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.
Eh, we’re well rid of him. Fuck him and his pretentious, egotistical blather. And his racism. Fuck that, too.
I have to liken it to Richard Wagner as well, though I love his music, to say he lacked as a human would be an understatement.
Varg needs to just put on a fur and move further north to hunt with a spear.
After Varg, Wagner is the first person who came to mind when I wrote the first sentence of this post. 🙂
I always end up thinking in two different directions on this issue: On one hand, it’s impractical, if not impossible, to fully vet any given artist whose work you might enjoy. I play classical guitar, and at least some of the work I perform is from composers that we know little about. Some of those Baroque artists could have been boils on the ass of the universe, but I’ll never know. How much time should I/could I spend stressing about that? And where should you draw the line? Charles Mingus was emotionally unstable and occasionally violent, but how do you weigh some fistfights with other musicians and temper tantrums during which he only hurt himself against his body of work?
On the other hand, Mingus never killed anyone, and as far as I know, he did hold forth about the evils of any other race. People like Varg continue to make their repugnant feelings known. For me personally, I can’t separate his work from the person, and I can’t listen to it because of that. The man’s a stain on the music he helped create. He’s primarily the reason that if I stumble across a black metal band I don’t know anything about, I often do a little research before I even listen to make sure it’s not some National Socialism BM bullsh!t. Is that overly sensitive and/or overly cautious? Probably, but that’s the shadow he casts, at least for me.
First sentence, second para, should have said, “…and as far as I know, he did NOT hold forth about the evils…” Sorry, Mingus.
I do the same thing with black metal bands. But I also do it if music gives me an overtly “Christian metal” vibe or advocates self-destructive behavior like Shining (SE) does. It took me awhile to figure it out, but I realized I have a low tolerance for anyone proselytizing positions or values I find repellant. Misanthropy and devil worship don’t faze me because I can’t take either one seriously. Luckily for me, I guess, since I’m a big fan of Funeral Mist, Carpathian Forest, and Ghost BC.
It’s not even that I consider any of the rhetoric to be particularly dangerous. I just despise close-minded evangelism of anti-scientific worldviews.
I believe that much of what he says is attention whoring/trolling, trying to get some attention back on himself since he ceased to be relevant as a musician a couple of decades ago. But to be honest I’ve never found any of his music compelling enough to lose any sleep over the issue.
I honestly couldn’t care less about the man or his music. Never have, never will. Good riddance.
most definitely good riddance, beyond a shadow of a doubt…
It is impossible to separate the man from its works. Even if you don’t know nothing about him as a person, some of his qualities will transfer and influence whatever he creates. However, in this case, we should remember that Varg is not only Black Metal, Paganism and Antisemitism. He is, as we can see from his writings, someone eloquent, intelligent with a different perspective than ours on many topics, such as spiritualism and society.
I doubt I could ever agree with his views on the jewish people. These go against my principles and the values I try to defend in my life. I don’t even approve of the way he writes about them, as the paragraph quoted in this article is aberrant hate speech, maybe even misdirected.
I am sure he has read more about history and jews than me, but to reduce the evils of what some men have done to their quality of being “jew”, and then apply this to the WHOLE jewish population is ignorant and/or close minded. However, to define this man only based on this aspect of his personality is just as “wrong” on a cognitive level as what he does, though I can’t really speak about an emotional response to his views, I understand they are also valid. After all, we can’t be devoid of the powerful emotional reaction we can have to aspects related to art that aren’t the art itself, and that includes aspects of the very people who created them.
I can, however, continue to enjoy the eloquent, nature-loving side of him in his music, for at least I can respect those aspects of him on an artistic level. He has made some truly wonderful music which I’m glad to have listened. It is sad that he has decided to abandon the style that I liked from him, but wish him the best on his new endeavour as much as I do wish he could find a less offensive way to express his views.
I couldn’t agree more with the “stain on the music” statement. For people who are not familiar with metal music it is
even worse : the whole metal universe is stained with these church burnings and racist actions. For us it is only black / pagan metal but still ; this is something uneasy to get rid of – and definetely something to check when you’ve just found a potential bad smelling act.
On the other hand it would be difficult for me to get rid of the music itself ; I don’t know a lot of NSBM acts and I’m not interested in most of these but I really enjoy old school classics like Det Som Engang Var from time to time. Detached from its creator and his stupid convictions it is and remains some great and intense piece of work.
(sorry for the comment in two parts – cell phone failure)
am I the only one thinking “again”? We’ve been here before when he was in jail and guitars and amps were created by sub-humans (his words not mine) and hence not worthy of his attention.
Yes, I’ve already heard that too. The “negroid rock’n’roll origin” – in his own words – of metal was something he couldn’t admit, and hence, he would stop playing it. And he released Belus, Fallen, and Umskiptar since that. This man is full of contradictions : he can’t stop praising the alleged purity of northern civilisations and mythologies, but he now lives in France (which, alas, is the country I live in…) which he despises because of its racial mixity, as he said many times… At least, I’m glad his birth name is Kristian… that must be a pain in the ass.
What Varg says about Jews is correct. There is a reason why they were kicked out of every country they were in. Fucking parasites. Now go ahead and call me a Nazi…
They were kicked out of every country they were in because it had always been a cool trick for dictators to obtain the nation’s unity by designing a common enemy… And yes, Jews have always been the goat.
How about idiot? They mean about the same thing.
Okay, you’re a Nazi.
I will miss him.
I think this time his exit from metal is real.
It just makes sense to move to some tribal stuff, given what he and his wife are into.
As for the Jews, let’s see. One view is that during their interactions with countless peoples like the Egyptians, Babylonians, Syrians, Phoenicians, Philistines, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Slavs, Germans, Franks, Spaniards, French, Poles, Russians, Rumanians, etc, it’s always been the case that the Jews were guiltless and that the other people were guilty of doing bad things to Jews. In other words, one view is that the Jews are a uniquely innocent people who have always gotten the short stick and never hurt anyone in anyway possible.
It’s the orthodox point of view in contemporary western society. It’s what educated, reasonable people believe.
I used to be an educated, reasonable westerner and I believed too that the Jews couldnt have possibly EVER done anything wrong in their interactions with non-Jews.
Then I stopped believing that.
Just my 2 cents.
I’m probably wasting my time here, but seriously dude? No reasonable person believes “that the Jews couldnt have possibly EVER done anything wrong in their interactions with non-Jews,” we just refrain from the bigoted assumption that all jewish people are all evil. It really isn’t that complicated.
Eldhoraz above is one example of an educated, reasonable westerner who does explicitely say that in every case of conflict between the jews and non-jews, the jews were the guiltless scapegoat. He says it right a few comments above me. He’s far from being the only reasonable, educated westerner who believes this.
Incidentally, it’s interesting to talk to non-westerners sometimes about that topic because a lot of them haven’t been formatted like we have and so they’re able to tell us how laughably absurd views like Eldhoraz’s are.
Saying the ALL jewish people are evil is lazy and laughable and that’s certainly not my claim.
I recall that before I opened my eyes on my own about this issue, anyone who criticized jews qua jews in any way seemed insane and dumb and their claims didn’t seem worthy of any consideration. I suppose that’s how I sound to you all this point. Ok then. ciao.
I assume what Eldoraz is talking about is history — and there’s a lot of history of monarchs and dictators persecuting and exterminating Jews because they were Jews, and for no other reason. They aren’t the only people who have been persecuted and exterminated because of their race or religion, but they’re certainly a clear example of it. What’s wrong with trying to assess a person’s worth based on what they say and what they do, without even using the word “Jew” or “Muslim” or “atheist” or any other label?