Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Observations concerning patient V.


From Nietzsche's "The Gay Science" (transl. by Walter Kaufman):

"369. Our side by side. - Don't we have to admit to ourselves, us artists, that there is an uncanny difference within us between our taste and our creative power? They stand oddly side by side, separately, and each grows in it's own way. I mean, they have altogether different degrees and tempi of old, young, mature, mellow and rotten. (...) Consider a continually creative person, a "mother" type in the grand sense, one who knows and hears nothing anymore except about the pregnancies and deliveries of his spirit, one who simply lacks the time to reflect on himself and to make comparisons, one who no longer has any desire to assert his taste and who simply forgets it, without caring in the least whether it still stands, or lies, or falls - such a person might eventually produce works that far excel his own judgment, so that he utters stupidities about them and himself - utters them and believes them. This seems to me to be almost the norm among fertile artists - nobody knows a child less well than it's parents do - and it is true even in the case, to take a tremendous example, of the whole world of Greek art and poetry: it never "knew" what is did".

When I recently was browsing in Nietzsche's "most personal of all his books" and read this passage, I was immediately reminded of Kristian Vikernes, better known under his nom de plume Varg ("Wolf") Vikernes, the Black Metal musician behind Burzum.

If there's one artist who utters utter stupidities about his works, it is Kristian Vikernes. If there is one artist in whom a gap - or rather, light years of cold interstellar space - can be discerned between his creative power and his judgment, it is Kristian Vikernes. I'm referring especially to his political and religious judgments and tastes - to call these 'stupidities' is euphemistic - they are moronic as well as repulsive.

Kristian Vikernes's music, on the other hand, is brilliant. The music makes possible a rupture with everyday utilitarian life through anguish, through a dramatization of existence which can leave one at the limit of tears. His creations far excel his own judgment.

And that makes those creations very different from a band like, for example, Ukrainian white supremacist Black Metal band Drudkh. When listening to Drudkh, their bombastic, testosterone-swollen political judgements grab me by the throat, forestalling any pleasure in their music. There is not the slightest gap between their art and their tastes, they are identical. In this sense I completely sympathise with mr. Impostume's troubles with listening to this band.

Other than with Drudkh, the gap between Kristian Vikernes tastes and his creative powers is so large, so evident, that the enjoyment of his creations is relatively unhindered by his asinine opinions. If one is on the location of his creations, his opinions are out of sight - and for me, out of mind.

So how did this huge gap between Kristian Vikernes's tastes and his creations come about? The explanation Nietzsche provides - the artist is too busy creating to develop his tastes - is insufficient in Kristian Vikernes's case. After all, he hasn't put out any new material since 1999's "Hliðskjálf" album, so he has had plenty of time to develop his taste and judgment into a more mature direction, time he has apparently (mis-)used for other purposes.

So is there a more apt explanation?

As I've pointed out in previous posts, one should be wary of taking anything mr. Vikernes says about his past or himself at face value. Nonetheless, on Kristian Vikernes's website (which I must force myself to read, it's so unsavoury) we can perhaps find some pointers towards an explanation. He writes about himself: "(...) Varg is the prisoner, writing articles, like this one, to stay sane, but also to not let the false accusations and biased lie-propaganda stand unopposed. He is real, but only for as long as the siege lasts. If the lies stop coming from the media-scum, and if the so-called judicial system stops its out-of-touch-with-reality processes, he will cease to exist and fade away into oblivion. He is real only because he has to be. He is simply the wall that protects the sanity, honour and life of the real Varg Vikernes. Like the fortresses of Europe this wall was not built for fun, but because of necessity". So perhaps Kristian Vikernes's taste and judgement has stopped developing because of the mental pressure of his imprisonment, and because mass-media attention has preserved his taste and judgement in aspic. His tastes and opinions are that of a teenager. If only he could show the slightest sign of spiritual growth!


In Torstein Grude's 1998 "Satan Rir Media" documentary, there is a scene which must have been recorderd when Kristian Vikernes flat was searched, after he was arrested for the murder of Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth. It is in the first part, when Finn Bjørn Tønder, a crime reporter for the Norwegian newspaper Bergens Tidende, tells about his first encounter with Vikernes.

In the scene I noticed that there was a whole heap of "Ravenloft" adventure modules for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game lying on a bookcupboard. But not only that: Vikernes had also nailed some Ravenloft imagery to a wooden beam in the ceiling of his apartment, right next to an image of the Eye of Sauron. Wikipedia about the "Ravenloft" campaign setting:

"Ravenloft is a campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. It is an alternate time-space existence called a "pocket dimension" with the name "the Demiplane of Dread", which consists of a collection of land pieces called "domains" brought together by a mysterious force known only as "The Dark Powers". Each domain is mystically ruled by a being called a "darklord", which is a person or monster who has committed an act or acts of evil so foul as to attract special attention from the Dark Powers. The darklords are imprisoned within the borders of their domains and cannot escape by any means, although most can seal their domain borders with a thought. Within their domains, the darklords are forever tormented by the objects of their desire (often the objects they committed their crimes to achieve), which the Dark Powers dangle before them like the fruits of Tantalus. Each darklord's desires and motivations differ; some desire love, others hunger for glorious victory, or one might envy the defeat and humiliation of their enemies like another rival darklord".

Doesn't this description recall the situation of Kristian Vikernes? Hasn't he committed acts of evil so foul as to attract special attention and be imprisoned? Isn't he not only literally imprisoned, but also imprisoned within the borders of his psychological domain (the domain of Burzum, Varg, Count Grishnack?), which he cannot escape by any means? If so, what fruit from the garden of Tantalus would Vikernes be seeking?

