Do you call yourself a hipster?
“It doesn't shock me if you call it hipster black metal” —Behemoth in an interview
Black Metal, the darkest of all metal genres, thrives on its reputation for spreading hateful messages. It lives from unbelievable acts of horror, committed with satanic fervor and total antipathy. Brief history lesson: Euronymous founded Mayhem in 1984. Her singer Dead shot his head off in 1991. Euronymous snapped a photo of what was left and sent pieces of skulls lying around. Also on Burzum head Varg Vikernes, who was supposed to join Mayhem in 1993, but instead preferred to murder Euronymous and end up in jail. For 16 years because he also set a couple of Norwegian churches on fire on the side.
Satanic terrorism that should be seen as a deterrent. Not just for Christians, but also — ironically — for potential followers. So all people. Black metal preached elitism and practiced extremism to avoid a trend and stay out of the mainstream. Of course, that was exactly what attracted a host of fans - lost souls who found themselves in the radical anti-demeanor.
In the meantime, modernity has flattened pretty much everything that Euronymous set itself as an ideal for its small niche. Corpsepaint is ridiculed and eviscerated by internet memes; The big names in the scene like Immortal act as trusting jokes who paddle across the stage in comical poses, and new black metal bands just do what they want.
Unofficially, the newbies belong to the third wave of Black Metal, called Blackgaze or Transcendental Black Metal. Liturgy make strange ambient folk metal, Alcest a mix of benevolent shoegaze and indie with clear vocals (!) And Wolves In The Throne Room appear as life-affirming environmental activists who are self-sufficient on a farm in North America's forests. Today, Black Metal is no longer all about death, Satan, hatred and renunciation. Life and tolerance are advocated and honored by the new representatives.
At the same time, of course, all the elitists of the 80s and 90s did not die out. With trembling forefingers they rail against the seeds that contaminate their highly regulated ideas and make changes. Infatuation and ignorance meet open arms and a willingness to experiment. Is that still unity? Can Black Metal still provoke with such softened genre boundaries? Behemoth guitarist and singer Adam "Nergal" Darski should know, after all, he has already been on trial for tearing up a Bible on stage. And as a juror, he is no longer allowed to attend the casting show The Voice Of Poland Church protests have made sure of that.
The fact that Nergal does not protect the guardians of the Holy Grail, but fucks them, is shocking. He renounces the roots of Black Metal, invalidates its rules and tells his truth about the cult figure Euronymous. Well, you could have guessed it: Even Behemoth take selfies before they go on stage.
Pretty much every headbanger has a different understanding of Black Metal. What's yours
Nergal: To be honest, I don't even remember. I'm not exactly a fan of strict definitions. Things are in flux - "panta rhei" - that fits everything, including genres. Black metal is developing, it can be partly in music and in artists who are not part of the post-Darkthrone wave. Some bands don't even use guitars or shouting anymore. I try not to see anything one-sided. Black Metal is in Diamanda Galás, in Danzig, in Fields Of The Nephilim, I can feel that.
Today Corpsepaint is no longer necessarily part of Black Metal. Behemoth remains true to tradition - is that grim image still important?
For me yes. But I'm not someone who would stand up for the original order of Black Metal, that's stupid for me. We're here because we create and embrace art. Art is about freedom. It would be a huge paradox to worship art but not be able to do this or that. Just because of the rules - what rules? We create the rules ourselves and it's up to you whether you follow them or not. It's that simple. Fuck the rules! Let freedom rule! And that goes for everything in my life, including black metal.
Has Black Metal become more tolerant?
Maybe not necessarily more tolerant, but more approachable. I don't want to judge people. That's why I don't want to be someone who says: "Black Metal can't reach more than 10,000 people." Rules? No! If one day we sell more records, that will be fantastic. That means we're breaking the rules. And this crossing is the clue that gives us an understanding of what art is.
I know there is internal hatred and warriors who want to protect the purity of Black Metal. Apparently they have no idea about the inventors of the genre: Venom and Bathory. If the Cronos were to tell in 1985 that he should limit his meaning and only play in front of the trven fans, he would no longer cope with laughter. Bathory and Venom are the founders of the black metal sound. It was all about expansion and bloody growth. I knew Øystein Aarseth [aka Euronymous, founder of Mayhem and the label Deathlike Silence] not personally, but I know for a fact that he was fed up with being poor. He seriously wanted to take Mayhem to the next level. He wanted to make a living with music. And there is nothing wrong with being honest with yourself and your standards. Fuck other people's opinions. One day everyone will die. Would you then still worry about the judgments of others? No damn it. All that moves you are your own emotions.
Do you think ex-Gorgoroth singer Gaahl opened new doors for Black Metal when he came out as gay in 2008?
Heavy metal in itself is a very awkward genre. There are a lot of stereotypes and people do a lot to protect them. I wonder what for Like the cult of long hair: Then there are Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson - arguably the most famous icons in heavy metal - who put their middle fingers on everything that hippies assume is metal. You can deduce that to any fucking genre. I see things globally as far as I can. I am of course limited in many ways. But I try not to be, I want to break free of restrictions. Because they don't do me any good. Especially for the person on stage who wants to fully develop.
