Discussing an ending with Adam Norvell of Peace Through Decay

By Jay Nada

Peace Through Decay’s debut album “Grey Skies Loom” is like a punch in the gut, a stirring and intense piece of auditory propaganda. It has notes of post punk and industrial alongside folk elements and musically could be described as martial industrial and dark apocalyptic folk. With themes of both nihilistic pessimism and hope, PTD stands firm that we won’t “experience peace until the descent into decay, both in physical death and socially and politically, a descent into anarchy…. the overthrowing of tyrants…” namely by taking a stand against fascism. This is militant folk at its most confrontational. Naturally, we wanted to talk to Adam Norvell about PTD, the state of politics, and the possibilities of apocalypse…

Jay Nada: First, can we get a little background on your band? Is this a solo endeavor or do you have collaborators? When did this band begin, and what drove you towards making music?

Adam Norvell: Peace Through Decay came into proper existence this year, although, it technically has been around since 2014 under a different name. I say “proper existence” because its previous incarnation was me experimenting and still learning (and it’s all quite unlistenable!). Names are important to me and I had to pick something that truly resonated with me. I chose Peace Through Decay because I spent a large part of this last year (When I was living back home in Illinois) traveling the countryside in search of abandoned houses and properties and photographing them. Being inside these places conjures so much emotion in me and its peaceful in its absence but can sometimes be terrifying and cruel, but altogether beautiful. My name for this project reflects that, becoming one with nature. Even if twisted and bent out of shape, it’s inevitable and moving.

This is a solo endeavor at the moment but I’m always open to collaborations and adding members if I met people who were interested in joining me. As for what drove me towards making music, in general, I’ve always been artistically inclined and have been drawing since a very young age so the next step for me was music and I started with learning to play the bass when I was fourteen. Then I moved to acoustic guitar and so on until now where I can play most instruments that require plucking, strumming or hitting. I moved towards making neofolk because it has been one of my favorite genres since I was 16 and when I hear something I love, I always want to try creating something in a similar vein but under my lens. I started with making deathrock (and still do make it), but I quickly found I needed to start different projects under different names because trying to fit all the musical ideas and sounds I had under one name just seemed like an awful choice to me and as such, eventually made Feline Decay which turned into Peace Through Decay. I wanted to make this project sound clearly like neofolk but also bring in influences of post-punk, deathrock, goth and anarcho-punk while having a more raw sound with a clear message.

JN: The lyrics evoke a sense of hopelessness and impending collapse of society… can you elaborate on this theme and how does it play into your message?


AN: The lyrics definitely are meant to invoke that, that impending sense of apocalypse, apocalyptic folk as it were. I think thematically it is a mirror of my mind viewing the world as I am witnessing it and my thoughts that correspond with it. There’s many emotions I feel because at one moment I long for this collapse as a catharsis for our dying planet, something we’ve tried to mold and break to our fitting that is going to come back and bury us but I also hope (naively so, perhaps) that we will actually have a mind of realization as people and come together to throw off our chains put on us by capitalism and the affluent rulers who are driving us further and further apart from each other, from our happiness and also nature. I tend to switch back and forth between hope and despair and it depends on the day, really. Nihilism plays a big influence on my music although rather than it stating “nothing matters, so do what you wish” I like the idea of “nothing matters so create more good”. I also want to be clear and say I do not mourn the collapse like other bands in the scene do because I think the whole concept of “the West” is ignorant and it is built on the back of imperialism and privilege. How can the fall of something that divides us be bad?

JN: Your current release is a cacophony of folk, martial and experimental sound. You use a variety of textures and layers. Do you plan (hypothetically of course, in a fantasy world where Covid-19 is no longer a factor) to bring your music to a live setting? If so, how do you hope to do this, and what would be your ideal concert?


AN: I would love to play live one day and have given this a bit of thought but am unsure of how I would proceed since I’ve always focused more on the recording and production aspect of music since I first started writing. Ideally, I’d like at least one other person with me on stage but the dilemma is finding someone who is interested in the genre and would want to join me on stage. I’ve often thought of just using noisescapes and samples while I batter the Tom and yell at people, but I’ve not committed to that idea just yet! We will see, but one day, I’d very much like to. I will add that in lieu of live performances, I am very active in writing and have started recording this first album and also have a split with Autumn Brigade in the works as well.

JN: What is your creative process? Does the music come first, or the lyrics?


AN:
My creative process is not something that is concrete but it is different for each of my projects. With Oeace Through Decay I have years of lyrics written down and more still come, but I typically write the music seperate and eventually find what works together the best. There are exceptions to this however as I wrote “Fall Down”, “Bitter Sunlight” and “Arrow In Heart” on the spot with both lyrics and guitar. I find the songs that write themselves to be my favorite because they feel so natural, though, it is a rare occasion that I find that happens.



JN: Do you have any particular influences, or even recommendations, to paint a broader picture of your music? If you were to recommend a piece of art or literature for your listeners to get a better grasp of your music, what would that be?


AN: A great majority of my influence comes from bands like Cult of Youth, Lakes, Rome, Et Nihil/Luftwaffe, Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio and early Death In June. I’m a fan of the sound of toms so martial drumming really hits that spot with me as does deathrock and post-punk and learning more and more about production. I have a great appreciation for good sounding production, especially big sounds like on Flowers From Exile, but also love raw and lofi sounding stuff and sampling. So basically I’m trying to mold all of that together in my own head and on the first release, I kept it simple I think and stayed more in line with the neofolk/martial sound, with acoustic guitars and noise escapes with distorted backgrounds and martial drumming, and I’ll probably keep that for the first album, but I’d like to eventually expand my sound and bring more elements in if I can. Some more not so obvious influences on my work in this project are No Sir I Won’t and Seeming, two projects I admire for their music and their lyrical content and themes. I’m a bit of a music nerd. I must also add the huge influence people close to me have had on me, while not on the sound itself but the making of it, those being my love and fiancè who supports every creative endeavor I seek to complete, my best friend Chase Brockunier who makes his own music here, my sweet artist and dear friend Karl McKnaught who makes very stylized and wonderful art on his Instagram here and lastly my very good and dear friend Matthew Randall who runs Juice Of Mango records and makes great Noise in Crustgirls. They all are the reason I’ve been making so much art and music lately, so I had to include them.

If i were to recommend art or literature to help convey my sound, I’d recommend reading the poetry of Oliver Sheppard as it’s very apocalyptic and downright gothic and both books of his prose are excellent, though I think one is out of print now. If I were to recommend art, I’d recommend any pictures of burning police buildings and looking at physical guillotines (I could recommend a lot of art but I don’t think anything matches my music more than those mentioned).


JN: Can you elaborate on reconciling having projects like Death In June as an influence while not supporting their work or message?


AN:
Having started out enjoying their music and then having that realization that they aren’t doing this just as shock tactics, I wanted to be clear in what sort of vein of influence has worked it’s way into my sound. Not outright copying but I wanted to offer something similar to their sound without the guilt of supporting fascism like I eventually felt. I don’t listen to DIJ anymore but I wanted to be honest and show that it’s okay to have started there and realized what you were supporting so that other people might not feel that guilt. I also think it would be great if Douglas or someone saw like “Oh I influenced… wait a minute… antifascists?!”

JN: So, on that notion… A vast majority of the music in this genre purports an apolitical and counter-ideological stance, what do you think of this and why do you think this is? Do you have any particular political tendency, and if so, how does it play a role in your work?


AN: I think it’s honestly ignorant, this whole “apolitical” excuse bands put out as an excuse to make their musics message interesting. It’s no secret that there are fascist leanings in the scene, whether the bands want to admit it or not. I believe in “say what you mean and mean what you say”. I understand keeping a mystery to art, I studied it, but I believe in that with visual art. With music you are communicating something, yes visually, but verbally and musically as well. If you’re going to be provocative, then you must be forward about it, like Throbbing Gristle was. They complain about concerts getting shut down but skirt the issue in their explanations. Just be forward. I don’t know, it’s gotten on my nerves. In the beginning, I had no idea of any connotations because I had dial-up (I lived and grew up in the sticks) and would buy CDs based on little bits I’d hear of it online.

