Inquisition and black metal’s fascism problem

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It was only at the end of last year that I became aware of US black metal band Inquisition, thanks to the appearance of their latest album Obscure Verses for the Multiverse on numerous critics’ end-of-year lists. Upon first listening, the main things that struck me included the oddly croaky, reptilian voice of singer/guitarist Jason Weirbach (aka Dagon), as well as the fact that all the songs sounded quite samey, given the ubiquity of their monolithic assemblage of thick riffs and relentless blastbeats. Quickly though, I grew to appreciate the band’s unique sound, and delved further into their back catalogue. This did lead me to develop some concerns about their material, the song “Crush the Jewish Prophet” from Magnificent Glorification of Lucifer being the most obvious example. If the song was an anti-Christian critique in the black metal tradition, as it appeared to be based on its lyrics, why was it necessary to centre Jesus’ ethnicity in the title, unless the band felt this too was something to criticise? But, caught up in the music, I didn’t worry too much about this.

Until, that is, I saw a thread concerning the band on a friend’s Facebook page earlier this month. It was here that a man named Daniel Gallant, formerly a white supremacist himself, called Inquisition’s members (Weirbach and drummer Thomas Stevens, aka Incubus) out as Nazis. When asked to elaborate on this, he stated the following:

“I was a white supremacist for many years. I have been out for twelve years. I drove the bus for an Inquisition tour. When I suspected they were white power, because I was driving for my friends band Gyibaaw, a First Nations band, I decided to prove it.

I pulled off my t shirt and there it was…my giant swastika for them all to see…they clapped and cheered…Inquisition (both Tom and Jason) were thrilled.

They boasted about their admiration for Hitler, how they loved the white power movement, and had many friends from South America and Everett, Washington…turns out we had mutual acquaintances. Tom used to hang out with the World Church of the Creator and still boasts his admiration for the church. Jason boldly stated he loves imagining living in the Nazi era and wished that would happen in America. They ranted until I shut them down.

The band Gyibaaw were grossly offended to the point of backing away from the black metal scene because of it.”

I realise that not all readers will be convinced by the personal testimony of one individual. It is a known fact, however, that the band has associated with the white supremacist Antichrist Kramer, commissioning him to create artwork for the 2010 reissue of their first full length album Into the Infernal Regions of the Ancient Cult. Kramer has been deeply involved in the National Socialist black metal movement, putting out music by openly white supremacist and/or anti-Semitic groups on his label Satanic Skinhead Propaganda (as documented in this article). It seems unlikely that Inquisition’s members would be unaware of his leanings, or that they would associate with him unless they were sympathetic to his beliefs*.

Sadly, this kind of ideological association is not unheard of within metal, especially black metal. The subgenre has long been a hotbed for reactionary political viewpoints, perhaps because of the anti-modern standpoint many of its bands employ, its reverence for “paganism” and other traditionally-minded cultural trends that have also been co-opted by fascists, and the reactionary nature of not only its ideological position but also its musical form. The Second Wave of black metal started, after all, as a reaction against death metal, with many bands deliberately hearkening back to earlier forms of metal and forsaking technique and polished production in favour of a “primitive” sound. It’s not surprising that this inclination would also create room for fascist ideology to spread- both spring from a reaction against modernity, as elucidated in point 2 of Umberto Eco’s analysis of the uniting ideology of fascist movements here.

Despite knowing about this trend within black metal, however, it was still an unpleasant shock to discover that a band I enjoyed subscribed to fascism. My immediate reaction was a feeling of shame, and anger at myself for not having investigated the group’s background. In the past I had made it a point to avoid music created by neo-Nazis or white supremacists, even in cases like Burzum where people insisted the music was good even if band leader Varg Vikernes was a virulent bigot. I smugly stuck to the position that I wouldn’t listen to Nazis’ music because it was shit anyway, the product of idiotic skinheads who could barely string two chords together. But this was confounded by Inquisition’s technically adept, well-written and well-recorded output. I had been simplifying reality to fit my own preconceptions.

More than anger at my self, though, I felt angry that the band’s fascist leanings were not more widely known. This is a group that has gained increasing media attention in recent years, their latest album having been reviewed in mainstream publications such as Pitchfork, but as far as I can tell metal journalists have yet to seriously question Inquisition on their views or their links to open white supremacists like Antichrist Kramer. How hard would it have been for the interviewer in this Invisible Oranges article, for example, to seriously interrogate Weirbach about the message of “Crush the Jewish Prophet”, instead of just accepting his equivocation? Do these writers not care about the expression of bigoted views, as long as they like the music? It’s hard to escape the conclusion that they don’t.

Even though I hadn’t paid for any of their music,  I didn’t want to support Inquisition in any way after finding out about their Nazi sympathies. I eventually decided to delete them from my music library and stop listening to them entirely. I do still find myself asking whether this was necessary. Fascist or white supremacist rhetoric is not central to their message or lyrics, which tend instead to focus on the conventional black metal concern of Satanism as expressed through astrological and cosmological imagery. Perhaps the band is canny enough to realise that openly expressing their views would limit their appeal or get them into trouble; perhaps they ascribe to the wider metal world’s liberal conviction that music is no place for politics. In any case, I usually hold to the idea that it’s OK to enjoy art and media with problematic elements, or which has been created by objectionable or even bigoted artists, as long as we acknowledge those problems and don’t shut down criticism of them. But for me, personally, a line has to be drawn somewhere. Art created by Nazis, fascists and/or white supremacists is on the side of the line I do not wish to set foot in.

This is not what I would consider a hypocritical position. Fascist ideology- insofar as it is a coherent ideology- is inherently violent in a way other political alignments are not, rooted in the rhetoric of destroying any element of society deemed undesirable. As Eco notes, diversity is conceptualised in fascism as a symptom of modernist decadence; and since fascism worships action for action’s sake and violent struggle as an inherent part of life, Nazi or white supremacist movements are ideologically driven to commit violence against members of any group outside their own. While the rhetoric of neo-Nazis and/or white supremacists within black metal is often mainly focused against Jewish people, it is naive to think that violence will be used solely against one group if this rhetoric is tolerated, especially when hatred of marginalised groups such as people of colour, LGBT people and disabled people is accepted even within mainstream society. Even a band like Inquisition that doesn’t openly espouse fascist rhetoric can still cause harm to members of persecuted groups. Gallant’s story shows how Weirbach and Stevens’ open expression of admiration for the Nazis led to the First Nations band Gyibaaw turning away from black metal, closing the door on an opportunity for that group to counter the genre’s overwhelmingly white demographic and tendency to champion or tolerate extreme right views. If we give our money to musicians with fascist leanings, we don’t just support them financially, we send a message to them that their extreme views will not cause them to be criticised, that their views are therefore acceptable. The same act also sends the message to minority groups that we care more about music than about making sure that fascist and white supremacist ideologies are not tolerated or allowed to spread. In a sense, we choose our own enjoyment over people’s safety, over their right to live free from fear of ideologies that call for their destruction.

I urge anyone who cares about making metal a space which is open to and safe for marginalised groups of people to, at the very least, abstain from paying for Inquisition’s albums or live shows. I wouldn’t want to force anyone to stop listening to the band’s music entirely as I have done; this is obviously a matter of personal choice. But please do consider whether it is worth it to add to the popularity of a band that holds these views- not just Inquisition, but any band in black metal or the wider genre who subscribes to fascist, white supremacist or Nazi standpoints. There’s enough excellent music out there being made by musicians who do not align themselves with dangerous, hate-fuelled ideologies.

                                       

* It is also worth noting that Inquisition’s Jason Weirbach runs a side project titled 88MM. In the simple alphanumeric cypher that passes for a secret code among neo-Nazi groups, this number represents the letters HH, or “Heil Hitler”.

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90 responses to “Inquisition and black metal’s fascism problem

  1. I just purchased Watain based upon a recommendation from the record store clerk for NSBM free and technical black metal artists, but am now questioning this after looking into their background… The dilemma I face with Watain is somewhat parallel to your experience with Inquisition.
    I will be going back to the store for a refund.

    • I wasn’t aware Watain had any ideological ties apart from the “theistic satanism” shit. What have you heard about them, exactly?

    • They have a demo called “Go fuck your Jewish god” (with no racists lyrics in it whatsoever), one of them has been, for a short period of time, live guitar player for the band dissection whose frontman was involved in a racist/homophobic murder in the nineties, they once were spotted with t shirt of the ns-linked band absurd. They also released a split 7´on a label that also released an EP of the ns-linked band Grand’s Belial’s Key. Watain’s main label in their early days was Drakkar Productions which released lots of album for the aforementioned Grand Belial’s Key, the side project Arghoslent as well as the lesser-known but clearly ns BlackSStorm and Pagan Assault.

