Clandestine Sounds intends to focus our coverage primarily on four genres: black metal, dungeon synth, dark ambient, and dark/neofolk.
Two of those genres – black metal and neofolk – have been said to have a ‘Nazi problem.’ There’s a definite NS presence in dungeon synth as well, but it’s difficult to tell how pervasive it is given the rapid rate at which the genre continues to grow. Only dark ambient seems to be free of any sort of widespread fascist influence, at least as far as I’m aware. Apparently the hardcore Satanists don’t care about politics – who knew?
Sometimes I genuinely hate how much I love this music. The vast majority of the black metal dudes I know would rather talk about vegan food and their dogs than politics, but there are enough exceptions out there that being a fan of any of these genres requires a certain amount of vigilance. As for writing about them…well, I’ve asked myself repeatedly why I continue to do it instead of….oh, I don’t know – moving to the mountains and raising chickens or alpacas…
I’ve said many times that I probably spend more time thinking about who may or may not be sketch than anyone outside of law enforcement. To extend that metaphor, law enforcement doesn’t always get their man or woman. They may miss clues, or not ask the right questions, and not realize until later that the suspect they thought was Verbal Kint was really Keyser Söze…or something.
That comparison broke down somewhere, but my point is that the odds are good that we’re occasionally going to miss something. It’s inevitable – we will sometimes get it wrong. So let me state as unequivocally as possible that Clandestine Sounds is 100% anti-Nazi, anti-Fascist, and against racial, sexual, or gender-based discrimination of any kind. Full stop.
That being said, I think there’s more than one way to address the the issue of sketch in these genres – all of which are valid, and all of which have their own specific set of drawbacks. Perhaps unavoidably, my perspective on the issue is heavily influenced by my background in English Lit, and the fact that I’ve been teaching college-level Composition and Rhetoric for about 15 years now. I believe in the enduring power of words, and I think those of us who are in a position to have an audience for our words need to choose them carefully and use them responsibly. Particularly in this age of the Internet.
I used to teach an essay by NYU professor of journalism Charles Seife called “The Loneliness of the Interconnected,” from his 2014 book Virtual Unreality: Just Because the Internet Told You, How Do You Know It’s True? It’s a strikingly prescient essay in that he basically predicted things like the rise of the Alt-Right and the fake news phenomenon. In short, his argument is that the Internet is making people more narrow-minded and extreme – all the information in the world at our fingertips, and we tend to only seek out the things that confirm what we already believe.
In some cases, these things are fringe ideas that would likely have died out without the Internet. Seife’s main example in the essay is the Morgellons, a condition wherein people believe they have small, worm-like fibers emerging from sores on their skin. Here’s the thing: after a six-year study of people who claimed to have the condition, the Center for Disease Control concluded that Morgellons doesn’t actually exist. It’s a form of delusional parasitosis. Yet you can still find online forums and support groups for people who are convinced they have Morgellons, and to hell with what the CDC has to say about it. In other words, the Internet is keeping the idea of Morgellons alive long after it should have disappeared from people’s consciousnesses. The same holds true for any number of other fringe beliefs and ideologies, and I fear that by fixating on these fringe elements in black metal and other related genres, the metal blogosphere is actually helping to keep them alive.
This is further complicated by the fact that there truly is no such thing as bad publicity, and accusations of being sketch from within the metal blogosphere gives a band massive amounts of publicity – free publicity at that.. Thus even when condemning an ideology, one is essentially still giving that ideology a platform. To use a recent example, thanks to the well-coordinated efforts of a number of groups and individuals, a certain Finnish band was recently prevented from playing a handful of gigs here in the States. However, I’d be very curious to see that band’s online merch sales during that period, or their streaming numbers from Apple Music or Spotify. I have a hunch that those numbers will show that the protests and op-eds – despite successfully pressuring several venues to cancel the band’s gigs – actually proved beneficial to the band in more ways than it harmed them.
Ergo, I believe that the only way to truly deplatform a band or an ideology is to refuse to acknowledge that it even exists. If you don’t give a spark any oxygen, it cannot turn into a flame. This is our official editorial policy regarding sketch bands at Clandestine Sounds.
Switching gears, there’s one more thing you’re not going to find at Clandestine Sounds: we will not be marginalizing musicians by segregating them according to their biological sex. Female-fronted is not a genre, and there is absolutely no difference between a drummer and a female drummer except perhaps the lower expectations that tacitly come along with the addition of the word ‘female.’
Granted, some musicians do consider their femininity an essential part of their musical identity, and in those instances it’s a topic we’re more than happy to delve into. However, that should be up to the individual musician to decide, not some blogger (or PR person, or label…). To insist otherwise would be to rob that musician of her (or his) agency, and that’s not something we have any interest in doing.