Musings on metal and its evolving demography


2016 Metal in Strange Places Conference


Last week, I flew to Ohio with the wife to attend the MISP (Metal in Strange Places) conference at University of Dayton. It was held in the same space as the 2014 MACI (Metal and Cultural Impact) conference and was coordinated by Bryan Bardine, who put together the previous one. Coming from a library slant, wifey presented on using social media as a resource for research and introduced the concept of the netnography to the group, which is essentially ethnographic research conducted using online resources, especially social media.

During her presentation, she used examples from her thesis work on women in New York’s extreme metal scene to illustrate steps of the research process. She also spoke about, and gave examples from, the Metal Music Librarians group on Facebook, which she created and is geared towards academic metal discussion. It includes CFP’s (call for papers) and other topical metal news, along with library-related information, like creating special collections dedicated to music or ‘zines. The group isn’t solely for librarians, so if you’re interested in joining, feel free!


Unlike last time, we were able to see all of the panels, although we electively missed one on the first day because we were drained from travel and needed to crash at the hotel. It was a fantastic showing, with a great variety of panels and presentations. Some of the speakers were new to us, and others were people we knew from previous conferences – including people who my wife has presented with before – so, it was like coming home.

Also, the final keynote speaker this year was Henkka Seppala, the bassist from Children of Bodom. His talk was called “Playing Metal for a Living and Studying Human Capital: The Music Scene, Scholar System, and their Future in Finland”. Like the others, it was insightful and fascinating.  He spoke about the Finnish education system, playing in a band and touring the world while getting a higher education degree and about the Finnish metal scene in general.

I’ll write about the panels in a upcoming posts. For now, here’s the schedule of events:

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Does the underground metal scene really have a social justice warrior problem?

So, yesterday, Decibel magazine published an article called “Does the underground metal scene really have a social justice warrior problem?” Its a guest-piece from Jeffrey Podoshen, a Ph.D. from Franklin and Marshall College. In the article, Podoshen writes about the black metal film documentary Until the Light Takes Us, which the wife & I saw at least a few years ago. He highlights a scene in the film in which Frost (Satyricon, 1349) demolishes a set and cuts himself, finally revealing to the audience, “I have no problems being self-destructive if the whole thing is something that I like.” Podoshen uses this scene in a course that he teaches called “Evil, Death and Dystopia”, as it sparks discussion.

Frost cutting himself

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2016 EMP Pop Conference

I have so much stuff to post about, but I’ve been really negligent in updating my blogs for months. Apologies!

Anyway, here’s one item. Three weeks ago, wifey & I flew to Seattle so she could speak at a panel at the EMP Pop Conference. This year’s title was From a Whisper to a Scream: The Voice in Music. She sat on a panel called Noise Breeding Silence – Heavy Metal Voices.


Panel participants, moderated by Steve Waksman

Here’s the description from their website:

The EMP Pop Conference returns with its biggest roster of presentations yet, looking at the ways music lets us hear voices: singers, to be sure, whether virtuosos or idiosyncratic originals, but also other types of vocalizing. How do instrumentalists insert their selves into their music? When the dominant voices in our songs change, what changes with that, from personal identity to collective messages? A switch in voice—from croon to rasp to rap to Auto-Tune—alters everything it reaches. 

In dozens of panels, all free to the public (though we strongly recommend advance registration), we’ll explore musical voices across genre and time period: soul singers and rock singers, singers of exotica and Mexi-Cajun blues. Panels on goth-punk wailer Siouxsie Sioux, warbling rapper Future, and pop-rock duo Hall & Oates. Synthetic “vocaloids” and challenges to female decorum. Singing across lines of color. Good bad singing and bad good singing. Vocal coaching. Southern accents.

And here’s the description for the panel wifey was on:

Metal remains fixed as a quintessentially white male hetero form in its most visible artists and presumed demographic. The emergent field of “metal studies” has begun to document metal’s appeal to women, non-white, and LGBTQ audiences, and to millions in the developing world. This panel considers to and for whom metal seems most to be speaking. Do metal’s various subgenres (death, black, doom, grindcore, etc.) all draw on the same underlying voice? Are different strains more or less inclusive? How do questions concerning metal’s inclusivity look different from a global vantage? What can we learn from participants who occupy non-dominant positions relative to core constituencies?

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The Grindmother

Happy 2016. I’m a few weeks late and I’ve got a backlog of stuff that I want to share on this blog. Some of it is lighthearted and some not-so-much. Here’s one of the fun ones.

There’s a 67-year old Canadian woman calling herself The Grindmother who has started her own grindcore band with the same name after contributing backup vocals to her son’s grind band, Corrupt Leaders. She’s been covered in a bunch of other metal-oriented websites and even made an appearance on the Maury Povich Show. Here are some videos of her in action:

I think this is the first video that was shared of her screaming into the mike for her son’s band. A comment from her indicates that it was her idea to contribute vocals to her son’s band, initially, and it grew into a band of her own somewhere down the road:


I love that she actually gets what the release in the music is about and not only encourages and supports her son, but started her own band. I wonder where she places with regard to older people in metal – and I wonder what she listens to at home when not screaming out her lungs. She was also formerly a social worker.

Here’s “Any Cost“, a politically-driven song about Stephen Harper, the former Prime Minister of Canada, who resigned last year. Its sounds like something Napalm Death could support:

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New Study Declares Folk Metal Racist and Sexist, Sort Of

Metalsucks just posted an article about a paper written by metal scholar Karl Spracklen and published in the Metal Music Studies journal. This particular issue was dedicated to gender, race and class (wifey was going to write a piece for it about ethnicity in metal in the NYC area, but her thesis work made it impossible to finish in time). I haven’t gotten to read the original paper yet, but the Metalsucks article said:

“The basic idea of the study, which was written by Professor Karl Spracklen and published in the journal Metal Music Studies on gender, race and class, is that by focusing on ancient European myths full of Scandinavian warriors who enjoy wenches and mead, folk metal bands create a ‘safe leisure space’ for white European men who in recent decades have been forced to share their power and privilege with women and people of other races.”

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When Nerds Collide: A Brief History of Metal and Comics

Its been a while since I last posted here. Sorry about that – life, especially work stuff and the baby, really got in the way. Anyhow, here’s a fun article that speaks about the ties between metal and comic books, something I indulged in quite a bit when I was a kid and have recently started looking at again (hence one of my other blogs).

I’d also say that tabletop roleplaying games are historically tied to both metal and comics. I gamed a bit in my youth as well and metal influence was ever-present. Hell, I incorporated the lyrics from Testament‘s Alone in the Dark in a scroll written using runes as a major plot device in an old game. And I think just about everyone who gamed and listened to death metal was familiar with Bolt Thrower‘s relationship with GDW and Warhammer.


Anyway, enjoy the article. As I post, there might be more of an infusion of what’s looked at as “geek” these days, mainly because its of interest to me for fun and nostalgia reasons, and because it intersects with metal culture.

The Beast in the East: Exploring China’s Black Metal Scene


Its been a while since I last posted. Sorry about that. Other things have really been consuming all of my waking hours – particularly work and the baby. But, I came across this interesting article on Metal Hammer about Chinese black metal that I’m sure many of you would find interesting.

For those who want to explore bands like this more, here’s the list of Chinese metal bands from Encyclopaedia Metallum: