by Niklas Göransson
Finland’s Horna have returned home victorious after their widely publicised and exceptionally turbulent US tour. Vocalist Spellgoth reflects over a journey which, in hindsight, stands as testament to the merits of black metal defiance.
– We’d played in the States without issue quite recently so this whole shitstorm began entirely out of the blue. At first, we were unsure whether the tour was even going to take place but, luckily, the organisers and our team worked really well together in getting everything sorted. Besides, our flights were already booked so, either way, we would’ve performed at least a few gigs for close friends and such. Full credit to the tour’s organiser, Hate War Productions, and the local promoters who stood up in the midst of all this madness!
Based on the extensive online activity of those who coordinated efforts to derail HORNA’s 2019 North American tour, one can’t help but be stricken by the many grandiose displays of guilt-by-association. It bears mentioning here that the activist group in question is often referenced as some manner of research authority by several more prolific pundits. Besides lamenting HORNA’s stateside presence, they also implicate Norwegian folk project WARDRUNA as politically suspect due to alleged tendencies of attracting ‘nazi heathens’ as well as past affiliations with vocalist Gaahl who, in turn, advocates the removal of ’Semitic roots’ from Scandinavia. When doxing a vocal critic of their tour-disrupting methods, they claim his band ‘promotes anti-Semitic violence’ by referring to the song title “Genocide Upon the Children of Nazarene”. A Hispanic gentleman who tweeted his opinion that black metal should be kept entirely devoid of politics was outed with full name and photo complete with allegations of the band he plays in having been named after a NIFELHEIM song. The incriminating link being that the Swedish veterans are supposedly, and I quote, ’closely associated with WATAIN who have numerous NSBM ties & known for nazi salutes on stage’. They even went after the owners of a food truck operating outside the LA venue. In another exciting plot twist, American music blog Brooklyn Vegan – a publication not otherwise known for fascist leanings – were mentioned as a clear illustration of ’how pervasive black metal’s nazi problem is’. On what grounds, you ask? By ending an article about church-arsonist Holden Matthews with recommending upcoming tour dates of UADA and DEAFHEAVEN, both of which are said to have ’ties to NSBM’. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to react with surprise upon the news of DEAFHEAVEN being neo-nazis. Nonetheless, we learn that not only have they cited BURZUM, HATE FOREST, and DRUDKH as musical influences but their frontman also sports a haircut similar to alt-right profile Richard Spencer and, whilst performing on stage, often raises his arms in agitation ‘uncomfortably close to a nazi salute’. Furthermore, their guitarist used the word ’faggot’ on Twitter multiple times in early 2012.
– Doxing that food truck guy was certainly a classy move and highly telling of the motives and tactics employed by these groups. Going on about other band’s stuff in connection with HORNA is how it always goes. We’ve heard it all before, perhaps SATANIC WARMASTER will be the reason today? This is how they typically carry out their dirty work, spinning the thinnest of webs – usually even imaginary ones – that somehow links bands, venues, promoters, etcetera to the greater evils of mankind. I’ve made musical contributions to a variety of acts with very different world-views; funny how these protesters always neglect to mention that I sang on ROTTEN SOUND’s “Cycles”, for example. If this doesn’t prove a certain point, then what does? As we’ve seen lately, it just keeps getting increasingly ridiculous. We’ve now moved into an age where baseless claims written on the internet are taken as undisputed truth, with no need to even hear out the accused.
“Noutajan kutsu” from HORNA’s 2007 “Ääniä yössä” – a concept album exploring the 14th century pandemic known as the Black Plague from a religious perspective – has been bandied about in numerous blogs, news articles, and social media posts as a song calling for the ’death and destruction of the Jewish people’. Admittedly, this is the exact phrase generated when processing the offending lyrical phrase, ’Juudean kansan tuhoa ja kuolemaa’, through popular online translating services, as the activist researchers appear to have done. However, if one instead consults an actual Finnish-speaker, which should be pretty damn mandatory before attempting to ruin someone’s career and render them social pariah, one quickly learns that’s not entirely correct.
– Always trust in your google translator, haha! ’Juudean kansan’ means ‘people of Judea’ and refers to the biblical land area which was historically inhabited by more ethnicities than just Jews. This phrase also needs to be put into context with the album’s general lyrical themes. So, yeah, they just translated the sentence online and then ran with it without verifying anything.
