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Heavy Metal: Forces of Unification and Fragmentation within a Musical Subculture Author(s): Bettina Roccor Source: The World of Music, Vol. 42, No. 1, Gothic, Metal, Rap, and Rave - Youth Culture and Its Educational Dimensions (2000), pp. 83-94 Published by: VWB - Verlag für Wissenschaft und Bildung Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41699315 Accessed: 21-12-2015 13:57 UTC

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theworld of music 42(1)- 2000:83-94

Heavy Metal: Forces of Unification and Fragmentation

within a Musical Subculture

Bettina Roccor


The historyofheavy metalreachesbacktothe1960s.An independent cultural prac- tice developed inthe1970sand experienced its heightduring the 1980s,declining in

popularity inthecourse of the following decade. Today the heavy metalsceneinGer- many isa multifaceted cultural landscape inwhicha diversityofstyles that developed

overthreedecadescoexistsside byside,moreorless peacefully. In spiteof their many

differences, most fansfeel themselvestobemembers of one family becauseall heavy


metal styles arebasedonthesamebasicmusical patterns,

culturehaveremained predominantly thesameandthemusic's negativeimage has

unified the fans intheir indignation.

thevalues supporting



Thosewhowantto approach the heavy metalscenewitha viewtowardsmusicaled- ucation, without immediatelydisqualifying themselves by the (probablyfew) metal musicaficionados present in the classroom, shouldbe awareof a fewessential

things. Firstof all, the heavy metalsceneinvolvesa musically centeredsub-culture

without ideological commitmentsinthesenseofa politicalsuperstructure towhich

scenemembersfeelthemselvescommitted (Stratmann2000, Roccor 1996a, Roccor 1996b, Mühlmann 1999). So you should forget therumors you haveheardorread up tonowthatclaimthat heavy metalinvolvesa decidedlyright-wing cultural practice:

heavy metal ^and Rechtsrock (right-wingrock) aretwo completely differentmusical phenomena. Thekernelof heavy metalis nota special kindof ideology butrather themusicof heavy metal. Everything else is subject tothe momentarypolitical, lo- cal, social andindividualconditionswithinwhichthiskindofmusicis madeand consumed.Thustherearea few heavy metalbandsthatshowa decided political atti- tudeintheir lyrics(mostly rather left-wing, butwithintheblackmetal scene, some fascistic). Butthe questionarises, towhatextentdo such groupsactually influence theworldviewsoftheirconsumers?

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84 • theworld of music 42(1)- 2000

Thisis indeedoneofthemost important research questionsregardingyouth and media:do consumers accept withoutcriticismwhateveris presented to them, orare they ina position todistancethemselvesandto develop a differentiatedvalue sys- tem? Skin, thefemale singer ofthebandSkunk Anasie, doubtsthe persuadingpoten- tialof songlyrics:

I don'tbelievethatmusiccantransform politics, noteventhe politicalopinions ofthe

people wholistentoit.Musicis more commentary onlife.Musiccanbeeffective

whenitisboundtoan alreadyexisting movement/mentalattitudeorina milieuas a

culturalelement,commenting,reflecting and strengthening thatmovement, etc.But then, themovementis already there.Musicdidn'tcreateit.Musicdescribeswhathas

happened witha

andwhichithastoface ( Stratmann 2000:30).

generation, whathas happened intheworldinwhichit lives,moves,

The question ofwhethermusicor lyrics contributeatallto formingopinionsrep- resentsa worthwhile generaltopic formusicinstruction.In music history thereare certainlyenoughexamples of politicalmonopolization ofmusicandthe resulting difficultiesin dealing withworksofartandtheir creators; oneneeds only thinkofRi- chard Wagner andhisrole during the period oftheNationalSocialists.We willre- turnlatertothe problem of politically motivateduseofmusic.

