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Could Church Burnings in Louisiana Show a Connection Between Black Metal and White Supremacy?

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Soon after authorities arrested a suspected arsonist in Louisiana last week, journalists pored over the man’s social media feed, looking for clues that might reveal his motive for allegedly burning down three historically black churches in the state in a 10-day spree. Quickly, one connection rose to the surface: The suspect, Holden Matthews, was an aspiring musical artist with a strong affinity for black metal, the dark and shrieking musical genre.

On Monday, authorities in Louisiana charged Matthews with a hate crime. Officials have yet to specify what the charges specifically entail, but, according to the New York Times, authorities are looking into whether or not the arson has a connection to black metal, as the genre has played a role in church burnings in the past.

The connection does not indict the black metal community as a whole, but journalists have noted that the genre’s pagan and anti-Christian themes—as well its propensity to attract disaffected young people—has historically made it a breeding ground for radicalism. In 1992, a prominent Norwegian black metal artist, Varg Vikernes, was at the center of his own church-burning spree. Vikernes, who spent 15 years in prison for arson and the murder of a bandmate, claimed his attacks on churches were motivated by his opposition to Christian hegemony.

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