Geo·dissonance: the metal movement is proliferating to all corners of the globe. In its relentless display of vitriolic truths and the ugliest questions of existence, we can hear the resounding riffs of heavy metal in the most conservative pockets of society. As your Punjabi, riff-worshiping correspondent, I've created Geodissonance to report the controversy: as metal unveils dissonance in cradles of brutality around the world.
In another turn of controversial, black metal events, Taake was nominated for the Spelleman Award: the Norwegian incarnate of the American Grammy, or British Brit Award. Given the band's overtly anti-religious sentiments and racist symbols on stage, the national recognition has rubbed many citizens the wrong way. The general upsurge of anger, resentment, and anti-xenophobic sentiments has galvanized Taake fans, as well as Spelleman judges, from the rest of the nation. But the larger than life, European fanbase of Taake implies that the controversy will only continue to proliferate, bringing to question how far "too far" is, in the context of freedom of expression. Despite all of this, judges of the committee have expressed no regret towards their nomination of Taake, declaring that, "[we] enjoy full freedom of expression in Norway, and a Spellemann jury is not going to censor content in any way."
The resentment at Taake's nomination has ranged as far as Germany, through to the other corners of Europe, where Taake has performed, and echoed their anti-Islamic, anti-Christianity centered sentiments. Like much of blasphemous black metal, these sentiments are open to directly opposing, and often extreme interpretations; immediately after the nomination was announced, many listeners were outraged that the judges could condone a band whose lyrics express, "to hell with Muhammad and the Mohammedans…their unforgivable customs," ending on the note that "Norway will awaken" (from the song "Orkan, 'Hurricane'"). In response to allegations that these lyrics are unmistakably xenophobic, frontman lvhedin Hoest said that their only motivation was to criticize religion, and their view that "in the name of freedom of expression…it is shameful to adhere to Christianity or Islam." They have effectively conveyed their opposition to Islam on their latest album, Noregs Vaapen.
Taake's critique of religion has fallen into several sensitive, often inflammatory political contexts, starting with Germany: a nation wrought with the grief of World War II, Nazi Germany, and the trauma that lay therein. When the band performed a concert in Essen, Germany, Hoest wore a Swastika, in a city where public displays of the symbol is illegal, not to mention highly offensive. The offense led to the cancellation of the band's European tour, as well as the incitation of heavy metal fans across Germany. And while the use of anti-religious displays is common in metal, e.g. Behemoth's bible-shredding antics on stage, fans were outraged at the display of the racist, politically charged symbol. In response to the "scandal," Hoest later posted (on the band's website) that, "[we] truly apologize to all of our collaborators who might get [into] problems because of the Essen swastika scandal, except for the Untermensch (subhuman) owner of that club; you can go suck a Muslim." A direct apology, or true remorse for the swastikas? (Rhetorical question, yes – but for the sake of their dissolving their bigoted, alter-ego – let's hope for an affirmative.) In terms of their homeland, Norway, the album release coincided with the massacre of 69 youths on Utoyo Island, in July 2011: an event motivated by Anders Behring Brievik's belief that the violence would protect Norway against "Marxist and Muslim Colonization." The incident may have lain the groundwork for a volatile reaction against Taake's irreligious lyrics, not to mention prestigious nomination.
Ultimately, the two events, which occurred in separate but similarly sensitive, sociopolitical contexts, only catalyzed an explosive reaction against Taake's nomination; how the controversy (partially) unfolds will be revealed on January 14th, when the award recipients are announced. The band has nonetheless stepped it down a notch in recent media contact, expressing that “Taake has never been a political band, and we do not encourage either violence or racism.”
You could say this is where interpretation becomes a slippery slope.