I haven’t written about this subject in a while, but a recent private exchange of messages on Facebook got me thinking about it again. The subject concerns music created by bands (or at least parts of bands) who embrace Nazi ideology or other similar racist ideologies and beliefs.
These thoughts are my own, not necessarily those of anyone else associated with our site. The issue may come closer to my consciousness than other writers here because I tend to write more about underground black metal and certain offshoots of it, which have tended to be a more fertile breeding ground for this kind of thing than other metal genres.
Here’s how I generally approach issues like this one: I really don’t want to know about the personal characters and proclivities of metal musicians.
Based on the musicians I actually do know, either up close or a little more remotely, they’re just like the range of everyone else I’ve ever known over an uncomfortably long span of years. Some of them are good people. Some of them are mainly good to people they think can help them. Some are shits to almost everyone they encounter — the kind of people you’d pray to whatever deity hovers in your neighborhood that your kids will never resemble when they grow up. And then there are the people who borrow your lighter to fire up their smoke and walk off with the lighter.
But the issue for me when I listen to music is not, “Would I like this person to marry my daughter?”, or even, “Would I want this person to spend a weekend at my house?” It’s certainly not, “Can we be friends?” Nope. The almost exclusive issue for me is whether I like the music and think it’s worth sharing with you here on our putrid site. With very rare exceptions, that’s really my only litmus test for what to write about.
And that’s because (duh) this is only a metal blog. We’re not vetting candidates for sainthood and we almost never stick our toes into the cesspool of gossip, scandal, and the cults of personality that are the bread and butter of certain other sites I won’t mention by name. We devote our energies to music, and that’s pretty much the beginning and end of the story.
The truth is, I usually just don’t care what most musicians I’ve never met think about when it comes to issues outside of music, any more than I care what actors or professional athletes think. And usually, the more I hear actors and athletes talk about anything other than what they actually do that makes them well-off and well-known (and sometimes not even that is very interesting), the more they turn me off, or make me yawn. For good reasons, no one is paying them to formulate great philosophical or political thoughts, or for talking about the thoughts they do have (which are usually not great). Same goes for musicians most of the time, though there are obviously exceptions.
Speaking for myself, I tend to focus first (and sometimes exclusively) on what people actually accomplish with whatever talents they have. Whether it’s worth going beyond that depends on whether you actually want to decide whether you want to be friends, whether you need or want to trust them, how you feel about them marrying your daughter, whether you’ll entrust them with your lighter, etc.
Approaching things from this perspective, I don’t investigate the moral qualities of the people in bands whose music I like before I write about their music. I don’t feel any obligation to do that, mainly because I don’t care about it (except in rare cases — which I’m about to discuss), and also because if I took the time to do that, I’m pretty sure I’d find the usual range of people — from gems to total shits — and I’d still try to come back to the music on its own merits. Basically, most of the time I think I’m better off not knowing more than that.
There’s one exception to this general approach, and that’s when bands use their music as vehicles for unambiguously espousing and shoving in my face certain points of view that turn my stomach.
Most of the time, I can’t tell whether that’s happening or not, just from listening. Lyrics may mean something important to the lyricist, but it’s a rare album when I can hear the lyrics at all, and it’s also pretty rare for me to take the time to hunt them down and read them (first, because it takes time I usually don’t have, and second, because most metal lyrics really aren’t very interesting). But sometimes you don’t have to decipher the lyrics because the album or song titles spell it all out.
I may not care enough to investigate whether bands whose music I like harbor repulsive ideologies, but when they put it right out there in a way that turns their music into a vehicle for propagating them — when you really can’t separate the one from the other — then that’s a different story. Then I’ve got to do some extra thinking, much as I’d rather not think about it. And with very few exceptions, I usually come out just ignoring that kind of stuff — not preaching against it, just ignoring it. There’s too much other good metal out there worth talking about that isn’t a billboard for white power or anti-Semitism or some other form of hate propaganda.
But it’s rare when I have to make that call in what I write about, either because the propagandistic stuff is just terrible music or because the music is good but doesn’t yell “Seig Heil!” right in my fucking face. I admit that in very rare cases I’ve turned a blind eye to obvious markers of hatefulness because I think the music is exceptionally good. I guess I assume other people can make up their own minds how much that matters to them.
To be clear, I’m not trying to convert anyone and I’m certainly not criticizing anyone who puts more weight on this issue than I do. I’m only explaining my own point of view in how I approach what I do for the site.
By the way, don’t take that as me trying to dissuade anyone from commenting. As always, comments are welcome.
Can Ispend a weekend at your house?
I promise not to steal your lighter. I’ve got my own!
Also, I hate hate propaganda. Especially racial hate propaganda.
Hate propaganda against religion is fine, though.
PS: I may, or may not intend to marry your daughter. That’s too far into the blue to tell.
Won’t steal my lighter, check.
Not yet thinking about marrying my daughter, check.
Staying at my house… how much do you eat?
A gallon of fresh blood a day (or rather night) will do. /\oo/\
Oh man, that’s quite an appetite you’ve got there. I suppose you want it fresh instead of frozen.
