Many thanks to the New York Times for cluing me in to the existence of Liturgy, a black metal band committed to turning the genre’s deep-seated nihilist beliefs into a positive, life-affirming philosophy. The band’s improbably named lead singer, Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, proudly proclaims that, “spiritually,” the band’s music “transforms Nihilism into Affirmation.”
Sure, that doesn’t make sense. But happily Mr. Hunt-Hendrix has elucidated his philosophical theories in Hideous Gnosis: Black Metal Theory Symposium , a book of proceedings from the world’s premier (read: only) conference on the black-metal genre.
The work is available on googlebooks, and makes for gripping reading , if you can take twelve pages of writing like this:
Transcendental Black Metal represents a new relationship to the Haptic Voic and the self-overcoming of Hyperborean Black Metal. It is a sublimation of Hyperborean Black Metal in both its spiritual aspect and its technical aspect. Spiritually, it transorms Nihilism into Affirmation. Technically, it transforms the Blast Beat into the Burst Beat.
Spiritually, we acknowledge Nihilism, and we refuse to sink into it, impossible as the task may be. Transcendental Black Metal is a Renihilation, a “No” to the entire array of Negations, which turns to an affirmation of the continuity of all things.
Transcendental Black Metal is in fact nihilism, however it is a double nihilism and a final nihilism, a once and for all negation of the entire series of negations.
Parents, learn from this cautionary tale: if you are going to let your children listen to heavy metal, don’t let them read Hegel at the same time.
At one level Mr. Hunt-Hendrix’s life-affirming transformation of nihilism could be a good thing. Maybe it’s a sign that the desire for the transcendent is so deeply ingrained into the human soul that even those who explicitly deny all meaning will eventually find themselves drawn by the goodness of being to make the first conceptual steps toward God.
Or maybe it’s just a sign that the pseudo-psychological ego flattery that has torn a wide swath through contemporary American religion is such a virulent virus that it has even infected nihilism with the desire to affirm and protect our inner children.