New Criticals

We were at a bar in Brooklyn, but we could have been in any of America’s cities with young passionate music fans (Portland, Seattle, Austin, Philly, et al.). Amidst the pods of the mingling and imbibing, there was a group talking about music trends and in a way, social issues. More specifically, there was talk about the implications of wearing a Burzum t-shirt in public. Burzum defined the sonic territories of black metal. Their music was recorded under intentionally low quality conditions, using boomboxes as guitar amps and recording screams with headsets. Music for and of the void. It was a project fronted by convicted murderer, alleged church arsonist and white nationalist Varg Vikernes.

This person’s concern seemed, after all, legitimate. Was wearing Burzum band merch somehow an endorsement of arson, white supremacy, and stabbing as a form of conflict resolution? How does one begin to reconcile the real life actions of an artist whose artworks are admired? His friend retorted that he shouldn’t listen to black metal at all (no less sport their merch) not because of these ethical dilemmas it presents, but because of the ways in which it had become diluted by its trendiness. The spark of danger, spookiness and aloneness that it communicated had diminished thanks to a fleet of contemporary American bands re-interpreting the genre to their own advantage (the irony of young people in Brooklyn discussing this notwithstanding). To stoke the fire, I naturally brought up the local band Liturgy.