- Counter-Currents - https://counter-currents.com -

Storm over Kiev:
Report on Asgardsrei 2018

[1]4,329 words

If I wanted to provide an example of the Faustian spirit at work, I would probably point to the Asgardsrei festival. Just think about what would be the most extreme and difficult event to organize. A NSBM festival would be high on the list. After you organize it, authorities in your country attack it, and you become an unwanted and unwelcome person in your own fatherland. What do you do? You move to a different country and proceed with your work. The festival becomes the largest event of its kind in the country. What can you do next? Of course you make it the largest event of its kind in Europe and build a whole network of initiatives around it. And when in 2017 the festival becomes widely recognized as the largest and most radical black metal event in the world – what more can you do? Well, of course – you make it an even larger, even more radical, two-day festival, with an additional day of bonus events. Organizers of the Asgardsrei festival are raising the bar higher with every repetition, and they take no prisoners.

Since in my report on Asgardsrei 2017 [2] focused more on the metapolitical aspect of the whole event and the wider radical black metal scene, this year I want to pay more attention to all the events during the festival.

Friday, the 14th: Pact of Steel and Kabaret Peste Noire

All the events began on Friday, December 14th, with the third edition of the annual Pact of Steel conference. This conference is closely connected with the Asgardsrei festival and is aimed at adding the metapolitical and theoretical dimension to the whole event. Pact of Steel took place in the Reconquista Club which is a venue run by people connected with the wider Ukrainian Azov movement. Reconquista is a combination of restaurant and a bar, which has a fighting space where MMA fights (but also pole dancing and stand-up comedy) are regularly organized. The place is decorated in a modern nationalist and military style, and is effective in attracting young people (especially men) to the nationalist movement. It run by our guys for our guys, a model which all movements in Europe should follow.

The conference began with a bit of delay. The person responsible for organizing this event and moderating the speeches was the well-known Olena Semenyaka: a brilliant nationalist, and one of the most important intellectuals in Europe, whose hard work and eloquence can put to shame most of men involved in our movement. Olena opened the conference, outlining the idea both behind both Asgardsrei and Pact of Steel, as well as introducing the speakers.

The first part of the conference was dedicated to “Metapolitics and Counter-Culture” and consisted of a speech by Fróði Midjord (hailing from the Faroe Islands), a well-known intellectual and activist, the mastermind behind the Scandza Forum. Fróði spoke about the nationalist understanding of man: based mainly on Heidegger’s concepts, he spoke of the ideas of being thrown into the world and of Dasein. In this understanding man is not a tabula rasa (as Leftists would have us believe). Man comes to this world with a certain heritage, which he should not reject but embrace – not aim to seek some abstract freedom, but to realize the destiny inherited from his ancestors. A return to this concept of life can be an antidote to the materialism and nihilism of the contemporary men of the West. The speech was met with many interesting questions from the audience, mostly regarding putting these ideas into practice.

The second part of the conference was dedicated to the “European Reconquista” and consisted of a speech by Hendrik Möbus (hailing from Germany), well-known in black metal circles as the man behind the band Absurd, but who was also from the very beginning involved in shaping the ideological side of the black metal scene. Hendrik’s speech was dedicated to the infamous baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg, who led one of the white armies against the Bolsheviks in Mongolia during the civil war in the Russian Empire after the October Revolution. Ungern-Sternberg is a very black metal figure, filled with martial spirit to the point of madness, a dedicated fanatic searching for new ways to realize his aims, steeped in mysticism, hoping to unite the East and West in a struggle against a common enemy. Honestly speaking, I listened only to the first part of the speech, as I had to leave early, but I later watched it on-line. The first part of the speech was dedicated to the biography of Ungern-Sternberg, and it must have been interesting for people unfamiliar with this character, but if you have read the literature about him (which is quite limited) you would not learn anything new. However, the second part of the speech dedicated to the aims of interpreting the actions of Ungern-Sternberg within our contemporary traditionalist and nationalist paradigms was much more engaging.

