For the last few weeks I’ve been breaking up with social media, and with my phone. It’s not for any specific reason, either, in case you were wondering (you weren’t), but I’ve been making an effort to spend less time on my screen. The internet is a wonderful place. We can all gather to laugh, cry, bully each other and have repeated orgasms all while catching up on the latest meaningless gossip and surreptitiously checking out our exes from high school to ensure that when we compare our lives to theirs we can feel validated. You know, #justinternetthings. Part of the great good and the great evil that comes with doing any form of blogging or journalism is that when you do you end up existing within a scene, within a subculture or group. Sometimes those groups are confusing. When I started Drunk in a Graveyard, I never once thought I’d be dissecting horror films or heavy metal to the way that other voices within these scenes do. I never wanted to.
I consoled myself and assured myself that no, I wouldn’t start doing these things. I wouldn’t get political. I would remain simply a fan. And now, five years down the line, I realize how truly naive of a statement that was and one so full of privilege.
Largely and overall, I have tried to maintain this stance. I try to stay out of the controversies, and endeavour to keep the drama on this site to a minimum, but the reality of blogging is that it’s not always easy to ignore the latest controversy, or step backwards from the latest drama and like Taylor Swift, respectfully be excluded from this narrative. The late great George Carlin did once say that “art is politics”, and as such, here we are.
And while, like my girl T. Swift, I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative, unfortunately, I have a big mouth and lots of feelings and I don’t necessarily understand them, so perhaps someone can help.
As has been written about now ad nauseum in countless articles, posts, poorly thought out diatribes, Facebook feeds and comments sections.. Norwegian black metal band Taake has cancelled their North American tour amidst a swirling mass of controversy involving several chapters of the Antifa. The online debate rages. Are they Nazis? Aren’t they? Should we cancel shows? Shouldn’t we? What’s the line? Is there a line? Is free speech ever truly free? Who limits free speech? Who should limit free speech? False equivalency arguments rage. Is it better to hate X than Y? Should black metal be made safe? Can it be made safe? Are we ever able make metal safe? Should we even want to? What’s the line between fiction and reality? How do you judge intent? What is metal about?
Maybe this is my mid life crisis. What the fuck am I even doing here? I didn’t think I’d be existing in a time and a space where people would be debating about fucking Nazis. I didn’t think I’d have to ask myself hard questions about where my values are, who I can trust. In truth, I find myself at a fucked up crossroads in regards to metal journalism. I get sent so many amazing albums and I can barely bring myself to listen to any of them or give a shit. Everything is an argument. Everything is a debate. Everything is either posturing or not posturing enough. Everything is problematic in some way. Females get punched out by bands like Deiphago and prominent female metal journalists have pages made on Facebook mocking their disability. Friends of mine get their asses beaten by Antifa in Montreal at Messe Des Morts for wearing metal vests (they were not present to see Graveland btw). I myself have received death threats from the Antifa for doing photographs at a Death in June show. Is it acceptable to listen to metal anymore. Who gets to decide what is acceptable anymore? There’s violent content, themes like death, depression, violence, Satanism, darkness, murder, and worse. Is it escapism? Is it people who are oppressed taking back some power, emboldening themselves by scaring normies? Is it an act of puffing oneself up? Metal has been such a huge part of my life and who I am that I feel I would be quite lost without it. At the same time, I am so exhausted with it.
The tour was announced a few weeks ago and it seemed like a dope line up. Taake and King Dude. Now, I *like* Taake. I don’t think they’re fucking THE BEST THING EVER, but I liked Striden Hus, and have enjoyed the other music of theirs that I have heard. I mean, it sounds like a lot of other black metal. Sometimes there’s a banjo. I dunno, and to be honest, I haven’t gone deep into the history of Taake. I guess you could say I could Taake him or leave him. I will show myself out. I am so sorry.
