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!

Appalachian Hill Stories: An Interview With Twilight Fauna

So many of the bands we have been touching base with through A Blaze Ansuz has been on the intersections of neofolk with a huge range of genres, drawing lines of traditional music through metal, industrial, chamber, music, ambient. Twilight Fauna was this perfect synthesis, drawing on the same redneck Appalachian twang that we know from Panopticon and bringing in traditional folk from the mountain as a starting point. And Paul Ravenwood, the original solo artist behind Twilight Fauna (it’s now a two-piece), has a story that is told through his music, generations of his family coming from that same mountain. And this is the fundamental core of the folk music, traditions handed down in rural areas as ways of knowing your own history, the type of storytelling that is more emotive than prose.

We first came in contact with Twilight Fauna in his collaboration with Evergreen Refuge, two artists I could not have conceived of in duet until I heard it. I was able to interview Paul Ravenwood about his decade working on the Twilight Fauna project, how the mountains speak through his work, the shifting role of tradition in his unique synthesis, and why we have to make our music scene a bulwark against fascism.

How did Twilight Fauna come together?

I started the band as a solo project almost 10 years ago as an outlet to some things I was going through. Josh Thieler of Slaves B.C. came on board as a full time drummer around 3 years ago, and we’ve been a 2 person operation since then.

How do you consider yourself musically? How do you define it?

That’s a tough one to answer. I think above else I just see myself as a songwriter. Folk music and metal is just how that comes out because those are the genres I’ve always gravitated toward. Twilight Fauna is definitely a mixture of all my interests. Folk, black metal, post rock, it’s all in there. I like that it’s so hard to point to one specific influence or genre and say we’re that. The interplay between all of our influences is really what creates our sound. There’s layers. I would never want to be in a strict genre band that follows all the rules because then you just end up being a copy of someone else. It’s kind of fun sometimes to hear metal people be into it until the banjos kick in and then get really confused. Or traditional folk people jamming out until the screaming parts kick in and then aren’t sure what to make of it. I definitely think there’s a section of people that get both and who appreciate what I’m doing. I’m extremely grateful for those people because they throw enough support my way that I can continue the journey.

What is your songwriting process like? What instruments do you use?

I usually start out on guitar or banjo depending on the song. In terms of songwriting process, it’s changed over time but after 10 years I have a pretty consistent process I like to follow. I’ll sketch out the bare bones version of the song and practice that for awhile. After a few months of practice, I’ll record rhythm tracks as a starting point. Then we’ll start building from there. At some point Josh will come in and do drums and usually vocals happen at the end. It’s a long process because I handle just about all the production as well. It’s usually a continuous cycle of record a bit, then mix, record more, then mix more for a couple of years until it gets to where we want it.

 

How did the collaboration with Evergreen Refuge come together?

Dylan and I have been friends for a long time. I’m not even sure how we met, I guess we just found each other when our music started taking off around the same time. So it’s something we’ve always talked about along with our friend Chase of Deafest. We ended up recording a couple records together as Arete, and Dylan and I put out a split record. At this point, the folks I’m comfortable working with are people I’ve known for years. Dylan and Chase really are brothers.

How does the story of Appalachia play into your work? Do you draw on the folk traditions of the area?

I’ve always thought the best music is something that connects you to a time and place. Growing up in the mountains here, you can’t help but be influenced by it. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without those experiences so I draw from the folk traditions because they’re such a huge part of who I am. My family has been in the mountains here for 160 years. These traditions are my traditions.

There’s also a huge history of activism here. We’ve been at the front lines of the labor movement going back to when they first started mining for coal all the way up to the teacher’s strikes that have been going on in West Virginia and the tree sits currently happening to stop the natural gas pipelines. People here have always had to stand up and fight for themselves. You can’t help but be moved by that. It’s inspiring to see people fight for their communities and their homes.

 

There seems to be a crossover between bluegrass, metal, and neofolk here. How does each tradition inform your music?

