self-cannibalism, usually in a figurative sense, but in many ways that’s just invoking the image of Ouroboros without understanding its significance. In its Egyptian origins, it was likely a symbol meant to denote eternity, which feeds into modern understandings of it as a cipher for the endless cycle of life and death. The idea of a serpent surrounding the world, the axis mundi, doesn’t strike me as having anything to do with Christian teachings, unless you count the “Gnostic teachings of the Pistis Sophia which speaks of an outer darkness surrounding the world in the form of a serpent, but I doubt that Pageau is speaking to a “Gnostic” understanding, being that he is at least ostensibly aligned with Orthodoxy. In fact, the idea of a serpent surrounding the axis mundi actually seems like it should be a reference to Jormungandr, the serpent son of Loki from Norse mythology, who grows to encompass the whole world and whose biting of his own tail will herald the arrival of Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods. But in general, there’s nothing about Ouroboros, or Jormungandr, that has anything to do with seduction or human passions, and this idea seems like an obvious projection of the symbolism of the serpent of Eden (and that of Satan) onto the image of Ouroboros, which fails to consider that serpents have had a broad symbolic meaning since basically forever and not all serpents, even within Christian symbolism, denote temptation and evil.
So ending up in a caricature of Hell, with a thorn-covered door, which is a nice touch in terms of symbolism, Montero lap-dances Satan into this simulated sexual act, to then himself come up behind the Evil One, to break his neck, steal his horns and his crown, replacing the Devil in what we could call a final revolution, a revolution which is the supremacy of the self.
Pageau sort of compliments this detail on the basis that he thinks it matches the idea of a Satanic story pretty well. But does it? The whole basis of Satanism is that Satan is supposed to be a positive figure in some sense, even in the case of the Order of Nine Angles and similar groups where the reason for that is that conventional evil in-itself is a positive thing. I suppose that, by taking over Satan’s throne and replacing him, you do loosely fulfill one criteria for certain strands of Satanism, LaVeyan Satanism in particular, wherein the goal of the Satanic individual is to be Satan yourself. On the other hand, those strands of Satanism would also emphasize that, in literal terms, there is no Satan except for you yourself, who strives to embody a Satanic ideal, and this is a point we’re going to get into again shortly. In general, though, you going in to kill and dethrone Satan, just because you’re not doing so in God’s name, is not necessarily a Satanic narrative. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a Satanic narrative where Satan is anything other than a positive influence, someone whose role is not to be as a rival for you but instead as a guide, an inspiration, a teacher for the Satanic path. Killing Satan in a Satanic narrative, for this reason, makes little sense, especially when the point of a Satanic narrative is in some way to extoll Satan as a representative of the Satanic ideal. But again, when Pageau says “a revolution which is the supremacy of the self”, this is what does all the work. Remember, Pageau’s argument is that the imagery of the Montero music video represents the triumph of a solipsistic self against the patterns of nature and being, which is essentially just his way of saying he hates homosexuality. The ultimate point in Pageau’s worldview is that homosexuality is a revolution that culminates ultimately in the dethronement of all values and the inversion of all hierarchies except for the self, and that’s ultimately because this is what Pageau would rather believe than just accept that it’s basically a queer narrative about a gay man struggling to accept himself, even when not only is that literally what Lil Nas X says himself but also Pageau shows those statements in his own video. Seems to me like he could have saved himself a lot of effort and maybe just made this about Wandavision instead.
Now, when we get to Pageau’s discussion of Satanism let me press this into your head: when I said Pageau was doing a Satanic Panic, I didn’t mean that lightly in the slightest. I mean literally, this guy literally believes that every edgy rebellious form of pop culture is Satanism. In the video he refers to “modern pop Satanism” and its imagery, which for him includes not only Anton LaVey but also bands like Black Sabbath and “heavy metal Satanism”, and in the video the footage that plays for “heavy metal Satanism” is a goddamn KISS show! It’s very obvious that this guy doesn’t have the slightest clue about Satanism let alone in rock or metal music, since not only does he never refer to any bands that might actually be considered satanic, not even Ghost, but the first band he refers to is Black Sabbath, the band that is known for using a right-side up cross rather than an upside down one for its imagery and also features openly and explicitly pro-Christian lyrics in its songs! This is literally just a rehash of the Satanic Panic of old, but in passing, and honestly I don’t think I’ve seen such a pathetic attempt to scare Christians away from metal music, let alone in 2021 of all times. Later in the video he mentions the band Slayer (who, by the way, disbanded two years ago and don’t plan on reuniting) in passing while discussing some trend of sacrilege against Christianity that somehow goes back to the Knights Templar. On top of just being insane gibberish, it also neglects that none of the band members in Slayer are actually Satanists, and in fact the lead singer Tom Araya is literally a Catholic.
He frames Satanism as “irony itself”, and in the process, he struggles to understand what LaVeyan Satanists, or really any atheistic Satanists, mean when they say don’t actually worship Satan. When atheistic Satanists say they don’t worship Satan, they don’t mean to say that their belief system is a joke, rather they consider that worship itself is an un-Satanic act, and that following the Satanic ideal or archetype means you shouldn’t worship anyone except yourself, because the Satanic ideal is that you are the only god, the only master, in your life, and that all the others are just projections of your own ego that will take control of you if you let them. Pageau whines that this is alien to the Christian way of ordering their lives around “faith” and “truth” (by which they only mean God’s “truth”). He rambles about how Satanists operate on self-righteous pride in their pursuit of destroying Christian ideas of meaning through embodying everything they oppose, and then brings this back to the Montero video by noting that it ends with Montero putting “the satanic crown” on himself. Then he claims that this is exactly what happened when The Satanic Temple erected their Baphomet statue, which if you’ll remember was the statue they planned to put on Oklahoma Capitol Building to protest its endorsement of Judeo-Christian religious values on secular government property. He derides religious freedom as an “ambiguous egalitarian notion”, and tries to describe the purpose of The Satanic Temple as demonstrating that most Americans are actually Satanists since they accept religious freedom, when in reality it was all just a way of getting local governments to either be consistent with secularism and have no religious symbols on their property or be consistent with “religious freedom” (which, contrary to Pageau’s claim, does not in this case refer to the “ambiguous egalitarian notion” he says it does but instead a dogwhistle for Christian supremacy) and endorse Satanic symbols and practices to show that they do not mean “freedom” only for Christians, and needless to say it succeeded in getting the government to choose consistent secularism.
Something to note is his rambling about hierarchies, which again is tied back to Montero, so let’s quote it here for a response:
In a traditional world, there is a hierarchy, and the monsters, the demons, the gargoyles, and especially the Satan or the opponent, are all on the outside, or they’re underground, they’re below us, and it’s best to actually not even pronounce their names. But now, in the context of liberty and equality driving social forms, the figure of Satan begins to appear as a dark prophet of the modern world, a noble Promethean who tragically stood against authority and declared himself equal to that which was above him. In the Montero video, Lil Nas X gets it right. Satanic imagery has never ultimately been about worshipping the devil but rather about embodying the revolutionary pattern through the type of pride exemplified by Satan in his war against Heaven, which ends with self-worship as self-crowning. And obviously it can’t really end that way, Montero’s only claim to the horns is violence and revolution, which means that there is always another pole-riding, lap-dancing person in line waiting to kill Montero and take the crown from him.
Let’s get something out of the way to start with: by “a traditional world”, he means a Christian society, albeit with some Greco-Roman influences. But even in the Greek world, although Hades was not worshipped and sometimes not named, he was indeed worshipped through proxies, and chthonic gods, who in Pageau’s view should be at the bottom of or outside the hierarchy, were often popularly worshipped in local cults and even form an integral part of the pantheon. In other pre-Christian societies, the “monsters” were sometimes paired with the gods and were not considered evil. And in most of the ancient world, there was no “Evil One”, no singular “Dark Lord” leading the enemies of the heavens who remains a persistent spiritual threat to mankind. That idea is the invention of monotheism. So “traditional world” only means the Christian world in practice. Pageau sort of gets the point of Satanic imagery, in a Satanic context, right when he says it isn’t about devil worship, but its emphasis on spiritual individualism is obviously filtered through the Christian mystical perspective so it becomes about ontological pride. But if we remember, this pride, this self-crowning, is for Pageau tied to what is actually supposed to be Montero’s struggle with and eventual embrace of his own homosexuality, so in this way Satanism as a phenomenon is cast by Pageau in terms of solipsistic revolution against God through homosexual sex. The last point is interesting, he insists that there is no genuine claim to the horns because it was inherited through violent overthrow. On this point, he may as well surrender the legitimacy of the United States of America, since the only reason that country exists today is violent revolution in the form of war against the British monarchy. And the point about how Montero will always be waiting for someone new to overthrow him, could the same not be said for Christianity, or for God? God is the supreme spirit in our culture as a result of his displacing all the gods who came before him, but the God that the West still worships was just one god among many in the land of his origin. He may have overthrown the other gods, but Pageau’s token, he too will eventually be replaced, or simply dethroned and replaced by a vacuum, for the age of Christianity cannot last forever.
We get to his discourse on the figure of Satan, and to be very honest it is all very empty. Pageau seems to deride contemporary religious scholars (who he describes as “anti-Christian”) for pointing out that the image of the Devil has nothing to do with the early Christian beliefs or the Bible and instead evolved gradually over centuries while picking up various outside elements, and he actually seems to think that the pagan elements of the Devil’s imagery consist in modern depictions like Neil Gaiman’s Lucifer, as opposed to the goat-like and hairy devils that were introduced by Christian eccelesiastics in the Middle Ages. And then we come to something he says that once again comes back to Montero and, honestly, I would like to take it apart:
So the reason why The Satanic Temple wanted to put up this stupid image of Baphomet in the United States is, believe it or not, the culmination of the same process which made Napoleon Bonaparte fill his Arc de Triomphe with Roman gods. And I wonder if Napoleon could perceive that this gesture of declaring himself emperor while putting a crown on his own head would culminate in a solipsistic video by a pole-dancing rapper who seduces the Devil to then only kill him and put the crown on himself.
So I take it that Napoleon wanted to establish secularism in a democratic context by juxtaposing Satanic symbolism alongside Christian symbolism in order to establish all religions as equally endorsed or repudiated in order to get the government to establish a neutral stance on religious symbolism? This is what happens when, instead of reading events and phenomenon as they are, you read them backwards from an a priori symbolic pattern that you establish in order to read reality in conformity to your own desires, preconceptions, or imaginations. Pageau fundamentally misunderstands the point of The Satanic Temple’s Baphomet statue, and I suspect that he may in fact be deliberately misleading the viewer. Pageau is not an objectiver thinker or analyst. An objective thinker or analyst would strive to read things as they are, whereas Pageau reads them based exclusive on some sort of mystical, clearly Platonistic ideas about pre-existing patterns of being that dictate the course of history and its meaning, which in reality is nothing but his own projection.
The reference to Napoleon invites the possibility of another such projection. Napoleon crowning himself emperor of France is supposed to culminate in Montero’s video, somehow. The reason, if you read Pageau carefully, is that Montero is solipsistic in the same way Napoleon is, and this means that in Pageau’s view the positive embrace of homosexuality by Montero is to be linked with solipsistic pride in the form of imperial ambition. This is another mystical reading that not only is suggestive of Pageau’s homophobia but also requires turning history on its head. Although it is fashionable for modern reactionaries to complain about “gay imperialism”, in all reality homophobia in a Western context can be thought of as a component of imperialism and imperial culture. In Rome we see that homosexuality, although it was practiced by members of the ruling class, was forbidden for everyone else on the grounds that it damaged “Roman manhood”, there were laws prescribing severe punishments for men having sex with men, and politicians liked to attack their rivals as “effeminates” and attach homosexuality with crime and conspiracy. In Roman religion, however, morality had very little to do with the worship of the gods as such, and more to social custom, but as Christianity rose, homophobia came to have a new religious basis dervied from the premise that homosexuality constitutes a corruption of God’s order as sin, and as Christianity became the dominant religion, European conquests of other lands often involved stamping out previously open attitudes to homosexuality and injecting their own bigoted attitudes through the transmission of Christianity, resulting in some of the homophobia you see throughout the world even as the West strives to overcome its own. Christianity is an imperialist religion. That is the logical outcome of a religion whose primary premises include the idea that what you believe is a determining factor in your supposed survival after death, and all of mankind must be “saved”, which necessitates Christian cultural imperialism. This is the real imperial ambition in the Western cultural context.
And, again, objectivity is not important to Pageau in the slightest, as he demonstrates of his worldview:
One of the historical moments where we can trace the origin of modern occultism and Satanism is when the Knights Templar were disbanded in the 14th century. The legitimacy of the accusations made against them is still being discussed interminably by historians. But in terms of social narrative, it doesn’t matter so much if you believe the accusations against the Templars or not. It is quite possible that they did not practice sodomy, they didn’t blaspheme against the cross or worship a strange god named Baphomet. In the same vein in terms of what we’re seeing today it doesn’t really matter if you believe the accusations against witches in the early modern period either, of these descriptions their Sabbat masses and their fornicating with demons. Of course one could argue about this in historical terms and people can do this interminably until they forget the original point of why such an accusation matters. What matters most is how these new possibilities, which appeared at the end of the Middle Ages, became something like a narrative space, where the opposite of Christianity, which was more implicit before, began to explicitly take form, in the form of explicit sacrilege and certain types of parody and inversion, and ultimately embracing the opposite of everything that Christians value.
So, the objective account of history in this regard does not matter to Pageau, only the narratives that can be made about it matter. The truth about the accusations against the Templars and “witches” don’t matter to him, only the fact that the possibility that they might have been heretics creates a “narrative space” into which the antithesis of Christianity might emerge. “Social narrative”, then, supercedes historical truth. I suspect that’s not arbitrary, since the historical truth tends to ruin Pageau’s “analysis”. The Knights Templar were not “opposite” to Christianity. They were a Catholic Christian military order that doubled as a charity and banking organization and were recognized by the Pope until Phillip IV, eager to escape his debts with the Templars, concocted fallacious accusations of heresy and devil worship in order to have them killed after the failure of the Crusades. Nor were most of the so-called “witches” “opposite to Christianity” in any real sense. Most of the “witches” were Christian peasants who either practiced some kind of folk magic in the context of their Christian religion or just happened to be unsociable towards clergy and had trumped up charges brought against them because of that. If anything, the real narrative of evil antithesis against Christianity was probably created by the Christians themselves. It was the medieval Christian establishment who concocted the idea of the Templars as heretics and witches worshipping the Devil. In fact, even the early Christians got in on this action. The 4th century Christian poet Prudentius accused the followers of Marcion of Sinope of worshipping the Devil, whom he believed created a shadowy cult that they follow in order to denounce God, and some of the racist blood libel tropes against Jews that have echoed over the centuries were advanced by some of the church fathers, who accused Jews of murdering Christians in elaborate sacrificial rituals, much as some pre-Christian Greeks had done. In fact, the main reason we have the Satan concept that we do today is because Christian theologians invented it in order to protect the supposed omnibenevolence of God from critical scrutiny, to have a scapegoat to blame the evil, suffering, and sin in the world on instead of God, who otherwise remains its true author as the creator of everything. So it is Christianity that created its own antithesis, and therefore the narratives of said antithesis. Pageau will never acknowledge this, not only because objective historical fact does not matter to him but also because this complicates his belief in the sublime perfection of Christian narrative and truth. This lack of concern for historical fact is also what allows Pageau to claim that the image of the Devil is based on the late medieval image of Baphomet, despite the fact that there was no “image of Baphomet” in the medieval era and the goat-headed Baphomet we know comes from Eliphas Levi, centuries after the Templars were burned to death.
