12 O'Clock Track: Nyogthaeblisz, "Satanic Warfare"

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Though I was raised in the tradition, I don't really do Christmas, for reasons too complicated and depressing to get into here. So for today's 12 O'Clock Track I decided to choose something that's basically the exact opposite of, say, "A Holly Jolly Christmas." I'm sure this makes me a bit of a Grinch, but so be it. For the record I'm not opposed to peace on Earth or goodwill toward men (and women and children). I see little evidence of either, but they're both great ideas.

Underground black-metal band Nyogthaeblisz, based as near as I can tell in El Paso, Texas, played both installments of the Cathedral of the Black Goat this year. (Like many underground black-metal bands, they have no Web presence.) The reason I picked one of their songs, despite knowing I'd have to apologize at length for doing so, is the sound of it: the "pennies in a blender" production quality makes it feel recondite, primitive, and evil. Preposterously shitty production is practically de rigueur in underground black metal, though. What's really distinctive about Nyogthaeblisz are the vocals: the tinny, churning instrumental tracks are overwhelmed by inhuman shrieking and roaring that sounds like it's reverberating in a vast, lightless cavern.

Now the apology. As you may know if you follow the scene, Nyogthaeblisz have been accused of being neo-Nazis and white supremacists (unlikely, since they're not white—online consensus is that they're Latino and possibly Native American) as well as anti-Semites. The band's affiliation with an inarguably gross label called Satanic Skinhead Propaganda got them kicked off the bill at Chaos in Tejas this year, and during the dust-up someone apparently affiliated with SSP posted on the message board at Nuclear War Now! Productions to deny the NSBM rumors and insist that Nyogthaeblisz are merely "anti-Jew." Well then! I suppose that clears everything up!

(I should acknowledge that I've had no contact with anyone involved, and thus can't prove that the noxiousness of some of SSP's releases—Martial's Execute, for instance—isn't just advanced-level trolling designed to piss off, well, pretty much everybody.)

It seems to me that Nyogthaeblisz take an equally dim view of all the Abrahamic religions—the lyrics to "A Bewitched Outbreak of Chemical Pestilence Quells the Subhuman Race" describe the extinction of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. But I understand why that leads to charges of anti-Semitism—Judaism, unlike Christianity and Islam, is strongly entwined with ethnicity, rather than defined principally by beliefs and practices. Being anti-Christian or anti-Muslim can be taken to mean "I despise your chosen view of the world and the actions it leads you to take." Once you say "anti-Jew," though, you're perilously close to saying "I despise who you are." It's about the difference between an ideological group and an ethnic group—and the ethnic group in question has already suffered centuries of oppression and persecution.

I'm not defending the band, of course—not that I could, since I don't know what they actually think. I staunchly support freedom of religion (as well as freedom from religion), and that extends to atheism and satanism and beyond. But I don't condone discrimination based on inherent traits rather than choices or behaviors. As far as I'm concerned, it's ethically sound (if perhaps not the best use of one's energy) to hate warmongers or investment bankers or even Christians—what isn't OK is to hate someone for being born black or Jewish or gay or what have you.

Anyhow. That was a lot of throat-clearing just for me to take a position on a controversy that doubtless few readers of this blog had any idea existed. But this is the Internet, and I'm sure somebody with a strong opinion will find my post sooner or later.

So yeah. Merry fucking Christmas, everybody!

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