Dropping a Bomb on Black Metal’s Future: A Conversation on Black Metal Rainbows

We first learned about Black Metal Rainbows a few years ago when they did a Kickstarter campaign to fund their book. The volume is an anthology of writing on black metal that takes a decidedly antifascist, antiracist, radical, and, perhaps most of all, queer, claim on the black metal scene. Despite the fact that black metal has often been tarnished by far-right and neo-Nazi artists and fans who want to make their stake their claim to it (just as they do with neofolk), a massive antifascist movement has emerged, bringing the creative explosion at the heart of the genre back to the left.

The book has now been released by PM Press and features amazing contributions by people like Margaret Killjoy and Kim Kelly, as well as radical artwork from across the aesthetic spectrum. Black Metal Rainbows is, to a certain degree, the black metal version of the project we have tried to do, to highlight the dissident voices that are reclaiming our most contested genres. I spoke with one of the editors of the book, Daniel Lukes, about the intention for the book, how it came together, and about fighting for the future of black metal and all “extreme” genres that have seen far-right entryism.

1: Where did the idea for this book come from and what is in it?

The Black Metal Rainbowsproject began life as a dream, which in turn was based on a New Year’s Eve party organized by British band Akercocke in London in 2002.

The idea I took from this was: what if black metal was a party? In my dream, many years after that event, I had an image of black metallers congregating on some kind of mediterranean hillside at dusk, and the image of black metal as a global community stayed with me. The first iteration of this was the “Black Metal Theory Symposium” Coloring The Black, held at Gallery X in Dublin in 2015, with a goal of queering up and adding some color to the “para-academic” field of Black Metal Theory. The symposium featured a memorable contribution from Drew Daniel (of Matmos/The Soft Pink Truth) reading his paper “Putting the Fag Back in Sarcofago” in corpsepaint, a color-the-logo competition from “Lord of the Logos” Christophe Spazjdel, who was fresh off designing a logo for Rihanna, and us experiencing lots of pushback (and death threats) from Nazis. In other words, it was a good time.

After a well-needed breather, the next step was to coalesce that energy into a book. Our book Black Metal Rainbows, began in 2017 and finally published in January 2023, contains essays and rants, manifestos and confessions, glitter and gore, artwork and comics, design and danger. It’s a love letter to black metal, a fuck you to black metal Nazis, and a middle finger to anyone engaged in scene gatekeeping or upholding boring, old hat ideas about what black metal should be. Black metal is joy and exhilaration and freedom and community and love: there is so much more to it than the stereotype would have you believe, and Black Metal Rainbows is a celebration of black metal’s other dimensions.

2: How do you think people get black metal wrong?

I don’t think they always necessarily get it wrong. Being an extreme artform, it is known for its most extreme elements, whether that is its predilection for grim and frostbitten scenarios, or sadly, more recently, its Nazi affiliations. We and many others see black metal as something to be fought over and won back from the people who belittle and limit the genre by trying to turn it into a fascist or conservative artform. Growing up in the 1990s, I never would have believed that John Major and the grey, dull-as-fuck Tories would be on the same side as some of my favorite black metal artists. It’s a very depressing turn of events: black metal dreams big, traveling through the cosmos, and yet some of its practitioners reveal themselves to be deeply narrow-minded. Black Metal Rainbows is our attempt to show that black metal contains multitudes: it can be flashy and flamboyant, it can be a tool against oppression and misery, it can be community and care.

3: There’s a new radical world of black metal emerging, how is it different? What makes it distinct, and what bands are leading the way?

Metal’s queerness has always been there, and so has black metal’s That said, there is certainly a new wave of extreme and black metal that is explicitly and openly made by trans, queer, leftist, and antifascist artists. As KW Campol of Vile Creature says in their blurb for the book “Black metal is the ultimate outsider musical genre, so it makes sense that us queers and weirdos would build a home within its barren fields. Black Metal Rainbows is a necessary anthology documenting the strong anti-oppressive backbone being woven into black metal’s very fabric.”

I think what sets today’s wave of bands apart is a sense that since the stakes are so high right now, being coy about politics isn’t really an option for many artists. Fascism is rising globally, capitalism is burning the planet, state power is being leveraged to oppress trans and queer people in new ways, police brutality against minorities and poor people continues unchecked: the future looks bleak and will be filled with upheaval. Things are definitely getting worse before they get better. Metal was always political, from Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” onwards, but for several decades it hid a little too much behind dragons and elves; now metal’s repressed political consciousness is returning, and it’s glorious to behold. Black metal, in particular, because of its well-documented Nazi problem, is a fertile terrain for de/reterritorialization: it needs to be reclaimed from fascists, and there are so many amazing and courageous artists engaged in that struggle.

Some bands of today I love, in black metal and beyond: Penance Stare, Gelassenheit, Biesy, Divide and Dissolve, Entheos, Backxwash, and Body Void.

4: Tell me a bit of the diversity of writing you have in the book, what kinds of content will people find?

We wanted many kinds of writing, from high-falutin academic articles to personal and journalistic essays. One of the best pieces in there is a strange and enjoyable theory-fiction by Joseph Russo about Texas called “Queer Rot”: the kind of writing that mirrors or emulates the trance-like effect you sometimes get from listening to black metal. There are several pieces on the nature of evil in music (such as Langdon Hickman’s “The Dialectical Satan” and Eugene S. Robinson’s “When Evil Comes A’Calling”), an essay on black metal as witchcraft practice by Jasmine Hazel Shadrack (“Malefica: The Witch as Restorative Feminism in Female Black Metal Autoethnography”), and some considerations on how to fictionalize BM by novelist Catherine Fearns; there is a rousing manifesto by Margaret Killjoy titled “You Don’t Win a Culture War by Giving Up Ground.” It was important to us to showcase a variety of voices in a variety of styles. The art shows the many different visual faces of black metal, starting with the corpsepaint, which is black metal’s signature visual element; the design is also a key component, bringing the rainbow out of the dark, and also looking ahead to glitchy futuristic scenarios. I am a big fan of 1990s modernist black metal, which did a lot of meshing with electronica and industrial and now is coming back in a big way. Hopefully in this book there is something for everyone!

5: What do you think the role of subcultures like black metal are in fighting against the far-right and building radical spaces?

Black metal is a recruiting ground for far-right radicalization, so of course it’s necessary to struggle over that terrain. Not only are there far-right and pro-Nazi black metal scenes, particularly strong in Eastern Europe, but there are plenty of middle-ground centrist edgelords who both-sides the issue, claim to be apolitical, and call antifa and fascists the same thing. We call bullshit on this, and Black Metal Rainbows is our way of shining a light on the activity going on in antifascist and queer black metal scene building. There is a growing global network of progressive, antifascist extreme metal, and communities like the Antifascist Black Metal Network (also check out their YouTube) , and the RABM Reddit are evidence of that.

6: How can radical black metal fans build bridges with other communities?

Queer and trans culture is sometimes perceived in the mainstream media as fluffy, safe, pop (or “tenderqueer”), but as soon as you dip below the surface you see that there is a huge queer, trans, leftist investment into lots of dark subcultures, whether it’s horror fiction, visual arts or extreme music. Gretchen Felker-Martin’s Manhunt made a major splash last year, and queer and trans horror fiction is on the rise. David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future was widely praised for the queerness of its body horror, which is visible when looking back over his career in general. In our small way, Black Metal Rainbows is an attempt to create a space that brings together queer and leftist politics and aesthetics, and shine a light on the fact that cis white men do not have a hegemony on making abject, ugly, and violent art. It’s great to hear reports of Black Metal Rainbows materials popping up in queer spaces. But enabling metal spaces to become more queer-, women-, and minority-friendly is definitely something we hope this project will build towards.

In terms of bridge-building beyond metal scenes, fans can follow up and connect with the orgs that the artists they’re into support and publicize. There are so many amazing extreme metal-related leftist and anarchist initiatives, labels, projects, who we have encountered in this journey, such as non-profit record label Food Desert Recordings, “anonymous extreme music collective” Non Serviam, animal welfare supporting label Fiadh Productions, leftist revolutionary record label Red Nebula. Bill Peel’s forthcoming book Tonight It’s A World We Bury: Black Metal, Red Politics makes a great argument that black metal can be used as a tool to destroy capitalism. Who would have thought that black metal could reinvent itself as protest music? So crank up your favorite black metal artist, pick your battle, do your homework in terms of tactics and safety, and go for it!

7: Tell us about the album that goes with this book. What’s on it, and what does it benefit?

The Black Metal Rainbows Compilation Album came together in summer of 2022, but we had no idea it would get so big. 130 tracks, over eleven hours of music, and 100+ underground and black metal, noise, and electronic artists coming together in support of LGBTQ youth. Upon release it hit the #2 best-selling spot on Bandcamp (behind The Mountain Goats!) and by January 2023 it has raised over $10K+ USD for charities helping LGBTQ youth: The Trevor Project, Mermaids, Minus 18, and The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI) Youth & Student Organisation. While the focus is black metal, there’s a huge variety of musical styles on the album, from blackened grind to epic black metal, blackgaze to dungeon synth, noise to avantgarde. People have a preconception that RABM (Red and Anarchist Black Metal) is basically blackened grindcore, but assembling this compilation was a massive learning process in terms of seeing the wide range and creativity of leftist BM and affiliated genres that’s out there. Anarchist post-black metal? Communist depressive suicidal black metal (DSBM)? Socialist dungeon synth? Search for it and you will surely find it.

Highlights of the comp include a to-die-for Depeche Mode-ish remix of Caïna track “Take Me Away From All This Death,” a surf-rock cover of Darkthrone’s “Transylvanian Hunger,” a black metal-inspired track from Japanoise overlord Merzbow, and lots of creepy goblin-esque dungeon synth replete with trolls, pumpkins, bats and serpents. Special mention must also go to the amazing cover art by Montreal-based artist Wesley Cunningham Closs: who created a stunning and powerful set of images combining corpsepaint, the rainbow, and top surgery scars.


Make sure to pick up the Black Metal Rainbows Compilation album from Bandcamp, and join their upcoming release concert (featuring Imperial Triumphant, Couch Slut, and others) and opening book events in New York City, starting this weekend.

Black Metal Rainbows: A conversation with co-editors Stanimir Panayatov and Daniel Lukes (and Ravenna Hunt-Hendrix of Liturgy).

Center for Place, Culture and Politics, The Graduate Center

City University of New York

Room 6107

10 Feb, Friday, 4:30 PM

365 Fifth Ave New York, NYC 10016

Click Here to RSVP

Black Metal Rainbows: Book Launch and Panel Discussion

Housing Works Bookstore

11 Feb, Saturday, 5-7pm

126 Crosby St, NYC 10012

Click Here to RSVP

Black Metal Rainbows Book Release Show: Imperial Triumphant, Couch Slut, Sunrot, Diva Karr, Greyfleshtethered

St. Vitus Bar

12 Feb, Sunday, 7pm

1120 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, NYC 11222

Click Here for Tickets


Antifascist Warzone: An Interview With Autumn Brigade

Part of what has created the antifacist neofolk and left/folk scene is a group of artists whose antifascist awareness came after they are already embedded in the world of neofolk, then looked to build an alternative to the edgelord Nazi imagery and occultic white nationalism lingering at the edge of that musical world. Autumn Brigade has stood out as one of the rare projects that was built on a stripped down, classical neofolk sound, yet breaking with the political problems that many similarly sounding bands are known for. Their new album Gates of Heaven is a testament to this, a massive step forward for their musical life, but also a time machine to the founding days of neofolk in the mid-1980s.

We talked with CJ Halstead of Autumn Brigade about their new album, how neofolk’s early years influenced their sound, and how they broke away from the scene’s “apoliteic” defense and drew a line in the sand. 

How did the new album come together? Is there a theme that binds it?

Well, the new album came together shortly after the release of my demo “Our Love Is Endless.” I received such positive feedback from it, as well as attention from journalists after being featured in the Left/Folk compilations, I decided that Autumn Brigade should keep going as a project. I released a split EP November 2020 with my comrade in tragedy Adam Norvell of Peace Through Decay. I really liked the songs I made for that EP, and I decided “Why stop there? Those songs sound like the beginning of an album!” A year passed, and here we are: “The Gates of Heaven!”

In terms of themes, I explore political upheavals, sadomasochism (BDSM), occultism, personal introspection, and Christian esotericism. Those have become the defining “themes” of Autumn Brigade, if you will.

The cover will really stand out to folks, what is it and why did that image resonate? What was it like working with Jay, our comrade from DEAES and left/folk?

I originally designed a cover for the album based on a statue of Czech national hero and protocommunist Jan Žižka. I was unhappy with the artwork after a while, and made an alternative cover featuring a brutalist statue of soviet soldiers. Once again, I was unhappy with the artwork after a while, and reached out to Jay for help. Jay’s artwork was breathtaking, so I used it for the album. I think it resonates with listeners because it plays with a “martial aesthetic” that has become synonymous with neofolk in a way. It’s refreshing to see a very left-wing take on that aesthetic. Working with Jay is always a treat, they’re always bringing something new to the table that adds so much flavor and depth to my artwork and music, I’m very glad to call them not only a comrade but a friend.

There is a really classic, Western European neofolk sound. That is obviously the best known corner of the genre associated with fascism, and your work stands to break their hold on that scene. Most antifascist neofolk or left/folk bands actually avoid a lot of this corner of the neofolk sound, but you’ve sort of staked your claim on disallowing that history to keep defining the neofolk scene. What’s your relationship like to the rest of the neofolk world, and how does neofolk at large influence your work?

To be frank it’s a very strange relationship. For each bit of praise I get, I get a lot of hate-mail from more “traditional” neofolk fans, it’s quite amusing. I’ve come into contact with “bigger names” in the scene than me, mostly through just sharing my work and having it out there. The person I’ve talked to the most is Tony Cesa of Destroying Angel and OIS. I’ve been sending him song ideas and whatnot and he’s always been the first to give much needed constructive criticism, or offer advice when I’m having writer’s block. I can’t think of anyone else who’s been this helpful, or who has just been the most enthusiastic about where Autumn Brigade has been going outside of the Left/Folk community. While I was at Psycho Las Vegas last year, I had the honor of meeting Nathan Gray of Boysetsfire and Nathan Gray and the Iron Roses. He had been following Autumn Brigade since its inception and was very impressed with my discography thus far. We talked for a long time over coffee, and I got to see his set at The House of Blues. Talking with him about Autumn Brigade was an amazing experience. Showing my music to the doom metal and non neofolk acts I’ve played with as well, like Dee Calhoun from Spiral Grave and Iron Man, Bert Hall of Mangog, Mike D of The Age of Truth, and Tommy from Tribes of Medusa gives me a lot of motivation to keep going forward. And to bring it back to the sound it started with, which a lot of people end up associating with Current 93 and Death in June. 

There’s the obvious debate around Douglas P and Death in June that has been going on ad nauseam since the genre’s inception. Is he a nazi, or is he not? Whether Douglas P is a nazi or not, I think the blatant use of fascist imagery in the way he did is rather irresponsible as an artist. You have groups like Laibach and people in the fetish community who use this totalitarian aesthetic to either make a statement about mass media and the music industry being the real fascists in this modern era (such as what Laibach did), or an exploration of the taboo in a safe and consensual environment (such as what my comrades in latex do during sex). I believe in artistic freedom, I really do, but satire is dead. You end up empowering the wrong people when you try to satire something that has already been satirized to death. Even if the whole Nazi thing is a cheap joke or something sexual, the fascist chic is bland and overdone. Be either politically straightforward, or don’t delve into politics at all. Especially in this age.

To be honest Autumn Brigade began as a joke made between a friend and I about Douglas P being a secret communist, and Autumn Brigade’s original symbolism and aesthetics came as sort of a situationist’s exercise in détournement (a subversion of images and spectacles that enforce the system, sort of like culture jamming). Everyone I speak to who loves neofolk says their first exposure was Death in June, however they want something without the cryptically fascist imagery, or something they can listen to without it being a guilty pleasure. You have Current 93, Chelsea Wolfe, Sonne Hagal, among others, whose sound was influential. But that still doesn’t change the fact that underground music; especially black metal and neofolk, have a nazi problem. Trying to find “safe artists” is one thing, but it doesn’t do much when the fascists are showing up to shows. It’s rather unfortunate that the underground is such a contested space, but what do you do? You contest the space even more. You push back.

How does the growing militancy of the fight against fascism affect your tone?

I try to convey a sense of urgency in the themes of my work, especially when I am dealing with antifascist themes. We are running out of time, and our comrades are divided. We must come together in order to meet the multitude of challenges that meet us before we lose our rights to exist and the planet we call home.

What advice do you give to other bands deep in the neofolk scene about standing up against white nationalism?

Don’t give up. Keep your chin up, and keep up the fight. You may be dismayed, you may want to give up, but don’t. This is our fight, and we must march together. You are fighting not only for you and your comrades, but for future generations to come. March on, and remember Our Love is Endless!

Tell me about the song Partizan!: what are the lyrics about, how did the last two years of antiracist protests impact it, and what is the audio that is layered underneath the track?

The song came to me while doing some reading about the Yugoslav partizan brigades under Josip Broz Tito during the second world war. Historians regard them as possibly the most effective brigades in their resistance against Nazism. While I was in Italy before the pandemic, I talked to comrades of mine who were immigrants from that area who talked to me about Tito and his partizans. You could say I’ve had an infatuation with resistance of that caliber since. I would say that I hope that songs like this become a rallying cry for a new world, “Do you hear the people cry?” We’ve been demanding justice, freedom, and equality for eons. I want my songs to inspire people to act, especially those who have been silent in the past.

The liner notes talk about who you hurt and who you hate. How is this idea of trauma, responsibility, and harm prevalent in your work?

When you are hurt, you hurt others. My music and my art is introspective in this way. I’ve dealt with a lot in my youth, being bullied to the point of attempting suicide, sexually abused, emotionally manipulated. I’ve hurt others by repressing it, by buying into an idea of masculinity sold to me since I was young, that men have to be these stoic monoliths of physical and sexual prowess. It hurts more when you have to repress the fact that you are bisexual not out of the fear of what your family will say (they are some of the most supportive and loving people on the planet), but for what others will say. I bought into this culture, and I hurt a lot of people by being just as emotionally manipulative and verbally abusive as people were to me. I am deeply ashamed by that, and I want to learn from it and grow so that I can do better.

Autumn Brigade is a self help project just as it is a cry for help. I want to reach the people I have hurt to tell them that I am sorry, that I am learning from my mistakes, that I am moving forward while holding myself accountable for my actions. I want them to be healed by my music as well. I want them to feel something peaceful, something calm, something that makes them dance, something that makes them smile.

I also want my music to be a message to my abusers, and to those who believed them when I came out against them: I am here, I am strong, and you will not defeat me.

Trauma is a very painful and strange thing, especially when we’re trying to overcome it. We end up hurting others as much as we have hurt ourselves, either intentionally and unintentionally. When you’ve been made aware of what you are doing is toxic, you should make amends, apologies, and change yourself. Actions speak louder than words. Be better, be strong, and know that you are loved.

What influence did your exploration of Eastern Orthodoxy have on the new album?

That is an excellent question! Eastern Orthodoxy influences me in a multitude of ways. I am a very spiritual person, in my own practices I incorporate Orthodoxy, Germanic Paganism, and elements of magick. I don’t know what you would call that. The establishment of the church would call it “heresy.” That being said, I discovered the Eastern Church a while ago through my readings into different faiths. I stumbled across the writings and wisdom of Elder Porphyrios, who was canonized as a Saint by the Patriarch of Constantinople in 2013. His writings were full of beauty and wisdom beyond words. I have felt him speak to me ever since. I plan to write many songs about him.

I also discovered the zine “Death to the World” started by Justin Marler after he left Sleep to become a monk in Alaska. I can’t say that I was moved, or agree with, all of the articles written by the monks who continue to run that zine, however a lot of them had a huge impact on my spiritual practices. I also had off and on conversations with Marler. He is a lovely man!

While on the album, I referenced Saints from the west (my last track is a reference to Saint Francis of Assisi), the title track was written with my spiritual practices in mind, as well as how they shape my political thought. “The Gates of Heaven” is simultaneously an anthem for a new generation of activists, as well as a prayer for our success, and our safety. Future songs will explore my meditations in the wisdom of the east in more depth.

Your music has an almost ironic element, of taking some of the classically problematic elements in some neofolk bands and them flipping it on its head, making it antifascist instead. How are you playing with those elements found in neofolk and reframing them from an antifascist perspective? 

As stated previously, the whole band started as a Situationist Prank. I like to stir the pot, and it’s amusing to me to see some of the messages I get in response. The mask, the camo, the hammer and sickle that I dawned on album art and on stage, getting people riled up is fun. It’s even better when you’re upsetting the right people! I also like to take the whole homoerotic and sadomasochistic elements that were present since the genre started, and just run with it until I’m out of breath. Not only because it angers people, but because I’m a bisexual man who is in the fetish community. Representation at its finest!

October Forever by Autumn Brigade featured on an earlier collaborative album produced by A Blaze Ansuz and left/folk.

What was your songwriting process for this album, both lyrically and musically? How has this evolved since your last album?

The songs on “The Gates of Heaven” are more “fleshed out” than on “Our Love is Endless.” I sat down to think about each song more, about what I wanted to say with each song, how I wanted to say it, and how I thought it should sound. I would record tracks once I had everything plotted out, if I liked it, it was off to the mastering process! If I didn’t, I would sit on it until I listened to it later when I had more ideas on what the song needed. There’s more instrumentation, a better sound quality than on “Our Love is Endless,” and a more diverse use of instruments and genre exploration on this album compared to the last. Some songs came through the typical song writing process, others came almost from a higher power through dreams or just sudden jolts of inspiration. I feel some sort of higher power speaking to me whenever I make music, a power that is good, a feeling that makes me be at peace with the world, and something that tells me to keep going. I try to convey this in my music.

