While the motive is still under investigation, authorities say Matthews’ interest in black metal music may have influenced his behavior.
“The information investigators uncovered, and which Matthews offered, suggests a possible connection to a genre of music called ‘black metal’ and its history associated with church fires in other parts of the world, which have been documented. in movies and books, “the state fire marshal’s office said in a statement.
Here is what you need to know about this musical genre.
Black metal is a subgenre of heavy metal music that typically tackles anti-Christian, Satanic, and pagan themes. Black metal songs are generally fast tempo and feature screaming vocals, heavily distorted guitars, and unconventional song structures.
The musicians of the first wave also adopted morbid stage characters, pseudonyms and cadaverous paint that continued in future iterations of black metal.
In the early 1990s, Norwegian bands like Mayhem, Darkthrone and Immortal formed the second wave of black metal, markedly influencing the nihilistic and misanthropic tone the genre took on.
After the second wave, black metal branched out into even more subgenres like atmospheric black metal and melodic black metal, with stages across the world. Certain subgenres of black metal represent hateful ideologies, such as National Socialist Black Metal, which promotes Nazism and similar views.
The genre has been linked to church fires
The early black metal bands used evil slogans and satanic imagery to shock, but the Norwegian black metal scene of the 90s turned these themes into reality.
The most prominent example is Norwegian black metal artist Varg Vikernes, former bassist for the band Mayhem, who was a key player in both black metal and the neo-Nazi movement.
Vikernes spent 15 years in prison for arson and the 1993 murder of his groupmate Euronymous.
But while there are subcategories of black metal that express racist or neo-Nazi views, these extremist views are not representative of the genre or the black metal community as a whole.
Louisiana suspect’s Facebook activity
Matthews was active in a few Facebook groups focused on black metal or pagan, Asatru, and Nordic religious beliefs.
Matthews said in a Facebook post that he had Asatru’s religious beliefs, centered around the ancient Norse gods.
In two Facebook posts on October 24, Matthews appears to admit he illegally carries a handgun, in addition to a knife and dagger.
“I’m wearing this,” he wrote, captioning a photo of a handgun. “Maybe not legally, but I’m just really following Odin’s law … which says like you said, arm yourself.”
On the same day, authorities claim that Matthews set fire to the Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas, Louisiana, Matthews posted a creepy post to a Facebook group of black metal artists.
Another member of the group asked people to choose a “class”: sorcerer, fighter, sniper, assassin, guardian and warrior.
“I’ll take the arson / assassin / bard,” Matthews replied.
Black churches targeted are suspected
It’s unclear what kind of black metal Matthews listened to and whether it shaped his worldview or influenced his attacks on churches.
Of course, the issue of race in the Louisiana fires cannot be ignored – the three burned churches had predominantly black congregations. As such, the events in Louisiana also bring up painful memories of the Jim Crow era, when hate-inspired church fires were common, especially in the South.
“For decades, African American churches have served as an epicenter of survival and a symbol of hope for many members of the African American community,” said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson. “As a result, these houses of faith have historically been the target of violence.
Authorities have not said whether they also plan to indict Matthews with a hate crime.
CNN’s Paul Murphy contributed to this report.