Friday, February 17, 2012

Get into: Fanisk

NSBM mostly sucks- everyone knows this. Like most genres of music which are inherently attached to an ideology, the ideology tends to come before musical quality in most cases, leading to a bunch of boring or outright terrible sounds which have no purpose other than to function as propaganda. As an adjunct to this general principle is another that's equally consistent: the more ostentatious such a band is about their given ideology, the worse the music tends to be. Most of the really good NSBM tends to be of the more subtle variety; the presence of Hitler, an SS symbol, or a swastika on an album cover more often than not means that the music within is utterly tragic.

Fanisk is one of the only exceptions to this rule. Look at the above cover: there's a giant, GIANT, completely unignorable swastika on the cover. The swastika is actually glowing. If the swastika could somehow blink with a bunch of LEDs like a Christmas display, I'm pretty sure it would. However, it just so happens that the music contained within the album is not only some of the best NSBM I've ever heard, but some of the best symphonic black metal I've ever heard regardless of ideology. Seriously, listed to the above track and try not to be impressed that it's made by a couple Nazis from Oregon.

Their Oregon origin might have something to do with the music's quality itself; while the band predates the Pacific Rim black metal style by a few years, it has many of the elements which would come to define bands like Wolves in the Throne Room: long, sprawling, linear songs, reduced vocal presence, and shimmering layers of synths and guitars creating a wall of somewhat droning melody. Fanisk, however, takes these typical elements and tempers them with a distinct edge of NSBM aggression and pride. Their songs aren't written so much as painstakingly composed; there's less "riffing" and more slow, ostentatious revealing of melodic themes over the course of long, winding tracks. The somewhat brittle production and speedy drum machine brings to mind acts like Daemonlord or Nevelrijk, where the too-fast, rushing rhythms give the glorious sort of melodies a wonderfully enthusiastic template to twist and turn over. Listening to a Fanisk track is an exciting experience, and the influence of classical music is more readily apparent in this stuff than in anything Yngwie has shit out over the past decades.

Now I just wish there were a few less swastikas on their album covers so I could show them to more people.

(A quick note: I'm pretty sure Fanisk's interpretation of national socialism is a bit sideways of most. They're pretty lyrically abstract and don't seem to dwell in mind-numbing racist boredom- they seem a lot more Savitri Devi than Vaginal Jesus about things. I'm not well-versed enough in nazi occultism or paganism to pick apart the details, so someone with more knowledge of what exactly is getting covered in the lyrics will hopefully comment, but for those put off by obnoxious "gas the Jews" chatter, there's a lot more going on.)


  1. Last paragraph: yeah, but the problem is "gas the jews" it what is all amounts to. It reminds me of anus. "Society is ill because it has forgotten noble its impulses."
    "oh, so how do we fix it?"
    "Outlaw inbreeding so our white wimmmenz can't get with them niggers."

    With that said blah blah freedom of speech blah blah can listen to something without condoning its ideology blah blah

  2. aww c'mon now, national socialism isn't quite that cut and dry. there's a lot of different spins on it which can mean a lot of things, only some of which involve gassing jews. the third reich resulted in a lot of bizarre ideological concepts, and some of the really esoteric ones come out in music- look at spear of longinus, for example.

  3. It's not that cut & dry, but it's heavy enough of a concept that its adherents in music usually gravitate to the its most violent properties. (Spear of Longinus always struck me like they're just pissing around, but I dunno.) Doesn't really matter though, it's just music.

    Due to its propagandistic nature, I'm always wondering how much emotional dimension I'm "projecting" when I hear some NSBM I like. So I'm fairly undecided on Fanisk

  4. well, the most violent and base NS music tends to be pretty shitty, so i don't tend to encounter it too often. that's where you find the garbage cassettes limited to 88 with hitler on the cover. boring.

    as for "emotional projection," that's kind of an interesting idea that i didn't really consider which probably merits discussion of its own and raises some odd questions. for instance, as people who don't identify with ns ideology (like us, i'm guessing,) can we really project positive emotions on propaganda which is against our belief system? seems to me like that would be sort of like getting all emotional at a church service when you're an atheist. aside from that: does it matter if the emotions are projected or not? i tend to come at art with a "you feel what you feel" perspective, so i figure where your emotional connection to the music originates from is pretty immaterial- just that you feel it.