What bands have been most influential in writing this album? What new bands have you had your eyes on?

“The Gates of Heaven” was influenced by the sound of classic neofolk bands like Current 93, Spiritual Front, Sonne Hagal, and Chelsea Wolfe. I discovered Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio recently, and I have since fallen in love with their music, as they explore a lot of the same things I do. Dee Calhoun has released solo work, very dark and gritty americana. It’s beautiful in its texture and its emotions. I hope to open for him more in future shows.

“Death Rides a Panzer” is one of the most striking songs of the album, probably one of your shifts from earlier work. Walk me through how you built this, where the influence came from, and how it breaks people’s expectations around martial industrial? How is it, for example, an antifascist song?

I listen to a lot of death industrial and power electronics. A lot of it is very dark and foreboding not just in its subject matter, but also in its sound. I wanted to invoke those same feelings for just one track. Just one. I want people to be motivated to fight fascism, because the song explores in its sound what will happen when they take power. Death doesn’t ride a Panzer anymore, nowadays it marches in the streets. It’s up to us to stop it, and sometimes a “what if they took power” is enough to motivate people to fight this very real threat. I sampled nebelwerfers being shot, clips from the Soviet War Movie “Come and See”, a long with sounds of people screaming. All overlayed with synths and drums.

I’m interested in how you’re expanding the genre you’re integrating, not just taking influence but really reclaiming them as your own. You have taken the musical styles most associated with the far-right and taken on a decidedly antifascist perspective, refusing to let any style of music be owned by fascists. Now you are pushing even further on this.  How has martial industrial and apocalyptic folk started to emerge in your work?

 The “joke” that started Autumn Brigade lost its charm, if you ask me. I want to carve an aesthetic unique to me, unique to who I am, and what I want to explore with my music. I want to incorporate Dark Americana, as well as more post punk and industrial elements, something to give it a warm, but sensual allure to it. Since I relocated to New York, I’ve had other influences as well. The music up here has a darker feel to it, as well as the kink community up here too. Exploring myself in both of those scenes has influenced me greatly, and I hope to capture it in later releases!

What role has the growing antifascist neofolk community had in your work? How can we build more IRL relationships coming out of the pandemic?

I want to create the soundtrack for the revolution, help bludgeon into shape an insurrection to dance to. Talking with my comrades from Ulvesang, Peace Through Decay, The Anxiety of Abraham, and others has given me so much hope and inspiration. The best thing one can do to make lasting relationships from this mess we call the pandemic, is to talk with one another, to let them know that we have each other, even when we feel entirely alone, to let them know that Our Love Is Endless.

What’s next for you? 

I hope to release more music in the future, as well as play more live shows with my comrades. I’m rehearsing with my comrades in New York, so that when Autumn Brigade returns to the stage, we will take the world by storm!

I also want to explore other genres as well. I would love to do bluegrass or industrial, perhaps even black metal if I can get everything I need together and in order. I hope that this will happen soon, and I hope to craft a new world from notes and melodies.

Autumn Brigade is featured on the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify, as well as on the various collections released by left/folk, some in collaboration with A Blaze Ansuz. Make sure to pick up their album from their Bandcamp, and add our playlist linked below.

The Gilad Atzmon and David Rovics Antisemitism Controversy, Explained

David Rovics is a popular left-wing folk musician who has been collaborating with a number of people associated with white nationalism, Holocaust Denial, and antisemitism, relationships he has doubled down on. As antifascist musicians, fighting back against entryism and fascist creep in ostensibly left spaces has to be a priority.

Anti-Fascist News

Editors’ note: Ideological hatred of Jews is centered in the far right, yet too many leftists continue to tolerate and even promote antisemitic themes when they’re packaged to look and sound radical. For decades, supporters of the Israeli state have falsely claimed that any critique of Zionism is anti-Jewish. Mirroring this lie, many antisemites falsely claim that any criticism of their anti-Jewish beliefs aids Israeli oppression of Palestinians. For both of these reasons, it’s critically important that we learn to delineate between anti-Zionism that embodies liberatory principles and anti-Zionism that embodies anti-Jewish scapegoating, such as the false claims that Jews control U.S. foreign policy or that Judaism is inherently oppressive and violent.

In this guest post, anti-fascist writer Shane Burley analyzes the antisemitic views of Israeli-born musician and writer Gilad Atzmon, and the support Atzmon has received from leftist musician David Rovics despite criticism from Burley and others. Three Way…

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New Left/Folk, A Blaze Ansuz Neofolk Compilation “Haunting Ground” Released

We are excited to release our latest joint compilation project that was a collaboration between A Blaze Ansuz and the left/folk project. This seventeen track neofolk compilation is a fundraiser to support the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, which supports First Nations people affected by the violence of the Canadian residential school system and the after effects of colonialism.

Click Here to Purchase the Compilation

The Playlist for this new compilation, called “Haunting Ground,” is:

1.Partum Nihil – At Daggers Drawn 03:42info
2.Autumn Brigade – The Gates Of Heaven 02:03
3.BloccoNero – Ninna Nanna Del Rivoluzionario 03:14
4.Ulvesang – The Truth 03:56
5.All In Vain – Palantir 07:34
6.River – Whispering Blossoms 05:57
7.Voyvoda – Karandjule 04:27
8.Peace Through Decay – Atonement 04:32
9.Shattered Hand – Forms Of Sacrifice And Concentration (Radial) 04:51
10.Nøkken + The Grim – Nøkkens Sang Om Elven 04:28
11.Haunter Of The Woods – I 04:12
12.Weather Veins – Life Runs Undefied 03:49
13.Spectral Sister – Trail Of Dead Moths 02:04
14.A Great Hand From Heaven – I See You 02:35
15.Without History – He Comes To See Sally 05:14
16.Blood And Dust – Burn It Down 03:56
17.DEAES – Burnt Offerings (Daggers High!) 04:21

Click Here to Purchase the Compilation

Statement on Compilation from left/folk:

We meet again, somewhere between resignation and revolution, with aural gifts to pass the time. Today’s offering is a collection of songs that reflect on themes of justice and vengeance, their interwoven narratives, and the aftermath of retribution. We hope you enjoy. This compilation would not be possible without the efforts of many individuals across the planet, so we would like to give thanks.

First, we would like to thank A Blaze Ansuz for their efforts in curating this compilation, their persistent dedication to building a new musical path, and their endless support. We would like to thank the artists who contributed to this work, especially those who reached out to us of their own volition, who have taken the initiative to build and express their art and share it with this growing community. We would like to thank everyone who has donated to, purchased, and shared our material, allowing us to continue to merge creativity and service in this ongoing project to cultivate alternate cultural spaces in the present and future.

We would like to thank all political activists across occupied territories who are fighting for the dignity and sovereignty of their people, in opposition to colonial and imperialist forces who seek to blend us all into a capitalist hegemon by erasure of our indigenous cultures and histories. We thank everyone fighting against state repression, and everyone fighting to push against tyrants of all stripes.

As usual, we are living in tumultuous times, walking slowly towards inevitable ecological, social, and economic collapse. It is our imperative to forge bonds grounded in solidarity and cooperation amongst various communities across the planet. We must think locally as well, building community, preparing for the possibility/probability of very horrible things happening within our lifetime. Part of building communities is reconciling and healing the wounds of past atrocity by any means possible, which is why all donations from this compilation will be directed towards the Indian Residential School Survivors Society.

The IRSSS is a provincial organization with a twenty-year history of providing services to Indian Residential School Survivors. Founded in 1994, they actively provide essential services to Residential School Survivors, their families, and those dealing with Intergenerational traumas.

It truly is up to us to defend, heal, and uplift one another. We cannot survive or evolve as a society, as a people, without cooperation and solidarity. LEFT/FOLK is here to help provide the soundtrack to this directive, music that is energetically and spiritually aligned to this desire for great liberation of all peoples.

We are all we have. Let us reap vengeance and justice together!
-L/F 161 

Click Here to Purchase the Compilation

Also make sure to add the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify, which includes many of the artists that are on this compilation.

Falling Into the Sky: An Interview with Voidbringer

By Ana Dujakovic

Although emo isn’t a genre that we typically think of when talking about black metal and metal in general, they have many shared themes and elements. Both genres often deal with darker lyrics and imagery as well as highly emotional contexts for the creation of the music, whether that is rage, frustration and/or sadness. This can especially be said of sub genres like DSBM, which is a more “emo” offshoot of black metal (one could argue, anyway). Voidbringer helps bridge the gap by combining and blending all these genres into their music, and bringing a fresh take on a lot of sounds.

Can you elaborate about how and when you started your musical project and what inspired you to create it?

Voidbringer started officially in 2015. I was never really an acoustic person, but I started to get into it and wanted an outlet for my ideas that wouldn’t fit in with my heavier bands at the time. Around then was also when I started to get more confident in my clean singing abilities and Voidbringer seemed to just develop naturally. First as a much more metal-inspired acoustic project, and later dropping a lot of the metal elements and shifting to a lighter, more atmospheric sound.

What are some of your musical influences for the music you create (bands and genres)? Do you feel you blend any genres together? (And if so, why did you think they’d be a suitable fit?)

I often don’t know what genre to call Voidbringer, but it’s really based in a mix of Midwest emo, black metal, and lo-fi/atmospheric. While these are 3 very different styles, I feel that they all have common themes and emotions that both clash and blend nicely. I take a lot of influence from Owen, American Football, Wolves in the Throne Room, and A L E X (Alicks).

You describe yourself as occult emo, what aspects of the occult inspire or interest you? 

I’ll always be a black metal nerd at heart and I know that spills over into everything I ever write, haha. I’ve always taken an interest in witchcraft and grew up around it, and I’ve always been drawn to darker themes. To say my lyrics can get spiritually dark at times would be an understatement.

How does the environment of where you live or where you’ve grown up influence your music? Do darker times (such as long, bleak winters) assist with the emotional expression in your work?

For sure, both where I grew up in the Boston, MA area and where I’ve lived since the age of thirteen in Central Illinois definitely influence my work. The harsh Midwest winters were a pretty big theme in my last release (Drowning in the Stars). The winters here are brutal and incredibly cold and the summers are long and excruciatingly humid, and for the most part the area is desolate for over half the year. Endless cornfields and isolation can be great inspiration.

How did antifascism become meaningful to you? What are some of your life experiences and/or perspectives that led you to value antifascism?

Growing up poor in the city and seeing the darker side of life at a young age always played a big part in my views. Once I really started paying attention to what my views aligned with, it became clear to me that I was definitely very much against fascism and far-right ideology. 

Are there other antifascist or leftist projects/artists/bands that you can recommend? 

Exalted Woe records for sure, they’re doing great things.

What can other musicians do that can help themselves become more antifascist or become allies for the cause?

Stay informed and seek out information! Do your research and urge others to do the same. Perhaps look into joining a local organization if there are any in your area.