I also like King Dude. I mean, he’s okay. He kinda bit the whole Death in June sound, and he has followers who can be kinda shitty, and once he was super rude to me, but, if I’m in a bad mood I can come home and put on a King Dude record and I instantly feel better. I don’t judge him for being rude. King Dude is kind of like the Elvis of the neofolkish and instagram goth scene. He’s the dude (and also King) behind Actual Pain, a brand worn by countless goths and hip hop artists alike. His music is at points beautiful and horrible. Kind of like black metal. Kind of like Taake, I guess. I read online that Hoest from Taake personally asked King Dude to play on the tour. They seemed like odd and yet appropriate bedfellows and while I was kinda psyched to see them both in a bill, I did assume almost immediately that this tour would be cancelled, and maybe if not the whole tour, then at least some shows. Both Taake and King Dude are not without controversy. Taake’s infamous 2007 Essen show in which he painted his body with a swastika is burned into the consciousness of many, whether for affirmative or negative reasons. Black metal itself seems intertwined with controversy, controversy wrought from the very beginnings of the genre.
Well, a picture is really worth a thousand words isn’t it? But then again, context matters. When you examine the context behind this image you get a picture as well. Like many of the other children in the Norwegian black metal scene, Taake was formed in 1993 by a then 16 year old boy. Man it must really have been something to have grown up with your peers who you know were killing gay males, burning churches and stabbing each other in self defense. That’s a pretty bananas upbringing. It’s also important to note that Taake (fog) was originally called Thule (presumably after the Thule Society, the earliest incarnation of what would become the Nazi Party). For further context.. black metal is some dark and ugly stuff. Arguments can be made as to what tr00 black metal should or should not contain but I’m not really going to get into that (I honestly just don’t care). But uh.. it’s kinda nuts to me that a band who is claiming to not have Nazi leanings once called themselves Thule but hey that’s none of my business.
Now, this infamous photo I’ve shown you, is what gets trumpeted about quite loudly on the internet and what has been stirred up over and over again the last few days. At first it was just one venue that dropped the Taake show. Then two. Then three. Then King Dude dropped entirely off the tour:
If you hate yourself and have nothing better to do with your time, like me, then I recommend you go check out this post for yourself and read a few of the comments. It’s really like the wild west over there. People either praised King Dude for his decision or derided him.
King Dude is not short on his own controversy. He has shared the stage with extremely controversial acts like Blood and Sun and also Death in June. Now, I’ve written about Death in June before, I’ve even done photos for Douglas P. Is he a Nazi? Isn’t he? Death in June is not without extreme controversy as well. The show I attended in 2015 was protested by Antifa. I received threats for even doing photos at the show. I’m a queer and disabled woman of color, I should also mention here and I think here is where I currently find myself. I’m a mess. I’m a mess of all these different arguments going on inside my head. I’m a very rational person. I’m a man.. er.. woman of science. I think critically. I prefer logic to emotion. In four weeks, I finish my third university degree.
So how do I make sense of all of this?
The question for me isn’t really whether Taake is a band with Nazi sympathies, but the questions I have are more abstract in nature. Should we censor shows? Who gets to say what is acceptable for someone else to consume? Where is the line? How do we draw the line?
I grew up with a pretty punk rock DIY background. I’ve hosted shows, panels, discussions, and organized grassroots feminist theatre productions of the Vagina Monologues. I’ve organized underground raves. I know the power that word of mouth and Xerox can have. And it’s because of this that I deeply respect the Antifa. Now. Make no bones about it – I don’t much care to write this. It’s hard to write that I have respect for the group that has threatened not only me, but is responsible for the beating of several females in Montreal over battle jackets. I have critical thinking so I know that the actions of few are not necessarily the values of many. But for a grassroots collective to take down a tour, and hit the person in question where it hurts (their pocketbook) is commendable. I echoed this statement following Messe Des Morts when local businesses were tear gassed, that it seemed a bit much to shutter an entire festival over the alleged leanings of one band, or even one band’s member. I would have preferred to have read that Graveland had been taken to task one on one. With this Taake tour cancellation, I must say that I commend the actions of the Antifa on sheer principle. Talk shit, get hit, and Taake/Hoest have done his fair share of talking.