After the conference, the first artistic part of the festival took place: Kabaret Peste Noire. Peste Noire is one of the leading contemporary black metal bands, who from the very beginning aimed at experimenting with sound and lyrical content, and it is a real achievement for our cause that such an interesting and unusual act is openly supporting us. This time Peste Noire prepared a special acoustic set of their songs. The organizers did not expect such interest from the audience, so in the end there was a huge line to get into the club, then a huge line to leave your coat, then a huge line at the bar, and the audience barely fit in the club. However, the venue itself (Monteray Club in the center of Kiev) was very good, the sound was clear, and most important of all – the performance was great. The musicians who entered the stage were the drummer and bassist of Moloth, a session accordion player, and Famine of Peste Noire playing acoustic guitar and performing vocals.

Kabaret Peste Noire was an idea that could have turned out great, but it also could have been a total failure. However, the band performed with such energy that the audience really got the idea behind the show. Many people said that this was the craziest and most unusual part of the festival. Famine performed wearing a black beret with a Totenkopf, ensuring everyone in the audience which European country this crew represents. They performed such Peste Noire tracks as: “Dueil angoisseus,” “Amour ne m’amoit ne je li,” “Casse, pêches, fractures et traditions,” or “Quand je bois du vin.”

Before the last song of the show Famine disappeared and came back wearing a yellow vest. They performed “La Commune” by the French band Vae Victis, and the audience really got the revolutionary spirit which is currently manifesting itself through the popular uprising on the streets of France. For an encore the band just came back and performed some of the tracks again, including the cover. And it was a brilliant idea, as it was during the encore that the audience began reacting most vividly, and energy filled the whole venue. After the concert there was an MMA night in the Reconquista club, but most people decided to stay in the center with friends or get rest before Saturday.

Asgardsrei 2018

The festival venue was Bingo Club, a large hall, built in the concrete Soviet style, located outside of the city center. It had a large stage. The audience was divided into some smaller sections but with a lot of open space just in front of the stage. There was a VIP area — a terrace overlooking the audience. Honestly speaking, I preferred the 2017 venue – Sentrum club. But Bingo was obviously bigger, and the stage was easily seen from all places in the audience. And just like during the previous festival, even though there were two bars, the queue for drinks was at times unbelievably long.

The first day of the festival (Saturday) began with the performance of Wehrwolf — representatives of the Belarussian NS scene. It was a great choice for the opening act. Wehrwolf play a very energetic, though quite generic, NSBM with some hatecore influences. And the musicians played professionally and knew how to make a show, so even though they were the first act, they got a very good reaction from the gathering crowd.

The second act for Saturday was the Polish band Dark Fury. They represent the second wave of Polish black metal. With a very aggressive and heavy sound combined with radical lyrics, they were a perfect choice for Asgardsrei. Some people had doubts about how this concert was going to work, after footage from Eternal Hate Fest was put on YouTube (the guest vocalist for Dark Fury did not perform well back then, to put it mildly). But this time it was a tight performance, one of the factors which made Dark Fury masters of the Polish radical black metal scene. Dark Fury presented a mix of new and old songs (including a song of the legendary Thor’s Hammer).

The next band was Baise Ma Hache — a revelation of the French black metal scene. They have an original and consistent style — musically, lyrically, and visually. And starting with the LP Breviaire du Chaos their musical output is some of the best contemporary black metal. BMH performed with a full line-up, including a bassist (thus far they had performed only with guitars). One of their live trademarks are now two vocalists who make their performances even more powerful. Apart from their own tracks — and who doesn’t like “Edelweiss Noir” or “Kali Yuga Jugend”? — they went back to the roots of the scene and performed Darkthrone’s “Under a Funeral Moon.” A powerful and memorable performance with which BMH confirmed their status of the new generation of radical black metal.

Then, Moloth entered the stage. This originally Russian, now Russian-Ukrainian, project is filled with people behind the Asgardsrei festival and Militant Zone, but also Wotanjugend, Russian Center, and other initiatives connected with black metal and nationalism. Moloth have a unique aggressive and powerful sound, and their double vocal take (clean singing and screaming) works perfectly during live performances. In 2017 this was one of the most powerful performances, and this year it was even better. The energy on stage was paired with great visualizations in the background (I liked especially the clip dedicated to Russian anti-communist fighters) and the enthusiasm of the audience. Moloth performed classic tracks such as “Rodny Moy Kray,” or my favorite “Tears of Autumn,” but also the new track “Coup de Grace” with Famine of Peste Noire performing guest vocals.

The next act was Greece’s Acherontas. They may have seemed like an odd choice, since their lyrics are steeped in occult themes, not martial or political, but if you remember that the roots of this band lie in the Stutthof project, their appearance on Asgardsrei makes much more sense. Acherontas (the leader of Acherontas) must be applauded for never cutting his ties with the radical scene and cucking or counter-signaling. Quite the contrary: after some fans started complaining about his participation in Asgardsrei, he publicly told them to get lost and stop supporting the band. I have not seen the whole performance — one of the best things about Asgardsrei are possibilities for networking with people from all over the world — but Acherontas performed a professional and energetic act, received positively even by people who are not fans of this vein of black metal.

The sixth band of the night was the Finnish group Goatmoon. Last year they were the best act of the festival. And this year they did it again. The music of Goatmoon is perfect for live shows, blending aggression with melody, and straightforward simplicity with more sophisticated parts. But it must be emphasized that Goatmoon consists of professional musicians, who not only play very well, but also know how to do a show. Especially the frontman, with his insane vocals and onstage charisma, can get the whole crowd to enthusiastically take part in the performance. And it is difficult not to get engaged when you hear such tracks as “Alone,” “Aryan Beauty,” “Finnish Steel Storm,” “Storming Through White Light,” or “Kunnia, Armageddon.” Goatmoon played quite a long show, but if they had stayed twice as long on stage, the crowd would still have been going crazy until the very end.

Saturday night concluded with the performance of the legends of Ukrainian black metal scene: Nokturnal Mortum. This is a top quality band, who combine professional performance with a sincere primeval energy. Their combination of powerful riffs and symphonic arrangements is the best expression of the spirit of the Eastern Slavic school of black metal. Nokturnal Mortum performed a long show consisting mostly of newer material, but they played some of their best-known old tracks.

The festival on Sunday began with the German group Nordglanz. Again, a great opening act, since they play a very catchy kind of black metal with heavy Metal and RAC influences. There were some problems with sound — the electric violin would not work, and the violinist left the stage. At times the keyboards were not audible, and they play an important role in Nodrglanz’s music. But overall it was a good opening show, though I was hoping they would play “Töten für Wotan,” but they didn’t.

The next act was the Polish band Sunwheel, born of the ashes of Swastyka and the legendary Kataxu. They play aggressive, riff-oriented black metal with death metal influences. Since their drummer left the band right before Asgardsrei, they performed with pre-recorded drum tracks. It is always difficult to play without a live drummer, and during the first song the sound was chaotic, but it got better, and the pre-recorded drums added a cold and inhumane aspect to the violent music. At the end of the performance, the musicians put on hooded costumes and performed songs by Kataxu, which was one of the most original Polish black metal acts of their time.

The third band of the evening was the Austrian group Terrosphära. It was the only non-black metal band of the festival, but they suited the whole line-up well and were a great addition to Asgardsrei. Terrosphära plays energetic hatecore with lots of heavy breakdowns. During all of Asgardsrei the audience was full of energy and reacted positively to the bands, but during the performance of Terrosphära the reaction was most brutal, with moshpits happening throughout the whole concert.

The fourth band was the Italian act Frangar. They mix black metal with hatecore and RAC influences and are a most powerful live band. Unfortunately, there were some problems with the sound, especially with the vocals, but Colonello is such a charismatic frontman that he could get the audience involved even if the electricity went off. “Gioventu di Ferro,” or “Trieste Chiama” are pure power, inspired by the futurist dynamics of Italian fascism. The performance concluded with the cover of “Avanti Ragazzi di Buda,” an anthem dedicated to the European nationalist rebels.

The next band on Sunday evening was the Greek group Der Stürmer. They are the definition of NSBM: musically, lyrically, and ideologically. If you ever wonder if a certain group can be considered as NSBM just compare them with Der Stürmer. The band included Stormheit of Stormheit and Goatmoon on bass. It was clear that he had not rehearsed much with them, but he did a great job, as did the rest of the band. Der Stürmer have basically two types of tracks: classic black metal blasts, and slower more RAC influenced anthems. They mixed these two quite well in their performance: “Der Stürmer,” “When Totenkopf Rises,” “Forces of Tradition,” “Those Who Lived and Died Like Heroes,” “The Hammer Falls on Zion,” “Himmelstürmer” — every fan of radical black metal knows these tracks by heart, and you could tell by the enthusiasm of the audience how great and powerful this performance was.

Then, the German group Stahlfront entered the stage. And it was quite an entrance: the musicians and their crew were dressed in futuristic NS uniforms, combined with black metal corpse-paint and occult symbolism. They marched right through the audience, and began the performance, heavy with aesthetics and theatrical gestures. And while I think their music is too generic at times, it was a show of the highest quality. Many of the audience considered it the best of the whole festival. They also used great visualizations — simple and powerful, such as the black sun, runes, or a Nazi UFO, straight from a documentary on Third Reich occultism. There was not one person in the audience who was not staring with awe at the stage during Stahlfront’s performance.

The final band on Sunday evening was the German group Absurd. This was the most controversial act of the previous festival, as the expectations were really high and some people complained about the previous performance being too raw. This time the line-up was slightly different, and expectations were high again. Absurd began with “Asgardsrei” — and you could hear that the sound is still raw. However, they were getting warmed up with every song. Also, complaining that Absurd has a raw sound is like complaining that Der Stürmer uses NS themes. Absurd has so many well-known songs that it is probably impossible to find some the audience would not know. The whole audience was singing along, and the performance ended with musicians from other bands entering the stage and performing “Wen Walkürien Reiten” together with Absurd.

Black Metal – The New Generation

Visiting Kyiv and taking part in Asgardsrei once again provided real food for thought and the impetus for reflections on the wider European nationalist movement.

First of all, I was surprised by how popular radical black metal can become — and let us be honest: black metal is esoteric and inaccessible, both musically and aesthetically. Based on my interactions with other festival participants, I learned that some of them were nor great fans of the NSBM or just the BM scene, but the festival itself intrigued them so much that they decided to come. I admit to being a great enthusiast of black metal, but I always considered its impact to be greatly limited. And this is one of these situations in which it is good to be wrong. Black metal itself has gained a completely new incarnation in the East — combined with the NSXE ideals, without self-destructive tendencies, much less individualistic, steeped in the real-life realization of military and martial slogans. And this new incarnation has already become a valuable part of the contemporary nationalist movement.

Second, participants in Asgardsrei come from probably all European nations. I have met people from Europe and the United States, but I know there were also participants from both Americas. There were also (for the first time) people from South Africa. You could feel the spirit of European brotherhood. Of course, no one pretended that there are no differences between us. Regarding some issues, especially historical matters, we will never be able to fully understand each other. But we are united by a common future and the struggle for the survival of our nations. From this perspective we can just overcome certain past issues.

References to the most primeval symbols are a great way of building the unity of white nations. The colors of some military formations or nationalist organizations will always provoke objections from people coming from different countries, but such symbols as the solar cross or the black sun will always be valued by every conscious European. Furthermore, some marginal or esoteric figures, such as the aforementioned Roman von Ungern-Sternberg, are easier to accept by people from different nations than better-known heroes.

Another interesting issue is the participation of women in the nationalist movement. Let us be honest: black metal and nationalism have always attracted more men than women. Women are less interested in marginal or radical movements. The reason for this is the fact that women care more about the opinion of others. They take social stigmatization less easily. And they are less willing to fight to change the existing situation. (Women generally participate less willingly in the race, but they prefer to wait for the winners at the finishing line.) But we must always keep in mind that most men do not care about any kind of ideals, and they prefer to live in their parents’ basements while playing video games or watching porn. Anyway, among the Asgardsrei participants there were more men, but there were quite a lot of women. This is another proof that nationalists are beginning to win, and the nationalist movement is gaining strength. Meetings with Ukrainian female nationalists are always very uplifting. There are more and more of them, and they really identify with the movement, and are devoting their efforts to our victory.

