aspiring black metal musician arrested for church burnings in Louisiana
21-year-old Holden Matthews was arrested and charged with three counts of simple arson in connection with burnings of three predominantly black churches in Louisiana -- St. Mary Baptist Church, Greater Union Baptist Church, and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church -- CNN reports. He faces up to 15 years for each charge.
Matthews is the son of a local sheriff's deputy, and while his motive is still under investigation, State Fire Marshal Butch Browning said that Matthews may have been influenced by "black metal music."
Matthews appears to be an aspiring black metal musician who has a project named Vodka Cultures, and The Daily Beast noted that Matthews appears to be a fan of infamous black metal musician Varg Vikernes of Burzum, who was found guilty of several church burnings and murder in the 1990s. The Daily Beast's slightly sensational article reads:
A Facebook page that appeared to belong to Matthews showed he was active in pagan and black metal pages, and that he commented on two memes about far-right former neo-Nazi metal musician Varg Vikernes, who served 15 years in prison for killing a fellow metal musician and burning churches in Norway. The comments revealed little other than that they indicated his familiarity with the figure.
The pagan circles Matthews and Vikernes frequented can be popular with neo-Nazis. Matthews frequently posted about pagan beliefs, and recently uploaded a picture of a gun and a knife with the caption “I carry this.....maybe not legally but I only truly follow the law of Odin..... which says as you said,arm yourself...... Odins advice> modern law.” Odin is a pagan Norse god.
One of the pagan pages Matthews was active on specifically forbade racism and “nazi stuff.” Matthews also appeared aware of the religion's white supremacist associations. In one post, a group member noted that a drawing of a pagan figure had a swastika-like design on his belt. “well yea the belt gives him extra strength and power.....white power lmao jk jk I had to,” Matthews wrote.
NPR also reports the following:
All three of the churches were built in rural areas more than 100 years ago, and have served generations of predominantly black families through weddings, funerals and religious services.
The time and proximity of the flames led people to wonder whether the fires were linked. Pastors prayed that the arson was not a racist act, part of a violent legacy for black churches in the South that were attacked since the civil rights movement.
New Orleans FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric Rommal said his team has been working with local law enforcement agencies to determine whether the incident was motivated by bias.
This news comes one week after black and death metal drummer Jacob Lowenstein (of the bands Igni, Oblivion Dawn, and Secularity) was charged with setting two Mormon churches in fire in New Zealand.
Maybe it's just a coincidence that these two incidents occurred after the release of the new Norwegian black metal biopic Lords of Chaos, but let's hope this is not a trend that continues. Studies show that listening to heavy music makes you calmer, not angrier. Let’s not let idiots like Holden Matthews and Jacob Lowenstein become the stereotype people think of when black metal comes up.
Speaking of black metal (by amazing musicians though), don't miss the onging Uada and Wormwitch tour (that hits Saint Vitus Friday), or Deafheaven's ongoing tour with Baroness and Zeal & Ardor (at Terminal 5 on Friday), Inter Arma's new album out this week and their show Saturday at Saint Vitus, or Inter Arma's show on Friday as part of this weekend's Decibel fest in Philly that Triptykon headline on Sunday (and Uada and Deafheaven also play).