2. The MetalFans: DeviantSatanists?

The message of heavy metalis- to

themusiccalled heavy metal.Andthismusicreflectsthediverseworldsofits fans,

of people whofeelthemselvesattracted, forthemostvaried reasons, tothisloudkind


firstansweris almost always, "BecauseI likethemusic."Onecan only makestate-

mentsonthereasonsforthisinstinctive sympathy for heavy metalifonehasinten- sively dealtwiththelifestoriesofthefans.Trite assumptions suchas thatitisfactors like "coming frombrokenfamilies"or "unemployment" whichlead consumersto grab for heavy metalCDs only scratchthesurfaceofthesituation.Thefansaretoo diversein general, andtoodifferentarethekindsof affinitythey feeltowardsthe metalscene.Butinthe classroom, thecentralroleofmusicshould always be empha-


emphasize this again-


symbolism. If you aska fan why helistensto heavymetal, the


studentsan adequate ideaof heavy metalculture.

The heavy metalfanreferstoa musicaltraditionthathas grown overthecourse

ofdecades, a traditionfromwhichmostofthe contemporary scenehas createdits

self-understanding. Thisfact usually remainsconcealedtocriticsofthe heavy metal


symbolismaccompanying the music, whetherintheformof images,signs, textsor

behavior.2A resultofthisis

changed to the present. To put

banger" tobe a

declaresthe average "head-

theyinterpret the phenomena of heavy metal exclusively onthebasisofthe

the negativepublicimage ofthe heavy metal scene, un-


simply, this image

latent right-wing radical,sexist,violent,alcoholic, debilitated and,

evenmore,satanicallyasocial; allmustbe wary ofhim (cf. Seifert 1991, Der Spiegel

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Roccor. Heavy Metal • 85

2/1989:152f, Bravo 35/1990:52f). This image could onlydevelop because heavy

metalhasbeen interpreted withoutdetailed knowledge ofitshistorical development

andcurrent stylisticdiversity.Further, such interpretations have onlypaid attention

tothe expressions oflovefor heavy metalshown by fans:anexteriorthatseemsre- bellious,provocative, often clichéed, and beyond all otherfashionabletrends (Roc-

cor 1992).

3. The KernelofMetal: Music

Therootsof heavy metallie inthe 1960s, whenbandslikeBlack Sabbath, Led Zep-


counterweight totheoften politically motivated

"hippie music" (Herr1998, Kühnemund 1997, Roccor 1996a,1996b, Walser1993 andWeinstein 1991). Fromthese (commerciallyquitesuccessful)beginnings, anin- dependent cultural practicedevelopedduring the1970swithbandssuchas ThinLiz- zy, Nazareth, Rushand Rainbow, whichreachedtheir height of popularity in the 1980s.Actssuchas Iron Maiden, Judas Priest,Metallica,Slayer, Saxonand Ozzy Osbourneformed, bothonthemusicalas wellas behavioral level, the stylistic foun- dationforthis developmentalphase. In retrospect, thisis regarded as the goldenage of heavy metalandis referredtoas such by thosewho identify themselveswiththis scene. This anchoring oftheentire heavy metalsceneina commontradition (as is often accentuatedto the present) shouldnotobscurethefactthatthe heavy metalland- scape, which presents itselfas a uniformsubcultureto outsiders, hasfalleninto new, smallerterritoriessincethemid-1980s.Differencesbetweentheseterritorieslie on boththemusicalas wellas the stylistic and ideological levels.Inadditiontothe typ- ical heavy metalofthelate1970sand early1980s,stylesdeveloped fromthemid- 1980ssuchas thrashmetal (fast, raw singing,e.g.,Slayer);speed metal (fast, techni- callydifficult,e.g.,Metallica,Exciter); deathmetal (without theclassical refrain, "notbeautiful" singing,e.g.,Death,Obituary) andblackmetal (stylisticallyvariable, satanist symbolism,e.g.,KingDiamond, Morbid Angel). Some styles have gained a numerically smallerbut veryloyalbody of fans, suchas progressive metal (musical- ly complex, orientedtowardclassic music,e.g., Blind Guardian, Dream Theater), whitemetal (Christianlyrics,musicallyvaried,e.g., Stryper, Count Raven) and doommetal (slow,dragging,e.g., St. Vitus,Candlemass).Particularly inthe U.S., moderatemetalactssuchas OzzyOsbourne,Motley CriieandVanHalen conquered therecordcharts during the1980s. Inthe1990s heavy metal opened itself up to neighboringstyles andallowedele- mentsfrom grunge,techno,folk,gothic andhardcoretoflowintoitsmusic.Atthe same time, newlisteners emerged whono longercorresponded tothe typicalheavy fan; itwasno longer a contradictiontolistentofirstMetallica (a typical metal band) andthenMarusha (a popularTechno-Djane). Themarket changed, whichledforex-