Given how their modus operandi is largely rooted in guilt-by-association, the level of hypocrisy associated with many of these characters orchestrating assaults on black metal bands is, quite frankly, astonishing. Taking as example one of the ringleaders, an American journalist and organiser of an anti-Christian music festival against Islamophobia who recently found herself laid off from Vice; she writes for Qatari news outlet Al Jazeera, which is owned by the Gulf state’s ruling family. Now, applying the same logic Spellgoth has been subjected to, then surely this individual should be held accountable for the various policies practiced by the very government she lends her voice to. Contributing keyboards to an album adorned with offensive cartoons leaves one personally responsible for vehicular manslaughter in Charlottesville, but taking oil dollars from a regime that regularly imprisons both male homosexuals and female rape victims – the latter on adultery charges – is apparently compatible with modern feminism. While purporting to be a stark proponent of trade unions in the US, she simultaneously acts as mouthpiece for a monarchy currently under scrutiny for operating slave-labour camps in their preparations for the 2022 World Cup. Organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have long been highly critical of the country’s near-feudal policies for migrant labour and the International Trade Union Confederation estimates that at least 4,000 workers will have lost their lives before construction is finished.
– I normally wouldn’t make assumptions on anyone’s character without knowing them personally but, considering how she’s profiled HORNA without even bothering to speak to us a single time, I’ll make a rare exception here. From what I’ve understood of this person’s career, she’s tried finding her place in every big scene there is at one time or another and then – when unable to make her voice heard loud enough – starts smear campaigns against those involved in it. Now hearing that she works for Al Jazeera just makes all this even funnier.
Three dates into the tour, HORNA published a photo on Facebook depicting guitarist Infection sprawled across a bed, fully naked except for the load of cash covering his genitals. Defiance and nudity – two cornerstones of Finnish black metal captured in one image. I found this brilliant and was thus gravely dismayed upon its subsequent deletion.
– It was just common courtesy towards the local organisers of our upcoming gigs. That picture really poked the hornet’s nest and the boycotters’ activities doubled. Many of the organisers and venues got even more shit thrown their way so we made the mutual decision to take it down. Then again, what’s once been on the internet can’t ever be removed and it’s remained in circulation ever since.
How was the general band morale at this point?
– That picture was taken after the LA gig and our mood was, as you can see from the post, pumped up and ready to fuck the world! We were already ’winning’ this big-time and everything was running smoothly.
According to one webzine review, HORNA’s Los Angeles concert drew an attendance of five hundred. I also read claims online that all the ruckus in several cases led to bigger venues, with larger crowds as a result.
– Yes, it’s completely true. At the LA gig – which was held outside, behind a bar – we had around four to five hundred fans present. Chicago also got a bigger venue, with room for about four hundred. In Queens, New York, I think the capacity was three hundred people. That was the tour’s second outdoor gig.
I saw a photo of this Queens show – interesting surroundings for a black metal gig?
– Again, same old story – the venue we were supposed to play backed out after all the threats they received so a replacement was needed. The local promoter found us a new place, the backyard of this now-defunct Mexican restaurant, and all was set. I heard it’s illegal to play outside in New York after 10pm but, hey, the organiser put on a helluva night. We had some minor problems with the guitar amp but that’s part of touring and playing with different instruments and equipment every night. Colorado was also killer; the initial venue cancelled so we ended up playing in some rehearsal complex. On paper it sounded like a real mood-killer but when arriving there we were, like, ’Wow!’ They had a small but really good stage and the capacity to take about one hundred. Old and new friends, it was a blast. I don’t think any of these replacement venues were worse than the original, some shows had fewer people but the energy was always present.
After the April 3 concert in Houston, a photo of two attendees ’sieg heiling’ towards protesters spread like wildfire through social media. At last, real-life fascists sighted. The aforementioned Al Jazeera correspondent got so riled up she launched into a passionate Twitter tirade, drawing lines in the sand: ‘This is not scene politics. This is not a fucking game. This is a battle for our future.’ So, after devoting weeks of their lives heralding the coming of a notorious neo-nazi band, there’s a collective gasp of shock when two actual nazis show up. Mein gott, who could possibly have seen that coming? This photo was utilised relentlessly in renewed efforts both to halt the remaining gigs and smear those who’d facilitated previous dates. When doxing the man who secured the Colorado rehearsal complex – a Colombian expat – both the mistranslated lyrical phrase and this Houston heil-duo were referenced in order to portray him as someone offering safe harbour to ’anti-Semitic nazi metal band HORNA which attracts murderous nazis’.
