In every field of artistic endeavor, whether it be music, painting, writing, sculpture, acting, filmmaking — you name it — there are examples of people who have created great works of art but are deplorable as human beings. They make you question yourself: Is it right for me to admire, enjoy, and even praise this person’s artistic work if the creator is someone whose actions or expressions outside of their art clash with my own principles and beliefs?
Metal is no exception to this quandary. Perhaps the single most notorious example is Varg Vikernes. On the one hand, he played a leading role in the origination and development of Norwegian black metal under the name Burzum (and as a member of Mayhem), and he has continued to create notable music under the Burzum name nearly two decades later. On the other hand, in 1994 he was convicted of murdering Mayhem guitarist Euronymous and burning churches in Norway, and he spent 16 years in prison for those crimes.
He has also written extensively about his own beliefs in the racial purity of Northern Europeans and the superiority of its pagan traditions, filling volumes’ worth of words with racist, anti-semitic, and homophobic diatribes. In Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, director Sam Dunn described him as “the most notorious metal musician of all time”, and it’s hard to disagree.
Well, metal may have seen the last of Varg Vikernes. In an April 30 post on one of his blogs (Thulean Perspective), he summed up his own role in the history of black metal and the evolution of that movement into what he terms “nihilstic shit”, ending with the proclamation that “I no longer play metal music”.
That little personal history is full of interesting, debatable, and highly egocentric propositions, e.g., that Darkthrone and Burzum were the true originators of black metal, bands who brought something “unique and special to the scene”, and that bands such as Immortal, Emperor, Enslaved, and Gorgoroth were “copy-cat bands” who were mimicking the styles of the originators. Varg does acknowledge that many black metal bands, while drawing inspiration from Burzum, went on to change and even improve the music that inspired them, but then asserts that the movement as a whole eventually turned to shit:
“Rather than feel insulted I should be proud of having inspired others to make music. Most of it very good music, I am sure. I don’t really know though; I have been to foolish to ever try to listen to any of it. My mind was closed. My heart was closed.
One of the reasons for that was also that with time I saw that Burzum was not only inspiring others to make good music, it was also used or rather mis-used by the same forces who turned death metal into nihilistic shit. Black metal as a movement turned into nihilistic shit as well; all the wrong things were promoted – heavily.
Being a European at heart I naturally didn’t want any part of that, so I repeatedly expressed my contempt for it all. The idea that my creative efforts and name would be used to promote a nihilistic movement was very offensive to me. And naturally I was right to feel that way.”
Naturally. Varg also goes on to make clear that he doesn’t “actually think badly of individuals who like the so-called black metal music.”
“Why would I? We are all lost souls in a dying world, so to speak, stripped of all sprititual life and energy by the societies we live in, and left to find new spiritual life and energy on our own. We stumble, we fall and we get up again, as we progress, and black metal, although empty and hollow like most other things in this world, is actually a good gateway to the Divine Light. If nothing else black metal has been a way to find true meaning, a positive direction and new life for many.”
And then a couple paragraphs later, he concludes with this statement:
“I no longer play metal music, so naturally I don’t say this for commercial reasons. I just think that we get enough shit from the world we live in as it is. There is no reason to add to that load.”
The link in that final paragraph takes you to this music on YouTube, posted under the name “Thulean Perspective”:
So, Varg appears to have staked out his future course as an artist, and that path leads away from metal. But there has been no similar course change in Varg’s thinking. Lest there be any doubt about that, here are some words about Jews that appeared in a different Varg post on the same day as the one excerpted above:
They are a race of criminals; of petty, rotten, cruel, filthy, ugly, revolting, hateful, sinister, malevolent, evil mongrels. They are the closest we get to a real Satanic presence on Earth. When their true nature is revealed in a society that society has always destroyed the Jews and their influence in society; this is the why the Jews have been persecuted throughout history, wherever they came; their true nature was unveiled, and they were rightfully persectued because of that. Those who didn’t remove the Jews were themselves destroyed by them – by this cancer of mankind. They are parasites, and they feed on and unless destroyed themselves they eventually destroy their hosts – and move on to feed on a new host when they do.
I read this kind abominable invective, and I want to applaud the news that Varg is leaving metal behind him; it’s this kind of thinking that’s the “cancer of mankind”. On the other hand, if I’m honest with myself, I’ll admit that from time to time I’ll continue to listen to albums like Filosofem and this amazing song from Belus, and I’ll remain in a quandary about whether separating the art from the artist is really justifiable.