Conservative Revolution in Modern Popular Culture
From the viewpoint of racial nationalism, the musical genre known as Black Metal is one of the most significant popular culture phenomena of the last two decades. Yet it has been seldom discussed by politically congenial scholars and commentators.This is surprising, since Black Metal runs counter to the post-World War II trends toward the progressive marginalization, condemnation, and psychopathologization of overt racial consciousness among whites. It is even more surprising when one considers that Black Metal is inspired by and sustains the same cultural and literary traditions that inform modern racial nationalism. Moreover, Black Metal, by means of its highly stylized, frankly European aesthetics, offers an effective weapon operating at the all-important pre-rational level with which to counter the assault on white identity.
I have written before about the need to create a parallel universe outside contemporary mainstream culture, and this involves not only choosing our own topics of scholarship, but anticipating their being defined through appropriation by the establishment’s own conformist scholars.[See Alex Kurtagic, “Mastery of Style Trumps Superiority of Argument,” TOQ Online, May 4, 2009, http://www.toqonline.com/2009/05/mastery-of-style/ and Alex Kurtagic, “I am not racist, but . . . ,” The Occidental Observer, June 7, 2009, http://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/authors/Kurtagic-NotRacist.html.] I write, therefore, in hopes of introducing Black Metal as a topic of scholarly analysis within the anti-egalitarian tradition.
Black Metal has not been entirely ignored by mainstream scholars. It is discussed, for example, in Extreme Metal: Music and Culture on the Edge by Keith Kahn-Harris, founder of the New Centre for Jewish Thought; in The Meaning and Purpose of Leisure: Habermas and Leisure at the End of Modernity, by Karl Spracklen; in Commodified Evil’s Wayward Children: Black Metal and Death Metal as Purveyors of an Alternative Form of Modern Escapism by Jason Foster; and in Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism, and the Politics of Identity, by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke. It has also been discussed by a few popular writers, including Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind, whose Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground New Edition is available from mainstream booksellers.
While Moynihan and Søderlind rely on Jungian archetypes for what is otherwise a sensationalist and journalistic analysis of Black Metal, the other texts rely on analytical frameworks derived from the Freudo-Marxist scholastic tradition, which includes Marxist theorists like Louis Pierre Althusser, postmodernists like Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault, critical theorists like Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, and so on. It is not difficult to see that interpretations of culture from these quarters, while containing many astute insights, are necessarily limited and distorted by the theorists’ unquestioning belief in equality as a good in itself, by their rejection of evolutionist insights as nefarious and ideological, and by their alienated—when not merely alien—attitudes towards traditional Western culture.
The limitations and distortions built into this body of theory are exacerbated by its status in Western academia as the institutional orthodoxy, a closed universe of theory where alternative—e.g., inegalitarian, evolutionist—perspectives are rejected in advance as discredited, outmoded, prejudiced, or lacking in scholarly rigor. When the subject of study is a cultural phenomenon that explicitly rejects the first principles upon which such a body of theory is predicated, there is always the danger of analysis degenerating into moralizing incomprehension.
Black Metal, Folk Metal, and Viking Metal album covers
Dissidence as a Style
What is Black Metal? Black Metal is a radical outgrowth of Heavy Metal. During the 1980s bands playing commercialized forms of Heavy Metal entered the mainstream, attaining lofty positions in the music charts and selling millions of albums. This prompted “fundamentalist” elements within the Heavy Metal scene to reclaim it as an underground praxis by developing extreme variants of the Heavy Metal sound, perceived to be more in tune with the genre’s original anti-commercial and countercultural values.[See Deena Weinstein, Heavy Metal: The Music And Its Culture, Revised Edition (New York: Da Capo Press, 2000).] Black Metal was one such variant. It is deemed “Black” Metal because it originally defined itself in terms of Satanic and occult themes and aesthetics.
Black Metal does not sound like Heavy Metal. Both musical forms rely on the same core sonic components (guitar, bass, drums, and vocals); both are characterized by sonic intensity, extreme vocal performances, and the use of heavily amplified, distorted guitars. Heavy Metal musicians, however, tend to favor predictable song structures (verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, verse, chorus), as well as sung/screamed, melodic vocals. In addition, Heavy Metal guitarists, although often incorporating influences from classical music in their style, play in a manner that still evinces Heavy Metal’s roots in Rhythm and Blues. Heavy Metal lyrics tend to deal with relatively superficial matters associated with youth: love, growing up, sex, rebellion, fun, drinking, etc.
Black metal, on the other hand, is much darker and much more extreme, favoring a rawer, noisier, and much harsher guitar sound; unpredictable song structures; classically-influenced melodies that suggest grimness, mysticism, sorrow, and misanthropic hatred; and inhuman, demonic screeches for vocals, unintelligible and heavily reverberated. In addition, Black Metal lyrics tend to be serious and arcane, dealing with the occult, pre-Christian mythology, pagan pride, war, misanthropy, genocide, and hatred of Christianity.
Black Metal also significantly differs from Heavy Metal aesthetically. Black Metal favors black above any color. Black Metal logos tend to be tortuous and elaborate, almost always unreadable, and laden with occult and/or pagan symbols, such as runes, swastikas, inverted crosses, pentagrams, and mjölnirs. Tortuous “blacklettering” (gothic letters) are nearly ubiquitous. Musicians use esoteric mythological stage names and obscure their faces with corpse-like black and white face paint. They appear on their albums in nocturnal, wooded, mediaeval, and/or wintry settings, clad in studded black leather and laden with bandoliers. It is not uncommon for the most extreme and misanthropic Black Metal bands to engage in self-mutilation (usually with hunting knives, around the arms and torso) and to have themselves photographed covered in blood after having performed such acts. The object is always to create images likely to inspire fear and horror among observers in the cultural mainstream—although this is merely “preaching to the choir,” of course, an effort to distinguish themselves as radically as possible from the despised “mainstream,” for otherwise Black Metal is nearly invisible outside its subcultural milieu.
Origins of Black Metal
Early Black Metal bands were Bathory, from Sweden, and Venom, from England. Venom are credited with inventing the term “Black Metal,” which first appeared as the title of their 1981 album. Bathory, however, proved far more influential. Although Bathory’s early works were dominated by Satanic themes and aesthetics, these were gradually displaced by the infusion of elements from classical music (particularly the Romantic period) and a growing fascination with pre-Christian Scandinavian mythology and history. Albums like Blood Fire Death (1989), Hammerheart (1991), and Twilight of the Gods (1992) eventually inspired the development of an entire new genre, now known as Viking Metal.
Similarly influential was the Swiss trio, Hellhammer, and its subsequent incarnation, Celtic Frost. Hellhammer was a prototype of such 1980s outgrowths of Heavy Metal as Thrash Metal, Death Metal, and Black Metal, but cannot be categorized as any one of them. Through their highly poetic and esoteric lyrics and increasingly elaborate musical compositions (peaking in 1987’s Into the Pandemonium), Hellhammer/Celtic Frost pioneered the transformation of Metal music into a sophisticated popular art form.
At a time when Heavy Metal seemed preoccupied mostly with base, low-brow, hedonistic excess (beer, girls, partying), Celtic Frost’s albums dealt with gods and ancient civilizations, and Bathory’s with Asatru, Vikings, and World War II. The British Thrash Metal band, Skyclad, was also significant, instigating the development of Folk Metal, a genre which incorporates traditional Folk music into a Black Metal framework, and whose musicians have links to the Black Metal and Viking Metal scenes.
Modern Black Metal has long ceased to be characterized purely by Satanism. Indeed, since the late 1980s, some Black Metal musicians have self-consciously refused to be defined by a foreign (i.e., non-European) monotheistic tradition. There is no Satan, however, without Christianity. By defining itself against Christianity, Satanism merely inverts Christian values instead of rejecting them altogether and embracing an authentically European worldview.
Many Black Metal musicians have, as a result, recognized the superficiality and ultimate futility of continuing “the war against (Judeo-) Christianity” which was central to Black Metal scene during the early and mid 1990s. Moreover, and at least partly in consequence, Black Metal has long since splintered into a variety of vehemently pagan subgenres, such as the above-mentioned Viking Metal and Folk Metal, and—the most radical of all—National Socialist Black Metal (NSBM).
Völkisch Thought and the Conservative Revolution
Some of the most fascinating aspects of Black Metal are its parallels with the ideas and sensibilities of the Conservative Revolution and the wider völkisch (populist) movement that swept Germany in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These similarities are so striking that Black Metal may well be considered, if not the continuation, then at least the revival of the Conservative Revolution on the plane of modern popular culture.
Black Metal is, moreover, part of a growing subculture of resistance to the anti-white system. This subculture consists of a constellation of interconnected musical genres and subgenres, religious practices, philosophical and political thinkers and schools, websites, booksellers, publications, and cultural activities, such as battle re-enactment. This subculture sustains itself by providing its members with a positive identity that is not dependent on the system of status awards maintained by the present sociocultural and political dispensation. Moreover, if, as Jacques Attali has proposed, the music of the present is the noise of the future, then, in a coded way, Black Metal could well be more symptomatic of things to come than of things as they are.
The Conservative Revolution was entirely different from modern American conservatism, which is merely a form of classical liberalism allied with socially conservative views. American conservatives believe in progress, democracy, equality before the law, and free markets; their ideology derives from the Enlightenment as formulated by John Locke and Adam Smith. They are closely associated with libertarianism. They regard man as a rational, sovereign individual, and they tend to have a linear, progressivist conception of history. The German Conservative Revolutionaries, like other völkisch movements, were reacting against the rationalism of the Enlightenment, and, in American terms, have much in common with the Southern Agrarians. Their common enemies were modernity, urbanism, and industrialism.
Völkisch thought is characterized by a romantic focus on the “organic,” German folklore, local history, blood and soil, and nature mysticism. The term derives from the German word Volk, which corresponds to “people,” or “folk,” but with the added connotations of folklore, race, and nation. Among the German romantics, “Volk” “signified the union of a group of people with a transcendental essence,” the fusion of man with nature (particularly his native landscape, following Wilhelm Riehl), mythos, or the cosmos, wherein man found “the source of his creativity, his depth of feeling, his individuality, and his unity with other members of the Volk.” A related concept is “Volkstum,” a term that combines the notions of folklore and ethnicity.
Völkisch thought arose from the Romantic nationalism of the early nineteenth century, particularly that of Johann Gottlieb Fichte, who, along with Ernst Moritz Arndt and Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, “began to conceive of the Volk in heroic terms during the wars of liberation against Napoleon.” Völkisch thought emerged at a time when Germany existed as a collection of semi-feudal principalities. As political unity eluded them for more than half a century, völkisch thinkers were forced to emphasize cultural and spiritual rather than political dimensions of unity. Thus they came to idealize, even mystify, the concept of nationhood. This process attained such momentum that when political unification finally came in 1871, the prosaic nature of Bismarck’s Realpolitik led to a tremendous sense of disappointment.
Völkisch thought also coincided with the Industrial Revolution and the attendant destruction of the German landscape, dislocations of the population, obsolescence of traditional crafts and tools, social alienation, political upheavals (e.g., the revolutions of 1848), and economic crises. These led eventually to disenchantment and finally to the wholesale rejection of industrial society and modernity, which came to be seen as materialistic, soulless, rootless, abstract, mechanical, alienating, cosmopolitan, and irreconcilable with national self-identification. Völkisch thought was a quest for rootedness, for the “inward correspondence between the individual, the native soil, the Volk, and the universe.” Hence the calls for a “‘German revolution’ to liquidate the dangerous new developments and to guide the nation back to its original purpose.” Unsurprisingly, völkisch ideologists saw “traditional politics as exemplifying the worst aspect of the world in which they lived,” and “rejected political parties as artificial,” favoring instead an “elitism that derived from their semi-mystical conceptions of nature and man.”
The völkisch rejection of modernity was sometimes combined with racialist occult and esoteric doctrines exemplified by runologist Guido von List, author of The Secret of the Runes. List’s racialist reading of Helena Blavatsky’s Theosophy proved influential in occult circles. The Guido von List Society (Guido-von-List-Gesellschaft), which he founded, included among its members the sexo-racialist Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels, author of Theozoologie, founder of the esoteric order, Ordo Novi Templi (Order of the New Templars), and founder and editor of the magazine Ostara. Lanz glorified the Aryan race as Gottmenschen and advocated the sterilization of the unfit and the inferior races. Lanz’s “theozoology” eventually evolved into “ariosophy”—the study of occult wisdom concerning the Aryans. Other List disciples became involved in the Reichshammerbund and the Germanenorden, organised by Theodor Fritsch, a prominent activist in the German anti-Semitic movement.
