The antifascist neofolk and genre community is not just a matter of the incredible bands building the sound, but also the labels, producers, and promoters getting this moving. We want to start raising the voices of some of these independent labels talking about the work they are doing to bring in left bands in this scene.
So here is our early release of an interview with the folks behind Realm and Ritual records, a cassette label that specialized in black metal, dungeon synth, and a whole range of stuff. This includes a number of antifascist bands, which we will be excited to profile (and one we will release an interview with shortly).
How did your label come together? What bands are on it and what is the mission?
Realm and Ritual started a little over a year ago in my bedroom in Boston, MA. I had wanted to run a label since unsuccessfully doing so forever ago when I was in high school. It wasn’t until recently that I felt that I had enough time, patience, and disposable income to actually make RAR a reality. My mission statement was to release black metal and dungeon synth that I felt an emotional connection to on my favorite format, cassette. I knew I wanted to release red and anarchist black metal–I am both anti-capitalist and anti-fascist–but I actually wan’t intending the label to be overtly political. However, after seeing NSBM out in the open–bands using nazi imagery, espousing racist, misogynistic, and fascist ideologies–and seeing much of the black metal community support, sympathize, or remain ambivalent on this, I wanted to be clear where I stood.
I’ve released music by some outspoken anti-fascist projects: Gudsforladt, Awenden, and Howling Waste. Though most of my releases haven’t been by overtly political projects, I do vet everyone I work with to ensure they don’t support NSBM or right-wing extremism. I am cool providing a platform for a variety of topics and themes; I’ve put out tapes based on His Dark Materials Trilogy, Shining Force (the RPG for Sega Genesis), and space exploration. My only rule of thumb is that I have to like it and it can’t be ideologically shitty.
Why is it so central to have anarchism and antifascism in the music scene?
It’s important to have anarchism and antifascism represented in music as a counter to right-wing extremism. While I think this is important across the board, I think it’s especially important to have anti-fascist views present in music for younger people first discovering these communities. I want kids getting into black metal to know that it’s not Burzum or bust, that extreme music is not synonymous with white supremacy or edgelord bullshit. The alt-right is a propaganda machine and it’s so easy for disillusioned folks to point their anger in the wrong direction. It’s our job to educate and provide a counter-narrative.
What kind of music do you focus on for the label?
I try to keep a balance between black metal in its various forms–atmo-black, DSBM, RABM, Cascadian etc.–with dungeon synth and dark ambient. I try not to get too distracted by genre labels but at the same time use them as a basic guideline. There are a few other labels with a similar focus that have been successful with maintaining a balance between interconnected but often musically disparate styles. I’m trying to do the same.
Have you dealt with white nationalist attitudes in the black metal and neofolk scene?
In short, yes. With black metal it’s so prevalent that I ended up joining a Facebook group devoted to identifying which projects have fascist ties. It’s astounding to me that the black metal community by in large accepts shit like Peste Noire, Satanic Warmaster, and Hate Forest. I don’t think that most folks who listen to this identify as white-nationalists, but there is a willingness to overlook harmful belief systems in service of “black metal should be dangerous” or “I just listen for the riffs”. These statements come from a place of privilege and ignorance.
In terms of neofolk, I’ve only just recently started to dip my toes into it. It can be difficult to navigate a new genre of music that has been identified as having a problem with NS views. I’m really enjoying your site though and have found a couple of artists I like: Hindarfjäll and Deafest come to mind immediately.
How do you think people can deal with the fascist presence in neofolk?
I think there are many ways to fight fascism in music. For a starting point, support outspoken anti-fascist artists. Post their music, buy their physical media, recommend them to friends, see their shows. It’s ok to start small, a social media post is fine. To confront fascism, I think one place to start is to call out bad behavior, shitty ideals, and bad practice. Often online arguments feel like they don’t result in any actionable change but having these conversations out loud lets people know that there are multiple sides to this. If you’re involved in your local music scene, stop booking right wing extremists (or sympathizers). Don’t support venues that put on these shows. Let the organizers know you’re uncomfortable with a band being on a bill. Confront people wearing Goatmoon patches.
How does green anarchism play into projects on the label?
While I’m not sure where each artist I work with stands on this, I’d be happy to share my own base understanding of the concept. In any situation where we’re looking for sustainable models for the future, protection of the environment and ceasing our reliance on fossil fuels must be at the core. I’m reminded of a Marx quote, “Capitalist production, therefore, develops technology, and the combining together of various processes into a social whole, only by sapping the original sources of all wealth—the soil and the laborer.” If we are looking to stop exploitative processes inevitable in capitalist society, we must build something that protects workers and the environment.
What is next for the label?
The plan is to continue releasing tapes, with releases from Wounds of Recollection, Orb of the Moons, and Feralia coming up in September. I’m planning on trying to vend more in person and have a trip planned to Seattle for the upcoming Dungeon Siege West.
Check out some of their bands:
Anti-fascist black metal with an interest in indigenous people that initially occupied New England
Monastic & Marxist project from Glasgow, Scotland. My favorite track off this record is adapted from Tecumseh’s “Speech to the Osages”
Anti-fascist Cascadian project. Anarcho-primitive belief system and natural reverence are major themes on the EP.
A great ambient/dungeon synth project.