This makes me digress and philosophize. Could vampires live of blood not sucked straight out of a vein? Is menstruation blood dead? Could menstruating women be used as Dracula’s beverage vending machine if he developed too much empathy like Louis in Interview with the Vampire? If unthinkable, would it still be plausible enough as parts of the plot for a sick porn/exploitation flick? Probably. Would I see it? Meh. I doubt it.Or is that just what I want you to believe? So many questions. Think I’ll go vegetarian, and eat blood oranges instead.
Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. We’re all free-thinking adults and should be able to decide on our own where we draw the line. Fortunately there is plenty of awesome putrid, bone-crushing, anti-religious metal out there.
Thanks — but I’m not sure the other writers here are free-thinking adults. They may be figments of my imagination.
Well, my imaginary friend Igor agrees with you. However, even if I imagine him as an adult, I can’t say that he is a free-thinker, so I’m not sure where that leaves us.
Just keep doing what you’re doing. If there’s so much people reading this blog it is because they are interested in the music. Like you say, there are a lot of different choices for gossip and I also don’t read them for a reason.
I’ve been seeing this sort of scenario on social media a lot lately:
“Hey guys, I just found this band on Bandcamp that I think sounds really good and I thought you all might like it”
“OMG WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU!?!?!1? DIDN’T YOU KNOW THEIR SINGER C.C. BATTLESKANK BOUGHT A HITLER YOUTH KNIFE IN 1982???!?1!”
“Umm, no, like I said, I just found them on Bandcamp.”
I respect your approach to this subject. Personally, I tend to be a bit sour towards music with an overtly political agenda. Especially something as ridiculous as National Socialism. That said I don’t have any problem listening to metal made by NS musicians if they aren’t trying to shove their beliefs down my throat. Fuck your politics, and fuck humanity!
Metal is allegedly extreme music, but building your aesthetic and lyrics around politics my right-wing uncle promotes on facebook is the antithesis of that. It’s also woefully inconsistent, given that there’s not really any way to square the tyranny-rejecting ethos of satanism–deistic or non–with embracing fascism. There’s nothing brave or daring about it. It is, rather, an increasingly safe political stance. So I’ve very little use for bands that deal in that level of boring, intellectual hypocrisy, and I find they don’t usually make interesting music anyway.
Generally speaking, I tend to follow the same idea you do, which is, as long as theyre not shoving their ideals in my face with their music, I generally dont care what they believe in the their private lives. For better or worse, I have my own opinions and they are not impacted by somebody whose sole contribution to my life is playing music.
Unfortunately I think theres are a number of people out there who conflate ignoring an idea with being accepting of it and thats usually when accusations start to fly
The only people who care to rant about racism in metal (which I think barely even exists) are the social justice warriors who supported Occupy Wall Street and later moved onto BLM. So right out of the gate, these people don’t have a leg to stand on. Listen to what you like. Fuck everyone else.
Sorry, sorry… wait… wait…
Phew. Thanks for that.
Racism exists anywhere and everywhere, and I also do not define racism as only whites against others, although yes systemic racism is a big issue. But what we are talking about is a bunch of dudes in Norway or Poland who really don’t care for blacks or arabs or whatever, as opposed to Racists, people that actively want to hurt these people and encourage politicians to do whatever to get rid of them.
People will never get along and live in this fairly world that the Left dreams about, but we can at least have a society where people are not being murdered and attacked, that is what I would like to see at least.
To act like the normal level of racism doesn’t exist in the metal scene is just being willfully ignorant, but I don’t think most of the racism in the metal scene is anything to worry about.
I am curious Morbid Corpse, so you are okay with the bailout of the banks whose bad financial decisions led to thousands of Americans, including white ones which you may care about a bit more, while these bankers got thousands and millions of dollars for their mistakes? That sounds okay to you somehow? Or is it the kill or be killed mentality from the stone ages (and I doubt it even existed back then to the degree we imagine it) that makes you justify others getting shit on by the supposed “stronger” people?
The movement itself became a parody of itself, absolutely, but the intentions of it have no logical and intelligent counter argument.
@morbidcorpse – When a down vote would be well needed. Trolled too hard or you’re delusional bud.
I don’t really buy your dismissing lyrical content all together. Yes it’s a bit easier to ignore with everything screamed-growled, but almost every band has some sort of angle shown in lyrics and their images, whether it’s anti-religious, anti-war/corruption, the decay of the human body, fucking dragons or a thousand other subjects. I mean wouldn’t we think someone was rather thick if they never considered the political lyrics in a Napalm Death song but they claimed to love the band?!?
You’re right that most bands have some sort of angle shown in their artwork, song or album titles, and/or videos — though I don’t think it’s always clear what the angle is. When it’s not clear, then I could try to go to the lyrics to find out more. But I usually don’t do that, for the reasons explained in what I wrote. In my case the main reason is that I’m constantly bouncing from thing to thing because of this site, and often don’t even have any lyrics because I’m listening to digital promos that about 99% of the time don’t include them. I’m sure if I spent lots and lots of time with an album after its release I’d eventually wind up digging into the lyrics out of curiosity, or to try to get a deeper understanding of the music. That just doesn’t happen very often.
