In messages to me, a couple of NCS supporters have wondered why I haven’t written about the recent controversy swirling around the black metal band Inquisition, perhaps especially because the band are based here in Seattle, because we’ve praised their music in the past, and because just yesterday I praised their live performance on the recently concluded Metal Alliance tour headlined by Behemoth.
While I’m flattered that anyone would care what I think about this subject, I guess the short answer is that I have no relevant facts to add to the discussion and every opinion that could be expressed about the issues (both intelligent and moronic) has been uttered elsewhere already. Also, it seems like every couple of days, some new piece of information surfaces that might be worth considering before expressing an opinion. Of course, none of these factors has stopped other metal bloggers from sticking their oar in the water, so I can understand why some people would wonder why I haven’t.
Given the possibility that our silence could be misinterpreted, I finally decided it might be worth an explanation. Also, I suspect that at least some of you might be interested in expressing your own opinions in a forum that isn’t dominated by idiots — and whatever else might be said about NCS, I think it’s undeniable that intelligent discussion in our Comment sections is one of the site’s strengths. So, here goes….
I’m not going to re-hash all the reasons for the controversy, because I suspect anyone who is actually interested in the subject has read all about them by now. In a nutshell, it involves allegations (beginning here on April 28) that the members of Inquisition are Nazi sympathizers and racists. Because DECIBEL magazine decided to actually speak with the people at the heart of the matter, those reasons have now been discussed by both Inquisition’s Dagon (here) and the band’s accuser (here).
It’s clear to me that the only reason this controversy has gotten so much attention is because Inquisition’s profile was raised dramatically by the success of their last album, 2013’s Obscure Verses for the Multiverse, and the critical praise heaped upon it. That, and the fact that the band are now on a prominent metal label (Season of Mist) also probably explains why Dagon bothered to address the allegations at all. Otherwise, I’m guessing he and Incubus would have ignored them; most underground black metal bands wear “not giving a shit” like a badge of honor, and in fact Dagon has been subjected to criticism by some of Inquisition’s long-time fans for attempting to explain himself.
I don’t mean to suggest that the issues aren’t “newsworthy”, despite the fact that the allegations which spawned them — like Inquisition — have been around for a long time, and are only now getting attention because the band have only recently been “discovered” by a lot of new listeners. Some people (like the blogger who lit the fuse on this most recent controversy) genuinely do care whether the money they spend goes to support artists with beliefs they find morally repugnant, and when such artists begin achieving greater commercial success and popular attention, they care even more. I get that, and I don’t blame people for wanting to talk about the allegations that have been leveled against Inquisition.
On the other hand, I also understand the views of people who very vocally have said that they don’t give a shit about this controversy. In their view, the music is what matters, and this music happens to be in a genre (black metal) that has had a long history of being offensive or at least provocative. In their view, if you find the allegations against Inquisition troubling, then stop listening to the music — but also stop self-righteously telling other people what they should or shouldn’t be listening to; and by the way, where do you get off supporting the many hundreds of metal bands who are openly atheist and offensive to all religions?
I said I understand those views, but I disagree with some of them. Though I do generally think that the music is what matters, I happen to be one of those people who prefers not to financially support artists who use their music to promote fascist and racist agendas, and I’d like to know if I’ve unwittingly been doing that. So would other well-intentioned people. I also don’t view the promotion of fascism and racism as on a par with the pillorying of religion that’s commonplace across most extreme metal genres. Maybe I’m wrong, but I see a difference between challenging and even offensively attacking the beliefs of other people (especially in metal) and supporting ideologies that praise and promote discrimination and violence against other people, particularly an ideology that was responsible for attempting genocide.
So in light of that, why haven’t I written about the Inquisition controversy before now, and why am I still praising the band’s music? Three reasons, the last one more important than the others:
First, I’m reluctant to get on a soapbox and tell other people that they shouldn’t be listening to a band’s music because the band members subscribe to offensive ideologies. It’s a personal choice that each person should be free to make on their own, and I’m uncomfortable with the idea of promoting a boycott of a musician for those reasons, or probably any reasons. Something about that idea just seems inconsistent with what I think metal is about.
Second, to be honest, I think I’m influenced by the fact that I really like Inquisition’s music. I wouldn’t try to defend that as a valid reason for supporting a band with a proven racist and fascist agenda — but that brings me to the third and most important reason: I’m not convinced that Inquisition’s music promotes racism or fascism (at least I don’t get that out of their music) and I’m not convinced that Inquisition’s members currently subscribe to those ideologies.
Maybe Dagon did at one time, or maybe he just didn’t care about judging or condemning the beliefs of people he was associating with, or perhaps he thought those associations gave a rogue edge to the band’s persona that would burnish the band’s status in the black metal underground. Whatever the reasons, he has denied that he is a Nazi and denied that Inquisition’s goal is to persecute anyone for racial reasons.
Is he lying? Maybe he is — his accuser certainly seems to think so, and his accuser’s DECIBEL interview happens to be more articulate and eloquent than Dagon’s denials. If I had to vote on whose account is the more persuasive, I’d vote for the accuser’s (though it’s worth noting, as one of our commenters has, that he was writing while Dagon was talking, and that makes a difference). But based on what I know now I still view this as a swearing match, and as a general matter coming off as inarticulate doesn’t equate to being dishonest (some writers have accused Dagon of being intentionally evasive and not sufficiently unambiguous in his denials, and maybe they’re right, but I’m not convinced of that). On the other hand, being articulate doesn’t mean you’re being entirely honest, and I can’t say I’m instinctively ready to accept the word of an ex-Nazi who used to sport a big swastika on his torso.
In addition, even if Dagon is lying and even if that becomes more clear because someone else comes forward with more information, it’s hard for me to conclude that a band who are denying allegiance to Nazism and racism are doing a very good job promoting those agendas through their music or through the modicum of celebrity status that their music has given them (and I do mean modicum — this is, after all, still pretty “inaccessible” black metal and it’s hard for me to buy the idea that it poses a public danger to anyone).
As disclosed above, I freely admit that the way I’m thinking about all these issues may be too heavily influenced by my liking for Inquisition’s music and their talents as live performers. For example, I wouldn’t say you’re wrong if you reached different conclusions based on the same set of facts. To repeat, I don’t feel comfortable telling other people how they should or shouldn’t think about the issues or whether they should or shouldn’t buy Inquisition’s music. I’m just telling you what’s going on in my own head at the moment, for whatever interest that may hold.
And with that, I’m done. I look forward to reading your Comments — so please leave some damned Comments!