Session/Séance 3e: IASPM Panel 3 Heavier than Metal: Dystopian Worlds, Brazilian Sounds, Québécois to Islam to Girlhood

Session/Séance 3e: IASPM Panel 3 Thursday/jeudi 25 May 2017. 4:00 – 5:30 pm, EJB 215
Heavier than Metal: Dystopian Worlds, Brazilian Sounds, Québécois to Islam to Girlhood
     Moderator: LAURA WIEBE (Brock University) 


1. Pleiades' Dust: From the Islamic Golden Age to Contemporary Québécois Death Metal
     Dennis William Lee, University of Toronto

The twenty-first century has seen a rise in Islamophobia in the West, and Canada and Québec are no exception. Examples range from negative portrayals in the media to government initiatives, such as the Conservative Party’s proposed “Barbaric Cultural Practices” hotline, and Pauline Marois’s attempt to ban Muslim attire from public workplaces. In response to this, Québécois composer, guitarist, and vocalist Luc Lemay was determined to tell a positive story about the Islamic world through music. The result, Pleiades’ Dust (2016), is a thirty-three minute avant-garde death metal piece composed for his group Gorguts, exploring the history of the medieval library known as The House of Wisdom (ال ح كمة ب يت), an intellectual centre in Baghdad during the Golden Age of Islam. Death metal, a notoriously unsubtle subgenre of extreme metal which has been associated with promoting violence, misogyny, and anti-religious sentiments, is an unexpected medium for such a project, but Lemay and Gorguts destabilize genre tropes by incorporating influences from avant-garde classical music. Though the musical influences are largely Western, by blending disparate approaches, the musicians develop a sound that is dehistoricized and less culturally entrenched, avoiding clichéd musical exoticism and creating a piece that is evocative of the story without being Orientalist. By presenting a compositionally sophisticated work which maintains the visceral impact of death metal, they challenge preconceptions about both extreme metal and contemporary classical music. I deconstruct musical and narrative elements of Pleiades’ Dust to determine how Lemay and Gorguts combine seemingly incongruous elements into a cohesive composition, and show that by telling the story through these unconventional means they are able to confront larger questions of Islamophobia in Québec, Canada, and the global metal scene.

Keywords: Islam, death metal, Québec, Iraq, classical composition


2. Sepultura and the Reinvention of Brazilian Sound
     Jeder Janotti Junior, Federal University of Pernambuco Brazil / McGill University Visiting Scholar

In 1996, the Brazilian extreme metal band Sepultura released the album Roots, which consolidated the projection of Brazilian heavy metal to the world and reconfigured the poetic-political maps of world metal. Until then, and with the exception of Australia, the large-scale production of heavy metal was mostly centred in the northern hemisphere. This essay considers key moments in the sonic trajectory of Sepultura leading up to the album Roots as events which allow us to question the linear ways in which transitions between global and local are usually treated, and in order to show how the ‘Brasilidade’ conveyed by the music of Sepultura contributes to a realignment of the ways in which musical genres and scenes are articulated. One of the characteristics of Sepultura’s sound poetics, accentuated in Ross Robinson’s production of Roots, is the construction of sonic territories that connect metal to other sonorities. The album contains no claims to purity. In fact, the sound of the album simultaneously projects a metallic heaviness, the ‘Brasilidade’ of Sepultura, and the band’s musical roots, both local and global, which are the result of the wan- derings of Brazilian heavy metal musicians, as well as the conflicts that give rise to the very idea of ‘Brasilidade.’ The success of Sepultura’s international trajectory and affirmation of its ‘Brasilidade’ have resignified the territori- alities of heavy metal, introducing heaviness as the tensioning element of the idea of Brazilian Popular Music (MPB).

Keywords: sonic territories, “Brasilidade,” Brazilian heavy metal, Brazilian popular music


3. “All I Know Is All I Know”: Canadian Heavy Metal Girlhood in the Music of Kittie
     Clare L. Neil, Western University

Kittie is an all-female heavy metal band from London, Ontario who reached mainstream popularity in 2000 with the album Spit. I will explore the reasons for this album’s success both in terms of its musical content and the socio- historical context of North American “Nü-Metal” at the turn of the millennium. A combination of factors – including sonic content, lyrics, and marketability within the genre at the time of its release – allowed Spit to achieve wide- spread popularity both in Canada and in the USA. I argue that Kittie represents a type of Canadian teen girl identity which reflects the recent history of grunge, punk, and riot grrrl movements and expresses empowerment through heavy metal music. Several scholars have discussed the under-representation of women in heavy metal, both as performers and audience members (Robert Walser, Susan Fast, Keith Kahn-Harris). Kittie is not the only example of female representation in metal, nor is the band merely interesting due to the genders of its members. However, I argue that the strength of the music within its genre and the level of popularity the album achieved make Spit an excellent example, worthy of analysis. Heavy metal music studies such as those by Titus Helm et al., Glenn Pillsbury, and Jonathan Pieslak will provide frameworks for my investigation. My paper consists of my own structural and thematic analyses of three songs from Spit: “Brackish,” “Spit,” and “Raven”. This will be followed by socio-historical contextualization of the band’s success with special attention to gender, age, and Canadian identity. Jacqueline Warwick and Allison Adrian’s recent publication on girlhood in popular music will inform my argument, as will scholarship on Canadian identity and media by David Taras et al, and Ryan Edwardson. What kind of belonging can the music of Kittie provide young, Canadian, female, heavy metal fans?

Keywords: metal, girlhood, 2000, fandom, nü-metal


Thursday Schedule | Programme - jeudi
(Session 3 | Séance 3)

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