THOUGHTS ON THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF METAL RULES THE GLOBE
According to major streaming companies’ market research, heavy metal is the most popular genre in the world. Not only that, when the US market is subtracted from the total global market, metal’s popularity goes up. It turns out a music genre that has been all but written off by mainstream culture in its places of origin has diehard fans around the world.
I have been asked to share some remarks to mark the tenth anniversary of Metal Rules the Globe, a collection of academic essays on metal bands and scenes around the world, including such seemingly unlikely places as Easter Island, Malta, and Nepal. Ten years after it hit the shelves, the main points we wanted to make bear repeating: metal is not exclusive to any regionally or nationally specific group. Its music and culture have stood the test of time, have transformed people’s lives around the world, and continue to do so. Metal may not be for everyone, but it deserves the world’s respect.
As is the case with many worthwhile academic essay collections, it took more than ten years to bring Metal Rules the Globe to fruition. During that interval, of course, world metal changed dramatically. Since the book’s publication, there have been even more changes, many continuations of trends we identified. Two developments stand out: the addition of more stops in the global south by internationally touring bands (particularly after about 2009)—an acknowledgment of the vast, rabid metalhead audience in those places—and the arrival of non-western folk and Indigenous metal in the international metal arena. It would be false to claim that US metal is stagnant, nonetheless many of metal’s most socially significant and exciting bands of the 21st century originate outside the English-speaking world, including Babymetal (Japan), Chthonic (Taiwan), Orphaned Land (Israel), and Voice of Baceprot (Indonesia). Still others sing in Indigenous languages, such as Alien Weaponry (Aotearoa/New Zealand) and Cemican (Mexico). But these internationally-lauded groups only scratch the surface, and each hails from vibrant decades-old national metal scenes that have produced groups in every subgenre, from the most face-meltingly extreme to the resolutely traditionalist.
Unlike rock in general, it’s rare to hear the claim these days that heavy metal is “dead.” Even the music’s detractors are resigned to the fact that the Beast goes on. But even a decade after our publication, there seems to be little awareness of how important metal is to generations of headbangers in the unlikeliest of places. Researchers across Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East who grew up with metal are now painstakingly documenting scenic activity in their home countries, highlighting how metal in these places is connected to political resistance, decolonization and challenging gender stereotypes. Metal’s global conquest is bound to continue, and in another thirty years, for most metalheads in the global south, the music’s origins in the Anglo-American sphere could be little more than a distant memory, like the Chinese origins of pasta to an Italian.
Songs to keep in your ear (besides those mentioned in the text)
- Babymetal, ‘Megitsune’ (2013)