It's funny how things spiral out of control sometimes. Perhaps even funnier is the way perceptions drastically alter with the benefit -- or stigma -- of hindsight. What is not quite so funny, however, is the method in which journalistic sensationalism can not only shape the perceptions of the future but also distort the events of the past and in effect manufacture a new hindsight for a context which previously had not existed. The story of the German band Absurd is full of these twists and turns, and it forces us to question our fundamental assumptions about responsible representation in the media and free speech in general.
To put it mildly, Absurd is a very odd band. The easiest place to start would be with the name. Given their strangeness, I suppose the name itself fits. According to Hendrik Möbus, the name "Absurd" is meant to refer to the band's relation to the ideas of disorder and chaos. Sonically, disorder and chaos are very near to the band's founding aesthetic principles: the band attempted to create a coherent blend of black metal, oi, horror soundtracks, and other disparate aural influences. The band also placed something of an emphasis on satanic or anti-christian themes. Sometimes these ideas work. Sometimes they don't. Formed in 1992 while its members were still in high school, most of Absurd's early works sounded quite amateurish and were unintentionally hilarious. Still, its contributing members -- Hendrik "Jarl Flagg Nidhögg" Möbus (drums) and Sebastian "Werwolf Dark Mark Doom" Schauscheill (vocals, guitar, bass) -- were apparently relatively popular among their peers owing to their demos, specifically Sadness and God's Death. Buzz about the young band was so great that no less a personage than Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth offered to sign Absurd to his record label, Deathlike Silence Productions, based on the strength of their Death From The Forest demo. This deal never materialized, however. Incarceration can do that to a person.
As the members of the band were still in high school, they still had to deal with typical high school problems. You know, just the basic stuff...homework, petty rivalries, and first degree murder. In 1993, Möbus and Schauscheill began complaining about constantly being bothered by another student named Sandro Beyer. It seems as if Beyer -- who had a reputation for being something of an annoyance -- was interested in either joining Absurd or wanted to be with the band at all times. The members of Absurd were not interested. As a matter of fact, Schauscheill and Möbus sent notes and letters to Beyer, tell him to leave them alone. Additionally, Hendrik Möbus made several very derogatory references to him by name in a high school fanzine and took great lengths to distance him from the band. Offended, Beyer began spreading rumors about the members of Absurd around the school. Apparently most were fairly trivial, but there was one that was particularly accurate that had the potential to create a real problem for the band: 17-year-old Schauscheill was sexually involved with a married woman who had become pregnant with his child. For this reason -- among others -- the members of Absurd determined that "the guy had to go." Schauscheill and Möbus recruited a friend of theirs -- identified only as Andreas K. -- to assist them in this removal. One evening in late April, Sebastian, Hendrik, and Andreas sent a letter to Sandro Beyer that was signed by someone named "Juliana," telling him to meet her in the town-square so that they could discuss a matter relating to the members of Absurd. When Beyer arrived, he was greeted by the band and they asked him to come to the woodshed where they rehearsed to talk their differences out. Although apprehensive, Beyer went along anyway. After reaching the shed, Beyer attempted to leave, but the three youths would have none of it: Andreas K. restrained Beyer with an electrical cord while Möbus threatened him with a knife. After a while, Andreas K. and Schauscheill each grabbed a separate end of the cord and strangled Beyer to death. Beyer's body was discovered a few days later and within a week, the members of Absurd were arrested. Owing to youth sentencing laws in Germany, Möbus and Schauscheill each received 8 years in prison and Andreas K. received 6 for their crime.
News of the murder was reported all over Germany. As if the tale wasn't unfortunate enough, however, a new layer had been added by the media: Absurd was a Satan-worshipping band and Sandro Beyer's murder had actually been a sacrifice to the fallen angel. Although Absurd had openly used satanic/occult imagery in their lyrics, the members insisted and still insist there was nothing beyond a casual curiosity in the matter at the time and that satanism played no role in the slaying of Sandro Beyer. Their protestations mainly fell on deaf ears, however, as other students attested to their Satanism and when other circumstancial evidence (ie, the fact that the murder took place on Walpurgisnacht) also received attention in the media. Indeed so, a book about the case entitled Satanskinder (Satan's Children) devotes itself to this proposition, hence the title. Not surprisingly, the members of Absurd despise Satanskinder and do whatever they can to discredit it. Hendrik Möbus for his part claims that since he and Schauscheill refused to cooperate with the authors, the book is filled with comments from nobody but enemies.
The Deed Speaks For Itself
While in prison, the members of Absurd were not idle. In fact, they were more prolific behind bars than they had ever been when they were free. Andreas K. actually joined the band -- after all, what else was he going to do for 6 years? -- and they recorded and released an accoustic demo entitled Out Of The Dungeon in 1994 and the Thuringian Pagan Madness cassette EP (released by Capricornus, the then-drummer of the Polish black metal band Graveland) in the following year. In a very disappointing show of poor taste, the latter featured Sandro Beyer's tombstone on its cover. In 1996, Absurd released the album Facta Luquuntur (a somewhat incorrect rendering of the Latin meaning "the deed speaks for itself"), which featured a few tracks from Thuringian Pagan Madness as well as some newer ones that revealed a rather, uh, tender edge to the band. Songs like Dreaming Of Love and Wartend In Einsamkeit (Waiting In Solitude) were rather mournful ballads, apparently directed towards Schausheill's now-divorced mistress. When Sandro Beyer's parents complained about the fact that the members of Absurd were able to be together and still release music, the prison warden was fired and the members were transferred to different facilities. It was around this time that the members of Absurd first became exposed to radical neo-Nazism. Although these ideas manifested themselves only briefly on Facta Luquuntur (mainly in the song Der Sieg Ist Unser, which includes lines in German like "when the morning comes, so begins the battle against the subhumans") they were out in full force on 1999's Asgardsrei, with tracks like Germanien über Alles. Not surprisingly, this caused more than a bit of uneasiness. In 1998, Möbus had been paroled and started a White Power record label called Darker Than Black Productions. This type of thing is illegal in Germany, however, and the label was closed. Around this time, Hendrik Möbus did a "sieg heil" arm movement in public -- also illegal in Germany -- and was sentenced to another 8 months for breaking the conditions of his parole.
Not particularly excited about the prospect of returning to prison, Möbus escaped to the United States (by using his own visa and passport, strangely) and stayed with National Alliance founder and leader Dr. William Pierce. For those not familiar with the National Alliance, it is probably the most visible and most well-known organization in the American white separatist movement. Pierce -- author of the Turner Diaries -- had recently purchased White Power record labels in the US and Scandinavia and needed to make contacts elsewhere. Möbus agreed to help him with this in exchange for assistance with his impending legal problems. In 2000, Möbus was arrested in West Virginia for extradition to Germany and had his arm broken during the altercation, which he later cited as an instance of police brutality. He then attempted to apply for political asylum in the US, saying he faced imprisonment for his political beliefs. Technically, this is true; the Nazi Party is outlawed in Germany and professing its tenets is considered hate speech. Neither happens to be the case in the US. Möbus wrote several pieces about the lack of free speech in Germany, arguing that if some types of speech are restricted, then there's no real freedom involved. Does Möbus have a point? It raises an important yet difficult question for which there is no easy answer that is likely to be found.
With the prominence of Möbus's story, the saga of Absurd began to make the rounds in the American media. This time, however, the murder of Sandro Beyer was presented as a racially-motivated attack rather than as a Satanic sacrifice. While Möbus does not deny that he is a neo-Nazi, he has been equally adamant in claiming that Beyer's murder was just as unrelated to Nazism as it was to Satanism. It's especially peculiar given that Sandro Beyer himself was a white German, removing any real racial incentive that the members of Absurd may have been supposed to have had. Two articles by the Associated Press proclaimed "Mobus [sic] murdered a 'non-Aryan' teenager in 1994 [sic]" despite the fact that the original stories and articles from Germany made no reference to this factor at all. As unseemly as Möbus's beliefs may be to some, the evidence just doesn't seem to support the claim that Sandro Beyer was killed for apparently nonexistent racial reasons. In 2001, Möbus's request for asylum was denied and he was deported to Germany.
There really doesn't seem to be much positivity to be found in the story of this band. A couple of shitty demos, a fairly unintelligent killing, people who may or may not be Satanists, neo-Nazis, questions about the freedoms we value, sensationalistic journalism with no real concern for the truth, and the fact that the band has now reformed without a single original member really don't allow one to walk away with a good or satisfied feeling. It's a bleak story with bleak characters and a bleak conclusion. There was this movie in which a character remarked "I guess some people just have tragedy in their veins;" if this is the case, I'd say that every member of Absurd has tragic hypertension and they seem to spread it to everyone they come into contact with.
AP Article #1: http://www.cnn.com/2000/US/09/07/neo.nazi.arrest.ap/
AP Article #2: http://www.nsbm.org/pub/hendrik/texts/associated_press2.html