Swedish black metal stalwarts Watain are no strangers to controversy surrounding their music, something that bandleader Erik Danielsson is very aware of in a new interview with Metal Hammer.

Reflecting on the rise of social movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, Danielsson said that black metal was met with scrutiny and upheld the outsider art ethos of the genre.

“As artists dealing with what is commonly thought of as extreme and radical ideas such as murder, black magic, arson, Satanism, violence, drugs, religious fanatism and so forth, you could really feel a change in the way you were being judged. It was interesting to see normal people trying to come up with [a] justification as to why it was still acceptable for them to like black metal.” 

Metal Hammer also brings up Watain’s connections to Swedish melodic death metal progenitors Dissection. Bandleader Jon Nödtveidt was put in prison following his role in the murder of Josef ben Meddour, a gay man, in 1997. Following Nödtveidt’s release from prison in 2004, Danielsson played bass on Dissection’s final tour. Dissection guitarist Set Teitan also played live guitar with Watain for over a decade.

He admits that these things can be viewed as problematic, but sees it as a problem for the aforementioned normal people to wrestle with.

“There’s a lot of things in this art form that will never become normalized or OK. Things have to be a bit problematic. It makes things interesting in a world where black metal and mainstream culture coexist.” 

Teitan left the band when photos of him performing a Sieg Heil salute in a Nazi uniform, which Danielsson does not attempt to make excuses for, calling it another part of the long-running experience that is Watain.

“Am I surprised it got the reaction it did? Not the slightest. Am I fine with it? Not at all. As far as justification goes, the only one who can justify anything is Set himself. And to my knowledge, he is not interested in explaining nor justifying anything. Watain is a life work for me. It’s a mythical experience. There have been a lot of strange, terrible and great things, and there will be more. This was one of them.” 

Hopefully the bad doesn’t include more Nazi-related scandals in the band’s future. The good includes their new album, The Agony and Ecstasy of Watain.

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