Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Black metal facepalm - why won't Terrorizer tell us Varg Vikernes is racist?

If you need a pocket guide to Varg Vikernes and his one-man project Burzum, you might as well start with the Wikipedia entry. But let's just say that when pop culture thinks about black metal - that murder, those church burnings - then Varg is who they're thinking of. 

In its recent Norway special issue, Terrorizer seems quite happy writing about his criminal convictions - they seem less keen on covering his political ones. And Varg is quite open - vocal even - about his racism during and after his imprisonment. I've read countless articles online that do cover and call him out on this.

So why so coy, Terrorizer, with statements like:

"The man is controversial, to say the least, and his actions and motivations constantly discussed."

"He was maintaining a high media profile and was pushing ever more controversial opinions in interviews."

Why not just come out with it and say it?

I've written previously about the sanitizing effect of covering racist metal bands within the mainstream media (and Terrorizer is mainstream media) without providing challenge and context. This is another example of the problem.

I don't expect the mag to come off the fence - although I'd really like it to - it's resolutely apolitical in its approach. But as a minimum I would expect it to be clear about when an musician does have deeply objectionable views which need to be taken into account when engaging with them. 

Whatever their supposed importance to the genre.

To be clear by comparison, I don't think every piece on Varg's peers in Darkthrone needs to bring up the 'Norwegian Aryan Black Metal' sleeve notes incident. It's a facile, adolescent piece of bourgeois-baiting in an otherwise apolitical career, but it's on a par with Siouxsie Sioux and the Bromley Contingent swanning round in swastika armbands in the late 70's. 

Stupid, yes, but not to the extent of permeating their entire work.

But Varg's racist ideology is so inherent to his music that you can't write an article about 'why he matters' and fudge the issue by not mentioning it at all , and then expect to be taken seriously.

And let's round this off by talking safe space. Metal culture is supposed to be a space where everyone can congregate, however outcast they might feel, right?

But by sweeping Varg's racism under the carpet - Terrorizer comes close to tacitly condoning it, suggesting that his prejudice is more important than making extreme metal a tolerant and welcoming space for all.

The frustrating thing is that the Norway special has now me checking out other bands like Enslaved, In The Woods..., Solefald, Virus and even Immortal. There's some not bad journalism collected here. Terrorizer often knows what it's doing. 

But at least in this respect, it really doesn't. 

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