Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Black Metal: European Roots & Musical Extremities

Item: Black Metal: European Roots & Musical Extremities
Which is what, Nazgul?  A paperback book, edited by Troy Southgate, and published on his own Black Front Press in 2012.
And I care because?  It features none other than Hugin, who has contributed a chapter.

Hi, I'm Troy McClure!  You might remember me from such self-help videos as "Smoke Yourself Thin", and "Get Confident, Stupid."

Hi, I'm Troy Southgate!  You might remember me from such books as "Runic Sex Postures of the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc", and "Jonathan Bowden: The Speeches - A Collection of Talks Given at the London New Right" 1

It's rather hard to tell which of those two sentences sounds the more improbable.  To be fair though, only the first sentence was actually intended by its author to be humorous....

Troy Southgate, the author of this work, is British, a musician (H.E.R.R. and Seelenlicht being two of his many bands/projects), and a 'leading National-Anarchist activist and theoretician'. Southgate is also reported as active in diverse British national organizations and is associated with the New Right and 'third positionism' (which itself sounds like a Runic Sex Posture but is in fact, I gather, a nationalist political strand that emphasises its opposition to both communism and capitalism).  

But this is neither a potted history of Mr Southgate, nor a discussion of his political philosophies.  He's a prolific author - the two volumes above being a mere tip of the iceberg - and the reason we touch upon his is that the book featured in today's post has a chapter within it written by our very own Alexander 'Hugin' Wieser.
Indeed, Hugin features amongst an extensive list of contributors, which includes Tony 'The Demolition Man' Dolan (Venom/Atomkraft/M-Pire of Evil); Jeff 'Mantas' Dunn (Venom/Mantas/M-Pire of Evil); Hendrik Möbus (Absurd); Alex Kurtagic (Supernal Records); Jarl von Hagall (Der Stürmer); William Vithólf (Fanisk); Gareth Giles (Hrafnblóð); Matt Kay (Wodfreca Records) and more besides.

Now it's my personal view, of course - and you're entirely at liberty to take an entirely different view - but I get nervous when I see contributions from people like Hendrik Möbus. His band Absurd, for those of you who don't know, achieved infamy because its original members (since 1999 no longer in the band) murdered 15-year-old Sandro Beyer in 1993. The canonical motive is that Beyer was privy to an illicit relationship of Schauseil's with a married woman, and had been spreading rumours about this and other activities of the band. On 29 April in Sondershausen, the then 17-year old band members Möbus, Schauseil, and Kirchner enticed Beyer to a meeting, and strangled him there with an electrical cord. 2

It's a fair bet that we're going to get some pretty extreme and partisan views expressed in this book, which will come as no surprise given that this is a genre that begets such opinions.  Let us, by way of this excellent segue, sample the promotional blurb for the book:

"From the snow-covered environs of Norway and secluded graveyards of England to the dark forests of Germany and remote woodlands of Poland and Ukraine, an unstoppable Black Metal beast has dominated the extreme end of the musical scale for more than two decades.

Black Metal is an aesthetic, an emotion, an attitude and, for many, a way of life. Exposing the inner workings of your delicate eardrums to unbridled screams of primeval fury, an unending torrent of galloping rhythms and indomitable wall of buzzing guitars is like being thrown head-first into the whirling eye of a chthonic vortex. Black Metal can be disturbing, invigorating, provoking and empowering. One persistent and enduring image that is often associated with Black Metal is that of semi-comedic corpse-paint, futile church-burnings and Satanic ritual; but the genre itself can often take on a decidedly political and cultural form and many of its exponents have controversial views and opinions that are frequently overlooked by the commentators of the underground music industry.

We aim to examine some of those tendencies in Black Metal: European Roots & Musical Extremities. Ever since Varg Vikernes was courting media headlines for all the wrong reasons, Black Metal – like a fine wine, perhaps – has matured a great deal. The steady process of counter-cultural ripening has led to the formation of various sub-genres, among them Viking Metal, Progressive Black Metal, Blackened Death Metal, Symphonic Black Metal and National Socialist Black Metal.