Since when does Black Metal accept humor?
There's nothing wrong with humor. I had a life changing experience battling cancer. Even then, I made jokes about death and the fight against cancer. And I really appreciate films that make jokes about concentration camps. This is wonderful because: Even if the situations were extremely radical and inhuman in every possible way, people live on. You will want to laugh and play, even in inhumane conditions. Most of their humanity is taken from them, but not the need for love and humor. I'm serious, I take Black Metal very seriously too. But I can laugh at many aspects of it at the same time. There are enough bands that are just so damn funny, haha.
Like your social media presence. It's so fundamentally different from the idea you have of Black Metal. You are always at parties, laughing with a pig mask, or on Polish television ...
A lot has changed since I left the hospital. I realized that I have to live my life the way I want to. I know my way and I know where to get. I don't know how long my life will last. But I have an influence on the quality. I pay attention to that all the time.
Is Black Metal innovative and experimental?
I like that it breaks out in so many different directions. I like that he scouts so much. Black metal can flirt with ambient, folk and classical music and much more and still remain black metal. This is what sets it apart from most other genres. Maybe I'm wrong, but that would make Black Metal the most transcendent genre that has ever existed. Top 3, maybe Top 5? Can reggae do that? Blues? Not really. Black metal can combine with blues, but blues cannot combine with black metal. Even if black metal emerged from blues.
Do you stand behind the new varieties, the so-called Blackgaze or Transcendental Black Metal by bands like Liturgy, Alcest, Wolves In The Throne Room?
Yes, some of it is cool. I'm not a die-hard fan, but I do listen to everything. Ask me again in five to ten years. If the bands still exist, touring the world and putting out their fifth or seventh album, then I'll be the first to show you respect. I don't want to judge it, time will decide.
Some call it hipster black metal ...
Hipster is just another definition to make life easier. Fuck it, I don't care.
A photo posted by Adam Nergal Darski (@ nergal69) on Jan 6, 2016 at 3:49 am PST
So you don't mind these new, alternative ways of playing?
I'm cool with anything that has quality inherent and that is honest. I don't necessarily have to like it though. I don't mind if you call it hipster black metal. We invited a band from Denmark for our US tour: Myrkur. We had to listen to a lot of shit for that, including the question of why we were taking this hipster black metal band with us. People feel attacked that we take a band with a lady who looks like a model. But, you know what? With this reaction, I know that I made the right decision.
There are comments on the internet that portray black metal fans as the most tearful of all. Can you empathize with that?
They spend too much time on the internet. You'd better go see the shows, support bands, and buy merchandise. Talk less, act more. But I don't think this is only for the black metal people. It affects everyone today.
You wrote on Instagram that you wouldn't be surprised if the new Behemoth album also got a touch of post punk.
I want to incorporate that, blues and more into our music. It makes sense to me. I am inspired by so many things and I want to appreciate all of them. So let's see what happens. We're jamming around right now.
The problem for many Blackgaze haters is that he fills the dark, satanic Black Metal with life-giving themes. So affirmation instead of nihilism.
I know what you mean. But I don’t encounter the joie de vivre in black metal or extreme metal genres. What we do is also pretty much alive and powerful. Of course there is a lot of negative, but balanced. It feels natural to me when I write, to pay attention to both sides.
Watain singer Erik Danielsson criticizes the fact that such bands bring black metal into the living rooms of civilized citizens. Where it probably doesn't belong.
I don't care, I wouldn't tell anyone: “That belongs in the dark room, just don't bring it into the living room. You should sit in your room and only wank on the first three Bathory albums. “No, Black Metal is art. It's there to break out - no restrictions.
And then Blackgaze bands get plenty of mainstream success too! Black Metal was the countermovement to modernity. Suddenly it is in the feature pages and alternative music magazines. Deafheaven have with New Bermuda the title “Album of the Year” dusted off. How do you find that?
This is fantastic. Reaching more people is good. Even then, you'll be putting people off just because of the music.
Black metal has even become fashion today. Non-genre people wear your shirts just to be cool. Does it disturb you?
That is gesture. I don't want to waste my energy brooding over other people. It's your choice, not mine. Everyone is responsible for their own actions and I am not here to drag them into the mud. I don't even know her.
It can also be good when H&M shops sell black metal shirts and thus generate new fans.
We should give everyone a chance. I think back to how I got into extreme metal when I was 14 or 15 years old. I became a huge blasphemy fan and a 20 year old came up to me and said I was too young for that. If I had listened to him, I wouldn't be sitting here today. So who gave these people the right to decide who should have what access to which music? I don't wanna be that guy When I want to hear something, I feel the urge to deal with certain emotions. Age, race, and political beliefs should have nothing to do with it. Because it's all about feelings.
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