White Supremacists Are Using Black Metal To Promote Hate
An investigation into ‘Antichrist Kramer,’ SSP Records, and other labels suggests a history of real-world violence and bigotry
Austin, Texas, where I live, exhales a live-and-let live philosophy that precludes violence and conflict as experienced by other medium-to-large American cities. Some argue that the city is segregated by invisible lines, but the fact remains that Austin has not been touched by the racial strife and pungent militarization of hate groups that mark the histories of other cities across the nation—Chicago, Montgomery, even Dallas. We live in a bubble here.
But all bubbles can be punctured. My own education into those histories began accidentally and indirectly, while browsing through the 2012 lineup of the Austin music festival Chaos in Tejas, itself a diverse, multivenue event featuring punk, metal, indie, hip-hop and more. In addition to the New Orleans “bounce” of Big Freedia, the fervent anti-racists in The Mob and Antisect, and even the mainstream-crossover of Best Coast, Chaos billed an El Paso black metal band called Nyogthaeblisz. Black metal doesn’t have much of a toehold in Texas, and both a homegrown black metal band and the prospect of visiting musicians aligned with that genre—a furious, intensive, and extreme form of metal that arose in Europe in the 1980s and ’90s—felt welcome. But a cursory Google search of “Nyogthaeblisz” made me think again: The band had appeared on a 2006 compilation called Declaration of Anti-Semetic [sic] Terror; Declaration’s album cover features a portrait of dead men, women, and children dragged from the Nazi gas chambers, and song titles include “Smash the Fucking Jewish Kikes” and “14 Showerheads, 1 Gas Tight Door.”
I wrote about my find in a blog I keep about black metal bands, and then I communicated directly with Timmy Hefner, who founded Chaos; obviously Nyogthaeblisz’s inclusion on the bill with a transgender artist from New Orleans and a band like Antisect must have been an oversight, or a joke that fell flat. I had interviewed Hefner the year before, and he was not into gruesome Holocaust worship. “They are Mexican dudes, so I’m sure they aren’t racist,” Hefner replied. My subsequent research would prove Hefner wrong—and lead me down a rabbit hole into a hate-filled world, where a fashionable genre of metal music that gets mentioned on NPR is actively being used by people whose primary interest in music is as a vehicle for spreading hate.
The label responsible for Declaration was an outfit called Satanic Skinhead Propaganda (hereafter SSP) which primarily released limited runs of albums and accessories by members of the black metal underground. Their style is distinctive and upsetting: They regularly conjoin music with neo-Nazi and racist messages or packaging (a sister label called Audial Decimation specialized in noise, some of which was also openly hostile and racist). The label was formed in 2001 by an individual going by the pseudonym “Antichrist Kramer” (likely an allusion to Nazi criminal Josef Kramer) in the Chicago area. The albums, T-shirts, and more released by SSP were produced in small batches, and aside from his distributors, Kramer was careful with whom he did business, asking that potential customers email directly to obtain permission before paying. (Occasionally, Kramer went as far as barring minorities from purchase.) Kramer was also behind other releases that promote ethnic cleansing—this includes new music from bands like Finland’s White Wolves Kommando and re-releases from nascent ’90s hatecore bands like Mudoven.
The SSP/Chaos connection, it turned out, didn’t end with Nyogthaeblisz. Disma, a death metal band with an increasingly high profile, also had ties to SSP through the project Sturmführer, the solo outlet of new vocalist Craig Pillard. As Disma’s 2011 release Towards the Megalith was being profiled by NPR and more, that same year SSP re-released Sturmführer’s Niemals Vergessen, featuring a compact disc emblazoned with a swastika and the music following a predictably similar trajectory. These revelations, now made public, resulted in Nyogthaeblisz not playing Chaos in Tejas, Disma bowing out on their own to avoid “drama,” and only the unintentionally clownish Black Witchery remaining on the bill (and under the label) to uphold the SSP banner. Hefner was angry from the fallout and blackballed me from festival coverage. An employee of a venue downtown hosting Chaos shows took to their official Facebook page, calling me a “piece of shit” and more before the post was pulled and a semi-retraction was offered in its place.
For what it’s worth, Kramer wasn’t happy about Nyogthaeblisz’s inclusion in the festival to begin with: “NYOGTHAEBLISZ are not ‘NS’ and they are not even white,” he wrote on the online forum of label Nuclear War Now!, using the abbreviation for National Socialism. “They are Satanic, and openly anti-semitic. This is extreme Black Metal and this is EXACTLY why fests like this should not exist in the first place. Keep Black Metal dangerous and away from these liberal scum. This is a smear campaign with ad hominem attacks simply because the band is openly ANTI-JEW.”
While this story began to coalesce, a similar controversy featuring some of the same actors was already flickering across other media outlets. The charges were much less pronounced, but the extent of scrutiny was relatively enormous compared to any press that has thus far been devoted to SSP. The hype centered on a band called Iceage, a group of Danish teenagers who have been accused of appropriating white nationalist imagery and content into a sort of Axis-chic/punk rock melange. Timmy Hefner books shows for the band, and unsurprisingly they played the Chaos festival last year and again thisyear. When Matador records released their second full-length album You’re Nothing, even The Guardian piled on. The root of some of the criticism is that young people will glom on to the band’s questionable aesthetics and, by extension, will readily accept harder, unwaveringly hateful material—like the band Absurd, for example, which Iceage recommends.
The music press half-buried the issue in passionate blog posts and then congratulated themselves on a job well done, but the primary difference between the two narratives is one of estimated insinuation and influence versus clearly stated intention followed by demonstrated action. Holding Antichrist Kramer responsible for hate is not a matter of parsing allusions, chasing symbology, or a “PC witch hunt.” SSP’s releases are cooperative projects with actors of violence and discrimination, not misunderstood creative efforts to explore “evil” themes. Kramer’s releases inspire less than they separate; he tends to his flock more than he reaches to expand it. Kramer puts out his music, and the music of others, because it reflects what he believes and how he lives; SSP is the blueprint of his ethos, not an excuse for transgressive fashion or some aesthetic opportunity. His music isn’t “fuel” for anything; it is the reflection of the fire itself. Meanwhile, a growing number of distributors and listeners and members of the press have convinced themselves that “non-white” necessarily computes as “non-racist,” a patchwork defense that serves only to obscure the suffering that fascism inflicts on individuals who don’t have the option of not taking it seriously.
With help from the social-justice advocate Center for New Community, I was able to trace SSP to a very specific nexus of hate, located in Chicago. Tracing the work and artists on the Declaration compilation was key. An artist by the name of Xenophobia contributed a song called “Silent Brotherhood,” whose lyrics reference Robert J. Mathews, the founder of The Order—the violent white supremacist group that murdered Jewish radio host Alan Berg in 1984. The images that accompany the lyrics include swastikas, the World Church of the Creator insignia, and a photo of a man holding a gun at the camera lens, flanked by a photo of Hitler. The man in the photo—and behind Xenophobia—turns out to be Illinois resident Brian Moudry, arrested in May last year for the attempted arson of his African-American neighbors’ home in 2007. Of the nine people in that home, eight were children (Moudry pleaded guilty to the arson last January). Aside from his collaborations with SSP, Moudry also put out the neo-Nazi publication Hatemonger Warzine, and his connection with white supremacy is well-documented.
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