As time went on, I dismissed it because “Well, I’m not fascist and doesn’t make me want to be, so it doesn’t matter” and now I’ve realized that kind of imagery makes an impression on the wrong people, whether it means to or not, so any excuse that doesn’t dismiss it is problematic, especially in these times. One need only to look at the comment sections of their music videos to see the kind of people it attracts. I wanted to be clear from the get go: I’m anti-fascist, anti-racist and anarchist. On my best days, I lean towards socialist ideals like most people my age do but unlike them I don’t think the system is fixable so I lean more towards Collective Anarchism. People cannot be trusted when they are put above you and insanity is repeating the same thing expecting a different outcome. It’s like we forget why we revolt. Basically, I just want people to take care of each other because we have the means to, but it won’t happen, not yet anyway. I’ve always felt I was an outsider and I knew by bringing this message to neofolk, I would be one even more so, but I must say that I was ecstatic to learn about a growing scene with anti-fascist views and messages.

JN: Are you familiar with other openly left wing/antifascist neofolk artists, and if so, do you have any recommendations or favorites?


AN: I am familiar with a few of them and have recently been enjoying Autumn Brigade, Anxiety Of Abraham, Woundresser, April Of Her Prime, Lust Syndicate and DEAES the most, though I still know there are others I have yet to hear and enjoy. I will add that Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio would be a great choice as well, being that Tomas has openly stated they are against racism and fascism, which is always nice to see. I know there are other bigger bands I’m forgetting but that’s what came to my mind immediately.

JN: We are almost at the end of our interview. So, in the spirit of speaking of the end… What is your vision of the future? Not only for this incarnation of the neofolk scene, but the general state of affairs, and do you think music like this has a stake in the culture of tomorrow?


AN: That’s a tough one. I think no matter what, we all have a dark road ahead for the future and that eventually, there will be a light and we will either find that in our destruction and death, or together as people. I guess no matter which way you look at it, we will pass and so will our time and civilization. I take a sort of comfort in accepting that. Take every opportunity to live in the current moment, especially if it’s a happy one. As for this neofolk scene, it’s probably too early to say, but it seems to be growing and I hope it continues on this trajectory. I’d love to see festivals and more collaborations in this scene and it will wax and wane, but I think it’s made it’s place and will always be here now. I definitely believe this music has a stake in the culture of tomorrow and I think that’s been made clear by people who decided to take the step to create music that is antifascist and this style. It’s there for people to take part in both now and for the coming future and this spirit is something that I don’t think will go away.

JN: Thank you for your honest and thoughtful answers. Any last words you want to say to whoever is reading this right this second?


 AN: “The future will be borderless, and red and queer and bold, for I was born to make my kind extinct” – S. Alexander Reed


You can check out Peace Through Decay’s album “Grey Skies Loom” below from Bandcamp. They are not on Spotify yet, but still remember to subscribe to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify for other great projects.

Grey Skies Loom by Peace Through Decay

Wound Dresser Releases Album Preview and New Track, “Run With the Wind”

Wound Dresser is a new antifascist neofolk project that has released their first introductory track in advance of their upcoming album. They are coming together as an explicitly antifascist band from the start, helping to build a new antifascist culture of neofolk. We spoke with them about the project and are presenting their first track, and will follow up with them when the full album is released.

How did Wound Dresser come together?

Min Naing: I was booked to play a Halloween-themed show with my Dungeon Synth project, Vaelastrasz, and I ended up being booked with four acoustic acts so I stuck out like a sore thumb. One of the acts approached me dressed up as Morticia Addams and vehemently complimented my Chelsea Wolfe patch. Anytime I tried to talk to him about Chelsea Wolfe he kept on interrupting me by going “You have no idea!” as if he was the only Chelsea Wolfe fan in existence. That was my first interaction with Aliss Getz and I was immediately drawn by his songs.

Sometime later around early December, I decided to hit him up if he was ever interested in writing music together. We had gotten to know each other quite well at that point as it turned out that we had quite compatible music taste so I thought, why not? He was a fan of what I did, checked out my stuff after our show together, and also thought that we had the potential to mesh our styles and influences together to form a band. So here we are.

 

Who was your biggest inspiration?

Min Naing: After listening to Nature & Organisation’s Beauty Reaps the Blood of Solitude, I immediately wanted to make a folk project. My guitar skills are below average, to say the least, so I wasn’t going to accomplish something like this by myself. I wasn’t going to match Michael Cashmore’s beautiful compositions or the otherworldly lyrics of David Tibet, but it was a nice place to start on where I wanted to base myself. The big named acts of Neofolk were ones that I was really inspired by, like a lot of artists, but I was more focused on the lyrical contents of love and hopelessness rather than dousing myself with WWII-fetishism and romanticism that gives the genre a quite polarizing view to some people.

 

What is the lyrical inspiration for your new track, “Run With the Wind?”

Min Naing: When I wrote the song back in December my mind was fluttering with the ideas of escapism. I have lived in the Washington DC area for all of my life and being surrounded by metropolitan, suburban areas have taken a toll on my mental state. I want to be free, be one with this planet when all is said and done and that means leaving an area where infrastructure, construction, and traffic runs rampant. To “Run With the Wind” is to leave the hellscape of the modern world and to let mother nature guide you on her path.

How do you define your sound? This has a very classically neofolk vibe.
Aliss Getz: Min may have more to add, but I’ve always heard a certain beautiful yet dark sound to our music. It’s also unlike music I have heard in my lifetime. It’s fluid. I don’t know if this is good or bad, I believe time will tell us that, but I stand behind it. “Run With the Wind” is one of the softer songs on the album. It’s raw, as every song has been thus far, but it does present itself in a less provoking way than some of the songs on the upcoming album are.
Min Naing: In a way, I feel like I’m trying to get that sort of vibe with some of these songs. Around the time of recording and writing this I had been listening to a lot of Of the Wand & The Moon and Backworld, especially the latter with Anthems From the Pleasure Park. Having songs like “The Devil’s Plaything” and “Leaves of Autumn” stuck in my head made me use them as palettes for the basic idea and structure of what I want to do with these songs. So at the end of the day, I feel like this album will definitely have that sort of classic Neofolk vibe, but with our own little twist to it.
What’s your biggest inspiration when songwriting?
Aliss Getz: Mother Earth, and all the life that lives about her.
What’s coming next?
Aliss Getz: Wound Dresser has an album on the way called “Wails of the Widow.” Min sings lead on this song and a few others yet unheard , I sing lead on a few not yet heard as well. This album, and our project, has been very much a mesh of certain aspects of our artistries, so I foresee us continuing to explore and grow with this project. I think it will continue to carry a certain dark beauty like a lily in the middle of a patch of dark woods, as both Min and I are in tune with our darkness, and beauty.
***
Below is the first track released by Wound Dresser and their entire album is being recorded now and should be released soon. As always, remember to follow the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify.

At Daggers Drawn: An Interview With Alsarath

 

Alsarath is one of the most exciting projects that we have covered since starting A Blaze Ansuz, and is an organic expression of the artistic vision that was behind the creation of our project. From Margaret Killjoy, also known from the antifascist black metal projects Nomadic War Machine and Feminazgul, and her co-conspirator Jack, Alsarath is an antifascist neofolk project built from the romantic space of resistance and passion. Their debut EP Come to Daggers brings together a new vision for neofolk that is sparked from a revolutionary space rather than the reaction of nationalism, and is helping to carve out this new antifascist neofolk scene by capturing the genre for our own version of romanticism and folk culture.

I interviewed Jack and Margaret about how Alsarath came together, how their creative process works, and why are open about their antifascism.

 

How did Alsarath come together? What were the ideas the preceded it?

Jack: The origin story for Alsarath is sort of convoluted: Margaret and I had been scheming about creative projects since basically the minute we met, and we’d started playing around making sort of dark pop music. At the same time, I was writing songs in a doom band in Montreal, which would’ve been my first band, and that band was asked to jump on a bill last-minute with Divide and Dissolve, who I love– but we had broken up the day before. Margaret was staying with me at the time, and she’d written some pretty folkish songs that didn’t fit with the pop project we’d started, and we’d been talking about how it would be cool to start a neofolk project that was explicitly antifascist. So, rather than turn the promoter down, I asked Margaret if she thought we could throw a set together with the stuff she’d been writing, and she said yes, so we started Alsarath and wrote a set in the next ten days so we could play the show.

