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Heavy Metal: The Music and Its Culture [Paperback]

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Book Description

17 Mar 2000
The definitive study of heavy metal culture that "does for metal what Greil Marcus's Lipstick Traces did for the Sex Pistols" ( -Chicago Sun-Times ).. Few forms of music elicit such strong reactions as does heavy metal. Embraced by millions of fans, it has also attracted a chorus of critics, who have denounced it as a corrupter of youtheven blamed it for tragedies like the murders at Columbine. Deena Weinstein argues that these fears stem from a deep misunderstanding of the energetic, rebellious culture of metal, which she analyzes, explains, and defends. She interprets all aspects of the metal worldthe music and its makers, its fans, its dress code, its lyricsand in the process unravels the myths, misconceptions, and truths about an irreverent subculture that has endured and evolved for twenty years.

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Heavy Metal: The Music and Its Culture + Running with the Devil: Power, Gender and Madness in Heavy Metal Music (Music/Culture) + Extreme Metal: Music and Culture on the Edge
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Product details

  • Paperback: 366 pages
  • Publisher: DaCapo Press; Revised edition edition (17 Mar 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306809702
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306809705
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.2 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 412,530 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Deena Weinstein is a professor of sociology at DePaul University in Chicago. Her numerous books, chapters, and articles in professional journals range from the sociology of rock to postmodern theory. She also writes music reviews and features for numerous magazines, alternative weeklies, and websites.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
"Heavy metal: pimply, prole, putrid, unchic, unsophisticated, anti-intellectual (but impossibly pretentious), dismal, abysmal, terrible, horrible, and stupid music, barely music at all: death music, dead music, the beaten boogie, the dance of defeat and decay: the huh? Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Serious Look a The Metal Subculture 25 July 2002
I used this book whilst writing a dissertation on notions of authenticity in the heavy metal subculture, and without it i would have been totally lost!
Weinstein puts a very convincing argument forward in defending Heavy Metal, and gives a deep insight into a musical genre that is greatly misunderstood, even by many of its fans. After reading this i found that i had a far deeper understanding of my own cultural upbringing. It describes how most musical genres go through process of formation, crystallisation and decay, and examines how metal has resisted the latter. Although some may disagree with this, it has to be agreed that although it has changed greatly in the last decade, the beast is far too powerful to lie down and die for a long time yet! This book was originally published in 1992, with a new chapter added in 1998, which although brief, it is helpful in describing the changes to the Metal subculture that ocurred throughout the 90s. You will not find a more helpful book on Heavy Metal.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good reading !! 13 Jan 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A good book and a very interesting read !! All about Heavy Metal explained here !! One for the heavy rock fanatic !!
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Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but Deeply Flawed 26 Nov 2007
By Planetary Eulogy - Published on Amazon.com
Deena Weinstein's updated edition of her 1991 monograph "Heavy Metal: A Cultural Sociology" remains, to this day, probably the most widely available academic work on the subject of heavy metal. While it is mostly well-written (a bit heavy on jargon perhaps, but without the suffocating tsunami of subclauses that usually plague academic writing in the social sciences). While it is always gratifying to this Hessian to find an academic work taking metal seriously, this is, unfortunately, a very flawed work.

Like many contemporary academics, Weinstein is overly wedded to social science theories at the expense of a genuine engagement with the subject at hand. As a result, she tends to treat metal - both the music and its culture - as a form of semiotic play, symbolically creating and re-creating a self-referential narrative of 'the Proud Pariah.' Professorial prose, however, is an inadequate patch to cover an ugly truth: Weinstein never really gets beyond the 'rock as rebellion' metanarrative to bring any new insight to bear on the subject of metal. Not surprisingly, she fails to understand metal or its fans at anything beyond the most superficial level, though, occasionally, moments of lucidity creep in, as with Weinstein's recognition of heavy metal's fundamentally neo-Romantic character.

Where this work is strong, however, is in its analysis of the underlying social and political biases that have left metal marginalized, despite its manifest artistic superiority to, well, pretty much anything the contemporary world is producing. In particular, Weinstein has honed in, as few commentators have, on the unreasoned and unreasoning rejection of metal by mainstream rock journalists, and she effectively lays bare the institutional assumptions and prejudices that have crippled the objectivity of the wider music press when faced with outsider forms that do not conform to the expected 60s counterculture norms of social and political discourse.