What plans do you have for the future regarding your music (recording/shows/collaborations/etc.)? 

I’m going to try to start playing live again soon, as well as work on putting together a proper full-length album to release in early 2022. I’m also working on new music for my black metal band, Pestilent Creation; I’m definitely not subtle about my views there either.

What made you decide to produce lo-fi music? Are you a fan of lo-fi sounds and musicians? Will your music stay in this type of style? 

While I’m a fan of high quality production, I feel that some music is delivered best in a more raw form. I’m both a huge black metal nerd and a huge vaporwave nerd so I’ve always been drawn to lo-fi styles, and for the most part I see Voidbringer staying relatively lo-fi. It fits the vibe I try to create perfectly, as a mainly acoustic-based project.

What are some of your passions and hobbies outside of writing and recording? 

Outside of writing and recording, l spend a lot of time repairing and modifying guitars. I’ll never understand why I love guitars so much, but to me they’re the coolest thing in the world. 

Make sure to check out Voidbringer at Bandcamp. We have added one of their tracks to our Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify and on our upcoming grindcore playlit as well.

Civilization and Its Contradictions: An Interview with River

In this interview with the band River, we talk about inspiration, soundscapes, and the contradictions of civilization.

By Ryan Smith

It would be an understatement to say the past few years have been a rough ride across the board.  Between COVID, climate crisis, and creeping fascism it would be safe to say that escape and relief from the endless churn of life in 2022.  For many, including myself, music can sometimes offer such comfort and I’m always game for artists trying something very different from the usual.  When I had the band River sent over my way, I quickly found myself lost in the majestic atmosphere of haunting, melancholic melodies.  In days when time is either running too fast or grinding to a crawl, River’s music brings a sense of healing timelessness that feels mostly absent from our mad, mad world.  I got in touch with the artists behind River to find out what makes them tick and here is what they had to say.

Your music paints some very haunting, almost Pagan, soundscapes.  What do you feel you are showing with your songs?

In 2008, I was recording an EP for my solo black metal band Mania called Endless Hunger. In the first song you can hear a long droning acoustic guitar section. River started as a way to explore this type of soundscape further without being constrained by the metal genre. Soon after, the other two current members of the band joined with a similar vision from their respective bands (Huldrekall and Alda). Mania is a musical exploration into the horrors of the modern world, so I wanted River to be the opposite – evocations of pre-civilization life. Watching the river flow across the rocks and pondering how many millions of years it has been doing just that, or the stars slowly drift atop a mountain, listening to the cold wind through the pine trees with no other sounds in the air. Ravens cawing in old growth forests. You get the idea. There is no ideology or religious belief portrayed, simply an atmosphere.

There isn’t a particular Pagan connection with our music however we all have had strong connections to the forests and mountains throughout our lives and that connection comes out a lot in our music. I try to use riffs to tell a story without words. Every part of every song that we write tells about a place, a sound, a time, a smell, a feeling, just something in our lives and the hope is that when other people listen to our music they can be transported to places or have experiences of their own. I believe that music itself is magic.

If there was one person, alive or dead, who you would want to hear this album who would it be?

Sharing music is a special thing. It transcends the spoken language and can convey deep primal emotion in such a way that the listeners understand, even having their own interpretation and feelings to reflect back. That being said, I really make this sort of music for myself, creating the songs that I wish I could hear. I can’t really say I would hope any one person hears the album. It has already been 8 years since we began writing and recording it. All of the songs sat on my hard drive that whole time until we could find the time to complete the job. When it was complete, I felt a huge relief that I could listen to it without considering the technical aspects or what needs to change. That alone makes me content.


Agreed, I can’t think of any particular person I would want to hear this new album, however I’m very happy to share our music with people and hope that it can resonate far beyond the spaces it was written in.

What would you say to any musician who is starting out?


Don’t. Haha, just kidding. Go listen to AC/DC “It’s a long way to the top”. That will explain it all. Except in rare circumstances, you will lose countless sleep, money and hours that will never turn into something profitable. For me, it’s about the social connections and events. Different genres of music bring specific types of people to events and I love the aspect of curating a social environment. If I could go back and tell my younger self anything about my future in music, I would try to explain that the details of song arrangement and riffs are important, but so is physical presentation. Stage props, looking presentable, art, lights, etc. People in the audience want to be captivated and immersed in the experience and not everyone wants to hear a “musician’s band”. Make it digestable. That doesn’t mean dumb it down – it means you need to dissolve the barrier in the listener’s mind and put them in your environment so they can properly absorb the music.


I would say to have fun and practice. The more comfortable and natural it feels to play your instrument, the less thought you’ll have to use and the more the music will just naturally come out. I’ve never wanted to be a rockstar or be uber famous for playing in cool bands and I still feel that way.  Write music because it feels good or terrible or cathartic or whatever. Play music because it makes you feel something. Whilst i do agree with Nate that its very important to dissolve the barrier between musician and listener, ive been to way too many shows where lackluster bands did their best to have all the cool skills/techniques/riffs, candlesticks, skulls, branches, sigils etc.. and they didnt manage to inspire any feeling in me other then boredom or contempt. Atmosphere is absolutely crucial, but it’s far from everything.

What are your biggest musical influences?

Ulver – Kveldssanger/Bergtatt. Novemthree. Vali – Forlatt. Lonndom – Fälen från norr. Tenhi – Kertomuksia. Huun Huur Tu. Garmarna – S/T. Waldteufel. Fauna, Echtra, Vines.

Kvelldssanger has definitely been a huge influence of ours, especially on our first album. It’s hard to not be inspired by the black metal we’ve been immersed in for so long. Folk music from all over the world, lots of dungeon synth too. I feel like our music is a melting pot of the wide variety of music that we all listen to and we’ve taken bits and pieces from all of our preceding projects and added them in as well.

What would you say are the main themes at the heart of your work?

There are themes of nature. Seasons changing. The processes of a more simple natural world happening over long periods of time.

Nature for sure. I feel like escapism is a huge aspect within that. While our other music projects might focus on the struggle of the tree trunk against the chainsaw, this project would envision a time or place without the saw altogether. It’s hard to not be crushed by nihilism when looking to our future here in 2021, but it’s important to find places of solace, if even only inside ourselves.

What do you hope for in the future for River?


We hope to release this album on a proper format over the next year. Our plans for a vinyl release were cancelled amidst the covid pandemic so we are attempting to re-group and seek other channels. Other than that, there are no plans. We hope you enjoy the album and thanks for spending this time on us.


We’ve been collaborating on this project for over 10 years now and a lot of that time has been spent fairly dormant. It’s certainly possible that more music could emerge with time but for now it’s hard to say. Many thanks to the people who have shared their homes, music and friendship with us over the years!

River’s full album “Regeneration”, released in 2020 by Eternal Warfare Records, is currently available for purchase with Bandcamp. Make sure to add the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify, which we will add River to once they are on Spotify.

Chamber Music for Us Outsiders: An Interview With Disemballerina

Disemballerina is creating chamber music for queer outsiders.

By M-L

When people first hear Disemballerina, one of the first questions is how to classify the band.  The band is not a traditional metal band, though the genre of “chamber metal” has been used a least once to describe the music. Instead of distorted guitars and pounding drums, Disemballerina relies on a very different repertoire of instruments to communicate the same intensity of emotion. At the forefront are bowed and plucked strings, given the band’s recordings a dark classical sound self-described as “queer outsider chamber music”. These instruments help conjure the eerie ambiance of the pieces which often take a soundtrack-like quality. The music broods with eerie loneliness and isolation enhanced by the ritualistic elements of the band’s performance and the solemn melancholy of the themes referenced in titles and album covers.  Covers recall dark fantasy (or perhaps mythology), dead birds, ravens, and ritual spaces, and communicates melancholia that is even present in the more upbeat tracks.  Disemballerina’s most recent release, Fawn, is no exception to this melancholic beauty.

Here we interview the full band, the trio of Myles Donovan, Ayla Holland, and Jennifer Christensen, about the music, the band’s history, and their new release. In addition, we touch on human nature, antifascism, and the queer experience.  

How did Disemballerina first form and how did you decide on an instrumental project?

MYLES:  I think the goal was always to be instrumental? Even before I moved from Philadelphia to Portland, Oregon in 2008, I was a huge fan of both Anon Remora–Ayla’s metal project and Discharge Information System–our original cellist Melissa Collins’ band. Both projects were largely instrumental, influenced by both metal and classical music, and refreshingly, unapologetically queer, which to me was a huge fucking deal. At some point in 2008,  Melissa and I ended up being studio musicians together for a Graves at Sea side project, and around the same time, Ayla and I started playing harp and guitar duets in her basement. Ayla and Melissa had a project called Malice Discordia that had recently disbanded, we all liked the sounds we were creating, we were all the loner queers in the metal scene, and we were all friends. Playing together just made sense. We debuted our first show in an outdoor gazebo in the Summer of 2009. Not long after, Melissa departed for Salt Lake City, and for a period the band was just me and Ayla as a duo, then this violinist Fiona Petra came and left, followed by Celeste Viera on cello, then Marit Schmidt of Vradiazei/Sangre De Muerdago on viola… but we ultimately felt complete when Jennifer became the principal cellist of the trio and joined in 2012. She’s been with us ever since and we fucking love her.

JENNIFER:  I heard Disemballerina’s demo, which a friend shared with me when it came out, and really enjoyed it.  Then, I played a solo cello set with Disemballerina at a tea house called Sizizis in Olympia in 2012.  I spoke to them about collaborating and we started playing together a little while after that. 

Who were the influences towards the development of the Disemballerinas sound? 

MYLES: for me? Classically, Shostakovich, Alan Hovhaness, Bartok, and Penderecki. Also having imposter syndrome as a violist being largely self-taught and a late bloomer lit a fire under my ass, while still carrying the torch of one day being able to play my own form of chamber music somehow with others. The New Bloods were a short-lived Portland punk band with one of my favorite violinists ever, Osa Atoe. Behead the Prophet No Lord Shall Live was another band with a now-deceased violinist I loved, Michael Griffin. I have a ton of respect for Kris Force of Amber Asylum and all the work she has done as a composer, performer, and sound engineer. There was a viola player in a Norwegian noise band called Noxagt, Nils Erga, who I listened to a lot.

JENNIFER:   I agree with Myles that in terms of writing music, I’m very inspired by Shostakovich, also Stravinsky.  

AYLA: Well early on (for me) definitely Ulver’s early albums as far as “acoustic metal” goes, but also Henryk Gorecki, Philip Glass, stuff like that for me.  Also, for years I’ve been inspired by Low’s early records (the “slowcore” sound), etc. But I’ve been introduced to so much music by friends over the past 15 years as well, including in large part from Myles.

MYLES: Ayla has also turned me onto tons of old country music I otherwise would’ve never checked out.

The band describes itself as “queer outsider chamber music”.   Would you say that queerness is focal to the atmosphere you seek to create with your music?