 

What does the name mean?

Margaret: I wrote a story a couple years back called “The Free Orcs of Cascadia” about people who start calling themselves orcs and living in abandoned towns during the slow apocalypse of climate change. In that story, one of the holy nights for the community is Alsarath. It’s the last phase of the moon before the new moon, the last little sliver. The new moon is a good time to set new intentions and bring new energy into your life. Alsarath, then, is for letting go. Alsarath is a time of introspection and rejection. It’s a day when you think about all that has not been working for you, that you’d like to be rid of. Either on an individual, relationship, or community level.

 

This was not Margaret’s first project, how did Feminazgul and Nomadic War Machine inform this new project?

Margaret: Well, Jack will tell you that pretty much whatever genre I write in, I use the same chord progressions and melodies, and they’re not wrong. I like working in a lot of different mediums and genres, because they all inform each other. There are some musical ideas that I can’t get at right in certain forms, so I might abandon a dark pop song and turn it into a metal song, or a neofolk song, or vice versa. But Alsarath is also its own beast entirely because… in most of my projects, I’m the primary songwriter or composer or whatever. Alsarath is one of the first opportunities I’ve had to really collaborate and come up with things more organically, and in some ways more magically.

Jack: I probably wouldn’t have told you that!

 

How did you integrate folk music traditions into the music? What ancestral traditions inspired you?

Jack: If anything, the lineages that I draw on are medieval European music (particularly English folk songs), and American folk music. I don’t have connections to my own heritage (Ukrainian and Polish) but I have always loved folk music and especially folklore. “Into the Arms of the Moist Mother Earth” started as a cover of The Cutty Wren and then just became… something else. We’re both very much inspired by folklore, but neither of us has particularly strong ties to ancestral heritage, so we draw mostly on universal themes or on mythology we create ourselves.

 

Take us through the recording. How does the process work? What instruments are you using?

Jack: We write songs collaboratively– usually Margaret will come up with a fragment of a melody or a lyric, and then we’ll spin it out into a song together. Alsarath was initially meant to be Margaret on harp and me on flute, but she didn’t have her harp with her when we started writing songs, so she used piano instead. I was still pining for my doom band and wanted to be able to do something weirder and heavier than just flute would allow, so I added guitar pedals. I like that we can play an acoustic, fairly traditional set, or we can make it noisier, depending on what we want or where we are. 

Margaret: I’ve never written songs in quite this way before, and I enjoy it. I know it’s cliche but there’s something organic to our process, and some of what comes out develops subconsciously between us, even lyrics. Yet when things start subconscious, we then spend a decent bit of time talking over the themes, over what we’re trying to say. Over whether the mood of the music or the content of the lyrics fits with our intentions, and then we refine from there.

 

What is your lyrical inspiration? What is the artistic core of the writing?

Jack: Some of our lyrics are things that Margaret dreamt, others are drawn from folktales, and others are abstractions of things we’ve been preoccupied with– some of the lyrics in Eyes of a Heron, for example, are based on the last words of dead anarchists. In some cases, the songs themselves are spells and the lyrics are meant to invoke something in or for us. We’re telling stories, or we’re singing something into being.

Margaret: I work a lot with my dreams, pretty consciously—no pun intended—at this point. Dreams kind of produce the raw stuff of what I want to create, but the trick is then working them into usable shape, and I’ve been learning a lot about that through this project and through Jack’s influence.

 

How does your experience as a fantasy writer inform that?

Margaret: It used to bug the piss out of me that I was no good at lyrics. I make my living as a fucking writer, I should be able to write lyrics. Yet for years and years I failed time and time again to write lyrics that were really compelling to me—fortunately, very few of those songs saw the light of day. Turns out though, writing lyrics is just actually its own medium and skill in one doesn’t immediately translate to skill in the other, so I actually had to work at it. I’m still working at it. (As a side note, you know what’s fucked up? John Darnell, the guy from Mountain Goats, also writes really solid fiction. It’s not fair to anyone else that he’s good at both.) Okay that said, just because I have to learn new technical limitations with a new medium doesn’t mean I don’t get a lot out of having written so much fiction. I do. I get themes and ideas that I’ve developed through story (like Alsarath itself) and it’s magical to get to play with them in a different medium.

 

Why is antifascism so central to your musical space?

Margaret: On a surface level, antifascism doesn’t have a lot to do with what we write about. Like we don’t (yet) sing about drowning nazis in the black ocean and we don’t (yet) sing about those who have fallen, knife in hand, willing to tear apart those who seek their destruction. Well, okay we touch on it a little bit. The politics of our music I think is overt but not as overt as say, if we were a punk band or something maybe. When we sing about the beauty of decay and rot, it’s not meant to be a counter to fascism, but it is anyway. Because (and Jack can explain this concept better than me) the beauty of decay is something that fights against stasis, against forcing the same status quo to always be the status quo. But we call ourselves antifascist very explicitly, and often describe our music as “antifascist neofolk and noise” because the neofolk scene has some… problems. And it seems to me that someone listening to our music should not have to fucking wrack their brain trying to figure out what side of shit we’re on. In fact, knowing what side we’re on probably offers crucial context to better understand what we’re doing. It, ideally, makes the spells more effective.

Jack: The short answer is that it’s central to our musical space because it’s central to both of our lives. I mean, we know that this is a scene that has made a lot of space for fascism. We knew it was necessary to state that explicitly in order for this project to exist. But beyond that, antifascism is like, the bare fucking minimum. It shouldn’t even need to be said, but it does. We know what we stand in opposition to. I am constantly annoyed that I feel like I have to investigate every band I listen to, especially in particular genres but really across the board, to see what their politics are, and I’m constantly annoyed by the “for the riffs” argument– that a band’s politics don’t or shouldn’t matter if their music is good. I don’t want to engage with the artistic products of people who would see me or the people I’m in solidarity with destroyed. Neither of us is interested in being apolitical. Our politics inform everything we do, so of course they inform our lyrics, even if there’s layers of abstraction there. I don’t think we need to be singing explicitly about hating nazis, but I do think it’s important to make it clear that we hate them. We also aren’t throwing “antifascist” around casually– it is not just an adjective that describes our band, and it is not the summation of what we believe.

 

What role do antifascist neofolk artists have in fighting back against the far-right?

Jack: If you’re gonna exist in this genre and you aren’t a nazi or a sympathizer, you have to say so. That’s the world we live in. You say it so that the far-right doesn’t get to claim this thing for their own. I firmly believe that if you have a platform and you aren’t using it to stand for something, you’re wasting it. There’s a definite sense that “neofolk” just means far-right, but there’s nothing inherently far-right about it– the very idea of folk is one that despises authority, that ought to reject totalitarianism and dictatorial power, but those things have managed to ride in on the coattails of nationalism. There’s something so incredibly intellectually lazy and lacking in nuance and boring about conflating “steeped in or celebratory of a folk tradition” with “the folk from whom this tradition comes are better than all other folk.”

Margaret: It took me a long time to really appreciate the role that art has in revolution, even though I’ve been interested in both, and their intersection, for a long time. Like Jack has pointed out, antifascism isn’t a flavor we’re adding to our music, it’s the background we come from as activists. And I think it’s easy to kind of overstate the importance of the arts, but it’s also easy to lose sight of why they’re important too. Art, perhaps especially music, and perhaps especially folk the way Jack is talking about it, creates culture. The subcultures we participate in sustain us through the fight, but there’s also the larger, overarching culture and there’s a war, an intentional war, being waged by the Right to influence that culture towards values that lead to oppression. It behooves us to fight fascism on every front, including but certainly not limited to the cultural front.

 

Why do you think the left needs romantic music of its own? Why don’t we abandon romanticism?

Margaret: Because I’m a fucking romantic. It’s obnoxious. I cry all the time and… okay hear me out… when the riders of Rohan crest the hill to see the beseiged city of Gondor. The city that abandoned them in their own hour of need. They scream “death, death, death”  and “a red day, a blood day” and they fucking ride off to what they assume is their doom and I fucking cry every time I see it. Because some shit deserves to be romanticized. When something is necessary, like solidarity, let it be beautiful too. Fuck living life ironically, let’s be earnest. Etc. etc.

Jack: There’s this thing where we only talk about “romanticizing” in the negative sense of idealizing something, making it out to be better than it is, but if we’re talking about romanticism as in an artistic movement that recognizes intense emotion as an authentic source of experience– in that case, you can frankly pry my intense emotions from my cold dead hands. The left needs songs that can stir up passion, can pull things up out of the depths of cultural memory or shared experience, can talk about terror and horror and awe– we need them more than the right does. We need to believe in a better world and fight for it with everything we have. Yes, we should be wary of individualism, and yes, we should be able to apply reason– but you can’t tell me you want to live in a world without passion, without awe, without the sublime. I certainly don’t want to.

 

What other bands do you recommend for antifascist neofolk fans?

Jack: I’m likelier to be listening to music that falls outside of neofolk, like Vile Creature or Ragana, but I always recommend Sangre de Muerdago, and Hawthonn is just a staggeringly good project that is deeply magical in a way we aspire to be.

Margaret: Is it cheeky to just say every version of Irish folk songs and Bella Ciao you can get your hands on? Because that’s what I do. And yeah I learned about Sangre de Muerdago through this magazine and sure love it.

Jack: oh, and Unwoman, who does such an amazing job of playing music outside the usual anarchist styles.

 

What’s coming next for Alsarath?

Margaret: Well hopefully they’ll open the border and we’ll write a full length. Jack is Montreal, and I’m stuck here in North Carolina.

Jack: Yeah, hopefully someday we’ll be able to be in the same space again! And then we can write more music. We were planning to tour this summer and then everything got cancelled forever– but it’s definitely something we want to do as soon as we can. We’d like to make a music video, too.

 

***

 

We are putting their debut EP, Come to Daggers, below, and we have added all of their tracks to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify.

 

New Split Album Preview from Aerial Ruin and Panopticon Released for Holidays

Two of our most championed musicians, Aerial Ruin and Panopticon, have released a preview of a brand new nine-track split on Bandcamp just in time for Yule. This is acoustic-leaning hill music, complete with the regional folk charm both are known for (This may be Panopticon at their most neofolk).

Check out the two tracks that are available to now (one from each) and pre-order the rest of the album, to be released on January 31st, 2020.

Track Listing

Aerial Ruin

    1. Sanguine of ail
    2. Lesser the blade
    3. The sea is now steam in mist of a scream
    4. Asempryean
    5. Epilogue Centari

Panopticon

  1. No Lines Away
  2. North Dakota (Chris Knight cover)
  3. Cold Cold World (Blaze Foley cover)
  4. The Pit

Ashera’s New EP “Antifascist Lullabies” is a Declaration of War

The Portland based neofolk duo Ashera evolved very consciously out of the explicitly antifascist neofolk trend that has been perc0lating (and we have been encouraging). There is an intentionality to this, to refuse nationalism a place in romantic post-punk and to allow for a romantic revolutionary music of our own. We interviewed them earlier when they released their first singles “1,000 Dead Fascists” and “Capitalism Must Burn,” but then dug in even deeper with them on this latest release. There are a lot of questions about how this thing known as antifasicst neofolk is going to develop, and they are trying to stand in front and draw a line between the complacency of the scene’s past.

 

Why is antifascism front and center in your music? Why is it not good enough to just be a non-fascist band?

We made a conscious decision to place antifascism at the center of our music because antifascism is where we are in life, it’s the social experience that we’re having and with which we’re engaging. It’s the story that we want to tell, the picture we want to paint, the song we want to sing. Antifascism is the values and legacy that we want to leave for our kids and for their children.

This moment that our society and our world is currently in is too important and too historic for us to be fence sitters and appeasers. The situation that has developed within the neofolk music scene is a microcosm of that. Fascists have taken over the scene. If the rest of us don’t speak up and act out to counter that—if we aren’t explicitly antifascist—then we are enabling fascism and conceding important ground in the struggle.

When the fascist creep is on the march and we can all see it gaining ground, then you are either explicitly anti-fascist or else at the very best you are actively choosing to enable the existence and the spread of fascism within this music scene and within our society. At some point someone must draw a line in the sand. That was done with the creation of antifascist neofolk.

 

What do you think radicals are missing by not engaging in art, spirituality, and romanticism?

As people who are skeptical of institutions of wealth, power, and religious doctrine, and as labor and social justice organizers in our communities we can understand the overwhelming sense of realism, mechanism, and historical materialism—the angst and anxiety of immediate economic necessity, social, and philosophical upheaval in which we can so easily get bogged down. But there is so much about the human experience that we miss out on when don’t take time to dream, when we don’t make room not just to appreciate but to engage with and actively cultivate art, spirituality, and romanticism in our lives and in our society.

We are both skeptical people, and Justin is an atheist. But when we see and hear our favorite music performed live, when we dance with hundreds or thousands of other people who are feeling the same ecstatic emotions created through a shared, live, interactive, tactile-audiovisual experience, we get a rush of adrenaline and emotion that is hard to describe as anything other than a spiritual experience. It’s an experience that fuels our own creative urges, our own music, our own will to dream.

On a personal level, we think radicals miss out on valuable experiences and lessons in this life when we don’t engage with art, poetry, and music. We miss out on feelings of insight and ecstasy when we don’t engage with and cultivate non-dogmatic spiritual experiences that aren’t rooted in hierarchical and patriarchal belief systems. We miss out on important moments with ourselves when we don’t take the time to lay in the grass, stare at the clouds, and dream.

On a societal level, when we don’t allow ourselves the room to play and have fun, to write stories, to romanticize and mythologize our histories and our lived experience—when we don’t create our own fables to tell our children with moral lessons in equity, anti-colonialism and anti-racism, in the ethics of radical cooperation, mutual aid, and antifascism, when we fail to engage in dreams of a better world and to create real or imagined utopias with beautifully diverse, just, and equitable communities—then the left and our movements are bound to lose. Then we are devoid of a very large and important part of the human experience, and we can be sure that the forces of fascism and other forms of reactionary authoritarianism will fill the void with songs and mythologies of national superiority, racial supremacy, and making America great again in the service of imperialism, wealth, and power.

 

How do folk traditions play into your music? Do they inform your politics in any way as well?

The whole bardic tradition and its modern singer-songwriter form has always inspired us. We love songs that aim to tell stories. Music is storytelling through melodic, harmonic, rhythmic sound. Music is poetry and auditory art that prompts us to feel, that explores the human condition and the whole range of possible emotions that we navigate in our late-stage capitalist society. Music is the expression of our dreams, our aspirations, our history. Music is the sharing of stories among people and across space and time, from one generation to the next. In that sense music is both folk tradition, and at the same time it is an expression and vital vehicle for the transmission of folk tradition.

As people who love storytelling, we both have a long fascination with folklore and mythology, from comic book superheroes to tales of ancient goddesses and gods. The cowboy consumerism and militantly blind patriotism of white-U.S. culture can be more than a bit vapid. So we binge watch TV shows about people with superpowers and we delve into ancient stories about magick and faery folk to try and connect with our past, with something larger than ourselves that is fantastic and inspiring. For both of us our first bands, and in some sense our lives as music artists began with pagan neofolk music that was rooted in a particular mythology, folklore, and spiritual tradition that we were both a part of, and which is where we actually first met. Through this new and modern incarnation of a presumably ancient spirituality, we hoped to find something in neopaganism that would help us connect with not just our cultural ancestry, but with the pagan ancestral roots shared in common by all cultures around the world, as well as provide us with a spiritual framework that—we hoped as pre-capitalist and pre-Christian—wouldn’t be as racist and patriarchal in nature as the religious tradition and culture we grew up with.

This tradition of covens that we were part of teaches that there are five magickal arts: agriculture, natural medicine, astrology, dancing, and music. So those of us who were musicians would get together and play folk music with guitars, flutes, mandolins, banjos, dulcimers, and bodhráns. We would provide music at seasonal rituals and other celebrations, and eventually we formed a band on the side called  Cloverfields that played at pagan festivals around Southern California and spawned other future bands that we were both a part of.

