The Hellenic black metal scene (AKA black metal from Greece) is known for many things. Chief amongst those is probably Rotting Christ or, if you run in Heavy Blog circles, Spectral Lore. As far as sound goes, popular Hellenic black metal is usually very “large” and flamboyant, influenced strongly by heavy metal. If it’s not, such as in the case of Spectral Lore, it tends to be atmospheric, a different kind of largesse, and to draw many influences from traditional folk music. But there’s another, emergent quality of Hellenic black metal that’s worth nothing: antifascism. Now, I won’t claim to be able to describe the complicated, and sadly prolific, history of fascism in Greece. Suffice it to say that it’s one of the flash-points of the resurgence of fascism today that’s not often discussed and has been for over a decade now.
Sadly, where there’s fascism there is fascist music and chronicling the ties between Hellenic black metal and fascism would be a fruitless, if extremely long and complicated, task. So, instead, I want to talk about the other side of the coin and focus on antifascist black metal made in Greece through one example of it: Yovel. Their debut album, “Hɪðəˈtu” (“Hɪðəˈtu” means No More, “Hɪðəˈtu” means Break the Rock. “Hɪðəˈtu” means Escape the Loop.”) is a furious, abrasive, and moving slab of black metal. It makes no secret of its politics and uses black metal tropes to send those politics home, creating great music as it does so. It’s also a fascinatingly engaging album, managing to sidestep much of the pomposity which often infects Hellenic black metal and makes it hard to listen to.
Take the second track for example, “Chapter II – Voices of Self”. After a mysterious spoken word segment as the album’s opener, “Voices of Self”, explodes into a kind of ponderous, wondrous main riff, accompanied with vocals which blaze across the mix in their acridity. This riff, and the vocals which accompany it, are reiterated upon for five or so minutes, undergoing their own cycle of furious volume into calm and quiet center and back up towards noise. So far, so good; this sounds like black metal alright. But things get really interesting after that five minute mark. After the vocals sing out loud in silence, a scorchingly fast riff is suddenly introduced. Backed by magnificently pummeling bass and drums, this last riff sets the stage for the amazingly executed vocals.
Their main track is clean, sounding like a punk line in its angst. The backing track is abrasive and scratchy, screeches filling out the back of the vocal mix until they are left to fly on their own, bringing the track to cathartic culmination. But it’s not just how they’re singing but what they’re singing about. Put simply, this entire album is chock full of incredibly well written antifascist, radical ideas and it works so damn well. Check out the lyrics from the closing segments of “Voices of Self”:
“The sign is the search itself, the sign is you! You, hobbling out of the mud of the roads. / It’s you. We who are questing: we are the now, the past and that which is yet to come
The old are stationary, [they’ve already been.] Old believers, dead
already / The bricks of the Cathedral say nothing.”
Oh hell fucking yes! This is the main thing I love about this album and this band: they have a unique and moving way of expressing their politics and their ideas and they’re not afraid to show it on “Hɪðəˈtu”. Add that to some truly excellent, moving, and unexpected black metal and you have yourself and underrated release if there ever was one. Do me a favor: head on over to their Bandcamp and grab this beast of an album. Give it some time, dive deep into its concepts. You won’t regret it.