Eero Tertsunen Of Renascent Discusses The Black Metal Ideology And How It Mixes With Christianity
One of our Unearthing the Metal Underground columns last month covered three Christian leaning unblack metal bands, which is a touchy subject for many black metal purists who see the genre as exclusively the domain of the anti-Christian side. Wanting to look deeper into this divisive issue, I contacted bands with strong feelings in either direction and asked them a series of questions about the role religion can play in black metal. Those answers were incorporated into this editorial looking into unblack metal.
Finland's Renascent was featured in the original "Unearthing" column, and was easily the most impressive and musically aggressive band of the three groups examined. Vocalist / guitarist Eero Tertsunen of Renascent was the final musician to take part in the series of interviews, giving his thoughts on the ideology behind black metal. Eero's complete answers can be found after the jump.
If you are interested in hearing what the musicians on both sides of the debate had to say, you can find the answers from U.K. act Nierty here, which had a fairly neutral stance. The interviews with the more overtly anti-Christian black metal responses came from Ophidian Forest, Plaag, Dehumanation, Frames, and Throne of Malediction. The answers from the other pro-Christian black metal musicians came from Frost Like Ashes, Diamoth, Elgibbor, and Winter's Dawn.
xFiruath: What does black metal or extreme metal personally mean to you, either as a musical style or a philosophy?
Eero: Just music, styles of music.
xFiruath: Do you personally see a distinction between unblack metal bands and black metal bands? That is to say, do you think bands with religious members and religious lyrics should be categorized differently?
Eero: I guess that in black metal you have genres based on lyrical content like NSBM or bands who really try to express that they really are "true unholy satanic black metal,” so if you make genres based on lyrical content then yes, but when it comes to sound/music there really is no difference.
xFiruath: Although the first wave of black metal may not have originated there, there’s no question that black metal saw its major awakening with Norwegian bands that either had anti-religious sentiments or had members who were themselves involved in anti-religious activities. Do you think that black metal can be separated from its beginnings without becoming something else entirely?
Eero: What is black metal? Anti-religious ideology? Why then there are bands who are considered as black metal who sing about trolls, vampires, werewolves, dark forests, winter, or pagan religions or occult practices, which really should be considered as religious practices? And if the term is anti "organized" religions what makes black metal Satanism so individual? Or pagan religions so individual? Personally I keep all this black metal ideology as unreasonable bullshit, it’s just music business doing same thing that they have done since Elvis: selling rebellion. Today its anti-Christianity, maybe tomorrow its anti-islam. Or maybe neo-paganism becomes new official state religion in some Scandinavian country and then most popular black metal song titles will be: "Desecration of Hlidskialf" or "Slaughtering the Sons of Bor" etc. I guess the main difference in today’s black metal is that torturing small animals in city´s park as a “Satanic ritual" is not anymore considered as "cult" or ""true.” To me black metal is and always will be just sub-genre in extreme metal with certain style of sounds and melodies.
xFiruath: How do lyrics influence your decision to listen to a band? If you heard an amazing black metal band you loved, but later discovered the lyrics were anti-Christian, would you continue listening to them?
Eero: Really depends about lyrics, if its straightforward blasphemy of Jesus Christ then I can’t listen to it, its total turnoff and you will take that personally so listening to that kind of song would become awkward. Otherwise "anti-Christianity" in metal is more like comedy or just other people’s opinions/views, which you really don’t care about it.
xFiruath: How would you feel about listening to a pro-Muslim black metal band with all Islamic members (or a pro-Jewish black metal band, or pro-Scientologist black metal band, or pro-Mormon black metal band, or so on…)?
Eero: Those would be interesting, it would really depend about lyrics, Heavy metal as music has always been religious since Black Sabbath so why not.
xFiruath: Christian black metal is in a very interesting position, because it is just as likely to be criticized by fans of Satanic black metal as it is to be criticized by Christians who think black metal in general is evil. What would your response be to a Christian who prayed on the subject and found they had a sincere conviction that black metal was an absolutely evil tool of the devil?
Eero: If another Christian would come up and tell me that my music is a "tool for Satan" I would ask him to tell me which part in production would turn out as satanic and why. I would explain from the beginning how music is played and recorded and how sounds are created. I would explain that music alone is neutral, maybe I have to explain this also to some black metal puritan also who thinks that black metal is an "ideology" not sounds or style of music. If someone has a sincere conviction that black metal overall is a tool for Satan I really can’t disagree. Just google "black metal" and see what you get.
xFiruath: After listening to a lot of Christian rock and metal bands, I’ve found they tend to segregate out based on lyrical content. How do you feel about Christian unblack metal bands using war and gore themed lyrics, such as about battles between angels and demons? How about lyrics dealing with the times God kills people (or commands others to kill people) during the Bible? Do you think unblack metal bands should only have positive and uplifting lyrics?
Eero: Music is art, if you do music which is supposed to sound dark of course you color it with lyrical theme that is considered more dark. To me personally sometimes aggressive and dark equals as positive and uplifting.
xFiruath: What Christian bands do you personally listen to, metal or otherwise?
Eero: With Christian bands I mostly listen to 80’s and early 90’s stuff like pop, glam, AOR, hard rock, etc. With metal/extreme metal I mostly listen to non-Christian.
xFiruath: What specifically in your life led you to either believe or disbelieve in ideas like God and the supernatural?
I guess I have always believed in some way since I grew up in a Christian home where Christianity was taken seriously. My dad used to, and still does, go on missions to Russia to preach and pray for the sick. He usually told us about healing miracles that happened there. As a teen I was along with my dad in Russia on several cases and I saw some healings myself, during that time my thoughts were that "this stuff really works" but I wasn’t living a Christian life myself. I would say I became a Christian as 15-16 years old when I really realized that I am a sinner and without Jesus I am going to hell and I needed to repent. Along with that there is just this deep information that I just know that God is real and Jesus is real. As confirmation there is some kind of deep peace which may not always show outside but it still is there and has carried over many situations.
xFiruath: What’s going on with your band these days?
Eero: Pretty much nothing since our last gig which was about 3 1/2 years ago. I finished writing songs for a second album almost two years ago. We were supposed to record the album in December 2009 and had the studio booked for drum recordings but that got cancelled. After that I stopped caring about it. Currently I would say there are only three people in the band: keyboardist, me, and bass player. I guess we try recording the album again after our keyboardist gets all her parts done for the next album.
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