When the Germanenorden split into two schismatic factions (the Germanenorden and the Germanenorden Walvater of the Holy Grail), Hermann Pohl, the order’s first leader, was joined by Rudolf von Sebottendorff, a Freemason who was also an admirer of List and Liebenfels. Sebottendorff eventually contacted Walter Nauhaus, leader of the Germanenorden and head of the Thule Society, a Germanic study group. Sebottendorff adopted the name of this study group as a cover name for his Munich lodge of the Germanenorden Walvater, which was run jointly by him and Nauhaus. In time the Thule Society came to organize the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (DAP), which was renamed the Nationalsozialistische deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP) in 1920, months after Adolf Hitler, once a reader of Liebenfels’ Ostara magazine, joined the party.
This occult branch of völkisch thought, which during the post-World War II years produced writers like Savitri Devi and Miguel Serrano, adopted elements from Eastern mythology: a cyclical view of history (mirrored in Oswald Spengler’s metahistory) followed the Hindu model of the four successively degenerative ages, or Yugas; while the swastika, ubiquitous in India and the Far East, was adopted by numerous organizations before the NSDAP, from Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society to Lanz’s Ordo Novi Templi (the first to use the swastika in an Aryan context) to Fritsch’s Germanenorden to Sebottendorf’s Thule Society.
Although dismissed by some völkisch thinkers, the Jewish question acquired added importance during this period. As a people of the desert, Jews came to be “viewed as shallow, arid, ‘dry’ . . . devoid of profundity and totally lacking in creativity.” This contrasted with the Germans, “who, living in the dark, mist-shrouded forests [were deemed] deep, mysterious, [and] profound.” Moreover, because the Jews thrived in the liberal, secular, commercial, urban context, they came to be seen as the incarnation of modernity, and hence a corrupting, conspiring outsider, an insidious agent of dissolution. Indeed, Jews had grown closely connected to the liberals on the road to emancipation and, in particular, to the Revolution of 1848.
Because of its links to Judaism, Christianity also came under scrutiny: “in common with most völkisch thinkers, [Paul de] Lagarde blamed St. Paul for having enveloped untainted Christianity in sterile Hebrew law” and advocated a Germanic religion through which a “realignment of the spiritual forces [could] effect a true unity of the Volk.” Nietzsche’s attack on Christianity as a debilitating agent was influenced by the anti-Jewish, but nevertheless still Christian, Lagarde. By the time Savitri Devi wrote Defiance and Gold in the Furnace, shortly after World War II, however, radical hostility to Christianity was tightly bound to radical anti-Jewish sentiments.
Following World War I, the völkisch ideology “acquired a mass political base,” propelled by the anguish of Germany’s military defeat in a context where völkisch ideas had long been disseminated within German institutions. The Conservative Revolution emerged at this time as a predominantly völkisch movement: it thought organically rather than mechanistically, emphasized quality as opposed to quantity, prized folk-community (Volksgemeinschaft) as opposed to class conflict, believed in the Führerprizip as opposed to ochlocracy and parliamentarism, glorified war as opposed to unheroic economism, and rejected progressive liberalism, egalitarianism, and the banal commercial culture of urban industrial civilization.
The Conservative Revolutionaries were revolutionaries because they realized that culture was threatened not merely by liberalism and Communism, but by the entire political order, which had to be replaced—using revolutionary means if necessary—by a new order based on conservative principles. Although the term existed prior to the end of World War I, it entered general use only after it was popularized by Hugo von Hoffmannstahl and Edgar Julius Jung during the Weimar Republic. Oswald Spengler, Ernst Jünger, and Carl Schmitt, along with Arthur Moeller van den Bruck (who coined the phrase “Third Reich”) were representative of this movement. Völkisch ideas enjoyed considerable social prominence and institutional legitimacy long before the National Socialists came to power. They were, however, marginalized and suppressed by the Allied Occupation regime and the new post-war dispensation following Germany’s military defeat in 1945.
Black Metal and the Return of Völkisch Thought
How did völkisch ideas resurface in popular culture? By the 1960s Christianity had entered a phase of decline in the West, following a long period of growing skepticism as well as hostility from political ideologies from both Right and Left. As has been the pattern in the West since the fourth century, the decline of the dominant religion coincided with a renewed interest in alternative spiritualities, exotic religions, and the occult.
Much of this interest found expression in modern popular culture, especially modern popular music. Perhaps the most striking example of this confluence is the music of Heavy Metal pioneers Led Zeppelin, whose lyrics blended Aleister Crowley, J. R. R. Tolkien, and pagan Norse and Anglo-Saxon folklore. Artists like Black Sabbath, Black Widow, and Coven also incorporated occult themes and went on to influence subsequent waves of more explicitly Satanic Heavy Metal artists, such as King Diamond and Mercyful Fate.
Influenced by Black Sabbath, Motörhead, and punk rock, Bathory emerged within this milieu. We have already seen how the Satanic themes of Bathory’s early albums were replaced by Nordicist and pagan ones. Bathory’s Thomas Forsberg articulated the view that Christianity was a foreign religion, a form of Judaic spiritual conquest that sought to crush and eradicate indigenous European paganism. During the 1990s, this view became widely influential in the Black Metal subculture, especially in Scandinavia.
Anti-Christian views within the Black Metal scene usually fall into two categories: Nietzschean (often mediated through Anton Lavey’s “Satanism”) and neo-pagan. The Nietzscheans denigrate Christianity as an egalitarian religion of weakness, meekness, repentance, confession, and self-denial. The neo-pagans generally agree with the Nietzscheans, but emphasize the foreignness and deracinating influence of Christianity compared to the more authentic European pagan heritage. This outlook is explicitly völkisch, evoking the unity of blood and soil, of race and nation, and of spirituality and the Volk. The Black Metal scene also tends to be anti-Semitic for the same völkisch reasons they are anti-Christian. Some Black Metal musicians were so militantly anti-Christian that during the early-to-mid 1990s, they embarked on a campaign of church arsons.
In the world of Black Metal, genuine spirituality and depth of artistic expression is all about delving fearlessly into the darkness of the human soul. Hence the unremittingly dark songs filled with hate, fear, melancholy, misery, and depression. Black Metal—“true” Black Metal—seeks to put the greatest possible distance between itself and the mainstream of capitalistic mass society, which it perceives as meaningless, banal, materialist, brainless, conformist, uncreative, and hypocritical.
The Black Metal subculture glorifies war and the martial spirit. Scenes of battle are common on Black Metal album covers, and musicians often photograph themselves wielding axes or swords and wearing bandoliers, spiked arm-bands, and, occasionally, coats of mail. Likewise, lyrics celebrate war and battle, often heroic but always bloody. This militarism is often wrapped in mysticism. Typical titles include “Sunwheel on the Helmet of Steel” in Capricornus’ Alone Against All, “Nine Steps to Eternity” in Thor’s Hammer’s Fidelity Shall Triumph, and “Fire and Snow” in Graveland’s Will Stronger than Death.
Black Metal artists also emphasize nature and landscape, but a morbid and mystical sensibility is evident even here. Whether inspired by völkisch thought or mere Satanic occultism, nature is always conceived in spiritual, mystical, and Romantic terms. The Black Metal aesthetic dictactes that night and winter are eternal. Coniferous forests are preferred to tilled fields and manicured gardens. Where the glorification of war merges with nature mysticism, the emphasis remains on the latter. Viking and Folk Metal bands, in contrast, adopt a more obviously völkisch approach to nature, allowing daylight in their landscapes and generally emphasizing the idyllic as opposed to counter-Enlightenment Sturm und Drang.
The Black Metal sensibility does not reject culture in favor of nature, but instead valorizes culture and nature, both conceived organically, over civilization, which is conceived in mechanistic and materialistic terms. In the Black Metal universe, cities were never built, the Industrial Revolution never occurred, and modernity never arrived. For all its belligerence, Black Metal is inherently nostalgic, a comprehensive negation of modernity.
