The purpose of this blog at the moment is discussing entertainment. The discussion is something best whispered, because it’s embarrassing and I can’t help but suspect there’s more useful things to talk about. But this is what I want to talk about.
Black metal, power electronics and other extreme forms of music give a particular enjoyment I find indispensable. At the same time the source of this music is almost always reactionary. I wish there was left wing black metal. I wish there was left wing power electronics. I do not want remixes of the Soviet anthem or random deployments of Lenin speeches or the Juche symbol or any other cheap imitation wrapped up in Communist kitsch. I want something that has the bilious rage of BM/PE, that gives those same sensations of loathing for the world, for delicacy and human frailty, but does not come from that reactionary place that feeds the best examples of black metal and power electronics.
This music, or really another kind of art should communicate the same needs and demands that we have but can also communicate a hate for the “satanic worldly”, for the gangrenous snake whose belly we live inside. This art must combine aesthetics and politics in such a way that its rage is impotent, a desperate clawing at the barriers of this world in that way the best harsh music does.
Peste Noire is the black metal band whose aesthetics and politics are most interesting to me, and unsurprisingly I found out that Mark Fisher had already weighed in years prior. Responding to Benjamin Noy’s essay on Peste Noire and Carl Schmitt, Fisher asked a question that I shared:
“Why does counter-consensual negativity now seem to “naturally” take a right wing form? To what extent is it possible to imagine this negativity being detached from the nationalism, racism and anti-modernism in which it is usually embedded in BM, and being deployed by another politics?”
Noy’s writes that this particular negativity is intrinsic to the write. It is “telluric”, earthbound, a welling up from the hell beneath a particular nation’s soil. Peste Noire is white supremacist, French nationalist, fascist. In their imagery and support for the fascists in Ukraine they even present an image of guerilla militancy, of partisanship.
Its lead singer, Famine, in an interview described turning down the chance to perform at a major “identitarian” rally because Peste Noire “reeks of vice”. They are disgusting. Lyrics about sex, shitting, etc. They cannot perform for “proud skinheads and grandfathers”.
Their music is determinedly noxious. I admit I liked Famine’s rap where he gives “big ups” to Tepes, De Sade, and Gilles De Rais. It’s the use of history and the general collage aesthetic merging foulness and ideology that gives Peste Noire power and appeal (at least to me).
Collage and contradiction are on display in the art that accompanies Peste Noire’s releases. The first image that charmed me: a plague doctor with a panzerfaust, the disposable anti-tank weapon that was issued in mass numbers to the Volkssturm, the militia of retirees and children formed by the Nazi state in their last days. The second image: the rider on horseback rearing up, an AK-47 in place of a sword in his raised hand. Archaic and modern images of militancy and violence are united in the same way that Peste Noire sings medieval poems over guitars and keyboards.
The contradiction in message and format brings to mind the archaicisms of fascism and the archeofuturism of the nouvelle droite. Technology tamed and tethered to the most reactionary and limited politics , becoming the clothing of seemingly extinct ideologies.
With shame and disgust, I quote Trotsky:
Fascism has opened up the depths of society for politics. Today, not only in peasant homes but also in city skyscrapers, there lives alongside of the twentieth century the tenth or the thirteenth. A hundred million people use electricity and still believe in the magic power of signs and exorcisms. The Pope of Rome broadcasts over the radio about the miraculous transformation of water into wine. Movie stars go to mediums. Aviators who pilot miraculous mechanisms created by man’s genius wear amulets on their sweaters. What inexhaustible reserves they possess of darkness, ignorance, and savagery! Despair has raised them to their feet fascism has given them a banner. Everything that should have been eliminated from the national organism in the form of cultural excrement in the course of the normal development of society has now come gushing out from the throat; capitalist society is puking up the undigested barbarism. Such is the physiology of National Socialism.
The nationalism and satanism of Peste Noire are not in contradiction if we consider Famine’s declaration that their music is nostalgia for a fallen world. At the end of World War Two, Goebbels in a speech to one of the last ditch Nazi militias said: “God has given up the protection of the people . . . Satan has taken command.”
Schmitt’s partisan is not just telluric, it is acheronic. It is from hell, and who is to the land what the submarine was to the ocean. War, politics and the potential for eternal enmity taken to the depths of the Earth and the populace. Total war obliterates all distinction between friend and enemy and the world is given over to barbarism.
The Fin De Siecle’s vision of a fanatic and desperate medievalism, purified by misery now meeting with fascist insurgency.
