Monday, 16 February 2009

Abstract. Satanforladt: towards an impolitical atheology

The burning corpse of god shall keep us warm in the doom of howling winds. For we are a race from beyond the wanderers of night. -- Xasthur

Dødens nat
Alt er forladt
Kun en sang fra de sørgende ... -- Nortt, ‘Gravfred’

[Death’s night
All is forsaken
Only a song of mourning ...]

The aim of this commentary will be to excavate the traces of an event immanent to black metal. This event is the death of Satan. While it is conventional for black metal acts to be allied to Satan or indeed even assert that Satanism is ‘the true essence of black metal’ (Nortt), the essential is conveyed in sonic conflagrations of divine joy. This is eloquently expressed in Xasthur’s epigraph to the volume in which ‘the burning corpse of God shall keep us warm in the doom of howling winds’. Clearly there are two moments in this statement before it gives way to speculation concerning a people beyond the night. The death of God is not the same as the ‘doom’ which it shelters in the face of howling winds. God’s burning corpse both illuminates and heralds the doom of a much greater catastrophe: the death of Satan.

Satan’s role, as it has been handed down from Romanticism, is to sustain the trace of the divine in the wake of the death of God. The Prince of Darkness, in the playful gravity of his perpetual insurgency, is the last support of modernity’s Enlightenment project. Satan, as the untenable metaphor for nonknowledge, marks the boundaries of being and nothingness, joy and the abyss, centre and margin, life and death, man and beast; as the demonic figure of paradox, possession and the impossible, Satan threatens the undoing of these distinctions, holding them both together and apart. Should Satan forsake us and die, what happens? Can there be the worldwide governance of ‘globalatinization’, biopolitics, without the transpolitical mirror of evil?

While it remains unavowed in black metal, Satan’s withdrawal and demise is effectively and extensively mourned in its ritual howls of rage and sorrow, particularly the ambient/funeral doom of Xasthur, Nortt among others. But this commentary will pursue the hypothesis of Satanforladt, the double notion of the forsaking and withdrawal of Satan, throughout the general articulation of mourning and melancholy in black metal. This is the ‘doom’ that is immanent to black metal and which, at least at the level of its statements, precipitates three of its main tendencies. 1) the forsaking of Satan precipitates the retroactive precession of pagan simulacra without origin that both precedes and repeats Satanforladt (Ragnarök); 2) Satan’s forsaking is a punishment for the failure to live up to his demands – see for example Darkthrone’s ‘Unholy Black Metal’ that consists entirely in a series of impossible Satanic demands. The failure is evident in the toxic superegoic logic that propels the black metal death-drive for (self-) annihilation. 3) ‘To fall as Satan's heir’ (Nortt) or to celebrate the ‘funeral of being’ (Xasthur) is to inhabit the event of the death of Satan in an interminable wake that opens up a different temporality and speed (faster but slower) from which voice, in its in-audible commentary on its absence of meaning, comments, impossibly, on black metal’s amusical destruction of form.
Black metal is not a form of music nor simply an unholy racket, but an amusic that precipitates a trajectory of joyful, singular dissonance in (non)relation to the conformity of the age. It is in this way that black metal, in the wake of Satanforladt, broaches the exigencies an atheological, acephalic community without metaphor or limit ‘beyond the wanderers of the night’.

For Glossator special issue on black metal edited by Nicola Masciandaro and Reza Negarestani