However, this is where my doublethink comes in. As a rule, I don’t believe in censorship. While there’s points of views out there in the world that are pretty fucked up and I don’t like hearing them, I don’t necessarily think we should silence these views, if only because I know that this doesn’t actually remove these views, it just radicalizes them, and it causes them to be insidious. I don’t much care for Milo Yiannopoulus, but I have studied his work and one statement he made on the Joe Rogan podcast that is worth noting is that he likes his racism and fucked up statements right out front, so he can know what people are thinking. In this way, I agree with him. I want to know what people are thinking and saying, because I think in knowing this, we can get some insight into why these people are saying or thinking these things. I like the bigger picture. I like context. I want to know why. That’s the thing with me. All my anxiety and fear and complexes, they’re all rooted in control. Maybe if I ask enough questions or think enough in the abstract, I can better understand how this world works and by proxy understand my place in it.
On one hand, I think we should have unlimited free speech. I think you should be able to say whatever you want, wherever you want. However, I don’t think your speech should be without consequence. And I think this is where the lines get murky about free speech. I live in a country that has limited free speech laws. We have free speech technically, but we also have laws on hate speech, and what is considered to be hateful. You can get fined in a big way for being hateful and inciting others to your hatred. Americans though, hooo boy do they love their free speech. It’s something that is clung too, and often clung to by Nazis, white nationalists, and people like Richard Spencer who just can’t help wringing their hands and crying about being victims when they’re called out for saying heinous things.
……and yet, at the same time, I also think that if you talk shit and get hit, well.. that’s kind of on you. Yeah, you can rock a Nazi uniform to go rent videos at Blockbuster but if someone beats your ass in the parking lot then… I dunno man. Maybe don’t wear that uniform. And this whole thing comes back to the paradox of tolerance.
It’s 2018. The American people elected a racist, sexist, rape apologist, orange colored assclown to be their president and there’s literal Nazis and racists marching emboldened in the streets because of it. People like Richard Spencer have thousands of fans on twitter. A woman was MURDERED in Charlottesville by a Nazi in 2017. When people scream online about Nazis not being important, well bucko, they’re pretty valid and they march around. They buy tiki torches. They’re here.
At the same time, there’s a penchant with the left leaning SJW types to call anyone who dares to question their ideas to be Nazis. Anyone without the same values are “literally Hitler” and in these moments of heated shitposting and debate, nothing is ever really accomplished. And in many ways, I think this is fundamentally wrong. People should be able to say, you know they’re scared of potential terrorist activity. People should be able to say for example they don’t understand Islam and their lack of understanding makes them uncomfortable, and that they feel uncomfortable asking questions because they don’t want to be labelled as a racist. I also think artists like Talib Kweli is entirely FUCKING RIGHT in cancelling his show at Riot Room over the Riot Room booking Taake. A black man, a black man in Trump’s America has every right to not feel comfortable sharing a stage with that type of mindset, whether than mindset is perceived or real. Misguided Taake fans harassing Talib Kweli just further underlines the point here. So, you’re mad because a show got cancelled so threatening someone who disagrees is doing.. what exactly? Beyond making black metal look EVEN CRAZIER.. not that the whole church burning, murder, etc made everything look super rational to begin with.
I’m so fucked up over all of this because I so consciously see both sides of the argument. Yeah, we probably shouldn’t book Nazi bands. Taake might not be a Nazi band. Then again, if you name yourselves Thule, paint a swastika on yourself, use phrases like “untermensch”, “go suck a Muslim” and proudly take the stage at age 30-40 wearing Islamophobic/racist paraphernalia, then okay when do we start taking the window dressing seriously? Then again, art can be offensive. If we can drop rosaries in jars of piss and call ourselves artists shouldn’t we be able to do the same thing with other religions? Metal is no stranger to blaspheming. Who gets to put the limit on blasphemy?
In one breath we clutch our upside down cross rosaries and laugh while drinking beers as Nergal tears pages out of a bible, but all of a sudden everyone goes radio silent when Hoest wears an anti-Islam shirt. What’s the line? Is there one?