To go back to the idea of a left-wing Peste Noire, Noy’s asks:
Can we have the ‘bare noise and pulse of the modern world’ as the nihilist critique of what Badiou calls ‘capitalo-parliamentarianism’ without the embarrassing archaic fascist nostalgia? For Peste Noire, or for Sale Famine, this splitting is impossible, as the elements of the lost past constantly clash against the ‘noise’ that is representative of a fallen modern world – this quasi-‘dialectical’ tension cannot be divided. Famine’s ‘boyscout Satanism’ – Sieg Hell instead of Sieg Heil, and Nietzschean übermensch sodomy – is predicated on the retention of an aesthetic and political ‘fractured unity’.
What are the characteristics that are appealing?
1. The ‘quasi-dialectical tension’ produced by contradictory message and medium
2. Further tension between nostalgia and present
3. Aggression, anger, etc. An honest outpouring of bile.
4. Filth. Sex, shit, death. Another kind of tension as the purity of a pure race is put against the foulness of earth, body and modernity.
5. Against democracy, banality, the ugliness of modern life.
6. It presents another world. In this case, a series of pasts collaged together to create one image of violent discord.
7. Decay has been described as a kind of nostalgia, and the power of faded images is lent to Peste Noire’s vision of a tarnished and long doomed world.
8. From decay and forces in conflict comes everything else, messily.
Sacred and profane presented together is a cliché in art but it’s clearly that kind of contradiction that gives Peste Noire power enough to inspire this kind of fuss over them by left wing academics like Noys and Fisher and blogging pseuds like myself.
It’s also possible that the frisson between being a good leftist and listening to a musically creative but deeply fascist band is another appeal-creating contradiction. Likely, even, if embarrassing.
The futility of art against the existence of the Earth as another tension. To achieve the hateful intensity discussed so far this tension has to be explored and magnified.
Among Southern Baptists there’s talk of being “world hating”, of righteousness emerging from spiritual resistance to the crudeness of the world. Georges Sorel, another French figure full of apparent contradictions described a view of the world which rhymed with that of revolutionaries: “In primitive Christianity we find a fully developed and completely armed pessimism: man is condemned to slavery from birth –Satan is the prince of the world”.
If I am thinking on the level of feeling and not trying to think dialectically/materialistically or with the banal scientism that passes for sanity in this society, then I would say that Satan is real. God does not exist but Satan does. The world is alive and it is rotting, not simply warming, but decaying on some deeper level. The ground is flesh and it is suppurating, spilling open and unleashing every species of worms, lice, frogs, arachnid things whose excrement enters our lungs with every inhalation.
Capitalism and this necrotic Satan are family, perhaps the same. Not Lovecraft, not gothic, not sublime or reframed as a chance for rare and exclusive pleasures-just pure stink rising from our bodies and their potential.
I saw a photograph of a child who was profoundly mentally disabled. The child’s mouth open wide in a literal drooling idiocy. Neglected and mistreated in a mental hospital, this child who never closed its mouth lost its teeth and its gums became host to maggots. When I saw the picture for the first time I thought the child had dozens of tiny teeth, little white ones wet and clustered tight. Then I read the description. And saw they were maggots.
Revulsion and sorrow and a deep sense of shame. Tears that come from profound moral failure, the pain of finding out that you’ve been a betrayer.
I lived for years with this idea that the Earth is this persistently dead, suffering thing and that the human race is incapable of anything but total barbarism, socialism barred by the cruelty of the universe. Watch Hard to be a God for a vision of a truly canceled future. Another vision, that affected me greatly, was a novel of the 30’s Years War, Simplicissimus. Simplicissimusums up the view of ultrabarbaric suffering in its descriptions of the petty soldiers that follow in the wakes of the Landsknecht:
Their whole existence consisted of eating and drinking, going hungry and thirsty, whoring and sodomising, gaming and dicing, guzzling and gorging, murdering and being murdered, killing and being killed, torturing and being tortured, terrifying and being terrified, hunting and being hunted, robbing and being robbed, pillaging and being pillaged, beating and being beaten, being feared and being afraid, causing misery and suffering miserably—in a word, injuring and destroying and in turn being injured and destroyed. And nothing could stop them, neither winter nor summer, snow nor ice, heat nor cold, rain nor wind, mountain nor valley, meadows nor marsh, not ravine, pass, sea, wall, water, fire or rampart, not father or mother, brother or sister, not danger to their own body, soul or conscience, nor the loss of heaven or of anything else for which there are words. They went about their business until, one by one, they expired, perished, died, croaked their last in battles, sieges, attacks, campaigns
Barbarism levels everything, all creations and all expectations. From this ground zero something can be built, if only temporarily. An art alive in absurd and violent contradictions, hateful and stupid, an expression of the impotent wish for wrath that makes holes in our hearts and grows cancer in our bodies.
Communism, as a ruthless criticism, a philosophy of negativity, should be at home in this place of contradictory decadence and those who ascribe to it may do something to communicate the vicious and desperate thrust of this critique.