Metal as a music genre carries important lessons

By: Chris Zimmer – Columnist, Sophomore

The usual church mice silence in the Roesch Library takes a hiatus as Dr. Bryan Bardine cranks up the ‘Sound of the Beast’ on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.

Bardine, now in his 13th year of teaching at the University of Dayton, answers the administration’s call to embrace globalization by teaching his uniquely designed 200 level English course, “Heavy Metal, Globalization and Pop Culture.” He said his goal for everyone in the class is to improve their writing under the lens of heavy metal music.

“Everyone thinks English is all about literature,” said Bardine. “Well, there is a lot more to it than that. The goal for the class is not to become attracted to the genre, it’s to become a better writers.”

Students do engage in a variety of literature, though. They learn the origins of metal by reading “The Sound of the Beast: A Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal,” see how underground metal scenes in Egypt, Israel and Iran are trying to change their oppressive governments and cultures in “Heavy Metal Islam,” and explore the genre’s own gender and race issues in “What Are You Doing Here?”

“I’m kind of an anomaly (in regards of using heavy metal in English),” Bardine said. “Other schools usually teach it in their sociology, anthropology and leisure study classes.”

Bardine said his class is filled with maybe one or two “metal heads,” and doesn’t think any of his students had an idea what they were really getting into on the first day of class. Their eyes often possess the look of sheer terror as they analyze disturbing lyrics and violent imagery in metal subgenre bands such as Carcass and Cannibal Corpse.

“Students shouldn’t just be exposed to the ‘clean stuff,” said Bardine. “They need to see the broad range.”

He said his students struggle to see why metal music draws in so many fans from around the world and different generations, and often stereotype the music and culture. Three international students dropped the course because listening to the music conflicted with their Islamic faith, and two others left because they hated everything about the genre.

“I think too often religious groups might look at one lyric by one band and say it’s all bad,” Bardine said. “Some of the criticism is fair, but I think a lot of it is just ignorance.”

People often stereotype metal bands as idiots who don’t shower, have no talent, have no ambition, and just want to drink, do drugs and play music all the time. Hopefully this class is going to figure out that isn’t the case for most groups.”

It’s Not a Rock N’ Roll
Bardine said he emphasizes that heavy metal is a specific musical genre and didn’t just stem from rock n’ roll. It was influenced by classical, blues, and jazz music for those facing oppression and searching for empowerment. He said the genre is looked down upon by a majority of society and is best described by Canadian anthropologist Sam Dunn.

“Metal confronts what we’d rather ignore,” Dunn said in his documentary “Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey” in 2005. “It celebrates what we often deny, it indulges in what we fear most-and that’s why metal will always be a culture of outsiders.’”

Nick Chesko, bass guitarist for the Ugly Blondes and former UD student said he wouldn’t consider himself a “fan,” but feels there is something empowering about metal music.

“I have never been a huge metal fan, but there is nothing more empowering than blasting a classic heavy metal song in the car with the windows down during the summer,” Chesko said. “Metal artists address society’s most controversial issues and mimic classical composers by trying to deliver the best melodic sound as possible, as loud as possible.”

The Heavy Metal Professor
Bardine is the only professor on campus teaching and researching metal music and culture. Even though Bardine takes pride in having 35 pieces of metal literature, 30 band T-shirts and 200 CDs in his office, but said he hasn’t always showed his true colors.

He said he was in the closet as a “metal head” when buying “Speak of the Devil” by Ozzy Osborne in 1982. Bardine said he and a fellow student were the only fans at their “preppy Jesuit high school” and remembers wearing Twisted Sister tapes while in college. He finally came out as a fan thrashing to Iron Maiden, Dio and Motörhead at his first metal show 12 years ago. Bardine plans on taking a number of students to see their first metal show when power metal band Iced Earth performs in Columbus on Thursday, April 10.

“I like the sound, I like the way I feel when I listen to it, and experiencing the rush feeling at concerts,” Bardine said. “To play this music and be successful, you can’t be a sloth. It takes talent.”