Punk and metal: antithesis, synthesis or prosthetic?

Brown, A.R (2001) Punk and metal: antithesis, synthesis or prosthetic? In: No Future? Punk Conference and Festival, 21 -23 September 2001, University of Wolverhampton & Light House, Wolverhampton, UK.


On the surface of it punk and metal are as alike as chalk and cheese. Metal is the cult of the guitar hero - punk, the anti-guitar hero. Metal admires technique, virtuosity and composition. Punk: amateurism, spontaneity, chaos. Likewise, subcultural stylization: long hair, the ‘poodle perm’ or the mullet-cut vs. the Mohican, spiky-mop or skinhead crop; boys behaving badly vs. boys (and sometimes girls) behaving politically; Teutonic runes vs. ‘ransom’ style, cut-ups and paste; Armageddon vs. anarchy; punk’s social realism vs. metal’s comic-book iconography; and so on and so forth. While such a caricatured list is, on one level absurd, it speaks of a real and deeply felt sense of difference and antagonism between the musical movements and subcultures; one which raged at its most fierce during the rise and demise of U.S. post-punk and hardcore (1978-1985), UK punk (1975-78) and Oi/Street/ Anarcho and Post-punk (1979-84) scenes, respectively. While there are plenty of examples of hostility and incomprehension from individual musicians, bands, subcultural members, fans and fanzine editors, as well as professional music critics and academics, suggesting that punk and metal have nothing in common - never had and never could have - it is my contention that whether metallers and punks like it or not their musical styles and subcultures, cross and re-cross each other in a complex, genre-expanding and cross-pollinating fashion (from at least 1978 onwards). What is less appreciated is that this cultural syncretism is merely the most visible and dramatic example of a largely unexplored history of musical, (sub)cultural and political borrowings, appropriations and adaptations, which define and re-define the borders of punk, hardcore and metal. My paper offers a framework for interpreting this border politics in terms of the concepts of antithesis, synthesis and prostheticization. It asks how the musical and cultural relations between punk and metal can be characterized at various points in their evolution? This involves a consideration of musical and performance style, subcultural scene and economic substructure (recording, distribution and promotion) and the extent to which an examination of the emergence of particular styles reveal ‘moments’ of clear opposition, signs of integration or major (largely unacknowledged) ‘surgery’ that has benefited the one at the expense of the other. On balance it is metal that has borrowed most from punk but in the course of this osmosis punk has itself become subject to internal claims and antagonisms over difference and definition that have themselves involved the currency of metal.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Divisions: Bath School of Art, Film and Media
Date Deposited: 14 Oct 2020 17:28
Last Modified: 05 Jan 2022 15:44
URI / Page ID: https://researchspace.bathspa.ac.uk/id/eprint/13546
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