Through the intense devotion to the sounds and culture of the heavy metal genre, numerous non-musical media have been delivered and perpetuated by the culture. Styles, fashions, symbols, images, ideologies and other trappings of the heavy metal lifestyle have been developed and interpreted in myriad manifestations, and have resulted in the creation of a multitude of very specialized subgenres. Entire subgenres, and subgenres within subgenres, have emerged based on the “partisan spirit of exclusiveness” and the adherence to spreading the collective consciousness of heavy metal (Weinstein, 1991, p. 195). Additionally, the do-it-yourself ethos that heavy metal fans have embraced since the genre’s inception has been the driving force behind numerous independent record labels, specialized college and commercial radio programs, fanzines, and even dedicated heavy metal concert venues. These “exotic microgenres” and outlets have created unique opportunities for many heavy metal musicians to disseminate their opinions and ideologies to highly marginalized audiences in esoteric niche markets (Weinstein, 1991, p. 196). Some genres rely heavily on grotesque medical terminology, misogyny, or sheer repulsiveness and gore to disseminate their desired messages. The inclusions of these taboos are often used as simple shock value, but other times, taboos, controversial messages, and metaphorical interpretations are used with “more progressive intentions and results” (Purcell, 2003, p. 168). These extreme subgenres draw the most criticism from conservatives for their offensiveness; however, numerous styles also concentrate on positively charged messages of empowerment, knowledge and self-actualization. Unfortunately, these latter selections are typically overlooked, disregarded, or left invalidated by cultural critics.
My intention in this Discussion section is to highlight some of these often overlooked subgenres, songs, albums, and specific artists in heavy metal music that provide insight into messages of social awareness, well-being, and spirituality. These themes are actually quite prevalent in the music, yet heavy metal remains largely misunderstood and misinterpreted as a solely negative and violent medium. By encouraging pride in individualism, providing intellectual stimulation, and supporting healthy and faithful lifestyles, these particular case studies of extreme music seek to stand for something more than “alien and aberrant” noise (Walser, 1993, p. 162). The meaningfulness of these messages extends far beyond the superficial, negligent, literal textual analysis of the violence, horror and madness that critics often misinterpret. The following case studies examined for this project have been chosen for their historical and cultural importance to their respective genres based on the previous scrutiny from other academics and my own personal involvement with the genre, but represent a only microcosm of the positive attributes and messages that are available within heavy metal music.
Links to all references can be found here: http://www.heavymetalmediastudies.com/cultural-sociology-of-heavy-metal-music/