Metal’s long affair with the influence of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche is nowhere more apparent than the impact his train of thought has had on the sub genre of Black Metal. Some groups bare their Nietzschean influence more blatantly than others. Judas Iscariot held the flag high on Akhenaten’s ‘The Cold Earth Swept Below’. Anaal Nathrakh have manipulated phrases for song titles: ‘Human, All Too Human’, ‘Revaluation Of All Values’. UKBM group Contra Ignem Fatuum could not make the influence more obvious, bearing Nietzsche’s fully moustached face on the cover of their upcoming release through Supernal Music. Hate Forest recorded an EP called Nietzscheism. Beyond this basic symbolism though, lies a deeper train of thought that has ties with nihilism, anti-christian sentiments and misanthropy.
Nietzsche himself, a radical outsider, whose vast body of work remains as steeped in literary metaphor as it does in the opinionated misconceptions conveyed by so many scholars’, presents the ideology of a modern day metal aficionado pertinently. In his day, controversy and assumed superiority were all too familiar to Nietzsche. His negation of Christianity, the declaration that God was dead, that man was responsible for his death and the revelation that all that could follow a period of moral-revolt was nihilism and chaotic nothing did not sit easily with his fellow countrymen. Political and social disagreement followed Nietzsche’s every word.
The controversy surrounding black metal was made most famous by reference to the early Norwegian church burnings. Perhaps a bit too physical for the hermetic musings of a great man turned syphilitic lunatic, the early events surrounding the Norwegian scene provided a notoriety of complete political incorrectness. The anti-christian sentiments were also part and parcel of what Nietzsche believed: “I call Christianity the one great curse, the one great intrinsic depravity…I call it the one immortal blemish of mankind.”
I refuse to cite as influence to the satanic/evil aspect of Black Metal Nietzsche’s grand proclamation that God Is Dead here solely because black metal as a whole is not limited to denying Christianity and embracing evil – and neither is Nietzsche’s philosophy. That would be naïve. The trait runs much deeper, a dissatisfaction with society and commonly held belief, not just glorifying satan for controversies sake. Shallowly this can be interpreted as expressing self enlightenment, misanthropy, nihilism and controversial action. More abstractly it can be represented as a continuation of the philosophical pursuit of truth and disbelief in the self-centered stupidity inherent to the majority of mankind.
At Nietzsche’s heart lies disgust and reprehension to humanity and religious organisations. The beguiling spectacle of mankind’s self imposed significance could not be further from Nietzsche’s opinion. The philosopher writes as if in a constant state of misanthropy, as the prophet Zarathustra retreats to a mountain cave to ruminate over the failure of everyday man to appreciate his insights. Misanthropy in general has played a large role in formulating the atmosphere particular to bands that celebrate nature and solitude:
“When one speaks of humanity, the idea is fundamental that this is something that seperates and distinguishes man from nature. In reality, however, there is no such separation: “natural” qualities and those called properly “human” area indivisibly grown together. Man, in his highest and most noble capacities, is wholly nature and embodies its uncanny dual character. Those of his abilities which are awesome and considered inhuman are perhaps the fertile soil out of which alone all humanity… can grow.”
Within the belief that Nietzsche understood the world better than the majority of humanity initially resulting in his anger and disturbance by common man, the link between misanthropy and assumed superiority/enlightenment is highly apparent. Black metal as a venture prides itself on its cloistered nature. This is not for outsiders. Only we truly understand and truly comprehend this music… et cetera, ad infinitum – a sense of solace that misanthropes and sociopaths can revel in. Moreover I think Black Metal’s uniquely negating and questioning attitude is essentially a less rigorous Nietzschean philosophy expressing dismay and unhappiness with society as it stands. In a genre often (incorrectly) stigmatised for never really progressing anywhere, we have a burgeoning collection of ideologies and beliefs that sever cultural and social norms to deliver exciting, inspiring artistic movements.Kind of pointing out largely the obvious, I know. Now I’ll leave you with my favourite Nietzschean quote.
“A very popular error: having the courage of one’s convictions; rather it is a matter of having the courage for an attack on one’s convictions!”