Shining’s “X: Varg Utan Flock” was the first major metal album to be released in 2018 and I was excited to review it for Metal Injection. “V – Halmstad“ was one of the first black metal albums I really got into, and this was a chance to cover a high-profile band. Win-win.
Anyway, I wrote the review. Full disclosure: I’ve always known about much of the band’s “questionable” history and I attended a 2017 show on their alt-righty-titled “No More Safe Space” tour, where the NS merchandise should’ve been a glaring red flag that giving the band free publicity wouldn’t be a superb idea. Still, I’ve always thought that while frontman Niklas Kvarforth seems like a moderately insane prick, at least some of his persona was just a shtick to sell his band’s edgy brand. But…
It wasn’t until I was fact checking my review of Shining’s new record that I read the news about how Kvarforth allegedly drugged a woman’s drink, seig heil’d and otherwise acted like a not-so-cool dude. I also didn’t know he had an NS tattoo.
There’s a fine line between having a “dark” image and just being a terrible person and Kvarforth seems to have crossed well beyond that point. I requested to have the article pulled at the last minute and received full support from the publication’s editor (so props to Rob, thanks for understanding). I don’t think I’m a paragon for social justice or political correctness, but I also don’t think it is possible to justify giving free publicity to such a hateful and morally decrepit individual. I write a lot about hypocrisy in media coverage of political issues and I think I would’ve absolutely been part of the problem if I published this review.
Still…I should’ve done better. I should’ve done my research before pitching the review and I should strive to be as socially conscious as possible about the artists I choose to cover going forward. This is a touchy subject in the heavy metal world, but if you’re giving free publicity to a Nazi sexual predator, something is clearly wrong.
I believe that my Shining issue is part of a broader issue that warrants serious discussion in the heavy metal community, especially with regards to journalists that cover the genre.
I’ll be clear: Despite all I’ve just said, I am still likely part of the problem. For example, I love Dissection’s music and believe that “Storm of the Light’s Bane” is one of the top five black metal records ever recorded. But frontman Jon Nödtveidt was an accessory to a murder motivated by homophobia, spent seven years in prison and was a devout Satanist (and not the hip, atheist Church of Satan kind). He was, by all accounts, an absolute monster. But I still greatly admire his music — maybe because the crimes happened when I was in kindergarten, and therefore just read like old history to me — and Dissection is generally considered to be required listening for the genre. This is an uncomfortable thing for me to admit and I genuinely don’t know how reconcile this issue.
Another one: Pretty much every metal fan I know — including the most diehard lefties — revers Emperor. But how can we reconcile that with the fact that Faust, a dude who literally stabbed a man to death for no other reason than that he was homosexual, played with the band on some recent reunion concerts? Shouldn’t we be up in arms? I know that he’s since been replaced on shows, but still. Should the decision to ever let him perform with the band again mean something? Does it taint the band’s legacy? I don’t know.
How about Deafheaven’s guitarist’s apparent homophobia? How about any of the ungodly number of awful things that Mayhem has done? What does it say about our values if journalists provide free press to these kinds of bands? What does it say if record labels and PR officials support them? I really don’t think I’m reaching here, the results of this kind of complicity are quite noticeable. Just take a look at the ghastly comments on this Orphaned Land photo. I’ll also note that despite the recent news, it should go without saying that every person that included Decapitated’s “Anticult” on their AOTY lists is a horribly tone-deaf moron at best, and knowingly complicit in sexual violence at worst.
While the metal community has collectively shunned Varg Vikernes – I guess being an especially brazen psychopath who hasn’t made a good record in two decades + creates batshit Nazi sexist tabletop RPGs is where we draw the line — the disparity in acceptance of these kinds of individuals is concerning. It warrants discussion, at the very least.
To be clear, I’m not saying that we should burn all our copies of “In the Nightside Eclipse” or exclusively listen to expressly antifascist bands such as Dawn Ray’d. I don’t think there’s any easy answer to this issue, and as mentioned, I’m far from the perfect dude to talk about this topic, but I believe it’s something that absolutely must be discussed if the metal community is going to have a positive and progressive scene going forward.