By Sébastien Roback
Canadian Anti-Hate Network
Canadian NSBM band Blutskrieg. Source: Encyclopedia Metallum
The National Socialist Black Metal scene has gone global, and Canada’s been making its own contribution to the scene.
For decades, hate groups have used music as a means of reaching younger, more impressionable audiences looking for meaning and identity. Rock Against Communism (RAC) -- an openly neo-Nazi genre imitating punk rock’s sound and aesthetic -- has been used since the late 1970s by fascists in order to appeal to, and recruit, the working class.
The RAC scene remains active in Canada. In Québec, for example, the band Légitime Violence has garnered significant media attention due to its racist lyrics and its members’ legal issues. Raphaël Lévesque, Légitime Violence’s vocalist, is also the leading force behind Atalante, a neo-fascist skinhead group which has been tied to several violent incidents, including the assault of a supposed antifascist in a Québec City bar.
But punk rock is not the only – or the most obscure – music scene to have been co-opted by hateful elements.
National Socialist Black Metal (NSBM) is a genre of music mixing the shrieking vocals and satanic imagery associated to Black metal with racist, hate-fueled lyrics. It is one of the most popular genres within the neo-Nazi community.
NSBM In Canada
It is impossible to talk about neo-Nazi music in Canada without talking about George Burdi, the lead singer of the Canadian outfit RaHoWa (Racial Holy War) and the organizer of a white supremacist concert in the 1990s that decended into violence -- an event CBC called “Ottawa’s own Charlottesville.”
RaHoWa, with George Burdi at the centre. Source: Encyclopedia Metallum
When NSBM bands started appearing in Canada, Burdi had just founded Resistance Records, a label specializing in racist music. Despite its focus on RAC, Resistance Records eventually began adding NSBM bands to its roster.
The platform fostered the genre’s growth during the late 1990s and early 2000s, leading to the small pockets of fans and local scenes to popup across Canada. Resistance Records eventually stopped operating in Canada due to criminal complaints and was sold to an American white supremacist.
The label’s disappearance meant that many bands now had to rely on smaller, oftentimes foreign labels, or self-release their music. The genre began to stagnate, and gradually stopped attracting media attention.
The Canadian scene barely survived as bands played small shows in secret venues. But today, new labels are filling the void and smaller acts are releasing songs online.
This revival has translated into real-life mobilization.
In 2019, a group called the Vinland Hammerskins organized an invite-only NSBM concert in Hamilton, Ontario. According to an event poster, bands scheduled to come had not been publicly active in the scene for years, such as Odin’s Law, a RAC band out of Vancouver which had gained some prominence in the 1990s.
Appearing alongside the alleged reunion of Odin’s Law was Toronto-based RAC band Kremator and Nordwind, a band from Vancouver signed to a German NSBM label with multiple Canadian bands on its roster.
The show’s location was kept secret from outsiders, and could only be attended by contacting the Vinland Hammerskins directly. It was promoted almost exclusively on a Facebook page run by a former Vancouver Blood and Honour member.
Flyer for the Hamilton Vinland Hammerskins Concert (Source: Facebook)
Regional scenes in Québec, Alberta, and British Columbia are also growing in prominence, and NSBM acts routinely appear on the bill of more mainstream black metal shows, thanks to naive or unscrupulous promoters. Festivals like Messe des Morts in Montréal and Skogen Fest in Jonquière have made room for NSBM by including bands tied to the scene in its lineup.
Playing shows with more legitimate bands, in turn, allows NSBM musicians to deny even overt ties to racism, and empowers them to reach unsuspecting audiences.
Though few concerts are currently taking place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadian NSBM bands continue to put neo-Nazi music and build followings. There is little doubt that, when venues re-open, NSBM concerts will take place once more.
A Genre Rooted in Hate and Violence
NSBM traces its lineage back to the Norwegian black metal scene of the 1990s. Because of the dark, satanic themes that became its defining feature, the genre developed and often cultivated an “evil” reputation.
Several musicians in the early scene engaged in violent criminal activity, from the arson of historic stave churches to murder, including Kristian “Varg” Vikernes. Many of the early acts embraced neo-Nazism and ethnic paganism, but Vikernes took it a step further.
Widely considered as the godfather of NSBM for his early work on the solo music project Burzum, he penned Vargsmål while serving a sentence for murder. The manifesto detailed his call for fellow Norwegians to embrace his interpretation of their ancient traditions.
Varg Vikernes. Source: Youtube
In 2013, Vikernes was arrested on suspicion of planning acts of terrorism, and later on convicted of inciting racial hatred against Jews and Muslims. He is still active on Twitter after being banned from YouTube.
His early work as an arsonist has also inspired other bands to take up the practice. Holden Mathews, an aspiring American musician, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for setting three historically black church fires in Louisiana in 2019.
Police said he did it to “raise his profile as a ‘black metal’ musician.”
In Canada, NSBM fan and American Iron Marcher Lindsey Souvannarath was arrested as part of a mass shooting plot against a Halifax shopping centre with two other Canadians. She is currently serving a life sentence for her role in planning to attack the mall with firearms and explosives, according to Vice News.
Iron March -- the fascist forum which gave birth to neo-Nazi terrorist networks such as Atomwaffen -- was littered with references to NSBM before being shut down in 2017. In 2019 hackers laid that dark corner of the internet bare by leaking the entire forum’s contents.
Members of Iron March would share their favourite bands and discuss the scene in detail. A search of the Iron March forum leak shows pages of posts and messages relating to NSBM.
Among those on Iron March was Alexander Liberio, exposed by Montréal Antifasciste as a metal musician and neo-Nazi from Montreal, who is now attending seminary school in New York state.
In a 2017 post complaining about the Messe De Mortes festival being shut down, Liberio, under the username “iamneuromancer,” said “antifa are so naive they don't even realize that in metal you don't have to make up fake nazis, they are really there and they don't hide.”
Follow Sébastien on Twitter @sebroback.