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
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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.

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.

Into the Sky: An Interview With Aerial Ruin

There is a sonic simplicity to Aerial Ruin, the solo neofolk project by Erik Moggridge, also known for his work in metal bands like Epidemic and Bell Witch. Like with a lot of layered neofolk, it starts with a singular acoustic guitar and then paints tracks with an overwhelming cascade. It is uniquely of the Cascadian neofolk scene that it comes out of, where you almost expect the mountains and forests will inspire this kind of quiet introspection (or blood curdling black metal, but that’s the other side).

We interviewed Moggridge about how Aerial Ruin came together, how Cascadian neofolk is growing in the Pacific Northwest, and why there should be no question when it comes to racism in the scene.

How did you first start playing music?

I started playing guitar quite young and had a band in junior high playing Sabbath and Priest covers and then started my first proper band Epidemic with friends in high school. We were thrash/death metal band that had some underground demo success and eventually did two albums on Metal Blade in the early-mid nineties.

What led into Aerial Ruin?

After Epidemic I formed another metal/rock band (which has recently reunited) called Old Grandad in San Francisco. We were much more experimental than Epidemic and had melodic and harsh vocals performed by all three members. We had a lot of different styles including more melodic psychedelic Pink Floyd influenced stuff that I would sing. You can see a thread from that material to Aerial Ruin although the two projects are very different overall.

This feels like an intensely personal, and solitary endeavor.  What is the core inspiration for your music?

In some ways it could be said that Aerial Ruin grew out of becoming a more spiritual person. And yes it is a solitary and personal project but in a sense it is sub-personal, as it could be said to be about the loss of the self, or the fine line between the intensely personal and vaporizing the ego .

I have always been a very detached and dreamy individual and as a result have gravitated towards altered states of consciousness and extreme psychedelic experiences coupled with a fascination with death and mortality. My agnostic spiritual perspective gave way to a series of intense spiritual experiences. Not religious mind you, more of an impossible to define but very strong connection to something that eclipses our conscious human experience that it perhaps stems from. After that experience metaphor and symbolism took on new strength and meaning to me and I started writing and recording the earliest Aerial Ruin material as an attempt to express all this.

Of course experiences of transcendence and spirituality have always inspired art and music. What is magical to me is how unique and individual a perspective can feel on something that is perhaps so universal. Every individual can see or perceive something from a perspective that only they hold.

Dynamically it also made sense to do something quiet, minimalistic and personal where my voice does not have to compete with a hugely loud drummer and ever expanding amplification that Old Grandad had.

How do you define the sound of Aerial Ruin?

I usually quote other people by saying “some people describe it as dark folk” or “it’s acoustic guitar and melodic vocals but it’s dreary with residual metal qualities”. I don’t really have a definition for it myself outside of “my mostly-acoustic solo project”.

The term folk music to me implies the continuing-of or inspiration-from tradition. So in a sense that does not describe Aerial Ruin as my inspirations are so detached and personal. But I like folk music and there is enough sonic similarities that I don’t feel it is a bad description when people describe me as folk, dark-folk, neofolk, freak-folk etc. People who enjoy these genres often like my music so it is helpful to talk about it this way.

Is there a growing neofolk scene in the Pacific Northwest?

There are a number of talented musical projects oriented around acoustic instruments like Novemthree, Disemballerina, Solace, Vradiazei,  Serpentent, Cinder Well, Weather Veins, Crooked Mouth, Ekstasis, Weoh to name a few. I’m not sure how many of them would consider themselves neofolk though.

What bands have inspired this work?

Syd Barrett and Mark Lanegan are definitely influences. I think the musical influences were much more obvious in my louder bands though. I am an absolute Elliott Smith fanatic but I became a fan after Aerial Ruin started so his music is not really an influence but definitely and inspiration. The same could be said for certain Cat Power albums – the 1998-2003 era. Radiohead too. In more recent years I have discovered lots of more underground music that may not be a musical influence per se influence but is definitely inspiring, I’ve listed many of these bands elsewhere in this interview.