and Deep Purple made popular a loud and guitar-heavy kindofrockcalled

"heavy"rock,forming a

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86 • theworld of music 42(1)- 2000

ample totheformer representative ofthe scene, the journal MetalHammer ,changing

itsnameto simply Hammerinordertodraw young readerswhowantedtolistento morethan just metal.In this context, theworldwidesuccessofthebandMetallica was highlyimportant forthescene.Whetherina positive or negativesense, thisband

stillstimulatesdiscussionswithinthesceneas itbroke away from many old tradi- tionsandthusinciteda kindof identity crisis amongmany fans.

Today the gothic metalsceneis particularlypopular, a style thatcontainsintense guitars andis tiedtodramaticsand gloominesstypical ofthe gothicstyle.Typical gothic metalbandsinclude Atrocity,MyDying BrideandParadiseLost.Thisscene formedintandemwiththesecond generation oftheblackmetalmovement (fast, in-

clusionofsacredmusic elements,singing that ranges from wheezing to

(e.g., Dimmu Borgir,Emperor). A

ing the1990swhen many bandsharkedbacktoclassical heavy metalandused typi-


ing,guitarsolos,straightrhythms, "sword&


MetalChurchreunitedtotieintotheirearlier success, newbandsalso triedto gain

fresh buyers fortheirmusicunderthe heading "newmetal." Today themetalsceneis highly diverseinmusicalterms,including bothmelo-

dramaticballadsas wellas

purely musicaldifferencesthat mostly remainhiddentothe outsider, wealsofinddi-

verse regionalpeculiarities. Further, distinctions among thenumerousfan groups de-


meanthe categories that pigeonhole certainbandstotheir respective countriesofor-

igin(for U.S. metal belongs as


to Germany(Jeske1996/1997/1999, Mader&

mann 1999).

the symbolism that accompanies this process.


so-called"truemetal"revivalalsotook place dur-

stylistic means (as the very successful groupHammerfall) suchas high vocaliz-

sorcery" visualeffectsand fantasy

Whilenumerouscultbandsofthe1980ssuchas Destruction,Agent Steeland

two-minute-longgrind coreattacks.In additionto the

outofdifferentlifesituationsandevenbetweenfriends.HereI do not only


littletotheU.S. aloneas thesuccessoftheso-called

(lit., newGerman hard)group Rammsteinhasbeenlimited

Jeske 1995, 1997& 1998andMühl-



4. The Fragmentation ofMetalFans

According tothesocio-culturalcontext,declaring oneselfa fanof heavy metalorof

a particular bandfromthis spectrum cantakeondifferent meanings. Thebestexam-


lyrics andthestatements they havemadeininterviewsbutalso highlypopular be-

causeofitsmusic.The band's

group of right-wing male

clique middleclass.It is thecontextwhichis decisive, not necessarily the original inten-

tionsofthebanditself.Thusthefanclub logo ofthe groupSlayer, a grinning skull wearing a fireman'shelmet, decoratesT-shirts,patches and pins withthewords

ofthisis theband Slayer, whichis controversialwithinthescenebecauseofits

songs holda completely different significance fora

teenage radicalsfromtheformerEast Germany thanfora

ofintellectualNorthKoreanstudentsora Brazilianmetalfanfromthewhite

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Roccor. Heavy Metal • 87

above it, " SlatanicWehrmacht ("Slatanic" Germanarmed forces).Right-wing fans

interpret thisas a declarationof sympathy fortheNazi period, whilethosefromthe left-wing, intellectual spectrum takethismotivetobe a skillful provocation ofthe

bourgeoissociety that suppresses itsmemoriesoftheNazis.Nazi skinheadslistento

Slayer to

philosophical and

group, withitstwoSouthAmericanmembers, as a spiritual relativetothe"alterna-

tive"nationalheroesof Sepultura, a extremely successfulthrashmetalbandfrom Rio.

