Black Metal Theory Symposium, DAY 1

18. april
Moderna galerija Ljubljana

FB dogodek

Simon Smole - Walter Benjamin’s Satanic Smile

Satanic smile

Simon Smole is a member of a collective of Radio Študent

Georgios Karakasis - The »Black« Revolt Against the Modern World

Julius Evola, the philosopher-mystic of neo-fascism during the post-war years, titled one of his most famous and influential books Revolt Against the Modern World. In this book, he attacks modernity’s political and social spirit through the “revolt” of traditionalism and the transcendence of the traditional values. Black metal, although not necessarily limited to the bounds of traditionalism, could also be considered as another kind of adarker” revolt against a world where modernity, liberalism and the values of parliamentary democracy shape the political matrix. Black metal, either as Nationalist Socialist black metal, or its pagan branch, among many others of its forms, is unleashing an artistic, philosophical and aesthetic attack against what we could name the modern society. The liberal society shaped by globalization, the technocratic spirit of its political institutions, as well as the calculative/economic thought guiding the decisions of many governments are viewed by black metal as a cultural and spiritual threat due to the lack of any possible transcendence with regard to something higher than a mere social contract. Christianity, on the other hand, is perceived either as an ally of modernity and conservativism, thus the enemy of the folk spirit and tradition, or as a religion of the weak in which the spirit of struggle and triumph are suppressed and hidden. In this political and social context, black metal has managed to become very explicit in criticising the modern world; a critic, whose attacks, far from being limited to music, are directed against modernity from a philosophical, political and aesthetic perspective, and hence manage to become a serious rival of the actual cultural and aesthetic “status quo”.

Georgios Karakasis is independent researcher. He received a PhD at University of the Basque Country.


Marko Rusjan - The passage into the unknown: emancipatory potentials of Black metal

Black metal is not seeking solutions, but it is seeking a release of the soul and body. The anxious state we live in is pushing us to the unknown. BM is perhaps one of the only means of finding a passage into the unknown, dark, and unique territory which has not yet been dominated or colonialized by the rationalist, positivist capitalist machine. These are not only vast, humanless territories of arctic eternal winter but also the hidden worlds that the humans only rarely come into contact with. These are the worlds that H.P. Lovecraft describes as worlds where the laws of physics are so different that we can not even imagine them. But it is precisely this complete difference that is so attractive and pushes us to these worlds. Instead of opening the gates to other worlds, so that the beings from other worlds may come to us, we are to enter these worlds. To seek release from the enslavement of this world, to forget all the weight of this world. As Sex Pistols put it: we don’t know what we want, but we know what we don’t want. BM is the key for opening the gates to other worlds by using new unhuman languages, sounds and multisensorial experiences. My contribution will focus on how BM can help us enter these unknown worlds while asking what the emancipative potentials of this journey are, and how it can change our world, dominated by false goodness.

Marko Rusjan holds M.A. in Criminology at Faculty of Law at University of Ljubljana. Between 1996 and 2006 he worked at the Cultural Center Mostovna in Nova Gorica. Since 2013 he has been working at the Ljubljana Modern Gallery as assistant director. He occasionally deals with music and publicity. In the past, he was active in the anti-global movement. Areas of interest: environment and animal rights, labor rights, criminal law policy, the development of the internet environment, culture and political philosophy.

Adin Crnkić - »Crimes of Capital, Crimes of the State«*: Red and Anarchist Black Metal and its impact

The focus of this paper is the new wave of far-left ideology within the black metal genre which is known as red and anarchist black metal (RABM). RABM is a political philosophy of black metal in which the artists have various far-left and environmentalist ideologies such as anarchism, Marxism, communism, antifascism, and green anarchism. The first and most important common feature of RABM is its fierce critique of the capitalist society. Hence, a revolution is high on RABM’s agenda. RABM is not widely covered or even mentioned in many black metal theory symposiums and articles. B. Noys and E.C. Williams come closest to producing a radical view of black metal ideology in their theory. While the former argued that »black metal objectively, in its aesthetic, forms a utopian and immanent critique of the misery of neo-liberal capitalism«, the latter proposed that »black metal has no individuals, and it has no leaders«. The first goal of this paper is to introduce the main ideology and politics of the genre. Next, I would like to methodologically examine the lyrics of genre representatives which promote particular utopian visions for change. I argue that while RABM is marginalized within the black metal community, it must be taken into consideration as one of the most promising subgenres with anticapitalist themes after punk.

* The title is derived from an EP by Black Kronstadt, one of the earliest representatives of RABM.

Adin Crnkić is a political scientist and independent researcher.

Jasna Babić - 'Too Old and Too Cold': Black Metal and Contemporal Subcultural Theory

While many metal subgenres and hybrids have made their way into the mainstream, black metal maintains a marginal status despite the popularity of certain world-famous music performers and groups. Black metal is one of the few genres - both in metal music and in general - that succeeded in wrapping the musical expression in a particular concept, incorporating it into a specific ideology, forming a set of values and setting non-formal, but no less binding rules. Due to its turbulent history, black metal is one of the most dramatic and obscure cultural phenomena, which is still reflected nowadays in a divided relationship between fans of the genre and often stereotypical perceptions by external observers. In the following paper, I will focus on the various cultural (and political) forms of black metal, its aesthetics, the ambivalence between emphasized individualism and collective identity, issues of authenticity and entitlement. I will try to present its multiface in the context of contemporary subcultural theory while preserving the wider historical context of its origin, development and present manifestations.

