02 March 2008

This is for Satan!...or Odin!...or someone...

Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground
- Michael Moynihan & Didrik Søderlind

I had been eyeing this book at work for some time now and finally picked it up this past week. As far as any book on "metal" is concerned, this is surely one of the best and most thoroughly researched. Black Metal is a subgenre whose reputation far outsizes its reach. I would bet most people know little about it and the scene itself isn't particularly large, but
it has a prominent (short) history of murder and destruction. I'm not aware if author Michael Moynihan has a direct connection to the scene itself, but I do know that he moved in some odd musical circles and may have far-right connections that go unacknowledged in the book. Søderlind is apparently a former music writer from Norway and doesn't have any such connections it seems.
In terms of the content of this book, the history is exhaustive with profiles of the major personalities involved with black metal since its inception. The material, though probably shocking to many, is presented quite even-handedly and the major figures aren't spared critique. Reading this is worthwhile for just the history of the fledgling Norwegian scene and the subsequent terror waged through church-burnings, a few murders and right-wing political action.
It is this latter story, though, that is most open to critique here. While there is no doubt that many figures in black metal have rightist views there is no profiling of characters who do not espouse such views. Whether this is a conscious move on the part of the authors to exclude such remains unknown. There may just not be anyone vociferously leftist within the scene's ranks to bother reporting (and let's face it, BM is too extreme for moderate personalities). It is true that the martial/medieval aesthetic and raw power of the music excites those with affinities towards power and violence. Thus, there is a natural fascistic connection that can be made.
As well, some of the folks discussed in Lords of Chaos are claimed to be "intelligent", I can't help but object as many of their ideas are clearly nonsensical and betray an incredible sociological ignorance. For some, an adolescent "satanism" matured into political doctrines based on pagan/heathen Nordic legends imposed on modern circumstances. Clearly some of these men (as most of them are) have difficulty discerning reality from fantasy. I think the authors could (and should) have been more critical of some of these views, (though I'm sure the book would have ended up much longer if they had followed through with this) and their failure to do so has led some to wonder if this is a veiled or subtle attempt to sway readers to rightist opinions.While I would not say that far right opinions are necessarily glorified, they certainly could have been more effectively critiqued. It is the lack of critique in this regard that betrays possible rightist sentiments of (one of) the author(s).
On a whole, however, I'd say that this book is definitely worth checking out for anyone interested in metal, in Nordic mythology or in rightist politics as a movement.

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