A Heavy Metal Conference Review.
Boundaries and Ties – A fan’s perspective.
Photos courtesy of freelancer Don Maguire and additional editing by Anna Chilewska
I have always had an interest in the academic side of Heavy Metal. Metal is not just only a music genre that entertained me for decades, it is more than that. Metal is also a constant source of personal interest; the history, the politics, the region, the sound , the community and more. I’ve always wanted to go to one of the Many Metal conferences that are regularly held around the world, and finally the circumstances were such that I was able to attend as a fan the Boundaries And Ties Metal Conference. Living in Western Canada, this was the first such conference that was manageable for me to attend based on the omnipresent conflict in distribution of my time and resources and location. (ie. I could afford it and it was close!) I decided to attend because as part of my function of managing our Library Of Loudness section of Metal-Rules.com, where I do our book reviews, I had read some of the various books and essays written by the speakers that would be attending. It was time to go!
B&T was held in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada on June 9-11, 2017 on the beautiful University of Victoria campus. It was organized by the UVic Metal studies and the Heavy Metal Uvic club, and sponsored/endorsed by the International Society of Metal Music Studies (ISMMS).
The conference was also made possible with funding and other support by the University of Victoria’s :
Religious Studies program
Office of the Dean of Humanities
Humanities Computing and Media Centre
I attended as a fan as most of these events are open to the public, although a high percentage of attendees are affiliated with some sort of academic organization. However, there were a few curious fans such as myself. The fee to attend was extremely reasonable (less than $40.00 for the three day event) and I opted to stay in the spartan but clean and nice accommodations of a dorm right on campus.
The Conference which held the subtitle of “The Place Of Metal Music In Communities” started in a mid-sized auditorium at lunch time on Friday. There were some opening remarks and introductions. There was a warm and sincere welcome from the Dean Of Humanities who was not just an older ‘suit’ but a younger guy clad in sunglasses and a leather jacket, and he mentioned that is was the anniversary of the birth of Les Paul, quite a fitting date for a Metal conference. It was nice to see some enthusiastic endorsement of the conference.
The modest crowd of about 66.6 people gathered and were introduced to the three main organizers; Professors, Anna Chilewska, (U of A), Gabby Riches (U of A) and Shamma Boyarin (UVic). There was some history about UVic Metal Studies and the Metal Club and how in conjunction with ISMMS this was the first conference in Canada. There were about 30 speakers from 11 countries who attended and there were keynote speakers, a concert by Unleash The Archers, a move screening, a number of informal social events as well. It was shaping up to be a busy weekend! Each attendee checked in, got a very nice package with lots of information, the schedules , a free DVD (THE METAL ISLANDS) Courtesy of Dr. Nelson Veras-Diaz and a cool, sampler cassette featuring local black Metal. ( My January 2017 review of THE METAL ISLANDS from back in is available in our review section).
Please note: Due to the volume of presentations and the nature of the conference it was impossible to attend every presentation. These comments are based on my own observations and own choices, based strictly on personal interest in the topic at hand. There were several agonizing choices to make in the conflicting schedule so I apologize in advance to all the scholars and speakers that are not represented in this overview. I was told by and large every presentation was top-notch. I wish I could have seen them all. As it stands I was about to see 28 of the over 50 scheduled events. In the interest of brevity, I am unable to truly encapsulate each and every unique and interest point that was presented and debated, so my overview will be a moderately random stream of consciousness style approach. One last escape clause. Any errors or photos that are incorrectly identified are solely the fault of the author.
The honour of the opening keynote address few upon Dr. Keith Khan-Harris of London, UK. He presented a talk called “Beyond Transgression: Breaking Metal’s Boundaries”. Viewed by many as one of the world’s pre-eminent Metal scholars I was pleasantly surprised when he started his talk opening with pictures and remarks about Steel Panther! I did not see that coming! I was especially tickled because I had just bought the new Steel Panther album LOWER THE BAR (the limited edition with the 3-D cover and 2 bonus tracks of course!) that very morning in a cool, and long-running, indie record store in downtown Victoria called Lyles. His talk gave a number of example on how Metal can still be transgressive (aka break all the rules) while retaining its role in the community. Obviously his presentation was far more, intellectual, cerebral and interesting than my summary, but I am unable to do it justice in the confines of this review.
Dr. K. Harris-Kahn
The conference was well-organized and moderated. Presentation ran on time, with time for questions and comments. The two main rooms were adjacent so people could jump back and forth between presentations and in the 30 minute coffee breaks, the hallways would quickly fill up with people exchanging ideas, information and offering help. I was struck how often I heard comments like, ‘Have you read the book or paper written by Dr. X from University of Y? I think it would be great for your topic you are researching.” It reinforced a friendly, mutual sense of Metal and community. It was a big community as well was many people had attended many of the other Metal conferences around the world in Finland, Norway, Ohio California and more. It was a bit of a home-coming for some and in fact the ISMMS had their annual general meeting as well! I felt welcome as people were open to ideas and comments from strangers.
