Heavy metal university: fundamental or mental?

Manowar: do they have 'issues' worthy of discussion?
Manowar: do they have 'issues' worthy of discussion?

If you're a metal fan who frets that the genre is not taken seriously enough, you can can throw a celebratory 'devil's horns' because metal is about to get VERY serious.

For three days (starting 3 November) in the Austrian city of Salzburg, academic metallers from Britain, Turkey, Canada, Indonesia and beyond will gather for the first global conference called Heavy Fundamentalisms: Music, Metal And Politics.

The birthplace of Mozart will host three days of serious debate on metal, with research papers presented and debated including:

- Suicide, Booze And Loud Guitars: The Ethical Problem Of Heavy Metal
- Heavy Metal In A Muslim Context: The Rise Of The Turkish Metal Underground
- Masculinities Within Black Metal: Heteronormativity, Protest Masculinity or Queer?

and MusicRadar's favourite already:

- "You're Too Fuckin' Metal For Your Own Good": Controlled Anger And The Expression Of Intensity And Authenticity In Post-Modern Heavy Metal

"Time to recognise metal"

One of the organisers is Niall Scott of the University of Central Lancashire. Scott is a senior lecturer in ethics at the university and also a proud metalhead. He says it's time to "recognise heavy metal's contribution to western society".

He adds that the metal scene was not the "teenage activity" worthy of ridicule some see it as, but instead a "barometer of what is happening at the extreme edges of political and youth cultures".

"Many bands, like most people, struggle with ethical issues throughout their life." Lecturer Niall Scott

"It's a movement that maintains extremism in art and culture for its subversion, controversies and silliness."

MusicRadar asked Scott for some academic insights into metal:

Who's your favourite metal band and why?

"Currently I am listening to Opeth. I really like their compositions and lyrical complexity. They cover the full spectrum of all that is good about metal. And they are great live.

"For me, though, AC/DC is up there, and has been from the beginning."

You lecture in ethics. Are there metal bands that you think are musically admirable but are morally / ethically beyond the pale?

"That's a tough question, and is the subject of much material being presented at the conference. There is an idea, heavily-debated in philosophical aesthetics, that immoral content can make a work of art more valuable.

"Many bands, like most people, struggle with ethical issues throughout their life - some keep it private and get on with the music, others are more public about their views and beliefs.

"As a result, there are bands either consistently or on occasion that come out with things that I would disagree with from a moral point of view, but I think people can think things through themselves and work out what is morally unacceptable."

Good points, that's why you're an academic. But a key question MusicRadar wants the conference to decide is: Who's better - Slash or Kirk Hammett?

"Dave Lombardo!"

Good answer!

In all seriousness, this sounds like a fascinating conference. Though some of MusicRadar is disappointed there are only coffee breaks and not breakout moshpit sessions? Maybe some of us are just too metal for our own good, as well?

We'll report back on the conference debate next week.

In the meantime we want to know: which band is the most metal of all?