Not giving the devil his due

sin One of my persistent criticisms of the MSM’s coverage of religion is that reporters fail to note the significance or larger implications of a story. A good example of this problem was Michelle Boorstein’s otherwise fascinating profile of the black metal scene in Northern Virginia.

Boorstein defined her subject well. She showed readers that the popularity of this “devil music” does not reflect a renewed interest in satanic acts; according to one knowledgeable observer, the scene is a bit poserish. Yet the music’s popularity is more than an expression of teenage angst and alienation. It’s really a protest against Christianity.

Bands have names such as Rotting Christ and Black Funeral. One lead singer proclaims that “sins stands for beauty” and that “our king [is] the Antichrist.” Concert goers wear upside-down crosses. As Boorstein concludes,

Fans generally describe this music as anti-religious, but saturated as it is in Judeo-Christian terminology, images and liturgy, black metal is frankly obsessed with the subject. In mood, trappings and lyrics, it explores man’s wrestling with evil — a key religious theme — in a more direct way than most types of music.

Further down in the story, Boorstein quotes one band member to memorable effect:

At the show was Christopher “Lord Kratos” Burke, a Montgomery County high school senior whose band, Valhalla, was one of the night’s early acts. Just after playing, the sweaty singer-guitarist flipped his long hair and checked his streaked whiteface makeup as he explained that Christianity “doesn’t seem real enough.” It seems like a fairy tale, he said.

This was a perfect point for Boorstein to draw out the implications of this music. Alas, she didn’t.

For surely Burke is not referring to a fire-and-brimstone Christianity, the Christianity of the old blues magicians and pre-Vatican II Catholic Church. Isn’t the music really a protest against a kind of smiley-face Christianity, a Christianity stripped of its doctrines on sin, the devil, and hell? Perhaps the result is death metal.

In fact, Boorstein has one line that confused readers, or at least confused me. This is her summary of black metal’s essence:

That’s black metal — blurry lines: between loving and hating God, between fantasy and reality.

Read that line again. Loving God — the story showed no examples of this. For that matter, the story showed no examples of hating God.

To make the story great, Boorstein should have asked her interview subjects about their religious backgrounds. This would have helped her draw conclusions about the larger implications of death metal.

No doubt, Boorstein was swamped with work. The accompanying video to her story suggests that she had a camera crew with her or that she filmed her interview subjects herself; several of the quotes in the video appear in the story. Yet would asking a few extra questions take so much time? They could yield revealing answers.

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  • Dennis Colby

    Great story. A lot of fantastic quotes and really solid writing. It might have been more revealing to get a little deeper into the religious beliefs of these folks, but maybe there isn’t anything deeper than kneejerk teenage bravado.

  • http://yechezkiel.livejournal.com keh

    Perhaps the result is death metal.

    “The press… just doesn’t get arcane genre distinctions.”

    Before some metalhead jumps into mention it, there’s a difference between death and black metal. Wikipedia’s articles on both genres are instructive, as the music ones tend to be edited by enthusiasts.

  • Dave2

    If it helps, Mark, death metal is more zombies and serial killers, whereas black metal is more Vikings and forests.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    And what is “creative death metal”? (Therion, which cam e to my attention when they released “Dreams of Swedenborg”.)

    I have enough trouble keeping straight “rap” and “hiphop”, and “house” and so-called “dance music”.

  • Dave

    Bands have names such as [...] Black Funeral.

    Dark Funeral.


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