The Formation of the German Metal Scene and the Question of a "Teutonic" Power Mental Sound

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


“Metal realities” have mainly been studied from two perspectives. Popular music scholars (Weinstein 1991) and journalists (Christe 2003; Wiederhorn & Turman 2014) have analysed the history of metal music, thereby emphasising the special status of the United Kingdom and the United States, important genres and key artists. In contrast, recent ethnomusicological studies have explored many metal realities outside Central Europe and North America (Wallach, Berger and Greene 2011). Both approaches, however, led to a marginalization of some European countries and the related genres in metal music studies. I argue that the German metal of the 1980s and ‘90s has been paid little attention to except for a general acknowledgement of thrash and power metal bands such as Kreator, Sodom, Destruction, Helloween and Blind Guardian in metal music histories. In many ways, power metal succeeded the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWoBHM). Analysing the Metal Archives, I discovered that the outburst of the NWoBHM was followed first by a wave of power metal bands in the USA (around 1982) and in Germany shortly after (around 1986). It took ten more years for power metal to spread in every other country. Whilst British and US-American metal music have been attributed with particular styles, a German metal sound is less acknowledged although Germany was among the first countries where metal exploded. Dietmar Elflein (2017) in his recent exploration of West Germany’s early metal scene localises the federal state North Rhine Westphalia as the country’s primary area for metal music. My research demonstrates that this region has spawned a similar number of power metal bands as the UK. The research project investigates the existence of a German power metal sound, labelled as “Teutonic” by Elflein (2017), as a potential third axis in addition to the British and US-American sounds. I follow an ethnomusicological approach by interviewing a mixture of renowned German metal producers, musicians and journalists. This inside view of the scene is complemented with views from international metal music experts. Discussing structural, performative, technological and production-related aspects of the music, I also take into account regional characteristics such as recording studios, record labels, the pre-internet scenes, and the peculiarities of cities, areas and states. All these factors influenced the reality of early German metal music.
Period4 May 2018
Event titleHard Wired: So Far, So Good…So What? : Approaching the Metal Realities
Event typeConference
Conference number6
LocationSiegen, Germany, North Rhine-WestphaliaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational