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The Culture of Heavy Metal Music Listeners Around the World:

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Essay title: The Culture of Heavy Metal Music Listeners Around the World:

People who listen to heavy metal music are often seen as a minority group in most cultures and countries, but is it possible that heavy metal music listeners have a distinct culture of their own that transcends the dividing lines of nations? This paper is intended to research and report the similarities between heavy metal listeners across the world. In order to do that I will be splitting the world up into four major categories for observation and research:

1. The United States

2. English speaking Europe (Ireland, Great Britain)

3. Non-English speaking Europe (Finland, Switzerland, France, Italy, Russia, etc.)

4. Asia (India, Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam, etc.)

I do realize that this leaves out some key areas like The Middle East, Africa, South and Central America, unfortunately there is almost no literature (especially peer reviewed articles) coming from these regions; it is also a problem that there are not very strong metal communities in those regions.

But what is heavy metal music? The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as: “loud and harsh sounding rock music with a strong beat; lyrics usually involve violent or fantastic imagery.” A better definition was found at the website wikipedia: “Heavy metal (often referred to simply as metal) is a genre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. With roots in blues-rock and psychedelic rock, the bands that created heavy metal developed a thick, heavy, guitar-and-drums-centered sound, characterized by highly amplified distortion and fast guitar solos. All Music Guide states that "of all rock & roll's myriad forms, heavy metal is the most extreme in terms of volume, machismo, and theatricality.”

One of the key aspects of culture is communication and language. Metal music, no matter where it comes from is predominantly English. Bands from Japan, Finland, Italy, and Mexico will usually write songs in English (whether this is to appeal to the large metal scene in Britain and the United States, or because it is traditional due to metal originating in English speaking countries no one really knows). The interesting thing to see is when bands go and play in non-English speaking countries. The crowd will usually sing along word for word with the band in a language they don’t even speak (in some cases even drowning out the band); it is an incredible example of music transcending cultural barriers. A great example can be found in the video recording of the band Judas Priest playing Japan to a crowd of over 19,000 fans; when the camera focuses on the crowd you can see them all singing along with the music and can see that they are all very emotionally moved by the experience (through facial expressions, crying, cheering, etc). English also comes into play when fans and listeners turn to the Internet to discuss and rate bands, and to discover new music. Somewhere around 87.5% of all Internet forums and news sites devoted to heavy metal music are presented in English, despite there being an obvious presence of participants from predominantly non-English speaking countries (a large majority seem to come from Japan, Finland, and Switzerland). Some fans will learn English both in order to understand the song material and to communicate with the bands and other likeminded fans; others will use translating programs to communicate.

Another cultural phenomenon is that metal fans tend to have a much higher rate of smoking tobacco (usually cigarettes… which has the most research reported on it) than others. The reasons and hypotheses for why this occurs seem to differ across different nations. In both the United States and Great Britain there is a strong correlation relationship between heavy metal music and high risk taking/ delinquent behavior (keep in mind that correlation does not imply causation… this definitely does not mean that heavy metal music causes or influences adolescents to adapt delinquent behavior). Due to smoking being considered a delinquent behavior in the popular culture in these nations, there is an obvious correlation between smoking and metal music in English speaking Europe and the United States. In most non-English speaking European nations tobacco use is almost considered a national pastime. In countries like France and Italy smokers are a majority of the population in general, so the metal fans do not really stand apart from the cultural norm. In Asian countries smoking is more socially acceptable than in English speaking countries, but there is a slightly higher rate of smokers who are metal fans over smokers in the general population. The surveys that have been done in Asian countries point to a higher rate of hero worship and idolization; being that many heavy metal musicians

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