I’m pretty well rooted in bluegrass and metal traditions. Neofolk is something I came to really late. And to be honest, I still have a hard time understanding the more industrial style of neofolk. I’ve always just sort of looked at it like I’m taking traditional instruments and playing them in nontraditional ways. After all, why pick up a banjo and just try to play note for note like Earl Scruggs? If folks wanted that, they could just put on a Flatt and Scruggs record.

So I’ve always wanted to push the boundaries to see what kinds of sounds I can get with folk instruments used within a more varied soundscape. So in a way I started calling some of my stuff neofolk out of necessity because around here if you say you play folk music people usually assume it’s straight bluegrass. That being said, I definitely feel a kinship with some of the neofolk bands out of the Pacific Northwest. Those folks are more focused on the nature and that’s something I relate to on a deep level.

Why are you an antifascist musician? Why is it not enough to just be non-fascist?

More than a musician, I think first and foremost I’m an antifascist human being. We live in a time where a segment of our population would take away the rights of a lot of other people for merely existing. They’d also completely destroy the mountains and our entire ecosystem in the name of economic progress. To remain silent would be complicit in allowing that to happen. So I guess I never really started by thinking I’m going to use my music to push a political message. I’ve never sat down and tried to write a political song. But I’m not going to be quiet when I see injustice. I’m going to do my best to stand up for people because we’re all in this together. Whether it’s in the music work or my local community, if I see something I’m going to speak my mind about it.

That being said, I’m not always comfortable with some of the tactics that have been used in the past. Opening a can of mace into a crowd at a show causes a lot of collateral damage and doesn’t seem to be a productive way of changing minds. I’ve seen plenty of metal shows where people bring their kids or just people who happen to be there without knowing the context of the bands. I’d rather not see people trying to stop racists stoop to their level. It’s sort of like how America as a country tends to view war, that if you just bomb enough people we’ll win. But it turns out, that just creates more enemies. So I would rather see the focus on nonviolence. It’s like how every so often, the alt-right will show up in a city dressed up for a fight and antifa folks will show up and they’ll beat each other up. I’m sure in that moment, it feels great to beat the shit out of a racist. But at the same time, that guy is going to go home and tell everyone he knows “look what happened. I was attacked by antifa” and a bunch of other bullshit. And all that will do is reinforce in all those people’s minds that the left is violent. I 100% agree with the message, but I’d like to see more creative ways of curbing racism than standing on main street hitting each other with homemade weapons. No one ever got hit with a bat and went home and decided to stop being a racist. We have to be better than that.

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

I have. I’ve definitely been at shows where nazis have showed up. I live in an extremely conservative part of the world where those elements exist in force. In certain situations you just have to be sure you’re doing everything you can to keep the folks around you safe. And online, it’s easy to see certain bands pander to the far right to get support from that portion of metal fans. It’s definitely a thing that exists, but I like to think the tide is turning on that kind of thing. I think people are much more cognizant of that than they were 10 years ago. Maybe I’m being too optimistic.

What’s coming up for you?

We just submitted our next record to the pressing plant so we’re shooting for a summer 2020 release. I’ve been working on that for the last couple years so I’m glad to finally see a point where it will come out.

What bands would you recommend for antifascist neofolk fans?

As far as folk, anything on Little Somebody Records. Arrowwood and Novemthree especially. Sangre de Muerdago is another good one. As far as metal, Evergreen Refuge, Deafest, Slaves B.C., Cloud’s Collide, Redbait, and Dawn Ray’d. That’s just touching the surface. There’s so much good music coming out these days. It’s hard to keep up.

We have added a number of Twilight Fauna tracks to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify, and check out some of their Bandcamp albums below.


