Heavy metal music may compel some listeners to cover their ears. But to Paul Greene, associate professor of ethnomusicology and integrative arts at Penn State Brandywine, heavy metal is an exciting musical culture. In his new book, Metal Rules the Globe: Heavy Metal Music Around the World, which he co-edited with Jeremy Wallach and Harris M. Berger, he explores a genre which exists around the world.
"We invited scholars throughout the world to contribute chapters," he said. The book explores heavy metal cultures in Malta, Easter Island, Katmandu, China, Japan, Malaysia, Norway and Brazil, to name a few. "We wanted to not only have a global reach, but we wanted to focus on countries that wouldn't be studied in other books." Greene was an author as well, contributing a chapter on his research in Nepal.
Traditionally associated with youth and the lower class, heavy metal now transcends all ages and social strata. "It is even considered cosmopolitan in some areas of the world," Greene said.
A leader in promoting the study of popular music, Greene served for seven years as chair of the Popular Music Section of the Society for Ethnomusicology. It is the largest organization to study this music genre, with more than 850 members currently.
Studying heavy metal globally "has allowed us to draw some general conclusions that are interesting," he said. "Heavy metal is a type of music that often positions itself as being rebellious, but what rebellion is varies from culture to culture."
In addition to the rebelliousness, there is what some might call a deafening sound. "Overload and the overdriven electric guitar define the genre," Greene said. "Also, the double kick drums, bass, and a singing style that sounds like you're gargling acid."
He conducted his research by interviewing people at heavy metal concerts, as well as bars and cafés near the concert venues, and also interviewed leading heavy metal bands in Katmandu. His research assistant helped with the translation. "Out of the many interviews I conducted, I concluded that heavy metal rages against the machine that is local," Greene said.