Black Metal Ethno-Nationalism

Alex Kurtagić, American Renaissance, June 2010

MTV cannot be counted among the champions of European civilization. In fact, its instincts are so far to the left, that an accurate expression of its red shift values would require complex mathematics. Fortunately, and as Eric Owens pointed out in his November 2000 article for American Renaissance, “The New Nationalist Music,” not all modern popular music comes from the left of Trotsky. Mr. Owens’ article provided a useful overview of the various nationalist music scenes that emerged since the 1970s, each offering an alternative subculture for young generations disillusioned by the mainstream.

Much has happened since 2000, however, and at least some of the music scenes surveyed by Mr. Owens have seen considerable growth and gone on to spawn new scenes. It is worth re-visiting Mr. Owens’ topic, and shedding some light on what has driven the growth of nationalistic music during the past decade.

Although Mr. Owens discussed several genres (Oi!, Apocalyptic Folk, Nationale révolutionaire, and Black Metal), I will focus only on Black Metal. This is my area of expertise and, most significantly, some Black Metal artists have achieved commercial success and even collected industry awards. Commercial success poses a number of interesting questions regarding Black Metal’s potential gradually to legitimize its more radically anti-system ideals, despite efforts to censor it from without or white-wash it from within.

Before we examine Black Metal, we should review the most significant historic events in and outside of the scene from a racial point of view. To my mind, they are the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and its rise in the West, the appearance of more explicitly political or nationalist offshoots of Black Metal, and the increasing visibility and acceptance within the mainstream of bands with links to Black Metal.

Origins and Offshoots

Black Metal originated as an offshoot of Heavy Metal, and is so called because of the occult and satanic imagery and lyrics that first defined it in the 1980s. Although it retained the basic elements of guitars, bass, drums, and vocals, from its beginnings, its sound was more extreme, its lyrics more esoteric, and its tone more serious. Black Metal artists during the 1980s were too few and obscure for us to speak of a scene proper, and its fans were part of a wider Heavy Metal/Thrash Metal subculture.

It was not until the early- to mid-1990s, with the rise of a radical circle of Black Metal musicians in Scandinavia, especially in Norway, that Black Metal developed into a full-blown scene. It would probably have remained obscure and would not have grown as rapidly as it did were it not for the media profile achieved by a small number of Black Metal artists, who, between 1992 and 1993, chose a scandalous route to notoriety: church arson. This was obviously calculated to shock and terrorize, and in the resulting wave of publicity the perpetrators explained their acts within the framework of a neo-pagan, anti-Christian ideology. This not only politicized their crimes, but showed them to be a rejection by proxy of the egalitarian, liberal, universalist values of modern society that the perpetrators associated with Christianity.

Only a few musicians were involved, and all but one received short sentences, so this did not drastically affect the scene: it only delayed a few albums by a year or two. But it did mark the outer boundaries of the political thinking of some Black Metal artists. In like manner, some showed an interest — sometimes fleeting, sometimes long-lasting — in what they considered the diametric opposite of the current age: National Socialism.

From Veles’ The Black Ravens Flew Again (2004):

“The Loyalty for Country”

The loyalty for country

The light of lightning is a sign for us

We must go to the road of battle

For the fathers world transfer the blood

It cleanses the enemies’ sin

The loyalty for country

This is the most important thing

You raise your head with honor

With dignity you must go ahead to death.

Black Metal artists of the 1990s inherited the link between their music and nationalist ideology — of which National Socialism is the most notorious byproduct — from the later albums of one of their major influences: the Swedish band Bathory. Founded by Tomas Forsberg in 1983, Bathory’s first three albums used obvious satanic imagery and lyrics. In the subsequent three albums, however, Forsberg, who died in 2004 at age 38, adopted a more sophisticated musical and lyrical approach, inspired by classical music and Romantic art, and drawing on Scandinavian mythology.

At the same time, Mr. Fosberg developed a neo-völkisch, Nietzschean ideology that rejected Christianity as a foreign, destructive cultural force, and called for a return to European pagan roots. (The German word völkisch blends notions of race and people with a romantic conception of folklore and the organic; it has no exact equivalent in English.) A Celtic cross, or sunwheel, appeared on his fifth album, Hammerheart, and the next, Twilight of the Gods, was partly inspired by Nietzschean critiques of modernity and rejection of Christianity. Mr. Forsberg once noted that Sweden had had 2,000 years of paganism and only 970 years of Christianity. He described himself as willing to fight for his “father’s gods,” noting that they represented values worth sacrificing for.

Even more controversially, Twilight of the Gods contained what some interpreted as oblique references to the Waffen SS. Later, the Black Metal of the 1990s made this ideology more radical and explicit, eventually giving rise, as we shall see, to a sub-genre known as National Socialist Black Metal (NSBM).

During the late 1980s and 1990s, Black Metal inspired two notable and often interlinked sub-genres: Viking Metal and Folk Metal. The Viking Metal sound of Scandinavia is characterized by bombastic synthesizers, epic chanting, and Wagnerian melody. It can be likened to late Romantic classical music played on heavily amplified electric instruments. The imagery of Viking Metal bands revolves around Norse mythology, Norse paganism, and the Viking age. Bands like Enslaved, Einherjer (Norway), Falkenbach (Germany), and Tyr (Faroe Islands) are typical examples.

Folk Metal had its origins in the British Thrash Metal band Skyclad, whose album, The Wayward Sons of Mother Earth (1990), is considered the earliest example. The idea of incorporating traditional folk instruments and themes into an extreme metal framework was then taken up by bands like Storm (Norway), Cruachan (Ireland), Amorphis (Finland), Moonspell (Portugal), and Orphaned Land (Israel), but it did not truly come of age until the 2000s, with Finnish bands like Finntroll and Moonsorrow. Folk Metal naturally led to identifiable regional scenes, centered in Scandinavia, Russia, Ireland, Germany, and the Baltic states. There is even a Folk Metal scene in the United States, with the band Agalloch as a well-known exponent.

Although there are points of contact between National Socialist Black Metal and Folk Metal, Folk Metal bands are generally apolitical. They are quite popular in Europe, where they often give concerts and enjoy regular coverage in metal magazines.

Still, the völkisch aspects of these bands are evident not only in the fact that they often choose to sing in their native tongues rather than the global Pop-music language of English, but in the imagery of their album covers and publicity photographs. Whereas pure Black Metal musicians favor black leather, spiked armbands, cartridge belts, long black hair, and corpse-like face paint, Viking and Folk Metal musicians prefer ancient and early medieval warrior costumes from Northern Europe. They often brandish swords and axes, and battle reenactments are popular within the subculture.

Some of the Viking and Folk Metal bands have drawn inspiration from J. R. R. Tolkien. The Encyclopaedia Metallum (the online encyclopaedia of metal music) lists over 100 bands for whom Tolkien has been a lyrical influence. Other bands have merely taken their names from The Lord of the Rings: Gorgoroth, Minas Tirith, Gandalf, Sauron, Cirith Gorgor, and Dagorlad are examples.

Tolkien’s appeal is not surprising. He was preoccupied with folklore, local history and landscapes, rural ideals, anti-urbanism, anti-modernism, anti-industrialism, and anti-liberalism. Nor is it likely to be a coincidence that in the climactic battle between good and evil in The Lord of the Rings, when Aragorn rallies his forces for combat, he addresses them as “Men of the West.”

Communism falls in the East

During the early 1990s, Scandinavian Black Metal reached and inspired young men in Eastern Europe, then only recently emerged from decades of communist rule. Communism is predicated on modernity, egalitarianism, universalism, centralization, and homogeneity. It therefore demands a strict orthodoxy, which in the East was enforced by totalitarian means. Historic national identities were suppressed in favor of a standardized Soviet identity, and the Soviet bloc, comprised of once-sovereign nations, was reduced to provinces run from Moscow.

The fall of communism in 1989 led to a reassertion of long-dormant national identities. In this context, a radically neo-völkisch music scene almost inevitably attracted a young generation eager to reclaim its ancient roots in search of deeper meaning. Young Black Metallers in Eastern Europe were also drawn to National Socialism, perhaps because it was the diametric opposite of the hated former oppressor.