A Return to the Forest: An Interview With Waldgeflüster

There is an epic metal quality to the Bavarian metal band Waldgeflüster, whose musical storytelling feels more like a drawn out saga rather than a radio edit. Samples, changing atmospheres, diversity is instruments and musicianship, all remind us that black metal is such a shifting currency that it can really be a platform on which to experiment. At the heart of Waldgeflüster is the use of both folk music and the forest traditions, a voice of the Gods that is much older than the songs being recorded.

We talked with the band about how they started, how they piece together their unique sound, how heathenry informs (or doesn’t) the music, and how metal can approach fascist entryism.

 

How did the band first come together? 

I started Waldgeflüster as a Soloproject in Winter 2015. I needed an outlet for the ideas that did not fit to my main band back then. In Summer of 2006 the first demo was released, and it went on from there. I quickly recruited session musicians to play these songs I created live. I worked like this for years, with session musicians coming and going. Around 2012 the line up became more solid, and after playing with the same guys for several years and getting to know each other very good, I offered them to become full time members of Waldgeflüster, with all rights and duties that come with it. Since then we released 2 albums and 1 split, and I am still happy with the decision to ask my bandmates to join me.

Was it the first musical project you had all been in?

No. I started a band in school. Later I formed another one with some friends, which was called Scarcross. We existed for some years, recorded some stuff, played some gigs. But it never really got serious. Not because of the lack of musicianship, more due to a lack of motivation to go the extra mile by the other guys and also conflicting ideas in which direction the music should go. When this became clear to me, I started Waldgeflüster.

You have an incredibly eclectic sound, how do you define it? 

We don’t define our sound. We do and create what we want to and feel like. We try to make every song unique, at least one detail must be something we never used or did before. We also get our inspiration from a lot of different genres. For example Folk, Country, Black Metal in all it’s substyles; Melodic Death and even Pop and Electronic Music can be found in my playlists. I like contrast and diversity. I guess this leads to our sound being very broad.

Do you feel like you are a part of the metal and/or neofolk scene?

I feel part of the metal scene to some extent. We define Waldgeflüster still as metal but we do not want to restrict ourselves with that label. We are very far away from the neofolk scene though; we do not have any connection points with this scene.

How does song writing take place? Is it a collaborative space?

Usually I sketch out the first ideas for a song. I record some guitar riffs and program some basic drums to them. From there it becomes a collaborative space where everyone can contribute as much as he wants. We try to keep the decisions democratic, but in the end, I have a veto right for everything I do not like. Our songs go through many iterations of demo recordings until we all agree that we have the final version, so it usually takes several months until a song is finished. We are not your classic rock band that writes some songs in a rehearsal session together, everything is done with demo recordings, that we sent back and forth.

How does heathenry inform your music? Are folk traditions important to it?

I need to be honest here: Neither heathenry nor tradition have any importance for our music. Waldgeflüster started back then with some ideas rooted in heathenry, but nowadays it doesn’t have much influence on our art. Not only would I find it to be boring after 5 albums to write about the same topic over and over again, but I also do not consider myself a heathen in a sense that most people would do. I would say I am more of a “heathen atheist” – I accept no higher power above myself, except nature. To me the Germanic mythology is an attempt to explain the forces of nature from a pre-Enlightenment perspective. It contains beautiful metaphors, and we can definitely learn from it to respect nature and worship it as our reason of being. But apart from the nature aspect, I do not take anything literal from the mythology and therefore also see no reason to be bound to any rules or ceremonies or whatever.

As for traditions: I am not a friend of traditions that are being kept alive for the tradition’s sake. Traditions were at some point born out of necessity or practical reasons. If the necessity (necessity here also includes something like the appeasing of a god) or the practical reason is lost, there is no sense in keeping them alive as an empty shell. Of course a beautiful blot has something magical about it. But if you strip it down to what is still “necessary” today  – when you take away the believe in higher beings – what stays from it is the getting together with close people and for example saying a truth out loud you normally would not. To me this is the core of that specific tradition, the one thing that is still valid. What I am trying to say is this: Don’t keep traditions alive just because they are old. Take of them what is still valid and important in a modern world or even better: get rid of the old traditions and create new ones that fit to your life. In the end is not more important to create a new tradition like getting together with a close friend on regular basis than pouring some mead into the fire?

