Heavy Metal: Choice or Fate

3-03

Post-Ironic

September 28, 2017

NICHOLAS MILLER (M.Arch I, ‘19)

Ross “The Boss” Friedman began his career as the guitarist of seminal proto-punk band The Dictators with fellow Bronx-native Richard “Handsome Dick” Blum in 1973. “We wanted to be tough,” bass player Andrew Shernoff later commented, so Friedman and Blum adopted the names of Funicello and Manitoba.[1] On their debut album Go Girl Crazy, the band blended comic-ironic shtick with the horrors of Nazism and anti-semitism on songs like “Master Race Rock,” “The Next Big Thing,”[2] and a cover of “I Got You Babe” that was performed “without any traces of irony or camp.”[3] The results did not translate outside of New York, and the album bombed. As Steven Lee Beeber described in The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGBs: A Secret History of Jewish Punk, “The fine line between humor and horror, catharsis and darkness, self-mockery and self-hatred can easily be crossed. The Dictators missed out on being the first real punk band because they failed to find the delicate balance between aggressive and ironic, violent and comic, threatening and camp.”[4] Following the failure of Girl Go Crazy, the band dropped their shtick to adopt a purely tough image on the hard-rocking Bloodbrothers.

As The Dictators continued to perform intermittently, Friedman was introduced to actual Italian-American Joey DeMaio by Ronnie James Dio in 1980. Friedman, DeMaio, and Eric Adams formed the legendary Manowar: self-proclaimed Kings of Metal, record-holders of both the loudest performance and longest heavy metal concert, and collaborators with Orson Welles and Christopher Lee. Semi-clad in leather and loincloths,[5] Manowar’s image fluctuated between Frank Frazetta and Tom of Finland as they sang of the glories of war, honor, and True Metal.[6] While the band attracted legions of loyal fans,[7] its members were criticized by the press as “embarrassing caricatures,” “embarrassing boneheaded oafs,” and “gloriously preposterous” for their outlandish imagery and the ultimate earnestness with which they presented their vision of True Metal brotherhood.[8]

Friedman was forced from the band by DeMaio in 1988 and rejoined Blum and Shernoff in the band Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom. As DeMaio doubled-down on his willingness to die for True Metal in both songwriting[9] and combative interviews,[10] Friedman and Blum returned to their critical party-rock. …And You?, Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom’s 1990 debut album, showcased a heavier sound that put forth both a sardonic critique of the metal industry[11] and an embrace of New York’s diversity behind the red, white, and black tri-color of pre-War Germany. As a “crossover” band, Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom rejected the typological rigor of True Metal. Drawing from both punk and metal, they produced a distinctly New York sound that landed between the Beastie Boys’ “Fight for Your Right” and Twisted Sister’s “I Wanna Rock.” When later asked his opinion on the dialectic of “True Metal versus False Metal” that Manowar continued to promote without him, Friedman responded with resignation. “I hate that stuff, man. To me, that was the worst thing Joey ever said and set us up for humiliation in the end.[12]

“Manowar’s every album is perfect. The ultimate Heavy Metal band.”

—Lauri Penttilä[13]

While Manowar rose in fame and notoriety, “Extreme Metal”, an umbrella-term that covers a range of subgenres that have emerged since the early 1980s, provided an intensification of Metal’s underlying aesthetic, aural, and thematic precepts. The most self-consciously extreme iteration of Manowar’s ideologies of True Metal developed in the “trveness” of Black Metal during the early 1990s. Through the misanthropy and oppositional orthodoxies of Black Metal, the parallels between the polarizing dialectic of True Metal and Leon Krier’s architectural and urban theories of “Nameable Objects” and “True Plurality” become clearly apparent. These subcultural and architectural iterations of a reconstructivist approach to the cataclysms of the 20th-century are revealed in stark contrast to the irony and obfuscation embodied in the critical deconstruction of The Dictators and Postmodern architecture.

Krier’s architectural ideology, when taken to its explicit conclusions, manifests in the work of Lauri Penttilä, aka Werwolf aka Satanic Tyrant Werwolf aka Graf Werwolf aka Nazgul von Armageddon aka Orklok aka Satanic Warmaster Mutilator aka Werewolf of Black Vengeance aka Sexual Hammer aka The True Werwolf aka Vince Venom aka Werwolf of the Black Order, a prolific Finnish artist with a proclaimed “will to redefine how serious black metal can be on an ideological level.”[14] Penttilä’s array of aliases represents a recontextualization of both Krier’s dictum of the necessity of a “relationship of truth between the name and the named object”[15] and his concept of a stylistically-siloed plurality with the potential to produce “villages with very different structure, organisation, architecture, and density, each with its own unity, harmony, and specificity.”[16] 

Instead of mixing French-influenced, vampyric Black Metal with melodic, werewolf-Nazi-themed Black Metal to produce a subtle manifestation of Krier’s False Pluralism, Penttilä has created a new band and moniker for each micro-style “without any debasing compromise.”[17] While the stylistic differences between Penttilä’s projects may be largely indistinguishable to the untrained ear, the contrasts between his two most well-known bands—Satanic Warmaster and Armour—are vividly apparent. In Satanic Warmaster, Penttilä goes by the name of Werwolf and focuses on themes of “Satanism, darkness, war, vampirism, and lycanthropy,”[18] while in Armour he is known as Vince Venom and sings of “metal, alcohol, partying, sex, and rowdiness.”[19] These two projects exhibit Krier’s typological rigor not only in their sound, but in the very way that Penttilä presents himself in promotional photos: As Satanic Warmaster, he is dressed in black with the genre’s signature corpse paint and an abundance of spikes, chains, and bullets, while he dons a fishnet top, zebra-print leggings, a studded codpiece, and eyeliner as Armour. These parallel representations are performed with total sincerity, a notion confirmed by a press release for Armour’s recent E.P. by record label Nuclear War Now that champions the band’s ability to produce “pure Heavy Metal… without any trace of irony.”[20]

The most disturbing iteration of Krier’s ideology comes early in Architecture: Choice or Fate. Under the Manowarian title of “True and False Pluralism,” there is an illustration of a “European” face, an “African” face, and an “Asian” face juxtaposed against a mock-cubist composition that blends elements of the three.[21] Outside of an architectural context, or even within one, the drawing appears to fervently advocate for an ideology of anti-miscegenation. While Krier would likely reject this reading, Penttilä may embrace it. Despite having disavowed the categorization of his work as NSBM, or National Socialist Black Metal, tracks like “My Dreams of 8” speak otherwise.[22] The same lines can be drawn between Krier’s illustrations of the transformation of modernist architecture, described by Peter Eisenman as the products of a newly legitimized, 20th-century Jewish culture,[23] into classical buildings through “creative restoration,”[24] and Satanic Warmaster songs like “A New Black Order” or “Der Schwarze Orden.”[25] 

Just as Krier, Penttilä, and DeMaio utilized an ideology of Trueness and a reconstructivist approach to address the destruction of the 20th century—Krier through traditional architecture and urbanism, Penttilä through the establishment of a New Satanic Order, and Manowar through a valiant Brotherhood of Metal—Friedman and Stanley Tigerman confronted the same chasms of the recent past through irony, humor, and inclusivism.

An ideology of inclusivism, as practiced by Tigerman and Friedman, did not demand the tolerance of divergent ideas and styles within the constraints of segregation, but promoted the simultaneous expression of conflicting styles and opinions.[26] To achieve this, the synthetic perfection of the Nameable Object was rejected in favor of a spirit of hyphenation that was explicitly assailed by Krier and Manowar. In addition to inclusivism, Tigerman’s critical use of humor, akin to that of The Dictators and Manitoba’s Wild Kingdom in the context of hard rock, was used “as an instrument for overcoming architecture culture’s deep-seated seriousness and authoritarianism.”[27] Not only are humor and irony used to operate apart from the self-seriousness of architecture and metal, but for both Friedman and Tigerman they are methods of response to “the acknowledgment of death” within the searching doubt of the post-Holocaust and post-Vietnam eras.[28]

“Unfortunately,” Tigerman wrote in Versus: An American Architect’s Alternatives, “wit, humor, and irony represent the illegitimate side of architecture and their use is often labeled infantile by serious architects.”[29] Shernoff attributed the commercial failure of Go Girl Crazy to the same current within heavy music: “In hindsight, I do think it was a mistake to make humor as central in the marketing of the band.”[30] But the humor used by Tigerman and The Dictators was no less serious—and no more of a joke—than the proclamations of ideological certitude put forward by Krier, Penttilä, and DeMaio, who have each drawn multitudes that doubt the sincerity of their work, not because of any apparent irony, but for the lack thereof. As a recent review of a Satanic Warmaster performance confirms, questions of what is silly or earnest may be irrelevant if the desired impact of the work, both on the public and within the discipline, is achieved: “The art of Satanic Warmaster is so dramatic and personal that it actually works as an esoteric trick on behalf of Satanic Tyrant Werewolf [Penttilӓ] in reducing his ego and becoming a medium for both audience and Black Metal in general. It will seem like a bag of clichés, or a masterwork, or actually both.”[31]

[1] Steven Lee Beeber, The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGBs: A Secret History of Jewish Punk (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2006).

