Metal, hate, and hypocrisy

So back in April of last year, Metal Injection posted an article about Inquisition (which was inspired by this post by Jonsan van Johnson) implying that the band members are Nazis, based upon a story told by Daniel Gallant, a driver during one of their early tours. You can click on either link to view it, but I’ll post it here for the sake of simplicity:

“I was a white supremacist for many years. I have been out for twelve years. I drove the bus for an Inquisition tour. When I suspected they were white power, because I was driving for my friends band Gyibaaw, a First Nations band, I decided to prove it.

I pulled off my t shirt and there it was…my giant swastika for them all to see…they clapped and cheered…Inquisition (both Tom and Jason) were thrilled.

They boasted about their admiration for Hitler, how they loved the white power movement, and had many friends from South America and Everett, Washington…turns out we had mutual acquaintances. Tom used to hang out with the World Church of the Creator and still boasts his admiration for the church. Jason boldly stated he loves imagining living in the Nazi era and wished that would happen in America. They ranted until I shut them down.

The band Gyibaaw were grossly offended to the point of backing away from the black metal scene because of it.”

Now, I understand that this is one story from one man with no verification, and while I have my own opinions on the incident, I’m not here to talk about Inquisition specifically (although for those interested, Decibel conducted follow-up  interviews with Dagon of Inquisition and Daniel Gallant), but rather the all-too-common response given by some of those in the metal community.

Metal has always been something that’s existed on the fringes of public acceptance; from Black Sabbath to Judas Priest to Slayer, there’s always been a negative stigma attached to the genre in the mainstream. And to be fair, it’s certainly a reputation that metal bands and their fans have openly courted at times. Over the decades, artists have continued to push moral boundaries, adhering to the old adage of “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Any external criticism is met with scorn; the idea being that metal was not created for the masses and does not seek nor require their approval. The more extreme and outlandish, the better.

But there is a line (albeit a blurry one) between singing about “dark” topics such as suicide and satanism, and openly espousing bigoted beliefs. Racism in metal is nothing new, and while there are bands that will openly share such outdated views, most (I hope) don’t subscribe to those ideals. But every once in a while someone will “accidentally” make a controversial statement that gets picked up by the blogosphere, leading to responses that mostly fit into one of two categories. See if you can guess which group I’m taking issue with:

  1. Really? That’s disgusting, to hell with this band
  2. Metal’s supposed to be about hatred, if you don’t like it don’t listen!!!

…Yea. This response, essentially saying “too bad if this offends you, I’m not offended so you’re wrong and I’m right,” is an internet epidemic and can be found anywhere, regardless of topic. And yes, you are completely entitled to your (ignorant) opinion, but it doesn’t make you any less of a mouth-breathing caveman. Especially in metal, where you’ll find some of the most thin-skinned people you’ll ever have the misfortune of coming across. A band changes its sound to something slightly more accessible? False metal! A metalhead admits to liking popular, non-metal music? Poser! But if someone points out that Malevolent Creation (over 248,000 fans on Facebook!) guitarist Phil Fasciana drops a stupid amount of n-bombs in an old interview, including this gem:

“You know I hate niggers. You know that’s the way the band is.  But you know, we got a lot of nigger fans… Even when we do make some racist slurs, we keep them pretty hidden…  I don’t dislike black people.  I’ve got a lot of black friends, but they’re not niggers.  There’s niggers, and then there’s black people.”

(The interview is conveniently explained by whoever edited the band’s Wikipedia page: “However, the context of the interview does leave little doubt that many of the comments in it weren’t meant to be taken seriously.” Oh, ok. In that case, carry on), or that the band end’s the track “They Breed” off of 1995’s Eternal with:

Always wanting, always taking
What was never yours
Someday you will feel the hate
You fucking niggers

then you’ll be told to mellow out, it was just a joke, metal’s all about pushing boundaries, quit being such a pussy, etc. Varg Vikernes, a convicted murderer and blatant white nationalist is revered within the black metal scene, despite using hate speech too blunt for even Donald Trump. Disma will complain about the fact that “Non metal PC bands got a “Death Metal” band kicked off a “Death Metal” fest, while ignoring that this happened because of an interview with their vocalist about his old band Sturmfuhrer (he claims that he no longer has those views, but was still autographing copies of the album as recently as a few years ago). “Metalheads will complain about the fact that society views them as outsiders, but will then turn around and exclude anyone that doesn’t disagree with them. (I shouldn’t have to clarify this, but this is the internet, with no shortage of those that struggle with reading comprehension: I’m not referring to all metalheads. Hell I’m not even referring to a majority; most of the people I’ve met at shows have been awesome, and I’ve never had a negative interaction with a band member). These people are more upset at Celtic Frost for putting out Cold Lake than they are at some brainless moron spouting off views that have no place in the current century.

But hey, maybe it’s easy for you to “chill out” and ignore the hate because it doesn’t affect you. To them, racism is simply traffic in the oncoming lane; something viewed in passing, paired with a brief thought of “sucks for them, glad I’m not dealing with that.” But some of us don’t have the good fortune to be able to just ignore it. You’ve never walked by guys at a local show with Totenkopf and SS badges on their vests. You’ve never seen the guy handing out flyers imploring people to save the white race. You’ve never seen the line of skinheads proudly Sieg Heiling at a Slayer show during “War Ensemble” and thought to yourself “Hmm, maybe I should move?” You’ve never heard the guy standing about a foot behind you dropping n-bombs as he tells his friends jokes, while they all laugh along with him. You’ve never known the feeling of always being on guard at a show, because this might be the one where someone does something more than just giving you a dirty look. Unfortunately, that’s a luxury that those of us born with the “wrong” skin color simply don’t have. It’s unfortunate that so many can’t wrap their heads around the simple concept of “just because something doesn’t offend you doesn’t mean it’s offensive.”

I say all of this as someone that loves metal. I’ve spent over half of my life as a fan of the genre, but it’s only recently that I’ve started to take a real hard look at things. Early on I wanted to be a part of this movement so much and feel included, but that feeling has dissipated over the years, due to my own evolving tastes in music, as well as seeing more of the ugliness that’s woven within the fanbase. For all the talk of unity and brotherhood, there’s this overwhelming feeling of exclusivity. Newcomers aren’t always welcomed; at best they’re shunned for whatever entry-level taste in music they have (as if anyone just jumps into the deep end). I wish the genre was more welcoming, because I’m certain that many others have come across the things I’ve written about and just abandoned it completely, which is a shame. If you see the hate within and the casual indifference in response to it, why would you want to be a part of this community?

I’ve struggled in the past with the question of art vs. artist, and I still don’t have a great answer. But there has to be a line somewhere, and everyone that feels otherwise is causing more harm than good to an art form that they claim to love. When it comes to hate, silence is approval and indifference is acceptance. Don’t tolerate it, don’t try to justify it, don’t minimize the impact. Speak the fuck up and hold these people accountable.

And to bring it back to the band that inspired this post, why does it matter if Inquisition is racist or not? What’s the big deal if band x is NS but keeps it out of their music? I don’t want to support that. Making good music doesn’t make up for being a horrible person, and it’s foolish to think otherwise. If you’re gonna go ahead and maintain these views, please, just own it. Don’t try to say that your words were misinterpreted, or that you were just joking (because we all know that you’re doing it for PR, not out of any genuine remorse), just be the asshole that you are. Make it that much easier for me to ignore you.

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