Music

Metal With Benefits

todayFebruary 2, 2017 47

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By Layna D’Luna
Music Journalist

Black metal is a genre of music generally characterized by darkness and its willingness to acknowledge and even worship the suffering of mankind. Unsurprisingly, utilizing this style of music to benefit the local community might seem bewildering to some. Conjuring up images of death, corpse paint and nail plated gauntlets, artists seek to create an ominous atmosphere–and exclusivity is almost synonymous with the genre. Unfortunately, so are stereotypes of intolerance and extreme political views. However, there is one local black metaller who seeks to challenge these preconceived notions. Jamus “Reikh” Reichelt is the lead singer of Austin-based black metal band Khringe. A fan of bands like Mayhem, Craft, and even some of the darker stylings of David Bowie (see: “Quicksand), he was originally drawn to black metal for its freedom of grim emotional expression.

“The extremity of metal has always appealed to me, and black metal in specific gave me a certain outlet and release,” said Reichelt. “It also gave me a community that understood what I was going through and there were no boundaries to expressing yourself.”

It was this sense of community that first gave Reichelt the idea to produce quarterly shows that would benefit the small, but expanding Austin black metal scene. After a member of the Texas scene lost his house in a fire, Reichelt decided to help by producing a show to raise funds. The paradox of having a “black metal benefit show” quickly dawned on Reichelt and sparked his interest in growing the concept further. The black metal scene has grown notorious, whether earned or not, for its more high-profile artists being associated with organizations that are known to hold extreme political and social views. For metal fans, hearing this story is like beating a dead horse (great black metal album cover idea). But one of the most prominent examples of this negative attribution is the founding member of iconic Norwegian black metal band Burzum. The lead singer, Varg Vikernes, is infamously associated with church burnings and was eventually convicted of murdering another member of the black metal community. He now spends his free time spouting his questionable ideology on a YouTube channel. So for Reichelt, this was an opportunity to challenge that reputation.

“The more I started to conceptualize this idea and started thinking about the irony involved, the more I was attracted to the idea. Our community has always received ridicule for our abrasive nature, and as in every community there are always ‘bad seeds’,” said Reichelt. “I.E., National Socialist Black Metal and other black metal artists finding value in the nature of shock to the point where their catalog and artistic demeanor comes across as sexist and homophobic. And in more unfortunate cases, the intention is just that.”

mystery-metal-man
Jamus “Reikh” Reichelt in the midst of performance. Reichelt created the concept of the “black metal benefit show”. Photo by Erik Bredthauer/NecroblancaPhotography.com

While Reichelt doesn’t deny the existence of these bands and their motivations, he points out that there are many other places to draw inspiration from as dark artist–inspiration that doesn’t involve racism, sexism, or homophobia. There are plenty of things to be angry about, and a shared disdain for the more abhorrent characteristics of humanity is a unifying factor within the black metal world. This idea is reflected in the name chosen for his productions, Cold Dead Planet Collective.

“Khringe for instance, our subject matter is solely based upon anti humanistic and nihilistic values. When I speak of anti humanity, I’m referring to the selfish and inconsiderate nature of mankind and that is what truly angers me and inspires our message.” said Reichelt. “Just because we hold these values and beliefs doesn’t mean that we are incapable of finding humanistic channels to help each other out.”

Apart from benefiting the black metal scene, Reichelt is hoping that these shows can eventually benefit charity organization and the greater Austin community. While Reichelt aims to challenge stereotypes, he stresses that he is not attempting to change the sinister values that drive black metal.

“So I’m clear with my brothers and sisters, I am not trying to put pretty colors on our community or make it more accessible,” said Reichelt. “Overly passionate individuals have the most to say, and the harshest ways to create, and I want my community to channel all of that energy into support.”

Along with death infused visuals and lo-fi melodic rituals, the black metal community is also notorious for its fervent opinions. Therefore, Reichelt fully expects to receive some backlash for what he’s proposing. But he is determined to move forward with producing shows. At future events attendees can expect to see a range of metal styles all bound together by their devotion to darkness.

“In general, expect to hear some heavy, aggressive artists and be ready to open your mind and ears to what others have been going through,” said Reichelt. “One of the reasons I love black metal is that nothing is ever a ‘bummer’ or ‘too hard to deal with’. This is what we optimized our genre around and that’s why I see it as such a great vessel for benefit shows because nothing is too out of reach.”

The very thing that makes black metal so extreme to some is also its strength to others: its willingness to acknowledge pain. At a time in history when so many are searching for support and an outlet for free emotional expression, the “black metal benefit” might provide this cross-section for many music fans. In the meantime, Reichelt urges that the metal community, now more than ever, should strive to stay active and aware.

“Most importantly, don’t fall asleep. We are in a dark time that’s about to get darker and I think our scene and dark music in general is about to have a really imperative place in society again.”

The author and Reichelt recommend the following local artists: Khringe, Black Vice, Uruk, Ravnblood, Watiko and Nosferion.  

Featured image by Layna D’Luna. 

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