Before 2008, Bowling Green State University anthropology professor Jeremy Wallach says few people could refer to themselves as “heavy metal scholars” and be taken seriously. But Wallach says the term has gained traction with an illustrious output of books, conferences and documentaries about heavy metal and its cultural, socio-economic and geographic implications during the past four years.

Among this fresh spate of heavy metal academia is Wallach’s 400-page essay collection entitled “Metal Rules The Globe: Heavy Metal Music Around The World”. Wallach and co-author Paul D. Greene will give a speech about the book’s content at the Spiral Bookcase on Thursday, January 5, at 6 p.m., while the book’s price will be marked down 10 percent for copies reserved prior to the event.

Wallach also wrote one of the essays in his book about his studies of heavy metal in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia, which he considers some of the largest scenes in Asia.

“Metal is an indicator of democratization,” says Wallach, who studied Indonesia’s underground music as the country transitioned to democracy around 2001. “The thing that precipitated this country's transition to democracy was heavy metal. Christians and Muslims play in bands together in Indonesia and it's not a big deal.”

Like many people his age, the 42-year-old Wallach listened to heavy metal during his teenage years. It’s recession-proof music, Wallach says, because its passionate aficionados continue to support bands they enjoy even when their funds are limited, and more people turn to heavy music as an outlet for aggression when the times are tough.  Plus, Wallach says it remains the most popular genre of underground music in almost every country outside of the United States.

So what does heavy metal mean in the big picture?

“The main argument is that heavy metal is used by musicians and fans as a way to negotiate the dislocations brought about by modernity,” Wallach says.  “It's a way to assert the freedom of the individual without falling into consumerism, but also not falling into the reactionary return of tradition.”

Wallach says heavy metal’s surging popularity across the globe has mostly remained an invisible movement in the United States, where rock music’s appeal has declined since the 90s. However, heavy metal has also become more accepted. Gone is the stigma of devil worship and drugs. Bands like Metallica and Iron Maiden continue lucrative North American tours as they near their 50s and 60s, playing to the demand of its older fan base and still winning younger ones.

“The icing on the cake was in March, when we went to our heavy metal store in Toledo, Ohio and found our favorite Indonesian heavy metal band there.” Wallach says. “It's no longer so difficult to get your music heard around the world. It’s a lot easier now than it was 10 years ago.”


NewsWorks