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Free Content The Metal King: Alexander the Great in heavy metal music

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Why are heavy metal bands so interested in the figure of Alexander the Great? The present article develops the argument that there are two overshadowing reasons: (1) the bands reconstruct the figure as a symbol of masculine power and communal unity; and (2) Alexander becomes part of a larger tradition already at an early stage of heavy metal’s history that many bands were interested in maintaining and revisiting. Several heavy metal tracks about him are explored and examined to substantiate this hypothesis. It is shown how these tracks associate him with a number of interrelated, recurring themes, such as conquest, community, imperialism, legacy, masculinity, nationalism, power and unity. These in turn help to project him as a figurehead of warrior virtues and also as a heroic bringer of culture. This is particularly true for Greek heavy metal bands, and their contribution is analysed at length. It is demonstrated how Greek metal songs also offer an intriguing insight into Greece’s political conflicts. Finally, it is suggested that, in his role as a powerful culture-hero and king, Alexander is capable of becoming an allegory for heavy metal itself.

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Keywords: Alexander the Great; Classics; Iron Maiden; community; power; reception; tradition

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Exeter

Publication date: October 1, 2014

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  • Metal Music Studies is the journal of the International Society for Metal Music Studies.

    The aims of the journal are:
    • To provide an intellectual hub for the International Society of Metal Music Studies and a vehicle to promote the development of metal music studies;
    • To be the focus for research and theory in metal music studies – a multidisciplinary (and interdisciplinary) subject field that engages with a range of parent disciplines, including (but not limited to) sociology, musicology, humanities, cultural studies, geography, philosophy, psychology, history, natural sciences;
    • To publish high-quality, world-class research, theory and shorter articles that cross over from the industry and the scene;
    • To be a world leader in interdisciplinary studies and be a unique resource for metal music studies.
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