“Ästhetic Mobilisation – Dark Wave, Neofolk and Industrial under pressure of rightwing ideologies” is what I would make of the German title of this book. There are more books about gothic/darkwave music in Germany, simply because this genre is much larger in Germany than anywhere else. Also there are more books from leftish circles about several subject. This book is of course about the neofolk/industrial scene. It is released by “RAT” or “Reihe Antifaschistischer Texte” (“series of antifascist texts”) of the “Unrast Verlag” (“unrest publishers”). It is a compilation of six articles.
The book opens with an introduction by Speit. It speaks about the Wave Gotik Treffens and the problems with rightwing elements at the 2000 edition. Speit says that gothic/darkwave music has long left behind its exclusive character, but subscenes keep popping up. Now there is a scene with extreme right views with its own magazines (Sigill/Zinnober, Ahnstern/Aorta, Occidental Congress, Letters From The Nuovo Europae). However the gothic scene in general could long be regarded as unpolitical, Speit sees a tendency to the right in the whole of it, mostly caused by an uncoming genre promoting extreme right ideas and the acceptance of this tendency by the ‘normal gruftie’. Speit also answers a few simple objections that ‘we’ use.
The first real article is called “The wonderful and frightening World of … Gothic, Grufts und Industrial – die Schwarze Szene und deren Musik im Überblick” and is written by Hans Wanders. As the title suggests, this is a introductionary article about gothic music. Wanders gives the history of the music, the underlying philosophy of it in different times and shows how big the music is nowadays. Here and there he misses the point or forgets things, but overall his article is an alright read. Going from shock-goth-rock to industrial, noise and accoustic music with a slowly growing piece of “fascist esthetics”, this article leads the way for the rest of the book.
“L’art du mal – vom antibürgerlichen Gestus zur faschistoiden Ästhetik” of Andreas Speit and Jan Raabe is next. The title gives the undertone of the article “from anti-bourgeios attitude to fascistic esthetics”. In this article you can read about the 6/6/99 concert of Death In June, antimodernity and then a whole lot of information about (extreme) rightwing history, Italian fascism, Julius Evola, new-right, etc., I would almost say: “everything that a newborn neofolker wants to know.” After this a few compilations are spoken about in detail: Lucifer Rising, Riefenstahl, Thorak, Im Blutfeuer, Le Jardin des Suplices and Za Dom Spremni. Much information about individual tracks, artwork, etc. It is quite amazing how many samples and things in the artwork the writers are able to trace back.
After this follows Christian Dornbusch’s “Von Landsertrommeln und Lärmorgiën – Death In June und Kollaborateure”. This article speaks about the career of Douglas P. and how he moved from leftisch thinking to rightwing ideology. Oldtime friends such as Sol Invictus and the like are also mentioned. Separate chapters are there about Der Blutharsch, NON and Blood Axis. Also obvious reactions from the scene like “P. is homosexual so how can he be a nazi?” are easily disproved. The article is quite well written and relatively balanced. Of course the well-known points are much highlighted.
Next up is “Von der CD zur >Lichtscheibe< – Das Kulturmagazine Sigill" by Thomas Naumann and Patrick Schwarz. This time you can read abou the career of Stephan P. of Sigill/Zinnober, but also of his collaborators. Of course bands mentioned in previous articles again pass the revue, but this time the non-musical contacts are also investigated. Lateron the writers focus on Eis und Licht Tonträger and the bands on this label.
"Synergie Effekte – Bewegungen zwischen Schwarzer Szene und braunem Spektrum" is written by the trio Dornbusch / Raabe / Speit. I personally found this the most 'disturbing' article. It speaks about people from rightwing scenes who found out about the upcoming (light?) conservative tendencies in the gothic scene and tried to exploit this and win people for their own movements. An 'infiltrator' with Zillo magazine or Verlag und Agentur Werner Symanek (VAWS) for example. Also spoken about is the growing interest of the skinhead scene in 'darkwave music' and bands having interview with their magazines. The efforts of the 'outsiders' failed, but we all know what is left.
The last article is "Der Tabubruch von Heute ist der Mainstream von Morgen" and is written by Stephan Lindke. This article isn't too interesting. It speaks about "Neue Deutsche Härte" with means something like "new German hardness" and is a not a kind of music or a scene, but a collective term for German-languaged (metal?) music. Most interest goes to Rammstein with their fascist esthetics and Joachim Witt (who I don't know) , but also Laibach and Weissglut (the band with which Joseph Klumb "alias Jay Kay" almost signed to Sony Records) are spoken about. Also here the interest of skinheads in the music and the disassociation of rightwing philosophies of most "Neue Deutsche Härte" bands are dealt with. Most concerns of the writers are ventilated about the disconnection of (fascist) esthetics and politics and the potential of big bands like Rammstein when they openly portray their interests in fascist esthetics in videoclips (Riefenstahl in the "Stripped" video).
All in all I can suggest this book to everyone who feels attracted to the 'faulty images' of neofolk and kindred bands. The writers of this book find way too much in their images, texts and artworks to be coincidental and several bands seem to be more than just 'playing with fire'. On one hand this could make the music less enjoyable, on the other hand I don't think it is wrong to know what you are dealing with. The writers are very well informed (a bit too much actually) and their texts come with an impressive amount of notes. Some people (like Klumb) are of course mentioned much more than others, but you find information about quite a few bands.
A strange point with this kind of releases I always find the fact that people who already have an interest in the music and/or philosophy will read it and find out things they didn't know or pointers to new bands, movements, magazines or whatever. This will also happen with this book I expect.
A few points in the other direction though. No matter how wrong some bands and the people behind them may be, I personally would grand them the freedom of speech upto a level that for me hasn't been reached yet. I have never bought a cd or visited a concert in/on which anyone has tried to oppose a certain ideology on me. Artwork may have a dubious symbology, but I don't believe that exposure to that would turn anyone into a fascist. You can rent "Triumph des Willens" in videostores and I can recommand it to anyone, just to find out how boring it really it. Don't worry, you won't be a fascist after you have seen it.
Another thing. All articles in this book except the last one, seem to make no difference whatsoever between rightwing philosophy and extreme right philosophy or actions. I don't recollect any band that is mentioned in this book to have stimulated their readers to attack foreigners, grow hatred against other people in general, demolish other peoples properties or philosophies or exclude people from buying their material or visiting concerts. The 'darkwave public' in general is too hetergeneous for all that. It listens to bands they like for the music and will rarely be able to find out the precise philosophies of the bands from their artwork. I do admit that I don't read many magazines though.
To speak for myself, I listen to the music I listen to for the music. If there are people who have problems with some of the bands, so be it, I don't. I have music from many of the mentioned bands, also of Goethes Erben and Das Ich whose frontmen are often quoted with anti-fascist statements as counterpart for the bands that get most attention. I have often wondered what I would do if a skinhead band made a good cd, but I think I wouldn't buy it (should I already know where). For me there is a difference between a band with subtle hints that I mostly don't understand anyway and a band openly proclaiming 'white power'. Maybe neofolk bands indeed are "Tabubrechend" (taboo-breaking) and disconnect certain esthetics from a philosophy it has always been connected with. I agree with Oswald Henke (Goethes Erben) that some people treat the symbology too naively and "unreflecting" (p.111), but that doens't mean you can simply whipe such people on one heap with rightwing extremists. And would a person who (unlike myself) likes war-movies automatically see him-/herself as a soldier? Or does a deathmetalhead who likes lyrics about death, destruction and serial killers (often also visually in the form or horror-films) automatically become violent? I don't think so. Too much danger is ascribed to an interest in things that you are not supposed to be interested in.