National Socialist Black Metal (NSBM) is said to have originated in Norway during the early 1990s, with Varg Vikernes and his solo project, Burzum. NSBM took root most deeply in Eastern Europe from the mid 1990s, especially in Poland, Russia, Belarus, the Ukraine, and East Germany, though it had some presence in France and Greece. Bands like Graveland, Veles, Infernum, Kataxu, Ohtar, Thor’s Hammer, Capricornus, Sunwheel, and Gontyna Kry (all from Poland), Nokturnal Mortum (Ukraine), Temnozor (Russia), and Absurd (Germany) are well-known NSBM bands. If they thrived, it is because the NSBM scene, like the Black Metal scene, developed its own labels and distribution, which operated out of sight of outsiders.

It is important to note that NSBM bands differ significantly in approach from skinhead bands. NSBM is contemptuous of mass politics, and focuses on the spiritual and cultural roots of European man and racial nationalist identity. Anti-Semitism is present, but mostly implicit and rarely expressed in the albums except in a generalized, neo-pagan opposition to Judeo-Christianity and Islam; the three monotheistic religions are lumped together as “three weeds from the same root.”

NSBM is the most controversial of the offshoots of Black Metal, and it represents a fundamentalist minority. It takes on greater significance as part of the wider neo-völkisch pagan Black Metal scene. The larger movement is comprised of bands that may well reject National Socialism, but are nevertheless sympathetic to some of its ideas and sentiments: the ideology of blood and soil; nature mysticism; the rejection of Christianity as an alien occupation force; an appreciation of European pagan traditions and mythology; racial nationalism; the rejection of liberalism; the exaltation of elitist and heroic values; and the glorification of war seen as a spiritual experience. There is no clear divide between explicitly racial and implicitly racial bands, and together they give the entire Black Metal scene a flavor it would not otherwise have. In light of these influences, since 2000, Eastern Europe has become a prodigious factory of high-quality Pagan Black Metal, and some of the bands have become successful enough to attract the interest of some of the larger specialist Western record labels.

Commercial success has highlighted an interesting contradiction. Nationalist Black Metal bands in Eastern Europe, not unlike people from the Third World, see the West as rich, and want a piece of the Western El Dorado. They also want to be treated as equal partners, and fear being seen as naïve, primitive, and provincial. Yet, at the same time, these bands see the West as degenerate, and dread the prospect of Westernization or, worse still, Americanization. To them America is synonymous with corrupt capitalism, cultural death, brainless consumerism, and mass immigration.

So far, Eastern Europe has not suffered large-scale immigration from the Third World, and its populations are almost entirely white. The transfer has already begun, however, and, even in 2003, black Africans could be seen in the streets of Kharkov in the Ukraine. I suspect that as Eastern European nations are absorbed into the European Union and their laws are harmonized with it, and as the viruses of political correctness and multiculturalism take hold, we will see an even greater radicalization of the ethno-nationalist sentiments that appeared after the fall of communism. Nationalist Black Metal is important in this process because, as we saw in the 1960s in the West, music is an important element in political and cultural dissidence.

The significance of Black Metal is not lost on the Eastern European Left, which now copies its Western equivalents and has mobilized “anti-Fascist” thugs against racial nationalist Black Metal musicians. The Ukrainian pagan Black Metal band Kroda, for example, expresses its romantic, Ukrainian nationalism in terms that leave little room for multiculturalism:

We are proud of our land, our folk, our heroic past, and we feel deep pain at all that is going on today: how our folk is raped, oppressed, and suffers genocide; how our heritage is perverted. But we also understand that the main cause of this is our people’s trustfulness and honesty. They have been turned into the flock we observe today … [W]e’ll fight to ‘reawaken’ our folk, lest we even be forced to scream so loud that with yelling we’ll vomit out our own life and soul! Let us even be forced to burn until we’re scorched to ashes, to enlighten a forthcoming pathway for our race through the centuries! We do not make our personal interest higher than the common good, for today we’re turned into scum, we’re murdered; our folk does not even the see the genocide practiced against it!