Slayer itselfhasmade superficial, ifnotto saycompletelynaive, statementsinin- terviewson politicaltopics, and they knowaboutas muchaboutNationalSocialism as couldbe writtenona single sheetof paper. Butthisdidnot prevent thebandfrom

writing a

goes downthelistofhis

without judging or

Bavarian BroadcastingCompany oncehadthistextreadontheairas though itwere

thewell-known poet GottfriedBenn.Presentedin this way, itcreated

a poemby

goosepimplesamong non-metalfansas well,just as when Slayerplays the song in liveconcerts.


stimulatethemtoattack foreigners, whileNorthKoreanstudentsdiscuss

politicaltopics tothesoundsoftheband.Brazilianfans regard the

song abouttheconcentration camp doctorJosef Mengele."Angel ofDeath"

unimaginable actsof cruelty ina choppy cascadeof words,

commenting onthem.As a prank, the youth radiostationofthe

The example of Slayer showsthat heavy metalalso represents a formof art,

largemajority is notat all interestedin whatkindof

whichis thus interpretable; eachfan interprets the statements,images and lyrics of

theband differently. Butthe

statementis beingmade, for example, inthe song"Angel ofDeath." They likethe

song, themusic, thevocal style;they couldcarelessaboutthecontentsofthe lyrics.

Thisisonereason whymany fansareirritatedwhenmetal journalists askuncomfort-

able questions aboutcontroversialmusicianslikePeterSteeleor Slayer andthein-

tentionsoftheir songlyrics.They findthemusic good,

any more.Thisis whatis alsomeant by thestatementthatthemetalscenecanbede-

scribedas nonpolitical: the meanings of lyrics and images is oflesser importance compared toa song's musical qualities. In right-wingrock, thesituationis the oppo- site:the lyrics areinthe foreground andthe verysimple,punk-like musicforms only

anacoustic background totheshoutedNazi

Inviewofthe many varietiesof heavy metal types, as wellas thesocialdifferenc-

es among its fans, whetherrelatedto class,gender,age or ethnicity, the question emerges as to why the heavy metalculturestill perceives itselfas a single culture. Thescene continuouslypresents itselftotheoutsideworldwithunbroken pride as a unified entity,although those viewing itfromtheoutsidecansee little commonality

between,say, the gothic metalsceneand progressivefans,

or betweentraditional

"metals"andblackmetalfans.Bothintheir clothing as wellas intheirbehaviorand musical practices, fans display cleardifferences among themselvesandmakeclear

attempts toset up borderswith neighboringsubstyles andtheirclienteles.

and they don'twanttoknow


developed itsown system of signs madeof music,

symbolism,clothing andbehavior.In theblackmetal scene, for instance, the black,

Each type of heavy metalhas

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88 • theworld of music 42(1)- 2000

studdedleather clothing introducedinthe early 1980s bygroups likeJudas Priest, Mercyful FateorMotörheadwas revived during theradicalizationofblack metal; outfitsweremodified byadding accessoriesfrom thematically relatedsubcultures.

Theblackmetaloutfitincludes threateninglylong,spikedbracelets, black lederhose,

vampire-likecapes,heavy black tied-up bootsandbizarreblack-and-white makeup.

Martialarts weapons likebattle-axes, macesandoutsizedswords complete theim- age ofthe dangerousknight ofdarkness.The masquerade of"merciless" represents an opticalcounterpart tothemusic.Thelattershouldbe moreradicalandrelentless

than anything thathad previouslydelightedheavy metalfans.All elements, whether

inthe lyrics, the self-presentation ofthemusiciansorthe stageshows, fitintothe sign

system of"blackmetal."This

speed doublebass, stormsofriffsanditssometimesoverboard hysterics, sometimes

choppysinging, whichis accompaniedby


usually chooseforthemselvesa moremoderatestreetversionoftherebellioushorror

outfits. Incaseof doubt,wearinglong hairanda fan shirt, theuniformofthemetal fan, is

enough forall outsidersto

tailstellinsidersthe person'spreferences fora particularheavystyle, suchas the shirtmotiveandthe particular accessoriesthatareworn.For example a crossworn

upside-down witha stronglyalienating band logo

passion forblackmetal.Otherwisetheindividualneedfor expression decideshow

many additional clothing elementsaretakenoverfromthemusicians.A fancould

decideto wearmartialarts-relatedsilver jewelry(theupside-down crossor penta-

gram, studsor chains) or makeup-

belonging tothesceneand bands.

system is also supportedby the music, withits high-


Thefanswholovethismusicorientthemselves optically tothemusicians, but

recognize a person as

belonging tothemetalscene.De-

is an indicationforthe person's

orelsecanmakedo without any outside signs of

simplybuy blackmetalCDs and go to concertsofthe

Incontrasttotheradicalblackmetalscene (which is atthemoment particularly

belong to heavy metal.Their argumentsagainst deathandblack

anycost, tothe lyrics, whicharesaidtocrossallboundariesoftastein

group wears clothingexactly likethatof

sneakers, bandshirtsanda kindofmonk's


am a

Germany), thetraditionalists'scenehastaken up the

popularamongyounger fansin

fight forthe good old"truemetal."Thisscene, whichis also quite activenow,pro- claimsitsconvictions particularly infanzines.Forthetraditionalists, deathandblack

metaldo noteven

metalextendfromthe quality ofthemusic (toodilettantish) tothelustforcommer-




habit, onwhich patches withthenamesof particular bandshavebeensewn.Thisout-

fit proclaims, "I

metal Urgestein(lit.,original rock, oran original,loyalfan)

andI'm notashamedofit."This"truemetal"factionseestoitthatthebandsfromthe

1970sand80s arenot forgotten;theyplay

traditionalcustoms, a

andrevivethe"old songrepertoire."

Heimatpfleger(caretakers of

word usually usedinconnectionwithfolk culture), who digup


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Roccor. Heavy Metal 89

Trenchwarfarewithinthe heavy metalsceneis onefactorthathasmarkeditsde-


heavy metalmusicaleventsheldattheendofthe20th century

velopment, whetherbetween"black"and"white" communities, betweensoftrock anddeathmetal fans, orbetween politically activeanddisinterestedfans.Further-

more, sincethelate1980s metal-typical fanculturehas experienced a

cessduetothe steadilygrowinggroup oflistenerswholistentonot onlyheavy metal

butalso formerly"enemy musics"suchas hiphop,techno,independent andrelated

substyles. Thusmass

suchas the open airconcert"Rockam Ring"presented a colorfulmixtureofmusi- ciansof completely differentmusical types. Ten yearsago, itwouldhavebeenun- thinkableforsuch groups to appeartogether onone stage. Inreactionto this, individ- ual scenesare establishing eventsthat presentexclusively theirownbands (e.g., the Wacken Open Airorthe DynamoOpen AirinEindhovenformetal fans; theZillo- FestivalorGothicAVave-Treffenin Leipzig fortheblack scene). Whatis put ondis- play atsucheventsisthe "puredoctrine," whetherona musical,optical orbehavioral level.Thisis forthemetalfana chaoticmud fight, forthewavertheskillful presen- tationofthe perfectlystyled self. Still, themetalscene fightsagainst inconsistencies resulting fromthelimitlessnessofthemarketandtheno longer existent separation betweenmainstreamand underground(at leastonthe part ofthemusic industry).



As mentionedearlier,heavy metalcontinuesto represent itselftotheoutsideworld as a closedcultural system, a system inwhichthesamelaws apply as twentyyears

ago. The foundationofthis proudlyproclaimedself-understanding seemsto be a

continuing consensusonwhatmakes heavy metal independent fromother styles.By meansofdiverse strategies, the readership of magazines and fanzines, for example, sweartoa commondenominatorthatis supposed tomaintainthe spirit of heavy met-

al overandaboveall stylistic boundaries.In myopinion therearein

suchfactorsthat allegedly ensurethat heavy metalremains"a beastthatrefusesto

particular three


Firmtiestoa commonmusicaltradition.

Recognition offundamental heavy metalvalues.