This negation is apparent even in the Black Metal sound, which would of course be impossible without the techno-industrial society Black Metal rejects. Thus the technological source of the Black Metal sound—that which links it to modernity—is concealed to the same degree that it is flaunted in Techno music: “raw” Black Metal bands favor a heavily under-produced, “necro” sound that deliberately avoids high-fidelity or otherwise seeks to emulate low-fidelity recording media—in contrast to other genres that favor a primitive, under-produced sound, the desired effect is not “street cred” (as in with Punk) but a sense of quasi-occult obscurity; more instrumentally sophisticated bands use layers of synthesizers to generate a volatilized mystical atmosphere that obscures the act of performance, while bands with a vehemently pagan orientation (e.g., Nokturnal Mortum) add traditional folk instruments into their mix musically to evoke an earthy sense of Volkstum.
The desired effect is always for the listener to lose himself in the sound, to go into a semi-trance, raised above the tedium of mundanity; Black Metal music aspires to hypnosis and, in the case of specifically pagan Black Metal, it seeks to create the spiritual union—with the landscape, with the collective unconsciousness, with the lost pagan soul, with the lost heroic spirit of the distant past—that was longed for by völkisch authors a century ago.
The rejection of modernity goes hand in hand with the rejection of progressivism. Like völkisch thinkers, Black Metalers, whether pagan, Satanic, or merely suicidal, are cultural pessimists. Their pessimism is often allied with the explicit adoption of the Indo-European Traditional cyclical view of history, in which history begins with a Golden Age then declines through Silver and Bronze ages to the present Iron or Dark Age (Kali Yuga), which is doomed to perish of its own corruptions or through a cataclysmic final battle, whereupon a new Golden Age will dawn.
References to such culture pessimists as Nietzsche and Spengler and to more mystically inclined authors like Julius Evola, Savitri Devi, Miguel Serrano, and H. P. Lovecraft, are common in Black Metal. Hence titles like “Decline of the West (Europe Will Rise)” in Pantheon’s Aryan Rebirth, “Eve of the Kali Yuga” in Arkthos’ Knights of the Eternal Sun, “The Gathering of the Elite to Destroy both the Modern World and Demiurge” in Beyond the North Winds’ Aryan Cult of A-Mor, “Desecration of Our Fatherland” in Darkthule’s Awakening of the Ancient Past, “Melancholy of the Inaccomplished Vengeance” in Sons of North’s Death of the White Race, “Among the Ruins” in SIG:AR:TYR’s Beyond the North Winds, “Son of the Fatherland” in Hordak’s The Last European Wolves, “A Golden Age Turns to Rust” in Drowning the Light’s The Fallen Years, and “Exiles of the Golden Age” in Weltenfeind, a three-way split with Absurd, Grand Belial’s Key, and Sigrblot.
Explicit references to völkisch thought are rare, but they occasionally surface: there is a Finnish band called Armanenschaft; Hate Forest’s Blood and Fire EP contains the song “Aryosophia”; Vril released a demo entitled “Once and Again Thule”; Werewolf’s track “Vrilmacht” appears in their Fidelity of Ideology split EP with Semper Fidelis; there is Apriaxia’s Blood and Soil EP; and Adalruna’s Wer ist der Starke von Oben shows a photograph of Guido von List standing by the Heltentor with members of the Guido-von-List-Gesellschaft in 1911.
References to specifically Nazi mysticism and esotericism are also not infrequent: there is Bilskirnir’s EPs Ahnenerbe and Hyperborea, and the song “Reconquering the Atlantean Supremacy” in the album Wotansvolk, Hakenkreuzzug’s Centurions of Thule EP, the song “Jewel of Atlanteans” in Graveland’s Memory and Destiny, and the song “Hyperborean Ascention” in Contra Ignem Fatuum’s Detritus, among others.
The emergence of explicitly National Socialist Black Metal should not surprise, for the original völkisch current was the incubator of Conservative Revolutionary tendencies, including National Socialism, and by the mid 1990s Black Metal had re-created the same cultural logic that led to National Socialism 80 years earlier. But the readiness with which Black Metal came to embrace an outlook and sensibility so thoroughly stigmatized following the Allied victory in 1945 still needs to be explained.