The following is a short collection of photos of fans and speakers with a few random comments and observations.
Dr. Bryan Bardine of the University in Dayton Ohio presents his talk, “What Ties us Together: Examining the Dayton Metal Scene and the Community at Large.
Kevin Ebert (pictured in rear) shortly after his impassioned defence of Glam Metal in his panel:“Back to the Culture: 80s Heavy Metal as a Community of Creativity, Resistance and Difference”
As a fan out Japanese Metal, especially Loudness and Anthem in the 80’s, I loved this presentation.
Timothy Strikwerda presents: “Hard and Heavy Exports: Japanese Heavy Metal and the West in the 1980’s”
Andy Brown-“Back to the Culture: 80s Heavy Metal as a Community of Creativity, Resistance and Difference”
Casey Lazar, Founder of the Heavy Metal Uvic Club presents “Metal Shows in Victoria” Casey gave a low key but very interesting analysis of some of the unique financial, logistic and geographical challenges faced by bands and fans in Victoria BC.
Stephen Hudson of Northwestern U raises the fist of the Metal Child as he presents “We Take Everything to an Extreme: Genre, Performativity, and ‘Fade to Black’”
Brittney Slayes “Reaching the Apex: Reflections on the Successes and Hardships of Being a Female Metal Musician”. Fresh from a triumphant sold-out concert the night before, at Lucky’s Bar And Grill, Brittney presents the second of two keynote speeches with a wonderful and engaging talk about her rise to Metal glory with Unleash the Archers.
Toni-Matti Karjalainen of Alto U (Finland) presents “Songs from the North: Deciphering the Metallic Country Brand of Finland”
Edward Banchs (Boston) author of Heavy Metal Africa presents “Screams of the New, Whispers of the Past: Heritage and Heavy Metal in Madagascar” Fast talking , casual and fun, Edward had one of the more dynamic styles at the conference with tons of great stories about his travels in Africa.
Jesse Valstar, (the evil twin brother of Jeff Waters of Annihilator) practices a quiet hippie-moment on campus before presenting his overview of the Armstrong Metal Festival, “Festival Life: Taking a Small Idea and Making It Grow”
Asya Draganova (Birmingham City U) “Home of Metal, Homes of Metal: Popular Music Heritage and the International Diaspora of Heavy Metal” Asya is from Bulgaria and is doing some interesting work on the Home Of Metal project in Birmingham, England
Eric Smialek of MgGill in Montreal, plots some points during his talk, “Unending Eruptions: White-Collar Metal Appropriations of Classical Complexity, Experimentation, Elitism, and Cultural Legitimization”
Peter Pichler gives the audience a fine example of ‘the metal claw’ during his talk, “‘Metal on the Hill’, Graz (Austria): A Historico-Anthropological Case Study of a Newly Established Extreme Metal Festival as an Example of Boundaries and Ties in a Local Metal Music Community”
Dr. Niall William Richard Scott from ISMMS and the University of Central Lancashire (UK) presents “Metal Care: A Dark Exterior, but Soft on the Inside” Dr. Scott gave a very interesting talk on a couple of philanthropic Metal community based charity projects, one that works, and one that did not.
Gemma Antonelli U of New South Wales (Australia) presents perhaps the goriest of all the presentations, “Revelations Carved In Flesh: Sacrifice, Self: Mutilation and the Sacred Community in Scandinavian Black Metal Performance”
Brittney Slayes and organizer Shamma Boyarin
Organizer Anna Chilewska and a new friend!
There were several other great talks (the presenters preferred not to be depicted) but these topics included Metal at the Juno Awards (Canada’s National Metal Award program), Metal and Belly-dancing, Death Metal in Indonesia , The Satanic Panic and the PMRC, the ethics of Heavy Metal and many more. There was something for every level and interest.
The whole conference ended on Sunday afternoon with a special screening of the film BLEKK METAL. On hand were presenters and Producers, Jason Wallin and Vivek Venkatesh (See my full review of this tim in our July, 2017 reviews) who fielded questions about this unique and fascinating film.
By the end of the weekend, I concluded it would have taken an army of journalists to adequate cover all the amazing people and events that occurred during the conference. I feel my little piece does not do the event justice. If you ever get a chance to attend one of these events, do not hesitate! These conferences are far from being strictly academic, but if that is one of your preferences, there was no shortage of intellectual discussion! Boundaries And Ties was certainly one of the highlights of my year. Friendships were forged, glasses were raised, perceptions challenged, research moved ahead and the Metal community grew stronger. I’d like to extend my personal thanks to all the organizers, fans and presenters who made this event such a complete success!
JP looking smug after his new purchase.
On a final note: The absolute highlight of the weekend had to be when I was shopping at independent record stores before the conference. All that talk, all weekend about Metal was great but this is serious. I finally, after 25 years of searching, found a copy of the film THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION PART II: THE METAL YEARS on DVD. Best. Weekend. Ever.
For more information please visit http://hcmc.uvic.ca/boundariesandties/program.php