BLACK METAL IN TURKEY
“Black metal? We don’t have that in Turkey.” – The middle aged Turkish academic sitting across from me in a restaurant in Istanbul is not the first to have expressed surprise, even disbelief, when I told him about my topic of research. Although literature on metal music in Muslim majority societies has multiplied during the last decade, black metal, one of metal music’s most extreme subgenres, has rarely been the subject of study. A Turkish black metal scene, however, exists since the late 1980s.
In 1988 Turkey’s first black metal band Witchtrap, was formed in the capital city of Ankara. Now, as it was then, the genre is primarily found in the larger metropolitan cities of Turkey, including Istanbul, Izmir, and Bursa. Originally performed in movie theaters and wedding venues, concerts are now usually held at smaller club venues or in the basements of bars in the city centers. Contrary to earlier research on the demographics of metal music listeners, the scene in Turkey, as it is in the wider Middle East, is composed mostly of well-educated middle–class listeners and practitioners. Although the genre has a long history in Turkey, a substantial shift has occurred within the Turkish black metal scene that differentiates today’s bands from their predecessors. Whereas previous black metal bands in Turkey avoided references to Islam in their cultural production, and instead centered their blasphemy around satanic and anti-Christian messages, Islam can now be found at the center of bands’ blasphemous narratives. My research focuses on this change in relation to Islam within the Turkish black metal scene’s artistic production. Bands such as Sarinvomit, Zifir, and Godslaying Hellblast are a few examples of bands that have incorporated references to Islam in album covers and lyrics. Through interviews, observations and analyses of album covers and lyrics, I am mapping how religion as a symbolic resource is used, portrayed, and discussed in the Turkish black metal scene from 1990-2020, with a particular focus on Islam. The increase in references to Islam within the Turkish black metal scene correlates with the rise of the pious conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) currently governing Turkey. As such my research sheds light on how blasphemy can be used to express societal and political critique. It also challenges the popular understanding that there exists a societal respect for religion in Muslim majority societies.
Songs to keep in your ear (besides those mentioned in the text)