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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.

    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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