Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Walser's "Running With the Devil" Critical Review

In "Running With the Devil," Walser takes a look at metal music in a way that other scholars have rarely done.  He starts his chapter with a look at the history of heavy metal music, with its roots in such bands as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple.  Walser also identifies when and where the term metal or heavy metal was first used, citing old dictionary definitions of the term, the Steppenwolf song, Born to be Wild, and then a William S. Burroughs book.  What Walser does that other scholars don't do is talk about the music itself, identifying such things as the power chord and the bass heavy and melodic sounds as defining characteristics of heavy metal as a genre.  In writing this chapter in his book, Walser wants readers to "examine [academic's and critic's] views critically in order to clear space for a different sort of account of heavy metal." (25) If their views are looked at this way, maybe some of the stereotypes that have been developed will be overlooked and a more widespread, true appreciation for the virtuosic playing will blossom.

Discussion question:  Do you think it's okay to label bands like Poison and Black Sabbath under the same genre of heavy metal, or should there be a definite distinction?

1 comment:

  1. Poison and Sabbath belong to very different genres. They also belong to the umbrella genre of "heavy metal," which in turn belongs to the genre of "rock." One of the failings of his book (which he could not have known about) is that some (not all) aspects of it have not aged well, largely because of the chaotic nature of language. So, in short, yes - Poison and Black Sabbath are both Heavy Metal.