Surely we know that when we watch horror movies, the violence is simulated. It’s a goof. But tell that to countless sites that dissect horror down to the last drop, searching for politics somewhere amongst the blood, gore, and cutting room floor. Should we? How can we not?
At what point does out entertainment lead to us being enraged?
I know deep in my heart that art should be upsetting sometimes. It’s how we learn. But I think the difference is with intent. What is the intent with Taake? I think only Hoest truly knows. He is not a man to shy away from controversy, whether he’s hanging hog, making out with a man, or donning the window dressing of hate. And yet the intent seems different than say Slayer’s Angel of Death. Different than Manson or Lemmy, or Siouxsie.
But I only see this through my own eyes. And maybe it’s all just a big fucking lie. Maybe it isn’t different.
Taake posted a statement about the cancellation of their tour and it’s long winded so buckle in:
“It is with great regret that we have to inform you that Taake’s US Tour has been cancelled. Despite all those incredible people who stepped up and tried to help us save the tour, and to whom we are more grateful than we can express, time and logistics are just not on our side. It was not our wish to cancel, but the decision was forced on us by the illegal activities of Antifa and its supporters who applied pressure on venues and promoters to cancel shows. Pressure, it has to be said, that has frequently been accompanied with threats of violence both towards those involved in the organisation and towards any fans attending (not to mention the bands who would be playing). Why these threats are not reported to the police, we don’t know.
We have explained on many, many occasions, the history behind what caused the problems, and there are plenty of articles in the unbiased press and on social media where you can read the truth of it, but just for the sake of clarity Taake is not now, has never been, and never will be a Nazi band. What we want to address here is the cancellation of the tour itself.
This cancellation is unfortunate in many ways, not just for the bands who were going to take part. Not just for the ordinary working Americans with families to support and bills to pay who have lost much needed income because of it. Not just for the fans who wanted to see the bands. Not just for music fans in general. But, also, and more importantly, for America as a whole.
Why? Because it is the ultimate demonstration of how, through the dissemination of lies, misinformation and unfounded accusations, along with credible threats of violence, a small minority of left wing agitators (interesting turn of phrase here) are able to force their agenda on the majority, and deprive music fans of their freedom to attend concerts and go about their day to day activities without the fear of reprisals and retaliation.
And these agitators won’t stop once they have destroyed the soft targets from Europe and other parts of the world. Their next targets will be American music, American art, American literature, American theatre, American cinema. Anything, in fact, that does not adhere strictly to their views. And if this reminds you of the McCarthy witch hunts, it is because that is EXACTLY what it is like.
Whilst none of us blame venues for cancelling because they are afraid of violence, we do deplore the excuses presented by some of them. The desire to “protect” their audience and staff, to create “safe spaces” is not a need brought about by the bands involved, nor their fans. It is the masked thugs hiding behind the banner of Antifa and other organisations like them, who are doing all the threatening. And maybe we should also remind these venues that so many of the musical genres today exist due to those other small venues back in the day who dared stand up to threats and gave a voice to those musicians who brought us Blues and Jazz – the basis of so much of today’s music.
We would also like to speak out about celebrities like Talib Kweli, who was unfortunate enough to have allowed himself to be played by the lies spread by Antifa and who, as a result, issued statements that are libellous and slanderous. His heart may have misguidedly been in the right place, but his brain, and his legal advisors, were not. Had he bothered to check the facts he would have realised that he had put himself in a position of looking like someone who doesn’t know, or understand, or even care about, all the facts, and who is easily manipulated by others to dance to their tune.
We should also mention those members of the press who failed to fact check and did not bother to contact us, or anyone else for that matter, for our side of the story. They simply went right ahead and printed libellous statements. This is irresponsible journalism at its worst, and we can’t just single out inexperienced editors of webzines. Complicit in this are long-established and (once) respected publications. Their actions show the utter contempt they have for facts and the disrespect they have for their readers.
Ending on a positive note, we really do need thank those who stood by us, and especially the venues who refused to be cowed, and those that stepped in offering us alternatives for cancelled shows. We have had messages from all over the world, and from people of all political and religious persuasions, offering not just their support, but also offering their help. And these are not just our fans. We have been contacted by people who admit that they had never heard of us, or that they hate black metal, or that they hate Taake, but have nevertheless felt compelled to let us know of the disgust they feel at the way Antifa, and their like, demand slavish adherence to their agenda, and punish anyone who defies them, riding roughshod over the freedoms of the American people to decide for themselves.
You, my friends, do not need to apologise for the lies and actions of a fringe group. You are the majority, you are the ones who refuse to bow your heads to those who would dictate how you live your lives, and who attempt to restrict your freedoms – you are the ones who can do something about it.” BTW – TAAKE, I would love to talk to you about this whole thing so if you’re reading, send us an email.
And I don’t know how to feel about this statement either. On one hand, yeah it sucks to cancel tours. I know there’s legions of fans of there wanting to see Taake. Black metal is super hot right now, super commercialized and everyone wants a piece. Put me up on the cross for that statement or not, it’s true.
But again that doublethink comes up too. When black metal crusty band Young and in the Way had sexual assault allegations levelled at them earlier this week, it was revealed that these allegations came to light before their 2015 tour with Taake in which Taake told the people coming forward to “keep their drama off the internet”. Isn’t it then a little rich to put this drama out there? Why is the narrative of someone’s sexual assault not as important as the narrative of a band being allegedly censored? Why should I listen to Taake’s tale? But then again, why shouldn’t I? I like their music just fine. Should I be more upset about the tour cancellation? How can I simultaneously have respect for the Antifa and think that often they latch onto imagery and cherry pick their outrage? I guess you could say I’m complicated.
Is it rich for me to be writing about all my misgivings and complicated feelings?
Taake makes no bones about calling out the lying press, the lugenpresse. Am I another avatar of this? I find it happens more and more now with metal. I find myself sifting through it looking for shady stuff. I didn’t used to do this. Sometimes I find it and sometimes I don’t. Most of the time now, I’m just too exhausted. Sometimes I download music and I listen and the thought of writing a review or sending over an interview is just too overwhelming. We live in uncertain times. The internet makes it all too real. Our idols are closer than ever and there’s a reason we shouldn’t meet our heroes. But then again, meeting some of my heroes have given me purpose. I just don’t fucking know what to think anymore.
Metal is exhausting.
Thinking about metal is exhausting.
I haven’t taken the Buffy The Vampire Slayer CD out of my car for three weeks now.
I just wanna go slam my ass in the pit to some loud frightening music without having to squint through the darkness and my askew glasses to see if that guy in the crowd really has those runes on that vest with those patches on it.
And I recognize too that this statement comes from rose colored glasses, good old bad days, and privilege.
And that too, is depressing.
You can find Robin on twitter.
Excellent article. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Loved it. Good open-minded insight. Articles like this keep me from bailing on humanity.
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Perhaps you’re just starting to realise that Black metal isn’t the genre for you, the fact is from it’s inception it has been about misanthropy, Hatred for everything, Elitism and Intolerance, it is an extreme form of music which attracts extreme ideas and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, the problem has come from it becoming a trend, attracting people who will use the original ideals of Black metal as nothing more than a mask, to play pretend if you will, but the Question of Islam and black metal shouldn’t really be a question at all, the fact is Islam is born of the same seed as Christianity and we’re living in some manner of bizarre paradox whereby the criticism of one is okay because (despite it not being) it’s seen as a European religion, that is a religion of White Europeans as opposed to people of colour or in the case of Judaism as a Socio-racial-religious Subgroup with a history of Persecution against it’s adherents. Black Metal is supposed to be a subversive genre and attacking Christianity and screaming about Satan are no longer subversive, so naturally it seeks other targets, you really have to ask yourself when Satan Walks the stage of the Swedish Grammies with Watain is he still scary? when Gorgoroth Play Hellfest to a pack of drunken mouthbreathers or Mayhem play a giant a cruise Ship is it still underground and Subversive? Black metal stands against religion, all religion and in any free society you should be able to Point out the flaws of the Abrahamic (or indeed any other religion) without Criticism, not without challenge of Course but without outright hostility including threats of Criminal violence.