Apoliteic music: Neo-Folk, Martial Industrial and ‘metapolitical fascism’

 

To understand the phenomenon of fascist neofolk, we are republishing a now classic essay by Russian academic Anton Shekhovtsov.  This essay looks at the use of metapolitics and aesthetics to create a far-right cultural influence, all while taking a public “apolitical” stance.  This explains why many of these bands can be considered the same as fascist activists, and also opens a window for how the left can address these issues from a metapolitical and aesthetic standpoint.  There is no neutrality in art, it is contested ground.

We would also like to highlight that Eric Roger of Gae Bolg, who we recently profiled, gave support in the creation of this essay.

 

By Anton Shekhovtsov

In 2000, when I was the editor of a small self-published musical magazine, I received a CD entitled Victory or Death by the Swedish band Folkstorm.2 The CD contained ten tracks of harsh Industrial music and the disc was decorated with a Nazi-style Reichsadler atop an empty oak wreath.3 The back cover was ornamented with runes and listed the tracks ‘Feldgeschrei’ (Field Turmoil), ‘Harsh Discipline’, ‘Propaganda’, ‘We Are the Resistance’, ‘Social Surgery’, to name but a few. The words of the songs were inaudible, due to the highly distorted vocals, but everything else vaguely suggested the radical right-wing nature of Folkstorm’s ‘ideology’. Surprisingly, the band promised ‘No politics. No religion. No standard’, a prudent statement written on the disc itself.

If the band disclaims any reference to politics while these signs suggest the opposite, what type of ‘propaganda’ is it? Folkstorm’s message has little to do with that of some of its compatriots like Totenkopf, whose track ‘Can’t Be Beaten’ unreservedly proclaims: ‘Show them where you stand and feel no remorse, my Aryan brother, it’s time for race war.’4 Neither is Folkstorm’s message a provocation similar to the late Punk Rocker Sid Vicious’s notorious posing in a t-shirt with a swastika on it. If the message is not the White Noise broadcast of racial hatred,5 or the ‘spit in the face of bourgeois society’, then what is it? In this article, I argue that there exists a particular kind of radical right-wing music that does not promote outright violence, is not related to the activities of political organizations or parties, and is not a means of recruitment to any political tendency. Therefore, I take Folkstorm’s ‘No politics’ statement seriously, although I hope to reconceptualize it in a way that avoids any futile attempt to drain the clearly right-wing message of its essence. I refer to this music as ‘apoliteic’ (a term explained below), and this article will analyze its nature and significance by considering two musical genres, namely Neo-Folk and Martial Industrial, that are most often used by bands and artists for disseminating an apoliteic message. I hope to demonstrate that apoliteic music and White Noise are cultural reflections of the two different political strategies that fascism was forced to follow in the ‘hostile’ conditions of the post-war period.

Before I proceed, it must be noted that neither Neo-Folk nor Martial Industrial can be considered ‘fascist musical genres’. Unlike White Noise, which refers specifically to ideologically motivated music, these two genres are first and foremost typological constructs that embrace particular kinds of combined sounds. Indeed, whether or not Neo-Folk or Martial Industrial can be equated with fascist or neo-Nazi propaganda has been hotly debated since the mid-1990s when a number of bands playing in these genres started to receive—due to their extensive use of fascist imagery—attention from left-wing journalists as well as attacks by anti-fascist groups. On several occasions, anti-fascist protests, petitions and pickets were supported by the authorities who banned performances of particular Neo-Folk/Martial Industrial bands. In 2004 the major Austrian Martial Industrial act, Der Blutharsch, had to cancel a performance in Israel due to protests by, among others, the Israeli cabinet member Natan Sharansky, the Knesset member Yossi Sarid, the mayor of Tel Aviv Ron Huldai and the Anti-Defamation League. The following year, the most famous Neo-Folk band, Death in June, lost the right to sell its album Rose Clouds of Holocaust in Germany after an investigation conducted by the Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien (BPjM, Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young People).6 Neither of these bands is part of the White Noise scene, but both embrace—as I shall argue below—explicit elements of the fascist Weltanschauung.


Major terms and concepts


There are several terms that journalists, public officials and scholars use to refer to artists or bands that—from the observers’ point of view—perform music impregnated with fascist or extreme right-wing ideas. Some of these are umbrella terms that encompass different musical genres, while others refer to specific ones.

The term ‘White Noise’ originates from White Noise Records, a label that released Skrewdriver’s single ‘White Power’ in 1983. Skrewdriver was a British band that openly promoted revolutionary ultra-nationalism through their records, and their performances sometimes turned into riots of neo-Nazi skinheads. Skrewdriver’s late leader Ian Stuart was a member of the British National Front (NF), while the band itself was closely associated with both the NF and the British National Party (BNP). In fact, Skrewdriver might be considered ‘the musical wing’ of the NF, as it raised funds for the organization and helped recruit new members. Moreover, in 1987, Stuart founded the Blood & Honour network that promoted ultra-nationalist bands, organized their concerts and served as a nexus for neo-Nazi skinheads in Europe and the United States.7Since Skrewdriver played a type of Punk Rock music known as Street Punk or Oi!,8 the term ‘White Noise’ originally referred to Punk Rock acts that propagated extreme right-wing ideas.9 Currently, due to the generic variety of bands that play at Blood & Honour concerts, one can apply this term to any aggressive rock music that is imbued with an openly fascist or racist message.

It is crucially important to highlight two features of White Noise. First, this type of music is characterized by overt racism or revolutionary ultra-nationalism. White Noise bands do not veil their messages and some of the bands’ names—not to mention the albums and song titles—speak for themselves: Race War, Totenkopf, Final Solution, Jew Slaughter, Legion 88, Konkwista 88, Angry Aryans, Brigada NS, RaHoWa etc.10 Second, White Noise is associated with either direct violence against an Other or the political cause, however marginal, that inspires it. It is quite often the case that White Noise musicians do not conceal their membership in revolutionary ultra-nationalist groupuscules, larger organizations or even electoral parties. As mentioned above, Skrewdriver worked alongside the NF, while the Romanian band Brigada de Asalt (The Assault Brigade) is an integral part of the neo-Nazi organization Noua Dreaptă (New Right), presumably backed by the Romanian radical right-wing Partidul Noua Generatie (New Generation Party). A large number of White Noise bands appear on the so-called ‘schoolyard’ CDs compiled and released by the radical right-wing Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (National Democratic Party of Germany) for free distribution among German youth.

Surprisingly, the term ‘White Noise’ does not seem to cover Black Metal bands that promote ultra-nationalist ideas. In this case, journalists and scholars use the term ‘National Socialist Black Metal’ (or simply NSBM) to refer to the same White Noise socio-political message when it is disseminated by Black Metal music.11

Another umbrella term for radical right-wing music is simply ‘Right-Wing Rock’. This term gained currency in Germany (Rechtsrock) among left-wing activists, scholars and government institutions such as the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV, Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution) and the BPjM,12 but is used in English-language academic works as well.13 The BPjM states that, ‘with the exception of jazz and classical music, there is no musical genre that is not infiltrated by right-wing extremist organizations and is not a medium for extreme right-wing content’.14 It lists eight musical genres that are collectively identified as Rechtsrock (Right-Wing Rock): skinhead bands (obviously not a genre, but apparently the BPjM meant White Noise here), NSBM, Hatecore, Techno Music, Hip-Hop, Folk, singer-songwriters (again, not a genre, but individuals who compose and perform their own works, usually accompanied solely by acoustic guitar) and Neo-Folk. According to the German office, it is these genres that are commonly used by musicians who promote ‘the glorification of National Socialism, the representation of Adolf Hitler and his party comrades as role models (or tragic heroes)’, and who seek to ‘instill racial hatred, [or] call for violence against foreigners, Jews or those who disagree with them’.15 Such an analysis suffers from one grave shortcoming. ‘Right-Wing Rock’ per se is an over-extended term, and the BPjM interprets it too narrowly for it to be applied to the wide range of genuine right-wing music. To be a right-winger or even a fascist one does not necessarily have to glorify Nazism or seek to instill racial hatred. The BPjM obviously hits its target with White Noise and NSBM, but by including Neo-Folk — even if we assume it is only right-wing Neo-Folk acts — within a narrow definition of Rechtsrock, it risks missing the mark.16 In order to explain this crucial distinction, we need to consider two major concepts: fascism and apoliteia.

In this article, I subscribe, methodologically, to a dominant school within ‘fascist studies’ that posits fascist ideology as a form of revolutionary ultra-nationalism.17 This approach is most extensively elaborated by Roger Griffin who defines ‘fascism’ as

 

a revolutionary species of political modernism originating in the early twentieth century whose mission is to combat the allegedly degenerative forces of contemporary history (decadence) by bringing about an alternative modernity and temporality (a ‘new order’ and a ‘new era’) based on the rebirth, or palingenesis, of the nation.18


This interpretation of fascism ‘implies an organic conception of the nation that is not necessarily equated with the nation-state or its existing boundaries, and which is indebted to the modern notion of the sovereignty of the “people” as a discrete supra-individual historical entity and actor’.19 The excessive mythologization of the nation as well as the impetuous thrust towards its palingenesis result in fascism having the appearance of a political religion. As such, fascism generates its own culturally defined collective behaviour that possesses specific characteristics, among which ‘adventure, heroism, the spirit of sacrifice, mass rituals, the cult of martyrs, the ideals of war and sports [and] fanatical devotion to the leader’ are most prominent.20 These features are by no means the sine qua non of fascism but they are indicative of fascism’s commitment to the aestheticization of political life, extreme activism and spectacular politics, and hence directly linked to its tendency to manifest itself as a form of political religion.

Although fascism is an enfant terrible of the twentieth century, its socio-political lifespan is not bounded by Mussolini’s and Hitler’s regimes. After the joint forces of the Soviet Union and the western liberal democracies had crushed fascism’s war machine, it was forced to evolve or, rather, mutate into three distinct forms. The groups that still wanted to participate in the political process had to dampen their revolutionary ardour rather dramatically and translate it ‘as far as possible into the language of liberal democracy’.21 This strategy gave birth to new radical right-wing parties that have become electorally successful in several countries over the last twenty-five years. Revolutionary ultra-nationalists, on the other hand, retreated to the margins of socio-political life and took the form of small groupuscules that kept alive ‘the illusory prospect of having a revolutionary impact on society’.22 The third form of post-war fascism was conceptualized in the teachings of two fascist philosophers, Armin Mohler and Julius Evola. In Die konservative Revolution in Deutschland 1918-1932, published in 1950,23 Mohler argued that, since fascist revolution was indefinitely postponed due to the political domination of liberal democracy, true ‘conservative revolutionaries’ found themselves in an ‘interregnum’ that would, however, spontaneously give way to the spiritual grandeur of national reawakening. This theme of right-wing ‘inner emigration’ was echoed by Evola in his Cavalcare la tigre (Ride the Tiger), published in 1961.24 Evola acknowledged that, while ‘the true State, the hierarchical and organic State’, lay in ruins, there was ‘no one party or movement with which one can unreservedly agree and for which one can fight with absolute devotion, in defence of some higher idea’. Thus, l’uomo differenziato should practise ‘disinterest, detachment from everything that today constitutes “politics”‘, and this was exactly the principle that Evola called ‘apoliteia’. While apoliteia does not necessarily imply abstention from socio-political activities, an apoliteic individual, an ‘aristocrat of the soul’ (to cite the subtitle of the English translation of Cavalcare la tigre), should always embody his ‘irrevocable internal distance from this [modern] society and its “values”‘.25

The concepts of interregnum and apoliteia had a major impact on the development of the ‘metapolitical fascism’ of the European New Right (ENR),26 a movement that consists of clusters of think tanks, conferences, journals, institutes and publishing houses that try—following the strategy of so-called ‘right-wing Gramscism’—to modify the dominant political culture and make it more susceptible to a non-democratic mode of politics.27 Like Mohler and Evola, the adherents of the ENR believe that one day the allegedly decadent era of egalitarianism and cosmopolitanism will give way to ‘an entirely new culture based on organic, hierarchical, supra-individual, heroic values’.28It is important to emphasize, however, that ‘metapolitical fascism’ focuses—almost exclusively—on the battle for hearts and minds rather than for immediate political power. Following Evola’s precepts, the ENR tries to distance itself from both historical and contemporary fascist parties and regimes. As biological racism became totally discredited in the post-war period, and it was ‘no longer possible to speak publicly of perceived difference through the language of “old racism”’,29 ENR thinkers pointed to the insurmountable differences between peoples, not in biological or ethnic terms but rather in terms of culture.30 They abandoned overt fascist ultra-nationalism ‘in the name of a Europe restored to the (essentially mythic) homogeneity of its component primordial cultures’.31

How do fascism’s strategies in the ‘hostile’ post-war environment relate to music? While there can be no purely musical reflection of right-wing party politics, White Noise has nonetheless become part and parcel of the revolutionary ultra-nationalist subculture. And I suggest that ‘metapolitical fascism’ has its own cultural manifestation in the domain of sound, namely, apoliteic music. This is a type of music in which the ideological message contains obvious or veiled references to the core elements of fascism but is simultaneously detached from any practical attempt to implement that message through political activity. Apoliteic music is characterized by highly elitist stances and disdain for ‘banal petty materialism’. Both apoliteic artists and their conscientious fans appear to be self-styled ‘aristocrats of the soul’, 32 united in their implicit knowledge that the imperium internum is the reflection of a forthcoming new era of national and spiritual palingenesis. Lost in contemplation of this utopian future, they perceive the current situation as the interregnum. Regardless of the extent to which the contemporary Europeanized world is actually decadent or spiritually impoverished, it will always pale beside the imaginary fascist ‘brave new world’.

The concept of apoliteia correlates with one more important, indeed crucial, notion, namely, the Waldgang. Ten years before the appearance of Evola’s largely pessimisticCavalcare la tigre, Ernst Jünger published the essay Der Waldgang,33 which anticipated Evola’s reflections on apoliteia.34 Jünger, the author of the critically acclaimed In Stahlgewittern (1920) — translated into English as Storm of Steel — and Der Arbeiter (The Worker) (1932), celebrated war, in which he saw embedded the metaphysical process of the forging of a new civilization.35 He therefore sympathized with the Nazi regime, which seemed to be the embodied instrument for setting such a process in motion. However, as Griffin notes, Jünger ‘stayed aloof from politics, reluctant to abandon the heights of his metapolitical outposts’,36 although the regime actually benefitted from his literary works that legitimated fascism in the cultural sphere. In his post-war Der Waldgang, Jünger severely criticized the spiritually deprived Titanicthat was the modern age, seized by ‘liquidations, rationalizations, socializations, electrifications and pulverizations’ that required ‘neither culture nor character’.37Nonetheless, he urged free individuals to ‘stay on shipboard [sic]’ (that is, to use technological progress to their advantage) and, at the same time, ‘retreat into the forest’ (Waldgang). For him, the forest was a symbol of ‘supratemporal Being’ or ‘the Ego’ and, by ‘retreating’ into it, ‘the wanderer in the forest’ (Waldgänger) could resist the moral corruption of the interregnum.38 Confronted with ‘demoniac forces of our civilization’, liuomo differenziato rejects the apparent choice (‘either howl with the wolves or fight them’) and finds an alternative in ‘his existence as an individual, in his own Being which remains unshaken’.39 Remarkably, Jünger argued that the

retreat into the forest (Waldgang) is not … directed against the world of technology, although this is a temptation, particularly for those who strive to regain a myth. Undoubtedly, mythology will appear again. It is always present and arises in a propitious hour like a treasure coming to the surface. But man does not returnto the realm of myth, he re-encounters it when the age is out of joint and in the magic circle of extreme danger.40


While the concept of the Waldgang is clearly another aspect of apoliteia (or perhaps the reverse of it), apoliteic artists perceive themselves as ‘wanderers in the forest’. They necessarily allude to myths—whether pagan or, less often, Christian—but such allusions do not represent an attempt to return to a mythologized past. Nor can the positions of these artists be construed as anti-modern, let alone anti-technological. On the contrary, they choose ‘both the forest and the ship’,41 as they oppose the decadent interregnum with their inner commitment to a re-enchanted alternative modernity of the reborn nation, heroic individualism and a subjectively interpreted ethic of military honour.


Neo-Folk and Martial Industrial: the origins

Arguably the most obvious examples of apoliteic music—which reveals itself through music, lyrics, band names, album and song titles, cover art, style of dress as well as being subtly articulated in live performances—can be found in certain Neo-Folk and Martial Industrial works.42 From a ‘technical’ point of view, the two genres may seem musically different. The typical Neo-Folk artists sing melancholic ‘folkish’ songs to the accompaniment of acoustic guitars, violins and piano, while typical Martial Industrial acts create dark bombastic collages that usually feature various samples of military marches, battle noises or war-oriented speeches. The genres correlate—hardly surprisingly—with Evola’s interpretation of the idealized origin of now desacralized modern western music. From his point of view, as expounded in Cavalcare la tigre, ‘the most modern western music has been characterized by increasing estrangement from its lineage, both the melodramatic, melodic, heroically romantic and pretentious line (the last of which is typically represented by Wagnerism), and the tragic-pathetic line (we need only refer to Beethoven’s principal ideas)’.43 Although it’s unlikely that Evola himself would have enjoyed most extreme samples of Martial Industrial music, it is significant that both genres—no matter how ‘technically’ different they are—fit his description.

Apoliteic music is organically accommodated within Neo-Folk and Martial Industrial since their roots lie in revolutionary and national cultural traditions. While Martial Industrial clearly descends from Industrial music, Peter Webb and Stéphane François correctly assert that Neo-Folk, too, is an emanation of Industrial music.44 Industrial can be briefly and inevitably inadequately characterized as a fusion of Rock and Electronic music, mixed with avant-garde experiments and Punk provocation.45 Although the genre was ‘genetically’ born in the mid-1970s with the establishment of the Industrial Records label, Karen Collins has traced the first usage of the term ‘industrial’ as applied to music back to the preface of Francesco Balilla Pratella’s Musica Futurista of 1912.46 Luigi Russolo, another Futurist musician and Pratella’s colleague, was the author of a 1913 manifesto entitled L’Art des bruits (The art of noises) in which one apparently finds the first conceptualization of Martial Industrial. Considering the variety of natural and artificial noises that could be employed for the projected ‘revolution of music’, Russolo wrote: ‘And we must not forget the very new noises of Modern Warfare. The poet Marinetti, in a letter from the Bulgarian trenches of Ariadnople described to me … in his new futurist style, the orchestra of a great battle.’47 Although Russolo’s Futurism did not draw him to Italian Fascism, Pratella and Filippo Marinetti did become—like many other Futurists—ardent supporters of Mussolini’s regime.48Obviously, modern Industrial music has been influenced by other cultural and musical trends (Dadaism, musique concrète, Pop, Rock, Electronic and Post-Punk), but its emergence (or rather re-emergence) in the mid-1970s was a result of the ‘spiritual’ evolution of Futurist music.

Apart from general influences that shaped Industrial music, Neo-Folk draws heavily on national folk traditions. The first point of reference is a wave of the so-called ‘roots’ revivals that swept the Europeanized world a few decades after the Second World War, reaching their apogee in the 1960s and 1970s. Several major features characterized roots revivals: first, the revitalization and imitation of national traditional music; second, the adaptation of folk music to modern musical genres, especially to Rock and Pop; and, third, the politicization of folk music. As Britta Sweers argues, ‘in the context of the various twentieth-century folk revivals, the terminology [folk music] was always combined with political or ideological meanings, in particular with the idea of traditional or folk music as a counterpoint to popular (i.e., commercial) music’.49 Politically, most folk bands and singer-songwriters were influenced by left-wing ideas while ‘the events of May 1968’ had a strong impact on the development of roots revivals. The left-wing orientation of folk artists was particularly evident in Germany, where the roots revival encountered a problem of legitimacy since Volkmusik was ‘destroyed’ by ‘the “kurzbehoste” [those dressed in short trousers] of the German youth groups and the armies of National Socialist soldiers and supporters’ through their ‘aggressive usage of the songs and the tradition’.50

Although the US and European roots revivals have—to a certain degree—triggered the emergence of Neo-Folk in the 1980s, apoliteic Neo-Folk bands apparently draw inspiration not from the 1970s left-wing protest folk songs, but rather from the previous folk revivals that took place at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. These revivals varied throughout European countries. In Britain, for example, the phenomenon was associated with folk song collectors such as Cecil Sharp, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Lucy Broadwood, who endeavoured—quite successfully—to raise public appreciation of folk music and to ‘secure’ a distinctively English folk tradition.51 In Germany, the roots revival unfolded within various clubs and movements such as Der Wandervogel (the bird of passage). This movement began in 1896 ‘in reaction to aspects of bourgeois life and music aesthetics and presented a counterculture to the ubiquitous, harmony-singing Männergesangsvereine (“male choral societies”) of the late-nineteenth century’;52 it ‘aimed to reclaim a national identity for Germany, based upon its songs’.53 In Italy, one of the most famous folk song collectors was none other than Francesco Balilla Pratella, who withdrew from the Futurist movement after the First World War and dedicated the rest of his life to the traditional music of his native Romagna, ‘much to Marinetti’s disgust’.54 Revealingly, by moving from Futurist music to Italian traditional folk, Pratella anticipated the 1980s rise of Neo-Folk out of the Industrial milieu.

 

‘Europe is dead’—’Looking for Europe’—’Europe, awake!’

Europe—or rather a highly mythologized and idealized concept of Europe—is central to the ethos of apoliteic music. In fact, Europe has long been a popular object of mythologization.55 A modernist statue in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg features Europa as a woman sitting on a bull. The statue represents the ancient Greek myth of the abduction of Europa by lascivious Zeus disguised as a white bull. Over the centuries the myth has been the subject of thousands of works of art, but in modern times the idea of Europe has spawned even more interpretations: a bastion of Christianity, a part of the Free World, a vanguard of civilization, a place torn between the capitalist and socialist powers or, most recently, one divided by former US President George W. Bush into the Iraq-war-friendly ‘new Europe’ and the ‘old Europe’ that doubted the validity of the military campaign. These are mythological constructs applied to one and the same geographical region. Fascists, or Eurofascists, have constructed their own mythological Europe as a ‘homogeneous cultural entity or primordial racial community’.56 With regard to radical right-wing music, one can distinguish the three main lyrical and artistic themes alluded to in the title of this section: the death of Europe; Europe in the interregnum; and the rebirth of Europe.

Seen from the point of view of the Waldgänger, there are several causes of Europe’s death. It was, first of all, a consequence of the establishment of the New World Order, marked by the domination of liberal democratic values and the rejection of the fascist European myths. In an interview with the Anglo-Dutch apoliteic band H.E.R.R., one of the vocalists, Troy Southgate, who is also a prolific New Right author, states:

 

In Europe … the twin profanities of Americanisation and liberal democracy are eating away at the very soul of our civilisation. Individualism has replaced individuality, economics are taking priority over ideas, and the mass consumer society rides roughshod over polytheism, identity and diversity.57


If liberal democracy is the enemy of European cultural identity, interpreted in fascist terms, then the 1945 Yalta conference—where the leaders of Britain, the United States and the USSR discussed the post-war reorganization of Europe—was clearly the time-point of the funeral march. Death in June makes this message clear:

 

Sons of Europe
Sick with liberalism
Sons of Europe
Chained with capitalism …
On a marble slab in Yalta
Mother Europe
Was Slaughtered.58


Europe’s death (or, perhaps, its ‘mere’ decline) is also linked to the growing multiculturalism of European states. In his analysis of ‘the Euro-Pagan scene’, Stèphane François argues that such bands ‘condemn multicultural society, seen as the manifestation of the decline of European values and the victory of corrupting Western universalism’.59 Josef Maria Klumb of Von Thronstahl, one of the most influential and prolific apoliteic bands, unambiguously corroborates this notion:

 

The so-called ‘multi-culturalism’… creates a mixed population without any real culture.… the ‘clash of cultures’ has already caused a lot of damage in big German cities, where you can see and feel the spenglerian ‘decline of the west’ simply by taking a walk through some streets.60


The Russian musician Ilya Kolerov (Wolfsblood) echoes Klumb’s concern for Europe’s cultural integrity. While he maintains that he likes ‘neither communism, nor Nazism, nor modern Jewish democracy’, Kolerov openly admits: ‘Maybe, I’m racist partly. I don’t want Moscow to be an Asian city. I want to see pure French or British on the streets of London or Paris.’61 Kolerov’s argument draws on the ‘new racist’ theories of ethnopluralism advanced by the European New Right and propagated in Russia by the ‘metapolitical fascist’ philosopher Aleksandr Dugin.62 The ethnopluralist theory champions ethno-cultural pluralism globally but is critical of cultural pluralism (multiculturalism) in any given society. By distorting a democratic call for the right of all peoples and cultures to be different,63 the theory thereby attempts to legitimize European exclusionism and the rejection of miscegenation. In ethnopluralist terms, the ‘“mixing of cultures” and the suppression of “cultural differences” would correspond to the intellectual death of humanity and would perhaps even endanger the control mechanisms that ensure its biological survival’.64

Toroidh, one of Henrik N. Björkk’s bands (apart from the now defunct Folkstorm), musically elaborates another explanation for Europe’s death in the European Trilogy. In an interview conducted by the British magazine Compulsion Online following the release of Europe Is Dead, the second part of the trilogy, Björkk tells readers: ‘TheEuropean Trilogy is all based upon the chaotic 20th century—the world wars, the ethnic conflicts and the dream of a united Europe. The Europe that conquered the old world, and colonized the new, and that passed away with the Second World War.’65 Björkk is presumably raising the spectre of the Eurofascist view of the lost ‘European civil war’ of the twentieth century, lost not to one European country or another but to non-fascists. In any case, Björkk’s ‘dream of a united Europe’ clearly has nothing to do with either the European Economic Community or the European Union but is, rather, of a united fascist Europe, a notion that was extremely popular within certain Italian Fascist and Nazi circles.66

The vision of a dead Europe is articulated not only in lyrics, song titles and artists’ interviews, but is also graphically expressed in album covers and artwork. In most cases the theme of Europe’s death is represented in mournful images of cemetery sculptures, doleful people with bent heads, dead soldiers and their personal belongings, abandoned battlefields and trenches. Of course, the featured images do not imply that a given album will—either musically or lyrically—focus exclusively on Europe’s death. Most apoliteic bands combine the three Europe-centred themes, although each theme does have its specific graphic representation.

The German band Darkwood has its own trilogy that deals with the ‘struggle of Europe’ (see Figure 1). The first part is entitled In the Fields,67 and its cover features a bas-relief of a sorrowful woman kneeling on one knee, her bent head in one hand and a flower in the other. The cover of the second part, Heimat & Jugend (Homeland and Youth),68 features an image from a Belgian graveyard. The third part, Flammende Welt (World in Flames),69 has on its cover another bas-relief, this one depicting a military medic presumably serving with the Axis forces (he wears a steel M35 helmet) holding his fallen or badly injured comrade.

Figure 1. Covers of Darkwood’s trilogy on the ‘struggle of Europe’: In the FieldsHeimat & Jugend and Flammende Welt (reproduced with the kind permission of Henryk Vogel).