There is a heavy presence of a connectedness to nature in your sound. How does a bond with the natural world inspire your music? Is your music motivated by a sense of defense of the earth?

Nature in my music and lyrics is always present. Being out in nature inspires me. But nature is never used for its own sake. I use it to create a setting, as metaphor to talk about personal feelings and ideas. Waldgeflüster is very intimate music. It deals with my inner demons, melancholy, sadness, etc. It never preaches or deals with “wordly” stuff. At least it hasn’t so far. Nature gives me the calm and the strength to face my deepest fears and problems, that’s why the music is so connected with it. So there is no sense of defensing the earth in Waldgeflüster’s music. I deal with the world and how to make it a better place in my other project, there is no room for the everyday crisis in Waldgeflüster.

What do you think it is important to oppose fascism and racism in the music scene?

It was always important and it is becoming even more so. Throughout the whole world one can see a new rise of the right-winged, the fascist and the numb. The old argument “But I like the music” doesn’t count anymore. I will admit that I have such “guilty pleasures” with bands who at least do not distance themselves as rigid as I would like them to do so. But I will never listen or support open right-winged bands and I will defend all concerts being canceled due bands playing that are in the grey area. The funny thing is that those people who complain the most about concerts being cancelled WANT to be “dangerous” and not to be part of society, but they cry like little children when their favorite edgy band’s gig gets cancelled because they provoked just a bit too much. I find that a bit schizophrenic. So, in short, I think it is important to speak out against fascism on every occasion we get. The great majority has been quiet for too long and accepted the growth of this plague in our midst. It’s time to push back with all we have.

What bands inspire you and you would recommend for antifascist metal and neofolk fans?

I am inspired by many bands, too many in fact to mention them. If you narrow it down to bands that might be interesting to antifascist metal and neofolk fans, Panopticon is the one thing that comes to mind immediately. But I guess everyone here knows them already anyhow.

What is next for you? Any sideprojects? Do you have any tours or new releases coming out?

We are working on a release in the background, hopefully coming the beginning of next year. Don’t want to go into details yet, only that this will not be something genuinely new, but still might be of interest to people who follow us. We also plan to play some shows next year, but nothing is written in stone yet. I am also in the final steps of the production of the 2nd album of Uprising. Uprising is my side project where I focus on more traditional Black Metal but with a very “wordly” and leftist agenda.

 

We added a Waldgeflüster track to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify, as well as a number of other new additions to the playlist. Make sure to add it and share it around. Also check out some of their albums from their Bandcamp.


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.


Depressive Creativity: An Interview With Realm and Ritual Records

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:

Gudsforladt–“1525”

Anti-fascist black metal with an interest in indigenous people that initially occupied New England

Howling Waste–“Bitter Tears, Dreams of Dawn”

Monastic & Marxist project from Glasgow, Scotland. My favorite track off this record is adapted from Tecumseh’s “Speech to the Osages”

Awenden–“Awenden”
Anti-fascist Cascadian project. Anarcho-primitive belief system and natural reverence are major themes on the EP.

Wooded Memory

A great ambient/dungeon synth project.

 

We are adding tracks from Wooded Memory and Awenden to our Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify.

Metal Raises Money for Abortion Access with ‘Riffs for Reproductive Justice’

After the recent attacks on women’s reproductive rights in several red states, and the potential for a full-scale SCOTUS assault on Roe vs. Wade, fundraising for abortion access has become a key priority and bands across the country are standing up in support. On a recent tour with Dawn Ray’d and Dead to a Dying World, they gave free t-shirts to people who gave monthly donations to reproductive access.

