Everything Else Matters: Thoughts on the “Metal” East [Part Two]

Mapping metal, especially its active “underground,” is a messy task at best. No laws or sharpshooting border guards keep bands playing within one style, nor are there any official music guardians or academic gatekeepers enforcing the standardized usage of terminology by critics, publicists, or fans. Moreover, styles are not watertight containers: they leak, bleed into others… With borders more porous than those between Mexico and the United States, or Pakistan and Afghanistan, not even fans or critics know where to draw the lines (Weinstein 2011, 41).

I should revise that  title to “punk,” to accurately reflect some research I’ve embarked upon lately, but then I would lose that amazing pun. Actually, given the overarching material on the project, Metal is a more appropriate term anyway. That being said, Deena Weinstein’s quote here is perhaps more applicable to metal, considering the orthodoxies that certain critics and fans hold punk rock to while metal is encouraged to diffuse and transform in more respects.


Anyway, I’m currently working on a paper about the ethnomusicology behind punk rock in a post-Suharto Indonesia. Kevin Dunn published a great on-the-ground piece on punk in Indonesia in the latest Razorcake which deserves a read by anyone interested in the intersection between DIY music and the homegrown radical politics of Southeast Asia. It started me thinking about how modern outsider perspectives on Indonesia have grown over the course of the past century, particularly since the nation-state is such a messy agglomeration of so many different scenes, styles, and ethical foundations. The United States would be part of a similar conversation if it were fifty different islands rather than a union of one gelatinous mass of forty-eight states, an arctic landmass, and a tiny tropical archipelago. But, we’ve got a world bound (and in most cases, choked) by flags, so in order to really understand the actual nations left on Earth, underground music that operates (ideologically, at least) outside the confines of these governments is a good place to start.

Ask any American fan of pop-punk about Málaga, and they probably couldn’t tell you much about the city other than her Ramones-loving sons Airbag. Or, as Weinstein referred to in this chapter, ask a Lithuanian black metal musician about Malaysia and they’ll answer similarly, but with plenty of depth:

Toward the end of the piece [in Malaysian magazine G.O.D.], he is asked: “What are you know about my country Malaysia, especially about Black Metal bands?” The Lithuanian replies: “About Malaysia I know very little, sorry. About bands? I know Aradia, Bazzah, Misanthrope, Nebiras – fine Black band. Death Metal I know Brain Dead, Suffocation [sic], Sil-khannaz, Kitanai Chi, Silent Death. Yeah! Nothing more!” (Weinstein 2011, 49).

Yeah! Indeed. Anyway, back to reading. Have a great week, everyone.

Dunn, K. (2013). One Punk’s Travel Guide to Indonesia. Razorcake 76. Los     Angeles, Gorsky Press: 34-45.

Weinstein, D. (2011). “The Globalization of Metal.” In (Wallach, J, Berger, HM, and Greene, PD, Eds.) Metal Rules the Globe: Heavy Metal Music Around the World. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 34-59.

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