As I write this, the official launch of this website is a month and a half away and the book release is, well, we still arenâ€™t sure. Next year some time. This project has been in the works for quite a long time. It started as a panel discussion back in November 2000 at an ethnomusicology conference in Toronto. By then, that heavy metal was a huge worldwide phenomenon was old news for metalheads but was still surprising to folks who couldnâ€™t name a single metal band from after about 1993, which is to say most folks, including most ethnomusicologists. But while mainstream consumers thought heavy metal equaled Poison and Bon Jovi and died out at the end of the 1980s, diehard fans embraced the mighty samba-inflected pummeling-yet-swinging beats of Brazilâ€™s Sepultura, thrilled to the lo-fi, otherworldly shrieks of Norwegian black metal, and, by the early 21st century, discovered an entire headbanging universe of bands and scenes outside the Anglophone world, from Swedish death metal to Singaporean grindcore, producing music that not only kicked serious ass, but was often created despite real physical threats, be they from hostile religious authorities, censorious governments, or ignorant and fearful local communities.
I wanted to assemble this collection of essays because in the course of conducting anthropological field research in Southeast Asia between 1997 and 2000 I witnessed underground metal help topple an entrenched 33-year dictatorship in Indonesia. Itâ€™s true Iâ€™ve always dug the music, tooâ€”since high school, like most metalheads. But it was my experiences in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore that convinced me that scholars needed to knowâ€”albeit belatedlyâ€”the truly global dimensions of this music and its tremendous cultural importance to metalheads everywhere, including, of course, in its countries of origin, and in the international community of scholars represented by our authors.
Keep the faith!