It also doesn’t help Pageau’s case that not only were the Knights Templar most certainly not the fathers of modern occultism, but Eliphas Levi, one of the occultists he brings up, was a Christian mystic, and so were many other French occultists during his day, who were also utopian socialists. In fact, Eliphas Levi explicitly identified himself as a Catholic and referred to his esoteric belief system as Catholicism, condemned atheism and associated it with Satan, who he identified as a principle of evil based in the negation of God, and part of his doctrine of the fall of Lucifer consisted in the belief that he would eventually repent, be redeemed of his fall from grace, and return to God. Much of the occultism of the 19th century was based in some kind of Christian mysticism, sometimes framed as an attempt to revive the “Gnosticism” of old, and even Theosophy certainly could not be counted as “Satanic” by any stretch. Insofar as most of the old occultists believed some concept of Satanism was a thing, they hated it as a form of black magick, as the left hand path that was to be opposed by all serious practitioners of ceremonial magick. In fact, a lot of symbolism now used by Satanists, such as the upside-down pentagram with the goat’s head in it, was invented by magicians of this same Christian or Christian-inspired/adjacent background who were quite clear in their belief that it meant nothing good, and Eliphas Levi described the inverted pentagram as a hated symbol of evil. But insofar as that whole scene did end up creating the imagery that would later become associated with Satanism, then, again, you have nothing to blame at the root of it except for Christians, because, insofar as there is a “narrative space” to be discussed, that narrative space was originally created by Christians. Pageau also neglects to note that much of the occultism and spiritualism of the 19th century could be seen as an explicit reaction against the rationalism of the Enlightenment, which is something he should probably have considered before trying to tie occultism together with the Enlightenment to concoct some vague monolithic force of anti-Christian reaction.
Now, remember when I said at the beginning that Pageau actually believes that the Malleus Maleficarum is a credible account of witchcraft and also that witchcraft is not only real but also a threat to society? I wasn’t making that up. He goes into a general description of what the Malleus Maleficarum believed about witches, how they seduce men, kill children, abort fetuses, chop off men’s penises and all sorts of nonsense, and then explains how he thinks it’s all relevant to today. Trust me, if you thought Pageau was a bigoted asshole before, wait till you see him say this:
So 200 years ago I might have been mocked, maybe not even that long ago by the well-to-do for suggesting that a group of people would want such a thing for the world. And, to be honest, I can understand why the Catholic Inquisition actually rejected the contents of this book, and also rejected those that wrote it and were the proponents of its content. But if we see rather these dark descriptions as something like a narrative arc, which is moving towards the end or the dissolution of Christianity, we only have to ponder a moment to realize that, whether it is pornography, artificial insemination, whether it’s the proliferation and acceptance of abortion, or even young boys that have been put on hormone blockers, I can find prominent contemporary examples of all the “ancient witchcraft” I just mentioned. So then the early modern witches might have been projections or collective dreams, it’s possible, and people will argue either way, but it’s actually not that important to us, and we shouldn’t waste our energy on that. What matters is that these witches are healthy, they’re unabashed, and they’re winning the culture war today.
Pay close attention to what Pageau is saying here. When he says “such a thing for the world”, he’s referring to the absurd stories about witches killing children and cutting off men’s penises. The Malleus Maleficarum also actually espouses the belief that witches, after cutting off a man’s penis, animate that penis so that it can live as an independent creature and form nests like a bird. Pageau not only appears to be fairly serious about the idea that this all might be real in some way, but thinks that the current manifestation of this idea is men watching pornography (at least it’s implied, since none of these anti-porn grifters ever complain about women watching porn), women having children through artificial insemination, abortion being accepted or normalized, and trans people existing and getting access to puberty blockers. Remember that this ties back to what he sees as a narrative space of anti-Christian sacrilege and rebellion, gradually taking on the form of Satanism. His proposal is thus that this satanic narrative current is responsible for the creation of a modern witchcraft culture that manifests itself through trans people, porn, artificial insemination, and abortion, or let’s be honest just about any social change he dislikes or any liberalization of social norms which he feels threatens the Christian moral order. This is Pageau’s Satanic Panic, a homophobic and transphobic diatribe against social change and the acceptance of marginalized people, people who are often still marginalized even today (a marginalization that, frankly, I see Pageau playing a part in re-normalizing). And Montero, in Pageau’s narrative, is the crux of that panic. It represents, to him, a grand declaration of narcisstic desire and solipsistic rebellion against God manifesting in what is otherwise just a sex anthem about accepting your own homosexuality, which is itself a culmination of the supposed gradual embrace of Satan or Satanism and trangression of Christianity, thus Montero for him becomes a signpost for the broad transformation of society by witchcraft, which somehow involves sweeping social liberalization. Since he evidently considers trans people to be unnatural, and being trans as something that can only be forced on someone artificially, the whole narrative becomes another way of saying that there is a conscious effort by shadowy evil cabals to turn your kids trans or gay to erase cisgender and straight people, which is essentially just a form of Satanic Panic.
As I said at the outset, Wandavision will not be covered in this article, so we can skip his section on that, although I will say that somewhere in the Wandavision section he does reinforce his talk about the Malleus Maleficarum by taking Wandavision, or rather his misinterpretation of it, as secret proof that the Malleus Maleficarum was correct and that we need to burn “witches”. He’s ostensibly joking, of course, but it does seem like a roundabout way of tying the themes together. But after that, he ties it all back to the Montero video by saying that the whole Satan Shoes controversy and Wandavision are linked together by the same current of victimhood and pride, and are all proof of “American individualism showing its satanic colours”. Forget, of course, about the fact that American homophobia is still couched within the context of a culture of capitalistc individualism, because actual material causes and systems don’t matter, only projected narratives matter according to Pageau, and the narrative is that satanic individualism is destroying Western civilization through popular culture, despite the obvious problem that Satanism as an actual belief system has only ever been represented by a stark minority of people, and let’s face it even then some of them might actually just be vanilla secular humanist atheists who style themselves as Satanists but without much in the way of a distinct Satanic philosophy such as LaVeyan Satanism. Pageau frames it all as just a quest by power-hungry individuals who want to impose their idiosyncratic desires on everyone and transform society to suit said desires. Keeping in mind that the original thrust of this is a music video for a song about a gay who struggles to accept his own homosexuality and just wants to be accepted for being gay himself. Wanting to freely express and accept your sexuality is just “idiosyncratic desire” according to Pageau. This pathology expresses itself in yet another misunderstanding of what might otherwise be obvious:
In Montero’s Hell we see this engraving in flaming letters, we see the famous Latin phrase, “Damnant quod non intelligunt”, which means “they condemn that they do not understand”. What is wanted through these narrative tropes is ultimately the opposite of that, something like “the misunderstood will condemn them”. Something like “the exception will invalidate the rule”. So if in the Christian vision the shepherd is willing to lead the flock, to even leave it unprotected to go out and find one lost sheep, here we rather have this lost sheep demanding that the shepherd not bring the sheep back to the flock but rather bring the entire flock out into the wilderness. So if in traditional societies we see this scapegoat mechanism, of sacrificing the exception in order to preserve coherence, here, it is the opposite of that. It is the desire to sacrifice the entire world for the exception. On a social level this is what appears as an upside-down hierarchy, where the strange, the impure, the exceptional, the fluid, the rejected, the sick, and the unknown, become not those we need to help but they become a new measure by which all of society is evaluated.
The Latin phrase “Damnant quod non intelligunt”, or “they condemn that they do not understand”, is really doing all of the work for Pageau. The meaning of the phrase being placed there is pretty obvious. Who in the West has historically been condemned by those who do not, and often refuse to, understand them? Homosexuals. Montero and his lover are gay, society doesn’t always understand that, so their liasions are secretive to avoid prying eyes. They are condemned by those who don’t understand them, and in fact, the people accusing Lil Nas X of promoting Satanism and thereby “corrupting our children” are doing that condemnation, and so is Pageau. But Pageau can’t understand that, and instead he frames the Montero video in terms of an imagined message of sacrificing or subjugating all of society to an exceptional minority, in whose image the rest of society is remade, never mind that Montero never does anything close to that in the video. Pageau, it seems, cannot conceive of any acceptance of homosexuality, or trans people for that matter, as anything other than a tyrannical imposition of an exceptional minority upon society. In fact, he thinks of them as “sick” people, very openly telling you what he thinks of the idea of extending social acceptance to them even if he never says stuff like “sodomy should be banned”. Montero never advocates that the misunderstood condemn the majority in the video, nor is that idea ever conveyed in the video, but if the misunderstood do condemn the majority in some way, as they sometimes do, then maybe Pageau should consider that this the misunderstanding and condemnation of the majority biting them in the ass. You can only marginalize people for so long before they get fed up of society and turn against it. But since Pageau views “traditional society” (again, really this means Christian or “Judeo-Christian” society) as some abstract mythical reality whose value cannot be questioned, he will only be able to see people who aren’t “normal” as intolerant, narcissistic ingrates who want impose their way of life on everyone else. Pure bigotry, from the lens of Christian mysticism, is all that explains Pageau’s worldview.
In summary, Jonathan Pageau is intensely triggered by the existence of Lil Nas X’s Satan Shoes, and the Montero music video, because he sees it as a sign that the “satanic individualism” of secularism is threatening the social hierarchy of “traditional society”, meaning the social order of Christianity. What he means is that the acceptance of homosexuality as normal is a kind of “satanic individualism”, even though for most of the world homosexuality already was normal for probably thousands of years until Western empire showed up with its Christian tyranny. But bringing that historical point up will not matter, because, as I keep saying, Pageau does not care about historical facts, because history, objectivity, reality, these are not the core of Pageau’s worldview, and what is the core of his worldview is “our stories”, the narrative of how things happen, which means that the story we tell about our world is more important than its actual events and trends and how they actually play out, let alone the material structures behind them. Pretty much everything about Pageau’s commentary on Lil Nas X stems from a fairly obvious discomfort with the normalization of homosexuality, or just the idea that homosexuals can and should accept who they are without having to struggle with a self-denial demanded by a chauvinistic, culturally authoritarian society that tells them that there is only one acceptable way to be a man. This sort of thinking is to be ruthlessly opposed at every turn, and people like Pageau are to be treated as the repressive lunatics that they are.
So yesterday I found out that Jon Schaffer, the rhythm guitarist and one of the founding members of the great American power/thrash metal band Iced Earth, was involved in the Capitol Hill riots, and that because of this three band members have decided to quit the band. Singer Stu Block, bassist Luke Appleton, and later guitarist Jake Dreyer, all announced on social media that they will be leaving Iced Earth after it emerged last month that Jon Schaffer was involved in the riot, carrying bear spray and, according to recent surveillance footage, possibly charging at police officers. Schaffer was featured on the “Most Wanted” section of the FBI’s website in a gallery titled “Violence at the United States Capitol”. In addition to this, Schaffer’s involvement in the riots appears to have caused the record label Century Media to drop Iced Earth from their roster, along with Schaffer’s other band Demons and Wizards, which consisted of both himself and Hansi Kürsch, the lead singer of Blind Guardian. Kürsch, of course, left Demons and Wizards upon hearing of Schaffer’s arrest, stating that his collaboration with Schaffer was over, which I guess means that Demons and Wizards has officially disbanded.
This, of course, leaves a lot of questions concerning the fate of Iced Earth. The band now presumably consists of just two members, Jon Schaffer and drummer Brent Smedley, and are presently unsigned, and even with that, Schaffer himself is currently in FBI custoday. Will the band find people to replace the three musicians who left? Will the band continue to exist? I suppose that would depend on who would be willing to join Iced Earth after its founding member is now known as one of the rioters, and thus branded a domestic terrorist by the government. Then again, I’m sure that there will be plenty of people in metal who won’t be too surprised at Schaffer’s actions. If you’ve ever followed Iced Earth to any extent, you’ll know that Jon Schaffer is frequently vocal about his right-wing political views. He sometimes inserts his politics into his albums, such as on the 2004 album The Glorious Burden, he lists various right-wing figures such as Ron Paul and G. Edward Griffith, and at one point he even appeared on InfoWars with Alex Jones. During his involvement in the riots, he could be seen wearing a cap saying “Oath Keepers Lifetime Member”, suggesting affiliation with the right-wing militia known as the Oath Keepers. Curiously enough, however, Schaffer hasn’t actually voted for anyone in 12 years prior to the 2020 election, which would mean that despite apparently supporting Donald Trump he didn’t actually vote for him when he ran in 2016. In any case, Schaffer’s political tendencies are well known, and it is only now that they seem to have ruptured Iced Earth.
Of course, one thing that will definitely be affected is plans for a new album. Last year in April, Schaffer announced that he and the band would begin work on a new album intended for release this spring. Now that most of the musicians have left, and Jon Schaffer is held in jail and presumably awaiting imprisonment on felony charges, I can only wonder what will come of that album, if we will still see it, given that as a result of all of this there is effectively only one guy still available to play in the band. Unless he can find some musicians to replace the people who left, or maybe even gets rid of Jon Schaffer and replaces him too (which may not work considering it means replacing probably the only man who’s still been in the band since they first formed).
On the one hand, it’s difficult to be moved by the idea of Schaffer getting a mugshot for participating in the meme riot being this great tragedy. After all who can forget the numerous musicians that were famously arrested on various charges. Then there’s just the sheer irony of bands like Rage Against the Machine being all “edgy” with their anti-government politics or Body Count with a sound literally called “Cop Killer”, but god forbid a musician actually ramn into an officer and try to take over a government building. One can only imagine anarchist musicians will probably condemn that, while having nothing negative to say about the riots from last year. On the other hand, if this is going to mean two great power metal bands facing the axe and forced to disband, then honestly fuck Jon Schaffer for this shit. He was one of the great American metal guitarists, having two great bands floating on him, and he decided to throw it all away for the right-wing equivalent of “hurr durr Bush stole Florida”. Sorry dude but Joe Biden won handily, the Supreme Court was never going to support Trump’s case on supposed electoral fraud because as it turns out none of the supposed evidence being brought forward amounted to diddly-dick, and the cries of electoral fraud will ultimately have no consequence other than the Republican Party struggles to overcome being the party of Trump for a few years. Oh and given that the riots have essentially motivated tech companies and governments to push for more centralization and censorship, somehow I fail to see how storming the Capitol was worth it. Certainly doesn’t seem to be worth possibly destroying a classic power/thrash metal band that you created in the first place.
I suppose only one more question is buzzing around in my head: if, as certain conservatives say, the Capitol Hill riots were the work of Antifa rather than Trump supporters, then what would Jon Schaffer be doing at an Antifa protest given his well-known penchant for right-wing politics?’
The Guardian’s takes on heavy metal music tend to be very roundly progressive, by which I mean they tend to be written who have absolutely no clue about what metal is and insist on creating a politically correct idea of it that appeals precisely to their audience: namely, other people who don’t listen to metal music. Our case example today is Michael Hann, who looks like Frankie Boyle’s long-lost younger brother and definitely doesn’t strike me as a metalhead. In fact, looking through his articles on the Guardian he seems to just write periodically about music and the arts, and at that he tends to focus on rock and pop more generally, certainly in a very unspecialized way. Of focus for this post is his exercize in blatant ignorance that is his article entitled “Rock against racism? Metal’s varied response to Black Lives Matter“. The aim of this article is to try and defame metal in the eyes of progressives by making the scene seem apathetic to racism. I’m sure that if you ask the average metalhead they’ll tell you that they don’t like racism, regardless of whatever different opinions about racism they have, but being as Michael Hann doesn’t follow the metal scene he would not know this. No, what matters for him is that not enough of the metal scene is actively shilling for Black Lives Matter.
He starts off by saying that “metal has a more complicated relationship with race than many of its adherents would like to admit, or confront”, and his main example of this relationship is the fact that Varg Vikernes is a volkisch pagan who advocates for white racialism. Yes, let’s ignore the fact that, although Burzum is somewhat popular, Varg himself is despised for his racist views and especially his anti-semitic tendencies and the fact that he was affiliated with neo-Nazism in his past, let’s forget that all of this is known by the metal community already and also ignore the fact that Varg Vikernes stopped playing metal of any kind (while Burzum is still an acclaimed band within black metal, their 2012 album Umskiptar was the last time Burzum actually played black metal, and every record after that showcases a sort of dark ambient or even dungeon synth sound, and Varg himself doesn’t even like black metal anymore). All this is too inconvenient for him to bring up, or perhaps he would bring it up if the only thing he knew about black metal is that there exists a Nazi sub-scene of it (National Socialist Black Metal) which is also reviled by most metalheads and only really liked by some sections of black metal fans. And if the existence of NSBM is enough to indict metal as a whole, nobody tell him about the fact that a lot of Rock Against Communism (an umbrella movement for various white supremacist rock, punk or metal bands) contains hardcore punk and hard rock bands (such as Brigade M, Blue-Eyed Devils, Skrewdriver, No Remorse etc.), or the fact that folk/country music has its own Nazi idols in the form of Prussian Blue. Are all of those genres to be indicted now? No? Then why should metal be indicted but not them?