The answer lies in the nature of Heavy Metal’s genesis following the collapse of the popular music subculture of the 1960s. Deena Weinstein identifies two strands within this genesis, an idealist one and a conservative one, which were fused at the point of Heavy Metal’s inception.
Heavy Metal emerged at a time when its original core demographic—white working-class males—were experiencing a growing social, cultural, economic, political, and demographic displacement, thanks to the rising tide of radical feminism; belligerent black activism; discriminatory legislation in housing, education, and employment favoring minorities; non-white immigration from the Third World; and a serious economic downturn that drove the most marginalized whites to the wall. These developments aided the formation of an implicit white community that was strongly ethnocentric, and which, in a world where whiteness was increasingly de-centered, came to make a badge of honor of its negative marginality: Heavy Metal fans are what Weinstein calls “proud pariahs.”
The Heavy Metal culture was defined by its working class roots, and working class culture is by nature conservative, with well-defined male and female roles, a readiness to express strong emotions, and a distrust of government and corporations. It is a culture that is decidedly out of step with modern mainstream liberalism. Not surprisingly, then, Heavy Metal tended to resist radical changes in its form, celebrated heroic masculinity, and was predicated on an ethos of integrity and authenticity that deplored its own commercialization. Indeed, “[f]or fans, perhaps the worst thing that can be said about a heavy metal band is that it has ‘gone commercial.’” Nevertheless, Heavy Metal gained many fans from the lower middle class, and subsequent offshoots have followed this pattern. The lower middle class is the same demographic that Mosse identified as formulating the völkisch critiques of modernity a century earlier, and indeed the key features of Heavy Metal culture are highly compatible with those critiques.
Even in its rawest forms, Black Metal tends to appeal to a more elitist and culturally sophisticated sensibility than its parent genre, but it has not radically changed the basic anti-modern, anti-liberal, anti-commercial, anti-cosmopolitan outlook it inherited from Heavy Metal. It only made it more serious: deepened it ideologically, elaborated it artistically, and radicalized it metapolitically. From the beginning Black Metalers were proud pariahs in the modern world, and, as such, were receptive to anti-establishment ideologies that were compatible with Black Metal’s own constitution.
In sum, a good portion of Black Metal’s intellectual and aesthetic features are völkisch. Crowley, Satanism, and Tolkien also boil in the Black Metal cauldron, to be sure, but these too have been appropriated to the extent that they are consistent with the völkisch worldview. Therefore, one can plausibly characterize Black Metal as a revival of the Conservative Revolution, profoundly transformed in the context of a modern musical subculture, but recognizable nonetheless.
My characterization of Black Metal will inevitably lead radical elements within the white nationalist movement to ask, “How do we use Black Metal to start the revolution?” Those asking this question will likely be thinking of how rock music in the 1960s helped to disseminate and popularize among the young the “progressive,” liberal, and anti-Western ideas that had been festering in the catacombs of the academia since the 1930s and even earlier.
I am not convinced that Black Metal has an application in that political sense. The music of the 1960s enjoyed broad appeal, whereas Black Metal seeks and revels in its own marginality and obscurity. Student engagement in radical politics during the late 1960s is only mirrored by the modern Left, and enjoyed, as it does today to a much greater degree, media and institutional support. Fans of Black Metal, on the other hand, detest politics even more than the Conservative Revolutionaries: theirs is a strategy of negation and of escape from mundanity.
The Anti-Geldof Compilation that I sponsored and released through my record label remains to date the sole extant example of engagement with current affairs and everyday politics in the Black Metal scene—and even in this case it was largely an emotional response on the part of the participating artists against the pious hypocrisy of self-indulgent rock stars. This is significant when one considers that the Encyclopedia Metallum currently lists over 17,000 Black Metal bands. Then, again, most of the participating artists were associated with the NSBM scene, and, as we know, one aspect that distinguished the National Socialists from the Conservative Revolutionaries in Germany was their willingness to engage in mass politics.
At best, we can see Black Metal as proof that it is possible for a cultural space to exist, even today, where anti-egalitarian thought can find honest artistic expression and forge an alternative positive identity among whites through the praxis of style. Our task is to understand the mechanisms that enabled significant parts of the Black Metal scene to exist as an explicit white community in the first place. Our task is also to create other such cultural spaces, to expand the constellation of stylized activities, so that we may eventually build a parallel cultural universe wherefrom they can be afforded institutional support and thus gain momentum and consolidate, once the liberal establishment collapses by the weight of its own corruption and ideological bankruptcy.