MYLES: I would say that queerness was the reason the band formed in the first place; we were all anomalies in the local metal scene and sought camaraderie, we wanted a very specific sound, we wanted to create heaviness without relying on sonic volume, and a friendship formed naturally around that, but also being a group made up of two queer women and a gay man attracted its own queer following in and of itself, which I for one really loved. some of my favorite shows we ever played were with other queer bands, or in front of largely queer audiences, as opposed to the typical straight metal crowd. we played to a few neofolk audiences and it was not my thing at all. 

JENNIFER:   There was a shared sense of isolation that brought the members of Disemballerina together and which sets the sound and atmosphere apart from other groups.   Disemballerina doesn’t perfectly fit in with any genre I can think of but the closest we could get to describing it is “queer outsider chamber music”.

AYLA: I wouldn’t say that being queer is focal to the atmosphere we seek to create, but rather is inextricably linked to our movement through this world on a daily basis so is inevitably involved in who we are/where we are coming from whilst creating the music, the band. 

There are elements of ritual and tradition in your music as well, how do these elements fit into the band’s sound?

MYLES: This is going to sound ridiculous but the most obvious “ritualistic” element of our presentation–playing in a semicircle of lit candles in the dark, actually came out of my own claustrophobia. I didn’t feel comfortable playing so physically close to audiences, so it was a weird protective firewall, for me anyway that made playing live possible. Also playing in the dark made me forget the audience as a player, which allowed me to focus on the music more. We tended to always write in a similar setting.

AYLA: There have always been rituals (whether private or public) surrounding the band, whether it is within practicing, performance, songwriting, or recording.  The candles holding the fire moat of protection have always been wonderful,  I appreciate Myles for that! The samples used, the evoking memory or visions of a theme in song, whole album, etc.  Some are seen by the public,  audience, listener… some are personal, relational within the band yet nevertheless always behind the sounds and moods.

JENNIFER:   I am more comfortable presenting myself in this way and the candlelight helps to set the scene for the music – which is usually composed in relative darkness as well.  I don’t know that I agree that there is much ritual and tradition involved, but this is more just how we show up.

Why is it important to be antifascist in the music scene and how does antifascism inform your creative work?

MYLES: Because the Pacific Northwest in particular has a serious problem with cryptofascism in its underground music subcultures, among other places. The music scene, particularly the genres of black metal, noise, and neofolk are notably problematic in this area.  We’ve never identified as neofolk but eventually stopped playing shows altogether with neofolk projects, because we were tired of learning after performances that there were people in our audiences who did things like host holocaust denier book events and wrote for alt-right publications. [I’m] not saying that’s every neofolk scene–I applaud the efforts of this site to emphasize that distinction– or that you can entirely control who is in your fanbase, but it’s creepy, fucking disturbing shit we never wanted to be around or any part.  We definitely have burned some bridges for speaking out. A member of Blood Axis still has a major problem with me because of this. We’ve also contributed to multiple anarchist black cross benefits and dropped off of bills with sketchball bands, on top of having our song themes and personal activism outside of playing music. the surrounding water is still always murky though. 

JENNIFER:  When I was a naive teenager playing music in the NY/NJ scenes, I had blinders on to making these political distinctions because I was overly focused on just playing as much music as humanly possible.  As a result, I ended up finding out (as Myles said) that people I had been collaborating with were involved in things I would not want to be associated with.  It’s easier to make it clear early on that we’re not interested in aligning ourselves with ideas inconsistent with our own personal beliefs.  

AYLA: I have for a long time now felt that it is terribly important to look to history so that we can spot the signs when it reoccurs, especially in relation to the racism/fascism of the last century. Look at what is happening in this post trump era of pandemic madness even. America is terrifying to me at present. 

The fact that in the pacific NW U.S. (and other places of course)  there is this surging “ecofascism” among neofolk/metal/etc musicians is despicable. Glorifying early fascists and their pastoral idealism which inspired Hitler Youth and the third Reich etc is so dangerously foolish and misguided, to put it very very mildly. I think I can safely speak for all of us when I say we are antifascist with every fibre of our beings. 

Let’s talk about the new record. Disemballerina’s new release, “Fawn”, is a 7” EP inspired by the human reactions to extreme stress and contains three songs representative of the fight, flight, and freeze response.  How does this fit into the band’s themes?

MYLES: The song “Pancada”, which starts off our record gets its title from the Portuguese word for hitting and striking. It also, as I was made aware by one of my ex-boyfriends from Portugal, is a term for an animal that bites at anything that comes near it, even people it loves, due to its abused past. My ex used it to describe himself the first time he hit me in the face, which for me caused a deep reflection on the origins of trauma and what every person is reacting off of and how. 

JENNIFER:  “Garnets” touches on the numb, comatose melancholy produced by trauma as the mind struggles to process and make sense of what’s happened.   The sounds attempt to replicate this time loss, grasping for a hold on something solid to pull oneself out of this psychological state.

MYLES: “Somnambulist” just translates roughly to sleepwalker, this idea of mind flight from the conscious world while still going through the motions physically. I built a glass harp out of wine glasses for the ending and used an instrument from 1927 know as the Marxophone. I think the doors used it one song. we’re classic rock now.

AYLA: unfortunately we can all relate to trauma and trauma response and who each of us is.  it is of course made by what we have gone through.  I’m stoked that we are talking about it, even just in thematics and concerning the recent release of the recordings… because healing and self-reflection are so crucial to humans, especially at this harrowing moment in human history. 

How does the songwriting process work in Disemballerina?

JENNIFER:  For the most part, the process comes really organically.  We’ll play a theme and we’ll record what we like so we remember while we build a song to surround it.

MYLES:  Ayla is a riff machine, I’ve also brought songs and parts to the table, as has Jennifer. We also do a lot of improvised writing and play off of loose ideas.

AYLA: yeah a lot of times I would bring a finished guitar song skeleton and we would tweak it and Myles and Jenn would bring their magic to it and deeply fill it out, add epilogues, etc. But generally a joint effort over the years always.

Are there any elements of the record you’d like to draw our attention to?

MYLES: besides our amazing cover artist Jennifer Baker, our new label Riff Merchant is doing a second pressing of the 7″ on picture disc!  there is also currently a small dance company in New York City working on Choreography for these three songs. it’s a dream come true for me, and so wonderfully not metal.

Was the turbulence and stress of the last two years an influence on the album’s development?

MYLES: Actually no, these songs and the album theme were decided upon in 2016, Covid, if anything,  just created an urgency to get everything done. I currently live in NYC with my boyfriend and have worked all of the shutdown as a grocer. If people draw catharsis and associate this record with the pandemic, then wonderful–we all need something after this– although it wasn’t the original intention.

JENNIFER:  I agree with Myles that the album wasn’t inspired by the pandemic but that certain elements of the pandemic inspired us to complete the process so that something good came out of these surreal times.

I like to end interviews with musicians with a list of recommendations. Are there any bands you can recommend to fans of antifascist neofolk music?

MYLES: I play harp in a band in NYC called Narco Medusa with guitarist Jessica Howard from Another Dying Democracy, I used to play viola in a gentrification themed instrumental project from Philly called Forgotten Bottom,  I’m a rotating guest musician in the band Ominous Cloud Ensemble along with members of Sun Ra Arkestra, and I’ve played as a guest on multiple albums by A Stick and a Stone.

I don’t listen to Neofolk, but my favorite projects right now are Show Me The Body, Eartheater, Like a Villain, Reg Bloor, Brandon Lopez, Damiana, Moor Jewelry, Twisted Thing, Ariadne, Human Beast, Weeping Sores, Jupiter Blue, Persephone, Chelsea Bridge, Bob Hatt, and Rakta.

AYLA: I don’t listen much to neofolk either, but I’ve been rekindling the flame of love and affection I have with Jazz music and have even found people I’d never heard of somehow.  Like Ahmad Jamal. Incredible pianist, up there with Oscar Peterson and McCoy Tyner (two of my favourites). Also, I’ve been listening to lots of modern vocalists I’ve fallen in love with. SZA, Solange, Doja Cat, etc. But also just still listening to everything under the sun! I’ve also been listening to the theatrical readings of the Tolkien MiddleiEarth books on Spotify and they’re incredible. 

We have added Disemballerina tracks to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify, so make sure to add that as well and we will be adding a lot more new ones in the coming weeks!

Folk from Armageddon: An Interview With DEAES

Covering the neofolk/post-folk/apocalyptic folk project DEAES was long overdue for us. Our friend Jay Nada of DEAES has also helped open the space for antifascist neofolk with their left/folk project, including the Instagram art project, the Facebook Group, and the fundraising neofolk compilations that we have also worked with them on. Make sure to check out their latest release, Arise.

DEAES makes up a piece of their own development, and created a unique spot that, while on hiatus at this point, continues to be incredibly influential among neofolk bands pushing the edges of genres like martial industrial.

What is your personal history as a musician? Was DEAES your first project?

I hardly consider myself a musician, I can only really play my own music as I don’t know how to read music or anything like that. I am self-trained, and in fact DEAES was the first time I ever picked up a regular guitar. I used to play bass in a punk band in high school and have a long history of producing music using software. I have had multiple projects in the past, ranging from perverted electronic dance music to experimental avant-garde pop music. DEAES was my first foray into doing something I had wanted to for a long time, folk music. My general attitude towards music and playing music is to just try it, regardless of your skill level. Something will come together.

How did DEAES come together and where did it’s style and themes come from?

DEAES started as a solo project, I acquired bandmates as time went on and I found a need to enhance the way the music sounded live. My early influences were varied and in many ways contradictory. I was really into all the most known neofolk bands like Current 93, but was also simultaneously really into political folk like Phil Ochs and Buffy St Marie. I musically took these influences and combined them with my interest in industrial and post-punk to give my first recordings a very experimental and almost pop vibe. Thematically, my music has always been driven by both personal experiences in sorrow and delirium as well as visions of a dying world.

How do you define the genre of DEAES? What influence does Apocalyptic Folk have on it (and what does that term mean to you)?

I refer to DEAES as hexfolk, it is neofolk music constructed with a particular spiritual and magickal intention. The music is meant as a spell of sorts, to detach the audience from reality and everything in this world. Other ways of looking at it could absolutely be apocalyptic folk, as I see it, music to listen to as the world is dying. Music that compounds and evokes these feelings of a certain kind of madness that propels all apocalypses forward. DEAES is in many ways music to bring the apocalypse to life, but it is mostly music to drift into the void to.

Do you define it as antifascist neofolk? I know you had a plurality of opinions inside the band.

Though we try not to attach any overtly political tone to the songs, many of our songs were written with political observations peppered throughout, as politics are unavoidable. The ability to avoid politics is a political act and a form of privilege, so we really can’t avoid them regardless. Our music has always dealt with a rejection of consensus reality, the world as it is, in striving for the possibility of a different world altogether. A dissolution of power structures, a neutering of ideological constructs, and an attack on presumed hierarchical structures. We will always be against kings, countries, authority, gods, time, all of it. Our music is void music. Though it may unfortunately leave space for some reactionary interpretations, I think it is instrumental for the project to focus itself on the spiritual anarchic components of our music in order to maximize the effect of our craft.