Negative evaluation by outsiders. As soonas a new style(or thereactionto it) coincidesatleast partially withthese threefactors, itcanbe integrated intothe heavy metalcultureas a whole.Beforethis

happens, a certain phase of

uncertaintymay also emerge,during whichmuchdiscus-

sionand polemicizing take place. Generationalconflicts play anessentialroleinthis

integrationprocess. Theolderfans usually reactfirstina way that rejects thatwhich


tionsthe existing traditionand produces new

behavioral provocation. A goodexample ofthisis the groupDeathmetal, whichin- stigated both indignation as well as enthusiasm.Theirmusiccontained wheezing

produced andfavored by the youngergeneration becauseoftenthenew styleques-

ways of measuringmusical,lyrical and

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90 •

theworld of music 42(1) -2000

voicesinsteadof high, clearvocalization, a stormofriffsinsteadof

morbid lyrics insteadof hymns tothe peacefulness oftherock'nroll lifestyle. Inthe

end,though, the many criticsfromthe heavy metalscenehadto grudgingly acknowl-


what they themselveshaddonefiveorten years earlier.The youngergeneration is

shocking the"old guys"

reached byany stretchofthe imagination. Evenifunder protest, Deathmetalwasfi-

nallyaccepted, andtherewas peace

thatcauseda stir-

theirheadswithhorror-wastheradical style ofblackmetal.Inthis way, thecultural

spectrum of


phasizerepeatedly theinfluenceand inspirationthey havereceivedfromtheir prede-

cessors.) The

the propagatedunity ofthecultureas a whole.Themusicalfoundation, that is, the

collectiveheroesandthemusical heritage,enjoysuninterruptedrespect bothfrom the younger as wellas theolderfan generations, andthiscreatestiesbetweenthem. Today thescenehasthe majorproblem that nothing newor provocative has appeared on thehorizonfor quite a while.Musiciansare quoting themselvesand stewing in

theirown juices, whichcauses many fansto predict theendof

In spite ofalltheirdifferences, whatcontributes considerably tothe"we feeling"

ofthesceneis the negativeperceptionamong outsidersofthe heavy metalculture. The heavy metalsceneis a conglomerate ofnumerousclichés, not only forthe igno- rantamateurbutalso for manyprofessionals who givescholarly,philosophical or

journalisticcommentary on



thatthis generation ofmetalfansandmusiciansare doingnothing morethan

and showing themthattheextremeshave not yet been

untilthenextnew styleemerged. Thenew style

meaning thatit

delighted some endlessly andmadeothersshake

heavy metalhas been continually broadenedanewwithout having to

thatwhich already existed. (Afterall, the younger, rebelliousbandsalsoem-

independence ofthesubscenesthusforms only a superficial contrastto

heavy metal.

heavy metal.The

long-hairedfigurewearing a monk's



stamping musicwithout any kindof

certainmusical genre becomesevidencefora whole string of

characteristicsthatareattachedtothatdeclaredfan.Thereactiontothis negative la-


symbol forthedull,ethically disorientedcattle-likemasseswho

be shakenoutoftheir lethargyby meansof brainless,mercilesslyloud,


meaningful contents. Simply thefactthatsome-

"belongs" to a

beling is

the emergence ofa "we feeling"- thatis,

attacked."This "martyr consciousness"hasbeendriventonew heightsby the group

Die BöhsenOnkelz.This group strainedits


mediaaccusedthemof having some responsibility


houseswhere asylum-seekers livedhadwornOnkelzshirts, andinthe early

thebandhada song

whichwashowevernever published. Onthebasisofthesefacts, the press concluded

thatDie BöhsenOnkelzwasan ideologicalpredecessor of growingright-wing radi-

calism.Even though theband repeatedly distanceditselffromthe right-wing radical

scene, andeven organized "Rock Against the Right-wing" festivals,many media

ontheonehanda collective, more-or-less justifiedindignation, as wellas

the perception of"wewhoare


image as an unjustifiably attackedvictim

tothe group's nevercontested past as skinheads, the

fortheseriesof anti-foreigner


Germanyduring the early



inits repertoire withthetitle"TürkenRaus" (Turks Go Home)

