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Embodying the Auschwitz Sonderkommando in extreme metal

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Prompted by the Meads of Asphodel album Sonderkommando (2013), this article considers ways in which the Auschwitz Sonderkommando (SK) figure in extreme metal. While there are not many metal songs about the SK, they feature far more in metal lyrics than in almost all other music genres. Attracted by obscure and difficult parts of history, metal bands draw on their practices to ‘embody’ the SK: not simply representing them, but feeling and acting out their plight to excess. The article examines a number of these practices: difficult to decipher vocals, the use of global Englishes and a bookish attraction to the arcane and the bizarre. It argues that metal’s embrace of intense feeling in the lyrics and vocal and musical styles can be interpreted as an exploration of embodiment and materiality, allowing a consideration of mediation, the matter through which the SK might be felt and understood. Embodying the SK in metal, then, does not merely comprise an eccentric example of Holocaust memory at work, but takes on central issues of Holocaust representation.
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Keywords: Holocaust representation; Meads of Asphodel; Sonderkommando; embodiment; extreme metal; opacity; translingual practice; unintelligible lyrics

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 0000000121965555Northumbria University

Publication date: September 1, 2020

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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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