– Besides the two murderous nazis, our Houston date had people from all ethnicities. There was also an old Santa Claus-looking guy with an automatic rifle protesting outside. Texas! And, once again, the venue was in a Hispanic neighbourhood and owned by a Mexican guy who enjoyed the gig wholeheartedly. It’s unlikely that much nazi converting went on but many souls were filled with the essence of Satan! As far as I know, those guys were only doing arm salutes towards the protesters – I couldn’t see any during our gig.
I’ve gotten the distinct impression that a significant portion of attendees did perhaps not fall within the immediate target range for white supremacist enlistment. Serving as case study of this particular predicament, I shall now quote three electronic communiques from a fledgling activist who bravely heeded the rallying cries for protests outside the Queens venue. First, he reports in on Twitter, ’Well I’m standing outside the place where the nazis are playing. Not really sure what to do now…’ Then, after being warned that he best be careful since ’these guys are nuts and some of them really don’t care about going to jail’, he responds: ’I didn’t do anything! Half the people there were locals speaking Spanish. Doesn’t seem like a recruiting opportunity for them. I’m on my way home now.’ Not one to lose heart, he adds ’Well, my first anti-fascist outing wasn’t as exciting as I’d hoped… Maybe next time!’
– Haha! I’m hearing about all these things for the first time now so thanks for the good background work. I didn’t even notice any protesters outside the Queens show, despite several beer and cigarette runs to the general store across the road. It must’ve been a cold and lonesome night out in the rain for this courageous warrior!
Our hero might have found more excitement at other dates. I noticed several reports of campaigners – those not armed with automatic rifles – having been physically accosted by HORNA fans.
– In LA, the Hispanic contingent got really heated with the protesters – waving a big Mexican flag to them. At some point they ran right up to their faces, giving them a few seconds to either flee or have their asses beaten. The police arrived just in the nick of time and told the protesters to move away; that confrontation would not have ended well for them.
So, when everything was said and done, only one concert out of the scheduled thirteen ended up not happening at all – Oakland. The final tally landed at nine shows having to find replacement venues, several of them multiple times and two ultimately ending up in other cities. Three venues stood their ground throughout it all, one of which drew significant activist ire: a Seabrook establishment by the name of The Chop Shop.
– The Chop Shop is a biker bar in its real meaning, so backing down was never an option for them. The fine ladies and gentleman who worked there offered us only the best, their venue is fantastic. The organiser was also a great fellow and the seafood in New Hampshire is amazing. Another venue standing up against all the bullshit was The Karman Bar in Lagune Niguel, our first tour date, which set us off to an excellent start. Small place but great people working there, they even invited us to come back if any of the tour’s other places pulled out. Well, Oakland did fall through but we had to be in Portland the next day so there was no possibility of driving back.
I found it rather impressive reading about the many innovative measures undertaken to get HORNA on stage. Quite a few local promoters appear to have been very entrepreneurial – diligent searches for alternate venues despite multiple cancellations whilst ignoring doxing and direct threats to their person. This Hate War character also seems like a tenacious bastard.
– Hate War is a guy that delivers. No bullshit, no remorse – ruining his own life and mental health to keep the flame alive, haha! Looking back, I’d also like to express my eternal gratitude to all local organisers who worked tirelessly to make all this possible. The Allentown venue, Jabber Jaws, is a good example; the new owner had never before dealt with this type of music on her premises… only to be drawn into the biggest shitstorms imaginable, yet still she made it happen! Truly a strong spirit.
Monitoring current metal news, it would appear as if we’re going to have to get used to this – at least for now.
– This MGŁA and REVENGE thing going on at the moment is again so much bullshit that I can’t even comprehend it. And then DEUS MORTEM having to leave the tour… we truly live in strange times when white middle-class kids get to dictate which bands are allowed to play. And by this I mean that the majority – if not all – of these protesters were white. Go figure, feeling hurt on behalf of someone else who might not even feel the same. If only they invested the same energy into tackling real problems. Study and find yourself a position where you can really make a change? No, slinging lies and half-truths over the internet is much easier.
Do you regard this development as purely negative or are there any positive aspects to be found?
– I don’t see it as exclusively detrimental, no. Black metal nowadays has grown so big that it was impossible to even imagine anything of the kind back in the 90s. Its growth has also brought along with it many negative consequences; lots of incompetent organisers trying to cash in, shitty bands, audiences who come ‘only for the music’, etcetera. I’m not saying black metal should be dragged back into the dusty cellars but it’s a good thing to keep the underground alive.