Now a new compilation has come together, organized by former Noisey resident metal-head Kim Kelly, and is intent on raising money for the National Network of Abortion Funds and the Yellow Fund, which fund abortions and do organizing in Alabama. The “Riffs for Reproductive Justice” compilation is for sale at Bandcamp and brings together a massive list of metal and hardcore bands who are putting themselves out there to raise money to ensure that low-income people in the most affected states still have access to healthcare.

Abortion clinics across the country are being forced to close, robbing people of the ability to access crucial healthcare services. A theocratic fascist regime is working overtime to control the bodies of those who have uteruses, to force us into unwanted pregnancies, to wrest away our human rights. We cannot stand by and let this happen. All of us—people of every gender, with every kind of body—need to fight back against this horrifying attack on bodily autonomy, by any means necessary. This compilation is just one small effort made by a few dozen people who care, who are intimately affected by this, and who love other people who are afraid of what the future will bring.

The compilation has thirty-three tracks, including songs by Ancst, Axebreaker, Dawn Ray’d, Deafest, Tbou, Jucifer, Twilight Fauna, and others.

“So it’s our honor to be part of this effort in the pivotal fight we again face to defend reproductive freedoms which politicians and religious extremists in our home country seek to demolish,” said Gazelle Amber, of Jucifer. “If legislators won’t do their job and represent the overwhelming public demand to keep abortion and birth control legal and accessible, we have to take care of each other. Never forget that we are more numerous than those who aim to control us. The object of power is power.”

You can get your compilation here, and they are asking for at least $5 to purchase the album, but you are welcome to donate more since 100% of the proceeds will go to the organizations supporting safe abortion access.

Neofolk Against Fascism (CTRL+D Podcast)

Check out this episode of the CTL + D, which does a lot of episodes regarding technology, gaming, history, and a range of other topics.  They wanted to jump right into the story of neofolk and black metal, and their status as a “contested space.”  This gets to the heart of what A Blaze Ansuz is, building our own space both to create a home for ourselves musically and to effectively combat the “cultural struggle” of the far-right.

A conversation with Shane Burley, author of Fascism Today and founder of antifascist neofolk blog A Blaze Ansuz, about the present day effort of antifascists to break neofolk and black metal’s ties to the far right.

If you want to know more about the initiative, you can visit A Blaze Ansuz, and follow the blog, as well as Shane himself, on Twitter.

Also, don’t forget to give The Antifascist Neofolk Playlist a spin. 🙂

+ TIME (2019-04-12): White Supremacists Have Weaponized an Imaginary Viking Past. It’s Time to Reclaim the Real History

P.S. Apologies for the light audio glitching.

 

Terrorfest Brings Antifascist Black Metal and Grindcore to the Pacific Northwest

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2019 is set to be the year that explicitly antifascist metal takes over the scene.  In January, former Noisey metal editor Kim Kelly launched the first ever Black Flags Over Brooklyn antifascist metal festival, highlighting bands that were down with an antiracist and left-wing bent.  This helped to coagulate a trend that has existed for years, metal bands that are shutting off the small racist corner who tries to twist the music for their own recruitment.  Over the past year, bands that have taken their antifascist position a step further, like Gaylord and Neckbeard Deathcamp, have made headlines, meaning that it is no longer enough to simply reject white nationalist politics, musicians are being asked to take a stand.

Just a few months later, many of the bands that have led the way in this antifascist metal and grind scene are being featured at Northwest Terrorfest (May 30th-June 2nd), one of the biggest black metal and grindcore festivals of the year.  Terrorfest has happened annually the past few years in Seattle, Washington, bringing in 3-4 of aggressive edge music that mixes some of the most experimental loud bands touring right now.

Terrorfest is headlined by grindcore behemoth Pig Destroyer, and features a number of bands known throughout the antifascist scene, and several who were also featured at Black Flags Over Brooklyn.  