[2] “I knocked ‘em dead in Dallas / They didn’t know we were Jews.”

Andrew Shernoff, The Next Big Thing (New York, Epic, 1975).

[3] Beeber.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “True metal people wanna rock not pose / Wearing jeans and leather, not cracker-jack clothes.”

Joey DeMaio, Kings of Metal (New York: Atlantic Records, 1988).

[6] “True Metal is a name for bands of different metal styles, which, apart from musical aspects, are distinguished by their ideological attitude towards the metal and by particular textual features. The term was coined by the band Manowar and is mainly used by fans and musicians to categorize their music. Musically, the bands are usually assigned to Heavy Metal or Power Metal… False Metal is the betrayal of the philosophy of Heavy Metal for commercial reasons. Certain directions of the metal, such as Glam Metal, Nu Metal and Crossover, are regarded as adulterations of ‘pure’ heavy metal, though bands who can not be classified as traditional Heavy Metal or Power Metal can be accepted as true by true metal fans.” “True Metal,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, de.wikipedia.org/wiki/True_Metal (accessed September 22, 2017).

[7] Manowar’s fans are known as Metal Warriors, Manowarriors, Immortals, and Brothers of Metal.

[8] Adrien Begrand, “The Dichotomy of Manowar,” PopMatters, March 25, 2007.

[9] “They can’t stop us / Let ’em try / For Heavy Metal / We will die!”

Joey DeMaio, Die for Metal (Auburn: Metal Circle Music, 2007).

[10] “I’m prepared to die for metal. Are you? Are you prepared to die for metal? Have you ever thought about that? Are you prepared to die for metal? … I’m ready! I’m ready to die! … Do you want me to prove it?” DeMaio, Joey. Interview by Götz Kühnemund. Hard Rock. April, 2006.

[11] “You say you wanna rock / And make it to the top / You gotta look good / And you gotta act tough / You don’t know what to do / I’m givin’ you a clue / So you can be the next / Supreme Rock Dude”

Andy Shernoff, Supreme Rock Dude (New York: MCA Records, 1990).

[12] Friedman, Ross. Interview by Louise Brown. Iron Fist. September, 2013.

[13] Lauri Penttilä, Twitter post, August 26, 2017.

[14] Lauri Penttilä,. Interviewed by Sami Kettunen. Loputon Gehennan liekki. 2014.

[15] Leon Krier, Architecture: Choice or Fate, (Windsor: Papadakis Publisher, 1998), 34.

[16] Ibid., 17.

[17] Ibid.

[18] “Satanic Warmaster.” The Metal Archives. www.metal-archives.com/bands/Satanic_Warmaster (Accessed September 23, 2017).

[19] “Armour.” The Metal Archives. www.metal-archives.com/bands/Armour. (Accessed September 23, 2017).

[20] Nuclear War Now!, Death Threat / No Heaven, 2013.

[21] Krier, 22.

[22] “My dream of your empire / Fills me with joy / For it is also my fate / To end this life of strife in tragedy / or supremacy.” Lauri Penttilä, My Dreams of 8 (Müglen: No Colours Records, 2005).

[23] In response to Krier’s assertions of the superiority of the classical language of architecture, Eisenman responded as follows: “As a jew and an outsider, I have never felt part of that classical world. I feel that modernism was the product of an alienated culture with no roots suddenly being brought into a bourgeois situation. In other words, modernists were suddenly out of the ghettos and in the cities. The philosophy that would abolish modernism proposes that if we return the world to the way it was before alienated individuals took over, everything would be worked out. I am not convinced.” Cynthia Davidson, Eisenman/Krier: Two Ideologies (New York: Monacelli Press, 2004), 36.

[24] Krier, 72.

[25] “The Semite creation in ashes / The remains blown away to the past / Of the new Hyperborean order.” Lauri Penttilä, Der Schwarze Orden (Lahti: Northern Heritage, 2001).

[26] Emmanuel Petit, Irony or, The Self-Critical Opacity of Postmodern Architecture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), 79.

[27] Emmanuel Petit, Ceci n’est pas un reverie: The Architecture of Stanley Tigerman (Yale School of Architecture, 2011).

[28] Stanley Tigerman, Versus: An American Architect’s Alternatives (New York: Rizzoli, 1982), 115.

[29] Ibid., 109.

[30] Beeber, 99.

[31] Brett Stevens, “Satanic Warmaster show in Glasgow draws racism complaints,” Death Metal Underground, April 9, 2015.

[32] Tigerman, verus 115