Riding the New Wave of Anti-Fascist Black Metal
Anti-fascist black metal is everywhere all of a sudden, so we put together a heap of recommendations for Nazi-smashing metalheads, including Redbait, Underdark, Yovel, and more.
Photo by Rebecca Redbait
Earlier this week, Noisey published an interview with Richard “Pope Richard” Weeks about his new anti-fascist black metal project, Gaylord. The band’s debut release, The Black Metal Scene Needs to Be Destroyed, caused quite a stir within the metal community with its uncompromising aesthetic and song titles like “Odin Doesn't Listen to NSBM You Inbred Alt-right Shitheels” and “Neo-nazi Metalheads Will Be Hanged and Their Broken Corpses Openly Mocked.” Gaylord comes nipping at the heels of Neckbeard Deathcamp, an even more militant project whose debut, White Nationalism is for Basement Dwelling Losers, exploded onto the scene earlier this summer in a shower of Nazi tears, and ended up copping a deal with Prosthetic Records to further their propaganda onslaught.
The major commonality between the two projects (besides being black metal and their obvious lust for fascist blood) is their sense of humor. Neckbeard Deathcamp uses their fluency in 4chan-spawned meme-speak to fight troll fire with fire (their literal tagline is “fedora-crushing militant black metal”) while Gaylord draws on a more exasperated, dry British wit and general trollishness to get the point across(“Nice Sun Cross Tattoo, Asshole” is a nice example). It’s funny shit, to be sure, but it’s also deadly serious, as my conversation with Weeks (and upcoming feature with Neckbeard Deathcamp) illustrate.
Weeks advocates for direct action against metal fascists, and encourages others to “to hold them over the fire and push against them. Shut down their shows, write music, call out people in Burzum shirts. Be relentless.” Neckbeard Deathcamp have a song about drowning Richard Spencer in piss. It’s over-the-top, and gory, and a bit absurd—in other words, it’s very much in line with “regular” extreme metal, which, for all its flaws and foibles, is also very good at being very silly. The same people grumbling about Neckbeard Deathcamp’s (intentionally) watered down war metal are probably big fans of bands who drape themselves in bike chains and smear black facepaint all over themselves and grunt about achieving supremacy through powerlifting, so really, who’s the joke?
I’ve also seen some bellyaching about the notion that platforming bands like Gaylord and Neckbeard Deathcamp—who count the use of humor amongst their tactics—in some way negates or steals attention from other, less extremely online anti-fascist metal bands. I don’t believe that that is true (in just one example, Dawn Ray’d has been everywhere for the past couple of years, to say nothing of Panopticon, Power Trip, et al) but will take the bait. I am always game to spotlight more sick metal bands whose politics and message mirror my own, so that’s going to be my focus this week (as well as, like, always, because that’s basically all I write about anymore).
I mentioned quite a few interesting new projects in the Gaylord piece, but shouting out Feminazgul, Allfather, and Libtrigger was only scraping the tippy-top of a vast iceberg. We’ve covered tons of bands that fit this particular political category on Noisey, which is something I’ve made a pointed effort to do since my tenure as an editor here began in 2014. A few of our favorites include the aforementioned Dawn Ray’d, Ancst, Iskra, Book of Sand, Not A Cost, Appalachian Terror Unit, and Storm of Sedition, and I am absolutely always interested in hearing more recommendations or submissions from artists in that vein—my email address is kim.kelly at vice.com (please don’t make me regret posting this, and please don’t send me your goddamn mixtape).
Where do I find these bands? Gather ‘round, friends, because I’m about to share something wonderful. Since 2009, the venerable RABM blog has been one of the greatest resources for the liberation-minded metalhead to sniff out ideologically sound new music. RABM (Red and Anarchist Black Metal) is one of those loose non-genre genres with which metal is so rife; it’s a political and aesthetic orientation as opposed to a distinct sound, much like its polar opposite and sworn enemy, NSBM (National Socialist Black Metal, i.e. a catch-all term for white supremacist/Nazi metal horseshit). It’s the closest thing leftist metalheads have to a comprehensive database, outside of the Encyclopedia Metallum (which does yield some solid results if you search the “lyrical themes” option).
I visit this treasure trove at least once a week, and am perpetually in awe at the dedication of the collective who run the page and keep it constantly updated with releases from around the world. It’s where I first came across Wildspeaker, Rampancy, and so many other favorites, and can’t recommend it highly enough as an alternative to other music discovery hubs like, say, the NWN forum or whatever toxic underground metal Facebook group your weird friend added you to on a whim.
Some of the below recommendations are culled from RABM; others are the result of my own trundling through various nooks and crannies of the metal Internet. All of them fucking rule.
(Also, Thou's new album, Magus, is streaming on NPR today—they're another excellent band of excellent people with excellent politics, and deserve your full support).
Redbait describe themselves as "Midwestern proletarian crust," and I don't think I can dream up a better description than that (outside of adding "dick-punching" as an additional qualifier). This six-piece St. Louis metal/punk collective arose out of the city's local activist community, and the members' commitment to the struggle for justice is splashed all over this short, snappy EP. Red Tape attacks sacred cows and explicitly confronts the evils of police brutality, domestic abuse, sexual harassment, and state violence, shredding through a heady mix of Tragedy-inspired arena crust, pissy d-beat, crunchy metallic hardcore, and garage punk in under 15 minutes. Redbait is anti-fascist, anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-cop, and they've got fucking riffs—what more could you want from a metal/punk band in 2018?
In addition, from now until the end of August, the band will be donating 100 percent of their album sales to the Charlottesville Community Resilience Fund, a group that raises and distributes funds to meet the needs of people who face undue hardships imposed upon them due to structural oppression, including but not limited to, through the criminal legal system. As someone who narrowly survived the horrific neo-Nazi terrorist attack in Charlottesville last year and still has comrades struggling to heal both physically and mentally, this hits home, and I highly encourage you to contribute a few bucks if you can. It's so gratifying
This album is so good. Avvika's fantastic epic crust comes via a cross-border collective of vegan anarchist pals from the Czech Republic and Sweden who scream bloody gore against patriarchy, capitalism, imperialism, fascism, and speciesism, sing for hope and equality for all of earth's creatures, and dedicated their self-titled LP to "political and non-human prisoners all over the world." That message is entwined within every note of the album (whose muted, rippling atmosphere and gorgeous violin parts will please fans of Fall of Efrafa) but the music itself is so brilliantly executed that they could be singing about kittens or soccer and I'd still be utterly entranced. How wonderful it is that they are taking a stand instead!
Yovel's anti-capitalist, anti-fascist, uncompromising Hellenic black metal fury is a joy to behold. They take power from below and wield rampaging riffs as praxis; on their latest album, Hɪðəˈtu, the band explicitly crafts what they call "black metal for the oppressed" by railing against Nazis and capitalist leeches in the name of resistance. Outside of their message, the music itself is stellar, especially the melodic aspects; with any luck, I can see this band enjoying a rise to more mainstream prominence a la Dawn Ray'd, wherein the undeniable strength of their songwriting pulls in less politicized listeners and, hopefully, opens their eyes to the storm around us.
As they said in an illuminating recent interview (which also cogently and clearly lays out their anarchist, anti-capitalist politics in an accessible way),"To those that say “shut up and listen to the music” we reply “silence will be your only companion when they come for you, in the fog of night, because you are “different” in any kind or form. And we all are."
Gudsforladt offer up raw, funereal, utterly miserable antifascist black metal from the heart of the empire, occasionally tempering their melodic melancholia with more aggressive up-tempo passages that retain a cold, mournful atmosphere. The production here is rather primitive (one assumes intentionally so) but even its lo-fi nature can't extinguish the echoing, almost delicate melodies and glimpses of advanced technicality on the band's most recent release, Rite of Dissassociation. There is much beauty to be found here beneath the darkness.
Underdark is one of the more unsung artists buoying the current anti-fascist black metal wave, and it's a goddamn travesty; they've been knocking around since 2015, and I'm kicking myself for only properly checking them out now. They blast out absolutely vicious melodic black metal from Nottingham, UK that's as potent and necessary as a signal flare and comes with a simple message: Destroy NSBM. There's a huge melodic component here as well; they deftly embody the "post-black metal" sound but aren't nerds about it. Make no mistake; they're not atmospheric as in pretty, they're atmospheric as in fuck you.
I first heard about this album at Migration Fest, when a few friends were discussing how much they loved the album cover and the virtues of subverting black metal norms; I made a mental note to check it out when I got back, and once I did, it was love at first listen. I'm a huge sucker for this kind of emotional, nature-focused, Cascadia-by-way-of-Ash-Borer-tinted black metal, especially when it's coming from an unexpected place (Sacred Son's Dane Cross hails from London) and executed so smoothly. It's not as explicitly political as the other bands on this list, but was featured on RABM and as Cross told them, seeks to explore the nature of evil (which as we know, can take many forms—hooded or otherwise). And honestly, just look at that fucking album cover, and imagine how mad certain kinds of black metal fans will be when they see it. It's fantastic.
Tarpan hail from the Russian steppes, play primal as fuck death crust, and rage against the horrors of war. I found their latest release, Бездна (The Abyss), on RABM, and they sound like Obituary and Bolt Thrower turning up the distortion and getting wasted with a bunch of stenchcore bands. Obviously, I adore them.
It is immensely gratifying to have come across such an absolutely rotten blackened crust death squad from one of the least attractive parts of my beloved home state, and the fact that they are 1) anarchists and 2) namecheck Panopticon, His Hero Is Gone, and Dystopia as influences is almost too on the nose. Montclair, NJ's Woodland Tomb seem genetically engineered to appeal to me personally, but also, anyone with ears (and perhaps more importantly, an appreciation for mangy black metal, crust punk, impeccable tremolo melodies, and seriously nasty riffs) should eat this up with a spoon.
This is another one of those bands that is almost too relevant to my interests. Anarchist Wolves is a new anarchist black metal solo project from Albuquerque, New Mexico with slimy punk 'n' roll influences and a committed interest in decimating fascists, waving the black flag, and total revolution. Their latest release, To the Barricades, is a strident call to arms (and a damn good black metal punk album). Blast the barricades on high, fling those flames into the sky!
Kim Kelly is an editor at Noisey and a general anarcho pain in the ass on Twitter.