Flammende Welt opens with the solemnly ominous instrumental track ‘For Europe’, and eventually concludes with the song ‘In Ruinen’, which undoubtedly alludes to Evola’s work Gli uomini e le rovine (literally ‘the men and the ruins’, but usually translated into English as Men among the Ruins), published in 1953,70 thus anticipating his 1961 Cavalcare la tigre. Henryk Vogel, the man behind Darkwood, comments: ‘the open end “In Ruins” is not just a state after the struggle of Europe but also a dark premonition of what is to come.… In the last song [In Ruinen], whispered vocals announce that there is to be a cultural resistance—which is necessary not only for Europe.’71 In another commentary on the song, Vogel ponders the post-war development of Europe and argues that ‘they decided for the Marshall plan and bought our souls with gold. But some souls cannot be bought, and a secret Europe lives on—as expressed in “In Ruinen”.’72 Similarly, Ian Read of the British band Fire + Ice replies to the question of whether he still believes in Europe: ‘The whole world is rapidly becoming all the same and this is painfully obvious in Europe which is rapidly losing any essence it had of old. In fact, this spirit only remains in certain special people who foster it.’73

For fascists, ‘a secret Europe’ is hidden in the interregnum, while the Europe of the ‘deadly’ liberal democratic order and of ‘homogenizing’ multicultural society triumphs. Those who feel devastated by the alleged loss of an old Europe of aristocratic hierarchy, organic ethnic-cultural community, sacrifice and heroism have nothing for it but to ‘retreat into the forest’ and find the answer to the current situation there.

 

He walked to the forest, to the lair of the wolf
Said: ‘I’m looking for Europe, I’ll tell you the truth.’
Some find it in a flag, some in the beat of a drum
Some with a book, and some with a gun
Some in a kiss, and some on the march
But if you’re looking for Europe, best look in your heart.74


References to Ernst Jünger are everywhere in the texts and images of apoliteic music. At least two Neo-Folk bands dedicated their albums to the German writer: Sagittarius (Die Große Marina),75 and Lady Morphia (Recitals to Renewal).76 The latter album features a track called ‘The Retreat into the Forest’ in which a male singer recites an extract from the English translation of Jünger’s Der Waldgang. In 2001 the German label Thaglasz, which evolved from a Death in June fan club, released the truly pan-European three-LP compilation entitled Der Waldgänger.77 As might be expected, most of the tracks are named after Jünger’s novels and essays, and some have titles that reflect a certain elaboration of the ideas expressed in his above-mentioned essay: This Morn’ Omina’s ‘Innere Emigration’ (inner emigration), Luftwaffe’s ‘A Solitary Order’ and Von Thronstahl’s thought-provoking ‘Waldgang & Apoliteia’.

Von Thronstahl, whose music, in Klumb’s own words, ‘reflects the longing for the true European identity and soul’, ‘our secret home that is Europa’,78 demonstrates the most acute perspicacity regarding ‘metapolitical fascism’. One of the band’s tracks is called ‘Interregnum’ and it is featured on the split album Pessoa/Cioran,79 dedicated to Fernando Pessoa and Emil Cioran. Pessoa was a Portuguese modernist poet who blended ‘an elite nationalistic sentiment, which favoured authoritarian leaders, with certain strains of avant-garde poetics and anticlerical mysticism’.80 Although sometimes sarcastically critical of Salazar’s Estado Novo (especially after it outlawed secret organizations like the Freemasons and Rosicrucians), Pessoa actually embraced it and, in 1936, a year after his death, the government republished some poems from hisMensagem (Message) (1933) to celebrate the anniversary of the regime.81 Cioran was a Romanian-born philosopher who, in the course of the 1930s, sympathized with both the Italian and German fascist regimes, as well as being close to the Romanian fascist movement Iron Guard, also known as the Legion of the Archangel Michael.82 The leader of the Iron Guard, Corneliu Codreanu, was also honoured with a special double-CD compilation, Codreanu: Eine Erinnerung an den Kampf (Codreanu: a reminiscence of the struggle),83 that featured many Neo-Folk and Martial Industrial artists.

Thematic compilations are important media for the expression of the idea of Europe in the interregnum. Musical tributes to individuals (often genuine icons for both neo-fascists and ‘metapolitical fascists’), such as Ernst Jünger, Corneliu Codreanu, Julius Evola,84 Leni Riefenstahl,85 Arno Breker,86 and Friedrich Hielscher,87 reveal that these figures—in one way or another associated with fascism—are true exponents of the Europe now dead and, by contributing their pieces to these compilations, apoliteic artists reconfirm their allegiance to the principles of ‘organic Europa’. The sentiment and perception of the interregnum is, perhaps, best described in Death in June’s ‘Runes and Men’ (another allusion to Evola’s Gli uomini e le rovine):

 

Then my loneliness closes in
So, I drink a German wine
And drift in dreams of other lives
And greater times.88


The specific stylistic expression of the theme of the interregnum lies outside the realm of music itself. While one may rightfully consider that the images of ruins featured on album covers and/or booklets refer to the theme of Europe’s death, it seems more reasonable—given Evola’s overwhelming popularity among apoliteic artists—to link such images to the theme of the interregnum. The same applies to images of forests. Of course, when artists illustrate their albums with such images (sometimes the artists themselves are portrayed on them), it is possible to conclude that they simply like forests. One can also interpret forests as symbols of enduring organic rootedness and/or voluntary dissociation from modernity’s stunning decadence and decay. Both explanations are legitimate and most likely correct in many cases. However, the legacy of Jünger, whose ghost haunts the Neo-Folk/Martial Industrial scene, cannot be ignored; thus, the images of forests may very well be alluding to the idea of the ‘retreat into the forest’ that signifies existence during the interregnum.

The idea of the rebirth (palingenesis) of Europe is an important integral element of Europe-centred apoliteic music. This notion implies that, despite Europe’s death, followed by an indefinite interregnum during which the ‘aristocrats of the soul’ are forced to undertake the Waldgang, a fairy (or, rather, eerie) Europe of ‘metapolitical fascists’ will inevitably be reborn. The German band Belborn inserted this idea in metaphorical form into a song called ‘Phoenix’:

 

In dieser kalten Welt aus Eis
Sind wir das Feuer das bewahrt
Die Wahrheit in des Wesens Kern
Den Schöpfungsgeist in Wort und Tat.
Vogel aus der Götter Hand
Hebe uns empor
Setze die Welt in Brand.89
In this cold world of ice
We are the fire that keeps
The truth in the essential seed
The creative spirit in word and deed.
Bird from the gods’ own hands
Raises us upwards
Sets the world on fire.


Reflecting on Europe’s ‘spiritual rebirth’ in an interview with the Romanian magazine Letters from the Nuovo Europae, Belborn, however, denied Europe’s death, maintaining that she was only sleeping: ‘No need to give birth to something again that was never dead! Europa is only sleeping at the moment because the sandman was and is too busy. Europe awake!!!’90 In any case, both ideas—Europe’s rebirth and her awakening—are mythological metaphors that reveal the palingenetic thrust of apoliteicmusic. Troy Southgate’s band Seelenlicht conveys this by quoting Hermann Hesse’s Demian (1960) on the inlay cover of their album Gods and Devils: ‘The bird struggles out of the egg. The egg is the world. Whoever wants to be born, must first destroy a world.’91 Besides the similarity of the bird metaphors in these texts from Belborn’s and Seelenlicht’s albums, both of them point to the death of the actual order that will usher in a new one. In this context, the required demise is not of ‘organic Europa’ but of the present ‘McWorld’ of liberal democracy. This connotation of the notion of palingenesis is effectively articulated by Howard Williams in his article on Immanuel Kant’s employment of the terms ‘metamorphosis’ and ‘palingenesis’: ‘Where a palingenetic change takes place, the existing structure takes on a wholly inappropriate guise, which is out of keeping with the true nature of the organism. Here the birth of a new structure can only take place with the completed death of the old.’92

Thus, it is not a coincidence that, for example, the US band Luftwaffe associates palingenesis with Kalki, a Hindu goddess who is to end the present age (Kali Yuga) of decadence and decay, in ‘Kalki’s Army’:

 

We’ll tear this world to shreds
We’ll rip your world to shreds
Your corporations will burn
Your institutions will burn
Your churches will burn
Your flag will burn
You will burn!…
Within the Meta-Kronosphere
This moment is decried
You would have thought
Your actions were your own
But history has moved your hand
Now history has given us this day
The dark ages are over
Our age is come.93


The association of palingenesis with Kalki can be traced back to the writings of the French Nazi mystic Maximiani Portaz, better known as Savitri Devi. During the years of the Third Reich she actively propagated a belief that Hitler was an avatar of Kalki, destined to crush ‘the combined dark age forces of Jewry, Marxism, and international capitalism’.94 The impact of Devi’s writings on neo-Nazism as well as ‘metapolitical fascism’ is considerable. The German apoliteic band Turbund Sturmwerk cites her The Lightning and the Sun (1958) on the back cover of their eponymous album: ‘Never mind how bloody the final crash may be!… We are waiting for it [and for] the triumph of all those men who, throughout centuries and today, have never lost the vision of the everlasting Order, decreed by the Sun …’95 This ‘leitmotif’—of course, not always a result of the adoption of Devi’s (c)ravings—recurs repeatedly in the lyrics and interviews of apoliteic artists. Henryk Vogel, for instance, assumes that ‘it’s possible that everything will crumble to dust and a new generation will rise from the ashes of the materialistic system to install a new order of splendour and light’.96

Interestingly enough, the idea of Europe’s rebirth also reveals itself through the names of the labels that release—almost exclusively—apoliteic music. In 1981 Douglas Pearce founded New European Recordings, whose discography includes the albums of his band (Death in June), as well as other acts like Boyd Rice and Friends, Fire + Ice, TeHÔM and Strength through Joy.97 In 2002 the Belgian label Neuropa Records was established to release albums by such bands as Toroidh, Horologium, Un Défi d’Honneur (also known as A Challenge of Honour), Levoi Pravoi, Oda Relicta and others.

It is worth noting that the word ‘palingenesis’ itself gained currency in the apoliteic milieu. What is even more important is that it is interpreted by conscientious fans in a ‘metapolitical fascist’ sense, even if the term does not actually appear. See, for example, a review of the instrumental track ‘Palingenesis’, composed by the Swedish Martial Industrial band Arditi, for the flavour both of this kind of intuitive apoliteic interpretation and of Martial Industrial music:

 

‘Palingenesis’ begins with bombastic drumming that immediately ignites the soul. The drums echo forth from the speakers with incredible definition and depth. A snare drum joins the thundering kettle drums adding dimension and lends a definitive martial tone to the song. Solemn synths contribute a sense of atmosphere that is quite cold and resigned. ‘Palingenesis’ paints a mental picture of soldiers lined up ready to march forth into battle, resigned to their fates, and bound by honor and blood.98


H.E.R.R. reproduces almost the same ‘mental picture’ in their song ‘A New Rome’:

 

Marching through the rain
We are soldiers again
We are raised from the fields
With our swords and our shields…
A city to win
With the sun on our skin
We failed in the past
But today she will last.99


Military imagery is unsurprisingly one of the most widely employed stylistic elements of apoliteic music. When such acts and artists as Death in June, Boyd Rice, Dernière Volonté, Les Joyaux de la Princesse and Krepulec dress in military or quasi-military uniforms for performances or promotional photographs, they emphasize their musical and lyrical image as ‘cultural soldiers’ who keep the flag flying in the fight against ‘the age of decay and democrazy [sic]’, as the title of one of Von Thronstahl’s songs has it.

 

Eschewing profane politics for spiritual warfare

In 1996 the German New Right weekly newspaper Junge Freiheit published a short article on new musical trends.

 

Germany became the centre of a musical culture rooted in the anti-modern currents of the ‘Gothic’ … scene. Romanticizing pathos and archaic might (archaische Gewalt), the music ranges from, at one end, classically inflected melodies to, at the other, rough Industrial. This mixture contains an explosive force, of which those in the musical mainstream who stand guard over the old tradition should beware. If the mythical and irrational, as well as the desire for anti-Enlightenment introspection and living transcendence, find a voice in youth culture, the aesthetic consensus of the West will be broken.100


This article was possibly the very first attempt to get Neo-Folk/Martial Industrial artists involved in the ‘right-wing Gramscian’ struggle for cultural hegemony. From then on, Junge Freiheit has been publishing interviews with apoliteic artists and enthusiastic album reviews. In France, however, the reception of Neo-Folk/Martial Industrial music by New Right thinkers has been ambivalent. For example, the leader of the French New Right, Alain de Benoist, who actually enjoys folk music, finds it disturbing when folk artists (like Death in June) add ‘elements of Nazi subculture’ to their music, and considers them provocateurs. In his turn, Christian Bouchet, the founder of Nouvelle Résistance (New Resistance), embraces what I am calling apoliteic music, as opposed to White Noise.101 The Russian New Right, associated first and foremost with Aleksandr Dugin’s neo-Eurasianist organizations, especially the Ievraziiskii Soyuz Molodezhi (ESM, Eurasian Youth Union), takes a favourable view of apoliteicmusic, and a leader of the local ESM branch in Kazan even owns a small company (Arcto Promo) that organizes music festivals—called ‘Finis Mundi’102 —that sometimes feature apoliteic bands. The British case is more straightforward as Troy Southgate, the leader of the British New Right and the founder of the National Anarchist group, is an apoliteic artist himself. He is also the editor of the New Right journal Synthesis: Journal du Cercle de la Rose Noire,103 in which he publishes, inter alia, his reviews of Neo-Folk/Martial Industrial albums.

Significantly, all the movements and groups that, in one way or another, turn to Neo-Folk/Martial Industrial bands in an attempt to infiltrate certain youth subcultures are metapolitical, rather than political. These organizations then eventually find they have more in common with the musical bands than with genuinely political parties, movements or even violent neo-fascist groups. Similar to the apoliteic musicians, who ‘function as a kind of metapolitical reference point for those people who find themselves disillusioned with the state of the modern world’,104 these New Right groups focus on the cultural terrain in their attempt to influence society and make it more susceptible to undemocratic and authoritarian ways of thinking.