Even though Vikernes had a lot of roleplaying books, it is hard to imagine his as an apt player of role-playing games. After all, role-playing games are social games, in which a fictional problem must be solved through interaction and collaboration. A typical role-playing game unifies its participants into a single team, known as a "party", that plays as a group. Thus, role-playing games call for skills which Vikernes lacks. His mother about her son in "Lords of Chaos": "He never liked organized play or organized sports. He was very good at playing on his own, with a very rich imagination, but as soon as he had to adjust to others in kindergarten it didn't work so well".

So perhaps thát is the Tantalus fruit Vikernes is reaching for: the ability to live his life in communication with others, instead of a life which is completely turned in on itself and thereby impoverished. Can his Odinist nostalgia and his fascist tendencies signify an longing for a Gemeinschaft in the sociological sense of the word?


I use Vikernes's Christian name instead of his wolfish nom de plume. Why? It is more than an attempt to irritate Vikernes the fascist: it is first of all an attempt to demythologize him, as well as to bring out the "Sméagol" personality in this "Gollum" character. Vikernes should be able to appreciate this - he is a big Lord Of The Rings fan, after all. Did you also notice how he - like Gollum - describes himself in the third person? He should have used the name "Count Gollum" instead of "Count Grishnack"!


Dominic said...

There are flashes of self-awareness in Vikernes's interviews; at one point in LoC he suggests that maybe having gone into prison whilst still a teenager has frozen his development (he says something like: you don't get to mature much when you're surrounded by junkies). Elsewhere he says that if he hadn't been imprisoned, he would probably have ended up in some fatal mishap - at the time he was arrested he had stolen explosives in his flat, and was awaiting the delivery of some machine pistols, and as he says things would probably have "gone awry"(!). There seems to be a strong dissociation between this awareness and the Varg/Kvisling persona(lity), which is an impressively grisly fabrication.

One of the people interviewed in LoC, I think either a priest or a theologian but certainly a Christian, describes Vikernes as "deep-souled", someone with real charisma who could have been a figurehead with much broader appeal if he'd wanted it. Certainly I find Burzum's music remarkable - how many 19-year-olds, given a guitar and asked to come up with some "metal" riffs, could have produced those compellingly dissonant figures? The anguished "pain screaming" vocal style also stands out a mile against the background of death and early black metal - Dead's vocals on De Mysteriis are perhaps equally original and strange, but totally different. Malefic has a similar intensity, but shrouds it in heavy effects - what's astonishing in Burzum is how up-front and raw the vocals are.

Anonymous said...

Sigh...Drudkh aren't Nazis, explicit or otherwise. Ukrainian nationalists, maybe. Flirted around the edges or been that way in a former life, sure.

Stephen O' Malley's Descent zine regularly reviewed and ran ads for NSBM groups and labels. O'Malley also designed the Burzum box set. Does this make Sunn O))) racist? Does it make Southern Lord a Nazi record label?

It's unfortunate how often this accusation is floated, yet with so little to back it up.

valter said...

Dominic, Thanks for the interesting remarks. Regarding the quality of Burzum's and Mayhem's music: I'm very surprised that the music, which is now more than 10 years old, has aged so well - like a bottle of good wine. The music of so many 'intelligent' underground acts which I preferred at the time has become stale - I really can't listen to Ministry anymore, for example.

Anonymous, On Drudkh's record label, Supernal Music, Drudkh's sensibilities are described as "... nostalgic, anti-urban, conservative revolutionary. (...) Against the degenerate modern, liberal ideology of cosmopolitanism, urbanism, and secularism, and in favour of heroic, traditionalist values, living in harmony with nature rather than raping it". As you probably know, Drudkh was created by two Hate Forest members. According to Supernal Music's web site, "HATE FOREST's art is based upon the Aryan/Slavonic mythology, Nietzschean philosophy, and the ideology of elitism. (...) Every subhuman buying HATE FOREST releases buys a weapon against himself". This sounds like white suprematist thinking, it smells like it, it looks like it ... isn't it reasonable to assume that it must be that very thing?

Also, I feel you misread the meaning of my post in suggesting I would write SOMA off because his fanzine reviewed NSBM music. The point of this post is that - with some bands at least - one can enjoy the music without being hindered by the stupidity of their ideology. The same is true of musicians with extreme left-wing sympathies. I can listen to Luigi Nono - to name an example from a completely different musical genre - without being bothered by his communist revolutionary ideals.

Anonymous said...

Hate Forest may have had those leanings (which again, are not explicitly Nazi but I'll grant you the smell test on that one) but Hate Forest are no longer together. Drudkh is the new incarnation, and the words used to describe Drudkh's music would seem, to me at least, to reflect a movement away from their earlier posturing. Most NSBM sees no reason to muddy the waters about it's thinking, and I'm sure Drudkh's change in self-description reflects a genuine maturing from those earlier, primitive positions.

Most non-corporate/non-ironic metal or BM in particular sees itself as elitist, only to be understood by the proverbial Supermen of the world. It's a slippery slope between this worldview and one which sees race as a factor in that elitism, but it's not one that NEEDS to be followed, or indeed, retained.

Finally, I did not suggest that you would write off SOMA's music, but rather, used it for a basis of examining the guilt-by-association labeling that seems to follow Drudkh around.

Thanks for the interesting discussion nonetheless.