Blasphemic burning and black metal revolution - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #106



“[If my identity was discovered] They would kill me, and kill all of my friends, by cutting off our heads”. ‘Anahita’, sole member of Janaza.


“In general, the powerful and the influential in our society shape the laws and have a great influence on the legislature or the Congress. This creates a reluctance to change because the powerful and the influential have carved out for themselves or have inherited a privileged position in society, of wealth or social prominence or higher education or opportunity for the future.” Jimmy Carter, Law Day, University of Texas, 1974. He was the man who said, to a room of judges and lawyers and high-minded low-moral’d square-headed square bald quarterbackers of the worst ideas and excisions of our society deluded into believing they are in some way guardians of the corrupt and vile system they are keeping alive – “the source of my understanding about what’s right and wrong in this society is from a friend of mine; a great poet named Bob Dylan”. There is a great wave of demand, which began in the sixties, for a new kind of politics, a new kind of honesty and acceptance about how the world is and a new direction and a new theory about how the world should be. Our society is not honourable and is not just, it is not even, the vicissitudes of fate still play a great part in the shaping of the life of a person, and those fates twist themselves irreparably very early in a person’s life. Young people born in certain circumstances will experience a single small nation entirely differently from those born into privilege. As much as we like to delude ourselves, skin colour is still a factor in the shaping of a person’s life, as is gender. We live in a nation where sexual orientation is still discriminated against by the powerful, whose position in society is slowly eroding and becoming increasingly untenable by the washing river of time. We continue to allow old men to sit in air conditioned rooms, poring over maps and reports and dreaming up wars for our young men to die in, or become killers in. We have lost the way, we have allowed avarice and machinery to corrupt our spiritual centres. All that is required is a simple change, a difficult change, a person to shake up social structure, and once that simple change was made, nobody would want to return to the world before; just as with civil rights, openly campaigned against, but once they are achieved, even the openly racist would never advocate a return to the dark times before that crucial development in the civilisation of our nation and our world. Shaking up the social structure is something reserved for outlaws, bandits and those who have gone beyond the edge of reasonable action. It lies with them to make the statements we all harbour but cannot express for want or ability. There are rebels all over the world, fighting and dying for rights we take very much for granted. Most of them make music. I bring you, the collected works of the Arabic anti-Islamic league, the bands are Janaza and Seeds of Iblis, from Iraq, تدنيس from Saudi Arabia, supposedly.


I cannot confirm much of this story, I can confirm the music exists, the bands, the scene is all shrouded in secrecy. We are talking black metal here the cannibalistic extreme metal wave that swept Europe in the mid-nineties. I’ve written about black metal a coupla times because in an extreme genre, extremity has a half-life, but in a rare case the extremity of black metal exceeds so many of the social acceptances it still remains shocking. Murder, suicide, apparent Satanic worship (although not all Norwegian black metal practitioners are Satanists, it should be pointed out in the interests of accuracy), the burning of some of Norway’s historic church buildings as part of an attempted return to traditional Scandinavian Pagan cultures. The initially small community of black metal musicians (largely from the bands Darkthrone and Mayhem) are variously dead by their own or others hands, imprisoned or turned into carnival sideshows for the amusement and bemusement of cultural commentators and tourists. Black metal and me have always had a funny relationship, I refuse to believe they’re serious, even though some of their member have proved they are serious by their actions; I just can’t square the thoroughly laughable theatricality with the utter seriousness black metal fans apply to their genre. Nobody gets dressed up in corpse-paint, worships a real decapitated pig’s head on stage, throws buckets of real blood over the audience, cuts themselves on stage, claims to sleep in a coffin in the woods and worship Satan in press interviews without some view of the ridiculousness of it all. I’ve always considered Silencer’s Death – Pierce Me the greatest black metal album because it nails the beauty, but the music of the Arabic anti-Islamic league could be in with a shout. To listen to, I’ve always been drawn to the American black metal of Cobalt and Liturgy, who take the genre in interesting places musically, the theatricality of the Norwegian side, and the obstinate no-true-Scotsman refusal to move the genre past it’s now diminished shocking birth render most of the actual musical expressions moot.


