Fearscape Vocalist Matt Brown Talks Black Metal Style And Substance
Metalunderground.com recently posted an editorial looking at the role religion can play in the genre of black metal, which featured interview answers from both pro- and anti-Christian musicians. The editorial was a companion piece to a recent look at Christian "unblack" metal in our Unearthing the Metal Underground column.
Since the editorial went live, we've had more musicians respond with their answers to the questionnaire sent out to bands on either side of the issue. The latest response came from vocalist Matt Brown of Australian black metal act Fearscape. You can check out Matt's answers to the questions below.
Anyone interested in seeing what the various musicians on either side of the debate had to say can find our previous interview with U.K. act Nierty here, which took a more neutral stance. The interviews on the anti-Christian side came from Ophidian Forest, Plaag, Dehumanation, Frames, and Throne of Malediction. The interviews with the pro-Christian black metal musicians came from Frost Like Ashes, Diamoth, Elgibbor, Renascent, and Winter's Dawn.
xFiruath: What does black metal or extreme metal personally mean to you, either as a musical style or a philosophy?
Matt: To me black metal is purely a musical style. While I understand that the origins of black metal, at least the Norwegian strand, may have its grounding in an attempt at putting various racial, anti-religious, or occulted ideas into a musical “culture,” I see black metal as purely a musical vehicle that can carry via lyrics, any philosophical or religious world view that the musician wishes to convey. If some “purists” wish to continue to hold dogmatically to an anti-theistic, or more specifically an anti-Christian agenda, then they are more than welcome to it. From my religious point of view I believe that music in all technical forms has its origins with God, therefore ownership of the techniques cannot be claimed by any one world view. I have as much right to express my worldview using black metal techniques as the anti-theist does. I simply do not see black metal as only for anti-Christian philosophies. Music is a neutral entity, the worldview of the lyricist is not.
xFiruath: Do you personally see a distinction between unblack metal bands and black metal bands? Do you think bands with religious members and lyrics should be categorized differently?
Matt: I have never felt comfortable with the “unblack metal” description. Personally I think it a useless attempt at differentiation that doesn’t need to occur. My experience with black metal audiences has been that most, maybe 90%, couldn’t care less about the worldview of the musician, they just want great metal. The small percentage that do may choose not to listen to you, that’s their choice and I am not going to cry about that. There are black metal bands I don’t listen to, both Christian and non-Christian, because I don’t enjoy the music at all. I have always felt that bands should be judged on their capacity to write great music. Slicing and dicing bands due to philosophical differences is anti-creative and boring. Throw them all into the same pot and let the cream come to the top. There are too many “secular” or “anti-theistic” black metal bands that receive accolades when they are writing and producing rubbish and only because of who they are. Unfortunately this happens with “Christian” bands as well.
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?
Matt: Good question. I think it already has to some degree. You find bands from the original scene being criticized for not being the same, yet most of those bands are better now than when they were in their church burning phases. There will always be a “core” that represents the foundations of the genre. However, humans are designed to be creative and ingenious and the genre will continue to progress in different directions. I am sure that a fascination with the original genre type will come back in to vogue just as it does with the other metal genres. They come, go, and come back re-invented again.
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?
Matt: Generally I don’t listen to bands that specifically “praise Satan,” and I am talking a literal not philosophical sense, purely because it is antithetical to what I believe to be healthy spiritually. There are examples I know who do this as parody and I sometimes find this humorous, if a little moronic. However, some bands that really believe what they say don’t add anything to my life so I don’t listen to them. I do listen to some bands that may have anti-theistic beliefs because I find their music and level of creativity inspiring. Their position doesn’t threaten mine at all as I’m convinced and comfortable with what I believe as truth, therefore I have no fear of an opposite point of view. If anything I can be inspired to delve deeper into my faith as a result of other’s questioning of 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…)?