In June 2009, “antifa” terrorists attacked Kroda. They demolished a car, destroyed instruments, and seriously injured members of the band, forcing it to cancel its tour through Poland, Germany, and Austria.

Artists, record labels, and mail order houses in Eastern Europe have sporadically faced persecution from the government either for expressing ethnonationalist views or merely for being part of a subculture that recognizes nationalism. Roman Saenko of the Ukrainian Black Metal bands Drudkh and Hate Forest faced periods of intensive police investigation, while a number of people associated with pagan bands and labels in Eastern Europe have been periodically harassed and even imprisoned.

The emergence of radical, nationalist music in recent decades is not simply an oddity that occurred on the fringes of the West and took root in the East. A Black Metal scene exists in almost every European-derived country, including the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Some of these bands are just as radical as those that have emerged in the post-Communist East.

Perhaps this is because, as Tomislav Sunić suggests in his book Homo Americanus, it made little difference that communism fell in the East because by then it had arisen in the West, though in a more insidious and sophisticated form. Whereas Eastern European communism was vulgar and obvious and took the form of truncheon-wielding commissars and gulags, in the West it has taken the form of political correctness, ethnic sensitivity training, multiracialism, feminism, non-white racial preferences, homosexual rights, Freudo-Marxian scholasticism, anti-hate laws, and self-censorship. Professors at Western universities display Communist flags and posters of Marx and Lenin in their offices. The West even has its own version of the commissars, in the form of screaming, bat-swinging, masked, “anti-racist” terrorists. The rise of explicitly nationalist Black Metal in the West has been driven by a cultural hegemony based on the same principles that applied in the East.

Counter-Cultural Consciousness

Black Metal has achieved greater visibility and industry recognition than would have been imagined possible some years ago, given how antithetical it is to the values of modern Western societies. To the great irritation of certain anti-white groups on the Left, Black Metal and Black Metal-derived albums of a nationalist character — including those by Burzum — are regularly stocked by mainstream music chains and megastores, and are available through standard Internet outlets. Moreover, Norwegian Black Metal bands such as Dimmu Borgir, Enslaved, and The Kovenant have not only been commercially successful, but received the Spellemannprisen, also known as the “Norwegian Grammy awards.” Albums by bands like Nightwish, whose founding members have roots in the Black Metal scene, have gone multi-platinum in Finland. Slowly but surely, artists of an alternative sensibility have been making inroads into the mainstream.

From Capricornus’ Alone Against All (2004):

“Sunwheel on the Helmet of Steel”

Sunwheel on the Helmet of Steel

Once shone the European sky

The smashing force of hellborn beast

The will that no one could resist

In Fire

The spirit was born

In Fire

All weakness has gone

In Fire

The battle took place

In Fire

We forged our Race

Legions of vengeance are growing fast

Proudly return from glorious past

Needless to say, the award-winning bands are, as far as I know, apolitical, and in some cases may have liberal attitudes. What is important, however, is that they are part of a wider network of extreme metal bands, labels, and enthusiasts. They are only the visible part of the iceberg, with at least a significant part of the 90 percent that the mainstream does not see comprised of people who reject political correctness and multiculturalism, who reject the entire academic, media, and political establishment.

These people yearn for something better: a new nationalist order that prizes strength, and virility, rootedness, heroism, and glory; that values quality over quantity, instinct over rationality, landscape over cityscape, hierarchy over equality, originality over standardization, organic community over atomized individualism, traditional (complementary) sex roles over the modern war of the sexes; that does not feel the need to justify itself to others, and that proudly asserts its Whiteness and Europeanness.

This is not to say that Black Metallers and their fans would be able to articulate their worldview in such explicit terms, or even that they would be able to recognize that there even is a worldview encoded in their music. Likewise, it would be wrong to assume that Black Metallers generally live up to their own ideals. Like all marginal subcultures, Black Metal attracts some number of unbalanced types who drink excessively and seem bent on self-destruction. There are also nihilistic and highly misanthropic strands within Black Metal that need not concern us here.

