Metal Heads: Heavy Metal Music and Adolescent Alienation

By Jeffrey Jensen Arnett | Go to book overview

PROFILE
Nick

Nick was known to his friends as "Rooster." With his frizzy red hair extending in every direction from his head, it was easy to see why. He wore a knit yellow shirt and nice blue jeans over his muscular frame. He had a somewhat hard face, even when he smiled, but he was garrulous and open in the interview. He was also generous: Unsolicited, he loaned dozens of tapes to me during the course of the study, so that I could get a sense of different groups and different subtypes of heavy metal.

Nick especially liked heavy metal songs with serious social commentary. Favorite songs he named included one by Slayer "about how terrible the Nazis were to the Jews," one by Dr. Know "about a city obliterating the Amazon rain forest," and songs by Exodus about dropping the atomic bomb and about child abuse. Like many metalheads, he also listened to heavy metal to purge his anger. "If I get in an angry or violent mood, to tell you the truth, I'll put it in and I'll turn it up. A lot of times it just reflects how I feel." The effect of it, he said, is that "it calms me down." Slamdancing at concerts served the same cathartic function for him: "Any angry aggressions you have, you just let them out."

This was the characteristic response of boys in the study: Most commonly, heavy metal songs served the function of helping to purge their destructive and self-destructive urges. For Nick, however, there was one occasion when listening to a heavy metal song fortified his resolve to feign a suicide attempt. He had joined the Marine Corps in the expectation of becoming an officer and a helicopter pilot. However, during boot camp marijuana was discovered in his blood, evidently the residue of smoking the drug just before he entered service. His chance to become an officer was ruined with this, yet he was contractually committed to completing his hitch. Desperate and miserable, he decided to cut his wrists in the hopes of getting a discharge for psychological reasons. And he put on a song from a heavy metal tape for background.

-19-

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Metal Heads: Heavy Metal Music and Adolescent Alienation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Tables and Photographs vii
  • Preface ix
  • Profile - Jack 1
  • 1 - A Heavy Metal Concert: The Sensory Equivalent of War 7
  • Profile - Nick 19
  • 2 - Heavy Metal Music and the Socialization of Adolescents 23
  • Profile - Mark 35
  • 3 - What is This Thing Called Heavy Metal? 41
  • Profile - Brian 59
  • 4 - The Allure of Heavy Metal 63
  • Profile - Spencer 73
  • 5 - The Effects of Heavy Metal 77
  • Profile - Lew 91
  • 6 - Sources of Alienation I: Family and Community 97
  • Profile - Reggie 111
  • 7 - Sources of Alienation II: School and Religion 117
  • Profile - Jean 135
  • 8 - The Girls of Metal 139
  • Profile - Barry 151
  • 9 - Heavy Metal Music, Individualism, and Adolescent Alienation 155
  • Appendix: Interview Questions 169
  • Notes 171
  • References 183
  • About the Book and Author 189
  • Index 191
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