    1. Sorry if this is too crazy a question, but where do you think the source for that emotional connection to music lies? Do you think it's something that lies purely in the music itself (in its form rather than its content) and that the listener is like a passive receptacle for that? (I'm not saying that that's what is implied by what you just wrote, but it's the only answer I thought of when reading "just that you feel it"). It seems like the Statement of Intent of this blog is opposed to that idea (I could be wrong), which is why I'm wondering what you think especially when reviewing a band whose values seem pretty vague and obscure from the lyrics. I think it's interesting you pointed that out. I don't think many people are steeped in knowledge of ariosophical sun-worship to dismiss it or not, but it definitely doesn't translate formally into shit music, as you point out is the case with "violent and base NS."

    2. nah, i don't think the listener is a passive receptacle for the emotional connection- not sure if that's even possible really. what i think is that your particular thoughts and feelings regarding a piece of music are sculpted by the entirety of your experience as a music listener and (pretentious as it sounds) as a person. it's individual and unique- no matter what, everyone gets something different out of a particular piece because no one's capable of feeling and experiencing something the same way. as a result of that, i think it's kind of pointless and circular to question the origin of an emotional connection to a given piece of art: the origin is always you, and as for why you happen to feel that way, it's entirely up to you to peel back the layers and figure it out.

      if you want to get into the details of that whole idea, i can, but it delves into amateur philosophical territory ala armchair nihilism, "there's no objective value to anything so our experiences and perceptions are the only guidelines to truth" etc. etc. etc. probably not what you're looking for though.

    3. my (short, simplified) answer is that there's definitely a feeling IN the music, but it's this raw, unrefined, even physical thing. minor chords almost always sound sad, dissonance almost always sounds "evil," breakdowns invariably make me want to punch something, etc. but the exact emotional reaction it produces depends heavily on what each listener brings to it--his own emotional makeup, his mental associations, and his conscious interpretation of what the music means. our encounter with art is always a kind of conversation or two-way flow, with something of the work influencing us and something of us influencing how we construe the work.

    4. NSBM is music, and I don't think it speaks to people any differently from any other music. I don't think you have to agree with whatever political platform stands behind the music--in the heads of the musicians--to feel genuinely moved by *the music itself*, and if you enjoy it you're not projecting yourself into it any more than you are when you hear other music.

      if it's impossible to hear anything in the music BUT a political program, then i'd say it fails as music--the music doesn't have a life of its own, it's just been reduced to this vehicle for a statement that someone might as well have scrawled on a piece of paper and handed to you. this applies equally to Der Sturmer and Crass.

    5. that's actually a pretty relevant point about politically-motivated music which a lot of people tend to gloss over- everyone realizes that iskra is just as dumb and shallow as grinded nig, right?

    6. read some Iskra lyrics... just fucking PARAGRAPHS. not even an attempt at art.

    7. "that's actually a pretty relevant point about politically-motivated music which a lot of people tend to gloss over- everyone realizes that iskra is just as dumb and shallow as grinded nig, right?"

      "read some Iskra lyrics... just fucking PARAGRAPHS. not even an attempt at art."

      By this logic early Napalm Death is dumb, shallow non-art. [cue Noktorn being so unexpectedly contrarian and saying "but that's true!" herf derf]

      Face it, all art is a product of its environment, and therefore unavoidably political; some of it is just a lot more blunt and upfront about it than other stuff.

      And no, far left and far right politics are not directly equivalent, so Crass & Iskra =/= Grinded Nig or whatever. That's a total fallacy, South Park logic at its finest.

    8. 1. "A product of its environment, and therefore unavoidably political."

      Sure, in the same sense that all cultural production is implicitly political. If you want to define "politics" so broadly, go ahead, but you render it useless for talking about music (and pretty much anything else except impressing freshmen in a Comp Lit class). I think we all know the difference between *a political band* and a band that's sort of relevant to politics, or not interested in politics at all.

      2. "By that logic early Napalm Death is dumb, shallow non-art."

      No, by that logic Napalm Death is a great band, because they avoid doing what the Der Sturmers and Iskras of the world have done. While ND are certainly highly political, the music speaks for itself. it's not just a delivery system for a set of political statements and images, nor a shallow attempt to rally the faithful and win new converts. what spews out of "Scum" resists being reduced to anybody's party program.

      And ND lyrics aren't brilliant, and certainly aren't POETRY, but there's at least an attention to the sonic and rhythmic relationship between the words. There are, you know, rhymes and catchy refrains. And some powerful images. It's a distillation of their political ideas, not just a manifesto that got rejected from Crimethinc. I think Discharge is the best example of rabidly political music that simultaneously transcends IS poetic, in its own brutal punk-as-fuck way, and its as much a kind of materialist metaphysics as an anarchist call to arms.

