Part 2 of a 2-part article. Read part 1 HERE.
“If you listen to black metal, but don’t know what phase the moon is in, or what wildflowers are blooming, then you have failed,” said drummer Aaron Weaver of Washington’s Wolves in the Throne Room. The band takes a hardline approach toward the need for environmental conscientiousness through music. “It is shocking to me that one could be seriously interested in black metal and not be deeply committed to radical ecology.” His views are just one highlight of a new emergence of environmental activists who play some of the most abrasive, underground music in the world.
The new generation of working class people, which includes artists and musicians, is deeply angry over the careless assault on natural resources and habitat. The culprits are far too often right-wing climate change denial and Big Oil’s profit-motivated, destructive activities. But many in the “green” black metal scene feel that those who fail to act or talk about these issues are just as much to blame. So this music, as of late, delivers a sonically chaotic summary – sometimes melancholic, sometimes furious – of what is happening to the world.
Now venturing far beyond its lyrical roots of the icy landscapes of Scandinavia, black metallers are no longer playing music of simple earthly admiration; they are trying to warn about the carelessness many have shown toward environmental preservation, and it is perhaps fitting that they are quite literally screaming their message to the world.
Big Business and capitalism killing the environment
One of the two members of Oregon’s Velvet Cacoon, Josh, believes that Big Business and capitalism are killing the environment, and that equally aggressive means ought to be used to stop that. Velvet Cacoon’s music certainly expresses such a sentiment. “Ever since I can remember, I have had a strong opposition to Big Business-global rape. The Pacific Northwest is a hotbed of environmentalists who would stop at nothing to punish those who deface this planet to satiate their own greed.”
Josh added that many black metal artists in the U.S. today tend to congregate in very rural areas, as the tranquility and closeness to nature help to influence their music. “We are in a valley surrounded by rivers and pine forests. It is very cathartic for us. I believe we cannot help but be influenced [by it]. The landscape here serves as our inspiration and temple.”
Due to their intense beliefs, Velvet Cacoon have sometimes been mistakenly referred to as ‘eco-fascist black metal,’ but stress that they in no way support fascism, and, quite the contrary, are motivated to protest the kind of environmental destruction that the political Right causes. “If anything,” Josh elaborated, “we have moved Velvet Cacoon away from eco-fascist ideologies. We also wanted to keep [the band] from becoming a tool of propaganda.” Instead, he suggested, Velvet Cacoon could be viewed as more of an environmental message in the form of “timeless art.”
Josh noted that the band also opposes the misuse or overuse of technology to harm the world. “Our opposition occurs when people seek to exploit these things to satisfy their greed. Americans are taught at an early age that overindulgence is somehow a positive characteristic that should be strived for regardless of the goal, which usually results in blind carelessness that affects not only those around them, but future generations as well.”
Band member Angela added, “Imagine what future generations will have to suffer through. What is this all for? So we can sustain a culture of lazy people by assuring nobody has to walk more than five steps, because, apparently, society has deemed that any form of exercise is unacceptable, and that we must think up new methods to ensure we suffer an epidemic of laziness and morbid obesity? Technology these days is marketed to gratify laziness.”
She also outlined the importance for a certain survivalist instinct that living a bucolic life encourages. She explained that she actually hunts and catches her food, rather than buying processed or genetically modified products, some of which involved the senseless torture of animals. “I only eat chicken from a friend’s farm. I catch my own fish as well. Oregon is so great because we have the best salmon in the world.”
Becoming activists outside of music
These black metal artists, however, are playing to a scene that is altogether overlooked by many. Many of these bands get virtually no press coverage, and earn just enough money to scrape by (and sometimes less than that). That being said, their green messages aren’t going to reach everyone. But more people are listening now. And many metal artists are taking a further step to become environmental activists outside of their music, as well:
The Agonist’s Alissa White-Gluz has been working with PETA to stop Canadian seal killing for several years, and French metal band Gojira continuously donate the proceeds that go to their music to the anti-whaling organization Sea Shepherd. And one can be sure that their activism in the real world is as intense as their music.
A recent blog entry by Noise Pollution summed up black metal’s role in the environmental struggle: “In a region where government doesn’t listen and nature is something to simply be paved over, perhaps art is the only real form of protest left.
“Black metal is the music of protest. The genre was conceived as a scream against the status quo and a blazing torch of anger tossed toward those who were comfortable with the way things existed. That’s black metal’s legacy, and part of the reason why it’s still valid today. American eco-black metal could play that role by changing the way we look at nature.
“The fight for the future of the planet is taking place here and now.”
Photo: The Agonist’s Alissa White-Gluz, together with PETA, protests the torture of factory chickens. PETA