Furthermore, outside the relatively small and highly politicized NSBM scene, it would be a mistake to assume that the wider Black Metal scene is anything more than an implicitly white community. Dissent from the liberal-egalitarian dispensation is mainly aesthetic and spiritual, not directly political: fans dress a certain way, they decorate their homes in certain ways, and they read certain types of books (usually horror, science fiction, occult, fantasy, and history).

One colorful Black Metal fan I know lives in Bedfordshire, England. His cottage is painted all black inside, he uses a coffin as a coffee table, and has stuffed tarantulas and mediaeval weapons on the walls; some of his decor, which includes a Hitler Youth poster, accords with his racial nationalist sympathies. Most Black Metal fans, however, are middle class and hold ordinary jobs, though they may decorate their houses with a few Gothic ornaments. Music, not race or politics, is what they have in common.

Yet, because of the inegalitarian and völkisch ideology embedded in the music, it is not surprising that I commonly meet Black Metal enthusiasts in racial nationalist circles. Some belong to nationalist parties; others are affiliated with para-political pagan entities, forums, tribes, or organizations.

What we see is a very loose network of cultural and political dissidents, some racially aware, others not. This network continues to grow. Even if we might see only 50 to 200 people at a typical concert, the Encyclopaedia Metallum already lists 1,100 Viking/Folk and over 17,000 Black Metal bands.

I do not doubt that the lunatics on the Left hope that with enough miseducation, propaganda, and sufficiently draconian laws, they can force European heretics into submission, even if they can never convert them. I believe they will never succeed, for we are dealing with people who never accepted the liberal, universalist, egalitarian project. What is more, they are numerous and spread across a complicated network of interlocking scenes and subcultures, all decentralized, not all of them musical, and with constantly shifting boundaries. This does not offer the Left an easy target.

Of course, Black Metal has not been completely immune to orthodox impulses. Some four or five years ago the British extreme music magazine, Terrorizer, which is available on newsstands, published an interview with Spear of Longinus, an Australian Black/Thrash Metal band that had released an album called The Yoga of National Socialism. Although the interview was strictly about music, the magazine apologized in the face of complaints, calling the interview a “misstep.”

In 2007, the German magazine, Rock Hard, which generally celebrates dissent and non-conformism, ran an article titled “Der rechte Rand im Black Metal,” (“Black Metal’s Far-Right Border”) complaining about labels and mail order houses that sold what they considered politically incorrect Black Metal. I have a music label of my own, and during the mid-2000s a number of metal magazines and distributors boycotted some of the bands on my roster, complaining about their politics.

Many musicians simply want to avoid trouble. Consider the case of Kroda. Despite its members obviously political views, after the Warsaw attack they issued a statement claiming that they are simply a Pagan Metal band that is “OUT of modern politics.”

As it does anywhere, the prospect of commercial success can cause the jettisoning of principles. In the Black Metal scene, the few, larger, commercial enterprises tend towards political correctness, while the numerous, smaller, underground ones tend towards political incorrectness. When he signed with one of the larger, commercially oriented specialist record labels, Roman Saenko, who had enjoyed a long underground career as a racial nationalist artist, quickly papered over his racial ideology and close links with NSBM by making incredible anti-racist statements and denials. His new label realized that his band Drudkh had proven to be a big seller and wanted to protect its investment. Following Drudkh’s re-incarnation as a politically correct band, it was white-washed by the larger magazines and distributors that once boycotted it.

On the other hand, there are artists who will not compromise. Hendrik Möbus, who grew up in Eastern Germany, continues to produce nationalist Black Metal and organize concerts despite police raids, confiscations, and even prison time for such things as selling nationalist material. “I want to show that it is possible to make concerts with ‘controversial’ (yet perfectly legal) Black Metal bands in Germany,” he has written, “if you have the stamina and the spine to pull it off, regardless of the combined pressure from Antifa, media, and authorities.” For him, the slogan, “Black Metal is more than just music,” is a living reality.

