Metal thrashing methodology: etymology vs. genealogy approaches to the naming of the SF Bay Area style

Brown, Andy R. (2015) Metal thrashing methodology: etymology vs. genealogy approaches to the naming of the SF Bay Area style. In: Legion of Steel Metalfest and Conference, 22 – 24 October 2015, Alternative Music Foundation, Berkeley, CA, USA.

Abstract

Exploring how music genres get their names is important not least because definitional and classificatory discourses follow rather than precede such symbolic events. This paper examines how scene-based slang and argot is selected and rejected in successful genre-nomenclature, focussing on the case of thrash metal. There are two contrasting approaches to this process. Etymology searches for original meanings or ‘generic birthdays’, allowing before and after comparisons. Genealogy looks for evidence of ‘discursive shifts’ as one particular term proliferates at the expense of once competing others. While etymological enquiry seeks to evaluate the retrospective testimony of scene-participants, including mangers, musicians and mediators (such as radio DJs, club-owners and fanzine-writers), genealogy points to periods of terminological-repetition and inter-reference, typically to be found in the context of commercial music journalism. Applying these approaches to thrash reveals a history of erroneous claims and counter-claims of authorship, amidst competing terms, such as speed metal, power metal, death, black and blood metal! Like heavy metal before it, the naming of the thrash genre, emerges from a critical dissensus amongst music writers reacting to the ‘noise’ of a new style. However, unlike heavy metal, largely coined by US rock critics in reference to British bands, the naming of thrash metal is largely the work of UK music journalists writing for competitor hard rock ‘n’ metal magazines, Kerrang! and Metal Forces, who successfully apply it to a ‘new wave’ of American bands, most notably Bay Area acts like Metallica, Exodus and Testament but also Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth. (250 wds)

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Note:

Paper presented as part of the panel titled ‘Time Is At Hand: Placing San Francisco Thrash within Heavy Metal Culture’. Panel members were Andy R. Brown (Chair, Bath Spa University), Kevin Fellezs (Columbia University) and Kevin Ebert (Xavier University).

Divisions: School of Creative Industries
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Date Deposited: 09 Jul 2021 19:39
Last Modified: 09 Jul 2021 19:39
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