But in addition to music and storytelling, another important folk tradition that we learned in part through neopaganism, a tradition that is important to our music and very much informs our politics is the folk tradition of resistance. Communities of rural and working class people have always been at the heart of resistance against institutionalized wealth, power, inequity, and hierarchy. That tradition of folk resistance goes back thousands of years and beyond to the slave revolts of antiquity, to resistance by common, rural, and indigenous folk around the world against forced conversion to Christianity, and more. In communities that practice neopaganism, at least here in the U.S., there is a strong sense of shared resistance against the patriarchal Christian juggernaut that upended our ancestors’ old way of life, that replaced and destroyed so much of our cultural heritage, an institution that has so deeply shaped and distorted the modern world we live in today. We practice the folk tradition of resistance to fascism, racism, patriarchy, hierarchy, and authoritarianism in our churches and our spirituality, in our schools and in our sports stadiums, in our places of work and our governments, in our streets and through the folk tradition of telling stories with music.

 

Neofolk is heavily infiltrated by fascists, what can we do to change that dynamic and remove them for good?

We don’t know if we can remove fascists from neofolk anymore than we can remove them from society in general without becoming one of the things we most despise as antifascists, genocidal authoritarians. But what we can do is resist them, shut them out, make them irrelevant in the neofolk music scene. We can send them crawling back into their holes.

To do that we need to cultivate an “everyday antifascist” value and attitude within the neofolk scene. That means we need more neofolk bands and artists to make statements that are explicitly antifascist if not in the content of their music and art, then at least in its other aspects. Refuse to perform with them. Refuse to book them. Refuse to record with them. Refuse to give them your money and your time. We can take this genre back by boxing out bands and artists who use romanticism and the mythologizing of our past to fuel white supremacy, immigrant hysteria, and fascism.

But if we do want to have any hope of truly defeating fascism, then we can’t just be against fascism as a reactionary default. We need to purposefully carve out space to be romantic, empathetic, passionate and emotional in the expression of our everyday antifascism. We need to find and create our own cultural mythologies rooted in the values of antifascism. We need to have bold visions and share our dreams with each other by writing antifascist poetry, singing antifascist songs, and telling stories of utopias built in the empty pockets of violent empires. We’re beginning to create it here in Portland with a strong antifascist presence at protests and the cultivation of everyday antifascism in our organizing spaces throughout the city, with the amazing antifascist displays, banners, flags, group chants and renditions of “Bella Ciao” at Timbers soccer games. We are beginning to create that here with music too, with the cultivation of Pacific Northwest antifascist neofolk. We can take back neofolk and make this scene a space that is as much explicitly antifascist as it is romantic, artistic, passionate, and visionary.

 

We have added Ashera tracks to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify, and are embedding their new album from Bandcamp below.

Members:

Justin Norton-Kertson – guitar, banjo, bass, midi/synth
Deborah Norton-Kertson – vocals
Reeve Bushman – guitar, drum machine, vocals
Ashera makes multi-genre music with a focus on neofolk, dark folk, and radical antifascist culture and politics. They are from Portland, Oregon,   
Album Links
Social Media Links

From Galicia With Love: An Interview With Sangre de Muérdago

The soul of antifascist neofolk came from bands who already were connected to the genre, but had a different starting point. For the people of the country, who were resisting encroaching empire or, later, fascist dictatorship, folk music was a type of cultural struggle that helped to remember who they were in the face of total erasure. In Galicia, the regional language and cultural practices, the strength of women and the diversity they respected, was crushed as Francisco Franco’s nationalist regime banned the language and expressions of tradition.

This is what has driven Galician neofolk giants Sangre de Muérdago to focus these folk traditions, handed down by families in their homes and pubs, alive in modern concert halls. A mix of romantic folk revival, traditionalist instrumentation, and a musical drive from the punk and metal world, Sangre de Muérdago has become one of the most defining crossover bands of the neofolk scene and have bucked the perception of the genre as solely owned by the far-right. Instead their anarchist inspired music has pushed back on bigotry and oppression, that was the role of the music from the start.

We interviewed Pablo C. Ursusso, who plays classical guitar and writes much of the music, about how they came together, what role Galician music has in fighting fascist oppression, and why they are taking a stand.

How did Sangre de Muérdago first come together?

Hard to describe, the winds brought us together, and then they separated us again, and then the long journey began… Sangre de Muérdago is an attempt to capture the essence of the wild spirits and translate them into our language through music, and I think this idea is what in first place brought us together.

The sound is firmly based in the Galician folk tradition, why do you focus on reviving Galician music?  Did this come from your own family traditions?

The sound is based in Galician tradition but also in many other fields. I think we are more focused on reviving the spirit I mentioned before, but we definitely have a compromise with Galician music and folklore.

I’ve grown up in a relatively undeveloped area and I still absorbed many old ways that were, and in some areas still are, alive.

What role did Galician music and culture play in resisting Franco?

The role it played during the war and the dictatorship was mostly to be in exile, hidden in the villages and the taverns, where people sang and played percussion with spoons and gardening tools.
Franco prohibited Galician language, and he was a Galician himself (only geographically speaking), so it is not only that it was forbidden to sing in Galician, but even to speak it.

Galician teachers were sent to the south of Spain, while southern teachers were sent to Galicia, in order to prevent the children to even learn the proper grammer, because at home, the Galician language was alive, but the blow that the language and culture suffered back then still has effects today.

Where do you find lyrical inspiration, and how does the writing process happen in the band?

I try to dig it up from my own most of the time, but of course I get a lot of collateral inspiration by countless sources. I don’t think I can name a specific tangible something from where I find most of my inspiration.

The writing process is on me, and often we do arrangements together. The process happens usually by surprise, but you know as Picasso said, “inspiration always catches me at work.” With this I mean that I play my instruments a lot, and when not, I sing to myself and my dog very much too, so I think that sentence applies very much to the creative process, and inspiration catches you often with the brush or the instrument or whatever is your tool, in hand.

You play in a huge range of venues, from opera hall to metal venues, why have you chosen to have such a diverse community?

That is something not chosen at all, it just happened and it is something I’m very glad about. A beautiful diversity of people in front of the stage feels very good.

I don’t really know, but after all, we are people that come from many little corners of the musical and cultural world, and some of us have been active for a long time.

I myself grew up with a lot of folk around me and at the same time deep into the anarcho/punk/diy community of music and counterculture, which in the 90s offered some of the most eclectic and interesting music that a scene had to offer, from metal to rock to experimental music. Georg comes from a more metal background, and Erik from a lot of rock and psychedelia, for example, just to mention some of us… and after all, we play folk music!

How do you see the band relating to the struggle for liberation and autonomy?  

I sing with all my heart for liberation and autonomy. And at a personal level, the band exists as a product of the struggle for liberation and autonomy.

Do you think it is important for bands to create an inclusive space and stand against bigotry?

Yes. Very much. Bands and everyone in general.

What’s coming next?  What tours, albums, collaborations or anything should people be looking out for?

Next is a good winter solstice ritual of magic and music.

We are as well working on our songs for our next album, which will be recorded in February 2020, then on tour through Europe in March, and hopefully for that time we will have in our hands our next release which is a Split Lp with Monarch. We have also some single shows popping up here and there… stay tuned.

***

We feature Sangre de Muerdago heavily on the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify, and will continue to add more tracks as they are released. Below are several albums from their Bandcamp, and stay tuned as we spotlight upcoming releases, tours, and collaborations!



A Story Echoed Through Time: An Interview With Forêt Endormie

Part of breaking out of the singular narratives that have been available around neofolk has been expanding what the genre can be, the branches it reaches out and touches a whole range of traditional music. Part of this is a turn towards neo-classical and chamber music, reviving these orchestral sounds, integrating a nature-focused romanticism, and combining it with the same post-industrial feel that gives neofolk its dark edge. 

Forêt Endormie came to us via Falls of Rauros, and shows the interesting crossover that black metal has. Jordan Guerette, who founded Forêt Endormie in 2016, was a classically trained guitar singer and did what neofolk does so effortlessly: bring the traditional music aesthetic into a modern pop cultural modality. 

We interviewed Jordan about the ideas underlying Forêt Endormie as a chamber music neofolk project, how the instrumentation and songwriting works, what it means to revive a style so often thought as antiquated, and what it means to have a revolutionary antifascist approach in such a seemingly uncommon space.

How did Forêt Endormie first come together? What was the founding ideas behind it?