In short, however, I think it would be fair to consider our music as antifascist, as it is antifascist in spirit, and it is made by people who are against fascism, though we may not be a vehicle for specific political projects as our themes deal primarily with otherworldly concepts as opposed to the mundane.

What was the song writing process like?

My song writing process varies. I often tap into an inner narrative, detaching myself from conscious direction as much as possible (sometimes chemically, probably) in order to create concepts in as raw of a format as possible. Words spilling on the page, going with the flow, automatic. Some songs are a bit more structured, as they are descriptions of experiences I’ve had. I often write in an altered state, or at the very least a state of instability, whether it is my own mind pushing against me or something I put under my tongue. 

The lyrics have this ephemeral quality, sort of like a folk tradition of poetry. How did lyric writing come from and what were the dominant ideas you were trying to circle in with DEAES?

I have always had a creative streak, I am always interpreting and reinterpreting events and moments in my life, maybe out of mental instability or something else. I write from a place of heartbreak, depression, trauma, frustration. I gather these emotions and thoughts and compress them into stone which I whittle away until I’m left with a very sharp and dangerous object. For me, a lot of the things I reference in my songs put me in a dissociative state, they make me feel scattered and sometimes numb. I wanted to write lyrics that can feel very vague yet eerily specific at the same time. Relatable and unrelatable, contradictory and confusing, threatening. For my songs to possibly affect everyone in the same way, in some way, and bring folks into a state of timeless delirious emotional paralysis.

There is a sense of doom and apocalypse in the albums, what was driving that feeling in the band?

We are all very cynical people. We see a planet that is dying. We live in a sick society, that crawls and climbs over itself to maintain the wealth and power of a tiny handful of rich fucks who use their power to manipulate policies that affects all of us. Our comforts are perpetually the suffering of others, the exploitation of others. We, frankly, have always wanted to destroy it, burn it all down, these systems of oppression. Sometimes the world as it is, simply must collapse in order to build it back up. At times, we feel this will and must happen, whether we want it to or not. It is inevitable. We are simply observing. We are here to sing about the end, the end of what is kind of open to interpretation.

You had a multitude of albums at this point (is it three, or five full ones?), what was the concept behind each one?

We actually have more albums than that, they are just scattered across different platforms. Our first album on Bandcamp called “LoveSINGLES” is actually a collection of songs found within my first three releases which I refer to as the LOVELOVELOVE trilogy which dealt with different forms of love. Agape, Pragma, and Mania. They were an exploration of how these variations of love affected me at the time, and how they affect the trajectory of every individual life.

Following that were various small recordings which were explorations of magickal concepts, like Heretic Hymns and SAARL (Some And All Reality Lost) which dealt with rejecting consensus reality. Somber Sessions was made in a state of deep depression and loss, I wanted to bring a sense of urgency to the music so it was recorded in a way that sounds raw and almost like live music, but it is full of subtle background textures and atmosphere. CLOSE EYES OPEN was my first release with my violinist, June, and was a joint effort in bringing the void to the listener, and a culmination of everything her and I were working on up until that point.

Why did the band go on hiatus?

There are numerous factors. For some time, most of us lived in a single household or at least within walking distance of one another. As things go, we parted ways and moved to different locations for reasons unrelated to the band. I also I began developing carpal tunnel while working at my day job, which has made it increasingly difficult to play guitar. I can maybe play for a few minutes at a time before being lost to severe pain and numbness. So, we set our instruments aside in a formal sense. Though we still get together to practice or perform at very small private functions on rare occasion.

Cursing Your Enemies: An Interview With Feminazgul

In the growth of radical neofolk music, the band Alsarath has been a key staple in combing genre elements with its own revolutionary energy. Alsarath member Margaret Killjoy is a jack of all trades: musician (particularly of instruments she herself makes), writer, and survivalist. Her earlier black metal project Feminazgul, which had itself been on the frontlines of the antifascist black metal scene, has a new b-sides release called Mallacht, a 2020 album named No Future for Men , and a split with Awenden, where her and co-musicians Meredith Yayanos (Mer) and singer Laura Beach have created some disturbingly beautiful and atmospheric black metal that draws as much from neofolk as it does from other traditions. The album also has beautiful art by Trez Laforge, and their newest t-shirt design, which is shared below as well, is by the Portland based graffiti artist N.o. Bonzo.

We interviewed Killjoy, Laura and Mer about the history of this influential band, what drove this particular release, how regional folk music and traditions influence them, and how the experience of being an iconoclastic force inside of edge music has been for them.

How did Feminazgul first come together? Where does the name come from?

Margaret: The name is a play on the phrase “feminazi,” which gets levied against us women who actually desire to be free and equal and are vocal about it. There was an old joke, “I’m not a feminazi, I’m a feminazgul” (referencing the wraiths from The Lord of the Rings). Feminazgul started as a one-woman bedroom black metal project in early 2018. I recorded a three-song EP, The Age of Men is Over-

Mer: –I’m a lifelong Tolkien nerd / sworn enemy of Limbaugh filth. When Margaret told me about that first EP, I immediately got the portmanteau. I was punching the air, cackling “YESSS, THE TIME OF THE ORC HAS COME.”

Margaret: I put it out into the world expecting nothing much to happen from it. It resonated, though. An explicitly feminist black metal band with a clever name and earnest music found an audience faster than I could have hoped. From there, well…

Laura: …in late spring of 2018, I met Margaret following a horrific breakup and I had just been abandoned in a city where I didn’t really know much of anyone. We met on Tinder of all silly places. We got to talking a lot about music and after a few months of knowing each other, I offered up my vocals. She took me on and it’s been a whirlwind of all sorts of excitement. And then in March of 2020, we added Mer…

Mer: …and I went covid-lockdown apeshit all over “The Rot In The Field Is Holy” and recorded some other fun stuff on No Dawn For Men. It was so satisfying to work with you both. I didn’t want it to end!

Was this an antifascist project from the get go? Why was it important to have that front and center?

Margaret: It was antifascist from the start, but really just by virtue of, well, I have a lot more experience with antifascist organizing than I do with metal. I’ve been into both for a long time, and the two have overlapped on more than one occasion, but I didn’t position myself or Feminazgul vdv as antifascist so much as consciously feminist–which of course includes antifascism. 

Mer: Flavia Dzodan forever: “My feminism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit.” 

Laura: I’ve always been hard left in my politics. So it makes sense for me.

Tell me a bit about the songwriting. How do you work on lyrics and music (what’s your process, what instruments do you use, how does the recording work)? What was different about the lyrics on this new release?

Laura: How I work with lyrics? Well if it’s me writing lyrics, after being given the subject matter, I will spend a lot of time researching said matter. After I feel like I’ve done enough research, I often just write down a bunch of sentences that sound really cool when spoken out loud. Essentially I literally just throw things at the metaphorical wall until one of them sticks. By then, Margaret has generally written a first draft of what she wants the song to sound like. I’ll probably listen to the song and its various incarnations of development, at minimum, 100 times or so to see what sounds best and just sort of mouth the words to myself and out loud during the writing process. Just you know, mouthfeel. But nothing’s ever truly set in stone until we get close to the song being finally done. As sometimes I’m scrambling for word order and/or word choice often until the very bitter end.

With the split, I didn’t do very much to be honest. At the time that we were writing it and recording it, I was basically working way too much in trying to make sure that my household was covered fiscally due to the pandemic. So on the split, Margaret wrote nearly all those lyrics. (I slipped in a few extra filler words though. Hehe.) And just did my thing about giving my harsh vocals where needed. How this relates to the new release? Before writing/recording, I made a promise to myself and everyone else that I would do more this time around. So when I was tasked to write lyrics about the Dearg-Due and Irish curses, I had lines and lines and lines written of what I thought sounded neat. I brought these lyrics to Margaret and we hashed out what fit and what didn’t. Feminazgul so far tends to work best with lots of long drawn-out words and syllables. So in the end and what you all see now is probably about half of what I wrote. Ahahaha. I think the first set of lines is the only thing that really survived the culling. But yeah. This time around I tried to jam a lot more words and phrases in and I think it worked out okay. I am definitely way more out in front in the mix for the new single and I have to show everyone what I can do with this voice.

When it comes to recording, I’m kind of a codependent little bitch in the sense that I like to have critical feedback during recording and also for someone to hit record for me as I’m screaming my guts out. Ahahahaha. Not to say that I haven’t recorded by myself but I just tend to work better when someone is with me. My deepest apologies to all those that have been subjected to this from me. Haha. 

Margaret: For the music itself, most of the time it starts on piano. Piano is my favorite instrument to just fuck around on. I’ll find some chords that make me happy, then maybe a melody but not always. Bring that into a DAW and throw synth guitars over it, see how it sounds. If that works, start building out from there, with other parts, bridges, etc…black metal isn’t big on verse/chorus arrangement, which is very freeing, so it’s more like a bunch of different parts that come together in different ways. But I really like building everything off of solid, simple bones. Some of the songs are just two chords. Once I’ve put in the guitars and drums, sometimes I add more pieces, all the different weird folk instruments I’ve been building, then I pass it to Mer and Laura. Laura does amazing shit with the vocals and often the lyrics, and Mer, I don’t know, does weird alchemy to it.

Mer: [whispering] I am Chaos Grandpa. 

There are some neofolk influences on the new album, what’s inspiring the new direction? Does your experience in Alsarath have any effect on that?

Margaret: I have another band, called Alsarath, that is more consciously a neofolk band. And yeah, that’s definitely been an influence… sometimes when I write things I struggle to figure out which band would do it better. But a lot of that folk direction, for my own part, is because I’ve been building instruments. I spent the last year alone, like so many people, and I just… started building folk instruments. And now I get to play them. And frankly a lot of the new direction is from bringing Mer on full time as a band member. She plays a million instruments, and it gives it all a beautiful feeling.

Mer: Thanks! I dig the organic textures of all your handcrafted witchyfae woodland instruments. I’m glad everyone’s down with tugging our sound in unexpected directions. I’ve been learning and making different kinds of music for forty solid years now. Hella middle-aged at this point and getting comfy with it, and I’ve realized that I don’t suffer from impostor syndrome anymore half as much as outsider fatigue. So I relish being a part of a project with folks who actively encourage me to lean into my Chaos Grandpa tendencies regarding genre.

Laura: Harsh vocals are pretty much all I have. Ahaha.

Mer: NUH UH. You’re not just a pretty face-melter! 

Laura: I am trying to learn guitar and drums when time allows me but often with my busy schedule (the rent is too damn high, hence a two-job life. TT_TT ), it doesn’t occur as much as I’d like. But I do my best to try to not let myself piggyback off these two amazing musicians. So I am trying to do more and be more vocal so that I can feel that I am doing my best that I can with the tools that I’m given.

What does Mallacht mean? What about the Irish folk tradition felt alive for you in this album? What was some of the process that went into researching this?

Mer:  “Mallacht” means “curse” in Old Irish. We drew inspiration from a Celtic mourning tradition known as keening. Deep, old roots. Margaret shared her desire to craft a cursing, keening song, and I immediately thought of my bestie, Kristine Barrett. K’s a transmedia artist who lives on a cozy houseboat in Sausalito, CA. Incredible singer, choral director, finds a lot of inspiration in feminine folk-art traditions. She’s currently working on her second Master’s degree in Folklore at UC Berkeley, and she’s a big ol’ Tolkien nerd as well. Her dog, who I’m besotted with, is named Gandalf. I gushed about her to the rest of the band, and they invited Kristine to come aboard as a guest vocalist and co-researcher/arranger on “A Mallacht”. When we sent K what the band had already put together (which was plenty hair-raising by that point!) the only direction was “contribute in whatever way feels best”. Kristine ended up recording something like 20 wailing, shrieking, full-on banshee vocal tracks down in the barge of her houseboat while Gandalf huddled on the bed disapprovingly. Those vocals, combined with Laura’s, make the song feel very brightly alive, but spectral, too. It’s a modern approach that pays direct homage to an ancestral deathing ritual.

Laura: I just went on the internet and searched for this Irish vampire story that Margaret had told me about. And thus, I found the Dearg-Due and her story. And also a few articles about the art of Irish cursing. And boy, the Irish are great at cursing.

Margaret: I’m descended from the Irish diaspora, from a few different places.

Mer: Same! Ireland and Scotland. Kristine as well. 

Margaret:  Some of my family came over during the famine, some of my family fled right before the civil war. As best as I can tell, a lot of my family fought in the Easter Rising… I met my great great uncle on his 100th birthday, and he’d been wounded in the fighting, and the records put an awful lot of people with my family name in jail for awhile as a result of trying to throw off British rule. I fell into a really deep rabbit hole this past year, thinking about what it means to be the descendant of people who fled colonization in order to come be colonizers, like I’m a colonizer myself. About what it means to reconnect to traditions, some of which were stolen from us by colonizers when they drove us from our lands, and some of which we abandoned to sign the devil’s deal to be accepted into whiteness. There’s nothing I can do individually to dismantle whiteness, and I don’t get to opt out or deny my position and privilege, but I’m excited to work to undermine that erasure by reconnecting with the traditions I come from. This song doesn’t owe much to what is traditionally understood as Irish music… maybe one day I’ll fuck with that, I don’t know. Instead it’s trying to tie into, yeah, the cursing, the mourning, the rage and sorrow, using the musical tools that I know.

How do folk traditions help and empower a feeling of resistance? What from Mallacht feels really relevant right at the moment?

Margaret: All music builds culture, right? And what those cultures stand for, and what those enmeshed in them do, is something that we all co-create. There’s some danger here… I was raised Irish Catholic, right? And Catholicism, when contrasted with the Protestant invaders, became something of a culture of resistance. Maintaining our own religion, which lets be honest is closer to paganism than most of the rest of Christianity, was important. Yet when Ireland had that half-revolution, I’ve heard people describe it as a theocracy after that. The Catholic church leveraged all that good will it had garnered by being the resistance religion in order to do all kinds of fucked up shit. And of course, Catholicism itself was a cultural import, really a sort of religious colonization, that had happened a thousand years earlier.

It’s never a good thing to look at folk traditions as if they are static. They are of course changing. That’s the beauty of them. The druids didn’t write shit down. They could have; we had writing. They chose not to. Mostly people say they did it to keep their shit secret, but I think they did it so that the traditions evolved, that each teacher and each student interpreted the lessons to their own context. And that’s the beauty of folk traditions. It’s not about learning anything by heart, music or poetry or any of that. It’s about interpreting your traditions and applying them to your own context. That’s part of why I fucking hate rightwing sentimental bullshit that tries to hearken back to some mythical past. We gotta do shit now, the way we want to. The folk tradition isn’t a script to be memorized, it’s a practice, a means of developing and continuing culture.

Mer: Kristine told us about how the mná chaointe of ancient Ireland were often described as disheveled and wild in appearance (barefoot, tangled hair), both feared and honored. She explained that “keening women were not simply responsible for guiding the living through grief, but for ‘sewing’ social fabric—stitching the broken body of the dead, family, and community back together again via encoded laments and performative deathing rituals. Lament was also a space for women to rebuke, curse, and express injustices, often towards those involved in the conditions that brought about death.” 2021 has been ripe for exploring collective grief, rage, resistance, transformation, release, etc, through songcraft.

What role does Appalachia play in the music?

Margaret: We call ourselves an Appalachian black metal band, because ⅔ of us live in Appalachia, and because the environment we’re in can’t help but influence our music. The summer storms, the humidity, the ancient mountains, old and worn… they’re where we live and where we songwrite. I suspect that more consciously Appalachian music is to come… I just finished building a mountain dulcimer a couple months ago, and songwriting on an instrument invented in these mountains feels good. 

Mer: Whenever it’s time to make the next full-length record, I can’t wait to come out there and finally start co-creating in person! It’ll be helpful for me to get to know the land a bit better. Margaret, I’m especially looking forward to hanging out on the porch of your black triangle house in the middle of nowhere. Which, if memory serves, you built yourself?

Margaret: I did, yeah. Had help from my friends, of course, but it’s all built by hand.

There’s something sinister about finding my own Appalachian roots (I’m more Irish than Scots-Irish, but I’m ¼ Scots-Irish and part of my family has been colonizers throughout the south for hundreds of years). It’s sinister because it’s a folk tradition that’s born from colonization. It’s a complicated one, for sure, and that tradition is remarkably multiracial and there’s an awful lot of history of resistance in these hills… there was a whole civil war within the civil war fought in Appalachia to stop the racist fucks in the confederacy. Still, when the land speaks to me, I listen, as aware as I can be of my own position here, on stolen land.

Who does all the art on the merch and album cover?

Mer: So much badassery: Trez LaForge drew the harpies for No Dawn For Men, N.o. Bonzo created an abolitionist nymph for our side of the Awenden split, and there’s spooky bilateral symmetry courtesy of Satangirah for this release. Manfish did the wraith shirt. Melissa C. Kelly from Tridroid comes up with all the lovely cassette and LP designs for us. 

Feminazgul feels kind of like a textured painting, and there is almost a feeling of isolation in it. What kind of feelings are you trying to evoke? 

Mer: The woods, the fire, the wind, the water, the rutting earthly rot! Isolation, yes. A sense of exile. But also of communion, let’s hope? A rekindling of awareness of more atavistic ways of being. How to come back to the body. How to breathe. How to scream. Personally, I’m putting a lot of love into this project, blending it into the textures right alongside wrath and grief, because it’s impossible for me not to feel and express joy, working with these women, even though we’re exploring super dark stuff together.

Laura: For the most part, metal is primal and emotive. Feminazgûl has definitely been a place where I’ve channeled my depression, my rage, my frustrations, my losses, and various other feelings into. For me, it’s part therapy, it’s part art. 

I’ve seen you get some harassment from some reactionary types in the metal scene.

Laura: I’m not going to lie, I do lurk a little bit in black metal groups on Facebook and boy, do I find some gems in those places. Some of our dumbest merch has been born out of people trying to dunk on us, but due to all of us being basically unflappable, and also with the support of our amazing fans, we usually end up turning it on those trolls.

Mer: Laura had a run of “BLACK METAL CHUD TEARS” mugs made. Sold like hotcakes.

Margaret: Yeah, I know this is arrogant, but I find it funny when people try to take us down. Like, some metalheads on another continent “declared war” on us. What the fuck does that even mean? How detached from reality do you have to be? I’ve got actual armed neo-confederates who live near me and publicize my address… sorry, random black metal nerds, you’ve got to get in line.

How has your reaction to your work been? Have you found strong musical allies?

Mer: Plenty of strong allies, for sure. Our label Tridroid Records has been superb. It was an honor to collaborate with Awenden on that split. Everyone involved with that big shiny Black Metal Rainbows book is awesome. 

Margaret: Honestly the outpouring of support from within metal, even outside the RABM community, has meant so much to all of us and is a huge part about why the project continues to both exist and expand. For every random asshole who is like “nooooo, girls stay out of metal” or whatever, there are 20 or more people of all genders who are just so glad to see more women involved in extreme music. 

Laura: I’m amazed at how far Feminazgûl has come from being a one-person bedroom black metal project to topping various charts and getting recognition from prestigious publications like NPR and Esquire. It’s wild to me and at times, it doesn’t feel real. But I’m thankful for every goddamn second of it.

What comes next? Are you playing live?

Margaret: Building out a live band is challenging, but we’re working on it. We’re a three-piece metal band without a guitarist or a drummer. So we’re recruiting a guitarist, bassist, and drummer, figuring out how to take such layered music and break it out to be playable by only six people. As if six people was a small band!

Laura: Margaret and I did play live a few times before No Dawn, but with lack of live instruments and a ton of backing tracks, it could be a bit underwhelming. But I feel we can make something out of the hired guns we have now.

Mer: We were supposed to play a handful of live shows as a six-piece, end of the summer. We were SO pumped for Shadow Woods Metal Fest, held deep in the woods, in Maryland. I bought bug pants and tied a thousand tiny bells to a ghillie suit for my stage costume. But I’m immunocompromised at the moment, and the big Delta surge meant there wasn’t any way for all of us to travel and perform safely, so we dropped off the bill. As of September, 2021, our focus as a band is figuring out the logistics of recording Feminazgûl’s first full-length album as an official trio, and more generally getting our feral asses better organized with help from our new manager, Mallory, who rules. A good band manager can make all the difference in the world, to be honest.

What about your other projects, Margaret with Alsarath and Nomadic War Machine, Meredith with Parlour Trick, Laura appearing in a new music video?

Margaret: I am in Alsarath with Jack, who lives in Canada across a border that has been closed for… 20 months or something? We’ve released one single during that time, and we’re both proud of it, but it doesn’t come close to what I think we’ll be capable of when we’re in the same room as each other. We wrote our first EP in a week, because we were offered a show. We write well together. And both of us have matured as musicians quite a bit in the intervening two years since we wrote Come to Daggers. So… my hope is we wind up with a full-length that’s like nothing either of us have ever made before, that’s like nothing people have heard before. Nomadic War Machine… the future is murky there. I’ve been moving in a synthpop and indiepop direction with that band, and I’m happy with it, but frankly the new stuff might not be Nomadic War Machine anymore. We’ll see, we’ll see. Feminazgul has been keeping me quite busy!