Why do you think it is important to stand up against racism and fascism in the music scene?

It is always important to stand up to facism and racism. I am thankful that the people I have met in the underground community, both here at home and on tour are consistently anti-fascist, anti-racist and embracing of all kinds of diversity. Of course sensitivities differ but musicians I know seem to be, as a whole very left wing, distrusting of authority and completely intolerant of any form of discrimination or prejudice.

These days I tend to discover new music through touring and playing shows with bands and don’t always pay attention to what’s going on in the larger scene. Obviously I am aware that facism and racism do exist in the music scene but they are not in my record collection. It is alarming to me that white supremacy and racism are emboldened here in the US by the absurdity of the Trump era but thankfully I do not see this manifested in the underground circles I move in.

What’s coming next for you?

The next release is a fully acoustic split full-length with Panopticon coming out on vinyl courtesy of Bindrune Recordings. It has just been mastered so hopefully it will be out in a few months. Panopticon is such a brilliant and unique one-man band and  I am honored to be able to share wax with him. The way he and I approach acoustic music is also very different so the two sides are an interesting contrast.

In September I begin recording a collaboration album with Seattle doom-duo Bell Witch. I have been an auxiliary vocalist/collaborator on all their albums and select live shows and tours but thus-far have only contributed to certain songs or parts. On this album I am singing, co-writing and also playing guitar on the whole thing. This  is why it is being presented as a collaboration by Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin as opposed to me just being listed as a guest vocalist like before.

On September 28 I begin a European tour centering around a show hosted by BE Metal at Amuz, a beautiful church turned concert hall in Antwerp, Belgium. It is a great line-up featuring Austin Lunn playing solo acoustic Panopticon songs, Don Anderson playing Agalloch songs also solo on acoustic guitar, plus Andrew Marshall of Saor, Kathrine Shepard of Sylvaine and Marisa Kaye Janke of Isenordal all doing acoustic performances. After that show Aerial Ruin will be doing touring through France and Switzerland with Iffernet, a new two-piece black metal band featuring David, the drummer from Monarch and Sordide. The vinyl version of my “Nameless Sun” album came out recently as a split release by Caustic records and Musica Maxica so this tour will allow to get my copies of this which I look forward to. in 2020 I plan on touring heavily as Aerial Ruin and hopefully in collaboration with Bell Witch as well.

What bands would you recommend to an antifascist neofolk fan?

Well certainly Panopticon and the Northwest acts I mentioned earlier in this interview. Sangre de Muerdago, Nebelung, Nest, Aelter, Divine Circles, Worm Ouroboros, Musk Ox, Destroying Angel, Foret Endormie, Isenordal, Witch Bottle come to mind too.

***

We are going to share several albums from the Aerial Ruin Bandcamp below, and have added to tracks to the Antifascist Neofolk Playlist on Spotify.

 

Aradia’s Dark Folk Is the Spirit of Resistance [INTERVIEW]

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“We live in capitalism. It’s power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings.”

-Ursula Le Guin

It is quote from anarchist sci-fi writer (and Portland resident) Ursula Le Guin that the neofolk/dark folk/genre bending band Aradia starts their epic album Omid.  Carried by a driving tension built by strings and backed by prominent drums, Aradia drops you right into a sound that feels much more lyrically and conceptually present than a lot of the neofolk bands that do their best to stay in the background.  The cello plays its own character in Aradia, one of the defining features of neofolk’s drive to bring back orchestral instruments into a rock formation (maybe this is what post-rock was always about).

The intensity of the strings almost lends itself to metal, but the acoustics of its draw more on contemporary strings with a meloncholy edge that has to be seen live.  We were able to interview Brenna from Aradia’s current line-up and talk about the band’s history, where its influences come from, and its commitment to militant anti-fascism.

How did your band come together?

Wretched of the Earth and Strangeweather played a show together to benefit the Law and Disorder conference…I believe. At the last Red and Black cafe on SE Oak (A former anarchist co-op coffee shop that is no longer around). At least from Strangeweather’s perspective, we were really pumped to meet WOTE and hear what they were up to. I remember telling Sean, the bassist, they sounded like Warscroll, a band I love. Shortly thereafter Angel and Sina got in touch with me about trying out some cello on their new “ambient metal” project. We’ve played in lots of different configurations over the years. Right now there’s only two of us, there’s been a total of seven people involved through the life of the band.

Does spirituality play into your project?

For me music is spiritual, it engages a part of our beings that is really ancient and complex. It’s an old way of being with other people in a spiritual way, singing together and making sounds together. A lot of the political content of what we write is definitely spiritual. We sampled Audre Lorde talking about her death and about what we leave behind, who we have been in the world as artifacts. To me this is all tied into a spiritual way of looking at struggle.

What bands inspired you in doing the work?

Submission Hold, Warscroll, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and A Silver Mt. Zion, Esmerine, Emel Mathlouthi, Correspondences, New Bloods, Des Ark, Buried Inside, and Fall of Efrafa,

How did you develop your sound, and how do you define it?

It’s always been really collaborative. We’ve sounded pretty different depending on who has been playing with us. At this point I think it’s basically experimental arrangements for guitar and cello. Our last album had some dark folk moments, some anarcho-punk moments, some minimalist metal moments…our first album was a little more d-beat leaning I feel. I think that had to do with our line up at that time. We’ve always been influenced by various traditions of music such as Balkan, Persian, Middle-Eastern, Armenian, Celtic, etc.There was a time I thought our string arrangements could be classified as “romantic” in the musical sense, but our very musically educated viola player Maria informed me that they were more accurately described as “contemporary.”

How did the region you were in (the Pacific Northwest) play into your music?

There’s a long history of grunge, riot grrl, punk, and other DIY music in this region, and that’s a big part of why many of live here or what brought us here years ago. One thing about being in the NW nowadays is we get paired with with metal, “apolitical” neofolk, and/or post rock bands. This has been challenging as our political grounding is more in the punk community, and we’ve gotten a lot of feedback that when we play these kinds of shows they don’t feel accessible to everyone.

Anticapitalism is right up front in your tracks, including in the samples used, why is that so present?

Well, it’s a force of crushing oppression in our lives, in the struggle of the planet and the human soul,  and art arguable should shine a light on what’s keeping us down. There’s a lot of apologism for capitalism in our culture and I like normalizing the open acknowledgment of it as a major problem. That being said, we know it can come off as a trope. I think most of us who have been in the band came from an anarcho-activist background of some kind so it comes naturally to frame things from a place of anti-capitalism.

There seems to be a strong spirit of resistance in the music, not just lyrically but in the way that folk music is made so vibrant.  Do you see this project as inherently tied to politics, or collective liberation?

We hope so. I recognize the tendency to conflate being in a political band with actual activism, and I think it’s important to see that they are different. BUT the way you move through communities, the types of shows and benefits you play, the kind of spaces your music creates, the projects you lend your sounds to, that all factors into being part of a musical and political community. For me, at the end of the day, Aradia is a music project and we hope to inspire folks who are in struggle. Knowing the role music has played for me personally in developing political consciousness makes me believe that it can have an impact.

There is a huge variety, it moves from frenetic synth inspired tracks to very slow and plotting melancholy sound, do you feel like you are constantly reinventing your sound?

We write really slowly so it follows that over time, as our line up changes and what we are listening to at the time, our sound changes.

What drives your commitment to antifascism?  Have you experienced a lot of white supremacist attitudes in the pagan and neofolk scene?

I think realizing how flirtatious the white metal-centric music scene in the PNW can be with fascism made us want to be more out about our politics, especially when we were put on bills with people who we felt were sketchy. We don’t really roll in the neo-folk/pagan scenes, but because of the cross over with my other band Strangeweather that was more present in that scene, we have ended up playing some shows with bands who are more in this scene. Sometimes it just seems like heavy music with strings in the PNW gets put into the neo-folk category, even when that’s really just not what we’re doing.

Our commitment to anti-fascism comes from our values and the historical significance of anti-fascist movements.

Why do you think it is important to be a publicly antifascist band?  How does antifascism inform your music?

In today’s world I’m not sure how anyone could justify not being antifascist. To me it seems like lots of people thought antifascists were self-important hyperbolic social justice warriors, and then events such as August 2017 Charlottesville, VA started happening and suddenly folks knew what the fuss was about. And it is connected to a long history of struggle against real threats that still exist…in terms of music I guess I hope we inspire the parts of people that defy that authoritarian, coercive, xenophobic current that leads to fascism….

 

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What other social issues play into your music?  There is a strong sense that rebuilding community, something more bonded, in your music.

It’s cool to hear how much meaning you’ve gathered from our music. As political as we are as people I think a lot of what we do is very aesthetic too, not in a shallow way but in a nerdy, emo-artsy way. We have written material about the micro/macro cycles of despair and hope, as well as solidarity with displaced peoples.

What’s coming next for you?

We are doing a short tour in UK, Netherlands, and Belgium in June. We are hoping to release a recording as a two-piece in the next couple months.

What other bands do you recommend for antifascist neofolk fans?

All the bands I listed above. Disclaimer that I was never that into neo-folk: A Stick and A Stone, especially their album The Long Lost Art of Getting Lost. Cinder Well‘s latest album The Unconscious Echo had some heavier moments. Byssus, a new project out of Santa Cruz, CA.  Anna Vo. Also Crone, a short-lived crust-metal band from Minneapolis circa 2015.

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Aradia currently has two albums on Bandcamp, 2018’s Omid and their 2015 4-track demo.  Unfortunately, Aradia is not yet on Spotify so we can’t add them to our Antifascist Neofolk Spotify playlist.  We are putting both Aradia albums below and are looking forward to the new release coming this year!

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Sparrowhawk’s Brief Life Is a Milestone in Antifascist Neofolk

In this intersecting world of hidden genres, projects come and go, sometimes in only a brief instant.  We are trying to unearth some hidden gems in the world of antifascist neofolk and to bring something original, not just major bands that stand against the far-right, but also from a DIY neofolk scene that is under documented.  Sparrowhawk fits this definition perfectly, an ensemble that came together for just two legendary tracks.

We first discovered Sparrowhawk on the Red and Anarchist Black Metal blog, dissidents from the rest of the music featured.  Their two-song EP Harvest acts both as a demo and a coming out party, but the musicians involved moved on quickly after this 2013 debut and we have yet to hear anything new.  Started by members of Nuwisha and Plantrae, it is a three person collaboration that they say began “in the majestic Siskiyou Wilderness in the autumn of 2013. Rowan WalkingWolf ( Walks-With-the-Wind of Nuwisha), Zacharias AElfston (of Plantrae), and Ursula are pleased to bring you this symphonic soundscape of Cascadian folk.”  The influential (but microscopic) “cascadian” scene brought in other bands we have profiled, like Ionncaish.  vocals entirely, instead treating their instruments

The music starts with the sound of rain and sets its own pace, never rushing, relying on plucking acoustic guitar for its texture, while the violin really drives it forward.  Both tracks, “Siskyou Malaise” and “Starlit Fires, Surrender the Equinox” are both long and slow, but even though the sound is stripped down to acoustic instruments playing off of each other it stays incredibly emotive and completely blots out whatever is around you.

In Sparrowhawk’s brief moment of life they also did a split cassette with Skalunda, which you can still pick up on Bandcamp.  It is this world of small issue splits that still helps neofolk to build up a cult following, something the band planned for from the start.  The passionate complexity of Sparrowhawk’s brief collaboration makes these songs instantly classics in our canon, and they deserve to be pulled from out from the past to give it the recognition it deserves.

We are embedding the EP here, and because it was such a brief project, we were not able to add any Sparrowhawk songs to the Antifascist Neofolk playlist on Spotify.

Fighting for the Earth to Survive: An Interview With Ionncaish

From deep in the cascadian scene, Ionncaish is a fascinating project that exemplifies how neofolk can draw directly from metal and a string of intersecting genres.  Ionncaish is a Scottish word for both “Learn” and “Teach” and it is well centered for a project that is about exploration, both of ourselves and of our connection to a planet that is on the brink.  We caught up with Ionncaish for a quick few questions, and to get into what drives them to do this iconoclastic project.

