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Heavy Metal Philosophy: The Guest That Changed How I Think About Metal

When I started the Heavy Metal Philosophy podcast, I thought I would explore the different philosophical themes across the disparate sub-genres and bands. I thought I had an endless font of content from which I could reliably draw inspiration and provide a diverse catalogue of podcasts.

Then one day I had a guest that made me realize that there aren’t any different philosophical themes in metal. There is only one.

I thought there was a difference in the philosophies of black metal bands versus the tenets of death or thrash metal. I was wrong. Each one of these distinct individual bands and various sub-genres is concerned with only one thing. It’s not rebellion, it’s not nihilism, and it’s not abjection.

After I had released a few dozen episodes I got an email from David Burke who is a PhD candidate in metal studies from Bath Spa University in London England. First of all, I had no idea metal studies was an actual major one could study. I immediately regretted my choice of major back when I was a college student. However, my regret was quickly supplanted by my excitement to chat with Mr Burke about his thesis. Burke’s thesis is that all metal regardless of sub-genre is a philosophy of existentialism that is obsessed with death.

I was excited to chat with Mr. Burke but I was also somewhat triggered. Here I had all these different ideas about what metal was about. However, now I’ve come across an academic who claims that the music I love and its vast and divergent sub-genres were all (despite their varied sounds and lyrics) ultimately the same. They could all be boiled down to one common denominator.  So I prepared to debate this man. It was hubris.

I read his writings. I read his articles. I read his papers. I listened to his other podcast appearances. I listened to his lectures.  I didn’t gain ammunition that I would be able to use in our coming deliberation. Instead I was utterly convinced. 

Before we even began our conversation I was wholly convinced he was right. Metal is not about rebellion, it’s not nihilism, and it’s not abjection. It’s death.

We all know we’re going to die. We all handle that knowledge and express it in different ways. When it comes to metal that can range from death metal’s fixation on gore, glam metal’s hedonism, power metal’s heroism, or black metal’s abjection.  Linked below you can find the conversation we had. I brought up what questions I had, we went over the arguments, we broke down metal culture to its core common denominators, and of course, we celebrated great bands.

I hope you enjoy it.

Jon Barbas

Heavy Metal Philosophy

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Metal Digest is an online music magazine specializing in rock and metal. It is aimed at the mobile market, who can get their fix whilst on the go. Whether you walk, drive, fly, sail or teleport make sure you do it with Metal Digest, bitesize heavy metal rock and metal news, reviews and interviews for when you’re on the go.

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