Forêt Endormie first came together in late 2016. I was working toward a graduate degree in composition, and I put together a group to perform the “String and Hammer Quintet” suite at my final recital as a student. The initial lineup of Forêt Endormie consisted of these very same folks. Since 2010 or so, I had been toying with the idea of forming a group that could perform both in concert halls and venues that are intended for “bands.” Soundwise, I wanted the group to draw heavily from various “classical” traditions as well as neofolk and various American folk-inspired guitar styles. I am very interested in the music that emerges where “folk” and “classical” traditions come together.

What instruments are involved? How do you write your songs?

On both of our releases so far, 2017’s Étire dans le ciel vide and this year’s Split with Quercus Alba, the instrumentation is essentially the same. Most of the pieces are written for piano, violin, cello, vibraphone, electric guitar, and voices, and some of the pieces include unpitched percussion. Recently we have replaced cello with double bass, and I am loving the results. I think the extended range really complements the other instruments in the ensemble.

I write all of the music in my home studio, using notation software, a keyboard, and/or a guitar. I am primarily a guitarist, and though I often use guitar as an orchestral color, I am also really interested in using the instrument in an idiomatic way. When I am putting together pieces or sections of pieces that are anchored by a fingerpicking pattern, for example, I will write that on guitar first rather than in the notation program. The style that I’m drawing from tends to determine how I begin writing.

The music is really confrontational, it refuses to stick to a pace. What kind of emotions are you trying to convey here?

Confrontational is an interesting word to describe our music, I think I like it! Generally, I tend to ruminate on some of the contradictions that most of us encounter in this modern world – comfort and anxiety, freedom and rigidness, godlessness and spirituality. The average person in the United States is more physically comfortable than ever and it seems to me that this somehow leads to even more anxiety and depression.

I’ve written a lot of music that often has musicians working through musical ideas more or less on their own, with only fleeting moments of playing in unison or harmony with another part. This can maybe be heard as both hyper-organized and a bit wild and free – more contradictions to ponder.

We’re currently working on our second full-length and I’ve found myself really trying to conjure a sense of place with music and words. These places tend to be hostile to humans – dusty, neglected farmlands; gathering storm clouds; the open ocean with the sun blazing down. Maybe listeners will find themselves transported to these places as well, or maybe not.

Obviously this is a chamber project, which might feel antiquated to people. Why did you decide to look to an older ensemble style? 

I grew up playing in rock bands, so to me, having a more varied tonal palette to work from still feels novel. Many people do associate strings and piano with bygone eras. I’ve definitely tried to use this sense of another time and place to my advantage. The new music we’ve been working on has synthesizers and will incorporate more effects and layering. I’m curious to know if folks will continue to have the impression of looking backward in time when they hear our next album.

Where is your inspiration coming from? Who are you listening to as you are writing this?

The project was begun out of love for composers Claude Debussy, Erik Satie, and Olivier Messiaen as well as classically-influenced bands A Silver Mount Zion, Clogs, and Amber Asylum. I also was digging into Leoš Janáček’s string quartets, Rebecca Clarke’s

Piano Trio and Sonata for Viola and Piano and Maurice Ravel’s Piano Trio in A Minor.

My favorite composer is Joanna Newsom, and I continue to return to her music regularly for inspiration and guidance. We actually have been covering her 2006 song “Only Skin” at some of our shows, which has been really fun! Transcribing the arrangement for that was a total marathon and I learned a great deal from it.

For the new batch of music I’ve been working on, I’ve been listening to Toby Driver’s last two solo albums, James Blackshaw’s Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death, Fiona Apple’s The Idler Wheel…., Preterite’s From the Wells, Menace Ruine’s Venus Armata, N Nao’s À Jamais pour toujours, and Austin Wintory’s score for Banner Saga. I also always return to various Blut Aus Nord, Tenhi, Jason Molina, Mount Eerie, and Six Organs of Admittance records.

How do you define your music? Is there a community of musicians you feel centered in here?

Recently a local publication described us as Franco-gothic chamber-pop, which I actually really appreciate, though I’m confused by the “pop” qualifier. I have tried to come up with a snappy genre tag for our music: chamber folk? neoclassical folk? It’s tough for me to figure out what people are hearing.

I will say that my community has always been the metal community, the corner of which I occupy continues to be incredibly supportive and open-minded. Though Forêt Endormie has branched out and plays shows for other audiences at non-metal venues, the overwhelming majority of album sales and support has been from folks that I believe would identify as part of the metal community. Underground metal has proven to be special and unique in its support and close-knitted nature. Being a part of it and the friends it has introduced me to is perhaps the greatest gift that playing music has given me.

What are you singing about mostly?

I’ll focus on the Split with Quercus Alba here because it’s the It’s the first release with original lyrics in French, and it’s sung exclusively in French, which I intend to be the norm for future releases. I am interested in the tension between comfort and anxiety, the rigid organization of human society, and acknowledging the uncaring truth of the natural world. Societal contradictions and what we give up for comfort are subjects that are endlessly interesting to me. “Entouré” and “Une étincelle que je veux avaler” helped me process feelings of anxiety and isolation, while “Cette Lanterne” is about how throughout history, we have invented gods to bury those feelings. Lyrics for me are tougher to write than music, but I’m gradually becoming more comfortable with putting my thoughts out into the world.

The music feels operatic, almost like theater. Is there a staged, storytelling component to it? What are live shows like?

I’m glad that the music can bring images to mind, as I do intend to conjure visuals with what I write. Thus far, live shows have been relatively straightforward performances. We play from sheet music and I suppose it feels a bit like watching a more traditional chamber group in that way.

I’m absolutely open to working with artists from other disciplines and would especially love to have Forêt Endormie collaborate on new theater works. Music is perhaps the most abstract of all art forms and I really appreciate when it is used well to enhance film, theater, and video games. Hopefully that opportunity will present itself at some point for us, that would be great fun!

Why is antifascism important in these music scenes?

There is a serious lack of diversity in the voices that we hear from in black metal, neofolk, and related styles. This seems to be improving as time goes on, though simultaneously the far-right is getting louder and appears in the mainstream much more frequently than it seemed to 10 years ago. Given this increased visibility of right-wing fascism in the US and across the world, it is crucial that our humble music scene at the very least ensures that our community a hate-free place that embraces all folks regardless of where they were born or their genetic makeup. We also need to make sure that those who buy into far-right ideology know that they are not welcome and that they can fuck off.

Do you draw on any older folk traditions or spiritualities?

I can’t really say that I consciously draw on older folk traditions. I am interested in many styles of folk music, and I think that certain groups – the work of Ivar Bjørnson & Einar Selvik comes to mind – do an amazing job of working with traditional folk styles and making folk music accessible to modern audiences. There are many music traditions that I love and am interested in – Gamelan being an example – but I don’t consciously pull them into my music for fear of treating the music too shallowly. Maybe I will feel differently in the future. As far as newer folk styles, I have been spending some time learning some of John Fahey’s music.

I am godless, so for me, spirituality comes in feeling connected while marveling at the cosmos or art, or in having a good conversation.

Have you experienced any far-right influence in the music scene?

I have been lucky enough in my tiny corner of music-making to experience almost no direct far-right influence. In my world, it seems to be a thing that exists only on the Internet. I’m grateful for this, as the far-right is having very real consequences for other folks in all sorts of communities across the globe.

What bands do you recommend for antifascist neofolk fans?

You’ve already interviewed so many wonderful artists. I’d like to recommend a few that I love, though some of them are not neofolk at all: Preterite, Menace Ruine, Nighttime, N Nao, Circuit des Yeux, Quercus Alba, and Falcon’s Eye.

What is coming next for you?

We’re finishing our second full-length with Colin Marston in the next few months, and hopefully following the release we’ll play some dates outside of our beautiful hometown to promote the record. Aside from that, I’m going to keep writing and playing music with these wonderful friends as long as I can.

***

We have added Forêt Endormie to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify and have two of of their tracks from Bandcamp below.


First Look: Nøkken + The Grim Release New Album: Bestiengesang

Alternating between haunting atonal soundscapes and quiet orchestral rhythm, Nøkken + The Grim has been one of primary bands since we started the website. Horse worship, pagan animism, ecofraternalism, screeching strings, all wound together in a lyricless mess that is unlike anything else you will fine in the antifascist neofolk circuit.

