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HEAVY METAL: A Cultural Sociology (Book Review)
Released: 1991, Lexington Books
This month library of Loudness book review theme is “academic studies of metal”
If you like this sort of thing check out my other review of Roberts Waslers study here.
Heavy Metal, could be the first legitimate academic study of the metal genre. Weinstein is a professor of sociology at the DePaul University in Chicago. She writes on the subject with enthusiasm and intelligence. My hard cover copy is about 330 pages including some Appendices, assorted lists and the whole thing is meticulously cross referenced and so on. It is quite easy to read and flows nicely.
The main thrust of the book is a sociological analysis of metal and it’s culture. She did field research, questionnaires, went to concerts and conducted many interviews. There are several quotes and pictures scattered through out as well. All aspects of metal are covered here, the industry, the history of the music, videos, album covers, gender roles, magazines and media portrayal of the music and so on. Weinstein covers a lot of ground in this book. In fact that may be one of the drawbacks about the book, that she tackles a subject so huge that there really isn’t enough time to cover it all. This is really an excellent overview of metal and all of it’s facets, but not an in-depth study of any one specific area.
Most of the material is drawn on the big mainstream, commercial bands that were at the height of their popularity and very little mention is made of the true underground and the thousands and thousands of bands that inhabit that realm. That is forgivable because as an overall introduction it would probably not serve to dwell in the underground for fear of confusing readers who had never heard of any of the bands, and therefore have no frame of reference.
Overall, Weinstein comes across as a casual, but dedicated fan of metal and often a supporter of the genre, eliminating stereotypes and showing that there is more to the metal sub-culture than just idiots banging their heads, a la Beavis and Butthead. I would certainly recommend this book not only to metal fans but people who want to understand a bit about the music and the culture surrounding it.
EvilG will review the re-release of this book with a bonus chapter next month. Don’t forget to check it out.