Two of our most championed musicians, Aerial Ruin and Panopticon, have released a preview of a brand new nine-track split on Bandcamp just in time for Yule. This is acoustic-leaning hill music, complete with the regional folk charm both are known for (This may be Panopticon at their most neofolk).
Check out the two tracks that are available to now (one from each) and pre-order the rest of the album, to be released on January 31st, 2020.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Just as with we did with Panopticon, we are diverting from our focus a bit for a band that is not known primarily for its neofolk tracks, but is still so indebted to the genre that they deserve attention. Aztra is an Ecuadorian metal band based out of Quito that has made regional folk music the core of their sound since their founding in 2005, drawing out in the same way that the revival of Northern European country folk music built the core of early neofolk bands. This cultural revival has a point for Aztra, particularly drawing out the importance of the indigenous folkways of Ecuador that have been erased through centuries of settler colonialism.
It is that folk metal sound that links together their six full length albums, ranging between explosive and stagey metal songs and neofolk that sources much of its instrumentation and rhythm to the indigenous communities that the band members come from. There is a certain fusion at work, between epic metal coming out of the late 80s American scene and regional folk music,patched together into a tapestry that is both wholly original and reminiscent of Latin American metal bands of the 90s. Aztra is not afraid to go over the top, to wail in the way that 3 Inches of Blood or Dragonforce did, which is why songs about liberation and class war are still so fun. The infusion of Amorfino, Sanjuanito, and the kind of songwriter finger-picked guitar makes it feel as though anything could surface because there is such a well of musical history to pull from.
Because Aztra is definitely more of a metal band we are spending a little less time on them, but their anarchist and anti-colonial roots make them perfectly centered for our mission, and since they drive heavily into the neofolk scene we think they should be included. This is especially true with albums like Guerreros (2016) and Raíces Latinoamérica (2012) where they allow the folk music to really bring us back to the stories of home. It is their 2010 live album Acústico Vivo that we are going to embed because it so perfectly fits the neofolk parameters, especially when we think of neofolk as an international phenomenon that draws on folk music traditions of different regions. This is important as we demolish the Eurocentric perspective on the genre that has been driven by the far-right scene and prioritize indigeneity around the globe.
It is also in Acústico Vivo where a certain passion erupts, the return to the Latin ballad, and a broad range of instrumentation, including the wooden flute that stands out in neofolk. There is a rhythmic pacing to each song that never feels as though it is backing away from the epic intensity that their metal songs are branded with.
Aztra’s name comes from the sugar mill where workers went on strike in 1977, but were attacked by the dictatorial forces. They are vocal in their opposition to the economic globalization offered by the World Bank and IMF, particularly how it affects indigenous communities in the global south. Lyrics to songs like Hijos del Sol speak to this:
We sing for the child and because everything
And because some future and because the people
We sing because the survivors
And our dead want us to sing
We sing because the scream is not enough
And it’s not enough cry or anger
We sing because we believe in people
And because we will defeat defeat
We sing because the sun recognizes us
And because the field smells like spring
And because on this stem in that fruit
Every question has its answer
We sing because it rains over the groove
And we are militants of life
And because we can’t even want
Let the song become ash.
The band hopes that their music will serve as inspiration in the same way that music has always powered vibrancy and resistance in Ecuador. The album Guerreros, which is ‘warrior’ in Spanish, burned this spirit into the record.
Warriors born as a proposal of social resistance, day by day we live constantly fighting from any space and from any stage, to each of the members and militants of our people, that makes us warriors. Our trench is art. We are warrior workers of the art that we are looking for day to day better conditions of life for our towns.
We are putting an Acústico Vivo track below for you to check out (but no Bandcamp, unfortunately), and we have added several Aztra songs to the Antifascist Neofolk Spotify playlist. Check out both below: