Running with the Devil: Power, Gender and Madness in Heavy Metal Music (Music/Culture)

Running with the Devil: Power, Gender and Madness in Heavy Metal Music (Music/Culture)

A Choice Outstanding Academic Book.A musicologist and cultural critic as well as a professional musician, Robert Walser offers a comprehensive musical, social, and cultural analysis of heavy metal in Running with the Devil.

Reviews of the Running with the Devil: Power, Gender and Madness in Heavy Metal Music (Music/Culture)

The book is divided into 5 chapters dealing with various aspects of metal, including genre, reception history, virtuosity, prestige, gender, mysticism, and, what he terms throughout, metal's constructions of "transcendence," what some critics, such as Fredric Jameson, drawing on The Frankfurt School, have termed culture's utopian strivings, its attempts to inscribe desire into utopian social forms, to create an alternative to current society. He emphasizes the low prestige of metal within dominant musical circles (the book was written in the early 90s), linking this with social location and (what used to be) the hegemony of classical music within the canons of high culture. In accordance with postmodernism, Walser seeks to deconstruct the distinction between "high" ("serious") and "low" ("popular") culture, a distinction that also parallels the rise of the New Social Movements and receiving its theoretical justification through psychoanalysis, with metal providing him with substantial resources enabling him to do this, as mostly played out in his third chapter, dealing with the influence of classical music (mostly late Baroque music, particularly Bach and Vivaldi, and virtuosic violin music, mostly Paganini) on metal guitarists and musical forms (i.e. ground bass, the use of modality, harmonic minor scales, etc.). Walser deftly deconstructs various claims ordinarily thought to ground the prestige of classical music (it's more complex, it requires long years of intensive study to master, etc.) showing that metal fulfills many of these criteria. However, this strategy also underscores my major criticism with Walser's approach: by showing how heavy metal is "really" as complex, etc. Perhaps the most interesting and certainly the most topical chapter of the book is the fourth one on constructions of gender in metal.

Taí um livro bacana, especialmente para quem não quer apenas saber sobre sua banda de Heavy Metal (HM) favorita. Walser cita outra coisa interessante: o primeiro festival Monsters of Rock dos EUA (que teve uma reedição há pouco tempo aqui em Sampa) foi um fracasso de público lá. Para quem pensa numa musicologia mais hardcore (me desculpem o trocadilho, mas não pude resistir!...) onde são analisadas partituras, o livro de Walser é um prato cheio. Imagino que alguém que não saiba ler partituras não precisa lê-las para seguir adiante, mas para quem quer ver algumas transcrições de solos como os de Van Halen e outros, não vai sair decepcionado. Uma das coisas que eu não havia percebido é que, mesmo compartilhando o virtuosismo do rock progressivo, sua fonte de inspiração não vem dos autores românticos. Alguns deles culpam a música pela apologia às drogas, ao culto ao diabo e outras coisas que também são vistos em outros gêneros musicais, dependendo de quem está fazendo o resmungo. Em resumo, este é um bom livro para quem quer saber alguma coisa sobre o Heavy Metal e as ideias que passam em um debate ligado à história, à musicologia e outras ciências humanas.

Running With the Devil is a sympathetic examination of heavy metal, looking at its history, defining musical characteristics, examining its appeal to its fans and the claims of its detractors. Like many accounts of popular music, the more musicological ones have tended to concentrate on the lyrics, ignoring what most fans feel forms the major part of the songs (the musical content, which Walser feels is vital to the appeal of heavy metal). This is the reason why fans of heavy metal are in my experience as well as in Walser's far more gentle than the violent image frequently assigned to the music. They are based on a stereotypical view of the genre, on selective quotation of lyrics - Walser gives a wonderful example of this: lines from Iron Maiden's Number of the Beast have been used to "prove" that Satanism is the hidden agenda of heavy metal, yet the next few lines express strong disapproval of the Satanic ritual described - and on misleading and invented statistics - the claim that "most" heavy metal songs are about Satanism is easily refuted just by counting song themes.

To the metalhead, this book makes a lot of what you already know more tangible, from the emptiness of elitist critiques to the genius of the great works of metal, without glossing over some of the real cultural problems within metal (such as acting as a conduit of patriarchal values).

Sadly not as much critical theory as I had hoped for but an excellent analysis of heavy metal.

There are not many academic theory books about metal style so this is a welcome rarity.

I first read it in 1998 or 1999, but I remember reading the review of it in Rolling Stone in 1993 when it came out (since RS are morons, they didn't totally love it).

  • English

  • Music

  • Rating: 3.79
  • Pages: 272
  • Publish Date: August 31st 1993 by Wesleyan University Press
  • Isbn10: 0819562602
  • Isbn13: 9780819562609