After a couple paragraphs of pointing out that metal came from the blues, as if we didn’t already know that anyway, to frame metal as having “black musical origins” (which, to be frank, is just cheating considering that even though blues was largely a black phenomenon (although there were white musicians in the early days who also pioneered), metal itself was started by a couple of white guys who just happened to like the blues), Hann goes on to praise Black Sabbath for making Black Lives Matter T-shirts, Serj Tankian from System of a Down for calling for fans to get on the streets and block roads in order to force the President to resign (lol, good luck with that), Axl Rose from Guns N’ Roses for literally just tweeting at Donald Trump about how much he sucks (funny that this is all you have to do to please the same people who would’ve accused him of racism over the lyrics of “One In A Million“), and various no-name metalcore acts on Bandcamp for raising money for Black Lives Matter. Before we go any further let me just add that to talk about Guns N’ Roses like they’re a metal act is indicative of a common misunderstanding of metal held by two types of people: the first type is people who do not regularly listen to metal, and the second type is rich old music producers like Phil Spectre or Rick Rubin. They’re not heavy metal, they’re just a hard rock band whose early material sounds a little bit like heavy metal – that’s not a bad thing (in fact Appetite for Destruction is a classic hard rock album), but it is what it is and what it is is not quite heavy metal. In the case of System of a Down many metalheads tend not to consider them metal, but I personally disagree and think that their brand of alternative metal is both legitimately metallic and meritorious.
Anyways, while he praises Black Sabbath, Serj Tankian, Axl Rose and others for being (in his view) satisfactorily committed to progressive shibboleths, he chides other metal musicians for falling short of such standards. Even while praising System of a Down, he highlights the drummer John Dolmayan’s support for Donald Trump and his opposition to the Democratic Party, who he refers to as “the true fascists” (which, aside from the fact that he clearly got most of his talking points from Dinesh D’Souza’s dumb films, otherwise doesn’t seem entirely wrong in my view), and, most frustratingly, he goes after Slayer not only for the fact that Tom Araya’s wife posted “racist memes” to Instagram (I’ve checked some of them out via a Metal Sucks article and most of them don’t seem to be particularly racist, and they just seem to be conservative criticisms of Black Lives Matter) but also because their song “Angel of Death” was about Josef Mengele. The first problem with this is that literally everyone knows that the song is about Mengele, and in fact it’s obvious from the lyrics that this is the case. The reason why the song maintains popularity in the metal scene isn’t because the band or its fans are closet Nazis, but because, besides the fact that it’s just a good thrash metal song (which Hann would know if he even bothered to listen to any metal), everyone knows that Slayer isn’t writing some paean to the Nazis when they sing about the Holocaust. Jeff Hanneman, the guitarist who wrote the song, pointed out to critics that it really doesn’t need to be told to them because everyone knows the Nazis were evil. If anything, the lyrics of Angel of Death actively imply that what happened in the Holocaust was an atrocity, otherwise they wouldn’t be peppered with adjectives that connotate moral disgust. Besides, pretty much all of Slayer’s lyrics center around violence of some kind, and it’s only natural that the Holocaust would be covered in that remit at some point. But does this mean Slayer actually glorifies violence? No. If anything, Slayer’s lyrics present violence in a frank way that just presents it as the violence that it is, and the lyrical emphasis on this is usually taken as just “Slayer being Slayer”. This is something that Hann in his attempt to smear Slayer as racists just doesn’t understand because he only goes off of dumb “controversies” whipped up by evangelical scolds and never bothers to actually analyze the material he’s trying to talk about and is incapable of reading between the lines of the lyrics.
In fact, while we’re here, I find it extremely ironic that he turns his disdainful gaze towards Slayer for the high crime of having a song about the Holocaust and using the subject and imagery of Nazism for shock value, while praising Black Sabbath, a band who themselves played with Nazi imagery for shock value on their compilation album We Sold Our Soul for Rock ‘n’ Roll, which features symbols resembling runes used by the SS to stand-in for the letter S. I don’t think it needs to be pointed out that Black Sabbath, much like Slayer, are not actual Nazis (in fact Geezer Butler once punched a man he described as a Nazi for drunkenly spewing anti-semitic remarks, for which he was arrested), but why is it that one band who uses Nazi-esque imagery for shock value (in a manner that everyone correctly recognizes to be for shock value) is acceptable for Hann just because they made a Black Lives Matter T-shirt, while another doesn’t get to be let off for doing the very same because he doesn’t like the political views of Tom Araya’s wife? And just as a side-note, are we not going to talk about how there are metal bands from non-white majority countries that are, if anything, far more overt and blatant with their shock value? In Japan there were multiple speed/thrash metal bands that named themselves after Nazis or Nazism and used blatant Nazi symbolism for shock values, including a band called Rommel (named obviously for the Nazi general Erwin Rommel and brandishing a swastika in their logo) and a band that is literally just called Mein Kampf (and also sporting the same swastika on their records). Perplexingly, at least to outsiders, if you look at their lyrics you’ll quickly find that their aesthetic has nothing to do with their actual music or songwriting, which is a clear indication that the Nazi imagery and nomenclature is strictly for shock value. Similarly, one of Brazil’s famous thrash metal bands is called Holocausto, whose name and debut album are direct references to the Holocaust and, very similarly to Slayer, are accused of anti-Semitism for it while the band members themselves state that their purpose is to express disgust with the Nazi atrocities from which their name originates. Also in Brazil is a much a shittier band by the name of Exterminator, which went so far as to put a swastika in their lyrics and even reference Nazism a bit in their lyrics, but as far as I know none of the band members were Nazis so it seems to just be attention-seeking shock tactics, unlike Holocausto which at least had a message to go with it. I’ve even seen a photo from Sepultura’s very early days of a swastika on a t-shirt (and even an armband) worn by one of the band members, and since Sepultura’s political messaging tends to be decidedly at odds with any kind of far-right or fascist ideology, I think it’s safe to say that it was done for shock value back when they were edgy teenagers. In fact, this might actually be somewhat consistent with the punk rock roots of much of extreme metal, since the punk scene often had members who employed Nazi imagery despite not having Nazi beliefs solely for shock value (examples include Sid Vicious from The Sex Pistols, Darby Crash from The Germs, the Japanese hardcore punk band G.I.S.M. (which you should actually check out btw), and goths such as Siouxsie Sioux and Rozz Williams). Hann however will never tell you about any of this. It would be tempting to say that he only ignores Japanese and Brazilian employment of Nazi imagery for shock value because these are non-white, but not only is this incongruous because of Tom Araya’s Chilean heritage, it’s also much more likely that Hann simply doesn’t know about any of the bands that I’ve just described, which only serves to further illustrate his ignorance of a genre/subculture that he’s trying to talk about as a whole.
Moving on from all that, we get to Hann’s point about how bands speaking out about racism doesn’t actually risk alienating fans because every artist has racist fans, to which the logical response is “yeah, no shit Sherlock”. Of course there’s always going to be bigots in certain subcultures, and in fact we metalheads tend to have a better idea of who the bigots and racists in our midst are than you seem to. He also makes the point about that one guy who was a Rage Against The Machine (which I might note is not actually a metal band and more of a rap rock band) fan “until your political views came out”, meaning that this guy actually just realized that this band that he had been a fan of, presumably for quite some time, had left-wing political views. To Hann’s credit it is entirely correct to mock that guy, as anyone who has any remote awareness of the band knows of their politics, and sometimes even people who dislike said politics actually enjoy their music nonetheless (I have known right-wingers who have enjoyed songs as “Sleep Now in the Fire” despite the fact that they consider the band to be socialists, and I myself was one of those people), but honestly that’s very little credit just because of how easy it is to understand how stupid this was. But then Hann goes on this weird trail about how “assumptions get made about metal because in the west its fanbase is – and let’s not deny it – overwhelmingly white and male, and history tells us no one looks out for the interests of white men quite as thoroughly as white men.”.
First of all, just what are the “interests of white men”? Hann himself is rather thoroughly white (although perhaps not so thoroughly male) and his interests if anything seem to comprise of handwringing his “fellow whites” about whether or not they’re being good allies to the other races. In fact, so much of the liberal progressive talking points, not to mention nearly all of the racialist ideas which position white people at the center of the world’s evils, are promoted largely by white people, both men and women. So it seems to me that “the interests of white men” is rather more nebulous than Hann paints them to be. Secondly, I’m once again convinced of his ignorance of the metal scene because, if he had studied the metal scene closely, he would know that the metal scene has been historically multiracial to the point that there aren’t really any racial barriers to becoming a metal musician or fan. Take black metal for example, the very scene that Hann tried to smear as intrinsically racist. One of the flagship bands on Euronymous’ record label Deathlike Silence Productions was Sigh, a Japanese black metal band, whose debut album Scorn Defeat (a classic of second wave black metal in my opinion) was released under the label in December 1993, and indeed Euronymous was planning on signing black metals from all over the world to the label but he died before his plans came into effect (Deathlike Silence Productions itself eventually closed shop in 1994). Elsewhere in the global black metal scene, one of the core members of the Canadian bestial black metal band Blapshemy is a black guitarist who goes by the name Caller of the Storms, and in Brazil one of the core members of a black/death metal band named Mystifier (another band I highly recommend by the way) is also a black guitarist who goes by the stage name Beelzeebubth. African-Americans also are not excluded from the US metal scene more generally. In fact, multiple metal bands have members of African heritage, including the (excellent) thrash metal band Hirax (whose lead singer is an African-American named Katon W. De Pena and renowned for his intense vocals and bombastic stage presence), the neoclassical power metal band Ring of Fire (which features a legendary shredder by the name of Tony MacAlpine), the brutal death metal band Suffocation (whose guitarist Terrence Hobbs is African-American and celebrated as one of the best guitarists in death metal), the crossover thrash/rap metal band Body Count (which features Ice T who I believe needs no introduction), and the cult heavy metal band Black Death (whose entire line-up consists of African-Americans). I can’t even tell you how many Latin Americans there are in the US thrash metal scene alone (although one really famous one, funny enough, is Tom Araya from Slayer, the same man Hann tried to sneakily smear as a racist), and there’s likely countless fans of metal within Western countries who are of non-white background. Speaking of the Latin realm, outside of America it’s worth noting that Sepultura’s vocalist, since the departure of Max Cavalera, has been a African-American named Derrick Green. So this talking point about how metal in the West is a white man’s game is simply wrong, especially when you consider, as Hann even admits, that metal is such a genre that can be embraced throughout the globe, in various different regional scenes, by people of all races, ethnicities and creeds.
The final thrust of the article is how his politically correct vision of metal is all about “liberation”, which is why he thinks metal should rally around support for Black Lives Matter. This thrust begins with the second to last paragraph where he talks about going to Nepal and India to talk to the various metal bands there (India, by the way, has another stellar extreme metal band out there called Demonic Resurrection, which combines black metal and death metal together with symphonic instrumentation and even Indian folk musical elements at times) about what their music means. We’re told that, for Indian and Nepalese metal musicians, metal is all about “liberation” and “justice”. Hann doesn’t cite any Indian or Nepalese musicians or bands (which sucks because he could have used that as a golden opportunity to do a few shoutouts for their respective metal scenes), we get no indication of what “liberation” and “justice” mean, we’re just supposed to automatically agree with the author (and by proxy the unnamed musicians he refuses to cite) about that, but from there he ends the article by saying “Sabbath, Axl Rose and Serj Tankian are fulfilling the promise that those fans I met in Asia thought metal had made. They are supporting liberation. Any fan who has a problem with that has misunderstood metal.”. To be honest, I fail to see what marching lockstep with just about every corporation has to do with “liberation”, but you know, let’s talk about what “liberation” and “justice” are supposed to mean here, because I guess now’s as good a time as any to talk about the tyrannical ambitions harbored by the movement Hann wants us to support.
Under the guise of racial justice, there are people practicing racial segregation, both in the George Floyd protests and in the Seattle Autonomous Zone. Under the guise of peaceful protest, protesters openly talk about burning the United States to ashes if they don’t get what they want. Indeed, the protests stopped being strictly peaceful when riots started breaking out in the US and clashes with cops began and statues were torn down in the UK, and although there are still people peacefully protesting it’s not possible to pretend that this peaceful protest is all that’s happening. Increasingly the movement rallying around Black Lives Matter is consolidating around a debate around statues, and they increasingly resemble two unwelcome anti-historical trends in politics: the first is the Cultural Revolution in Maoist China, and the second is the “decommunization” movement in Eastern Europe pushed by various right-wing parties, both of which share the aim of erasing the pasts of their respective countries and there’s very little moral difference between them as far as I’m concerned. And if you have a problem with that comparison on the grounds that the communists in Poland or Ukraine or wherever else were totalitarians, consider the fact that Germany does not see fit to tear down the death camps used by the Nazis because to do so would be to erase the memory of the Holocaust from the collective consciousness of the world, which would be utterly unacceptable for humanity. In any case, protesters and rioters attack or more often deface statues of historical figures, regardless of their actual involvement in the slave trade (some have defaced a statue of Abraham Lincoln, who lead the side of the Civil War that fought to abolish slavery in the US). And then there’s not to mention the fact that all there’s an anarchist commune in Seattle calling for the police to be replaced by basically vigilantes and the construction of a society that exists solely to brainwash its subjects into irrational racial self-hatred (just read these demands, most of them are so absurd and totalitarian they’ll make you wonder why anarchism is still taken seriously).
And if anyone has a problem with this, they are deemed to be racist and in quite a few cases you can lose your career. An illuminating article for The Hill highlights what happens to dissenters on the issue of statues being removed. A Windsor School principal was placed on leave and being forced to retire for saying “While I understand the urgency to feel compelled to advocate for black lives, what about our fellow law enforcement?”. Harald Uhlig, a professor of the University of Chicago, is facing efforts to get him fired for questioning the idea that the police should be defunded. Adrianna San Marco, a student journalist writing for the Daily Orange at Syracuse University, was fired on the grounds of “reinforcing stereotypes” for discussing a study published by the National Academy of Sciences which apparently found no evidence of disparities regarding Blacks and Hispanics in police shootings. And there is apparently an increasing trend in academia where teachers and students are denouncing each other over political differences, with calls for people to be either fired or “retrained”. There is no conceptual or moral difference between this and how in the Cultural Revolution students would denounce their friends, educators and family members for failing to conform to the Communist party line. This is what Black Lives Matter seems to want, and this is what Hann wants us all to think is “liberation” and “justice”. It is not a movement for social justice, but instead a movement for insurrection, desecration and tyranny.
So, in summary, Hann’s article was garbage on all fronts. It displays profound ignorance of the metal scene and in particular the subject of race within metal subculture. Its author goes to embarrassing lengths to smear well-established metal bands and artists as racist, for reasons that are not only demonstably absurd but also nakedly hypocritical considering the bands he defends sometimes do the same thing. And on top of it all, the author doesn’t seem to understand what he’s shilling for politically. He has an idea of what Black Lives Matter is all about, which his fellow Guardianistas along with the mainstream media all reinforce for him, and he uses this to construct a politically correct ideal for metal to follow, without understanding the reality of what’s going on with the movement he’s promoting and demanding that others promote. Michael Hann is nothing more than an ideologue who seeks to invade subcultural spaces to which he does not belong and make them his own in a way that disrupts their free-flowing praxis. We metalheads would, and should, see to it such people are alienated from our subculture until they find a spine.
Sometimes when I check my emails I get notifications from the website of Hells Headbangers Records, probably because of one time when I bought a Rigor Mortis T-shirt from them. I don’t typically complain. Hells Headbangers is a venerable metal label responsible for the distribution of countless classic metal albums, both old and new, and the emails I get from them keep me somewhat up to date about what they release, a lot of which, though, consists of re-releases of classic albums, but it is often useful in that it sometimes alerts me to bands that I hadn’t heard of beforehand. As is my instinct as a metalhead what then follows is a trip to Metal Archives or somewhere to do some light research. In that spirit, the most recent instance of this is an email telling me about a band called Abhomine, a black/metal band based in Florida, USA. Through some light research I learned about one of its members, Pete Helmkamp, and the fact that he wrote a book called The Conqueror Manifesto: Capricornus Teitan, and it’s from there that we learn about his fascist ideas.
Helmkamp is fairly prolific in the intersection between black metal and death metal. Before Abhomine, he was in more famous black/death metal bands such as Order From Chaos, Angelcorpse, and Revenge, the last of which is considered to be a pioneer in a subset of black/death metal referred to as bestial black metal (or “war metal”), which is even more extreme than garden variety black metal, death metal or any mixture thereof – the basic distinction lies in the significant influence of grindcore on the overall sound, which tends to be generally more chaotic, frenetic, and brutal than baseline black metal or death metal. To summarize, bestial black metal is not simply what you get when you mix black metal and death metal; it’s what you get when to mix black metal, death metal and crack cocaine.
