The Golden Age

ArkonaRight now I am watching my current favourite band in concert (on Youtube). Arkona is a pagan metal band from Russia, who combine traditional folk songs, melodies and instruments with heavy metal drums and guitars. Singer Masha Scream prances about in furs, moving from traditional folk song to shamanic chants to death metal growls without taking a breath. The theme is mostly, as is common with this kind of music, an evocation of a long-lost past, before the modern world wrecked everything, but that’s what mythmaking is. In a world where popular culture is rapidly converging on a homogenized mess of American Idolized shit, it is refreshing to see someone rejecting it and trying to find something worthwhile in a time when there were in fact different cultures. Of course even those were pretty similar; the traditional elements of northern European folk metal from Ireland to Finland to Russia sound very like each other. And how much do they really have in common with what they were actually singing before the Vikings or the Saxons came?
Still, it can be stirring stuff. But why? For myself, two things. First, I love the art of the mashup, where two wildly dissimilar songs or genres are combined to create something new and wonderful, or a cover version in an entirely different style. The Acts of Simon are just such a creature, into which I have thrown basically everything I find interesting, combining modern idiom with a mentality which is in many ways utterly alien to our own.
Second, I never really felt part of a particular country or nationality, having been shifted around so much when young. Indeed, I consider patriotism one of the great evils of the world, and think it would be much better if countries in the Westphalian sense were abolished. But I am human after all, and find myself envying such fervent feeling of belonging to something greater than oneself, even an imaginary pre-industrial Slavic paradise. And some years ago I actually felt that when I discovered BBC online and heard the song Roots by Show of Hands, and realized that yes, I was English. But what does that mean when you have lived in Canada most of your life? I identified with the Quebecois while living in Westmount, with the Palestinians in a mostly Jewish school, and now with a culture I had only vague memories of, just because I was born there. My family is of Scottish descent and I do like what is nowadays called Celtic music (except the pipes(except this) and Lord of the Dance (except Tam Lin) and that New Age stuff; Pogues and Dropkick anyway). An advantage of identifying with England is that it’s not a country – in fact it’s the most politically disadvantaged province of the UK, alone in not having any kind of local government – so it’s not patriotism, just… nationalism, no, just a sense of belonging I guess, not being adrift in the world. And yes I know its history, how its rulers oppressed both their own and many many other peoples, the dark satanic mills etc., but my allegiance is to the same England as Masha’s prehistoric Russia, the land of the Druids and the Holly and the Ivy, a Golden Age that never was and never can be, where it did take a village, and the world wasn’t ruled by gas addicts putting the pedal to the metal in their race to be the first over the cliff of climate catastrophe.
So what does all this have to do with Simon? Unlike myself he grew up in a small town and knew the same people until moving out into the wide world at the mature age of 15. In that world everything is new. He is like the common scifi/fantasy character who is from the writer’s world but finds himself in a totally alien milieu, in order to highlight the contrast between the two. As my own personal Mary Sue, I guess Simon represents the me that should have been: from a stable background, acting instead of thinking, making a name for himself in a society without mass communications, still remembered after 2000 years – even if only as the founder of an obscure anti-Christianity and the inventor of ecclesiastical corruption. It’s hard to imagine anyone these days having that kind of staying power; but one can try.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *