Supposedly apolitical labels are selling music made by racist extremist artists and making the Québec black metal scene a safe place for neo-Nazis.
While a step forward, the law is probably still two years away, and will be hotly contested.
Canadian Anti-Hate Network
On a November evening in 2016, metalheads ready for a night of heavy music and dark rituals waited to catch the last set of Montréal’s Messe des Morts, the largest Black metal festival in North America. Instead of meeting in the pit, however, the crowd was met with disappointment as organizers cancelled the concert at the last minute.
Just outside the venue, dozens of antifascist activists had shown up to protest the festival’s headliner Graveland, a controversial band with ties to the National Socialist Black Metal scene.
Though Graveland’s lyrics revolve around paganism and Viking culture, the band has long faced criticism for its lead singer’s avowed “extreme right-wing national socialist” beliefs, his admiration for Adolf Hitler – whom he once described as embodying “the idea of an Empire of White people“ – and his repeated collaborations with overt neo-Nazis.
Rob Darken, vocalist for Graveland (middle), with members of the neo-Nazi band Honor. Source: Dure Réalité
In spite of the chaos caused by the cancellation of the concert, Messe des Morts’ organizers would invite another NSBM-linked band, Germany’s Nargaroth, the following year. According to a report published by Dure Réalité, a Montréal-based antifascist zine, several concertgoers wore neo-Nazi symbols and flashed Nazi salutes during the band’s set.
Sepulchral Productions, the company behind Messe des Morts, has defended itself from criticism by stating that their festival aims to “celebrate underground metal music” and is apolitical.
However, the company’s website, where they sell music and merchandise, raises more questions. Available for sale are materials by bands like Nekrokrist SS, PD SS Totenkopf(named after the 3rd SS Panzer Division of the German army during World War II), Nokturnal Mortum (a band aligned with the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion) and Satanic Warmaster – all affiliated with the NSBM scene.
Screenshot of a Graveland tribute compilation featuring several NSBM, found for sale on Sepulchral Productions’ website.
Sepulchral Productions did not return our request for comments.
For almost as long as black metal has existed as a genre, neo-Nazi actors have sought to co-opt it to share their propaganda, recruit new members, and raise funds for their other activities.
But unlike labels like La Barricade, a Québec City-based NSBM label tied to the neo-Nazi group Misanthropic Division Vinland, Sepulchral Productions is a larger and relatively mainstream company which does not claim to support hateful ideologies.
By selling music by neo-Nazi bands and inviting NSBM-linked acts to headline their festival, they are turning a profit by providing a platform to racists and hateful individuals, without necessarily endorsing their beliefs.
This is merely the tip of the iceberg of a scene that has been condemned time and time again for its apathy in the face of hate, as other Québécois Black metal labels also engage in similar business practices.
For example, Corde Raide Productions, a smaller label which has worked which several bands popular in the Québec scene – as well as with NSBM acts like Soleil Noir (Black Sun) and Maestro Cröque Mört – sells tapes by neo-Nazi bands like Hollentur.
An album by the band Maeströ Cröque Mört for sale on Corde Raide’s website. The album cover features a Black Sun, a neo-Nazi symbol.
Another, more established record label, Tour de Garde, has worked extensively with both non-political and NSBM acts, despite not claiming allegiance to any ideology.
In operation since 2001, this Montréal-based label and distro is owned by Pierre-Marc Tremblay, a well-known musician in the scene who performs in the band Akitsa under the name Outre-Tombe (Beyond the Grave).
Pierre-Marc Tremblay (middle) with Akitsa. Source: Youtube
Tremblay has often been criticized for his ties to the NSBM scene. In 2004, his band Akitsa released a split record with the NSBM-tied band Satanic Warmaster, which includes a song named “Six Million Tears” – in reference to the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust – performed by the latter. Similarly, in 2009, the band appeared on Eight Acts of Origin, a compilation with the openly national-socialist Italian outfit Gaszimmer, limited to 488 copies.
Many NSBM labels choose to release a limited number of 88, 488 or 1488 copies, in reference to a neo-Nazi numerical symbol signalling support for white supremacy and Adolf Hitler.
For its first-ever tour, Akitsa shared the stage with Peste Noire, an openly fascist French act that supports the Ukrainian neo-Nazi militia Azov Battalion. Tremblay also appears as a guest vocalist on the song “Une lame pour les infâmes” (A Blade for the Infamous) by Baise Ma Hache, another French NSBM act.
In an interview published by Vice after the release of Akitsa’s 2015 album “Grand Tyrans,” Tremblay stated that his past collaboration with NSBM artists was “never intended or meant to be political” – echoing line used by Sepulchral Production when faced with criticism. That same article describes this quote as “squashing (the) NSBM rumours” levelled against Akitsa.
Like Tremblay, Tour de Garde has a longstanding history of working with hateful bands. As a label, they have released dozens of records by hateful bands like Légion Totenkopf, Kristallnacht, and In Ketten.
Several of these records feature overtly antisemitic lyrics or imagery. The cover picture for “L’Empire du Juif” (The Jewish Empire), a split by the Québécois bands Unheilvoll and Chant de Guerre (War Chant), also released by Tour de Garde, shows a real picture of dead bodies in a concentration camp. The album also includes a song named “Mort à cet empire” (Death to this Empire).
Tour de Garde’s website and Discogs account displays dozens of albums by racist bands currently up for sale, including ones by the Québécois NSBM acts Hollentur and Holocauste. The description for these postings varies from “totally extreme” to ‘cult and radical’, never going as far as admitting to the true nature of the product.
The description for the album Southern Darkness by Mardraum, however, stands out: “a regurgitation of uncompromising hatred that stands out from the sea of shit deriving from money-hungry Jews and politically correct sheep who cannot think for themselves.”
Screenshot of a posting from Tour de Garde’s website.
An archived version of Tour de Garde’s old Blogspot account on which it shared its mail-order lists shows countless NSBM albums by bands like Der Sturmer, Pogrom, and Absurd.
For many of these records, Tour de Garde provides a cryptic warning: “If you need a description, you don’t need it.”
Tour de Garde and Pierre-Marc Tremblay did not respond to requests for comment.
Follow Sébastien Roback on Twitter at @sebroback.