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Running with the Devil: Power, Gender and Madness in Heavy Metal Music Hardcover – 16 Aug 1993


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press (16 Aug 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0819552526
  • ISBN-13: 978-0819552525
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Review

"Running with the Devil takes musicology where it has never gone before; I once saw the chapter on metal guitarists and the classical tradition performed live in a lecture hall, but even on paper it smokes."--SF Weekly --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

ROBERT WALSER is Professor and Chairman of Musicology at UCLA. He is editor of Keeping Time: Readings in Jazz History (Oxford University Press, 1999) and of the journal American Music. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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The Oxford English Dictionary traces "heavy metal" back through nearly two hundred years. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 25 Sep 1998
Format: Paperback
As many people in the general populus consider Heavy Metal as more entertainment than art, this book tends to bring to light more of the social & artful aspects of the music. As the title suggests, there's much to do with sociological issues of power, gender, and emotional views. But there was also a large undercurrent of the musical talent and influences of those who make H.M. music. Moreover, the view that H.M. is/not dominantly popular due to lyrical content alone was another interesting topic discussed (among other topics). It is true that some of the topics lack the proper explaination they ought, but for the most part, the details given are good & helpful. If you are a musician, this is a MUST HAVE book! For those trying to understand H.M. (parents, teachers, etc) - open your mind and open this book. Includes indepth looks at musical styles of: Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhodes, and others.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 10 Feb 1998
Format: Paperback
Walser attempts to cover too much ground in this book. Still his treatments of gender and madness as content of Heavy Metal lyrics are worthwhile. He covers music and some imagery; these tend to distract from his central ideas rather than add. Yet, this may be the academic reference book on HM that others are judged by, simply because it has primacy and is comprehensive. It was a needed work in the field. A major criticism is that he does not adequately account for the various sub-genres of the music.
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Format: Paperback
I bought this book after seeing Robert Walser on Sam Dunn's `A Headbangers Journey' film, the book contains everything you could need to know about the genre and beyond (speaking as a dedicated fan of heavy metal for over 15 years)... Written largely in an academic fashion, it was immensely useful for my dissertation (Note: Some of the text can be a bit wordy, perhaps read in sections). I would recommend the book to anyone who is interested in the social study of the genre, or generally any issue covered in the book; such as censorship, empowerment, semiotics etc...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 6 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Heavy Metal Gets Its Due 7 Dec 2004
By Brian Lynch - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I'm currently taking a class on cultural anthropology right now, and as a huge music buff / budding musician, I found this gem while searching the racks at my university. Not only did it help me to realize the cultural biases surrounding a type of music that I am fond of, but also expand my mind in terms of musical application, song construction, and the true inspiration for some of Heavy Metal's greatest classics.

Walser knows exactly what he's talking about, from the perspectives of a particpant in the culture, a trained and educated musician, and a cultural anthropologist. Great reading, would make a great reference for any study on cultural misunderstandings about music, or even something interesting to give you a break from working through all those instructional books and tablature.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Fundamental 20 Jun 2001
By Eric D. Gordy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is one of the best books about popular music I have read. First of all, Walser avoids cliches: he is good at interpretation, and like all people who are good at interpretation he checks his ideas against the ideas that people who make and listen to the music have. PMRC supporters watch out. Second, he knows what he is talking about: the analysis is grounded in a good understanding of musicology, social theory, literary theory and evidence. So when he tells us where heavy metal "fits," we can believe him. All this, of course, is aside from the question of the reader or anybody else "likes" the music or not. As a model of how to do context-informed analysis of a genre, it rocks.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Overcomprehensive, yet a needed study. 10 Feb 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Walser attempts to cover too much ground in this book. Still his treatments of gender and madness as content of Heavy Metal lyrics are worthwhile. He covers music and some imagery; these tend to distract from his central ideas rather than add. Yet, this may be the academic reference book on HM that others are judged by, simply because it has primacy and is comprehensive. It was a needed work in the field. A major criticism is that he does not adequately account for the various sub-genres of the music.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
perhaps the best book on popular music written 20 Jun 2014
By Somewhat - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
Though obviously dated, this book may live up the grandiose subject line above. It has been many years since I've read it cover-to-cover, but I can generally sum up its strengths. It is comprehensive, sophisticated, and clear. Walser is an able academic but also a musician, and his detailed close reading of the music itself is breathtaking. And that is one element that distinguishes this book from most "canonical" rock criticism. Most rock critics of the early days (70s to early 90s) -- who lionize the punks and Bob Dylan -- were more students of culture than of music and really could tell very little about the details of how the music was composed and played. Any musician reading those critics could tell they knew little about actually playing or performing. This is not the case with Walser, an able student of culture AND music.

Walser also gains by taking a balanced approach. He is a confessed fan of metal (again, it helps that he knows how to play the guitar). This may at first seem to make him less objective, but it doesn't for two reasons. First, Walser does not flinch from making legitimate critiques of metal (for sexism, etc. -- and rightly notes that many critics of metal make the bald, stupid assumption that sexism is unique to metal rather than recognizing the truth that it is rampant in alternative music, academia, and business). Second, his openness to the music enables his close understanding of it. Dismissals of metal by other scholars of rock music are uninformed because they have not paid attention to its musical complexity and richness. Walser does pay attention. An old book by this point, but a great example both of sound critical analysis of music culture AND of how an able scholar can convincingly demonstrate the closed-mindedness and simply bad thinking practiced by other critics.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Great study of the music itself 18 Jun 2010
By Ethanator - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I love metal primarily for the music itself (rather than the lyrics, attitude, fan culture, etc.), so this book was refreshing in that it contains some valuable musicological studies of metal as a genre and of several specific songs. Walser discusses timbre, meter, modes, etc. and resonances with blues and European classical music (in particular Baroque music), using transcriptions of the music to make his case. He even suggests, quite intriguingly, that the fact that metal musicians are closer to Baroque composers like Bach than later composers such as Beethoven should tell us something about Bach and Beethoven, not just contemporary metal. A lot of the music theory was honestly over my head as a very amateur musician, but I understood enough of it to take away some valuable insights into the complexity of the music I love.

The cultural and historical parts of the book were interesting, but perhaps less novel. Be aware, you will need a basic proficiency in PoMo speak to understand parts of chapters two, four, and five, but it's not as bad as it could be considering Walser's use of social science and the humanities, where postmodern theory has, for better or for worse, become the basic assumption in recent decades (with the exception of philosophy). But the fancy PoMo stuff could be skipped (much like the fancy music theory parts) and you will still get a lot out of the book. The chapter on gender didn't break much ground (although the discussion of androgyny was interesting). The last chapter, "Can I Play with Madness?" had some great moments discussing Ozzy, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.

Of course, this book is a bit dated (published in 1993), as other reviewers mentioned. If you didn't listen to metal in the 80's or early 90's, this book may make less sense, but I think the fact that bands like Poison, Bon Jovi and Van Halen hardly seem like metal to today's audience just underscores how mainstream metal became in the 80's and also how new most of today's sub-genres are. This isn't to say Walser's book is irrelevant. Fans of metal today can still learn a lot from this book, both about their roots and about the aspects of metal that are still present in today's sub-genres.
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