Matt: I think it would be fascinating. Like I said before, I have complete confidence in my theological worldview so I welcome the views of other. Christians are supposed to be lovers of all humanity, not inquisitors and judges of it. Dialogue between different faiths and philosophies can be extremely rewarding and I find strengthens my faith and confidence in what I believe. Besides, the anti-Christian thing is quite tired and boring so I welcome something new.
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?
Matt: I think these are dramatic over generalizations. Most Christians I know are supportive of any attempt to take the gospel to places that it has never been or that it has been persecuted by. There are very many Christian metal heads all over the world who welcome their brothers and sisters playing extreme metal. Any criticism usually comes from people who are ultra conservative anyway, and are usually a very small outspoken minority, and they are more likely due to their social culture to struggle with metal as a genre regardless of who is playing it and why. If a Christian prayed about listening to black metal to find God’s view on it, then this tells me that they were already feeling uncomfortable with it and probably should not be listening to it. Christians are humans who were given the ability to feel and reason like anyone else. God didn’t call us to be mindless automatons as he gave us a brain to use. Besides, music being used to glorify Satan is a direct contradiction to the position of the Christian anyway, if you are not comfortable listening to the position and don’t have a desire to understand and engage with it, go and listen to something else.
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?
Matt: Once again I think there are few rather large generalizations here. The interesting thing about the Bible is that it is a working description of the human condition. It is replete with the struggles of fallen man and was designed to be used as a guide in order for us to grow in a way so that we do not become like some of the villains of the Bible. It can be taken out of context, often by cults or those who haven’t a clue how it works and wish to create straw man arguments against “religion” in general. I think it is a very fertile place to harvest concepts and ideas that are relevant in order to comment on humanity. However, I do get somewhat frustrated by people using the Bible in an incorrect fashion, taking things way out of context in order to justify their own hate or frustration that they have experienced in their own lives. The Bible is quite clear that there is a spirit world, not unnoticed by theistic Satanists, etc. Therefore, providing the use of imagery is relevant, in context, has a purpose, like story telling etc. and well done then I don’t have a problem with it. If anything this fits in quite nicely with the scenescape of extreme metal.
xFiruath: What Christian bands do you personally listen to, metal or otherwise?
Matt: I listen to a range of metal and heavy oriented bands. I guess the most frequently listened to gospel influenced bands for me lately would be Crimson Moonlight, Winter Soul, Sympathy, Spirit’s Breeze, Templar, Synnove, Living Sacrifice, As I Lay Dying, Demon Hunter, and Paramaecium. I listen to other bands such as Project 86, Skillet, and Conspiracy of Thought that are not as heavy as the aforementioned bands, but are quite musical and have great lyrical compositions. When it comes to non-gospel bands my all time favorite is Immortal, followed by Opeth, Nile, Enslaved, Emperor, Suffocation, Astriaal, Primordial, W.A.S.P, Meshuggah, Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth, and Kreator.
xFiruath: What specifically in your life led you to either believe or disbelieve in ideas like God and the supernatural?
Matt: I was raised in a Christian home so the foundation for my theological worldview comes from there. Though my belief in Christ and the supernatural comes from experiences and free choice. I have seen all kinds of interesting things during my walk and some of those experiences have been so powerful that they have reinforced my beliefs. I have attempted to cross-reference my experiences with Biblical theology and found them to be consistent and accurate. Having spent quite a few years studying archaeology, history, and science I have come to the conclusion that my position is sound, verified by experience and amazingly rewarding.
xFiruath: What’s going on with your band these days?
Matt: Fearscape are now on a hiatus as our guitarist and drummer live in Melbourne that is over 1110km away. Phil (bass) and myself are currently writing a blackened thrash project called War Decisive that we are very excited about. We hope to have an EP out this year as well as exploring some multi media/animation avenues. I have also been writing a brutal and symphonic “black” metal project called Rose of Sha’aron, which is progressing slowly but steadily. I will be exploring the darkest side of the crucifixion as well as some inconvenient religio-political-occult-historical subjects as well.
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