Aryan Aztlan

The Bizarre World of Aztec NSBM

When eight people were gunned down at a Texas outdoor mall in May by a guy with a swastika tattoo and a social media account full of racist rants, it seemed like a pretty clear-cut case of far-right terrorism.

Indigenous art, fascist politics: Tlateotocani, Sondor and Yaocuicatl's 2014 three band LP.

But right-wing pundits weren’t buying it, and even perpetual Internet main character Elon Musk wondered whether the whole thing was a ‘psyop’. 

Since the shooter turned out to be Latino, the argument went, he couldn’t possibly have been a neo-Nazi. All of which can only lead to one conclusion: Elon Musk has never heard of Aztec Nazi Black Metal.

To be fair, Musk is not alone in this. Even to those who are aware of National Socialist Black Metal (NSBM), it’s generally been associated with the frostbitten forests of Northern Europe that spawned both the genre and the ideology in the first place. 

But globalisation works in strange ways. As metal audiences in the Western world have grown more diverse and begun to push back against the proliferation of Nazism within their spaces, the locus of the NSBM scene has shifted to places where what its fans deride as ‘woke liberalism’ has less of a foothold – places like Eastern Europe and, strangely enough, Latin America.

Let’s begin with the Mexico-based Organización Nacional Socialista Pagana (O.N.S.P.), a “political collective” dating back to 1999 that mostly functions as a record label. 

In true underground fashion, many of the imprint’s releases are only available on cassettes (now making a comeback in the noise scene as well), and while O.N.S.P.’s Bandcamp page has been purged, some songs can still be found on YouTube. 

The overall sound is rooted heavily in the Norwegian second wave of Black Metal, with raw production, buzzsaw guitars, and blast beats. Tlateotocani keeps the formula simple with a straightforward brutal blitz, while others like Maquahuitl add more epic melodies over a mid-tempo wall of sound. 

The most distinctive feature, however, is the use of traditional pan flutes by bands like Eztlacuani and Yaocuicatl, the latter adding occasional clean and female vocals to the mix. 

Thematically, O.N.S.P. releases revolve around Aztec and Mayan (or, in the case of Peruvian band Sondor, Incan) mythology, and while most are in Spanish, some use the indigenous Nahuatl language. Some bands even perform dressed as Aztec warriors or stage mock ritual sacrifices as part of their live show.

So far, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was just a local folk metal scene reflecting an innocent interest in the culture and traditions of pre-Columbian America. But with a quick perusal of album covers and song titles, all semiotic hell breaks loose. 

Aztec-influenced eagle, jaguar, and serpent designs are interspersed with similarly-stylised swastikas. SS soldiers stand proudly alongside obsidian-wielding warriors in feathered headdress. And songs like “H.H. (Hail Huitzilopochtli)” and “Erradicación Judaica (Raza Innecesaria)” leave little to the imagination.

How do we make sense of this strange mashup? 

The simplest explanation would be aesthetic influence — these bands all took inspiration from European bands like Graveland and Absurd, adopting the use of Nazi iconography while adding their own indigenous flavour. But the ideological connection runs deeper. 

Like their white counterparts, the bands of ONSP idealise indigenous paganism and a return to blood-and-soil tradition against the “degeneracy” of the modern world, while casting Christianity as a force of “globalism” at the ultimate root of which we find the usual Semitic supervillains

This is what allows Mexican bands to write songs about slaughtering European colonisers while expressing affinity with European nationalists, just as black separatist groups like the Nation of Islam once found common ground with the KKK. 

Spanish conquistadors, in this view, were not representatives of white European culture but agents of a corrosive Judaic conspiracy which, according to Burzum’s Varg Vikernes, claimed European pagans as its first victims. 

Though it may seem like a bizarre artifact of the internet age, this worldview has deep historical roots. Cultural syncretism has been a feature of far-right ideology ever since its birth amidst the romantic nationalism and occult mysticism of the 19th century, as various European ideologues sought both inspiration and legitimacy in claiming kinship with the world’s ancient cultures. 

The swastika was, after all, appropriated from Hindu and Buddhist traditions after the discovery of shared roots between Indian and European languages led German nationalists to proclaim the theory of the ‘Aryan race’. 

It was an obscure theory positing an early Indo-European migration from Central Asia across the Bering Strait that led Hitler to classify Native Americans as Aryans — a historical footnote explicitly referenced by Milwaukee-based Sacrificial Massacre.

Indeed, an often-forgotten element of Nazi ideology was its attempt to cast itself as an ally of the world’s colonised peoples. By proclaiming themselves as leaders of ‘proletarian nations’ unjustly sidelined by the established global empires of Britain and France, the Axis powers found ready admirers and allies among politicians in India, Latin America, the Middle East, and, of course, Japan. 

Even today, many parts of the world remember Hitler primarily as a ‘strong leader’ who rapidly industrialised Germany rather than a genocidal dictator. 

This view of colonialism as an injustice towards nations rather than the people who live there is what allows far-right ideology in the developing world to misleadingly wrap itself in the same sort of decolonisation and anti-globalisation rhetoric often found on the left. 

Ironically, it is metal’s global appeal as an international language of rage and alienation that has helped spread NSBM across the world at the same time that opposition to the creed of liberal multiculturalism, seen as an imposition by a culturally imperialist and decadent West, has provided a powerful rallying point for edgy kids from Mexico to Malaysia

As the postwar global order continues to crumble while ideas and images spread more rapidly than ever before, we can expect to see more strange chimaeras like Aztec NSBM, cobbled together from the corpses of history and animated by the anxieties of modernity.

Photograph courtesy of O.N.S.P. All rights reserved.