How did your project come together? Were you in any other bands before, or was this your first time recording?

I had been in a Doom/Folk band called “Black Mould”/”Skaldr” in Ashland, Oregon. When we broke up, I had a lot of material that wasn’t used. So I developed it and got in touch with my friend Ignat Frege and recorded it.

 

How does Scottish gaelic folk music and traditions inform your work?

My heritage is mainly Scottish. I had a huge fascination in the reclamation of the gaelic language and culture, that was eliminated by the colonizers. The word ionnsaich is Scottish gaelic for “Learn,” and in some contexts, “Teach.” Gaelic music had always got my blood running, kind of how a d-beats makes some people want to mosh.

 

What bands inspired you in doing the work?  Were you in touch with some of the Cascadian bands, like Nuwisha?

I was heavily influenced by the music coming out of Salem, Oregon and the Burial Grounds at the time. Artists on labels like Eternal Warfare and Woodsmoke would tour through southern Oregon a lot and one of my projects would always end up on the bill.

I had met Rowan once in a squat outside of Portland but was more friends with Icarus Valkyrie, who was featured on some recordings.

 

There are few bands that really come out with the fusion of soft neofolk and grinding black metal vocals, how did it come to you? How did you start to craft your sound?

I wanted to start a melodic black metal band. I had been messing around with open and drop tunings a lot. At the time I didn’t have the means to buy equipment. So I did without and just played my acoustic guitar.


Do you think the term “blackened neofolk” applies here?

It’s a way to put a label on it.  I think the blackened part has to do with the riffs and vocal style. I think the neofolk part comes from the lyrics and solo guitar playing.

 

Where does your lyrical inspiration come from?

At the time there were a lot of astrological movements happening that seemed to coincide with what was happening with my reality. That mixed with my childhood of being homeschooled and talking to animals and trees and having the innate sense that there was an actual exchange between me and them.  Then learning about studies that back my childhood experiences.

 

What drives your commitment to antifascism?  Have you experienced a lot of white supremacist attitudes in the pagan and neofolk scene?

A combination of things. Growing up listening to punk music and having a family that promoted equality. A current desire for equity. Striving to accept my problematic past, to then become a more humble and better person.

I have heard of people in the scene having fucked up ethics but have also seen people not look into the art of artists and define what they don’t understand as fascism. I have been fortunate enough to only make real life contact with fellow anarchist artists.

 

Why do you think it is important to be a publicly antifascist band?  How does antifascism inform your music?

It immediately draws a line. Art, being subjective, can be taken by people and repurposed to fit their narrative if you aren’t completely transparent. It tells people as an artist, I’m trying to create space and will stand up against shitheads. It’s a good way to be.
It doesn’t directly come out in the lyrics for Ionnsaich, but anti-authoritarian/anti-agroforestry are sentiments are there.

What other social issues play into your music?  There is a strong sense of a need to a return to a cyclical, grounded way of life in communities.

Will we heed” was a lament towards agriforestry and a question of whether we’ll fight for nature and all forms of sentient life.

But mostly, music is an outlet for my emotional process. It can be considered narcissistic or imposing of myself onto others, who have their own suffering, but I aim for it to be a bond of empathy and understanding between the audience and I about these larger problems that can feel overwhelming.

 

What’s coming next for you?

As I write this, my new band Exulansis is recording our first full length album. Half the album is acoustic while the other is Blackened Doom. We’re playing Lithia Cascadia in Washington on June 21st-23rd with a lot of amazing artists!

I’m also releasing a 7″ single for solo folk/indie album, followed by the album release on cassette on my label “Wretched Relics”.

Wretched Relics is also working on more releases.

 

What other bands do you recommend for antifascist neofolk fans?

I feel that a lot of artists are calling themselves as “experimental folk” these days, to distance themselves from the neofolk stigma.
But some of my favorites include:

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!