Of course, there are exceptions. Troy Southgate was once a member of the NF, but he left the organization long before he started participating in musical ‘metapolitical fascist’ projects. Anthony (Tony) Wakeford of Sol Invictus was also a member of the NF and, in 2007, he wrote a repentant message for his website stating that he had had no interest in or sympathy for the ideas of the NF for about twenty years, and that joining the organization had probably been ‘the worse decision of [his] life and one [he] very much regret’.105 Furthermore, the possibility that a few apoliteic musicians are members of radical or extreme right-wing political organizations can’t be ruled out, but it is crucial that such membership be kept secret and not paraded.

The reason why apoliteic artists avoid involvement in outright right-wing political activities does not so much reflect concern for their reputations (although they do value them), as the lack of correspondence between ‘spiritual warfare’ and ‘profane politics’. For instance, members of the Russian Neo-Folk act Ritual Front, who define the concept of the band as ‘Tradition, antiquity, modernity, Gods, death, life, war, struggle, warrior’s path’, at the same time disdainfully state: ‘We are neither an Oi-band nor participants in the skinhead underground who are engaged in politics directly!’106 Both radical right-wing political parties and racist/neo-Nazi groupuscules also seem contemptuous of ‘spiritual revivalists’, who would most likely refuse to play at campaigning concerts or to call for getting rid of ‘racial enemies’.

The question, however, remains as to whether apoliteic bands can function as instruments for popularizing and promoting genuine fascist ideas, the adoption of which can eventually lead their listeners to contribute to the political cause, even if such bands—perhaps honestly—do not mean to. The answer, beyond any doubt, is ‘yes’. Music is a powerful instrument of (mis)education: the idealization of fascism, while over-emphasizing its ‘values’ and deliberately concealing (and even normalizing) its crimes and genocidal practices throughout the interwar period and the Second World War, effectively contributes to a misreading of modern history, especially by conscientious fans. We can only conjecture as to whether an individual will be satisfied with just ‘drifting in dreams of other lives and greater times’ or will eventually become involved in attempts at the practical implementation of those ‘dreams’.

Censoring or banning apoliteic music, however, is undesirable in a democratic society as well as ultimately impossible. ‘Metapolitical fascists’ are keen on using cryptic language and codified symbolic metaphors. On what grounds could one ban artists for using the words like ‘apoliteia’, ‘Waldgang’, ‘interregnum’ or ‘palingenesis’? Or pictures of runes/ruins? The sounds of ‘the orchestra of a great battle’? Eurocentric imagery? On the other hand, how effective are civil society protests or boycotts? Apparently these activities only make martyrs of apoliteic artists and strengthen—if only in the eyes of their fans—their image as righteous fighters for an ‘organic Europe’.

In the context of this problem, which itself requires its own discussion, it may be interesting and informative to learn the opinion of Eric Roger of the popular French band Gaë Bolg, which is seen as part of the Neo-Folk/Martial Industrial scene, but cannot be considered apoliteic.

 

Most of the promoters in the [Neo-Folk/Martial Industrial] scene have organized, or continue to organize, concerts of the right-wing bands. Some of these promoters are ‘dodgy’, while the others are completely ‘clean’, they’re just interested in music and don’t care about political issues. How is it possible to distinguish between ‘clean’ people (oh, I hate the word ‘clean’, it has a bad smell of witch-hunting!) and the ‘unclean’, if you don’t know people personally? Or should we refuse all the concerts organized by people who have ever organised ‘bad’ concerts in their life?

If we (I mean the bands who are against the right-wing ideology) categorically refuse to play at the festivals that feature right-wing bands, don’t we give them more space? In this case, our withdrawal would only help them propagate their ideology, isn’t it nonsense? Isn’t it better to stay in order to affirm our opposition? But if I say that, isn’t it somewhat hypocritical? Isn’t it a sort of compromising? Isn’t it an excuse we find to accept our ‘tolerance’, the same tolerance we loudly condemn in other cases?

At the same time, I really and deeply think that it’s important that we stay and that we don’t leave an empty place to the right-wingers.107


Acknowledgements

I would like to thank the musicians Ivan Napreenko and Eric Roger, who advised me and commented on a draft of this article. I am also grateful to the anonymous reviewers, as well as to Anna Melyantsev and Vickie Hudson, who were kind enough to proofread. Mistakes, however, are solely my own.