Image of Janaza, now revealed to be fake.
I cannot confirm much of the Arabic anti-Islamic League’s story because it has emerged that much of their promotional art is fake and does not show members of the band. They do not give interviews, they do not perform shows, they release records quietly; all because while a record called God Hates Us All (Slayer – more blasphemous titles are out there) is quite jolly, and maybe has a sleeve in a mainstream record shop; in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, where these bands claim but cannot be confirmed to operate, record titles like Burning Quran Ceremony or Jihad Against Islam are punishable by beheading. Free speech does not exist in these nations, and religion and state are openly one. In the west, ‘freedom of speech’ is often misinterpreted. Freedom of speech means you are allowed to say whatever you want. I live in Britain. I can write that David Cameron couldn’t organise a bum rape in a barracks. I can say that the people who run my nation are dullards (and do) and I can also describe vile and obscene events in detail (I’ll spare you). I have there (and indeed whenever I speak and say relatively normal and unobjectionable things) exercised my right to free speech. Nobody succeeded or even tried to stop me saying these things. If someone later disagrees with me, that does not violate my right to free speech. Chick-fil-a retards take note. Nobody tried to stop Dan Cathy saying his stupid, bigoted, ill-informed and dangerous comments, his right to free speech exists unmolested; people who then exercise their own right to free speech to say his comments were ridiculous, poisonous and unwarranted and then indicating with anatomical specificity where he can shove aforementioned comments are not violating his right to free speech. (Observe the interconnectedness of all things) the same thing happened with the release of the latest black metal album from one-man-band Burzum, as sole member Varg Vikerness (Farmer Grishnakh) claimed he had toned down the lyrics (which are racist, homophobic and revolting in the extreme) because of the negative response to his previous record; he claimed this demonstrated that freedom of speech was dead. Nobody tried to ban his records, if you feel the need to self-censor yourself, that is a choice made, nobody at any point tried to prevent you airing your views. Phew. Right, now I’ve done the school for the perpetually dumb for another day. Free speech exists here, it does not exist in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The legal climate there, especially for non-Muslims or women is horrifying. It is a place our society once was, and will get better. The tide of time will erode the shore of stupidity, bigotry and intolerance in Saudi Arabia just as it has in Britain and America. The first breakers on that shore are the frankly world-rocking songs coming out of Janaza, Seeds of Iblis and تدنيس.
 

Black metal and its revolutionary ideas and actions came too late for the west. Norway was already changing, despite the rhetoric of some of the musicians, discussing the burning of churches in your lyrics held no power symbolically in a world that had accept atheism and post-Christian society for several decades. The wounds cut particularly by the most balls-out of the artists, Janaza, and her demo Burning Quran Ceremony still bleed deep in their society. This record wouldn’t just be considered mildly offensive by conservative newspaper columns and out-there church groups who complain for a week before the scandal going away, in Iraq, this record could get Janaza’s sole member Anahita beheaded for blasphemy, as well as anyone who helped produce or distribute the record. These rulings help to cement one thing that’ll appeal to all vocalists and writer-types: words still retain their power, cut deeper than any blade, punch deeper through to the human soul than any amount of bullets and napalm hellfire. The music is black metal, tinny, violently abrasive, the recording quality is poor; these are the hallmarks of the genre. The vocals are retched and the imagery dark and violent, and then, like a mass of lava rising out of an already stormy and turbulent sea comes the call, in the opening track, as samples crackle in the background “buuuuurn theeeee Quraaaaaan!” and it repeats… and repeats. It’s the most godlike vocal I’ve heard in years. I’m transfixed by it, the utter gaul of this righteous dudette on the front line of the rock and roll revolution desperately trying to change things through rock and roll. The point is direct, you gotta be simple when you’re talking rock poetry. And it’s superbly staged, less a vocal sung by a lesser human, and more the demands of some all-seeing omnipotent godhead “burn the Quran”, that solipsistic vocal mung of the Cookie Monster growl is now common turf for anyone wanting to cut their chops in metal but this is just on another level! I listened to it hundreds of times, burn the Quran, burn the Quran, burn the fucking Quran! I fell back on my bed, feeling like I’d been skewered by dozens of springs. Pinned to the mattress by another repeated run through as that low-down hunkered-down bunkered-down buzzsaw guitar gets to work on both my ankles. Burn the Quran! Imagine, if you will, We Will Lead You to Glorious Times-era Ramessess belting out that vocal? This is like Black Domina but more kinetic, more electric, more violent, more powerful, more incendiary. Then turn the motha’fucka’ up past 100 and the needle keeps climbing and climbing until it’s twisted itself around completely like a Dali clock. The production, the righteous blasphemy that I, as a non-religionite, can barely square and can only mechanically repeat, the twirling stabbing corkscrews of guitar like the black twists of smoke behind a Chinook in a combat zone and the drumming being the gunfire crackle, it all conspires together to create a timeless menacing barbarian classic in the genre of revolutionary rock. It will echo throughout the ages just as you ensure multiple rotations echo throughout yer house.

