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‘Record store guy’s head explodes and the critic is speechless!’ Questions of genre in drone metal

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This article examines questions of genre in the translocal and marginal music culture of drone metal, a radically slow and extended form of metal founded on extremes of amplification, distortion and repetition. I examine the tentative formation of genre in connections forged between musicians and between recordings, establishing sonic and symbolic conventions. I note the deliberate associations with bands (notably Black Sabbath) that situated this music as metal. I then turn to the role of listener discourse in constituting genre, attending to listeners’ experience of and communication about the key terms ‘drone’ and ‘metal’. After noting the importance of vagueness and ambiguity in genre designations, particularly in drone metal’s translocal marginality, I show that relevant genre characteristics for listeners include not just musical sounds but also affective, experiential, embodied and conscious subjective states. Finally, I suggest that treating genre as a constellation of points, viewed in different but related ways from different standpoints, is particularly useful in understanding drone metal as a loosely constituted genre with fragmented, disparate and intermittently connected audiences.
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Keywords: constellation; discourse; drone; experience; genre; reception

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The Open University

Publication date: 01 September 2016

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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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