Notes

1 Translated and quoted in Britta Sweers, ‘The power to influence minds: German folk music during the Nazi era and after’, in Annie Janeiro Randall (ed.), Music, Power, and Politics (New York: Routledge 2005), 65-86 (68).
2 Folkstorm, Victory or Death (Northampton: Cold Spring Records 2000). The name of the band is a translation of the German Volkssturm, which was the name of the Nazi militia founded by Adolf Hitler in October 1944.
3 The Reichsadler (imperial eagle) is a German national insignia. In 1933 the Nazis introduced the image of an eagle atop an oak wreath with a swastika at its centre.
4 Totenkopf, ‘Can’t Be Beaten’, on Various Artists, White Pride World Wide III (Stockholm: Nordland Records 1996).
5 ’White Noise’ is the term that has been used for neo-Nazi rock music since the early 1980s. This type of music is explicitly designed to inspire racially or politically motivated violence.
6 Death in June, Rose Clouds of Holocaust (London: New European Recordings 1995). The BPjM found that the title song from the album cast doubt on the occurrence of the Holocaust. The lyrics in question are as follows: ‘Rose clouds of Holocaust/ Rose clouds of lies/ Rose clouds of bitter/ Bitter, bitter lies’. Although in his explanatory memorandum Douglas Pearce, the man behind Death in June, stated that he ‘[did] not deny the existence of The Holocaust’, the record was banned: posted on the Death in June website, 14 February 2006, at http://www.deathinjune.org/modules/news/article.php?storyid=70 (viewed 8 August 2009).
7 After Stuart’s death in a car crash in 1993, the network was taken over by Combat 18, a neo-Nazi paramilitary group. See Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism, and the Politics of Identity (New York: New York University Press 2002), 195.
8 It is important to note that Oi! was originally associated with working-class left-wing populism, but later was taken up by ideologically diverse bands, ranging from anti-fascist and radical left-wing to fascist and racist ones.9 See Nick Lowles and Steve Silver (eds), White Noise: Inside the International Nazi Skinhead Scene (London: Searchlight 1998); John M. Cotter, ‘Sounds of hate: White Power rock and roll and the neo-Nazi skinhead subculture’, Terrorism and Political Violence, vol. 11, no. 2, 1999, 111-40. Due to the similarity in form and content, the term ‘White Noise’ is synonymous with the term ‘White Power’ and they are generally used interchangeably. See also Goodrick-Clarke, Black Sun, ch. 10 (‘White Noise and Black Metal’), 193-212; Robert Futrell, Pete Simi and Simon Gottschalk, ‘Understanding music in movements: the White Power music scene’, Sociological Quarterly, vol. 47, no. 2, 2006, 275-304; and Ugo Corte and Bob Edwards, ‘White Power music and the mobilization of racist social movements’, Music and Arts in Action (online journal), vol. 1, no. 1, 2008, 4-20, at http://www.musicandartsinaction.net/index.php/maia/article/view/whitepowermusic/9 (viewed 8 August 2009).
10 ’88’ stands for ‘Heil Hitler’, as ‘H’ is the eighth letter in the Latin alphabet, ‘NS’ is an acronym for National Socialism, and ‘RaHoWa’ stands for ‘racial holy war’.
11 On NSBM, see Goodrick-Clarke, Black Sun, 193-212; Justin Massa, ‘Unholy alliance: the National Socialist Black Metal underground’, in Devin Burghart (ed.),Soundtracks to the White Revolution: White Supremacist Assaults on Youth Subcultures (Chicago: Center for New Community 1999), 49-64; and Keith Kahn-Harris,Extreme Metal: Music and Culture on the Edge (Oxford and New York: Berg 2007).
12 On Right-Wing Rock in German, see Christian Dornbusch and Jan Raabe, RechtsRock: Bestandsaufnahme und Gegenstrategien (Münster: Unrast 2002); Mahmut Kural,Rechtsrock—Einstiegsdroge in rechtsextremes Gedankengut? (Saarbrücken: VDM Verlag 2007); Bundesministerium des Innern (ed.), Verfassungsschutzbericht 2006(Berlin: Bundesministerium des Innern 2007); and Georg Brunner, ‘Rezeption und Wirkung von Rechtsrock’, in BPjM Aktuell, no. 1, 2007, 3-18.
13 See Michael Wade, ‘Johnny Rebel and the Cajun roots of Right-Wing Rock’, Popular Music and Society, vol. 30, no. 4, 2007, 493-512; Thomas Irmer, ‘Out with the right! Or, let’s not let them in again’, trans. from the German by Claudia Wilsch, Theater, vol. 32, no. 3, 2002, 61-7; and Walter Laqueur, Fascism: Past, Present, Future(New York: Oxford University Press 1996), 134.
14 BPjM, ‘Jugendgefährdung: Lesemedien & Hörmedien’, Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien, available on the BPjM website at http://www.bundespruefstelle.de/bmfsfj/generator/bpjm/Jugendmedienschutz-Medienerziehung/Lese-Hoermedien/jugendgefaehrdung.html (viewed 8 August 2009). Translations, unless otherwise stated, are by the author.
15 Ibid.
16 There is a distinction in German law between extremism and radicalism. Criticism of capitalism, and fundamental doubts about the structure of Germany’s economic and social order are perceived as radical but not extremist. In its turn, extremism is identified as an attempt to undermine the foundations of the German Basic Law, namely, the liberal democratic order. While extremism—whether right-wing or left-wing—is unlawful in Germany, radical political beliefs have a legitimate place in Germany’s pluralistic society. See Heinz Fromm (ed.), Aufgaben, Befugnisse, Grenzen (Cologne: Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, Presse- und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit 2002), 25. The distinction between extremism and radicalism can help explain why the BPjM ‘extremizes’ Rechtsrock.
17 See Roger Griffin (ed.), International Fascism: Theories, Causes and the New Consensus (London: Arnold 1998).
18 Roger Griffin, Modernism and Fascism: The Sense of a Beginning under Mussolini and Hitler (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2007), 181.
19 Roger Griffin, ‘Grey cats, blue cows, and wide awake groundhogs: notes towards the development of a “deliberative ethos”‘, in Roger Griffin, Werner Loh and Andreas Umland (eds), Fascism Past and Present, West and East: An International Debate on Concepts and Cases in the Comparative Study of the Extreme Right (Stuttgart and Hanover: ibidem 2006), 428.
20 Emilio Gentile, ‘Fascism, totalitarianism and political religion: definitions and critical reflections on criticism of an interpretation’, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, vol. 5, no. 3, 2004, 326-75 (338-9). On no account is this an attempt to normalize fascism—whether as a regime or just a movement—or downplay the atrocities committed by fascists in their mission to renew ‘the organic national community’. The inhuman terror unleashed by fascism is straightforwardly depicted in—among others—the 1985 Soviet film Idi i smotri (Come and See), which I urge concerned readers to see.
21 Roger Griffin, ‘From slime mould to rhizome: an introduction to the groupuscular right’, Patterns of Prejudice, vol. 37, no. 1, 2003, 38.
22 Roger Griffin, ‘From slime mould to rhizome: an introduction to the groupuscular right’, Patterns of Prejudice, vol. 37, no. 1, 2003, 38.
23 Armin Mohler, Die konservative Revolution in Deutschland 1918-1932: Grundriss ihrer Weltanschauungen (Stuttgart: F. Vorwerk 1950).
24 Julius Evola, Cavalcare la tigre (Milan: All’insegna del pesce d’oro 1961). All references here are to a later edition: Julius Evola, Cavalcare la tigre: orientamenti esistenziali per un’epoca della dissoluzione (Rome: Edizioni Mediterranee 2004).
25 Evola, Cavalcare la tigre, 150-2. The source of the phrase ‘aristocrat of the soul’ 2003 is the English translation, which also translates l’uomo differenziato literally as ‘the differentiated man’: Julius Evola, Ride the Tiger: A Survival Manual for the Aristocrats of the Soul, trans. from the Italian by Joscelyn Godwin and Constance Fontana (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions 2003).
26 See Roger Griffin, ‘Between metapolitics and apoliteia: the Nouvelle Droite’s strategy for conserving the fascist vision in the “interregnum”‘, Modern & Contemporary France, vol. 8, no. 1, 2000, 35-53.
27 On the ENR, see Tamir Bar-On, Where Have All the Fascists Gone? (Aldershot, Hampshire: Ashgate 2007); Alberto Spektorowski, ‘The New Right: ethno-regionalism, ethno-pluralism and the emergence of a neo-fascist “Third Way”‘, Journal of Political Ideologies, vol. 8, no. 1, 2003, 111-30; Roger Griffin, ‘Interregnum or endgame? The radical right in the “post-fascist” era’, Journal of Political Ideologies, vol. 5, no. 2, 2000, 163-78; and Griffin, ‘Between metapolitics and apoliteia’.
28 Spektorowski, ‘The New Right’, 120.
29 Ralph D. Grillo, ‘Cultural essentialism and cultural anxiety’, Anthropological Theory, vol. 3, no. 2, 2003, 157-73 (163).
30 On this new (cultural) racism, see first and foremost Pierre-André Taguieff, ‘The new cultural racism in France’, Telos, no. 83, 1990, 109-22; Pierre-André Taguieff, ‘From race to culture: the New Right’s view of European identity’, Telos, no. 98-9, 1993-4, 99-125; Etienne Balibar, ‘Is there a “new racism”?’, in Etienne Balibar and Immanuel Wallerstein, Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities (London and New York: Verso 1991), 17-28.
31 Roger Griffin, ‘Fascism’s new faces (and new facelessness) in the “post-fascist” epoch’, in Griffin, Loh and Umland (eds), Fascism Past and Present, 51.
32 One should distinguish between common fans who appreciate the actual musical side of the art under scrutiny, while rejecting or simply ignoring its ideological message (if any), and conscientious fans who are drawn both by the art and its ideological message, enthusiastically embraced.
33 Ernst Jünger, Der Waldgang (Frankfurt on Main: Klostermann 1951). References here are to the abridged English translation: Ernst Jünger, ‘Retreat into the forest’,Confluence, vol. 3, no. 2, 1954, 127-42 (Confluence was edited in 1954 by its founder Henry Kissinger).
34 Evola was an admirer of Jünger, and his reflections on the latter’s Der Arbeiter were published as Julius Evola, L’ ‘Operaio’ nel pensiero di Ernst Jünger (Rome: Armando Armando Editore 1960). It is debatable whether Evola’s speculations on apoliteia were actually inspired by Jünger’s Der Waldgang, but the Italian baron was known for apparently hijacking (plagiarizing?) the ideas of other authors. For example, Evola’s 1928 work Imperialismo pagano drew heavily on Reghini’s 1914 essay of the same name: Arturo Reghini, ‘Imperialismo pagano’, Salamandra, no. 14, 1914. A year after Evola had published his Imperialismo pagano, he accused Reghini of being a member of a Masonic lodge (Mussolini dissolved and banned Freemasonry in Italy in 1925), and tried to sue him on those grounds.
35 Jünger experienced war firsthand: during the First World War he served in the Imperial German army and returned from the battlefield decorated with the Iron Cross First Class and the Pour le Mérite, which was the highest military order of the German empire.
36 Griffin, Modernism and Fascism, 165.
37 Jünger, ‘Retreat into the forest’, 129. For Griffin’s extensive use of the metaphor of the Titanic to evoke the modernist sense of a ‘new beginning’ or Aufbruch in history, see his introduction to Modernism and Fascism.
38 Jünger, ‘Retreat into the forest’, 141.
39 Jünger, ‘Retreat into the forest’, 135. Here one may want to consider the possible influence of Martin Heidegger, Holzwege (Woodpaths) (Frankfurt on Main: Klostermann 1950) on the development of Jünger’s concept of the Waldgang. On Heidegger, in the context of the current study, see Matthew Feldman, ‘Between Geist andZeitgeist: Martin Heidegger as ideologue of “metapolitical fascism”‘, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, vol. 6, no. 2, 2005, 175-98.
40 Ibid., 132 (emphasis in the original). This vision of redemptive myth resurfacing in a moment of danger is reminiscent of Walter Benjamin’s statement in his ‘Theses on the philosophy of history. VI’ (unpublished when Jünger was writing) that the truly and, hence, redemptive historical engagement with reality means to ‘seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger’: Walter Benjamin, ‘Theses on the philosophy of history’, in Walter Benjamin, Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. from the German by Harry Zohn (London: Fontana 1992), 247.
41 Jünger, ‘Retreat into the forest’, 132 (emphasis in the original).
42 Again, it should be stressed that I neither equate apoliteic music with Neo-Folk and Martial Industrial nor identify them as ‘fascist genres’. ‘Metapolitical fascism’ and the two genres, as musical styles, do overlap—to a lesser extent in the case of Neo-Folk—but Neo-Folk/Martial Industrial artists can create non-apoliteic art, while ‘metapolitical fascists’ can find other musical means to communicate their message.
43 Evola, Cavalcare la tigre, 139.
44 Peter Webb, Exploring the Networked Worlds of Popular MusicMilieu Cultures (London and New York: Routledge 2007), 60; Stéphane François, La Musique europaïenneethnographie politique d’une subculture de droite (Paris: Harmattan 2006).
45 The history of Industrial music is well described in three non-academic books: Simon Ford, Wreckers of CivilisationThe Story of Coum Transmissions & Throbbing Gristle (London: Black Dog 1999); Vivian Vale and Andrea Juno (eds), Re/Search #6/7Industrial Culture Handbook (San Francisco: V/Search 1983); and David Keenan,England’s Hidden ReverseCoil, Current 93, Nurse with WoundA Secret History of the Esoteric Underground (London: SAF Publishing 2003). For a scholarly view of the history of Industrial music, see Karen E. Collins, ‘“The Future Is Happening Already”: Industrial Music, Dystopia and the Aesthetic of the Machine’, Ph.D. thesis, University of Liverpool, 2002; and Paul Hegarty, Noise/MusicA History (New York: Continuum 2007).
46 Collins, ‘“The Future Is Happening Already”‘, 9.
47 Luigi Russolo, The Art of Noise (Futurist Manifesto, 1913), trans. from the Italian by Robert Filliou (New York: Ubu Classics 2004), 7. L’Art des bruits was written in the form of a letter to ‘Balilla Pratella, great futurist musician’.
48 The ideological correlation between Futurism and Fascism is the subject of a thorough analysis in Griffin, Modernism and Fascism.
49 Britta Sweers, Electric FolkThe Changing Face of English Traditional Music (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press 2005), 25.
50 Kirsten Kearney, ‘Constructing the Nation: The Role of the Ballad in Twentieth Century German National Identity with Special Reference to Scotland’, Ph.D. thesis, University of Stirling, 2007, 194. On the use of German folk music by the Nazis, see also Sweers, ‘The power to influence minds’.
51 See Richard Sykes, ‘The evolution of Englishness in the English folksong revival, 1890-1914’, Folk Music Journal, vol. 6, no. 4, 1993, 446-90; and Georgina Boyes, The Imagined VillageCulture, Ideology, and the English Folk Revival (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press 1993).
52 Sweers, ‘The power to influence minds’, 67.
53 Kearney, ‘Constructing the Nation’, 140.
54 Benjamin Thorn, ‘Francesco Balilla Pratella (1880-1955)’, in Larry Sitsky (ed.), Music of the Twentieth-century Avant-gardeA Biocritical Sourcebook (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press 2002), 380.
55 See Kevin Wilson and Jan van der Dussen (eds), The History of the Idea of Europe (London and New York: Routledge 1995); and Peter H. Gommers, EuropeWhat’s in a Name (Leuven: Leuven University Press 2001).
56 On the Eurofascists’ idea of Europe, see Roger Griffin, ‘“Europe for the Europeans”: fascist myths of the European new order 1922-1992’, in Roger Griffin, A Fascist CenturyEssays by Roger Griffin, ed. Matthew Feldman (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2008), 132-80.
57 Malahki Thorn, ‘H.E.R.R. interview: hopes die in winter’, Heathen Harvest (webzine), 4 March 2005, at http://www.heathenharvest.com/article.php?story=20050304171250371 (viewed 12 August 2009). On Troy Southgate, see Graham D. Macklin, ‘Co-opting the counter culture: Troy Southgate and the National Revolutionary Faction’, Patterns of Prejudice, vol. 39, no. 3, 2005, 301-26. Southgate frequently contributes vocals and/or lyrics to various apoliteic bands, including Seelenlicht, Horologium, The Days of the Trumpet Call and Sagittarius.
58 Death in June, ‘Sons of Europe’, on Burial (London: Leprosy Discs 1984).
59 Stéphane François, ‘The Euro-Pagan scene: between paganism and radical right’, trans. from the French by Ariel Godwin, Journal for the Study of Radicalism, vol. 1, no. 2, 2007, 35-54 (48). Actually, my concept of apoliteic music is very close to François’s ‘Euro-Pagan’ music, characterized by ‘praise of an ethnic European paganism, often marked by conservative revolutionary ideas’ (37). I don’t use François’s term (even inevitably redefined) in this article because not all apoliteic musicians and bands are adherents of heathen cults. Some have declared themselves to be Christians, while others are followers of the esoteric teaching of ‘integral Traditionalism’ or atheists. However, the musical acts mentioned in both articles coincide to a considerable degree.
60 Malahki Thorn, ‘Von Thronstahl interview: the search for truth’, Heathen Harvest (webzine), 7 December 2005, at http://www.heathenharvest.com/article.php?story=20051207145142661 (viewed 12 August 2009).
61 Malahki Thorn, ‘Wolfsblood interview: spiritual death’, Heathen Harvest (webzine), 15 February 2005, at http://www.heathenharvest.com/article.php?story=20050215151635652 (viewed 12 August 2009).
62 Anton Shekhovtsov, ‘Aleksandr Dugin’s neo-Eurasianism: the New Right à la Russe’, Religion Compass (online journal), vol. 3, no. 4, 2009, 696-716, at http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1749-8171.2009.00158.x (viewed 1 September 2009); Anton Shekhovtsov, ‘The palingenetic thrust of Russian neo-Eurasianism: ideas of rebirth in Aleksandr Dugin’s worldview’, Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, vol. 9, no. 4, 2008, 491-506; Andreas Umland, ‘Der “Neoeurasismus” des Aleksandr Dugin. Zur Rolle des integralen Traditionalismus und der Orthodoxie für die russische “Neue Rechte”‘, in Margarete Jäger and Jürgen Link (eds), Macht—Religion—Politik: Zur Renaissance religiöser Praktiken und Mentalitäten (Münster: Unrast 2006), 141-57.
63 See United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (New York: United Nations 2008), 1-2, available on the UN website at http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents/DRIPS_en.pdf (viewed 12 August 2009).
64 Balibar, ‘Is there a “new racism”?’, 22.
65 ’Toroidh—Europe Is Dead’, Compulsion Online, n.d., at http://www.compulsiononline.com/falbum6.htm (viewed 12 August 2009).
66 See Griffin, ‘“Europe for the Europeans”‘.
67 Darkwood, In the Fields (Dresden: Heidenvolk 1999).
68 Darkwood, Heimat & Jugend (Dresden: Heidenvolk 2000).
69 Darkwood, Flammende Welt (Dresden: Heidenvolk 2001).
70 Julius Evola, Gli uomini e le rovine (Roma: Edizioni dell’Ascia 1953).
71 ’Darkwood—interview with Henryk Vogel’, Heimdallr (webzine), January 2002, at http://www.heimdallr.ch/Interviews/2002/darkwoodinterview.html (viewed 12 August 2009).
72 Malahki Thorn, ‘Darkwood interview: the dusk draws near’, Heathen Harvest (webzine), 22 December 2005, at http://www.heathenharvest.com/article.php?story=20051222124738204 (viewed 12 August 2009) (emphasis added).
73 Miguel Do Vale, ‘An interview with Ian Read’, Heimdallr (webzine), November 2001, at http://www.heimdallr.ch/Interviews/2001/fire.html (viewed 12 August 2009) (emphasis added).
74 Sol Invictus, ‘Looking for Europe’, on Trees in Winter (London: Tursa 1990).
75 Sagittarius, Die Große Marina (Wittenberg: Neo-Form 2005).
76 Lady Morphia, Recitals to Renewal (Little Walden, Essex: Surgery 2000).
77 Various Artists, Der Waldgänger (Hanover: Thaglasz 2001).
78 Thorn, ‘Von Thronstahl interview’.
79 Von Thronstahl/The Days of the Trumpet Call, Pessoa/Cioran (Sintra: Terra Fria 2004). The Days of the Trumpet Call is a side project of Von Thronstahl member Raymond Plummer.
80 Darlene J. Sadlier, An Introduction to Fernando Pessoa: Modernism and the Paradoxes of Authorship (Gainesville: University Press of Florida 1998), 46.
81 Ibid., 151. See also José Barreto, ‘Salazar and the New State in the writings of Fernando Pessoa’, Portuguese Studies, vol. 24, no. 2, 2008, 168-214; and Jim Hicks, ‘The fascist imaginary in Pessoa and Pirandello’, Centennial Review, vol. 42, no. 2, 1998, 309-32.
82 Marta Petreu, An Infamous Past: E. M. Cioran and the Rise of Fascism in Romania (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee 2005). It should be noted, however, that Cioran later repented his fascist past.
83 Various Artists, Codreanu: Eine Erinnerung an den Kampf (Andria, Puglia: Oktagön 2001).
84 Various Artists, Cavalcare la Tigre (Dresden: Eis und Licht 1998).
85 Various Artists, Riefenstahl (Duisberg: Verlag und Agentur Werner Symanek 1996). Verlag und Agentur Werner Symanek (VAWS) is also a publishing house known for producing radical right-wing and ‘historical’ (revisionist) books.
86 Various Artists, Breker (Duisberg: Verlag und Agentur Werner Symanek 2002). Arno Breker was a German sculptor who, according to Alfred Rosenberg, realized in his work the ‘mighty momentum and will power’ (Wucht und Willenhaftigkeit) of the new era. See Caroline Fetscher, ‘Why mention Arno Breker today? The work of the Nazi sculptor is on exhibit’, The Atlantic Times, August 2006, available online at http://www.atlantic-times.com/archive_detail.php?recordID=602 (viewed 13 August 2009).
87 Various Artists, Wir Rufen deine Wölfe (St Koloman, Austria: Ahnstern 2007). Friedrich Hielscher was a German poet and philosopher who formulated a mystical concept of the German nation in Das Reich (1931). Although he sympathized with the Nazis in the 1920s, he moved to an explicitly anti-Nazi (though not anti-fascist) position prior to Hitler’s ‘seizure of power’.
88 Death in June, ‘Runes and Men’, on Brown Book (London: New European Recordings 1987).
89 Belborn, ‘Phoenix’, on Seelenruhe/Phoenix (London: World Serpent 2000). The English translation is by Belborn.
90 ’New heroic times ask for new heroic models’ (interview with Holger Fiala of Belborn), Letters from the Nuovo Europae, October 2000, previously on the Belborn website at http://www.belborn.de/INTRODUCTION/INTERVIEWS/DAN/dan.html (no longer available).
91 Quoted on Seelenlicht, Gods and Devils (Northampton: Cold Spring 2008).
92 Howard Williams, ‘Metamorphosis or palingenesis? Political change in Kant’, Review of Politics, vol. 63, no. 4, 2001, 693- 722 (700).
93 Luftwaffe, ‘Kalki’s Army’, on Trephanus Uhr (Chicago: Lupine Arts 2004).
94 Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, Hitler’s Priestess: Savitri Devi, the Hindu-Aryan Myth, and Neo-Nazism (New York: New York University Press 1998), 124-5.
95 Savitri Devi, The Lightning and the Sun (Buffalo, NY: Samisdat 1958), 18-19. The extended passage is cited on the cover of Turbund Sturmwerk, Turbund Sturmwerk(Leipzig: Loki Foundation 2003).
96 ’Darkwood: patria e libertà’, Darkroom Magazine (webzine), 19 April 2008, at http://www.darkroom-magazine.it/ita/105/Intervista.php?r=627 (viewed 13 August 2009).
97 ’Strength through Joy’ in German is ‘Kraft durch Freude’, the name of the Nazis’ state-controlled leisure organization. See Shelley Baranowski, Strength through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the Third Reich (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press 2004).
98 Malahki Thorn, ‘Arditi—spirit of sacrifice’, Heathen Harvest (webzine), 27 April 2005, at http://www.heathenharvest.com/article.php?story=20050427093041822 (viewed 13 August 2009).
99 H.E.R.R., ‘A New Rome’, on The Winter of Constantinople (Northampton: Cold Spring 2005).
100 Quoted in Klaus Farin, Die Gothics: Interviews, Fotografien (Bad Tölz: Tilsner 2001), 15.
101 See interviews with de Benoist and Bouchet in François, La Musique europaïenne.
102 For Arcto Promo, see its website at http://retro-future.ru (viewed 14 August 2009).
103 For Synthesis, see its website at http://www.rosenoire.org (viewed 14 August 2009).
104 Thorn, ‘H.E.R.R. interview’.
105 Tony Wakeford, ‘A message from Tony’, 14 February 2007, available on the Tursa website at http://www.tursa.com/message.html (viewed 14 August 2009). Nowhere, however, does Wakeford repudiate his homage to Evola (the titles of two Sol Invictus songs, namely ‘Against the Modern World’ and ‘Amongst the Ruins’, directly allude to Evola’s works Rivolta contro il mondo moderno and Gli uomini e le rovine), or explain why his ongoing musical project L’Orchestre Noir was named after the 1985 documentary film on the Belgian paramilitary extreme right-wing groups Vlaamse Militanten Orde (Flemish Militant Order) and Front de la Jeunesse (Youth Front). See also Stewart Home, ‘Danger! Neo-Folk “musician” Tony Wakeford of Sol Invictus is still a fascist creep!’, 28 July 2008, available online at http://www.stewarthomesociety.org/wakeford.html (viewed 14 August 2009).
106 ’Intervyu s Ritual Front’, Mashinnoe otdelenie (webzine), Summer 2003, at http://machine.radionoise.ru/texts/rf.html (viewed 14 August 2009).
107 This extract is a small part of an interview that I conducted with Eric Roger via e-mail, 26-31 March 2009.

Terrorfest Brings Antifascist Black Metal and Grindcore to the Pacific Northwest

37802852_2215135192038093_5097392526923399168_n

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).
dawn-ray-d-joins-kongfuzi-6325

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.

 

black-flags-over-bk-lead-closet-witch.jpg

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.

 

gouge+rat-19
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.

 

Banner.jpg

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.

 

17
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!

northwestterrorfest2019-900x1024

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:

The Sounds of the Wild: An Interview With Nøkken + The Grim

There is an aura around the American neofolk band Nøkken + The Grim.  The cry of thunder, the animal shuffle through the trees, the underlying soundtrack of the forest.  Nøkken + The Grim is an open attempt to capture that, to rewild ourselves and to expand our view of community to the animals and the earth.  This spirit of resistance is alive in their animism, and it is what makes Nøkken + The Grim such an incredibly evocative ensemble, emotive in every quiet moment.

We interviewed Justin Gortva Scheibel, who acted as a spokesperson for the band, about exactly what drives his project, what the music means to him, and why we have to be public antifascists today.

 

How did your band come together?

The original seed for this was planted back in 2015. The band started as a solo project called Nøkken. I performed in a cheap, plastic horse mask, something like a scavenger using humanity’s discard. Stephen and I have been in a relationship since 2011, and I’ve known Karli for as long. We all lived together, working as musicians, so it made sense for us to start performing. There was a narrative forming on two levels. I was already performing as a nature spirit, and it was as if that had attracted other spirits out of the woodwork. So, we expanded the idea, and they became “The Grim,” other enraged nature spirits who have rallied against the desecration of nature and their homes. Each month brought about subtle growth, new conflicts, new possibilities, but, like watching a plant grow, there is no single “event” where it formed. It organically evolved into what it is now.

 

How does paganism and animism provide inspiration for the music?  Do you think the music itself is a ritual space?

Something that is often unexplored in music is the primality of expressions prior the violence that language and words inflict upon the world, cutting and dividing things into categories. People often want lyrics. They want things to “make sense.” They demand it of the world. But I want wild cries of animals led by instinct from one note to another, where human conventions of music and meaning no longer matter. It is why we focus on improvisation, on being animals speaking through music. Animism recognizes an interconnectedness of all things, and the presence of other-than-human spirits in everything. We see this in our music, and we join with the ways in which each animate being produces music as a form of primal communication. The Earth Mother moves in cycles, large and small, from the replication of cells to massive shifts in climate and tectonic movements. Right now, humanity is messing with cycles of life and causing global extinctions. It is an interruption of rhythm, as much as a musician who slips and misses a beat, except with dire consequences for all life. Our music is a miniature of all this rhythm, both the cycles and the cataclysmic destruction of these cycles, where we no longer distinguish our rhythms from the processes of life and death.

From a more personal perspective, I serve the Earth Mother, and I am an extension of the primal spirit of the horse. Modern thought would probably call me an “animal worshipper” with a bit of a sneer. I am ethnically Hungarian and German. My heritage in Magyar táltos tradition (‘shamanism’) and Norse heathenry serve as the folk roots of the characters we play on stage. For me, this music is deeply spiritual. Stephen and Karli, who join me are not pagan, but are an agnostic and a Christian deist respectively. What unifies us is our recognition that human oppression towards each other and the living world cannot be tolerated, that human beings cannot continue to destroy nature.

I think music in general is a powerful ritual space, and not enough people recognize the responsibility that musicians have. Music is a vehicle of attention, synchrony and transformation, a place where many different wills coincide. With all that intention collected in a single space, magic flows through our sensuous bodies and can be channeled, for better or for worse. I perform all my concerts in a trance state in which the illusions of being human have disappeared. I feel like there is no break between the stage and the audience. We become coils of ritualized rhythm.

 

What bands inspired you in doing the work?

It’s a strange mixture of things. I love the alienated beauty of Buckethead’s guitar playing. He originally inspired me to put on a mask. The integrity of Moddi and Tanya Tagaq are also sources of inspiration. The Hungarian composer Béla Bartók has been a huge influence in our thought and harmonies. He was one of the first ethnomusicologists documenting folk music traditions, but he also wrote his own strange contemporary versions of folk music. Bartók was an anti-fascist who sacrificed his music career in Hungary in protest. He eventually fled to the United States. Over the years, we’ve been influenced a lot by bands like Tengger Cavalry, Ulver, Garmarna and Heilung. Karli is huge into Neue Deutsche Härte, folk metal, basically anything from Scandinavia and Germany. Stephen, as a composer, also brings a ton of influences from film music, EDM, jazz and ambient into our sound. He and I work together to create the electronic soundscapes that permeate our music. Probably our most out-there influence is John Cage.

 

There is a beautifully quiet quality to your music, both haunting and curious.  How did you start to develop the uniqueness of your sound?  How do you define it?

We started out performing music that fit more into neoclassical styles, as classically trained musicians. We did improvisation and performed works by minimalist and modern composers, and then we thought, “fuck it, we could do whatever the hell we want with music.” I suppose I would call our music “uncivilized,” or perhaps, “undomesticated” music, “wild,” “bestial”. There is no guarantee that we will ever sound the same from one moment to another.

“Primal” is probably my favorite word to describe what we do, if there is to be a word. It is instinctual music, to create music in terms of our senses and emotions, our animal being. We lose the idea that there is ever a wrong or right note—just different notes in sensuous immediacy. Conventional music adheres to a pattern it justifies to itself, so it forms into a genre, a style, a normative imposition on what music “should be.” Musical conventions very easily slip into oppressive institutions. You see this all the time with people talking about how they hate this music or that music. Primal music may form patterns (just as the growth of nature forms chaotic patterns, sometimes tremendously complex), but they are not dictated by forethought, imposition, the tyranny of order, only chance and instinct, necessity and intuition. We are aware of many “musical rules” but simply do not care. Human conventions pretend to themselves they are not profoundly instinctual, irrational and accidental. So perhaps, primal music is music without this pretense. It has gone feral.

Our song “Blue Ritual” is a great example. Everything about it is “wrong,” strange meters, harmonies, off-kilter patterns of 7, live outdoor recordings mixed with studio electronics. It is like a weed that decides to grow in one’s perfectly manicured lawn, Mother Nature’s green middle finger to the need for control and order. I like weeds. I am happy to be a weed.

 

Why have you included actual sounds from nature, like rumbling thunderstorms, in the music?

We put thunderstorms in “Vox Terrae” to evoke nature in sublime way and to give the music connectedness with the living world. “Vox Terrae” means “Voice of the Earth,” the Earth as a singer. It’s this recognition that sound and nature have their own agency; I would say intention. There are many agents beyond the mere human, other species, animals, plants, microbes. Also, whole natural phenomena are recognized as part of this animate, living ecosystem. Human beings tend to try to differentiate between “music” and “sound” and operate under a pretense that “sound” occurs without agency, while “music” is this supposedly willed (exclusively human) thing. It’s all part of this colonialist objectification of the world. But all animals are producing music, the songs of birds, the rhythms of horses’ bodies. Moreover, everything that happens is rhythm. So-called ‘chance’ sounds, natural phenomena, are as much music as anything human beings produce. I see the world of sound as a world filled to the brim with agency, spirits, actors, where nature speaks and sings in all moments of resonance. Sound is itself a living environment, one in which a multitude of agencies are acting. For me, it is not strange at all to see a storm as a musician, a person, collaborating to produce music. Or moreso, we are invited by the Earth as collaborators, lent this moment of time to be alive.

 

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?

Personally, I would prefer to just to exist without having to have “a sound.” That is, I would like, in music, to follow every instinctual urge I have, whether that is violent, sensitive, sexual, explosive, playful. To the person listening, I think it probably sounds like we are constantly reinventing our sound, but to me, we are shapeshifters by nature. If I need to be violent in a song, then that is what happens. If I need to whisper, or yell, or seduce…our bodies produce the music. The concept of having a static sound is exactly what institutions impose upon our animal bodies, and those categories only serve to reinforce hierarchies in world.

 

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

I would say that I have run into explicit white supremacists rather infrequently. The real fear lies in the undercurrents of racism and authoritarianism in ‘ordinary’ people whom supremacists are trying to win over. I feel that both the Pagan and neofolk scenes are very anti-fascist already and that the situation is not as bleak. All the Heathen and Pagan communities I partake in online and offline are working ceaselessly against supremacists. There is a recognition in much of the Pagan and Heathen communities that our own cultures and beliefs were colonized by Christian theo-political violence and oppression (and continue to be demonized to this day), and this unites us with the struggles of all other oppressed minorities. But there is fear across the Pagan communities to even talk about what we are doing. We are still afraid of being persecuted by mainstream religions as “devil worshippers.”

Within me, there is a deeper, personal anger at the fact that the Nazis appropriated our spiritual symbols and concepts. It was festering rot, feasting on the corpse of indigenous European traditions, appropriating our symbols and our heritage for their purpose of hate. It wasn’t enough that my cultural heritage was decimated by religious persecution throughout European history, especially my spirituality, which was thoroughly destroyed by Christianity. Our symbols then became corrupted and mutilated by honorless Nazi thugs who worshipped nothing but their own pettiness, driving them to hatred.

My love for all difference and my fury against injustice runs deeper than words or reason. Spiritually, I seek liberation of the natural world and other-than-human life, and I extend that to the struggles of all different human peoples. You could say it is in my blood to be anti-fascist, to be a freedom fighter. My family escaped from Hungary as refugees and came to the United States seeking asylum. Members of my family fought in the Hungarian underground resistance. My existence could never have been if they resist oppression and leave their homeland.

 

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

I think people are getting complacent with hate. Silence is the real problem. Artists must be willing to stand up and show others that they are not alone. I also think that some music groups wait too long to disclose their stances on important subjects like this for fear that it will limit their audience. I don’t know about them, but we don’t want fascists and white supremacists in our audience. They can fuck right off.

Anti-fascism informs our music in loving and seeing beauty in difference and in the necessity to do what we can as artists against hatred. We see our music as undermining the colonization of the world—singing against the destruction of wildlands, the erasure of indigenous beliefs and peoples, against voracious and spiritually empty consumerism and authoritarianism.

 

What kind struggles drive your work?  There is a strong sense of a need to a return to a cyclical, grounded way of life in communities.

I agree. To add to that, our music expresses this need to recognize the entire world of other-than-human life as part of that community. A few concepts that are important to us are the idea of “re-wilding,” David Abram’s notion of “becoming animal” and what the ecofeminist philosopher Donna Haraway calls “kin-making” and “companion species.” I see modern society as having this ill ideology of trying to leave behind nature and animal being, of trying to transcend themselves, of trying to domesticate and dominate everything, warring with their own natures, consuming the world to feed industry and Ego eating itself. Humans fail to even recognize that other animals have forms of intelligence and cognition that exceed their own, something that is fortunately being corrected by the scientific field of cognitive ethology. Traditions and spiritualities that celebrate being kin with the world, with animal life—of being part of an ecosystem instead of holding dominion over it—end up as victims of modernization. This is especially true for indigenous peoples who are deprived of the natural cycles and resources needed to sustain their life-ways. I see our music as embracing and conjuring our own animality to rejoin with our other-than-human animal brothers and sisters, to relearn how to live alongside the more-than-human world instead of enslaving and destroying it.

