Brutal Truth: Modern(ist) Aesthetics and Death Metal

Journal of Aesthethics and Culture 16 (1):1-13 (2024)
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Here, I explore a modernist aesthetics of death metal. First, I briefly describe a few themes that characterize some modern art, without any claim that they are necessary, sufficient, or exhaustive. The goal is to obtain a set of themes that might be set against similar themes characteristic of death metal. This is the task in the second half of the paper. In particular, I argue that (some) modernist art and death metal share themes centered on transgressively breaking with the past, pursue their conception of the truth, eliminate elements in their art form to purity them, and attack the art/non-art or music/non-music distinction. I contend that centering on death metal vocals reflects these themes. Death metal growls, like some modernist art, transgresses on past vocal traditions, tells us important truths, eliminates traditional concepts/techniques of signing, and undermines the singing/noise distinction.



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Benjamin McCraw
University Of South Carolina Upstate

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