On not giving a Nazi sexual predator free publicity

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.

Top 15 records of 2017

OK, 2017 is over. I wrote a top 15 list for Metal Injection. You should read it here. Buy the music from the bands on the list. Buy their merchandise. Go to their shows. Give them excessive amounts of money and attention because they deserve it.

Working with Metal Injection has been one of the highlights of my year. I started 2017 writing reviews for an audience of literally nobody, and the dozens to ~hundred hours I put into it bore no fruit for months. That sucked, but I pretty much knew that was how it was going to go. I’m glad to have a major platform in Metal Injection to promote my heavy metal writing and it’s nice to see my material actually get decent online circulation. Hopefully I’ll be able to expand on that in 2018.

I’m also genuinely glad to know that there’s a chance — however minor — that my writing for Metal Injection has positively impacted the metal music scene. Like everyone else that writes about this kind of music, I have a few bands that basically nobody else knows about and having a chance to rep them on a website as large as Metal Injection might connect them to a swath of new fans. With luck, anyway.

Anyway, if I had time, I would’ve liked to expand this to a top 20 list. Unfortunately, being sick and covering the Thomas Fire in Ventura County strapped me of both time and creative energy. As for the music in my list’s “Honorable Mentions,” I’m confident that the “NieR: Automata” soundtrack would’ve placed fairly high on my actual list if I had had more time to listen to it. Ah well. That’s a phenomenal game with a phenomenal soundtrack. As mentioned, you should buy it.

That’s all. See you in 2018.

Album review: Dawn Ray’d’s ‘The Unlawful Assembly’

The Unlawful Assembly

The Unlawful Assembly

Hey friends, a bit late on this, but I reviewed Dawn Ray’d’s killer debut “The Unlawful Assembly” for Metal Injection last week. Holidays+sickness=a bit of a posting delay. It’s not perfect, but it’s still pretty great and you should check it out. The record, I mean. The review is obviously perfect. Read it here.

That wraps up the reviews I’m going to be publishing this year. Going to be working on my “Albums of the Year” list for Metal Injection now, and I’m absolutely beyond excited that my list is actually going to be published on a mainstream website and get some real traction. The lists I’ve written for the last few years got nothing because I had no real platform, and this is going to be an awesome change of pace. That, and it means the underground bands I love will actually get some good attention. Seriously, I can’t wait.

I’ve posted a bit less this month and December will probably be the same. Been writing a few other things, but not the kind of things that’d be published publicly. That, plus the holidays+sickness. Still going to try to stick with the “minimum three articles a month,” but I’ve been especially prolific recently and that aforementioned stuff+I gotta pace myself and whatnot. Already making plans for reviews of stuff in January and regular writing schedule will resume soon.

ANYWAY, this Dawn Ray’d review was interesting. I expected a bit of backlash when noting and more-or-less endorsing the band’s strong political stances, and I think writing about bigotryand let’s not sugarcoat it, nazism—in metal is worth an in-depth article in the near future. We’ll see.

For what it’s worth, it’s not that I ignore NSBM-related or ex-NSBM-related artists such as Nokturnal Mortum or White Death that put out stuff this year. I listened to those albums. I just didn’t think they were particularly good or worth covering, regardless of ideology. Didn’t even know about White Death’s political stances until after I listened to the record. Dawn Ray’d made a killer debut. They also happen to have a progressive stance. It’s the quality of the music that warranted coverage.

I’d like to explore this topic more in the future, but in the meantime, listen to Dawn Ray’d’s debut. It’s really good. And read my review.

Unless you’re a nazi punk. In that case, fuck off.

Album review: Toothgrinder’s ‘Phantom Amour’

Phantom Amour

Phantom Amour

I had heard snippets of Toothgrinder’s new record but held off on pitching a review until I had a chance to see them perform on Between the Buried and Me’s recent “Colors” tour. Well, Toothgrinder performed one of the best opening sets I’ve seen in years…So, review time!

“Phantom Amour” isn’t a magnificent, transcendent jaw-dropping masterpiece that will change the industry, but it’s still pretty good. Occasionally great. Fantastic, in a few cases. Buy it. And read the review I wrote for Metal Injection.

Album review: Ne Obliviscaris’ ‘Urn’

Urn

Urn

It kills me that I don’t love this album more, because like I said in my review, there really are few others bands I’d love to champion more than Ne Obliviscaris. This one is a fair bit worse than “Citadel,” which I already considered to be a significant decline in quality from “Portal of I.” Hope this isn’t a trend. Hardcore fans and prog devotees will enjoy this, but this isn’t the majestic, moving work that earned Ne Obliviscaris such goodwill.

Alright, I’ll stop paraphrasing my review and just link it already. Read here.

Album review: Howls of Ebb’s / Khthoniik Cerviiks’ ‘With Gangrene Edges / Voiidwarp’

With Gangrene Edges / Voiidwarp

With Gangrene Edges / Voiidwarp

Was great to rep some especially underground bands (well, we could argue about Howls of Ebb not being unknown, but you get the idea, compared to some of my more recent reviews). Bummer that Howls of Ebb has split up, but this is certainly a helluva high note to end on. Check it out.

Blake Judd (Nachtmystium) is still a con artist

Blake Judd, most known for creating the U.S. black metal project Nachtmystium, is still a con artist.

For those unaware of the years-long controversy surrounding Judd and Nachtmystium, this Noisey article from 2014 serves as a solid summary that is unfortunately still timely today. I recommend reading the article in its entirety, but here’s an excerpt:

For the last decade or so Blake Judd’s black metal project Nachtmystium was at the forefront of success in terms of US metal. Each record seemed to outpace the previous, and Blake was a critical and commercial darling with the whole “tortured genius” persona at his disposal. When Nachtmystium’s last album, Silencing Machine, hit Billboard, he received better and better offers for tours, recording, merchandise, etc. He held court over an enormous and rabid fanbase. The cliff notes version: Blake held the world by the balls and was poised to do incredible things. Instead, he pissed it all away because of a crippling drug problem—and years of solipsism way before he ever even held a needle.

For the last few years, Blake has been accused by dozens, if not hundreds, of fans regarding theft and Paypal fraud. He would post a list of dozens of rare black metal vinyl for massive collectors’ prices on his now defunct Facebook page. He also put up his own band’s new record as a “pre-order bundle” that included shirts and other nonsense. He collected thousands of dollars from people for these items. What’s the catch? Easy: The fucking items did not exist. When confronted about where these items which people paid him for were Blake would get defensive, delete their comments, and then ban them from the page in order not to deter the next round of rubes eager to send a paycheck and a message of support.

After an extended period of inactivityJudd previously stated that he was done performing musicNachtmystium is back, and Judd has been heavily promoting new merchandise on the project’s new Facebook page. He was also heavily touting refunds for prior merchandise that went undelivered.

I purchased a $45 signed merchandise bundle of Nachtmystium’s “The World We Left Behind” in 2014 and, like so many others, received nothing. By that time, Judd’s reputation was already nil, and it was obviously a poor decision on my part, but I digress. I reached out to the project’s listed email address for refunds in early August and never received a single response. I also repeatedly asked for updates on my refund on Nachtmystium’s Facebook page. There, I was assured that someone would be in contact with me shortly. I received similar promises when I asked for follow ups a few subsequent times, though there’s been only radio silence in the last few weeks.

A cursory scan of other comments on the project’s Facebook page read similarly. Some people seem to have had similar issues acquiring a refund, while others have not received merchandise that they have reportedly purchased. A few commenters have even said that Judd has abruptly canceled or skipped recent scheduled concert appearances. That said, I should note that other commenters have thanked Judd for refunds, though it is unclear how of those refunds were actually delivered or just promised.

Of course, the only claim I can verify is my own. Well, I could go and call every concert venue Nachtmystium was supposed to appear at, private message customers still trying to get refunds to compare experiences, and I could go analyze the Facebook page of every person that claims to have received a refund to see if they’re a shill or otherwise fake account. But that takes time I don’t have and I’m not getting paid to write this article. Also, as a metal fan, I have pretty much zero goodwill to spare for Judd and simply don’t want to dedicate any more creative energy covering his antics. There’s a reason I didn’t pitch this article for Metal Injection.

What I can say is that this kind of disingenuous behavior from Judd is not new, but it is unfortunate. I enjoy Nachtmystium’s musicI even named the extreme metal radio show I DJ’d in college “Silencing Machine”and I’d truly love to see Judd sincerely try to amend for his past actions. But I’m still waiting for my refund, and there’s too much negative chatter on Nachtmystium’s Facebook page for me to assume that I’m an unlucky outlier.

I advise Nachtmystium fans to avoid purchasing anything from Judd directly. If you absolutely must own some kind of Nachtmystium merchandise, I recommend purchasing it from a legitimate record label or third party distributor. And if there are still any musicians, record labels or public relations representatives out there that are interested in signing, collaborating or otherwise working with Judd, I strongly urge you to consider the risks.