Sunday, January 27, 2013

Terrorizer: take a stronger stand on racism

One of the things that puzzles me about metal is the willingness in magazines and blogs to give certain musicians' decidedly unsavory political opinions a pass. 

To be clear - I don't believe you have to take an explicitly political position when you're writing about music. Even for me, someone who lives and breathes the bigger picture, at least seven or eight times out of ten it's superfluous.

But an apolitical stance has consequences  when it means you can't - or won't - keep artists' self-serving cant or the indirect promotion of hate speech out of your pages. 

Let's take the interview in Terrorizer #231 with Metatron from pagan metal project The Wolves of Avalon, on the reissue of their Carrion Crows Over Camlann album. 

Terrorizer is the perfect example of the "I'm listening to the music not the politics" position: it'll run articles and reviews on anyone from, say, Cattle Decapitation on the left to Burzum on the right. 

If it has any ideology at all, it's a live and let live rugged individualism and respect for the artist. Perhaps too much respect, as I've previously observed.

And I'm going to be careful here to say that Metatron from the Wolves isn't racist either - he's on record in other interviews as making this very clear. If anything it seems like his personal politics are secondary to his spirit of provocation.  

But - and here's where the problem starts - Carrion Crows Over Camlann features a guest spot from Polish Black Metal artist Rob Darken, whose reputation in the scene might as well as be that Nazi racist Rob Darken

Although to be fair to Rob, he doesn't call himself a Nazi, he just possesses what 'most people would call extreme right-wing National Socialist convictions.'  


The point of this distinction eludes me, at any rate.   

So how does Faye Coulman for Terrorizer report this?
"Shocked fans and critics alike condemned this questionable collaboration."
Good so far..
"But as the mists of confusion and media hysteria began to lift in the months that followed, increasing attention around this undeniably blistering full-length soon warranted a reissue."

If you can't beat 'em, dismiss them as confused hysterics, eh?

This sets the tone nicely for Metatron to embark on a series of dubious arguments for the inclusion of Darken on the record.
 “Over the years, I think Rob has distanced himself from the daft things I think he's said in the past.”
If anyone can point me towards a sincere recantation, I'll gladly rewrite this piece. Google, however, says no.
But I believe that he once said some pretty naughty things about Jews because national socialist black metal is basically anti-Semitic.”
Note to Metatron: naughty is how you describe a kitten that's just 'adorably' clawed your sofa. Anti-semitism and national socialism, not so much.
It's very difficult to understand the Polish mindset on all things like that, because, when the war ended, the West seemed to integrate with all the immigrants that were coming to and fro. But Eastern Europe never had that, so if you go to Poland now, it's pretty much full of Poles and their mindset is difficult to grasp.”
So, supposedly racist Poles should get a pass on being racist, because history? Isn't that a) a trifle insulting to the Poles, b) illogical? c) irrelevant to deciding whether or not to work with Rob Darken?
It's pretty much the mindset we would've had 300 years ago, when that kind of national embodiment of spirit existed.”
Here, Metatron manages to make the Poles and their 'national embodiment of spirit' sound, hey, pretty cool compared to us Brits with our more cosmopolitan, rootless, urban ways. 

Reads to me like a dog-whistle message for cultural conservatives. And that's being generous.

Also, I missed the memo where we were told that we were taking Fichte seriously again. 
But, apart from Rob's inclusion, the Wolves of Avalon and this album are in no way affiliated with all that because it's [the album] in an era that literally predates anti-Semitism.”
No. You could have roped Rob in for a black metal re-imagining of Ice Age and the critics would have still been entitled to call you out for collaborating with him.

By the way, I would pay to see a BM re-imagining of Ice Age, if anyone's reading this. Heck, I'd settle for The Land Before Time. But I digress...

Needless to say, none of  these bogus reasons for deploying the Darken get challenged in the article, although it's hardly difficult to do so.

So, let's recap. 

Try to think of Rob Darken as a small racist matroshka doll. Work with me on this.

Image by Fanghong and used here under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

1. Rob contributes to an album by the Wolves of Avalon - not racist but decidely unwise in their choice of collaborators. 

[places Rob doll inside slightly larger provocative pagan metal WOA doll]

2. The Wolves then attempt to justify themselves in Terrorizer and don't really have a leg to stand on.

[places WOA doll inside the protective metal mutha doll of Terrrorizer]

3. Terrorizer scribe fails to challenge either the decision to include Darken in the first place or the non-arguments being used by the Wolves to defend themselves.

Result: Rob Darken and hate speech are brought more within the pale of what is permissable in metal culture. Everybody loses.

Why this matters?

I'm not sure I even need to say this, but out there in the real world, we have enough of a problem with racism without it being russian-dolled into the pages of Terrorizer. There were 12,711 racist attacks in the UK in 2010/2011 - that's around 35 every day of the year that actually get to court. Never mind the ones that don't get that far or that aren't even reported.

It's not about whether anyone who listens to Rob Darken then goes off to commit hate crimes. It's about whether we are willing to accept the creeping legitimation of racism in our culture which underpins these attacks. And Terrorizer is on sale in W H Smiths so, like it or not, it is hardly as marginal as it might think.

And I'm not saying that racism is a big part of metal life as a whole. It's great that critics and the public did call the Wolves out on their decision to work with Darken. 

So Terrorizer doesn't need to suddenly start consulting Dave Spart on all its editorial policy lines.

It needs to show some journalistic backbone and come off the fence when confronted by prejudice. It needs to realise that sometimes the message outweighs the medium. It needs to challenge the position of bands who might - intentionally or otherwise - be sanitising the far right. It needs not to accept what they say as gospel truth.


  1. This guy is racist to the bones, and if you pay closer attention to the development of his statements over the years you'll notice the increased conservative ideas. But hell, what would you expect? You have skinheads roaming free in France bashing antifa kids and gays. Hooliganism coming back in full force. Far right parties reaching parliament seats all over Europe.

    To better exemplify this whacked times we live in:
    A black minister (although from a center-right party) criticized gays for only caring about their rights and not being enough 'feminists' against misogyny in Italy. Few weeks later a right wing slut posted on Facebook that asking for the black minister to be gang-raped because she wasn't enough hard against black man rapists.

    And unfortunately NSBM keeps growing and starting to reach mainstream media and coverage. Hell even Armour win prizes and get on the nation TV in Finland even though their lead singer has nsbm side projects.

  2. Thanks Anon for the comment.

    Do you mean Rob Darken in your first sentence? No doubt on the racism there, indeed.

    If you mean Metatron, I'd be interested to see the links as when back when I was writing this, I did take a look at what interviews I could find online and couldn't see a smoking gun quote. Indeed, he tended to go out of his way to deny it (see link in main article)

    I'm not sure what the Italian story tells me except that the times are confusing indeed. Oh, and I don't think we shouldn't use the word 'slut', even for racists.

    But we can agree that creeping credibility of NSBM is a worrying and incredibly stupid phenomenon.