The main focus here is his book, The Conqueror Manifesto, which seems to have been published in 1993 under the alias Seirizzim. In his book, he advocates a philosophy aimed at helping mankind reach a new stage in human development that he terms Homo Deus, which Feldkamp defines as the stage in which he is free from mythological thinking and morality. On the surface, his philosophy doesn’t seem that different from baseline Satanism, at least judging from what extracts from the book I can find. He bases his doctrine on “self-will”, which sounds like the kind of rebranding of Nietzschean will-to-power that would fit pretty much perfectly within Satanic philosophy, and the doctrine of might makes right certainly isn’t out of place in baseline Satanism. But from reading interviews with Pete Feldkamp about his philosophy, it’s clear that there are other undertones that are seemingly unique to his philosophy, and which reveal deep fascist leanings. We can gain key insights into his thinking via an interview he took part in with the Finnish metal zine Isten, which seems to have been undertaken during his time in Order From Chaos.
When asked about the mentality of the average American, which the interviewer characterizes as pathologically hypocritical, Feldkamp declares nearly all of humanity to be a slave race and that “only the elite ASTR will have the necessary strength and wisdom to rule”. What is ASTR? Later in the interview, Helmkamp tells us that ASTR stands for Arya Serpent Theos Race, which he believes to be a European race that once ruled much of the ancient world – he cites the Central Asian steppes, Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, Egypt and North India as their supposed original territory. If that’s not enough he also seems to believe that Chinese civilization has European rather than Asiatic roots, citing the alleged discovery of mummified Europeans dating back to 2000 BC as proof. What this thesis comes down to when you think about it for about five minutes is the idea that Europeans ruled the Old World, which can be taken to mean that the white race, or “Aryans”, (what else could Arya refer to?) once ruled the world. If you think that seems uncharitable, just look at the way he endorses Adolf Hitler in that interview as a man who had “incredible” ideas. He even cites his sense of Germanic identity (the name Helmkamp being apparently of German extraction) as an influence on his way of thinking and acting. Therefore, Helmkamp is an ethnocentric fascist, nay, a neo-Nazi of some type, and it is laughable then that in the same interview he claims that his idea of “Heretic Supremacy” as not based on racial supremacy. There’s also something he said in an interview with Voices from the Darkside, wherein he appears to give a soft defence of eugenics:
We burn cattle in England because of a terrible contagious disease. Do we burn humans in Africa because of a terrible contagious disease? We proscribe birth control to koala bears in Australia after we allowed the population to grow out of control. Firstly, wouldn’t bullets be cheaper, and then we could utilize the meat. Secondly, do we proscribe birth control to humans that we allow to grow out of control? We proscribe rice. Indeed. Evolution does not happen over night.
During the mid-1990s, Helmkamp and The Unsane (from the Dutch black metal band Bestial Summoning) formed a group promoting his philosophy called the Heretic Supremacist Brotherhood. Take note also of this flyer they released, which seems to have been released at around the time of the release of Helmkamp’s manifesto in 1993.
As you can see, what is presented is a synthesis of Satanism, the doctrine of Aleister Crowley, Nietzschean philosophy, and the writings of Adolf Hitler. It’s generally a good rule of thumb that if you cite Mein Kampf as a key inspiration for your philosophy, and indeed you refer to your own doctrine as “following in the wake of Mein Kampf”, you’re a Nazi. In addition to this is the inclusion of the writings of Adam Parfrey, a fascist and a supporter of eugenics who in turn was beloved by fascists.
You will also notice references to OLHP, meaning the Order of the Left Hand Path. The Order of the Left Hand Path is a fascist Satanist group founded by Kerry R. Bolton in 1992. This group existed for a few years before reconstituting as Ordo Sinistra Vivendi in 1994, which then went on to become fairly influentual in the black metal underground of the early-to-mid-1990s. Bolton seems to have originally been a member of the Temple of Set, but left the group after some sort of dispute with other members. I imagine this dispute must have had something to do with his neo-Nazi beliefs because, prior to founding the Order of the Left Hand Path, Bolton had already been deeply involved in neo-Nazi and ultra-nationalist movements since the 1970s, and from there went on to have a whole network of Satanic Nazis surrounding him. In 1994, Bolton also started another Satanic Nazi organization known as Black Order, which served as a sort of on-the-ground activist movement intended to mobilize groups of like-minded Satanic Nazis, including artists and musicians, to advance their ideological goals. And if you needed some idea of the nature of Bolton’s Nazi ideology, know that he believed that the world was being dominated by what he called a “Puritan-Jewish aristocracy” seeking to impose a New World order by creating a docile and consumeristic mass via the three prongs of laissez-faire capitalism, communism, and multiculturalism, and that only Nazism and fascism could serve as effective opposition against these forces. Furthermore he published several pro-fascist books through Realist Publications and Renaissance Press, distributed a series of National Socialist texts from David Myatt from the Order of Nine Angles, and issued a rerelease of Savitri Devi’s The Lightning and the Sun. He even founded a Thelema-oriented group called The Thelemic Society in 1996, which sought to establish Thelema as a “fighting creed” for his ideology.
The doctrine of the OLHP/OSV seems to be based on an extrapolation of Nietzsche’s concept of the Ubermensch (or Overman, the next stage of human development which would overcome the perceived decadence and egalitarianism of the “last man”), in that it bases its philosophy on the idea of the Higher Man, a sort of midway between the ordinary man and the Ubermensch which serves as a nexus of transition to the Ubermensch. The goal of the Satanist in this doctrine is to start the path of embodying the Higher Man, which means withdrawal from mass society, and to create what it deems the Faustian Civilization, their name for a society which discards the various doctrines they despise (Christianity, liberalism, socialism, human rights, egalitarianism, humanism, democracy, the “welfare state” and so forth) and expunges those they deem to be inferior through eugenicsn programs, ruled by an elite composed of what it deems to be “Faustian heretics”, who through their governance will usher in the arrival of Homo Galactica, the genetically engineered successor to mankind. Just the reference to Homo Galactica is a suggestion of heavy influence from the Order of Nine Angles, whose whole schtick concerning Satanism is that it is supposed to be the religion of a space-faring Aryan empire who will conquer the universe. One main difference though is that Nietzsche is directly emphasized in OLHP/OSV in a way that he wasn’t in other groups, and they even refer to Nietzsche as “Satan’s hammer”. The organization offered courses on their version of Satanism that were taught via Collegium Satanas, which taught that Satan was an archetypal opponent of stasis and conformity (pretty much the same doctrine the Church of Satan teaches), that Nietzschean philosophy is the cornerstone of Satanism to the point that Nietzsche was the primary basis of Anton LaVey’s own philosophy, that Satanism is an anti-democratic and anti-egalitarian doctrine that seeks to bring about a god-man race through eugenics, and that the Faust who sold his soul to Mephistopheles was based on the Norse god Odin. Despite being founded by a neo-Nazi, the OLHP wasn’t a completely fascist organization, as suggested by a schism that involved a member named Tani Jantsang, who was a Marxist Satanist (yes, that apparently exists) and the creator of a group called the Satanic Reds which blended Satanism with communist ideolgy and various Eastern religious/spiritual influences – indeed, they are notable for their thesis that Satan comes from the words Sat and Tan, which they claim to be Vedantic words and concepts. The Sat-Tan doctrine is clearly visible in the writings of Kerry Bolton and the OLHP as is suggested by Bolton’s reference to this theology in a 1993 edition of Key of Alocer, a New Zealand-based underground black metal zine, though it seems this influence was apparently discarded in 1994 when the OLHP became Ordo Sinistra Vivendi.
There appears to be quite a bit of crossover between Feldkamp and a network of Satanic Nazis who promote their own idiosyncratic takes on what is otherwise the philosophy of the Order of Nine Angles and even Anton LaVey in parts, all united in what seems to be a synthesis of Satanic philosophy and esoteric racialist politics. And thus, what we have in Feldkamp is an avatar of a type of racialist Satanism that had been developing and growing back in the early 1990s, where it co-habitated with elements of the black metal underground. What’s also troubling is the knowledge that, for a time, Hells Headbangers Records sold Felkamp’s Conqueror Manifesto on their website, thus giving his brand of Satanism a platform.
I had only recently found out yesterday afternoon about the death of David Bowie, one of the most beloved rock musicians of the 20th century. Even though I’m not a fan of his work, I know he was highly prolific musician and he was very talented. He released several albums between 1967 and the present day, and throughout his career his albums took on a different sound and look with each new era of said career and each new incarnation of his ever-changing artistic persona, all while making a massive impact on popular music with his unique take on both rock music and pop music. He collaborated with several artists during his life such as the Pet Shop Boys, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Mick Jagger, Annie Lennox, Brian Eno, Mott the Hoople, Nile Rogers, Freddie Mercury, and Iggy Pop (who was also a dear friend of his). His final album, Blackstar (which was released on Friday), was his own way of leaving the world with a parting gift and a sign of great artistic character. My brother is definitely a fan, and I can tell that Bowie’s death was probably the biggest thing on his mind today. When I heard about it, and didn’t yet know if he had heard about it, I thought “Oh shit! He is not going to like this news at all”.
To be honest, I feel that David Bowie’s death could hardly have come at a worse time. In 2015 we not only lost Philthy Animal Taylor, the drummer of Motörhead, but also Lemmy the lead vocalist and easily Motörhead’s driving force (and after Lemmy’s death, Motörhead immediately broke up). I think we are in a climate where people are thinking that all the good musicians are dying, while in the public consciousness the void looks set to be filled with the many inane figures of homogenized commercial music culture. I don’t even need to name them, seriously you should know by now if you’ve paid any attention at all. It’s actually a very familiar climate: one that Bill Hicks once alluded to when he said in his stand-up routines “John Lennon was murdered, yet Milli Vanilli walks the fuckin’ planet”. And it feels like that today too: Lemmy and David Bowie both die of cancer, and guess who walks the Earth today? It’s all too familiar for lots of people, and I think this is particularly true for those who fall outside the realm of mainstream and popular music and belong to the realms of other forms of music: particularly metal or punk, but especially metal in my experience. Over the years the world of metal has seen the loss of its own icons besides Lemmy and Philthy Animal Taylor. Among them we can name Randy Rhoads, Chuck Schuldiner, Cliff Burton, Quorthon, Ronnie James Dio, Darrel “Dimebag” Abbot, Per Ohlin (a.k.a. Dead), Paul Baloff (the original Exodus vocalist), Mike Scaccia (of Ministry and Rigor Mortis), Jeff Hanneman, and Dave Brockie (a.k.a. Oderus Urungus), all of whom proved themselves as an invaluable part of metal music for their talent, for being powerful and inspirational forces in metal music, and for leaving behind their own legacy. Some of us, myself included, can be inclined to complain that while they are no longer among us, purveyors of mindless pop, rap, and inauthentic forms of rock music still walk the Earth. And it’s a lot worse when you feel like these musicians die too soon, and even when Lemmy and Philthy Animal Taylor died it felt like they left this world too soon.
I actually felt like reflecting on the state of music today, because as I have discussed earlier here, while good musicians are dying and increasingly relegated in public consciousness, they have already been replaced in the minds of the masses by purveyors or more homogenized music, and the more homogenized music currently dominates popular music. And again, if you’ve paid attention to any media at all you’ll know who these purveyors are. I believe that a similar phenomenon is occurring in the realm of hard rock and heavy metal music, as you might see when you pay attention to the realm of mainstream “heavy music”. Essentially, this is the world of heavy metal, hard rock, punk rock, alternative rock, metalcore, and just about anything perceived as hard-edged and heavy are just fucking forced together and made part of a more homogenized heavy music category. You see this sort of thing promoted by the likes of Kerrang Magazine, Download Festival, and a bevy of ignorant youths who don’t even know what they’re listening to because they don’t think about it. These are the kinds of people who, let’s say for the sake of argument, think bands like The Who, Pink Floyd, The Sex Pistols, Poison, Bon Jovi, Nirvana, Green Day, Slipknot, Rammstein, Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance, and Black Veil Brides all belong to the same category and the same family as Metallica, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Pantera as well as each other. They don’t: the example shown for the sake of argument is a disparate group of musical acts representing different musical genres, and also bound to convey a different ethos to each other, and no one in the right mind would pair them together as though they were in the same family. But that’s what’s going on in mainstream rock culture, or at least hard rock culture: we’re creating a monolithic heavy rock and roll category, even when it should be clear that they don’t all belong to the same category and they all deserve to stand on their own and by their own virtues.
And when we’re not doing that, we’re still favoring an idea of metal that usually consist of music that seems metal, but the vocal style and other elements (such as lyrics) can feel like nothing of the kind, a phenomenon that might have been introduced with the rise of metalcore and screamo. In addition, there’s a gravitation towards the famous and popular metal bands like Black Sabbath, Pantera, Metallica, Slayer, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Death, Cannibal Corpse, Machine Head, Amon Amarth, and Arch Enemy (not that any of them are necessarily bad, especially not the ones from the golden age of metal), as well as the popular but only vaguely metal groups like Slipknot, Bullet for my Valentine, Trivium, Rammstein, Disturbed, Five Finger Death Punch, Avenged Sevenfold, Bring Me the Horizon and others, but there’s not a lot of looking past that. I fear that in that climate, more traditional forms of metal outside the popular range of bands may be seen as welcome because the younger audiences may find them passé and are thus relegated to the underground. And I don’t mean old bands (though I do think people could explore the gamut of classic metal more), I mean new ones who play more traditional styles (this usually goes for heavy metal, speed metal, thrash metal).And is it me, or do a lot of the more popular bands also seem like they have a more extreme sound, even when they’re not strictly death metal, black metal, or grindcore? Is it because of the assumption that metal is all about aggression? Aggression is certainly a key element of metal music, but I think most metalheads know it’s not the only thing that makes metal what it is. Is it just because it seems cool, because it’s the thing that’s popular? I hope not because believe me, that’s not something metal should be put through constantly. In the 1980’s, glam was popular and some traditional metal bands (like Accept and Judas Priest) as well as hard rock acts (like Ted Nugent and Alice Cooper) briefly embraced the hair metal ethos and sound at one point because that was big at the time, and they quickly rejected it. Hell even Discharge (a hardcore punk band) and Celtic Frost (the famous extreme metal band) put out a glam metal record at one point for some bizzare reason. In the 1990’s, some well-known thrash metal bands began to either embrace a more radio-friendly heavy rock sound or simply a slower sound following the success of Metallica’s self-titled album (examples including Testament, Exodus, Megadeth, and Nuclear Assault), while other thrash metal bands chose to embrace a more mid-tempo groove metal style popularized by Pantera (examples include Overkill, Sepultura, Prong, Anthrax, and Demolition Hammer). In the 2000’s, metalcore and nu-metal were becoming popular, and then we got a lot of bands playing heavy music that did stuff like that. We already know what it is to just do what’s popular because it seems popular or even because it’s “cool”, but has no relevance to what you’re actually doing and what you’re actually about.
I can’t help thinking this happens because of a fear of being passé. But since when did metal become passé. And we never say this about classic metal bands. We dare not! We don’t do this anything with the reputation of being classic. In fact, often it’s only when old media continue to do the same thing we are briefly reminded that there’s nothing wrong with still making good use of your old tropes. In movies, the recent Star Wars film was a both a massive commercial success and a great movie, partly because it carries forth a popular already-familiar brand, but also because it managed to do something new without it being completely different. At first, I thought it bothered me that it recycled elements from the original trilogy and keep referencing it, but this was not only inevitable due the film’s continuity from the original trilogy but also it also made sense because the original trilogy was memorable, and why take away what was already good? So it is with not only old metal bands who continue with their art but also new bands that carry on the torch of classical forms of metal and its subgenres. It may seem familiar, but that’s because it’s good. It deserves to be familiar. Not at all like the homogenized forms of music we see today, which are only at least credible.
Even though I’ve discussed a hell of a lot about metal and hard rock culture, my main point is simply about that climate we feel when good musicians die and we get left thinking about the musicians and band still with us, or when we think about the music of then versus the music of now. But it’s also worth remembering that if we care about that, we could at least try to make a contribution. I may be doing game design, but I do feel motivated at times to think about making metal. I’m still not very good at the electric guitar, but no matter what I do in life I’d still like to learn to make real metal and some day give it to the world, because I love metal. I would think anyone with an interest in music would feel the same about genuine, non-homogenized music. That’s one thing to take
You must be logged in to post a comment.