Figures in Black: Heavy Metal and the Mourning of the Working Class

  • Scott Wilson
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Subcultures and Popular Music book series (PSHSPM)


This chapter looks at the subculture of heavy metal. It notes metal’s long lack of academic attention, particularly from cultural studies, ironically associated with Birmingham, UK, the birthplace of metal in the late 1960s. The chapter argues that Black Sabbath’s initial template for heavy metal offers the form and structure for a work of mourning for the deindustrialisation and destruction of traditional working-class culture in the UK. Looking initially at Sabbath, then at Bolt Thrower, the essay suggests that metal’s work of mourning introduces a process of subcultural identification, supplanted through states of sonic ecstasy, that allows something to be made out of ‘an inferred experience of loss’, to create ‘out of chaos and destruction’ (Hannah Segal).


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Scott Wilson
    • 1
  1. 1.Kingston UniversityKingston-upon-ThamesUK

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