Not long after the first metal music studies, attention arose for its ways of production, distribution and consumption across the globe, with significant attention for non-Anglo American/European contexts. This became theorized as the global metal scene. But that utopic idea steals the thunder of many unique contexts of local metal scenes by depicting a global industry of artists, labels, platforms and fans – while some artists might not even aim for global audiences. This explains the need for a new critical framework, one that attends to the specific contexts of metal music and culture: glocalization.
Glocalization occurs when forms, such as music genres, go global through things like international trade and the Internet. Artists, by means of specific sociocultural, economic and political circumstances, infuse them with local content, like language, rituals, politics, mythology, religion and/or experiences. This constitutes glocal metal.
In my research, I want to know how promotors, distributors and consumers of metal music deal with that. The Internet has made even the most local of bands accessible, with promo kits, distro deals and blog reviews spreading like wildfire. But how do people promote, distribute and discuss glocal music? And are there differences between contexts of the Global North and South? I previously noticed that the Aotearoa/New Zealand band Alien Weaponry, who sing 60% of their music in te reo Māori, rely on elements of Māori culture that audiences might know, like the haka.
Simultaneously, finer references that make Alien Weaponry glocal, like those to historical and present sufferings of Māori tribes, are glossed over by distributors and reviewers in stereotypical ways.
That is certainly interesting, and I therefore expanded my scope to review stereotypical approaches to different iterations of glocal metal. Namely, it can also celebrate a historical past: for example, the Cemican collective from Mexico re-enacts Aztec musical and warrior rituals, sung in Nahuatl. A specific locale or region can also be celebrated: on the Velua album, the Dutch band Heidevolk focus on the rich history, mythology and biodiversity of the Veluwe area in its lyrics and cover art. Furthermore, glocal metal does not necessarily tie into visible elements of culture, like language and performance, but can also invoke a specific cultural context through lyrical themes. For example, the American band Wayfarer shed a critical light on the American westward expansion, as those gunslinger stories are versed in coloniality and the Native American genocide. More contemporarily, Body Count – also American –cry out against Los Angeles gang violence, police brutality, and racism and social inequality. The question is therefore not what makes metal glocal, but how those different iterations of glocal metal are presented and perceived in different ways.
That broad application is necessary to avoid a Eurocentric lens. Arguably, the concept of global/glocal metal is not original, but past studies have often only employed it in relation to topics of cultural representation and indigeneity in the Global South. This creates a skewed image of glocal metal as confined to the South, for example with the recent indigenous metal moniker. Ultimately, the idea of glocal metal lets us look at metal music everywhere through the same critical lens – as inherently determined by its place and culture.
Songs to keep in your ear
- Heidevolk, ‘Winter Woede’
- Wayfarer, ‘The Iron Horse (Gallows Frontier, Act II)’
- Body Count, ‘No Lives Matter’
- Sepultura, ‘Ratamahatta’
- Banchs, E. (2016). Heavy Metal Africa: Life, Passion and Heavy Metal in the Forgotten Continent. Word Association Publishers.
- Gilroy, P. (1991). ‘Sounds Authentic: Black Music, Ethnicity, and the Challenge of a “Changing” Same. Black Music Research Journal, 11:2, pp. 111-136.
- Goossens, D. (2019). “Māori metal” – Analysing decolonial glocalisation in the themes, performances and discourses surrounding Alien Weaponry’s debut album Tū (2018). Unpublished MA thesis. KU Leuven.
- Roudometof, V. (2016). Glocalization: A Critical Introduction. Routledge.