Four metal heads and nationally renowned scholars sat in Sears Recital Hall in Jesse Phillips Humanities Center, Friday, Nov. 9, each one waiting for a turn to discuss heavy metal’s influence on the world at The Influence of Heavy Metal on World Culture symposium.
Esther Clinton, Jeremy Wallach, Deena Weinstein and Mark LeVine addressed the stigma of this genre of music and its impact across the globe with Judas Priest’s “Painkiller” poster in the background, behind the podium.
Heavy metal, since its rise in the 1970s and 1980s in the United States, has been shroud in controversy.
Images and lyrics that focused on evil, sexual freedom and violence ignited this controversy, Clinton said. These ideas are not novel and have existed since the medieval era. Clinton paralleled these ideas featured in Gothic literature to modern metal.
The mainstream texts during the medieval era were predominately religious, according to Clinton. They reflected and defined the moral norms at the time. Gothic fiction was considered heretic.
These Gothic texts contained examples of women rebelling against patriarchal authority, Clinton said. They portrayed sex as an acceptable act, for both women and men.
Heavy metal, like Gothic literature, challenges ideologies and undermines the dominant power’s control, according to Clinton. Greater availability to these texts and this music ignited the concern and negative reaction regarding Gothic literature and metal.
In the 1980s, the growth and development of technology facilitated the spread of heavy metal. Boomboxes, Walkmans and cassettes allowed for easy accessibility. Today, as technology continues to evolve, metal can reach even more listeners, Weinstein said.
Whether it’s Vedic metal, folk metal or death metal, these metal fans are defined by their marginalization from the mainstream. This refusal to follow the norm is what causes the panic of the mainstream, Weinstein said.
Freshman chemical engineering major Matt Lickenbrock, who is passionate about metal and rock music, attended the heavy metal symposium and commented on metal as a subculture.
“It opened my eyes to how influential metal is, not just as music but as culture, especially in other parts of the world,” Lickenbrock said.
“Metal, like Starbucks, Harry Potter and McDonald’s,” Weinstein said, “is one of the major global phenomena.”
Metal crosses borders throughout the world and absorbs national identities. By singing in their native tongues and incorporating traditional instruments, metal bands establish identity. Metal has changed forms, but has yet to break from its fundamental genre attachments, Weinstein said.
Although metal is not political activism, according to Wallach, it can be a form of political expression.
LeVine, who resided in Egypt during the time of the Arab Spring, said that many members of the rebellion used the music to help them express their discontent with the political system.
According to Clinton and Wallach, this genre threatens the norm and prevalent ideologies. It manifests the distress and pain of citizens throughout the world into an empowered, shrieking voice.
“Music is saying something,” Wallach said.