Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Black Metal Conspiracy (pt. 1)

Maurice Blanchot: "Children, whose suspicion that they are constantly being deceived is ever vigilant, show us the connection between games and and an uncertain, indefinite deception which renders all acts thrilling, solemn and wondrous. But, when the children perceive that certain grown-ups, generally their parents, are the instigators of this duplicity against them, then everything is apt to become more serious: distrust solidifies. The dividing line which until then, at least in bourgeois milieux, split the world in two - on one side family members and close friends, the luminous world of the good, and on the other side the street, ill-dressed people, night prowlers, evil - distressingly passed right through the territory children had felt to be secure: their parents may still embody the good, but it is a good which can't be trusted, and craftiness is required to protect oneself against it."

The early Norwegian Black Metal scene is often referred to as the "Black Metal Inner Circle" - by Øystein 'Euronymous' Aarseth first of all - while such an Inner Circle in all likelihood never existed. Thus, the use of the term "Black Metal Inner Circle", rather than pointing to an actual social formation, points to a desire to be part of a conspiracy.

There is something puerile - or to put it more positively: boyishly playful - about this desire. It reminds me of the conspiracy games boys like, with membership cards, secret meeting places, cryptography and so on. We should not forget that Øystein Aarseth was only fifteen when he formed the original Mayhem line-up in 1983 - an age when many boys still play conspiracy games. And as I've written before (here and here), Black Metal is a highly playful genre of music. Certainly, the conspiracy game of the "Black Metal Inner Circle" must have added a sense of the "...thrilling, solemn and wondrous..." to the life of adolescents in the boring, bourgeois Norway of the 1980s. Of course, the conspiracy game soon became a deadly serious affair. But that moral seriousness in no way detracts from the playful nature of the conspiracy. Let us not forget that the grimmest of violence is part and parcel of another form of play, sports; more blood has been shed in the cause of soccer - a mere game! - than all Black Metal hordes together can ever hope to spill.

Following Blanchot's interpretation of conspiracy games enables us to speculate about the origins of Black Metal culture. It allows us to see Black Metal conspiracies such as Mayhem as a rebellious reciprocation of the deceptions played upon them by adults. When the adults chose to muddy, to make indistinct the dividing line which split the world into a luminous side and an evil one, the young conspirators reciprocated by at once reaffirming the boundary between the two sides and transgressing them: they chose to abandon the side of "... family members and close friends, the luminous world of the good..." altogether and to form a Cabal emulating " ...ill-dressed people, night prowlers, evil...".

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