Hendrik Möbus’ comparatively high media profile in Germany has certainly contributed to his persecution. In countries whose laws are not so restrictive, heretics need only show some backbone. When the British extreme music magazine Zero Tolerance, which is also available from newsagents, ran its own interview with Spear of Longinus in 2007, it ignored complaints and found its sales and advertising unaffected.

The underground Black Metal scene is as much a self-contained universe as modern academia, and this insulates Black Metallers from the practical consequences of heterodoxy as much as the academic universe insulates Leftist crazies from common sense. Underground Black Metal operates with its own internal economy, code of conduct, media, distribution, and trade vernacular. What is more, Black Metallers revel in their own marginality, so even those who are not explicitly ideological resist yielding to outside pressure. This, and the willful pursuit of obscurity and anonymity of some of its actors make it impossible to ban it or shut it down on a wholesale basis, at least not without resorting to openly totalitarian methods that would only further discredit the system.

In short, while it is true that mainstream popular culture is a desert for European-descended peoples today, there are growing oases where many of us can find genuine dissent. They are providing cultural and creative spaces within which we can elaborate a new paradigm for the future, rather than simply lament the present or mourn the past. Just as importantly, they provide economic and professional opportunities for those who wish to make a living in a manner consistent with their temperament, conscience, and ethnic interests.

I suspect we live in times when we can expect two parallel universes — ours and our opponents’ — to become progressively more extreme and polarized, as each side tries to outlast the other. Our opponents have been on the ascendant for a long time, but are showing increasing signs of fatigue and desperation, as it becomes apparent that they have failed, are bereft of ideas, and can offer nothing but a managed descent into tyranny and universal poverty. We, on the other hand, have been on the decline for a long time, and many among us are bound to disappear; but those who remain will be the strongest, the fittest, the most fanatical, the most vigorous, the ones who never lost themselves in the dark age of chaos.

For us it is a race against time, because present trends place a finite horizon beyond which any effort will be futile. We must make sure we are ready when the present system comes crashing down, as it must. The battle will not be won with Black Metal, of course, but music is important — has always been important — in any counter-cultural movement, and because it is a quintessentially European art form, it provides a radical, pure, and ferocious source of energy and conquering fury. Without it we will never win the culture war.

Postscript by Jared Taylor

Needless to say, AR does not endorse Satanism, attacks on religion, or National Socialism. Nevertheless, its editors have come to the conclusion that the music trends Mr. Kurtagić describes are signs of what may be a significant reaction against the egalitarian, homogenizing ideology that is destroying the West. Outsiders to the “scenes” Mr. Kurtagic introduces to us have few independent means of judging them, and Mr. Kurtagic makes clear that many are hard to categorize. However, celebrations of European roots strike an important blow for the West.

But what does one make of the music of these bands? It is likely to sound alien to anyone who likes classical music, country and western, jazz, or even most of the softer, cheerier kinds of pop or rock music. Much of it tends to have a crashing, driven quality. Some pieces are quietly lyrical — or at least start out that way before reaching more typical levels of frenzy. It cannot be denied, however, the work of the better known Black Metal bands is musically inventive, seriously rehearsed, and tightly performed. These are not hobbyist garage bands. I find this music most interesting with the volume turned low — not how the musicians expect to be heard. has countless concert clips and music videos from hundreds of Black Metal bands. Just type in some of the names mentioned in this article, and you will find yourself in a strange and sometimes disturbing world. The lyrics — and comments from viewers — are usually in foreign languages, which makes these “scenes” even more obscure. What you see may not be the future of Western Civilization you may have in mind, but it is certainly not a celebration of “diversity.”

From Graveland’s Creed of Iron (2000):

“Ancient Blood”

The days when ancient blood

Will awake in the hearts of white men and women

Our banners will rise to the sky

And will flap with joy on wind

Ancient wisdom and strength will return

Divided nations will become unity

And cry of thousands of throats

Will disperse darkness

New generations will be bred

When ancient blood will return us our will

We will not be afraid of darkness any more

We will join proud heroes

Who with might and main gave their lives away

And belong to the past fighting

For honor and pride of our race

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