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Engaging with absence: Why is the Holocaust a ‘problem’ for metal?

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While genocide, killing and transgressive acts of violence are common themes in metal, there is a relative absence of metal lyrics and other ways of engaging with the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews as a theme. This stands in contrast to premodern genocides that are often the subject of fascination. Even when the Holocaust is apparently ‘celebrated’ by neo-Nazi metal acts, some of the specificities of the genocide, together with its applicability to Jews today, may be elided and effaced. When the Holocaust is engaged with in non-neo-Nazi metal lyrics, it is usually with great care and the victims themselves are rarely mentioned. The Holocaust constitutes a ‘problem’ in metal that makes silence and absence a preferable option to engagement. The reasons for this lie in part in metal’s self-conscious avoidance of ‘politics’, the lack of salience of Jews and antisemitism, and the excessive nature of the Holocaust itself.
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Keywords: Holocaust; National Socialist Black Metal; black metal; denial; genocide; metal; silence; transgression

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 000000010669788XLeo Baeck College

Publication date: September 1, 2020

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

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