From Hip Hop to Heavy Metal: A Story of Conversion

I wrote a draft of this post two years ago (March 2015) in my notebook, but only now that I have edited it and posted it online. I have avoided making any substantial changes, so that it remains true as much as possible to my thoughts back then.

Brother Ali

Album cover of Borther Ali’s Mourning in America: Dreaming in Color – one of my first favorite hip hop albums.

Those who know me personally or have read some of my posts here (Oriental(ist) Metal Music or “Is God really Dead?”) know me as a dedicated heavy metal fan. For 15 years, almost half my life, I listened almost exclusively to heavy metal music (along with few hard and progressive rock bands). I have also been a dedicated concert-goer, sometimes travelling to other countries just to attend a metal band I like. Heavy metal was in fact more than just music for me. It was, for most of these 15 years, an identity and an influence on the way I think and behave. I even wrote my MA thesis, back in 2010, about heavy metal in Syria and for a while I was thinking about doing a PhD in this field. As a faithful metalhead I looked down at all other styles of music, especially hip hop, and bragged how heavy metal surpassed it in sophistication, authenticity, anti-commercialism, and fan-dedication. In fact, two months ago, I would not have been able to name 10 hip hop songs, and if you asked my what was your favorite hip hop song, I would have said Gay Fish.

So after all that to turn to hip hop within less than two months came as a surprise to me personally before anyone else. So I have spent the past two weeks reflecting on this “radical” change and trying to understand how come it ever happened and why hip hop and not any other style of music. What has changed in my life or my environment that helped make this transformation? I will try in this post to give some answers to these questions.

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Oriental(ist) Metal Music

Narjahanam

Cover for the most recent album Wa Ma Khufiya Kana A’atham (2013) by Bahrainian oriental metal band Narjahanam 

Metal music has gone global. It is a fact that is recognized by most fans and followers of this genre of popular music. Many documentary films, academic books, and media features have documented excitedly the globalization of metal music tracing it to the farthest corners of the globe.

One of the regions in which metal music has thrived in the past decade is the Middle East. Following the explosion of folk metal—a variety of metal music in which folk tunes, instruments, and themes are fused with conventional metal music—in European metal scenes some 15 years ago, many Middle Eastern bands have attempted to create their own version of folk metal. The term “oriental metal” has hence entered metal nomenclature to refer to bands that incorporate “oriental” sounds with metal music.

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Heavy metal as religion and secularization as ideology: a sociological approach

Image

A promotional T-Shirt for the “Heavy Metal As A Religion Census Campaign” by British heavy metal magazine Metal Hammer.
Credit: facebook page of the campaign

This is an article that I wrote for the Religious Studies Project in response to their interview with Professor François Gauthier from the University of Fribourg.

Link to original article: http://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/2013/10/09/heavy-metal-as-religion-and-secularization-as-ideology-by-mohammad-magout/

Heavy metal as religion and secularization as ideology: a sociological approach

By Mohammad Magout, University of Leipzig, Germany

Published by the Religious Studies Project on 9 October 2013, in response to François Gauthier’s interview on Religion, Neoliberalism and Consumer Culture (7 October 2013).

In this thought-provoking interview, Professor François Gauthier from the University of Fribourg gives his remarks on a variety of theoretical, methodological, and empirical issues in social sciences. It would be impossible to cover even a tenth of those issues within the limits of this brief article, so I will restrict my response to two themes only: defining religion and critiquing secularization theory and post-secularity.

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“Is God really Dead?”

The cover for Black Sabbath's single: God is Dead?

The cover for Black Sabbath’s single: God is Dead?

My previous post in this blog, Behind the Western Horizon, was perhaps very emotional and cathartic. It might have been the stress that I came under during preceding two weeks, when I often spent more than 12 hours each day in my office—staying sometimes past midnight—researching when, why, and how people choose to believe or disbelieve. So in a moment of personal fragility, I wrote down whatever thoughts and questions were “moshing” inside the walls of my exhausted head.

Today I noticed that these thoughts, interestingly, resonate with the lyrics of a song from Black Sabbath’s latest album 13, which I have been listening to very often—almost daily—during the past month. When I wrote my previous post, I wasn’t particularly thinking of that song, which is for me very aptly titled God is Dead? (note the question mark!) But it seems that metal music, as usual, speaks for me—at least with respect to religious themes—even when I don’t try consciously to relate my own thoughts about religion to it. This time, however, I will try to use the lyrics of this song to talk about some issues related to religion and belief.

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