Finally, not only nationalists participated in the festival. Some people just came to listen to music and watch the show. They might not identify with the whole message of the artists or the organizers, but they at least partially accept it. In Ukraine radical black metal circles have managed to force their worldview on the wider extreme scene. Just as in the 1990s most people listening to rock or metal had Leftist leanings, they often wore Che Guevara patches, even if they were not really involved in any kind of leftist initiatives, right now in Ukraine many fans of extreme music just listen to nationalist bands or wear patches with nationalist symbols. It is possible that this will have no effect on the future, but in fact the wider scene in Ukraine is beginning to turn in the direction of nationalism.

Asgardsrei 2019?

After the festival I heard the joke that to make Asgardsrei 2019 better than this year’s version, the organizers will have to summon Kalki and end the Kali Yuga. But speaking seriously, I have a few ideas on how to make this event better.

First of all, in 2017 the metapolitical part was as good as the musical one. This year it would be difficult to keep up with such a line-up of bands. However, the conference was a little pale in comparison with the concerts. More speeches and more time for discussions would be a good idea. Furthermore, more discipline in matters of time would be good. If there are so many overlapping events, every delay becomes quite a problem.

Second, the Cossack House, where the Militant Store, Plomin Club, Orientyr Publishing House, and the Dürer art studio are located, is becoming an initiative as important and well-known as the model of this kind of activism, namely Italy’s CasaPound. It would be good to show guests from various countries these Ukrainian nationalist accomplishments, and also to discuss with them their technical and organizational aspects, which could be a great inspiration for nationalists from other countries.

During Asgardsrei 2017, the flags of the participants’ countries and organizations were hung over the audience in the VIP area, and it made a really good impression. This time however, there were almost no flags over the audience, only among the participants. It would be nice if the organizers provided an opportunity to bring flags and hang them over the audience or the stage. The number of initiatives and countries represented at Asgardsrei is huge, and it also makes a great impression in the photos that circulate on the web after the festival.

There are also some small organizational issues connected with the concerts. During the festival itself there were only sporadic small sound problems during a few performances (which is unavoidable during such a large event). However, during Kabaret Peste Noire, the line to the club and then to the cloak room was truly huge. It is a small issue, but why not eliminate it next year?

Speaking of Kabaret Peste Noire — such an acoustic concert was a brilliant idea. Maybe next year it would be good to expand it? No need to look far — Goatmoon also performs acoustic sets. Stormheit, who plays bass in Goatmoon, has an incredible project — Stormheit — which could also provide an acoustic set. And I am sure that there are folk and neofolk bands that would be willing to perform at such an event.

According to what I see on the internet, there are more and more small companies and craftsmen, who are producing jewelry or clothes inspired by the European tradition. Perhaps it would be a good idea to provide them with an opportunity to present and sell their work during the festival. Asgardsrei takes place around the holidays, so many people would be interested in buying a gift for themselves or for friends without waiting for delivery. During the festival, there were stands for Militant Zone, Svastone, Plomin, and other outlets, and there were always lines in front of them. Other ideas are Q&A sessions with the performing musicians and an exhibition of works of visual artists cooperating with Militant Zone.

While the club itself was a great place for this festival — it was large enough for such audience; there was room for the stands; the stage was large and visible; the sound was great — it would be even better if the organizers had a place of their own where such events could happen. Sounds unrealistic? Well, five years ago the idea of organizing a two-day radical black metal festival for 1,500 participants in Ukraine also sounded unrealistic. The more money that goes to our people and remains in the nationalist counter-system, the more the scene becomes independent — the better.

However, I must emphasize, that all of these are small issues and ideas on how to make a great festival even better. After Asgardsrei 2017, I wrote that it was not only the best event of the year but also the best event I had ever participated in. This year I need to write it again: Asgardsrei 2018 was not only the best event of the year but also the best event I have participated in.