The following is an extract from Issue 6 of our zine, pick it up below, or subscribe to our Patreon to get the full text.
Music is magic. I mean that about as literally as I can, as someone who both practices but is only agnostic to magic and spellcasting. There are a lot of ways I understand magic… it’s a word that defies easy definition. Its meaning, in my head, shifts and reorients itself often. People say “magic is the expression of will” and maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s a way of bypassing logical systems in order to understand the world, or maybe it’s a bunch of fancy ways to ground yourself in times of crisis not much different from the techniques one might learn through cognitive therapy. Maybe magic taps into something we can’t understand otherwise. Whatever it is, however I’m using the word, music is magic.
When I write music, or when I play shows, I’m consciously creating a magical space, a ritual space. I desire for people to enter an altered state of mind. All music does this. All music weaves different spells, out of different materials. Black metal and doom metal are two of my favourite materials. Since the lyrics are rarely comprehensible, I work instead, as best I can, with the raw emotional content of the music itself – and of course, I work with symbols, with visuals.
I write music with two metal bands. With Feminazgûl, I’m writing spells against the patriarchal domination of the world – and for death, and for rot, and for all that I consider holy in this world. With Vulgarite, I’m writing spells against the dualistic framework that the Catholic church imposed on us, and I’m casting spells against authority in all its forms. These meagre spells won’t bring down an empire. They aren’t intended as simplistic propaganda, either. Few of the songs I write are rousing calls to arms. Instead, they’re meant to bolster a culture that honours resistance.
Edgelords are bad magicians. Edgelords, people looking to shock and offend, looking just to get a rise out of people… they’re looking to affect the world, sure, but they’re not looking to actually influence the world through their own will. It’s like the wizard in your RPG party who throws a fireball every time a few goblins stick their heads out from around the corner. Yeah, fireball is a magic spell. It’s big and it’s flashy. It also lacks focus, can lead to unintended consequences, and isn’t the right spell for every situation.
A lot of musicians are, functionally, just fucking edgelords by this definition. Throw a Black Sun on your album cover and now you’re evil, congratulations. You’re working with power. You have no fucking clue what you’re doing, but you’re working with power. You’re a kid who found a powerful wand and is giddy when lightning shoots out. Except these are grown-ass men (almost exclusively men) who ought to know better. Who ought to consider how to actually focus their power, how to think about what spells they want to cast and how to cast them.
If you cast nazi spells you’re gonna win nazi prizes. Those of us who actually pay attention to how power works, how magic works, how aesthetics influence our culture, are going to be fucking upset by nazis and are going to work against them. Don’t like it? Don’t pick up the “I’m an evil nazi” wand you found in the dungeon and pretend like it was all in good fun. Don’t be surprised that there are consequences to every action you take.
I’m not the world’s best magician. I’m only half convinced I have any power at all. It’s okay to experiment, to not always understand the effects of your actions. I do know, though, that effective magic starts with intention, not effect. Find your power, yes. Temper it with your will.
Issue 6 is out TODAY – click here to order.
Words: Margaret Killjoy