Jasna Babić, AM in sociology, is employed at the Peace Institute in Ljubljana. She is mainly interested in topic related to alternative culture and marginal social practices. She is an author of the book In the whirlwind of subcultures and a co-author (together with Dunja Danial) of the documentary film Rejects of second generation - Following the traces of punk. She also organizes concerts and other cultural activities. She spends most of her spare time in AKC Metelkova mesto, especially in Klub Gromka.

Matej Trontelj - Analyses of Themes of Misogyny and Racism in Music of Type O Negative

Type O Negative or ''drab four'', as they were nicknamed in reference to the famous ''fab four'' monicker of The Beatles, was a gothic/doom metal band based in Brooklyn, US that was most famous for its self-deprecating humour and a passive-aggressive stance towards an optimistic outlook on life. Although they publicly distanced themselves from any political stance, their musical and lyrical repertoire seems to uncover much more complex positions on love, society and existential setting. The band were accused of spouting misogynistic, homophobic and racist messages on numerous occasions, but they also gained a loyal cult following in their 20 years of regular touring and recording, until the untimely death of the lead singer Peter Steele. My theoretical approach to the music of Type O Negative shall take seriously into consideration their mocking attitude towards some of the more important societal issues today. I will try to argue that their lyrical content represents a sort of class conflict (or general militant spirit) not only in the sphere of music, but also in relation to the most important concepts of psychoanalytic theory: the themes of sexual difference, subjectivation and on the other hand, that of racial struggle over a supposedly privileged phallic center of society and thus, the exercise of political and economic power. I will then try to show that these themes in the band’s musical repertoire seem to slide through a sort of transfer and counter-transfer on less serious topics of self-deprecation and humour, functioning as a means of (complex if not imaginary) identification with the band while encouraging the listener to reflect on their own positions.

Matej Trontelj is a student of Philosophy at Faculty of Arts at University of Ljubljana.

Mirt Bezlaj - Of Torture and Despair

Black metal is ugly. Listening to it is unpleasant, even torturous. So why do some still chose to listen to it? I will try to find the answer to that by comparing the experience of listening to black metal with that of enjoying certain modernist art on one hand and masochistic pleasure on the other. At the same time black metal, with all its senseless violence, disdain for the body and the world and its striving towards the eternal, is a perfect example of Kant’s sublime. Yet the ethics of the sublime lead to diabolical evil instead of good. The act of listening to black metal is an act of negating the world and its laws, not in the name of eternal goodness but rather as a sovereign immoral act.

Mirt Bezlaj has recently finished MA in philosophy at the University of Ljubljana. He is working at Radio Študent, where he has, among others, published a series of broadcasts about black metal and black metal theory.

Camille Bera - Why does it sound so gloomy? A musicological approach to Black Metal’s negativity

Every metalhead has at least once in their lifetime encountered a statement in the style of: “this music sounds so gloomy, you should listen to something more uplifting, less negative”. These sort of observations make us wonder what is perceived as negative in a musical sense, compared to what sounds positive. If we consider lyrics and imagery alone, non-seasoned listeners’ negative perception seems quite obvious. But if we put those factors aside, one might wonder why the music itself sounds negative. Ranking from the sonically most noticeable negative elements to less evident aspects, and by using a musicological approach, I will attempt to highlight the factors that cause black metal to be perceived as a negative musical genre by most people, and why. To do so, the focus of my analysis will be on musical criteria only, purposefully choosing to ignore lyrics and imagery, in order to show why Black Metal is intrinsically linked to negativity. I will also strive to determine various categories of negatively perceived elements, their roles and what they represent in the listener’s mind.

Camille Béra is independent scholar. She received her PhD under the title Le Black Metal: un genre musical entre transgression et transcendance at Université de Rouen in 2018.

Primož Krašovec - Black Metal as Anti-Metal

Perhaps black metal with its sound, lyrics and iconography, is not (only) the most extreme form of metal, but rather something that at a certain point escapes metal and begins to develop as an autonomous form of music—one that is much more interesting than classic metal. This paper examines two ‘lines of flight’ of black metal.

  1. If community is the bedrock of classic metal, then it is reflected both in its elementary form of organization (band) and its imagery which involves fantasies of an organic community and a noble barbaric past. Black metal, however, is misanthropic on both those levels. Ever more often, traditional bands are replaced by lone wolves or sound projects with no fixed members. Instead of resorting to vikingoid kitsch, black metal is suspicious, or even resistant, to the ideas of humanity and social connections themselves. Social anorexia vs. macho bonding.

  2. The horror imagery of classic metal is based on a simultaneous eeriness and fascination with violence, demons, wars, etc. Black metal, on the other hand, explores a much more abstract dimension of horror - the cosmic senselessness and indifference. Black metal does not express a relationship between us and that which is hostile, aggressive and frightening towards us (however antagonistic, this is still a relationship). Rather, the metaphors of cold, darkness and frozen desserts, which black metal uses, represent an absolute indifference of the universe towards everything. Depressed numbness vs. warrior ardor.

P.S.: It is perhaps possible to connect both these ‘lines of flight’ to Buddhist teachings of emptiness and the impermanence of everything.

Primož Krašovec, professor at the Department of Sociology, Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana and a regular contributor to Šum journal and Radio Študent (Pisalni stroji).