Strangers of Popular Culture – The Verbal and Pictorial Aesthetics of Mythological Metal Music

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Abstract

Extreme metal music is held to be a destructive genre of popular culture, treated as a pariah for many. Being a seriously misunderstood genre, I would like to highlight that metal music is a result of conscious work process that cannot only be noticed on the level of the music but on the level of verbal and pictorial expressions too. In my paper, I would like to show the working mechanisms of the so-called “(neo)pagan/mythological metal” movement, focusing on the rhetoric side of its mentioned expressions, searching for the ways these bands rewrite ancient myths and legends.

For my research, I will use three main threads: 1) history of religion (looking for the connections of the reception of ancient topics in contemporary society, e.g. New Age Cults and New Religious Movements); 2) reception theory, as the thoughts of Northrop Frye, Wolfgang Iser (1972), and John Fiske (2011) all should help to understand the general processes behind reading and producing texts; 3) subculture studies – e.g. the works of Richard Schusterman and Deena Weinstein (2002) to have a deeper insight to the genres standing on the edge of mass and high culture.

After a general introduction, I would like to demonstrate the above mentioned through some case studies. The chosen mythological cultures are going to be the world of the ancient Middle East (Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Old Testament), the classical Roman world, and the Viking Era, also showing some Hungarian and Romanian examples in the last section. In each section, the following issues should be examined: band and stage names connected to the topic, album titles, lyrics, and album covers. All these together will show us many clear patterns from romantic nostalgia to allegoric concepts, all revolving around the essence of metal music: being a Stranger in a familiar society.

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