We wanted to highlight a few of these bands who will be at the festival, and who cross our paths in the murky world of neofolk/black metal/”extreme” sound.  We will put Bandcamp links to each band below, and are starting a Northwest Terrorfest Spotify playlist to highlight a few of these bands (unfortunately, not all of them are on Spotify).  Take note, these are (mostly) not neofolk acts so we are not adding them to the Antifascist Neofolk Spotify playlist (except for Dawn Ray’d and Panopticon, which is already on there).
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Dawn Ray’d

This may be the most well known of this slate of antifascist black metal bands since it is one of the most upfront about their politics, while also being well situated in a more traditional black metal sound.  Britain’s Dawn Ray’d will be headlining the Barboza stage on Thursday (5/30) night, along with bands like Ken Mode, Addaura, and Dead to a Dying World.  Their aggressive, working-class anarchist politics drive Dawn Ray’d’s uniquely different take on black metal iconoclastic misanthropy, and have stood on conviction in a scene often screaming to “not make things political.”  The symphonic side of their music will set well with with neofolk fans, which is why we are adding a single song to the Antifascist Neofolk Spotify playlist.

 

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Closet Witch

Closet Witch is one of the most aggressive power violence our right now, led by a woman, has always had a certain up-front consciousness about pushing out Nazis in the scene and highlighting marginalized musicians.  Their short blasts of ultraviolence are a stray from the neofolk scene, but will be perfectly set along bands like Pig Destroyer at Terrorfest. This is pure musical violence all set into a DIY frenzy, perfect for coming out of Iowa’s heartland and shattering the boundaries in festivals like these.

 

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Photo Credit: Farrah Skeiky (http://farrahskeiky.com/)

Cloud Rat

A band like Cloud Rat is on the edge for a festival like this since it feels much more at home in a crust hardcore basement, brief blasts of punk fire.  Cloud Rat, like Dawn Ray’d and Closet Witch, were featured at Black Flags Over Brooklyn, a big statement of cross-fringe solidarity. Their frenetic sound will be a good match to some of the slower, symphonic noise tracks of bands like Addaura.

 

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Panopticon

The Terrorfest set by Panopticon may be the best situated for A Blaze Ansuz.  On Wednesday night, before the primary three days of the festival, A. Lunn of Panopticon will play an acoustic set more in line with the neofolk sound.  This is the kind of tracks we highlighted in our article about the pagan metal band Panopticon, known for its labor and anarchist folk songs out of Appalachia.  This is a unique treat, and one that can help to bridge the two scene, and if you can add the Wednesday night ticket to your package we highlighly recommend it.

 

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Photo by Suren Karapetyan

Despise You

This famous powerviolence five piece from Inglewood, California is known for being one of the most aggressively angry bands on the planets, both in sound and lyrics.  They are not known for their heavy political stance, but as they feature artists of color and have stood against racist assholes, we feel comfortable selling them as a part of this slate at Terrorfest.  Despise You has been one of the few bands in the genre that is well centered in communities of color that talks about the issues that actually affect them, like police and gang violence.  We are still waiting for the Capitalist Casualties/Despise You split that we are fantasizing about.

There are a ton of other great bands on the line-up that we haven’t seen much from politically, so hopefully playing with this great line-up will only grow the antifascist metal scene.  

Check out Northwest Terrorfest, and get your festival passes while they are still available.  There are two stages for the primary three days of the festival, and you can get tickets to both or either.  We also want to highlight that NW Terrofest has put that “attendees will be able to choose bathrooms which correspond to their gender identity” on their ticketing material, a move we encourage other promoters and venues to do as well.

Remember to check out our 2019 Northwest Terrorfest Spotify playlist, and always add our ongoing Antifascist Neofolk playlist!

