Can I Play with Madness? Metal, Dissonance, Madness and Alienation


Can I Play with Madness? Metal, Dissonance, Madness and Alienation


Edited by Colin A. McKinnon, Niall Scott and Kristen Sollee

Year: 2011

Format: eBook


‘Can I Play with Madness? Metal, Dissonance, Madness and Alienation’ is an interdisciplinary publication that presents new, experimental and original work on the relationships between heavy metal music culture, mental health and well-being.

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The 3rd Global Conference on Heavy Fundametalisms: Music, Metal and Politics was held in November 2010. This eBook is a snapshot of that conference, entitled ‘Can I Play with Madness? Metal, Dissonance, Madness and Alienation’.

Madness has been one of the prevailing themes in metal from the very outset, not only in the lyrical and musical expressions of the artists and bands and the genre’s fascination with insanity, but is an important feature in how metal itself is perceived by others, whether through aggressive exuberance, alienation, the chaotic theatre of the pit or the links in the mainstream mind between metal, suicide and mental illness.

The conference drew together scholars and writers from around the world to discuss and present on various topics of metal and madness, including representations of aggression in the music and fans, concepts and portrayals of madness in sub-genres such as black and death metal, gender roles and the subversion of those roles, perceptions and prejudices, self-therapy, and depression and suicidality.

The editors are proud to present this collection of papers; all of those included demonstrate the sociological, philosophical and psychological depth of metal and include questions and insights into the future of metal music studies.


PART 1 Analysing Insanity

Goethe vs Rammstein: Who is Allowed to Play with Madness? The Influence of Musical Taste on Prejudice against Heavy Metal Lyrics
Julia Kneer, Diana Rieger, Lena Frischlich
and Daniel Munko

Death and Life: The Role of Music and Others
Rute Rodrigues and Abílio Oliveira

Textual Analysis of Song Lyrics Adopting a Mental Health Diagnostic Standard as Method
Richard E. Wilson and Mike Thomas

PART 2 Disparate Disciplines: Theoretical Applications of Madness in Heavy Metal

Two Steps Past Insanity: The Expression of Aggression in Death Metal Music
Daniel Frandsen

Can Progressive Metal’s Narrative Inform Social Stigma Theory? Pain of Salvation’s The Perfect Element Parts 1 and 2 as Examples
Nelson Varas-Diaz

Hysteric Desire: Sexual Positions, Sonic Subjectivity and Gender Play in Glam Metal
Kristen Solee

PART 3 More Madness in the Metal Method: A Spectrum Disorder of Theoretical and Applied Research Approaches

No Method in the Madness? The Problem of the Cultural Reading in Robert Walser’s Running with the Devil: Power Madness and Gender in Heavy
Metal Music
and Recent Metal Studies
Andy R. Brown

Qualitative Research in Understanding the Metal Community
Igor Gafarov

Heavy Metal Identity and Social Transitions: Implications for Young People’s Well Being in the Australian Context
Paula Rowe

PART 4 Ripping it up: Metal as a Symptom of a Civilised and Aggressive Disorder

Heavy Metal Rituals and the Civilising Process
Gary Sinclair

Cycles of Metal and Cycles of Male Aggression: Ageing and the Changing Aggressive Impulse
Samir Puri

Metal Disorder, Metal Disturbance
Niall Scott

PART 5 Challenging Perceptions on Metal and Suicide

War inside My Head: Metal, Mental Illness and Psychic Energy
Colin A. McKinnon

Suicide, Metal Music and Expectancy Theory
Alick Kay

Emo Saved My Life: Challenging the Mainstream Discourse of Mental Illness around My Chemical Romance
Rosemary Hill

Does Death and Suicide Sound Like the Music You Hear?
Abílio Oliveira and Rute Rodrigues

PART 6 Positively Mad: Black Metal Health and the Construction of Identity

Playing with Madness in the Forest of Shadows: Dissonance, Deviance and Non-Comformity in the Black Metal Scene
Karl Spracklen

Lord Satan’s Secret Rites and Satanism as Self-Therapy: The Creation of a Masculinity Gender Identity within Black Metal
Sanna Fridh

‘A Furore Normannorum, Libera Nos Domine!’ A Short History of Going Berserk in Scandinavian Literature and Heavy Metal
Imke von Helden

Colin McKinnon has a background in biological science and has been a proud metalhead for over 30 years, ever since having his brain rewired by stumbling upon Judas Priest on ‘Top of the Pops’. He has served on the Steering Committee for two of the ‘Heavy Fundametalisms: Music, Metal and Politics’ conferences and works in the science industry in Switzerland.

Niall Scott is Senior Lecturer in Ethics at the University of Central Lancashire, and is project leader for;’s Music Metal and Politics project and has written widely on heavy metal, philosophy and politics. Niall never had his brain rewired. He was born metal.

Kristen Sollee has a B.A. from the New School in Musicology and an M.A. from Columbia University in Gender Studies and Japanese Culture. She currently writes for various arts publications and blogs about New York City music and nightlife at An unapologetic hair metal fan, Kristen’s first tattoo was of course the word GLAM.