Their new album, Bestiengesang, is half invocations of spiritual animals and half live performance, always underskirted with a quiet and slow intensity. These eight tracks feel much more like painting or performance art than one-off songs, and its best to just jump in and hope for immersion. It’s dark and frightening, just what we expected.

Check out the new album below, the whole thing is available on the Nøkken + The Grim Bandcamp. They have yet to put the new tracks on Spotify so we have not added them to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify, but we have added tracks from the album Treason to Our Nature and will add the new songs when they are available.

From the Ruins of Spain: An Interview With As Light Dies and Aegri Somnia

Neofolk has a symbiotic relationship with black and folk metal, intermingling folk traditions and orchestral sounds. This is the murky world of musical crossover that antifascist neofolk exists in. We are big fans of the folk metal band As Light Dies, which has been added to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify, but we discovered that the folks behind ALD are also the musicians in the amazing antifascist neofolk project Aegri Somnia.

We talked with Oscar Martin about both As Light Dies and Aegri Somnia about intermixing music, the inspiration they get from heathenry and the Spanish Revolution, and why fascism is not negotiable.

 

How did ALD come together, and how do you define the sound?

My perception of As Light Dies sound is very huge. It could be some kind of Dark rock metal band, with many influences from folk music. I think that is more important that each listener have the experience to define the sound by themselves.

 

Was this your first metal band?

No, it wasn’t, but it was the first band I took seriously.

 

What are some of the lyrical themes that drive the music?

We use to speak about many things, science, depression, Lovecraft, suicide, history, philosophy, maths…

 

Why do you think it is important to be a publicly antifascist metal band?

I think that everything cultural is always contrary to fascism. A fascist music band is something contradictory.

 

What is coming next for ALD?

We are working slowly to reissue our demos, and afterwards we will release Love album vol 2.

 

What black metal bands would you recommend for antifascists, and what bands have influenced you?

I don’t know which bands can I recommend since I don’t know the political views of others, and I don’t know any black metal band which proclaims themselves to be antifascists.

 

How did you first bring together Aegri Somnia, what was its history and is it primarily your solo work?

It is a work of two persons, Cristina and me.

 

There is a subtlety to the music, bordering on soundscapes. How did you come up with this particular sound, and how do you define it?

It is Spanish traditional music with influences of dark music. It sounds particular because traditional music in Spain is not really known. So the mixture of traditional music, and traditional instruments with dissonances, gothic rock and distorted guitars makes it even more particular.

 

What is your creative process like when putting together Aegri Somnia tracks?

We select traditional songs, which use to be just voice and percussion and the we try to build a very different musical framework.

 

How does paganism and spirituality play into your work?

I’m not too much into paganism or spirituality as I am a science man and I dislike any kind of religion. We are interested in fantasy, magic, ghost histories and these kind of things, but just  cultural interest as part of folk.

 

Neofolk is often known for having a problem with fascist bands and fans, have you experienced any of that influence in the scene?

We don’t consider Aegri Somnia a neofolk band, we are more a folk band in spite our disguise. Folk music in Spain doesn’t have problems of this kind. It is truth that in neofolk movement there’s some kind of attraction to some symbols, and war, and also exists negationism about the crimes of fascism, specially here in Spain were we are the second top country in the world in disappeared people, a place where 300,000 babies were theft in our hospitals with the help of the church, and that happened after our civil war. It is a shame that now the post truth guides the nowadays way of thinking. Truth is not about personal preferences. The truth is the truth.

 

Why is antifascism so important to you?

In Spain we have a serious problem of historical memory that most people prefer to leave as is because the big companies in this country have profited from the blood of repression and have benefited from the slavery of political prisoners.

I also want to remind everyone who believes that Franco was a patriot who does not forget that he asked for help from Hitler to bomb Guernica and his civilian population, which was the condor legion, led by Commander Wolfram von Richthofen who bombarded a Spanish city and his countrymen, including innocent people, women and children. Keep it in mind when you hang the flag on the balcony, and stop looking at the other side.

Fascism comes to smash, not convince, what is out of their straight way of thiking, which they imposes it by force. They always hold hands with the powerful families. They come to establish hierarchies and repress the people.

 

The Spanish Revolution (Spanish Civil War) plays a heavy theme in your work, including the revival of those folk songs.  Why is that period so influential to you?  Why does it hold so much relevance now?

The Spanish revolution and the Spanish civil war are different things that should not be confused.

It is true that there were some populations that made the revolution, but in the best case it lasted only a few months and it was due to the lack of order, since the army and the police had joined the fascists.

What we wrongly call the Spanish revolution was when the Spanish people rose to the invasion of France during the Napoleon Empire. Everything to give the crown to the most despotic Spanish monarch in our history.

If you are Spanish, your family has been affected by civil war. The Spain who lost the war was exiled, killed, imprisoned or repressed. The part who won the civil war was the rich, the military oligarchies, Catholic church, bankers, fascists and devotes. It is impossible to understand the nowadays politics without the fact of civil war.

Part of the country’s false modernization was the rural exodus to cities. So repeated and vaunted has been the myth of the rapid modernization of Spain, but cities have been the only thing that was modernized, and outside the large nuclei everything was abandoned. Everyone was going to look for work in the cities, and the towns and their people were gradually aging until they died. Spain is a country full of ghost towns and abandoned villages. That is one of the reasons our music and our traditions are in danger. Our cities are globalized, and mediatized and we consume external culture. As I answered in the previous question, it seems that part of that neofolk prefers to import more known cultures such as German, Norwegian or North American, while ignoring what we have here. That is why we who dedicate ourselves to folk music and have a responsibility to rescue and spread these old songs before they die, and the only way is to go to these villages where there are few inhabitants left and talk to the elderly. We have to know the variations of the traditional songs that they sang in their town.

 

Do you think that there is a growing scene of antifascist and left/revolutionary neofolk bands?  How do you think that is changing the genre?

I don’t really know the scene in neofolk, as I said before, we are more into folk music, and folk music always tends to be leftist.

 

What is coming next for Aegri Somnia?

We are preparing music for new shows and we are preparing our second album.

 

What bands have influenced you, and what bands do you think antifascist neofolk fans should check out?

If we have to speak about influences in folk we always speak about the work of those who compiled old songs as Joaquin Díaz, Manuel García Matos, folk musicians as Carlos Porro, Eliseo Parra or Xabier Diaz, and bands as Vihuela and many others.

If we speak about the dark side we always have in mind Dead Can Dance, Ved Buens Ende and the 3rd & the mortal.

 

We have added one track from As the Light Dies and three tracks from Aegri Somnia to the . Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify. You can check out tracks from both band’s Bandcamp below.


An Anti-Fascist Revolt: An Interview With Ashera

The goal with A Blaze Ansuz was to help give a name to an emerging music scene, antifascist neofolk and related genres that were bucking the trend of far-right romantics taking over our music. The hope was that once this became a real current then more bands would feel comfortable emerging into this space, and Ashera, from Cascadia (Portland, Oregon), is definitely a part of this trend. Created by Deborah and Justin Norton-Kertson, two organizers in Portland, this music was explicitly political from the start.

In this interview we talk about their background, what fuels their antifascist commitment, and how this new project came together.

How did Ashera come together? What was the inspiration to start it?

The two of us have known each other and lived together as partners for almost 15 years, and Ashera is the latest in a number of bands and music projects we have created together. Interestingly enough, this particular project was inspired by A Blaze Anzuz and your attempt to consciously create the genre of antifascist neofolk.

When you first announced the creation of A Blaze Anzuz and this new genre of music, we were excited to learn about other musicians engaging in this work. It wasn’t long though before the thought occurred to us that it had been six years since we had created any music of our own, and for the first time in years we were actually inspired to do so.

During the Occupy movement in 2011 we shifted heavily into activism and found ourselves spending most of our free time out in the streets protesting Wall Street and police brutality. We formed a band from that movement called Patchwork Family Band, but it fizzled out over the course of the next year as we all moved on to other things. After the end of our local Occupy Portland we were disillusioned, broken spirited, and tired. We stopped creating music for a while and became full-time activists. However, we have realized that we have lost a huge part of our identity by stopping making music together, and Ashera is our moment to reclaim that identity and merge it with our passion for social justice and antifascism. It’s a perfect moment for us to channel our energies into music that can change the world. We are inspired again and it feels great. So without trying to sound like a couple of suck ups, thank you!