      3. "And no, far left and far right politics are not directly equivalent"

      Sure, we never asserted that "both sides are equally wrong," or whatever. And I agree, I fucking hate South Park logic. The point--which you missed--was that the propaganda musics of the left, right, and the in-between are all equally impoverished AS MUSIC. Regardless of the rightness or wrongness of what's being put across in a song, if the music itself is eclipsed by a prosaic political statement then it's failed art.

      Basically, art should give you something IN EXCESS of mere politicking. And I suppose you can have an agenda-driven band with one-dimensional, brainless, partisan lyrics, and write such good music it succeeds DESPITE that, but it's not common.

      *Crass is obviously on a completely different level musically and culturally from some basement RAC band OR a dogmatic crust band. Despite being god-awful, they had some interesting ideas, and were influential in a lot of good and bad ways. But they definitely do have the politics>music problem.

    9. "No, by that logic Napalm Death is a great band, because they avoid doing what the Der Sturmers and Iskras of the world have done. While ND are certainly highly political, the music speaks for itself."

      How does Iskra not do that? Not to put the burden of explanation on you, but I don't see how Iskra (or a ton of crust punk) is a tier below some of the crust/grind "innovators".

    10. at no point in napalm death's career did they ever create music as embarrassing, shallow, and weak as iskra, and this includes the lyrics. one of the significant things that makes napalm death different on a lyrical level is that, while both bands are politically leftist and talk about many of the same subjects, napalm death always approached those subjects with a sense of strength and anger (not an ildjarn reference.) iskra's lyrics read like a social activism tumblr.

    11. This boils down to "I don't like Iskra's music as much as Napalm Death's, and also ND's lyrics are better". This is an argument for "Napalm Death is a better band" (which I agree with, I don't even care about Iskrea), not "Napalm Death are artistically viable and Iskra are purely political".

    12. i actually never posted anything about iskra or napalm death in relation to "art." just that one's gay and one's good.

    13. i mean, you're right to push us on that. I only chose them b/c Noktorn used that example, and I'm sure I could find a thousand bands with inferior music and even lamer lyrics.

      But still, as N. just suggested, there's this vast disconnect between Iskra's lyrics/statements and the music itself, so it's as if the music were just there as an excuse for the message. The fact that the music is pretty mediocre and generic only makes this worse. It's just an attempt to fill an unfilled niche for "politically correct leftist black metal," or whatever. Also, remember what I said about the utter unartfulness of Iskra's lyrics, and their self-presentation in general.

      I think a more typical example of what we're talking about would be Aus Rotten... Generally they're just shouting a stupid litany of grievances or statements of beliefs that--to someone who agrees with them--are completely obvious. And the music is a bunch of un-catchy throwaway riffs so generic you can't even tell whether they're d-beat or hardcore or punk. Clearly, this is a band where statements were more important than songs.

      However, Aus Rotten also have a *few* really dope songs that I'd consider the RIGHT kind of political music, like "The System Works for Them." That chorus is so good, a focused observation that cuts to the heart of things in a way that's at once politically savvy and artistically satisfying. In a mere turn of phrase, they're able to REVEAL so much (rather than writing it all out in a fucking paragraph).

    14. And sure, maybe according to some definition of art Iskra and Aus Rotten are art... If so, I'd just say that hackneyed propaganda music is a particular KIND of bad art, and one that's all too common. And clearly there are gray areas and all man's "brilliant basement NSBM tape!" could strike someone else as just another piece of prosaic garbage, and both might have good reasons for thinking so.

  5. Also, about "just paragraphs"--arbitrarily arranging your lyrics to "look like poetry" in a way the music doesn't even reflect (it never does in metal or punk) doesn't make it Automatically Art.

    1. Sure, I agree. And writing in paragraphs doesn't make it Automatically Not Art, either. The un-artness of Iskra has as much to do with what's in the paragraphs as the fact that they are paragraphs. And I couldn't imagine those words being anything BUT paragraphs.

      Mostly, I just thought it was funny how it seemed like they'd made everything as prosaic as possible.

  6. Typical nigger loving moron with stupid opinions about "music". National socialism is based on fact and logic. You are wrong, your ideology has been crushed, you can't debate you can only babble on your faggot blog.

  7. What I really don't get is this:

    Communist regimes murdered an estimated 80 million people (probably more) across the world, yet it's totally acceptabe to listen to people like Jimi Hendrix and Rage Against the Machine.

    National-Socialism killed a maximum of 12 million (this is ignoring the fact that Holocaust numbers are probably significantly blown out of proportion), yet listening to NSBM is horrid and all artists are evil people who deserve to die?