Images of Seeds of Iblis, now purported to be fake to protect their identities.

This could be the most punk record I’ve ever set down to listen to. Sonicly phased be-stringed flamethrowers and darkened faces growl across a soot covered audience. What time is it? The 17th century! We’ve been bombed back there in the counterfire from this atrocity of a record streaming right outta the cradle of civilisation and let me tell ya, they are not civilised no more! Not of this record is anything to go by. Seeds of Iblis are pan-brutal. Shockingly openly violent and stopping only for respite on the track (gulp) Sex With Muhammad’s Corpse. The drummer is some kinda barely-caged gorilla pounding away at the kit like it’s a child on the playground the other kids particularly don’t like. The whole record bleeds. Pouring out of the stereo and onto the floor in thick staining puddles, soaking its way into the carpet as the thudding coal-blackened metallic blasphemy continues apace. The burning of the churches was symbolic, when Christianity stormed across northern Europe roughly the time its knights stormed across the holy land looking for blood to wet their thirsty swords, Paganism was ritually wiped out, the violences shown were spiritually almost too much to bear. In many of the villages where Pagan sites were located, a church was built in such a place as to break up the lines and spirituality of the Pagan site. The barbarian blasphemic motherfuckery of it is barely within comprehension, black metal was an effort to take all of that back. I doubt there will be Mosque burnings, and I hope that there aren’t. The burning of the church as a symbol I fully endorse, but the destruction of the physical building is a historic tragedy. The retching on the record thunders on, a touch of Norse in a desert land. The pure revolutionary fervor stirred up in these records is thunderous, mighty and powerful. A striding Norse god and the four horsemen riding Arabian stallions across the holy land, but this isn’t Sleep’s Jerusalem, a new metallic holy land is being constructed as pilgrim-point for all around to come and worship at the altar of some fully righteous motherfuckers who, just like Pussy Riot, have seen fit to shake up the system, using their rock and roll fury, and are looking set to change things in a radical way.


Because it takes just one, one tiny, difficult action to transform a nation. If someone is willing to say the words everyone feels they can’t express, than they can make a whole nation free. If by screaming “burn the Quran” a small group of people will realise that the power held over them by religion is merely in their own heads, that disobedience is an art form and a righteous act and that being a freak, even a losing one, in the face of total and complete evil that tries to change things is still a deeply honourable designation. And by holding on to hope, and by being blasphemous as a demonstration, as a single heroic act that can shake up the entire social structure, just as Martin Luther King Jr. did, perhaps despised by many, just as the Arabic anti-Islamic league are despised by many, because they are choosing to rock society violently, and allowing their music to propagate will allow freedom to flourish, not in the laws and legislatures, not in the Mosques, but in the hearts of the people. If a single free person can be blasphemous, perhaps a whole nation can be free. Music can change the world, black metal can change the face of religion. Regimes fall, and dictators die, but people will always long to be free. The battles over old and evil will not be fought militarily, as always before they will be fought with words and songs and pictures and books and films. With art, pen strokes will replace artillery and the feeling in a man’s heart will become more powerful than any rifle. There is no point in fighting, on either side, our will, will simply prevail.


Written under duress by Steven.


Post script:- Because I just fucking know this will come up; as with the churches, I fully agree with the destruction of any institution, law or false machine that does not advance an individual person’s ability to be free. I endorse and encourage the destruction of religion inside your mind, but the Quran is a beautiful book, full of beautiful poetry, as is the bible, but it has fallen into evil. The will of cruel and despicable men has warped the meaning of the beautiful poetry, just as it has with the bible. I advocate the destruction of the lie built upon the Quran which seeks to separate man from his fellow man, just as I advocate and encourage individual desertion of god by Christians and any religion and the tearing down of those ideas. The poetry of the Quran is beautiful and to destroy it would be a tragic loss. If you want a revolutionary gesture, don’t burn a Bible or a Quran, wash it.

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