Black Metal Rainbows is Creating an Unlikely Safe Space
In a world where queerness doesn’t always get its time in the murky red spotlight of heavy metal, and where black metal is often a safe haven for Nazis, fascists, and other unsavory characters, Black Metal Rainbows stands like a beacon of hope for those who are drawn to the darkness and mystery of the genre.
As Daniel Lukes, one of the scholars and metal fans behind the book, points out, the origins of the book come from a symposium on black metal theory which took place in Dublin in 2015.
“The goal of the symposium was to inject a bit of queerness and color into the field of black metal theory, which is kind of a paracademic sort of discipline that was developing at the time. But it was very white, hetero, and obscure, and this was an attempt to bring together critical theory ad black metal. It made sense to try and make a book out of it, a book that started as a series of essays from the symposium.”
From the idea of the book came the idea of a compilation album, and now also a concert, to take place in Brooklyn on February 12.
“To set the record straight, the compilation was almost entirely Daniel’s doing,” explains his collaborator, Stanimir Panayotov. “I also want to point out that this is not an academic book, even though it comes from scholarship. Our goal was to reach as wide as possible of an audience to make the book as accessible as we could to fans of metal. So, you don’t have to be versed in Foucault or Derrida to get it. There’s hopefully something there for everyone. There are some more academic pieces, some more journalistic pieces, some more experimental pieces, and some more personal pieces. So there is quite a variety in terms of the text we put in.”
However, despite their efforts to reach the metal community at large, there are, of course, some folks who still don’t appreciate what they’re going for.
“As with anything, I think when you push boundaries a bit, you’re going to have people who are upset because they don’t like their precious thing changing from what they’re familiar with,” says graphic designer for the project Jaci Raia. “We did get a little hate mail from someone I used to admire, which sucked—Never meet your heroes. But for the most part, all the bands we’ve worked with on the compilation, and everyone we asked to play, they were all 100 % all in and stoked to be a part of this. Everyone has been really supportive and accepting.”
When it comes to those who aren’t accepting, according to Lukes, it is especially important to do the work in this genre vs. death metal or grindcore because of the specific issues that black metal is faced with because of its history and the elements that are unfortunately still a part of it.
“Black metal does have an intolerance problem, and it is a genre where there are increasingly growing pockets of fascists and Nazis,” Lukes admits. “In a sense, it is a genre that is in need of being re-territorialized. It’s a cultural battleground. And now, there are people saying, ‘Hold on a minute, this type of music is awesome, and it certainly doesn’t belong to Nazis.’ So, we’re fighting for black metal, and I’ve described this as a love letter to black metal. We’re in this because we care about it. Over the last decade, the last 15 years, there’s been a huge explosion of left wing, queer black metal projects, bands, and personalities. We’re not bringing anything new to the table, but we’re shining a light on the amazing things happening in the scene, showing that it isn’t defined by intolerance.”
“I feel like black metal is like a microcosm of the general human population,” chimes in Raia. “You’re going to have mostly good people; you’re going to have some assholes, and you’re going to have people with ridiculous ideology that needs to be stamped out. That’s happening on a global scale, and this is kind of a microcosm of what’s happening in this country and in the rest of the world. I might not be able to get rid of the Nazis in my country, in my government, but I can make a difference in my scene with a statement like this that they are not welcome.”
Black Metal Rainbows released on January 3rd and can be purchased here. The accompanying compilation can be found on Bandcamp here.
NYC's Saint Vitus Bar is hosting a release show for the book on February 12th with Imperial Triumphant, Couch Slut, Sunrot, Diva Karr, and Greyfleshtethered. Details and tickets available here.