The sound of Teutonic metal: A production perspective on the musical and technological differences of metal music from across the world

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


In popular music, labels are used that denote a geographical, national or cultural heritage of bands and genres. So did the British Kerrang! magazine introduce the label ‘New Wave of British Heavy Metal’ (NWOBHM) to characterise a mostly coherent style of metal popular between 1975–1983. Other labels like ‘Teutonic metal’ followed soon, describing stereotypical German bands such as Accept, Grave Digger and Running Wild. Over time, further labels emerged, e.g. ‘Viking metal’ that encapsulated the plethora of Scandinavian bands which dominated the death metal subgenre in the 1990s with its characteristic sound. Whilst some of the bands were inadvertently associated with a certain label, others deliberately promoted their music this way to create a unique production sound, stage appearance and artwork, as is the case with the American band Nile and their Ancient Egyptian image. A growing body of research explored regions associated with certain labels, namely Northernness and ‘Viking metal’ (Heesch 2010; von Helden 2015), Englishness and British metal (Spracklen, Lucas & Deeks 2014), ‘Mesopotamian metal’ (Pichler 2017) or ‘Teutonic metal’ (Elflein 2015, 2017). However, most of these studies have paid relatively little attention to the musical characteristics that might be different between these cultures of metal. Based on a qualitative interview design with three seminal German metal producers, this presentation will investigate how performative and technological characteristics of metal might vary between musical cultures. Making German(ic) ‘Teutonic metal’ the focal point, it will discuss 1) whether there are distinct audible differences between metal from various countries and/or continents, and 2) how the idea of an ‘imagined community’ affects the actions of those involved in the music’s production. Charlie Bauerfeind (b. 1963), producer of the German bands Helloween, Gamma Ray, Running Wild, Blind Guardian, Rage and international acts like Saxon, Motörhead, Rob Halford, Venom, HammerFall and Angra, is convinced he is hired for his ‘Teutonic’ signature, a sound he developed in his thirty year-long professional career. His experience and production philosophy are compared with two other internationally renowned producers: Harris Johns (b. 1950), iconic producer of three of the four bands labelled ‘Teutonic thrash’ (Kreator, Sodom, Tankard) plus other seminal bands like Helloween, Grave Digger, Celtic Frost, Sepultura, Voivod, Saint Vitus, and Siggi Bemm (b. 1956), the main producer of the early Century Media label who produced Morgoth, Angel Dust, Caliban, Kreator, Lacuna Coil, Moonspell, Rotting Christ, Melechesh. Their recollections of productions with German and international bands will be extended by song analyses informed by the interviews and screen capture videos of the original DAW projects. With this rich empirical data, the presentation will demonstrate how these internationally acknowledged producers define ‘Teutonic metal’, and how ‘Teutonic metal’ features can be blended with other cultural components.
Period1 Nov 2019
Event title29th Annual Conference of the German Society for Popular Music Studies: “One Nation Under a Groove”: ‘Nation’ as a category in popular music?
Event typeConference
Conference number29
LocationMainz, Germany, Rhineland-PalatinateShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational