Article

The Metal King: Alexander the Great in heavy metal music

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Abstract

Why are heavy metal bands so interested in the figure of Alexander the Great? The present article develops the argument that there are two overshadowing reasons: (1) the bands reconstruct the figure as a symbol of masculine power and communal unity; and (2) Alexander becomes part of a larger tradition already at an early stage of heavy metal’s history that many bands were interested in maintaining and revisiting. Several heavy metal tracks about him are explored and examined to substantiate this hypothesis. It is shown how these tracks associate him with a number of interrelated, recurring themes, such as conquest, community, imperialism, legacy, masculinity, nationalism, power and unity. These in turn help to project him as a figurehead of warrior virtues and also as a heroic bringer of culture. This is particularly true for Greek heavy metal bands, and their contribution is analysed at length. It is demonstrated how Greek metal songs also offer an intriguing insight into Greece’s political conflicts. Finally, it is suggested that, in his role as a powerful culture-hero and king, Alexander is capable of becoming an allegory for heavy metal itself.

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... The display of power in metal lyrics resonates with the three focal concerns of lower class culture identified by Miller (1958), including "toughness", "smartness" and "autonomy". This finding is also in line with Djurslev's (2014) sample analysis of Alexander the Great themed songs, which found that the lyrics often thematised and highly praised "conquest" and "power". By chanting the capability of conquest, metal lyrics strategically position the metal community as a mighty bloc for the greater good. ...
Article
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Heavy metal as a music culture has immense social influence across the world. In recent years scholars have started to scrutinise metal music from a sociocultural perspective; yet many studies lack quantifiable supporting evidence. For a thorough understanding of band members’ self-constructed identity, this paper analyses a corpus of lyrics from 1,152 heavy metal songs. It identifies 11 lexical words which have a significantly higher frequency in metal lyrics than in popular lyrics, and a total of 1,386 concordances of the 11 words are analysed using the attitude system (Martin and White, 2005). Analysis shows that heavy metal lyrics are characterized by insecurity, loneliness, sadness and desire in terms of affect, by fearlessness, freedom, and condemnation of social injustice in terms of judgement, and by the representation of unpleasant or even disgusting objects, and the valuation of death as solutions in terms of appreciation. We further argue that these attitudes are reactions to various types of social oppression, such as marginalisation by mainstream ideologies and religions, and are discursive strategies to resist and counter the oppression. At the same time, the attitudes build a distinctive heavy metal identity to reinforce in-group solidarity and to promote the music culture through catharsis.
... Another pressing subject in heavy metal music studies is minority representation, with a series of studies conducting analyses of how women and other minority groups are presented in metal music. Issues of masculinity in grindcore (Overell 2013), femininity (Riches, Lashua, and Spracklen 2013), whiteness (Spracklen 2015), ethnic histories (Djurslev 2014), and normativity (Spracklen and Hill 2010) have been explored and have detailed the ways in which heavy metal music scenes may create spaces in which non-white, non-male participants are excluded or removed from participating in certain cultural activities such as moshing. Moshing as a symbolic and ritual activity has also been detailed extensively in the literature. ...
Thesis
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In this thesis I will examine relationships between metal music and community participation and the mental well-being of so-called “emerging adults” within these communities. Building upon previous research on these relationships, I examine how emerging adult mental well-being is affected – both positively and negatively – by engagement and involvement in metal music communities. Utilizing a mixed-methods approach, I employ ethnographic fieldwork, person-centered interviews, and survey methods to describe how not just metal music but other “ritual” activities of metal music culture enact euphoric and also sometimes potentially detrimental effects on the mental health of emerging adults within these communities. Through these methods, I aim to detail how in a paradoxical sense the chaos and aggression inherent in metal music can confer therapeutic calm to individuals through identification with the music, the group, and the performances conducted within these metal music communities. The introductory Chapter One will first serve to provide an overview of what is exactly meant when describing heavy metal music communities, as ambiguities exist not only in the common understanding of the subculture, but also in the academic literature. In addition to this, a brief history of metal music communities will be discussed, detailing public perceptions, stigmas, and moral panics associated with the music and its fans. The chapter will be closed with a discussion of the research site, scope, and overall aims of the study, namely to provide greater insights into the mental health and well-being of emerging adults within these music scenes. Chapter Two consists of a review of existing literature on this subject, accounting for research within psychological anthropology, sociology, public health, popular music studies, and adolescent and emerging adult psychology. This Chapter will describe not just previous studies on heavy metal music communities, but should also provide a foundation on which this current study rests. Drawing upon literature and theory from these fields, the question of emerging adult mental health within these music scenes can be better understood, not just in terms of accuracy from a scholarly perspective, but also driven by emic perspective from the field. In seeking answers to these questions, Chapter Three will discuss the methodology and research design of this study. Attention will be given to the study population, site, locales, and scope and the rationale for using particular methods employed in this study. Chapter Four follows, detailing the analyses of data generated from the field and the results gathered throughout each step of research. Results will be described in both quantitative and qualitative terms, hoping to thus better clarify this study’s central question. Limitations of the research will be described in the concluding segments of this chapter. Finally, Chapter Five will discuss the results of this study in relation to theory and previous research, future impacts and considerations in this field, and concluding remarks regarding the relationship between metal music and the mental health of emerging adults.
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