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Deafest and Uaithe’s 2014 Concept Album is a Lost Neofolk/Black Metal Classic

There is a tendency in “extreme” music, from black metal to neofolk to grindcore, to create a constant churn of creative partnering.  Dozens of musicians lead to hundreds of projects, chronicled in collaborations, limited edition split records, b-side and “bootlegged” live tracks.  One of the reasons why niche music like this has been able to succeed is in the massive amount of material, often turned into collectibles themselves, that is out there.  This move towards collaboration has led to some of the biggest antifascist black metal projects like the Worldwide Association of Metalheads Againsts Nazism (WOMAN) and the Black Metal Alliance Crushing Intolerance compilations.  These bring together leftist metal bands in an explicit statement of support, and with the Black Metal Alliance this has meant a particular focus on eradicating National Socialist Black Metal (NSBM) who try to create a metal to nationalist pipeline.

The black folk metal band Deafest has been behind the Black Metal Alliance’s efforts and has been releasing stacks of collaborations, including a fantastic 2017 split with Kageraw and Rampancy.  Over epic tracks, ranging fifteen minutes plus, there is a musical progression with its own storytelling beats, crushing solos matched by moments of sheer silence, just the story of black metal on the neofolk ledge.  

We aren’t here to talk about Deafest’s long career though (we will definitely dig more deeply into them and the Black Metal Alliance in the future), but instead to highlight a particular collaboration they had with the one-person instrumentalist project Uaithe out of Los Angeles.  Originally named In The Sea of Trees, which was highlighted by antifascist black metal blogs, they joined up with Deafest for a collaborative album in 2014 called Of Moss and Stone.  Deafest’s tracks are what you would expect, ear splitting but grounded in the kind of nature gazing that has made them an anchor for the revolutionary green revival that is happening in metal along with bands like Wolves in the Throne Room.  

The three tracks by Uaithe offer a different angle, sparse strings and light drums rebound the sound to something traditional, something that could have existed for centuries.  There is a minimalism to this approach while calling to ancestral music that feels even more centered in the forests they hope to save. The same fusion that made In The Sea of Trees stand out, mixing in Japanese, Romani, and other folk traditions.  Like much of the cascadian scene, there is a strong green anarchist relationship to the sound, which is why the pairing with Deafest is symbiotic.

Of Moss and Stone is a concept album with Deafest and Uaithe alternating tracks, which are numbered and meant to tell a unified story.  This works in the kind of harmony you would least expect, alternating the vicious clashes of metal war and the kind storytelling of the hearth.  It is this kind of collaboration that keeps these genres vital, and why we wanted to raise up a record that is five years old and has made few rounds.  

We are embedding the album below from Bandcamp, but it is unfortunately not available on Spotify so it cannot be added to the Antifascist Neofolk playlist.  Because of that, we will be adding a few stray tracks, including an old classic by Rome, and ‘Rite Against the Right’ by Sieben (who will be profiling in the coming weeks).

Check out the Spotify Antifascist Neofolk playlist!

Cede No Ground to Fascists

Margaret Killjoy discussed why romantic ‘extreme’ music should not just be given over to fascists.

By Margaret Killjoy

When the nazis came to town, a friend of mine got in her pickup truck and drove around the entire night. Not just to keep track of the fascists, but to give rides and offer safety to anyone and everyone who felt threatened by them. I know without a doubt she would have climbed out of her truck and intervened more bodily if it had been required of her.

She’s also white and has a rather large and prominent tattoo of Mjolnir, “Thor’s hammer.” She listens to black metal, writes in runes, tends towards misanthropy, and draws strength from the old gods. These are all things a lot of nazis do too. Which is to say, my friend spends a lot of her time in contested cultural terrain. I love her for it.

* * *

My favorite type of metal is black metal. My favorite type of goth is neofolk. My favorite type of punk is oi!. All my favorite musical genres are rather heavily populated by fascists.

I don’t like fascists.

I still listen to black metal because I love it. I still listen to black metal because I don’t believe we should cede cultural and aesthetic terrain to fascists.