Meredith: Me too! Happily. (Harpily?) Also, Margaret, I really enjoyed recording violin and theremin on that Alsarath EP for you and Jack. Such a stark, beautiful thing. Other projects: John Fryer recently put out a Black Needle Noise single called “Machine” with Atta Salina– I contributed some strings. Right now I’m slowly cobbling together Jaws of Light– a compilation of disparate commissions and compositions and oddities created over the past ten years using The Parlour Trick moniker. It’ll be the first full-length album I’ve personally whelped since A Blessed Unrest. But the work I’m most eager to get back to is Cassandra, a double LP-length collaboration with co-composer Scott Gendel that’s been in the works since 2016. In early 2020, we were making plans for me to fly out to Madison, where Scott lives with his family, and finally record some of the songs he and I have been Dropboxing back and forth for years. Full, live chorus. Big chamber orchestra. Pipe organ. All gorgeously arranged and directed by Scott. Then the plague hit. We soon realized we couldn’t do Cassandra justice without bringing a whole bunch of bodies together in one place, breathing the same air, so I had to put the project on hold indefinitely. Fingers crossed, we’ll get back to her soon. I’m also finishing up a twangy folkish indie rock album with Last Valley, my duo with the luthier Sean Crawford, who I fell ass-over-tea-kettle for while we were remotely co-writing songs last year. We live together now. Life-in-concentrate and love-in-quarantine in the time of COVID-19.

Laura: I don’t really have any other projects… I mostly just hang around and do things. I constantly have ideas though. I’ve also got some things that I’ve done some guest vocals for that are still in the works. Not sure on their release dates and/or if I have permission to talk about them. I did some spoken word for Parasiticide. However… (old creaky voice) in the before times… a long while ago in 2019, I did shoot with the band, Summoner’s Circle, for their music video for “Chaos Vector”. I’m basically just having an existential meltdown following violent demonic possession whilst rolling around in mud and blood. Just really fun and wholesome stuff. I’ve known most of those people for well over a decade from my time growing up in Knoxville’s metal scene. I’m really thrilled to see how far they have gone/are going and I’m really just glad for the opportunity to appear in their video. As for anything else, I’m always generally down to talk about maybe doing guest vocals for other people’s projects. In the past, I haven’t exactly had the space for recording but now I do, so if people are interested, I’m here for it!

You can get Feminazgul’s new releases on their Bandcamp and can also listen to them on Spotify. We have added some new tracks to the Antifascist Neofolk Spotify Playlist, so make sure to follow that, and check out their release below!

Ulvesang is Creating a Prophetic Neofolk from Nova Scotia’s Arctic Edge


There is a narrative quality to the plucking strings of the Canadian neofolk band Ulvesang, something that binds it to its European folk musical roots and the echoes of a pagan past. Like many of the central European neofolk bands from labels like Prophecy Records, typified by influential projects like Empyrium, Vali, and Neun Welten, Ulvesang brings a more traditionally melodic tone to their music than the industrial influenced neofolk bands so typical of the genre. Vocals echo rather than sit on top of the instrumentation, making it feel like an avalanche of sound, taking you into a memory of a music that feels eerily familiar. Like much of the nature infused neofolk we have covered, Ulvesang is best heard outdoors, with rain tracing an ambient track as an uncredited collaborator. 

There is a deep well of power to Ulvesang, which is more heart than historic exercise, which makes it a piece of the vital resurgence of revolutionary neofolk taking place right now. Along with bands like Nevelung and Aradia, they prove there is no contradiction in terms when traditionalist folk revivals meet a liberatory vision: we are here to create a synthesis between pieces of the past and a well crafted future. In that Ulvesang is more than a soundtrack, the cresting guitars beg your attention on each track. This is especially true of their 2018 album The Hunt, which takes up the tradition of forest ritual and let’s the sound rather than lyrics set the tone.

Ulvesang has become a key part of the antifascist neofolk movement, and is working on a split with Ashera. We interviewed Alex from Ulvesang about their musical vision, how folk traditions can be a part of the struggle against oppression, and how they are helping to lead a revolutionary sea change in neofolk.

How did Ulvesang come together? Who were your influences?

We had been part of the same group of friends for a number of years and realized we shared some common musical interests. We ended up talking about starting to jam and write neofolk/darkfolk music together. 

Our influences are harder to pin down as we both have similar, but also diverging influences. Overall though, Ulvesang is influenced by SWANS (although it’s arguable that there isn’t much reflection of that in the music), Michael Cashmore’s work with Current 93 and Nature and Organisation, Agalloch, Ulver, Nebelung, and Empyrium (among other bands and genres).  

There is almost a cold in the music, a sense of solitary meditation. How does the region you’re in influence your music?

Nova Scotia is a province of extremes in some senses. Outside of Halifax it is quite rural, economically deprived, and encompasses a variety of naturalistic conditions within a fairly small area. There are highlands in Cape Breton, farming valleys approximately an hour outside of where we are, many areas of undeveloped woodland and we’re almost entirely surrounded by ocean. These elements certainly help drive the sense of atmosphere. Some of the more “cold/meditation” vibes you mention are more internal for both of us and probably gets reflected in the music that way. 

Melancholy is a full character in your music. How do these emotions play a role in your songwriting?

We both have our struggles with mental illness and are fairly open about that in an effort to reduce stigma. Depression, anxiety, among other issues play a substantial role in our day to day lives and consequently impacts the type of music we write and play. There is not a lot of genuinely “upbeat” music either one of us turns to, particularly if we are not feeling fantastic. Both of us are people who, while easy to get along with, don’t tend to have a lot in common with most other people and we have few genuinely close friends who are from overlapping groups. That sense of isolation is often present when you struggle with mental illness, often just as a symptom of the illness itself really. Late stage capitalism and social media (and COVID-19) also have many ways of isolating people, but that’s a lot to get into here. 

What is your writing process like? How do you pull together the layers that end up on the final track? What instruments are involved?

The instruments involved are mostly guitars, bass, synth, samples, and vocals. Then there are some other random instruments we put on the tracks depending on what we want to go for. The writing process usually involves trying to put into music an idea we have in mind, and if that sounds good we try and build upon it. Usually you start off with the foundational riffs and tones and then from there you can move onto some accent notes, harmonization, and additional layers of guitars or vocals, etc. 

What role do ancestral traditions and spirituality play in the music?

Difficult to say. When we started Ulvesang I (Alex) was active in a number of occult/spiritual communities. Among them was a lot of work with Northern mystic traditions. I am fond of the iconography of my Celtic background and Ana’s Slavic and Central Asian history. 

However, I feel some of those elements have been irreparably damaged by their co-option by right-wing elements and consequently they play very little role in anything we do any longer. I specifically walked away from any open involvement with Norse mysticism because far too many of its adherents are exactly what their critics claim they are, which is a shame because it is a fascinating and functional spiritual tradition and it should never have been poisoned in that way. I lost interest in associating with the broader occult scene for the most part as well. People can strangle life from just about anything, so I’ve since chosen not to associate with any of it.  

What was the concept behind your album The Hunt? There is almost a prose sensibility to the music, as if it’s taking the listener into a painfully intimate struggle.

The Hunt was written during a process of personal struggles and hardships. We don’t want to get into too many of the details as they are private to some extent, but we hope listeners can get their own meaning from it or even possibly relate.  

How does antifascism drive your music?

Ana and I have always been politically progressive people, but I think when we began as a band, there was less of a direct intention to be involved with formal political affiliation at the time. Our politics over the last handful of years have intensified and become more outwardly and aggressively left. That aside, there was a change in the fringe music scenes we grew up loving a few years back that saw an immense increase in right-wing and fascist aesthetic and intentions (or at least it was more easily detected). It became cool to be a fascist, rather than just flirt with the “edginess” of it (granted, that’s still highly problematic for a lot of reasons). It felt like everything at all times became about rejecting any sense of progressive change and equality and instead was an attempt to use music as a recruitment tool for hate and regression. Not a vague hate like in the sense of rage against religious institutions, or against systems of oppression, but a hate that was manifested on an individual level. People hating each other in a way that was just oppressive in and of itself, and the scene is/was fucking proud of it. Antifascism became a much larger piece of our band identity in the wake of this because we were revolted by these people and the scene’s embrace of right-wing political posturing, or at least refrainment from denouncing it. 

What does it mean to take an antifascist stance from within the neofolk scene?

Neofolk, all “post-industrial” music really has always had a touch of traditionalist/fashy aesthetic. There were always bands who were outright fascists or hardcore right-wingers and there were a lot of artists who liked to flirt with the aesthetics for shock value. Or to be transgressive. But transgression has a shelf life. Throbbing Gristle in the 70’s using fascist aesthetics while satirizing the government and religious institutions of the time was transgressive. Some asshole in his basement branding his albums with “cleverly placed” Tiwaz runes and claiming he’s been “mislabeled by the left” in the late 2010s is not transgressive. These people know what they are doing and know what they are affiliated with. Most of the rest of the scene became dominated by the “apolitical” who only ever seemed to have an opinion when “muh speech” seemed to be threatened, generally mocked progressive goals and seemed to have no problem associating with the genuine fascists. 

Establishing ourselves as openly, actively Antifascist in this climate lets new listeners, or listeners who are frustrated by the ever present right-wing element, know that there are left-wing bands who oppose fascism while still writing objectively good music. We need more artists involved in these sorts of fringe communities to take that stance. We’re roundly mocked by nazi chuds anytime we openly discuss progressive ideals on our social media, but we just laugh and bully them off. And the more we’ve done that, the more we’re finding our audience is filling up with people who are thrilled to see us doing it and  want to be a part of it. 

Tell us about the split you are doing with Ashera. How did you come together? What’s the concept behind the collaboration?

We are friends with Ashera and met through antifascist networks among neofolk/darkfolk bands. Due to this shared genre style and values, we thought it might be cool to do a split together. On top of that we have other commonalities as well. It seemed like a good fit. 

What’s next for Ulvesang? What other bands would you recommend to antifascist neofolk fans?

We’ve got a couple of small collabs (the split above being one of them) on the go and we are finally in the process of working to record our third album. Executive dysfunction largely erased our capacity to do much of anything outside of work for most of the last couple of years. Some other antifascist neofolk bands are the ones we have actually met online through A Blaze Ansuz and LEFT/FOLK. We can recommend Ashera, Nokken + the Grim, The Serpent and the Light, Autumn Brigade, Sieben, Alsarath, and more. 

How can we build an antifascist neofolk scene?

More bands making more music under the banner while not being afraid to hold left wing and antifascist ideals. Our music is largely instrumental and is more emotional than it is anything else… so it’s hard to call our music itself an “obvious” antifascist statement, especially where we don’t usually have lyrics at all. We do that by how we project our personas online and how we interact with our environment and our daily lives, and networking with other like-minded individuals. Complain to your labels if they’re printing fascist or cryptofash material, message bands and hold them accountable or ask them point-blank questions about some iffy content they might be putting out or associating with. Avoid working with fascist artists, research bands and labels, and build up the voices of marginalized people while doing so, especially those who are part of the scene. Promote things that are obviously against right wing ideals, etc. In short, there are a lot of ways to be an antifascist artist without feeling like you have to write covers of “Nazi Punks, Fuck Off!” or something very direct like that. We applaud all of the folks who are not afraid to stand up to Nazis and challenge them, whether it’s something big or small. 

Ulvesang was featured in the LEFT/FOLK compilation album and they are included on the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify. Check them out on Bandcamp and listen to their track below, embedded from Spotify.