The Murky World of Neofolk Politics

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 16, 2010 — 263 Comments

When it comes to politically transgressive art, where does the line get drawn between exploration and endorsement? If you sing about fascists, does it make you a fascist? Does such art empower and fuel extremism? The post-industrial musical genre known as “neofolk” has long dealt with these questions, with many artists having to issue position statements due to past collaborations or friendships with various infamous individuals. The whole issue gets progressively murkier the more individual bands and artists are put under the microscope by music critics and various “antifa” (anti-fascist) activists. Why does this matter to the modern Pagan community? Because there is a significant overlap between neofolk and various Pagan, Heathen, and occult groups, and we should be alert and educated to how these conflicts may affect us.

The reason I’m bringing this up now, is that Rose City Antifascists, the Portland, Oregon chapter of the Anti-Racist Action Network, has put out an alert about the Austrian band Allerseelen (who broadly affiliate themselves with Paganism), who are touring the West Coast and Pacific Northwest this month, and opening for the popular metal band Agalloch on certain dates.

“This December, the Austrian far-Right “post-industrial” and martial music project Allerseelen is set togive a series of performances on the US West Coast. Allerseelen is the project of Gerhard Petak (AKAKadmon and Gerhard Hallstatt) who also incorporates other performers into the act when playing live. Several of the Allerseelen shows are scheduled to take place in larger venues supporting the prominentPortland, Oregon “dark metal” group Agalloch, who will be touring to promote their new album. Thehitching of Allerseelen onto the tour of a larger heavy metal act will provide new outlets for Petak’sextreme-Right messages. Agalloch, the group which Allerseelen will support, is at present crossing overfrom underground cult status to something nearer the mainstream, the group’s latest album even beingpromoted with a write-up and “exclusive first listen” on National Public Radio’s music webpage. It istroubling that the act Agalloch chose to expose to its growing audiences has a long history of far-Rightinvolvement and propaganda, and is attempting to make aspects of fascist discourse acceptable.Agalloch’s decision to further link itself to Petak / Allerseelen by appearing on a new compilation CDreleased by Petak’s label is likewise of concern to anti-fascists and is of similar poor judgment.”

Nathan Carson, owner of the booking agency Nanotear, denies any fascist intentions in putting the tour together, and  claims he’s being harassed by anonymous individuals spurred on by the Rose City Antifascists.

“Anti-fascist bloggers calling me out for booking an Allerseelen tour. I guess they don’t know about my Jewish blood (and big nose). […] they phoned me from a blocked number at 10:30 this morning to get a statement from me. I refused to be quoted on 6 hours of sleep but told them I was entirely unaware of any fascist connections and that I’d make a personal decision myself after spending a week in the van with Allerseelen (who are also staying at my house.) […] they’ve posted my private cel # on some sort of site or list. I’m fielding blocked calls from uppity college students that are demanding to know why I’m promoting a fascist band in Portland. When I ask them their names and why they are calling from a blocked #, they invariably hang up. I’m anti-fascist in principle too, of course. But I don’t see a smoking gun or a strong case in this instance.”

So how fascist, or neo-fascist, is Allerseelen and frontman Gerhard “Kadmon” Petak? They cite his admiration of traditionalist philosopher, and Nazi/fascist sympathizer, Julius Evola, his links to European New Right publications, and song lyrics that seem to praise various Nazi figures. All of which seems to make him a politically unsavory individual that I would prefer to avoid, but the report gets murkier when they start digging into his ties with “right wing occultism,” his admiration of Leni Riefenstahl, and connections to figures like musician/publisher Michael Moynihan (who also edits the “radical traditionalist” journal Tyr). As for Petak himself, he claims to have no political motivations (and denies fascist affiliations), something the Rose City Antifascists refute.

“What is the meaning of Petak’s denial of any politics or political motivation? While not referring explicitly to Allerseelen, Anton Shekhovtsov’s article “Apoliteic music: Neo-Folk, Martial Industrial and ‘Metapolitical Fascism’” points to an answer by discussing Evola’s concept of apoliteia as well as European New Right influence in relation to certain sectors of the post-industrial scene. 91 From a stance of apoliteia, Petak is able to claim detachment from worldly politics, yet apoliteia far from the same as pure political apathy. Rather, Petak appears to be active in a metapolitical “invisible order” engaged in anti-Enlightenment culture wars, along the lines of the European New Right and its Right-Gramscian project. While Petak does not dirty his hands in Right-wing Party-building, he nevertheless contributes to a climate favorable to fascist politics, through fighting for the hearts and minds of countercultural audiences. He knows what he is doing.”

So is Petak a stealth neo-fascist softening the underground for traditionalist takeover, or is he more of a dilettante engaging with transgressive politics and figures in order to gain attention? I personally find bands who recklessly/cynically dabble in Nazi/fascist imagery and themes tiresome and wouldn’t support them with my time or money, but I’m not sure enough of a case has been built here to tar Agalloch, or the tour promoter, as neo-fascist supporters/sympathizers by working with this band. I’ll leave it up to the readers to decide whether Allerseelen are a pernicious influence, or just creatively bankrupt.

As I said at the beginning of this piece, politics in neofolk can get murky, especially when you are dealing with terms like “radical traditionalism”, which might mean different things to different groups. Make no mistake, there are racist and neo-fascist bands within genres like neofolk, metal, and punk, and they should be opposed when they try to increase their audience by infiltrating Pagan or Heathen communities, but we should also be careful to thoroughly investigate for ourselves before acting. Whether this is such a case, is up to each individual to decide.

Jason Pitzl-Waters

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