I seem to be in a minority (at least, in the circles I travel) where I take an active and primary interest in the lyrics of everything I listen to. The human voice is the only instrument capable of producing melody (or percussion) and language at the same time, so I’ve always kind of been fascinated by that aspect, something that when I think about just really intrigues me. It doesn’t matter if its just thematic indulges (dragons, fantasy, horror, etc.) or politically and/or religiously inclined, as long as it’s well written and helps me get into the mood of the song/ album.
Naturally, it becomes pretty obvious when bands take to an ideology or system of beliefs that contradict my own. Most of the time, the contradiction is irrelevant, if I’m listening to a Christian, Satanic, or even a vegan (which is pretty popular now) band those beliefs don’t inherently contradict my core beliefs. National Socialism, racism, sexism, etc. etc. all directly conflict with myself however, and I’ve always had no trouble forgoing these bands because there are plenty of other bands who don’t proscribe to these ideals who are better and more refined for my tastes (admitting the obvious bias of the closer alignment in ideologies there.)
I don’t actively seek to know or take an interest in the personal beliefs of every musician or band I listen to, but if it comes to light they hold questionable, or downright violent/hateful beliefs, I stop listening to them and usually toss all their shit in the trash. But, I have to admit, this actually hasn’t happened to me. I’ve been pretty fortunate in that regard.
Personally, I don’t care at all if a band leans hard left or hard right. I’ve been a Propaghandi fan forever and I also like Nokturnal Mortem and M8L8TH and other bands on the NSBM wing. I don’t like any RAC stuff because I have never, ever heard a decent white power rock/punk/Oi band. That shit is straight up bad. I’ve never been into lyrics much, don’t take anything personally, and have my own beliefs. If I like the sound and mood of something, I’m into it regardless of the message, ignorant or not. Be as hateful or inclusive as you want.
I really love music. I mean really, really, really, really love music. I’ve spent the last 35ish years positively obsessing over music every waking minute of every day. I’m either listening to it, creating it, reading about it, watching, writing about it, or talking about it ALL the goddamn time. I positively obsess over my favorite bands. I’m always about one road trip away from getting a restraining order from one of my favorite artists. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to turn a blind eye to something that directly contradicts my own morality. If it’s a choice between owning a great album or maintaining my integrity, even if I’m the only one that will ever know, I choose the latter.
As for the arguments about how metal is supposed to be controversial, or how people like me are social justice warriors, blah, blah, blah. I don’t have a response to any of that. Why should I?
I do read the lyrics quite often but I am very inconsistent in how I react to said lyrics. Luckily/conveniently enough, I don’t really have a lot of NS or hard right stuff in my excessive collection (I guess Death in June is questionable, and violinist Matt Howden did do a song for a very questionable collection). Am very misotheistic and have a lot of black metal, and I definitely read very closely the newest phase of deathspell Omega because the lyrics are awesome. But…as much as I like bands like Watain, their lyrics and underlying beliefs do give me…pause. That’s some messed up shit, folks. I dislike Christianity because if is totalitarian in character, so I certainly have little interest in just switching my obedience and slavery to some “Satan” character (and I am noit saying all or most Satanist bands are theistic or engage in this thought pattern…just some).
I try to respect the beliefs of people who are genuine (not pretend) Satanists (which I’m using as a broad and not very accurate word for a lot of spirituality along the left hand path), but I’m like you in that I don’t personally believe in any deities of any kind. At the same time, I do believe there is value in many of the teachings of some of those philosophies, just as I do in certain teachings in the New Testament, even though I think all of them were conceived by human beings.
By the way, thank you for introducing me to the term “misotheistic”. I don’t remember ever coming across it before.
One must understand that ‘taking inspiration ‘ can be from literally anything and that is perfectly human. Most often than not all of this falls under the category of ‘culture’ whether it is suggesting a life embracing nihilism, safeguarding an imaginary heritage as different from the ‘other’, or creating a ‘progressive’ future where everybody is equal. All of these are nothing but cultural constructs that are constantly evolving. And it is safe to say that any band can find beauty in it.
Drudkh’s use of Taras Shevchenko’s poetry can be seen in this regard but so can also Panopticon’s use of the issues around the coal mines of Kentucky. They are both reason enough to talk about, and in its effect if they can make good music then that’s all that matters. Specially in a genre like extreme metal that does as of now at the least, has a limited fanbase.
I grew up partly under communist party rule and still am under it. And yet Communism here was a cause of intense subnationalism within a country. It was the reason why this particular province (state) was made. Thus the ideology here over the years has intermingled with ideas of ‘sons of the soil’, nature, religion, the self. Lots of protest poetry is present and so are those which exalt the virtues of being a person from said state.
So its perfectly understandable when people find interest in things that are at odds with our own personal beliefs. Except for maybe a few no-gos like Racism.
Just find the good music in all this.