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Heavy metal as controversy and counterculture

Issue: Vol 6 No. 1 (2011) Vol 6, No 1/Vol 6, no 2 (2011)

Journal: Popular Music History

Subject Areas: Popular Music

DOI: 10.1558/pomh.v6i1/2.5


Social scientific studies of metal music and culture have tended to focus on two distinct aspects of the phenomenon: Firstly, scholars have analysed the social reactions to metal music—especially in the ‘moral panics’ genre. Secondly, the creation and reproduction of different metal subcultures, or ‘scenes’, has been an increasingly popular approach. This article brings together these two aspects of scholarship by arguing that ‘controversy’ is an integral aspect of creating metal ‘countercultures’. That is, the transgressive aspects of metal make it antagonistic in different social contexts—whether or not this is the intention of scene members themselves—and the metal scene is in turn shaped by these controversies. The first part of the article presents a theoretical approach to controversies and examines the meaning of metal as ‘counterculture’ in a globalizing world. The second part discusses how the other articles in this special issue each in their own way contribute to the understanding of metal as controversy and counterculture.

Author: Titus Hjelm, Keith Kahn-Harris, Mark Levine

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