So whether you like your Black Metal traditional and ground-breaking like Venom, Bathory and Hellhammer; raw and brutal like Mayhem, Emperor and Immortal; slick and polished like Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir and Old Man's Child; or politically controversial like Graveland, Drudkh and Absurd; this book is for you."

Much more could be said about this book and its content, but this is neither the time nor the place for such a review.  If you want a lengthy review, then you could do worse than read the Amazon review that now seems to be the ubiquitous one for this book, being cited here, there and everywhere.  You could also, if you wish, read the short interview that was conducted by The Examiner with the author of this work.  However, the task at hand for Nazgul is solely to consider Hugin's offering, and to that end I have a treat for you: an independent critique, commissioned for you with no expense spared:

"Alex has a short, five page chapter in Black Metal: European Roots and Musical Extremities, that highlights the importance of Venom on his musical development. Alex traces this influence back to first being exposed to Venom via their music video for Bloodlust, and immediately after buying their alum Welcome to Hell. The music had a profound influence on Alex, who adapted a metal lifestyle at a young age and sought out similar acts, eventually discovering Bathory's Blood Fire Death album which also had a tremendous influence on him. Alex posits that the black metal scene would not have come about without the efforts from either bands, and highlights he too got into making music because of them, leading to the formation of Hrossharsgrani and Uruk-Hai.

It’s a sincere and earnest chapter, and Alex's enthusiasm for Venom comes out in spades. However the chapter needs serious working in the editing department. Almost every sentence ends in multiple exclamation points. Proper nouns (specifically band names) alternate between being all caps and only the first word capitalized (this style isn't consistent through the entire book actually). There’s some sentences that need revising due to English not being Alex’s first language, such as the first sentence of the second paragraph 'I can remember very well' should be either 'I can remember it very well' or 'I remember it well'.  I suspect the essay was accepted into the book as is without any editorial input from Troy Southgate to Alex. It's important to capture the voice of the author as best as possible, but it better editing on the chapter would have made it a stronger piece."

Copies of the book seem scarce now: in a quick trawl yesterday Nazgul found one on for a princely $50 (it was $20 new) but that was the sole copy being advertised at the time that this post was written.

Is it a good read generally?  Well, as our intrepid independent reviewer notes, the overall editing of the work does leave a bit to be desired and the content jumps around fairly sporadically as the chapters progress.  It's interesting rather than essential I would venture to say.

1 According to Wikipedia, Johnathan Bowden was a maverick English nationalist, orator, political philosopher and writer, and artist, who was involved with a variety of right-wing political parties and movements during his lifetime. In 2004, Bowden began working with Troy Southgate and became the chairman of the New Right. In an October 2010 interview alongside Southgate, Bowden stated that their work within various intellectual groups on the right of England's political counter-culture had succeeded to a degree in "the mixing together of ultra-Conservative and neo-fascist ideas.  Interestingly, also in 2010, Bowden was temporarily sectioned to a mental health hospital.  From these facts you may draw your own conclusions...

2 Möbus, to say the least, hardly distinguished himself after this episode.  In prison he was able to carry on with the band under the temporary name "In Ketten" (German for "In Chains"). After the murder, this became a cult band with Neo-Nazi groups. No releases were made as 'In Ketten' but some of the tracks recorded were used on the 'Facta Loquuntur' album. The tape Thuringian Pagan Madness shows on its cover the grave of the murdered Sandro Beyer, and inside says: "The cover shows the grave of Sandro B. murdered by horde ABSURD on 29.04.93". The band members were released on parole in 1998, because they had been under eighteen when they had committed their crime. Shortly after release, Möbus violated the terms of his parole when he performed the Hitler salute at a concert, which is illegal in Germany. His parole was consequently revoked.  He managed to flee to the United States, but during his stay got in a conflict about money with some of his contacts, one of them being the then Neo-Nazi pagan occultist Nathan Pett, who was beaten with a hammer.   Möbus was arrested by U.S. Marshals,  In 2001, after his request for asylum was denied, he was sent back to prison for the remaining three years for murder.  For mocking his victim and for the Hitler salute he was sentenced to a further twenty-six months. On 15 May 2003 he was again sentenced to four years in prison.  Möbus is currently a free man, and runs his own music label.

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