 

What’s coming next for you?

We currently have two major projects in the works. We just finished shooting for a short film/music video for our song “Vox Terrae,” and we mastered a live performance of the track to release as a single alongside the video. We are also working on writing and recording our next album. (Well, really it is two albums to be released side-by-side. The concept behind them is kind of insane. Can’t say more than that, yet.)

 

What other bands do you recommend for antifascist neofolk fans?

Ulvesang, Hanggai, Tengger Cavalry, Garmarna, Heilung, Wardruna, Soriah, Tanya Tagaq, Paleowolf, Forndom, Jambinai, Bohemian Betyars. Julius Eastman is an unsung hero whose entire life’s work as a composer was dedicated to fighting racism and homophobia.  He was a queer black performer, and today his work should probably come with a trigger warning because his song titles often included the racial slurs that were being thrown at him during his life.  Part of it was he wanted the classical music community to look their own racism in the face every time his music was performed.

Moddi has been a longtime favorite of the whole band, a folk singer from Norway who melds haunting melodies with political activism. His album “Unsongs” is a must for anti-fascist artists and activists. The album is entirely made of songs banned by oppressive regimes. There are also documentaries about each song and its historic context on YouTube.

Below we are putting tracks from the latest album, Trickster God, as well as the most recent album before that, Treason to Our Nature.  We have also added tracks from Treason to Our Nature to the Antifascist Neofolk playlist on Spotify.

Gae Bolg Shows How You Can Stand Against the Fascist Neofolk Scene

Inside the world of neofolk and post-punk, martial industrial gets the most ire because of its aesthetic quality seems owed to the militarist imperialism of mass fascism.  As outlined by academics like Anton Shekhovtsov, much of the far-right version of neofolk has been is an attempt at building a fascist metapolitic that influences a cultural space while claiming “apolitical” status since their project does not explicitly mention politics.

And many martial industrial bands have jumped right in to live up to the accusations, using Nazi imagery, fetishizing fascist art and fashion, and intentionally being provocative about genocide.  The Celtic martial industrial band Gae Bolg stands out for playing so hard against type: they are not just openly opposed to fascism, they have fought hard to do so.

Once you hear Gae Bolg, you can’t forget it.  Filled with a carnivalesque extravagance, it draws its sound directly from celebratory folk sounds, ranging from the victory parties for returning soldiers all the way to drunken debaucharies inside a public house.  The sound itself draws on a much older set of traditions than much of the medieval obsessed post-punk neofolk bands and is obsessed with folk stories and character, villains and heroes.  The flute heavy sound they have developed, that has such a distinct beat to it that you will always be able to register its brand, sounds like if Oingo Boingo reformed as a pagan neofolk band.  If Conan had just entered into an ancient city and was perusing through the limestone streets in search of strong drink, this is the music that would be playing.  This owes to the filmic quality to the music, which is always grand in its orchestral sound, drawing on dozens of instruments and overwhelming the listener’s senses.  This does not have the quiet and meditative quality that you might expect from bands like Wardruna or Hindarfjäll.  At the same time there is a sing-song quality to it, which is particularly striking as it pounds along in arcane references that few listeners would pick up on, not to mention lyrics primarily in French.

Gae Bolg was founded by renaissance musician Eric Roger, classically trained, who had been a part of a number of bands, including Seven Pines and L’Orchestre Noir.  It is Roger’s history that tells a more complicated story since he was a “hire-on” musician with the neofolk band Sol Invictus, which is one of the best examples of the fascist side of the neofolk world.  While the associations between Sol Invictus’ front man Tony Wakeford and the far-right politics, particularly the Front National and nationalist Traditionalist philosophy of Julius Evola and Oswald Spangler, there was a lot of denial of this in the neofolk world.  While Wakeford could not hide his earlier relationship with the National Front, including doing a benefit for the NF in her earlier band ‘Above the Ruins,’ he tried to portray this as a youthful indiscretion that he wholly rejected later.  Many people took him at his word, including several band mates, but as the band progressed people started to notice that something was a bit off.

Eric Roger is the story of moving from a neutral fence sitter to standing up against it.  He left any collaboration with Sol Invictus in 2005, along with Karl Blake, after they raised concerns to Wakeford that a festival they were performing at seemed to have a lot of far-right attendance and participation.  Blake recounts that there was an antifascist action against Sol Invictus’ performance, which both he and Roger are supportive of.  This action was a wake-up call for them to leave the band since they felt like they had not been told the extent and character of Wakeford’s relationships. Blake spoke heavily about this in an interview with the now-defunct website We Make the Nazis:

But I must say this – my ‘being sacked’ from Sol Invictus came about as a result of a couple of things – the specific one relating to this being that Eric Roger was sacked for objecting to the [i’d say] 95% fashtype line-up we [Sol] were being grouped with in a particular hall over 2 days as part of the Leipzig Gothik Treffen [2005]. Eric spoke to Wakeford about this first and he agreed that it sounded bad. Eric himself then contacted the promoter – which caused considerable flack – the first I heard about it was to get a phone call from Tony saying ” hes gone mad!!” Wakeford then sent Eric an email telling him as much [that he’d gone mad] but that he could continue in Orchestre Noir as he valued his abilities… Eric understandably refused Wakefords ‘kind’ offer by not reponding at which point Wakeford had a further meltdown.

Gae Bolg and the Church of the Fand was a project that Roger had been involved in since 2000 and was known for its heavy use of traditional and neo-classical music, and was eventually just shortened to Gae Bolg shortly after he took a stand against Wakeford and the fascist neofolk scene.  As Roger said in an interview after the split, “Tony Wakeford and Sol Invictus are now a part of my past and I’ve to say that it’s much better like that!”

We are going to post a section here from an interview Gae Bolg did with Heathen Harvest, a website we take a great deal of issue with.  The site has been friendly to far-right bands, and, frankly, fascist ideas, but because it was basically the only major neofolk website around many bands have gone on it.  It wasn’t until recently that the extent of Heathen Harvest’s problematic publishing has been made aware, and a lot of the writers and artists profiled in the website are actually fully opposed to those areas.  This interview was in 2014, quite a while before exposes were done on Heathen Harvest, and while there were still left-leaning writers at the website.  The interviewer of Gae Bolg tried his hardest to get them to infuse their music with some kind of nationalist message, and the responses from Eric Roger are golden, so we are republishing an entire section unabridged.

HH: The music and singing on Gaë Bolg and the Church of Fand has a distinctly medieval flavoring. Can you explain your interest in medieval music and vocal styles?

ER: My interest for medieval times has more to do with fantasy  than anything else, a sort of escape from our actual world. It’s the scent of mystery and darkness that I like. A strange period of religious extremism but at the same time, but for those people who tried to escape this rigid model, may just be the first anarchists in history…

HH: The lyrics and text of Gaë Bolg and the Church of Fand also seem heavily influenced by medieval period writings. Can you explain what influenced you to focus upon this period in history for lyrical inspiration?

ER: I have always had an interest in the writings of that time, from people who were on the margins and by all those free minded people who have refused an imposed repressive model. It’s what I’ve liked in “Aucassin et Nicolette”, who was in fact – if you consider the fact that it was written in the 13th century – an incredible humanist, libertarian and pacifist pamphlet hidden in the dresses of irony.

I don’t know what “Eurocentric” means really. All  of the countries in the world, France and Europe, during its history, have been influenced by other cultures, and of course have influenced these same cultures. To give just 2 examples amongst many others, Arabia had invaded Spain and the southern half of France during, and France, England and Holland had invaded a big part of Africa and Asia between the 17th and the 20th century!!!

People who speak about “pure culture” or “race” or “preservation of identity” or things like that are simply stupid!!! Europe, as well as all the other continents – and maybe more than the other continents – , is a big mix of cultures, and it’s this mix which give it its richness.  Personally, I’m not interested by a suppose-to-be “Eurocentric” fact.

HH: There are many critics and persons who would like to censor bombastic / martial orchestral music coming from Europe. Has Gaë Bolg and the Church of Fand or Seven Pines faced accusations of militancy or political fascism as so many bombastic music projects have?

ER: Never! because I’ve always been clear and I never played with this ambiguity. I’ve definitely nothing to do with fascism, or the right wing, nor am I fascinated by war or militarist topics. I’m a humanist, pacifist and politically green left.

HH: What is your opinion of the far left attempts at censoring and ostracizing musicians who create what the left claims is politically challenging or offensive material in the form of music or fascist imagery?

ER: Personally, I find all the fascist imagery or all this sort of ambiguity in music both ridiculous and dangerous. I don’t see anything glamorous or sexy in the 3rd Reich’s symbols and it’s often there just to hide the musical emptiness.

All the people who do that are just people who probably don’t have a lot of things going on in their life. It’s pathetic and dangerous, and it conveys insane ideas and hate. Most of those bands allude to intellectual background, but they don’t realize that what they say is completely empty. They just all repeat stupidly the same things, all the same citations of the same authors and are unable to have just a parcel of personal thinking!

Not to mention the fact that they forgot how many millions of people those ideas killed!!! I really don’t understand. If they’re so fascinated by war, it’s easy to enlist in the army!!! And if they have such a strong interest for totalitarianism, why don’t they live in a dictatorship? It’s easy to find one in this world!!! I completely understand that some people protest against this glorification of those right wing insane and smelly ideas!

Personally, I clearly made my choice: I prefer being fascinated by a good meal, good wine, nice girls and nature!!!

Gae Bolg does not make political music, focusing instead on fairy tales about ogres and elves, and that is what they would prefer to discuss (Don’t we all).  But they are making their position well-known and Eric Roger was one of the few bands to publicly walk away from collaborating with a fascist neofolk musician.  There is a culture in neofolk of keeping relationships “apolitical” even when they disagree, which allows many bands that do not have nationalist politics to continue to support those that do.  Gae Bolg has decided to separate themselves from that paradigm, and that makes them significant.  It is an incredible bonus that they are one of the most inventive neofolk and martial industrial acts of the past twenty years, and are opening up exactly how we can use traditional folk music internationally to build something wholly original.

There are many things I would like to share! A good meal, my joy to be in this world, my love for people, my desire for peace, my wish to see stupid egotism and individualism disappearing forever for an intelligent, creative and humanist way of thinking ushered in, my dream that people will one day think by themselves without being influenced by little hateful leaderships…  Yes, I know, I’m a hippie!!!

Gae Bolg’s sound promises to keep changing as it develops, a synthesis that Roger calls “Hard-Symphonic-Martial-Psychedelic-Medieval-Operatic-Electronic-Experimental-Prog-Folk.”

We are going to post some songs here from Gae Bolg’s earlier albums, Requiem (2006) and Aucassin Et Nicolette (2005).  We will also be adding several Gae Bolg tracks to the Antifascist Neofolk Spotify playlist!  Unfortunately, the newer albums seem to be a bit scattered, both on Bandcamp and other locations, so we may add some tracks to this article later on.

Wardruna is Taking Back Nordic Pagan Culture and Music from the Far-Right

As a blog, we have focused on profiling some smaller and emerging neofolk bands in an effort to draw out the DIY elements of a grassroots scene.  The perception that many have of neofolk is that all the major bands are held tightly by the far-right, examples being Blood + Sun or Death in June, but there is a whole universe of major neofolk bands who have taken a public stand against white nationalism.  This is particularly true outside of the narrow English language post-punk bands that dominate much of the music press coverage.  Many of the bands who drive their inspiration directly from the folk music run against this fascist interpretation, including the heathen bands of the Northern Tradition.

Wardruna is the best known of these, with their notoriety resulting from the path they have charted in taking back Nordic heritage and history from those who have attempted to racialize that history.  Wardruna, which is primarily the project of musician and Nordic pagan historian Einar Selvik, has become a central figure in this trend for bringing a certain historical accuracy to portrayals of Viking Age art and music.  This is what led Wardruna to the soundtrack for the History Channel show Vikings, which brought Selvik a lot of attention.

The sound itself is subcategorized as Nordic folk as it focuses heavily on heathenry, the pagan tradition that honors the Aesir and Venir and the traditions of the Nordic people’s in what is now Scandinavia.  Their music drives directly from the myths and sagas, with a massive range of instrumentation that pulls from the diverse cultural span that made up the Viking Age.

When people hear terms like Nordic heritage and Viking music there is a certain unease that appears because of the way that fascists have appropriated that culture, a process that goes back almost 200 years into the early volkisch movements of 19th Century Germany.  Using pseudoscienifitic and mystical ideas, they created the idea that Germanic Gods were part of the spiritual psyche of people of Germanic ethnic heritage, and that those archetypes define them as people.  This rejects the actual history of heathenry, which was diverse, multiracial, and had influences from global cultural exchange.

This is a part of why Selvik has made Wardruna heavily indebted to historical  accuracy and openly professes the intent of the project.  White nationalism has nothing to do with the rediscovery of paganism, and uses a false modern construct to employ ancient folkways as an excuse for fascist revolution.  As Selvik says:

This project takes inspiration from our native culture but it is about creating something current and new. It is also important for me to dispel a few myths about the Runes and Norse culture that have been misinterpreted and made almost cartoonish by the media.The image of the Runes has been tarnished by some right-wing racist idiots who have no business using them and only did so for their own gain.

This reconstruction of paganism is also in opposition to Christianity, seeing it as an imperialist religion that wipes away indigenous cultures through domination.  This is, again, a fact that has often drawn in elements of the far-right that share an anti-Christian stance.  It is also what drew in the black metal element, and something that Selvik has in common with early Wardruna member Gaahl of the early Norwegian Black Metal band Gorgoroth.

The serious focus to pagan histories, so much so that Selvik gives lectures on pagan history and sells books on heathen rituals and spirituality on the Wardruna website, is also what creates the unique multicultural understanding the band brings to the music.  For Selvik, it is the diversity of pagan practice that actually unites humanity.

I’m generally interested in culture, whether it’s slavic, siberian or african. What’s fascinating, if you go back in time far enough, you’re going to see all these similarities, how we are connected. Of course, in my work, in early work with Wardruna, because the history is very fragmented, it’s only natural to look into other neighbouring cultures for inspiration and also clues.

Instead, it is allegiance to the ideas and passion for the tradition that binds a community together, not a false notion of race.

I prefer to sow seeds and let them grow, and this little weed then enters the shade of the new shoots. It is very convenient to live far from the origin of a tradition, claiming it for yourself and focusing on ethnicities rather than nature. At the same time, nature has shaped culture. I would much rather be a blót with a Spanish person who gets it than with a Norwegian who does not get it. If you are stupid, you are stupid. It does not matter if you’re descended from any Viking king.

The increased focus on Nordic history and culture, which Selvik has been a big part of, has helped to create a barrier to stop the far-right from being able to continue appropriating it without a counter-narrative.

It is a very positive effect, that increased interest does not allow the subculture on the extreme right wing to use our history in peace. We have somehow taken our own story back.

“It is difficult to take them seriously, and it testifies to great lack of knowledge when right-wing extremist groups have used our cultural heritage in their propaganda,” says Selvik, pointing out that the far-right lacks a clear understanding of Nordic paganism and instead uses it simply as an aesthetic rather than a true spiritual path.

Gaahl had been a part of the project since its founding, which many saw as problematic given that he often made up the more offensive side of black metal and was involved in far-right gangs in his youth.  He has since repudiated those politics and publicly rejected them, and spoke out about what it is like to be an open gay man in the black metal scene, but we were still not comfortable with his involvement in Wardruna. In 2015 he left the band entirely and has not had any more relationship to it, a move that we support.  We would not have included Wadruna if Gaahl was still in the band, and we think it is important to outline this history.

Going forward, Wardruna is continuing to be a massive project, one of Selvik’s many music endeavors, and will set the tone for much of how this more traditional sound comes together in neofolk.  It is his public declarations of the intention of the music that is important because it forces the community away from an apolitical stance.  While Wardruna is not political on contemporary issues, it is much more focused on songs about Thor and sailing, they use the moments they have to make it clear that they are taking a stand against the fascist creep into this cultural landscape.

We are putting a few of our favorite songs by Wardruna from their Bandcamp below, and just added a few Wardruna tracks to our Antifascist Neofolk Spotify playlist!

‘Out of the Shadows’ is a Queer-Trans Inclusive Darkwave Festival Happening in Portland

Out of the Shadows popped onto our radar this last week out of nowhere with a fantastic line-up all backed up an incredible mission.  Focusing on bringing darkwave and similar music to Portland, the festival is now in its fifth year and will be taking place over three days (April 4th-6th at the Tonic Lounge) and is a fundraiser for the progressive X-Ray.fm radio station and Trans Lifeline, a support center for providing critical resources to the trans community.

Making darkwave a way to help mobilize support for a transgender community under siege by the far-right in the U.S. does more than just raise money: it creates a physical space that declares right up front that it is queer and trans inclusive.  We caught up with the organizer Dave Cantrell to ask about the festival and why it is important to build open LGBT support in the darkwave and post-punk scene.

 

So first, what got you started doing the festival, and how has it grown since you started?

Out From The Shadows (OFTS) began in 2015 as on outgrowth of Songs From Under the Floorboard, the post-punk/darkwave radio show I host on XRAY fm here in Portland. The local scene was blossoming so dynamically that it seemed a good idea, and the right time, for an event bringing everyone together to both give exposure to the bands and to, in a way, celebrate what was happening. That first event was just a one-night affair with seven local bands, one from Olympia and one from Vancouver B.C., but the reception was enthusiastic enough to propel it into becoming a yearly event. Word kind of got out and I started getting requests from bands from out-of-state, which, in turn, made me realize this could work on a bigger scale so I began inviting bands from around the country and beyond, at which point year two became a 2-nighter and in 2017 it became the 3-night festival it is now.

 

How did you get connected with Trans Lifeline, and why is it important to you?

OFTS has been a benefit since the beginning. All proceeds beyond paying the artists, the venue, and whatever other ancillary costs, go to the beneficiary, which for the first three years was XRAY, a progressive, non-profit, listener-supported community radio station. Beginning last year, however, I decided to incorporate a co-beneficiary from the local or local-impacting community of LGBQTIA organizations, due primarily to the fraught political environment we all now find ourselves in, but as well because both my daughters are gay and much of the darkwave community itself, both here and pretty much everywhere, locates themselves somewhere along that spectrum. As for how I got connected to Trans Lifeline, there was an article about their efforts in the local alt.weekly (Willamette Week) and, y’know, the light bulb went off.

 

Why is it important to create an inclusive space in the darkwave scene?

Well, for one because all spaces should be, by definition, inclusive, but since that is not always the case, it’s of course important to provide safe environments for those that, simply by identifying as ‘other’ in some way, continue to feel imperiled in the broader society. And the fact that there’s been a notable regression in this regard since the 2016 election makes it all the more crucial. But anyway, for the most part, punk and its off-shoots have always been a place for self-identified outsiders to find safe harbor. One of the aspects of OFTS that’s most rewarding, actually, is the atmosphere that permeates the festival. It’s not unusual to tangibly feel a kind of electric joy in the room. That alone is reason to keep it going.

 

‘Out of the Shadows V” is hosted by XRAY’s Songs From Under the Floorboard radio show and Soundcontrol PDX and will be held on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night at the Tonic Lounge (3100 NE Sandy, Portland)

Check out a few of this year’s bands on Bandcamp!

 

Chamber Music and Memory: An Interview with Deliverer

Modern music has lost the ability to play a tone to its logical conclusion, to allow extended sounds to drive a narrative structure that can draw out feelings like dread and drama.  The orchestral-neofolk solo project Deliverer rests entirely on competing tones, achieved by recentering the accordion into a drawn out baroque sound that feels equal part Hammer films soundtrack and Eyes Wide Shut house band, and we mean that as a huge compliment.

We were able to speak with Adam Matlock, the artist behind Deliverer, on what drives his sounds, the influence of Jewish cultural music and black spirituals, and how antifascism has to remain central to his work given his own identity.

Screen Shot 2019-04-01 at 9.36.00 PM.png

How did Deliverer first come together?  Did the project have an earlier incarnation?
I work a lot in the style of dungeon synth, which is often similarly in the orbit of black metal/extreme metal in the way that neofolk is. At some point I was practicing some riffs on the accordion, and the acoustic sound was very alluring, so I started recording and composing on the spot. It was something I’d wanted to do for awhile, and as I wrote it, a story came together that it felt like I needed to tell.
You can see where pagan folk traditions have such a heavy influence in how neofolk has developed, and what keeps drawing people to it.  Were you drawn to folk music traditions when forming Deliverer?
I have always felt a connection to old folk traditions, although I never had a ton of personal connection through them in my upbringing – so many of them I have admired from a distance. But it is also so easy for these things to get wrapped up in nationalism that has also kept me a bit removed from them. There are many Black American folk magic and pagan traditions that I don’t have as much connection to.
I’m especially a fan of Scandinavian and similarly influenced projects like most of what Einar Selvik is connected to, Ulver’s Kveldssanger and the like. But I’ve also looked to bands like Deveykus and Zeal and Ardor who have tried to incorporate Hasidic music and Black spirituals respectively into a metal sound, insisting on making space for themselves and their sounds in the larger umbrella of the scene.
How did you develop your sound, and how do you define it?  What instruments do you use?
I had always wanted to make Neo folk, but never did because I didn’t play guitar. But as I’ve gotten older I guess I’ve been able to get less attached to my specific expectations of a sound or a project, so, getting purely beyond the very limited Scandinavian or English folk influences that often show up in neofolk. Once I started writing, the story drove me more than my doubts about the sound I was developing. It was important for me to keep it mostly acoustic, so it would feel separate from my dungeon synth projects, so for the debut release I used only accordion, voice, recorder, and percussion. Limiting the sound palette helped to keep the ideas flowing. And I was thinking of this project as a sort of imaginary neofolk, compiled from various musical influences as well as a kind of chaotic collage of impressions of cultures showing their opposition to an oppressor.
There is a real feel of classical organ or chamber music in the album.  Was classical or romantic era orchestral music important when you were writing it?
The accordion definitely has a chamber organ sound for sure. I listen to some organ music, but if that shows up in this release it was unconscious. I play a lot of Klezmer and so there were some conscious Jewish music influences, particularly Nign, which is a style of wordless melody that when sung in a group feels like time is stretching. I grew up singing Black spirituals which were passed through my family, and there are elements of that music that shows up behind the surface in a lot of my projects – in this project especially having some kind of call and response relationship between the voice and the instruments. I’m definitely very moved by Scandinavian fiddle music (which only seems to slightly influence Scandi inspired neofolk), but the way the fiddlers in that style pass their tunes down and harmonize together is really inspiring to me.
What drives your commitment to antifascism?  Have you experienced a lot of white supremacist attitudes in the pagan and neofolk scene?
I am Black and mixed race. It’s hard to think of fascism as a benign thing for me, whether or not the attitudes are sincere or just aesthetic based. For those reasons I’ve often been removed from the metal scenes except on the internet, which is where people are the worst about that sort of thing. I’ve probably been to less than 10 black metal shows in 20 years of listening to the music for that reason, so I’ve encountered only minimal amounts of it in person. But the way we’ve seen conversations about this sort of thing become more meme-y and less about sincere connection, I’ve found that I’ve run out of patience with the jokey edgy humor, with the kind of intellectual shell-game that people play with weaponized ideology.
Why is it important to you to remain a public antifascist in a scene so known for its far-right or “apolitical” stance??  How does antifascism inform your music?
It’s important to me because to some, my presence in the scene is unacceptable. This is why it’s important to me to assert myself as an artist in neofolk, in black metal, in dungeon synth.  Besides that, I think the attitudes in neofolk, of looking to the past as an explicit transgression of social norms, have their logical opposite in the assimilation of fascism, and I am frequently astonished at how often people forget that. We are already, as modern people, given the chance to learn from history even as we look to the past and tradition for liberation, so it doesn’t serve anyone to blindly recreate that without some sifting through.
What really moves you through writing music like this, is it a sense of story or social commitment?  What really drives the work?
For me a lot of what moves me is narrative, storytelling. To me all the most compelling arguments involve storytelling in some way.  Through a combination of music and accompanying flavor text, I hope to convey some of what occupies a lot my thought processes: about growth, resilience, and resistance in a world that is deeply biased, somehow, against most of its inhabitants. But I feel like talking about these things through narrative is a good reminder to all of us that this kind of work is an ongoing thing, not a constant state of being that, once attained, needs no further attention or maintenance.
Also, the transportive element of music like neofolk is a nice balm for some of the harsher elements of modern society, which is sometimes necessary for anybody with an active awareness of the world.
What’s coming next for you?
I’ve been performing some pieces live from the Deliverer debut (Smother) with a crew of people that I do some other styles of trad folk with. At this point it’s just a part of our repertoire, mixed in alongside other trad pieces at our shows.  But I hope to write and record more for this project, including some material with lyrics, and get a consistent set together for live performance if the opportunity arises.
What bands would your recommend for an antifascist neofolk audience?
I’ve found it hard to vet things myself since so many on the internet seem to thrive on obfuscation, which is one of the reasons I’m so grateful for the work you’re doing with this blog. I will have my answer as you keep updating!
***
We are putting Deliverer’s new album, Smother, below so you can listen to it from Bandcamp.  Unfortunately, they are not available yet on Spotify so you will have to wait to add them to the Antifascist Neofolk Spotify playlist.  We will be adding a couple of new bands to that list later this week, so stay tuned!

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!

Fatal Nostalgia Brings Nightmarish Beauty to Ambient Neofolk

Neofolk is diverse in a way that few genres can be: a big tent that ranges from metal to traditional folk music to synthed-ambient to plucky singer-songwriters.  It is that point of fusion that gives neofolk a special edge, the ability to revisit something known and to breathe a contemporary life into it. If we take something like traditional music and reimagine it with today’s tools, can we take what was beautiful about it and inject it back into our lives?  

Fatal Nostalgia is one of the best examples of that eclectic nature, using the mechanisms of ambient soundscapes and building in a sound that wreaks of Euro-folk.  Fatal Nostalgia was another project we came across on the Red and Anarchist Black Metal blog and were immediately struck by its frenetic song structure, moving from nature sounds to driving drums and guitar and back to a certain campfire simplicity.  Since their founding they have released five albums: Halcyon Nostalgia (2012), Fatal Nostalgia (Self-Titled) (2012), Nocturnes (2013), Quietus (2014), and Hyacinthe (2016).  They have additionally put out two EPs, A Gathering of Ghosts (2013) and Woods of Somnolence (2012).  The newest track, the psychedelic “Ego Death,” came out in 2016.

The music has incredible range, so much so that it can feel like a label-wide compilation even on a single album.  Tracks like ‘Badger’ sound as though they could be the ten-minute track played in a rave coolout room to help quell bad trips, while ‘Without You’ has a distinctly melancholy vibe that feels like the backward facing nostalgia known to neofolk.  Fatal Nostalgia is an ambient project more than anything else at the end of the day, and does feel as though it is the singular vision of an artist and his computer.

The project has been heavily influenced by the cascadian sound of groups like Nuwisha, as well as are sympathetic with the green anarchist politics that drove it.  Like many of these projects, politics is not their primary purpose and are instead vocal about wanting to drive emotion and highlighting psychedelic concepts like “ego death.”  This drives to the heart of what neofolk is, about connecting reality with emotion and building on what things could be (or have been) rather than what they are.  Fatal Nostalgia then feels like a dangerous dream, haunting in the background.

We have added several Fatal Nostalgia songs to the Spotify Antifascist Neofolk playlist, and are including several tracks from their Bandcamp below.

 

Make sure to follow the Antifascist Neofolk playlist on Spotify, featuring Fatal Nostalgia!