While this may be of some interest to specialists, it is likely to leave ordinary readers with no better understanding of metal music or culture than they had before picking it up. There have, unfortunately, been no truly excellent academic studies of metal, but if you feel compelled to pick up something on the subject, Natalie Purcell's Death Metal Music: The Passion and Politics of a Subculture is probably a better bet.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bible of Heavy Metal 6 Oct 2000
By ChrisV82 - Published on Amazon.com
If you're like me and have spent hours reading "Heavy Metal: A Cultural Sociology", or if you are at all interested in the Metal community and the roots, styles, and spirit of Heavy Metal, then this book is a must have. This edition is less a revision, and more a republishing of "HM: A Cultural Sociology" with an additional chapter acting as a rather large update on what happened in the decade since "HM: ACS" came out. Dealing with the development, enemies, fans, artists, outlets, community, subgenres, positives and even negatives of Heavy Metal, this should be read by every Metalhead and rock fan. Highly recommended, especially in the cheaper paperback format.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative! A must for every metalhead! 18 Oct 2004
By Z. William Arkosy - Published on Amazon.com
This is by far the most intellectual book ever written on the subject of Heavy Metal! This book goes into great depths regarding the birth of the stlye, both in terms of its musical roots, as well as the image associated with this genre. It has an almost sociological evaluation of the fans of metal and what their lifestyle consists of. This book also enlightens us as to why critics - both from the liberal left as well as the conservative right - detest this style of music. It later goes on into the fragmentation of the genre (regarding the Thrash metal scene and glam rock). There is a final chapter which deals with the genre during and after the nineties, but the vast majority of the book deals with the '70s and '80s. There is a slight (North) American bias, concentrating more on bands that are from English speaking countries (namely the U.S., the U.K. & Canada) but some European bands are also mentioned. It was an enjoyable read and there are many examples illustrated by the author to make the reading less dry. Highly recommended for fans of the genre and for those who are trying to understand the genre.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Schematic sociological introduction to a persistent subculture 17 May 2012
By Autonomeus - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Weinstein's book clearly merits five stars. It was the first sociological study of metal culture, and when it was originally published in 1991 it was responding to a major culture wars battle over the music and its influence following metal's explosion into the mainstream in the Eighties. (It was followed by another sociological study, Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music (1993), which I haven't read.) She utilizes some sociological theory (Durkheim, Simmel, Weber), and argues convincingly that "subculture" is a more applicable category than "taste public," but thankfully the book is not dense with impenetrable postmodern theory.

The book follows a strictly logical, schematic organization:

1) Studying Metal (introduction)
2) Heavy Metal (history)
3) Making the Music (the artists)
4) Digging the Music: Proud Pariahs (the metalheads)
5) Transmitting the Music (industry & media)
6) The Concert
7) Maligning the Music
8) Metal in the '90s

The last chapter was added for the 2000 revised edition, and covers the eclipse of metal by grunge, the mass popularitiy of Metallica, and the persistence of the metal subculture. This is not the book for a systematic history of the genre -- Weinstein gives a short history in Chapter 2, which is stronger on the origins of metal than its subsequent development. Her partition of the original metal into classic metal, lite/pop metal, and thrash metal is useful, if long since outdated as subgenres have proliferated.

As a sociologist, she had to cover the industry and media (Chapter 5) -- understanding the production of culture is as important as understanding the reception of culture, and in capitalist society that means understanding corporations and the music industry as well as fanzines and other non-profit media. Chapter 7 on the PMRC and the anti-metal movement is a brilliant defense of the music and the culture, and is still relevant today. She characterizes metal as Dionysian rebellion, and charges its ignorant critics of both the Right and Left with "discursive terrorism."

But what I was really interested in, and the part of the book I found the most informative and compelling, was Chapter 4. What is the nature of the metal subculture? What ties the fans together beyond the music itself? Not a metalhead myself, I am not in a position to evaluate Weinstein's analysis, but it makes sense and fits my own observations from a distance over the years. She is a participant as well as an observer of the culture, and this is no armchair analysis. She has written dozens of reviews of metal albums, for instance, which can be found on her website. Her (Simmelian) category of "The Proud Pariah" may be reductive, but it clearly captures an important part of the identity of metalheads. Her analytical history of "The Roots of the of the Metal Subculture" makes the interesting argument that metal was a selective, blue-collar continuation of the Sixties counterculture in the Seventies. She makes a case that the subculture, which began in the U.K., was/is distinctively male, white, and blue-collar. Weinstein is fully aware that that many/most metalheads from the Eighties on were/are middle class, and she argues that nonetheless there is a blue-collar ethos in the culture, one which tends to horrify middle class parents. She devotes an entire chapter to The Concert as the central ritual binding metalheads together and perpetuating the culture (thanks to Durkhem). As a sociologist, I would have liked to see more empirical data here, and fewer unsubstantiated claims, but on balance I find Weinstein to be a reliable participant/observer.

Part of what set me in search of a book like this was my realization that metal is an incredibly persistent, tenacious subculture that continues to recreate itself over 40 years after its origin. But part of my interest is driven by my own discovery of some of the music's recent permutations. I have been aware of metal all along -- I remember a high school friend who immediately gravitated to Black Sabbath's PARANOID on its release -- but I have never been as interested in the music as I am today. Bands like Neurosis, Agalloch, Isis, Pelican, Russian Circles, Mastodon, The Dillinger Escape Plan, and Wolves In the Throne Room are making some of the most compelling rock music of our time. Neurosis in particular, with a powerful sense of tragic doom, speaks to the crisis of climate change in a way no other music even begins to approach. (For instance Given to the Rising - 2007 -- see my review.)

As rock fades with the aging of the Baby Boomers, and becomes just one of many music subcultures, metal keeps alive the power of the guitar chord, the intensity of rejection of the status quo, and a grim, realistic view of reality in the face of superficial cheerfulness and pop marketing.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars well researched and written 6 May 2000
By Wesley Bush - Published on Amazon.com
I read this book expecting a harsh critique of something the author knew little about. Instead I was pleasantly surprised by how much Ms. Weinstein knew and actually enjoyed heavy metal. She actually took the time to attend concerts and listen to the albums. It is a little dry and descriptive at times but overall very interesting. I recommend it for fans and those who are simply interested in being educated in a phenomenon that refuses to die.
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