The people in the above photo are amongst the most loathed group in extreme metal today. The masked horde calls themself Antifa (Anti-Fascists) and they ironically believe that anyone who thinks differently than them deserves violent treatment and a smear campaign unleashed upon them. I’ve been talking a lot about how they’ve waged war on black metal by accusing the genre of racism and protesting to have black metal events shut down.
Mainstream media and venues have been surprisingly complicit with their demands and refused to cover or book bands deemed white nationalist by Antifa. Of course, just because Antifa has labelled a band as racist it doesn’t necessarily mean the band is actually white nationalist. Their definition of what it takes to be a “Nazi” is broad and varies from member to member. Anything from putting a WWII era tank on the cover of your album to denouncing socialism can brand one a Nazi in the eyes of Antifa. Many of you have probably read the recent article in Metal Sucks entitled An Open Letter to Hells Headbangers to Stop Distributing Music By White Supemacists. The letter calls for a boycott of Hells Headbangers merchandise in the event HHB refuses to comply with the writers demands.
What’s remarkable about the letter is that metalheads, far and wide, came to the defense of Hells Headbangers. I’ve never seen a group of consumers more eager to buy merchandise from a particular brand. Although I have not seen any actual statistical data showing a spike in sales for HHB after the article was written, the emboldened attitude from fans of the label showed that at the very least fans had no intention of boycotting the label.
This is the common attitude of metal fans worldwide. As soon as Antifa shuts down a show or suggests a boycott on a band’s merch because they’ve deemed a band racist, fans dole out support for the band via social media. Does this make metal fans racist? Maybe some are, but it’s more likely that metal fans just don’t like being told what to do. The thing is, metal fans have been hearing about what is wrong with their music for decades (it’s satanic, promotes suicide, promotes violence etc.). Even the accusation of racism isn’t new for us. We’re used to being attacked because of the lyrical content of our music so we go on the defense. In the 80s, when a bunch of church ladies, called the PMRC, attacked metal, it did nothing to deter metalheads from listening to the satanic and violent music they’ve always loved and, in fact, record sales for the accused satanic and pornographic bands spiked. This is pretty much the whole reason Cannibal Corpse is a household name. Today, the new church ladies, SJW Antifa types, are doing the exact same thing for metal but they’re also doing something else. They’re making black metal dangerous again.
Regardless of what the artists themselves say, black metal has always been driven by scandal. Back in the early 90s, with the second wave of black metal in full tilt, church burnings, grave desecration, and murder put black metal bands in the spotlight. Magazines like Kerrange featured a menacing young Varg on the cover and had captivating headlines like “The Ugly Truth About Black Metal”. I remember reading these articles and being intrigued by the elusive Scandinavians in corpse paint. Were they really killers? Did they really worship death or Satan? What would music created by these mad men actually sound like? As an isolated sixteen year old who spent her evenings reading the Necronomicon, listening to Morbid Angel, and applying eyeliner; black metal was exciting and dangerous. I needed to know more…..to hear more.
After Varg and Faust went to prison and black metal expanded beyond Norway, the genre became more about the music than image. There was always going to be some controversy in black metal, Dissection and Graveland come to mind, but the 2000s served more to expand black metal and define kvlt. You had the Swedish sound and the Polish, even the Ukrainian. With black metal exploring so many musical territories, melodic, raw, depressive…., the genre became more exciting for people who were already black metal fans. Although black metal would always have its murky past, there was no real controversy in black metal in the 2000s. The LLN tried to revive some of the controversy but that whole scene was largely a joke. Black metal was improving in quality every year but as far as scandal and the press were concerned, the genre was coasting. That is until Antifa decided they were all racists.
First Antifa shut down a Graveland concert. Admittedly, Rob Darken does have some pretty racist views. Whether or not these are his genuine beliefs or if he uses Nazi imagery and rhetoric for mere shock value, I’m not certain, but it is documented that Nergal from Behemoth grew tired of Darken’s political drivel and parted ways with him and the far right wing group he was involved in to create his own, occult driven black metal. Whether or not you agree with Rob Darken’s political view, and I very much hope the majority of my readers disagree with him, you can’t deny that Antifa’s controversial actions got Graveland a great deal of free press. Headlines were plastered on every webzine about how Antifa shut down a black metal show that most people were otherwise unaware of. I can imagine Graveland was typed into a metal archives search engine more times after Antifa’s shut down their show than it had been in years.
Soon after, a Facebook page was created entitled “Antifa Against Black Metal”. A number of “white supremist” bands to avoid were listed on the page. The page has since been taken down and there are rumors that the page was fake; created by “fascists” who wanted to make Antifa look bad. Still, Antifa have attemped to shut down a number of shows, including a Marduk show, and black metal fans have spoken out by and large against Antifa and in support of the bands. Shutting down the Marduk show, in particular, incited rage in the metal community, since Marduk does not espouse white supremist beliefs and was only deemed as such for their controversial album art, which, according to Antifa members, glorified Nazism.
Still Marduk was everywhere, featured in every magazine, and discussed on numerous social media posts. No one in the metal community took Antifa’s side on this issue. In fact, the group alienated the few supporters they had left in the extreme metal scene with their false accusations. Marduk played a number of shows after the one in California was shut down, and thanks to Antifa, everyone knew Marduk was touring America. Now newly emboldened with a formidable visage, Marduk went on to play every other show on the tour unhindered.
What does it matter that Marduk has a more daunting image? Well, that’s kind of what black metal is about. Euronymous was known to make extreme statements to the press to create fear among people. The entire embodiment of black metal relies on striking fear into the hearts of the masses. It’s always been this way, since the days of Venom and their blatantly satanic imagery, and Antifa are doing more to solidify this image than anyone else at the moment.
To a good majority of metal fans, free speech is more important than protecting people’s feelings. This is not going to change any time soon. We are, after all, the people who gleefully sing along to lyrics like “Eyes bulging from their sockets with every swing of my mallet. I smash your fucking head in, until brains seep in through the cracks, blood does leak. Distorted beauty, catastrophe steaming slop, splattered all over me.” (Cannibal Corpse, Hammer Smashed Face). Antifa isn’t winning any fans among us; only enemies. Because of Antifa, however, black metal is in the press again, appearing more fearsome and controversial than ever. So we thank you Antifa, for all the free press.