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Review: Wolves among Sheep: History and Ideology of National Socialist Black Metal
Book Review
Wolves among Sheep: History and Ideology of National Socialist Black Metal
Publisher: Tsunami Edizioni
Author: Davide Maspero, Max Ribaric
Year published: 2015
ISBN: 9788896131763

Rating: 4.75/5

Review online: August 17, 2023
Reviewed by: Michel Renaud
Readers Rating
Wolves among Sheep: History and Ideology of National Socialist Black Metal

Rated 4/5 (80%) (5 Votes)

This is a weird review to write. This book was originally written in Italian and translated into other languages—at least English and French. Since I don't read Italian, I went with the French version, which was cheaper and easier to find for some reason (I got the Kindle Edition ebook). So, I'm writing a review in English about an Italian book that I read in French. There's a first for everything.

I became aware of this book while reading Furie arménienne, a French-language book about the Armenian metal scene (highly recommended if you read French). There was a tiny section about National Socialist Black Metal (NSBM) in that book, and they mentioned this 900+ pages behemoth written about this much-maligned subgenre. I was really curious to find out how someone could write so much about it, and here we are. Note that the English version seems to be 576 pages long, so I don't know if they cut down the content or what.

First, this is not a book that promotes NSBM. The authors are rather neutral and factual throughout the book, though sometimes they slip and will make a snarky comment about some actors of the scene, be it individuals, bands, contradictory ideology—you get the idea. In other words, if you're looking for (or that you think that this is) some dumb cheerleading book on NSBM, this is definitely not it.

I found that this almost reads like a doctoral thesis at times. It is very well written (at least the French translation is; can't comment on the English translation job) and also very well researched. History, ideology, individuals, organizations, labels, bands, music, lyrics, etc., the authors did their homework and got an A. The amount of work involved in writing the book is impressive. More often than I can count, I found myself wondering, "How did they dig this stuff up?"

There are several chapters that go by areas of the world, sometimes by subgenre, sometimes by varying ideology. There are a number of short interviews, though those are few and far between; more often than not they'll quote someone they interviewed during the making of the book unless they felt necessary to print the whole interview. There are tons of references to magazines and fanzines, newspapers and other print or online media, sometimes going back decades. Like I said earlier, lots of research went obviously went into this.

Several bands are mentioned, including the usual suspects, some of which often get wrongly associated with NSBM, some of which are guilt by association, others that aren't NSBM but claim they are... Let's just say that things get nuanced if not downright complicated at times, which makes the book an even more interesting read. They also mention the other end of the spectrum, far-left bands, including a subgenre I'd never heard of: RABM (Red & Anarchist Black Metal). Add the straight up anti-racist and anti-nazi bands. Hatecore also gets a chapter.

Obviously, some (most) of the things said by individuals interviewed or quoted, or simply the general text contain quite a bit of unsavoury material, but one should be expecting that going into such a book. To some extent you find out what makes some of these people click, how some are kind of lost and end up being seen as not belonging—if not a joke—in that scene (think kids who are just trying to be controversial, for example). Some of the views are laughable, some are somewhat terrifying, especially these days when we see similar comments creeping all over the place and gaining traction. Well, let's just say that the stuff would have been more disturbing if I had read the book when it was published. I read more disturbing things in news websites comments section and even in newspaper editorials these days. But that's another story.

I must say I made faces reading a lot of the content, and would probably have stopped reading it if it weren't so well written and well researched, so much so that it helps put aside unsavoury comments from individuals from the scene when the authors return to a factual reporting tone.

This is obviously not a book everyone will want to read and there are more fun and positive books to read about metal, but it's hard not to recommend it, especially in today's charged, polarized political climate that one can't help but draw some parallel with.

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