I was recently flipping through a collection of old compact discs and DVDs, and came across a treasure trove of folk and pagan inspired metal albums. From violins, bagpipes, and hurdy gurdies to throat singing, lutes and horsehead fiddles, modern metal bands have found interesting ways of incorporating traditional instruments, folklore and ritual into their music and performance. These sounds and lyrics are interwoven with a variety of different sonic expressions of heavy music. Deities, such as Baphomet, appear on merchandise and album covers. We wanted to get to the genesis of when pagan and folk traditions, instruments, and lore overlapped with heavy metal.
Joining us remotely in this exploration of paganism and metal music is Dr. Deena Weinstein, a professor of Sociology at DePaul University in Chicago. Deena is a thought leader in heavy metal history, her book Heavy Metal: A Cultural Sociology, which was released in 1991, is considered foundational. She’s been a rock critic specializing in metal for 30 years, is widely read both in mainstream and academic publications, and is a frequent keynote speaker at events such as World Metal Congress. Our conversation offers perspectives and historical context to the musical evolution of rock into metal, and the political and social inflection points during the 70s, 80s and 90s that introduced paganism into metal. How has heavy metal’s culture changed over time in conjunction with its interactions with paganism? Does ethnicity and identity play a role? Is pagan metal an artistic response to the power wielded by politicians and organized religion?
Enjoy this extensive playlist we’ve constructed as a companion for this episode.
Episode Art and HH Logo By: Bryn Gleason
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