This is a quick tale about a bunch of differing dynamics mixing in a chaotic way, without all the strife that such cosmic motions usually entail. And it’s not about what you think it’s about.
Let’s head back to 2018. I was writing idiotic opinion pieces for the UK magazine Zero Tolerance and enjoying the response to my second album with The Antichrist Imperium. Work was stable. Life was pretty good…in fact, life has been pretty good for the last few years now, still is.
A guy behind a one-man project that I particularly enjoyed moved to my town, and I friend-added him on Facebook after swapping a few comments. I’ve struggled in Adelaide to hang with any musos. My reputation lies overseas. I saw a comment from this dude that he was new in town and if anyone wanted to hang out or knew of any places hiring, to let him know. I have ridiculous amounts of free time, wanted to chat about all things metal, and even thought it might be good to line up an interview for Zero Tolerance seeing as he’d just released an album. So I pinged the fella to see if he wanted to catch up for beer or a coffee.
“Yeah sorry, I’m too busy.”
Okay. Not quite the response I was hoping for. I was a bit disappointed but it wasn’t entirely unexpected. The dude still writes a killer tune. I was starting to notice something however, which was that every few days he’d post something strongly progressive. These people tend to fall into two camps: the awesome ones who have suggestions on how to do things better and are distributing good news and breakthroughs that are happening in the world, urging us compassionately towards a healthier happier level of existence. And then there’s the others. You know them. They don’t want to make the world a better place. They just want to loudly affirm their belief that everyone else is stupid and immoral. They want to feel good about calling everyone a bunch of cunts. They’re looking for a fight and their politics are merely an excuse.
This dude fell into the latter category. It’s hard to feel good about people who constantly and passively insinuate that you’re an asshole. It was around this period that I was contacted by the editor for Zero Tolerance to let me know that I had an article due in a weeks time. I had been doing yoga for a few months which had given me different insights into my thing for extreme metal, and was set on writing an article about that.
Then the progressive dude posted some chest-beating about how Nergal from Behemoth witnessed a rape and did nothing about it (from this flawed Toilet Ov Hell piece) and turned it into a tirade about how virtuous he was, and anyone who doesn’t like it can unfriend him immediately, etc etc etc. So I wrote and submitted the following article to the magazine:
You know what? I was this close – THIS fucking close – to submitting a column about the joys of yoga. It was literally one day before deadline. And what happened? Some large online metal site just had to publish an article called: “Remember When Nergal Watched a Sexual Assault”. This was based on another article titled: “BEHEMOTH: Forced to Cancel Festival Appearance and Accused of Raping A Fan in 2001”.
I wasn’t going to touch it. It was too soon for me to talk about the sexual habits of the Polish again or even to talk about sex in general. And really, what do I have to offer? I’ve been celibate for nearly two years now. But I saw so much misguided commentary erupt around the article that I knew I had to comment. Yoga can wait.
Some caveats first. I haven’t commented on things like the MeToo movement because, seriously, what have I to add? I agree with everything they’re about and besides, it was a time for me to sit down, shut up, and listen. It was eye-opening, seeing the stories of constant low-level harassment that all women are subject to. It caused a widespread reappraisal of past behaviour and attitudes among men. I know that was the case with myself. I don’t make a habit of commenting on things that are obvious. You’ll never see a “racism is bad” or “fascism is bad” statement from me, because I might as well tell you that setting yourself on fire is bad. I write under the assumption that the reader is neither malevolent nor stupid. I make this extended caveat because people make all sorts of assumptions when reading articles like this, and the usual technique for ignoring a message is to cast aspersions on the messenger.
Now that’s out of the way, Nergal. Here’s the anecdote: A female tour promoter in Spain came onto their tour bus years ago and got drunk. Nergal went downstairs, saw his equally drunken bandmates engaged in sexual acts with her and arguing over who got to fill which hole, and went yeah ROCK AND ROLL. They were video taping it. Consent was a foggy enough issue for their tour manager to look for the woman and confirm she had been OK with it. She expressed that she was. Now some online journalists have taken it upon themselves to say that what happened was sexual assault.
Hold up right there, you heroic online journalists: YOU don’t get to decide if someone has consented or not. Only the adults involved get to decide. How patriarchal and paternalistic do you want to be?! I’m friends with some adventurous girls who would KICK YOUR ARSE if you dared cast them as a victim whenever they indulged in their god-given right to get drunk and bang musicians. How incredibly patronizing – how incredibly STUPID – are these sites, that they would take it upon themselves to publicly redefine someone’s experience? Did the female promoter consent to that? How nauseating it is to see the same people who cry “believe all women” disbelieve this particular woman.
I see various amateur online media overreach on this issue, again and again. Is it advisable for bands to get drunk and run train on women in tour buses? No, not for either party. Women may find themselves in circumstances conducive to assault. Bands now put themselves at the risk of arrest, like Decapitated. Is Nergal’s attitude to women chauvinistic and caveman? Totally. Were Behemoth operating in a grey area of consent during that incident? Yes, they were. Was that a good thing? No. Was it sexual assault? No party has claimed that it was, so now these sites have undone their exposé on toxic masculinity and opened themselves to legal action. They were doing so well outlining how previous attitudes are unacceptable, right up until they shoved the woman aside and decided her opinion on that experience no longer mattered. You can make your point without kicking in the proverbial bedroom door and accusing everyone inside of rape.
I saw a quote, that misogyny is when women finally start reporting sexual assaults and the response is that we must protect men from accusations. This is a strawman – it is only false accusations that people feel they need to be protected from. An ongoing mistake repeatedly made throughout history is the correction of an injustice with further injustice. The current mood is that any interaction that falls into a grey area must be treated as assault, and any aggrieved woman must be believed regardless of evidence otherwise. I agree that the greater evil in the world is assault and harassment, but I don’t believe that gets fixed by abandoning the principles of evidence. Anyone watch this year’s Celebrity Big Brother? Where exactly do you stand on “believe all women” after the false assault accusations of Roxanne Pallett? Do you think Ryan was just an egg you crack on the way to cooking a justice omelette?
People saying they won’t listen to Behemoth albums anymore? I guess you won’t be listening to anything anymore except the faint hum of your own moral superiority. To paraphrase the late Bill Hicks, all those bands you listen to who enriched and influenced your life? They were having drunken sex with drunken fans in a fog of dubious consent. What is acceptable changes over time but MeToo changed long-standing popular attitudes in less than six months. I think the modern ten-second attention span has forgotten how quickly acceptable fringe behaviour has become unacceptable.
There’s enough injury in the world without having to call it where none has been claimed. And there’s already plenty of toxic action in the music industry worth railing against. The accusations against Tool’s Maynard warrant comment for example, as the lack of consent is clear. Save your pitchforks and pen-ink for that. This Behemoth incident has consent on both sides though, and if some grotty, drunken, group sex in a bus between adults is the worst thing we have to worry about as a society, then we’re doing pretty damn good.
Do you know what is really mental? This oh-my-god SO depraved sex act by Behemoth doesn’t even rank in the top ten crazy things I’ve seen. The people having freaky nooky, the biggest human rodeos, the people hooking up utterly blasted out of their minds on drugs and alcohol, all happened at raves. Not in metal. The crazy licky-snorty gooey public stuff that boggled my mind was done by relatively mainstream people, dressed like fairies out in the bush somewhere.
Metal Fans? You’re the fucking worst. I hate every last one of you. You are the New Puritans. Your scene and gigs are as sexy and nuanced as a church. You won’t pay for music, you don’t turn up to gigs, and here you are tut-tutting at consenting adults like the ghost of Tipper Gore. You joyless, funless, sexless, boring bastards.
Sam Bean has consented to having this article published. Yes, I did. Yes, I really, really did. Yes, really. Yes. Thank you for asking, yes. Look, do I need to sign something?
I submitted that sucker around lunch, went about my day, and that night I went to bed to sleep the sleep of the just. And I couldn’t sleep. Something was nagging at me. After a few hours, I pulled my phone off the bedside table and did a Google search on “Behemoth Sexual Assault”. That was right when there were a bunch of Twitter accusations coming out accusing them, so suddenly I was reading about a bunch of lurid incidents I had no idea about. Who exactly was I defending anyway? How would I feel about myself if one of these many accusations turned out to be true? Shit, how would I feel if my sister or niece read all my articles and totted up how many times I was going in to bat for accused rapists? I mentally went over all my blog articles for the last few years. Shit, shit, shit. How long until someone went hey Sam, what’s with your thing about defending people accused with sex crimes?
I messaged the editor Lisa, let her know my misgivings and she agreed to spike it. I pretty much said it’s just a gut feeling, but I fear we could get caught out on the wrong side of this one in the future. I had an article about yoga written and submitted by 10am the next day.
A few weeks later, that one-man project dude posted about how everyone who listens to Joe Rogan is a meathead and I hit the defriend button. I haven’t listened to his music since. It sucks cause I know it’s good stuff, but it’s just one of those cases where you find out someone behind some good art is an unfriendly sort, and it’s hard to separate them from their output. Everyone has experienced that at some point. You go to a band’s gig, try to speak to them after the show, and they give you the brush off and suddenly you don’t care about any further albums, shows, or t-shirts they have to offer. Message received, you don’t want me in your tribe. Gotcha. The enjoyment drains away.
Did Maynard from Tool end up in court over the numerous sexual assault allegations against him? Did he fuck. Tool came out with a new album last year, and the world is still recovering from how hard they shit themselves. Maynard was on the ubiquitous Joe Rogan Experience talking about the making of the album and many other things, none of them including the potential for jail time. His accusers have melted away in the past year. This is a complex world and this decade doesn’t look like it’s going to be any less complicated.
The yoga article went to print back in 2018. I haven’t been asked to write for the magazine again. Did it have something to do with the article telling an extreme metal audience that an exclusive diet of extreme metal is bad for mental health and that they should all be listening to something else? Quite a ballsy statement to put out in an metal magazine. I can only guess. That’s why I felt it was time to post this unpublished article.
*24/02/20 Edit: I was contacted by old bandmate from Mithras Leon, owner of Zero Tolerance mag. Sounds like the yoga-screed didn’t make it either…which is probably for the best 😀
A delivery of mags is winging its way to Australia now.