One of Buddhism’s most famous koans is “If you meet the Buddha, kill him.” It seems counterintuitive, but it makes sense in Buddhism, which posits that the Buddha nature is inside all of us. In Buddhism, the way to enlightenment is to eliminate all desire. (Of course, this raises the paradox of the desire to eliminate desire as an impediment to enlightenment. Many texts already discuss Buddhism’s paradox of desire, so I’ll let that issue lie as not fatal to this discussion.) The Buddha in the road would be an external, and thus false, embodiment of the Buddha nature. In other words, we should not desire to find internal truth in external manifestations of it.
That nothing external should be one’s master is a powerful assertion. (Again, never mind the logical contradiction that a command to disregard authority acts like one itself.) It negates patriotism, religion, hierarchy, and the like. It also squares with certain notions of individualism offered under the guise of Satanism (which would properly then not be called Satanism, a term under the Judeo-Christian framework). And, more pertinently, it applies to metal.
Vargr is the black metal project of Henrik “Lord Nordvargr” Björkk, of legendary death industrial (or black industrial or industrial noise or whatever you want to call it) outfit Mz.412, whose Burning the Temple of God used a certain photo of a burning church as its cover two years before Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind’s book Lords of Chaos did. The project’s catchphrase is “True Black Nekronoise Metal,” which is ludicrous, as a misspelled, made-up name with so many adjectives can hardly be “true” to anything. Indeed, the artwork invokes so many black metal/Satanic cliches – 666, upside-down crosses, pentagram, Baphomet head – that it seems like a put-on.
Yet Northern Black Supremacy (20 Buck Spin, 2007) is “true black metal” precisely by not being “true black metal.” If “true black metal,” whatever that is, is transgressive and individualistic, then hewing to finite notions of it betrays its very essence. Here, Lord Nordvargr goes through black metal motions – minor chords, howling rasps, lo-fi production. But he can’t keep his true self/selves contained. Jet engine noise pours out of his Mz.412 side; more subdued dark ambience spills from his Nordvargr guise (see last year’s fine The Betrayal of Light on tUMULt). Vocal snippets float throughout like a shortwave radio scanning a killer’s psyche. “Bring Forth the Ways of Old” isn’t “black metal” in the conventional sense; it’s a noise workout. But the way its flames sear the edges of the frequency spectrum feels exactly like black metal’s best.