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Roccor. Heavy Metal • 91

representatives insistedon thisview. Indignation overthe unjustified treatment

broughttogether thebandandits fans, whichis



why Onkelzfanscancountonatleast

oneachnew recording withthetheme"We arethe scapegoats ofthena-



this exampleshows,bindingtogether fans beyondstylistic bordersisthecom-

mon knowledge that many ofthe heavy metalclichésarebasedon a tooliteral per- ception ofthesceneandthatthismusic actuallysays muchmorethatis socially rele- vantthanis commonly assumed. Disagreements overindividual strategies onhowto

dealwithattacksfromtheoutsidedo howeverhavea separating effect.Whilesome

makeeffortstowardclarificationand dialogue, othersdrawbackintostill stronger

formsof provocation. Thelatter pickup

ligious or

that help themselvestoallthe signals thatserveart.Someevenresortto violence, as

intheradicalblackmetalscenein Norway, wherefanaticswentso faras tosetfireto churchesandto carry outbrutalattacksonChristianbands (Roccor1992, Billerbeck

& Nordhausen1994andKrull 1993).

the gauntlet throwndown by criticswithre-

youth-protection motivationsandanswerthesewithstillcrasserclichés

Heavy metalis not, as so often asserted,simplyloud,primitive rockbutrathera

particular attitudetowards life, forvaluesthatthefans


missin theirnormal everyday worldand which they not rarely findin themetal scene.I repeat here only themost important catchwordsthatare repeatedly used by

fansandmusicians: authenticity,honesty,solidarity,cohesion,communityfeeling, the plain truthwithoutadornment,directness,loyalty, without compromise,honesty,



central concepts of themetalsceneis thatof freedom:freedomto say whatone wants, tothinkwhatone wants, tolookas one wants, without regard of reigning mor- als. Forthis reason, themusicianswho enjoy the highestdegree ofadmirationare thosewho practice a heavy metal style oflifewiththeleast degree of compromise. These aremusicianswhohave themselvestattooedovertheirentire bodies, who

grow theirhairdowntotheir hips, who prefer towearthesameclothes day inand day

outandwhoremain unconditionally truetothe deepermeaning of heavy metalin

theirmusicand lyrics,regardless ofnewertrendsorsales figures. To do your own

thing andtoletallkindsofcriticismslideoff you: this represents theidealofthemet-



different.Absolutecounter-valuesforthesceneare: salability,


norms,commercialization,egomania,posing,censorship. One ofthe

scene- an ideal, itshouldbe noted, thatstands diametricallyopposed totheactual



Forthosewhowantto approach the heavy metal scene, I wouldrecommendfirst

bearing the following inmind (speaking from manyyears of experience): the largest

barrieristhe existing clichéinone'sownhead.Onemustlearnto

perceive the person

behindthe bloodthirstylooking T-shirtandto comprehend his or her appearance

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92 • theworld of music 42(1)- 2000

simply as an expression of being a fan, withoutrash interpretations aboutthe possi- ble conceptual content. Important is thatthefanis always the expert.Secondly, the researchersshouldatleast attempt to get usedtothe music, forif they havenoknowl- edge ofthe music,they willbe abletofindoutlittleaboutitsfans. Third,investiga- torsshouldabstainfromrash categorizations, forthefinedifferencesare precisely whatis important tothemetalfan.A finalwordofadvice:nevermakethemistakeof describingheavy metalas "noise"- orBonJovias a heavy metal group. Thatwould meanthecertainendof any kindofconversation.


1 Theassertionhasbeenmadethat heavy metalhasthe tendency towards right-wingradicalism,

for example inLenz1989andDer Spiegel44/1998:304;criticismofthisviewcanbefoundin

Helsper 1992,Stock&

no heavy metalfanswitha radical right-wing orientation.Thesedoexist,just asthe usually


Mühlberg 1990andMatthesius1995.Thisdoesnotmeanthatthereare


andleft- wing-oriented

skinheadscenes.SeeFarin& Seidel-Pielen

1994and Funk-Hennigs 1995.

2 Thisholdstrue particularly intheuseofsatanicoroccult symbols in heavy metal.Seethelit-

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4 AformulationofDeenaWeinstein1991:11.

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40: 84-


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' '

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