What history do you have in songwriting? Is this your first musical project?

Well no, this is not our first musical project. As we said, we have been together as companions and musical partners for about 15 years. The first groups we started playing music with together were pagan neofolk bands like Anam Cara, The Music Committee, and Happy Death Band back in the early 2000s. I don’t think though that either of us were particularly aware of neofolk as a specific genre at the time. It was just what we happened to be doing, and in retrospect we recognize it for what it was.

After a few years, we and some of the other musicians in those early projects moved away from pagan neofolk into folk rock, dream pop, and shoegaze with bands like 7 Story Sound and Azure Down. During those years we spent quite a bit of time at a cabin near Lake Gregory in Crestline, CA just jamming and composing music together.

Our band Azure Down came to an abrupt and unwanted end in 2009 when the two of us moved to Portland for work during “The Great Recession.” A few years went by without us playing much music before we helped form Patchwork Family Band in late 2011.

Tell me about the first single, “1,000 Dead Fascists.” What inspired you to use this shocking title? Is there a bit of humor at play here?

We very much believe that it is vital to come together through grassroots organizing and movement building to defend our communities against fascist incursion and stop the rise of fascism by any means necessary, and that is what this song is about, albeit it in exaggerated form. We aren’t pacifists. In fact, we would argue that pacifism is an immoral and unethical philosophy, particularly in the face of fascism with its ideologies of violent ultra-nationalism, xenophobia, and supremacy (most often but not limited to white supremacy) that historically have resulted in mass atrocities, ethnic cleansing, and genocides here in the U.S., Europe, and elsewhere in the world. So we aren’t entirely sure that it would be accurate to say humor is at play here.

At the same time—in the sense of shock value, exaggeration, and the unexpected—emphatic irony is certainly at play here in the song and its title. You expect calls for genocide to come from fascists. You don’t necessarily expect people who claim to be antifascists to call for something like a thousand of dead bodies in the streets. And no, we aren’t actually calling for the genocide of fascists or anyone else, we aren’t advocating that people start killing fascists. We definitely want to make that clear despite the purposefully shocking nature of the song and its title. At the same time though, like we said, we believe that we must defend our communities against fascism by any means necessary in order to prevent horrors such as the Holocaust from ever occurring again, and that is what this song is about. Of course, we want to see that happen through grassroots movement building that brings tens, hundreds of thousands of people into the streets to confront and stop fascism before it’s too late, and we actively engage in that kind of movement building work in our community. In the 1930s and 1940s it took a world war, hundreds of millions of deaths through that war, and a horribly atrocious Holocaust before fascism was finally stopped. We absolutely can’t make the mistake of appeasement a second time. We need to draw a line in the sand so to speak. We need to stop this new rise of fascism before another Holocaust happens. So let’s come together and build a movement that can do that through sheer overwhelming numbers so that we don’t ever again come to a place where we need 1,000 Dead Fascists in the streets to become a reality in order to stop them.

Why do you think it is important to bring antifascism to neofolk?

It is important to bring antifascism into everything we do, whether that is music, sports, literature, television, theater, or other kinds of art and cultural expressions. In these times where we are experiencing a serious and rapid resurgence of fascist ideology and organizing, so it is vital that we create an antifascism that comes to dominate the cultural expressions of our society.

We happen to be musicians, and it so happens that we have been neofolk musicians since our earliest projects together. Given the particular tendency of fascism to try and co-opt the romanticism, the dreams, and the vision of neofolk music, we feel a particular responsibility to help develop this extremely important genre of specifically antifascist neofolk music.

We feel that music is particularly important in this new antifascist cultural project. Music has always been a means of eliciting emotional responses, of bringing people together around a common interest and sentiment. If we leave this music to the fascists, that is a victory for racism, xenophobia, and violent nationalism.

With the incursion of fascists into the neofolk scene and their blatant attempt to pervert its vision, it is all the more important that we take back this genre of music and use it to fuel the antifascist movement and to create a deeply ingrained culture of antifascism that can and will be an important factor in beating back the fascist creep and creating the better, more just and equitable world that those of us on the radical left so emphatically and sincerely envision.

What ways do you think people can fight fascism in the neofolk scene?

We must not be silent. We must create purposefully and blatantly antifascist neofolk music. We need to confront and challenge fascists at neofolk shows and festivals whenever and wherever we encounter them. And we need to consciously create a purposeful antifascist neofolk scene that brings antifascist neofolk bands and musicians together in community and confederation.

As we were raising our two now adult children together and trying to navigate how to handle situations when they had done something wrong, one piece of advice we were given by Deb’s Dad was “be sure to get their attention.” This has never been more true than it is right now, and it is part of the reason for the title of our song 1,000 Dead Fascists. If you don’t grab the attention of people when harm is being done, then no will look up and fight back. Too many people are all too happy to keep their heads buried in the sand and go about their lives so long as the harm isn’t affecting them directly.

Look at how long the current immigrant and refugee concentration camps have already existed here in the US. Right now, there might not be a movement to close those camps without the bold, attention grabbing, and (to some people) controversial actions of Occupy ICE for example, which was started right here in our city of Portland, Oregon. We must rage, fight, and scream into the void in order to hopefully get people to wake the fuck up and get involved in the fight to crush fascism before it is too late.

What bands are inspiring your work?

Indigo Girls has been a huge inspiration since they hit the scene in the early 90’s. With songs like Our Deliverance, Shame on You, and Pendulum Swinger, they have mastered the art of combining their folk roots with activism and anti-fascist ideology. In fact, the first song we played together when we began hanging out almost two decades ago was an Indigo Girls song called World Falls.

The other obvious and classic inspiration in terms of antifascism and folk music would have to be Woody Guthrie. He is such a giant in the genre of antifascist folk music that it seems cliché, it is impossible for us not to mention him. After all, who doesn’t love songs like All You Fascists Bound to Lose and Solidarity Forever? Also we must mention Bob Dylan. The first song Deb ever learned on guitar was “The Times They are a Changin.”

Another more recent inspiration is Wadruna, a Norwegian neofolk group formed in 2006 that has also been written about by A Blaze Anzuz. We first saw them perform a few of years ago at a music festival outside Portland, and were blown away by their raw connection to their Nordic roots, which we both share in our own ancestry. In fact, our song 1,000 Dead Fascist is very much inspired by their sound. Apart from their amazing music, we have been inspired by their stance against the use of Nordic culture and traditions to promote fascism and racist, nationalistic rhetoric. When we first heard them we weren’t sure where they fell on this, and we felt that we needed to do our homework and find out if they were part of the fascist tendencies in the neofolk music scene. We were thrilled to learn that they have made statements to the contrary, condemning such ideologies embraced by their some of their fellow Nordic musicians. Their courage to take back their rich musical, cultural traditions has inspired us to do the same here in the US.

Finally, we also feel like we have to mention Pink Floyd and Roger Waters as big inspirations of ours. Waters has a long history of antifascism in the music he writes, and his bold stance on the need for the music community and the rest of the world to support the people of Palestine in their struggle against Israeli apartheid through the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement is more than admirable.

What is next for Ashera?

We have releases two singles (1,000 Dead Fascists and Capitalism Must Burn) off of our upcoming antifascist lullabies EP. We’ll be releasing that EP at the end of this summer or sometime in the fall, depending on how the remaining recording and mixing sessions go. After that, we have a vision for another album or series of albums called Fan The Flames, which will be an antifascist neofolk re-envisioning of labor and anticapitalist songs from the IWW’s Little Red Songbook.

At the same time, we are continually being fired up by the daily news and we firmly believe that neofolk music needs to branch out beyond its Western, Eurocentric roots. We’d like to explore topics such as immigration, the Water is Life movement, the events occurring on the Big Island of Hawaii at Mauna Kea, and do so in a way that does not involve cultural appropriation. Not only are these topics directly related to both the problems of fascism and capitalism, but it seems that time is speeding up and the stakes get higher with each passing minute. We must continue to channel our outrage into music for the unheard masses in hopes that we can do our part to bring real anti-imperialist freedom to every corner of the globe. Lofty goals for sure, but what is at stake is the future of humanity on this planet and it doesn’t get much bigger than that.