This is an important task, because inasmuch as Black Metal artists have developed and inspired an evocative style or aesthetic that (implicitly or explicitly) is uniquely white and European and/or celebrates whiteness in all its diversity of history and heritage, Black Metal is a genuine object of study in the context of a cultural war where the opposing faction seeks to suppress, defame, and eradicate whiteness. Humans are sentimental and emotional animals, more readily persuaded by an appealing style than by a rational argument, so winning the cultural war will require more than hard facts and superior logic. It requires that we successfully appeal to sentiment and emotion by becoming masters of style. Black Metal contains important lessons in this respect.
Adalruna. Wer ist der Starke von Oben. 2008.
Apraxia. Blood and Soil. Othal Productions. OLP008. 2001.
Arkthos. Knights of the Eternal Sun. Supernal Music. Ferly048CD. 2006.
Bathory. Blood Fire Death. Black Mark Productions. BMCD666-1. 1989.
Bathory. Hammerheart. Black Mark Productions. BMCD666-1. 1991.
Bathory. Twilight of the Gods. Black Mark Productions. BMCD666-1. 1992.
Beyond the North Winds’ Aryan Cult of A-Mor. 2004.
Bilskirnir. Ahnenerbe. Nykta Productions. NYKTA06. 2004.
Bilskirnir. Hyperborea. Solistitium Records. SOL052. 2005.
Bilskirnir. Wotansvolk. Wotanstahl Kangschmiende. WKG006. 2007
Capricornus. Alone Against All. Supernal Music. Ferly011CD. 2004.
Celtic Frost. Into the Pandemonium. Noise Records. N-0067. 1987.
Contra Ignem Fatuum. Detritus. Supernal Music. Ferly036MCD. 2005.
Darkthule. Awakening of the Ancient Past. Battlefield Records. 2004.
Graveland. Memory and Destiny. No Colours Records. NC057. 2002.
Graveland. Will Stronger than Death. No Colours Records. NC0118. 2007.
Hakenkreuzzug. Centurions of Thule. Battlefield Records. 2004
Hate Forest. Blood and Fire. Sombre Records. 2001.
Hellhammer. Apocalyptic Raids. Noise Records. N-0008. 1984.
Hordak. The Last European Wolves. Griffin Music. GRIFFIN008CD. 2006.
Pantheon. Aryan Rebirth. Strong Survive Records. SSR025. 2005.
Thor’s Hammer. Fidelity Shall Triumph. Darker Than Black Records. DTB001. 1998.
Semper Fidelis/Werewolf. Fidelity of Ideology. Eastside Records/ Hammerbolt. 2008.
Skyforger. Semigall’s Warchant. FR034. 2004.
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1. Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, The Occult Roots of Nazism, 2nd ed. (London: Tauris Parke Paperbacks, 2004).
2. Weinstein, Heavy Metal.
3. Weinstein, Heavy Metal, 115.
4. Mosse, The Crisis of German Ideology, 7.
6. Jacques Attali, Noise: The Political Economy of Music (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1985).
7.George L. Mosse, The Crisis of German Ideology: Intellectual Origins of the Third Reich (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1966).
8. Mosse, The Crisis of German Ideology, 14.
9. Mosse, The Crisis of German Ideology, 6.
10. Mosse, The Crisis of German Ideology, 3.
11. Mosse, The Crisis of German Ideology, 5.
12. Fritz R. Stern, The Politics of Cultural Despair: A Study in the Rise of the Germanic Ideology (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974).
13. Stern, The Politics of Cultural Despair, 33.
14. Savitri Devi, Gold in the Furnace: Experiences in Post-War Germany, 3rd ed., ed. R. G. Fowler (Atlanta: The Savitri Devi Archive, 2008) and Savitri Devi, Defiance, 2nd ed., ed. R. G. Fowler (Atlanta: The Savitri Devi Archive, 2009).
15. Mosse, The Crisis of German Ideology, 5.
16. Stern, The Politics of Cultural Despair.
Source: TOQ, vol. 10, no. 1, Spring 2010