      So yes, while the band itself has never been involved in anything political whatsoever, they have not actively been distancing themselves from some of the NSBM scene actors.

      However, I strongly advice you not to go back to the counter whining about such peripheral details or else the clerk will likely beat you and thrown you out of his store.

      Suggestions for you: 1)stop being such tight-assed and enjoy the music 2)change your ideology and become legitimately enthusiastic about far-right Black Metal 3)Keep to “safe” Red and Communistic Black Metal because if you care about such tiny details even bands like Alcest aren’t safe for you 4) Stop listning to Black Metal period.

      Have a good day!

  2. Pingback: Inquisition: Is Facism OK in Black Metal because it's Art?

  3. Good article, describes exactly what I felt when a few days ago I came across Marduk’s promo video for their new album. Having done a lot of research on this subject in the last one and a half weeks, I’ve come to the conclusion that for me the elitarism inherent to black metal is just too close to white male supremacists’ doctrines to uphold the banner of this much-beloved music. Not even Immortal is totally free of linkage to ideologically polluted surroundings: in 2013, they shared the Carpathian Alliance Open Air stage with at least two bands well-known in right-wing circles (Nokturnal Mortum and Manheim)! And no interviewer ever asked them about that.. Why do originally neutral bands, successful major labels, “critical” magazines and “discerning” labels care so little about who they’re working with, whom they’re giving a platform? It seems that for them short-run profit really outweighs the consequences of increasing the acceptance of right-wing/neo-Nazi views.

    Keep up the good work!

    • While I do not share your feelings regarding this situation, I wholeheartedly agree with the fact that there isn’t such a thing as ´Clean´ Black Metal. Almost every band can be connected, to some degree or another, to far-right ideologies or other politically incorrect beliefs/actions.

    • Why do originally neutral bands, successful major labels, “critical” magazines and “discerning” labels care so little about who they’re working with, whom they’re giving a platform?

      they’re not SJWs! they might be regular metalheads who don’t think that fellow metalheads need to pass an antiracist certification to be worth sharing a stage with! Most normal metalheads are quite naturally “live and let live” kind of people. That’s why it’s been possible to have tours featuring both christian and satanic bands. That’s why there are concerts featuring both racist and non-racist bands. That’s why there are bands featuring both racist and non-racist members. Most metalheads simply don’t share your moral scheme and they’re not convinced that just because someone, for example, cares about immigration, it means that they’re a terrible person. It doesn’t work that way.

      Marduk members may hold NS beliefs to varying extent. I’ve personally interacted with a couple of them and I’m a male of the black african race and they were cordial and behaved in a normal, civilized way with me.
      Maybe they hate blacks who are uncivilized. Maybe they think Sweden should remain an essentially white country. None of those beliefs offend me in the least so I would hang out with them again if given the opportunity.

      • “Maybe they hate blacks who are uncivilised ” so what about white uncivilised white people like UK prime minister performing a lude act with a pig, you talk as if white Swedish are never uncivilised. Obviously they would be friendly to your face but still think your inferior. If these are your friends then you’re a sandwich short of a picnic.

  4. I’ve also come across quite a few Depressive Black Metal bands into the whole NS/White Power thing, and it astounds me. I thought that whole style was about dissatisfaction with modernised city life, and the virtues of suicide, etc.

    Or are they just feeling sad and want to kill themselves because there are too many ‘ethnics’ in their country?

  5. Pingback: Metal, hate, and hypocrisy | Catatonic Scale

  6. I just want to thank you for writing this brave and truly individualistic article. Black metal fans love to claim that they are individualists, but when it comes to calling someone out for being a fascist in their scene, they seem to immediately turn into the most classic examples of pack animals/herd mentality. So many people in the black metal scene revert to the rhetoric that “everyone has a right to their opinion”, and so there scene has become a breeding ground for fascism. I’ll say briefly that racism is not an opinion; it is a way of looking at the entire world that spills into all facets of life, is not based on any kind of logic or science, and should be opposed in any form in which it presents itself. For a much more detailed analysis, if you aren’t familiar, I highly recommend Sarte’s Portrait of an Antisemite. Again, thanks so much for doing this. You are truly a champion of the black metal scene.

  7. Pingback: Black metal, Politics and Provocation - Broken Amp

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