Hit & Run

'Heavy Metal Has Become the Unlikely Soundtrack of Globalization'

The connection between economic development and heavy metal music.


Credit: White House / Flickr.com

"Heavy metal has become the unlikely soundtrack of globalization." So writes Wall Street Journal reporter Neil Shah at the start of a fascinating article detailing the international appeal, both commercial and cultural, of "loud guitars, growling vocals and ultrafast 'blast' beats." Heavy metal, Shah argues, is now the gold standard when it comes to true "world music." How did it happen and what does it mean? Here's a snippet from the story:

Indonesia is a metal hotbed: Its president, Joko Widodo, wears Metallica and Napalm Death T-shirts. Metal scenes flourish in Latin America, Eastern Europe, Russia and Scandinavia. China got an early seeding of metal 25 years ago when U.S. record companies dumped unsold CDs there. In a male-dominated genre, Russian band Arkona is fronted by singer Maria Arkhipova. Language barriers are less significant in the metal world, which is all about the sound, an often dissonant drone not grounded in any one musical tradition.

The explosion of local bands around the world tends to track rising living standards and Internet use. Making loud music is expensive: You need electric guitars, amplifiers, speakers, music venues and more leisure time.

"When economic development happens, metal scenes appear. They're like mushrooms after the rain," says Roy Doron, an African history professor at Winston-Salem State University.

Read the whole story here.

Related: "A Brief History of Conservative and Libertarian Punk Rock"

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  1. "loud guitars, growling vocals and ultrafast 'blast' beats."

    Huh?? HEAVY Metal typically has CLEAN vocals. Think Iron Maiden or Judas Priest or Manowar or White Wizzard. Growling vocals are iconic of other Metal subgenres.

    1. Yeah, when I think 'clarity in oration' Ozzy Osbourne, Brian Johnson, and Lemmy Kilmister are the first two names at the top of that list.

      I think the quintessence of Heavy Metal vocals is a rigorous tempering of alcohol and tobacco.

      1. John Tardy of Obituary has the best vocals in metal.

        I used to play them for my punk and alt-rocker friends and their eyes would widen with amazement or fear.

      2. "Clean" does not mean "Clear and understandable" in musical terminology. In metal, "clean vocals" typically refers to singers who aren't growling, as opposed to "growling vocals", which is quoted as "heavy metal" in the article above. Osbourne and Johnson do have what is categorized as clean vocals. They certainly don't fit the description of "growling vocals" which tends to be the vocals found in death metal and other subgenres. Heavy metal typically has clean vocals, rather than growling vocals.

    2. ...other Metal subgenres

      More lack of research and understanding by journalists. Not surprised.

      1. Vocals in metal are categorized as "clean" or "growling". Genres like death metal tend towards "growling". Heavy metal as a sub-genre tends towards "clean". Heavy metal bands like Iron Maiden don't growl.

        1. Oh, I see, you're playing the subgenre taxonomy pedantry game. That game sucks.

        2. I think you're confusing death jazz rock quasi-grind djent with heavy grunge post-pop folk noisecore.

  2. Paging Warty...

  3. Root, did you watch this film?


  4. Metal also purges like noise acid. Economic assessments of catharsis culture is sterile and probably necessary from a marketing perspective but it adds little to the revelation that explosive sonorous expression seethes within the volatile and fragile streets as the standardization of emerging societies eclipse wildernesses of poverty and horror.

    When the tragic gloom of oppressive societal circumstance lift the beasts of sound rage under powerful collisions of anger, pleasure, fear, and release. The fact that some of these beast now have bucks to blow on machines that kill your ears and rape your heart is slightly side-note.

  5. Reason should do an article on the dude who ran Chicago's Expo of the Extreme in the 90s.

    After that fest, he moved to a town in northern Minnesota and made and produced his own soda pop label using wild berries he picked! The local yokel nannies snooped at his background - I think he used to be a Satanism - and ran him and his business out of town.

    1. Bugbee? I agree.

      1. Yes! Shane Bugbee.

  6. Damon has missed Warty and is trying to bait him, i guess.

    Little does he know that Warty is super busy batin' himself.

    1. No one misses me. I'm too wide.

  7. I recently discovered Arkona via my folk metal station on Pandora and they are fantastic, but female-fronted metal is far from rare these days.

    1. Not quite like Arkona, but have you ever heard Butcher Babies?

      1. This one is SO NSFW

  8. This is still my current jam. I'm also digging Abbath's solo album.

  9. It's getting a bit elderly, but Vice's black metal documentary is still a lot of fun. Gaahl is entertainingly crazy.

  10. Finally, since we're talking about the politics of punk, allow me to leave you with my nominee for the greatest libertarian punk song. It's a number called "Legalize Drugs" by the great L.A. band Fear. What makes it libertarian? Check out the lyrics: "When you take away the profit, then you destroy the black market." It reads like an article at Reason.com.
    or Donald J Trump's most consistently held political position:

    "You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars."

  11. I'm going to listen to "All Along the Watchtower" Hendrix. The last time I heard Dylan (2005?) he played the Hendrix version.

    I first heard Dylan play that version around '75. St. Louis.

  12. I always thought rap was the "unlikely soundtrack of globalization" but I suppose metal might be in there too. They're both aggressive, male-dominated, and of American origin - all things that global youth seem to appreciate.

    1. Slight correction, or possibly interpretation here, Black Sabbath is generally considered the first true metal band. That said, I also think it's pretty safe to say that the riff from the Kinks "You Really Got Me" could be considered the first metal riff.

  13. It's not that surprising to me. Wacken is still on my bucket list, and the only time anyone feels the urge to talk to me when wearing a T-Shirt is when I wear one of my Blind Guardian (my favorite band) T-Shirts. Even in my collection which is far from the most extensive, I probably have bands from five to ten different countries in it.

    1. Ah a fellow BG lover. My three favorite metal bands are BG, Iced Earth, and Symphony X. Wacken is also on my bucket list.

      It's true that the black metal band Ts attract fellow metal heads no matter where you go. I love it.

      And you rarely see/hear of people getting injured at metal shows even though the fans are notorious for being wild and crazy. Most of the time they are there for the music and to unwind. It's the radio-rock bands' shows with the drunk morons where people get hurt.

  14. Realistically (and I say this as a metal head) metal is just catching up to other genres. Pop has spread much sooner to most corners of the world. I do agree, however, that you can find metal bands originating from any country these days. It's a good time for music as a whole.

  15. So the show Metalocalypse is actually prophetic. Good to know.

  16. Joko Widodo,

    Best name for a head of state, ever?

  17. Ok so how did I miss this thread?

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