This just in! The Annual Meeting of the US Chapter of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, to be held March 9-13, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio, will include the following conference panel:


Frequently misunderstood and maligned in its countries of origin, heavy metal music has in the last three decades become a potent source of meaning and identity for young and no-longer-so-young people across the planet. These fans have stayed loyal to the music despite societal disapproval, occasional moral panics, censorship, and even government harassment and violent crackdowns. The proposed panel explores the broad swath of metal’s worldwide growth and examine why this often devalued, suppressed, and ridiculed music genre has attracted so many impassioned, devoted fans in such far-flung locales.

Following a general overview of heavy metal’s global dimensions and the social, economic, and technological forces that facilitated the music’s global spread, two case studies will be examined in depth: the longstanding and thriving but controversial metal scene in Turkey and the infamous and oft-sensationalized scene in Norway (perhaps the best known metal scene outside the Anglophone world). Together these papers seek to address why heavy metal music matters so much to scene participants in very different cultural settings and what metalheads around the world might share in common. Does it really make sense to claim, as an early tagline for the 2008 film Global Metal did, that they are really “one tribe”?

Ross Hagen
Utah Valley University

Black metal music has become one of the most fruitful and flexible subgenres of heavy metal music, yet its origins continue to stir controversy within the current black metal scene. The creation of the genre is often credited to a small group of Norwegian bands in the early 1990s, many of whom promoted nihilistic, anti-Christian, and at times nationalist and racist worldviews. Members of the scene were involved in a number of church arsons and several murders, including a fatal intra-scene feud in which Euronymous, of the band Mayhem, was murdered by Varg Vikernes of Burzum. This violence attracted global news coverage, simultaneously transforming the small Norwegian black metal scene into a global presence and mythologizing the actions of its members. Hundreds, if not thousands, of bands across the globe have adopted and evolved the musical style, yet many question the continued relevance of these elder scene members and their ideals.

This paper traces the tensions between black metal’s increasing diversity and the value many participants place on stylistic and ideological orthodoxy by examining the various recastings of its origin story. In particular, I focus on recent attempts by Vikernes to rebrand these actions as exercises in political dissidence opposing social conformity and Americanization. I argue that these repeated revisions by Vikernes and others can be seen as an attempt to assert authority over the black metal genre as it has inexorably become less symbolically bound to their militant worldviews.

Ilgin Ayik
Istanbul Technical University

Although Turkey’s westernization process dates back to the late 19th century, heavy metal’s origins are in the post Second World War years, when the American fleet was in Mersin. For this reason, the first rock’n’roll bands were formed in the Turkish navy. The motto of the 1961 Constitution, “it is not possible to be global without being local,” gave rise to a new genre called Anatolian pop (Anadolu pop), a mix of local and popular music elements which ruled the whole decade of the 1960s. Psychedelic rock and world music streams changed this genre into Anatolian rock (Anadolu rock) and its golden years were the 70s, but by the end of the decade the government stopped supporting this genre with the excuse of degeneration of the traditional values of Turkish music. The 1980 military coup brought two dimensions of disconnection: first, it built a wall that separated the 70s from the 80s; second, it disconnected the country from the rest of the world for a considerable period. The result of this environment was anger. Many new bands were founded in this period; they were much louder than their Anatolian rock ancestors. This genre was later named Turkish heavy metal.

In this paper, based on both research and personal experience, the history of heavy metal music in Turkey will be examined, with a consideration of its dialogue with the other genres and affairs in the country and the rest of the world. This presentation will also show how a cultural transformation strategy by the government unexpectedly created a colorful musical genre.

Jeremy Wallach
Bowling Green State University

Though heavy metal is no stranger to mainstream commercial success, for most of its four decades of existence it has served a niche market, one that had long been dismissed in the United States as consisting of unintelligent, lazy, uneducated, alienated young men. The notion that people in other countries might listen to or enjoy this music, especially after metal’s popularity waned sharply in the 1990s, would likely seem ludicrous to most non-fans. After all, Americans themselves had rejected such Neanderthal wailings and gruntings, hadn’t they?

Yet listen they did. Beginning at metal’s inception, accelerating dramatically in the late 1980s and 90s, and completely exploding with the advent of webzines, mp3’s and MySpace, metal won legions of fans in both the industrialized and developing world, often attracting the best and the brightest in these countries, though everywhere it remained a minority taste. This paper contends that as an important cultural phenomenon of the last quarter century, the globalization of metal reveals much about contemporary conditions around the world and also much about metal itself, and how wrong and misguided early stereotypes about the music and its fans really were. For if metal is relevant to millions of die-hard fans from Easter Island to Indonesia to Botswana to Slovenia to Malta to Nepal to Brazil, perhaps it was always more than Neanderthal grunts, and those original fans, never only men, now no longer young, and many still listening to the same decades-old bands, might actually not have been so unintelligent.

The preliminary program for the conference will be posted soon on the IASPM-US website, which is definitely worth visiting in any case.


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