On one level, it’s easy to distinguish myself and my interests from those of fascists: I don’t believe in racism, “racialism,” conservatism, or patriarchy. I don’t believe in authoritarianism or nationalism. But the fascist project, as I understand it, doesn’t organize itself solely on political lines; it’s actively engaged in cultural warfare (which it refers to as “apolitical”). It attempts to imbue society with certain values.

Some of those values are those overtly political ones I outlined above, but there are others. There are values like glory, honor, struggle, tradition, faith, reverence for the earth, love of family, and the beauty of death. These values aren’t inherently fascistic, but they are values that are easily perverted to fascist ends.

I’m drawn to black metal and neofolk precisely because they incorporate aesthetics based on those values. This wasn’t a conscious choice, of course. I like the music that I like. But in retrospect, it seems obvious that these values attract me.

As anarchists, we interact with those values too.

To take “war” as an example: I once wrote a book about the militaristic defense of an anarchist society. I struggled to represent war as complicated and traumatizing at the same time as I valorized it. Whether or not we tend to use words like glory, honor, or valor, we celebrate the courage of people who are willing to fight and potentially die for the larger social body. We celebrate that courage because we need that courage ourselves, and it is largely through culture that we imbue ourselves with that courage. As an antiauthoritarian, however, I’m going to go about imbuing that courage in a different way than authoritarians might. I have no interest into romanticizing a sanitized version of war. The state has an interest in creating naive soldiers, but I want to represent struggle as dangerous and horrific at the same time as it is beautiful.

We must represent war if we are to represent society honestly, and certainly if we are to represent revolution honestly. The glorification of struggle is cultural/aesthetic terrain I must, by necessity as a non-pacifist anarchist fiction writer, share with fascists.

A lot of fascists are also into paganism (particularly European paganism, naturally). Paganism is not terrain we should cede to fascists. Some people (antifascist pagans) are not capable of ceding the terrain to fascists, so it behooves the rest of us to not abandon them.

If we decide black metal is fascist, then fascists will recruit black metal fans uncontested. If antifascists decide that some specific subculture, aesthetic ideas, or spiritual practices belong solely to fascists, then we are in essence giving to fascists all the practitioners and appreciators of those ideas. We shouldn’t let nazis have nice things.

Of course there is cultural terrain that is, and should stay, solely in the hands of the right wing. White people with swastika tattoos are not really fighting fascists for cultural terrain — they are either ignorantly or maliciously promoting nazism. Bands that will neither confirm-nor-deny being nazis and make constant use of nazi imagery both for its shock value and because they are advocates of European nationalism, like Death In June, are doing the work of the right wing.

It behooves people who are in contested cultural terrain to, well, contest it. Practitioners of European paganism are working hard to drive nationalists and fascists out of their spaces. Even “nonpolitical” black metal bands can and have taken stands against fascism, and I don’t think it’s too much to ask for someone to say “fuck no” when asked directly if they are national socialists.

It’s possible that we might lose some of these fights. Despite skinhead culture coming out of a multiracial British working class identity, and despite antifascist skins standing at the forefront of antifascist organizing and fighting for decades, the skinhead aesthetic (and name) became practically synonymous with racism.

I don’t spend much of my time talking about “honor” or “glory,” because the first thing I think of when I think of those words isn’t pretty. Maybe we lost the fight for those specific words, I don’t know. The concepts themselves, though, still have resonance for me. I don’t always know how to talk about those values as an anarchist, but I do know that they get at something deep and meaningful to me. I cry every time I visit the graves of the Haymarket martyrs in Chicago, and when I need strength I draw upon my pride at being part of a long tradition of rebels.

I don’t want the fascists to have the concepts themselves, and I will fight for them. Because I like black metal and hate nazis.

If you appreciate Margaret Killjoy’s writing and want to help her do more of it, please consider supporting her via Patreon.

This article was first posted on Margaret Killjoy’s blog Birds Before the Storm on May 11, 2017.