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‘We Are the Dead’: The War Poets, metal music and chaos control

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During the course of the First World War, the generation of British authors known collectively as the War Poets revolutionized the popular culture of their time. Due to their changing attitudes towards armed conflict, their portrayal of war chaos included realist descriptions of life in the trenches, unusual choices of subject matter and an eventual challenge to the political and religious establishment of their time. Metal music, a genre with an inherent lyrical and musical concern about chaos and control, has crafted several songs inspired on the First World War poetry. This specific relationship has not been studied before. Based on Weinstein’s and Walser’s insights on chaos and control in metal music, the aim of this article is to evaluate the ability of metal music to either transmit or refute the War Poets’ discourse on chaos, and to study the textual and musical resources metal bands use to relay and control said discourse. For this purpose, I perform a comparative analysis of nine metal music adaptations and appropriations of six different First World War poems they are based on. A chronological path of the evolution of the First World War poetry is followed. The study concludes that, besides effectively transmitting or contesting the War Poets’ discourse on chaos, metal music exerts chaos control through its use of musical resources, especially in the case of extreme metal subgenres.

Keywords: First World War; War Poets; adaptation; appropriation; heavy metal; metal music

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 0000000123088920Universidad Nacional de EducaciĆ³n a Distancia (UNED)

Publication date: June 1, 2021

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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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