The Unforgiven: A Reception Study of Metallica Fans and ‘Sell-Out’ Accusations

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


During the 1980s, as Metallica grew in popularity, their quick tempos and complex song structures became markers of distinction from other metal bands, suggesting that they were able to achieve popularity without conforming to popular song-writing norms. This chapter aims to demonstrate how these concerns impacted Metallica’s increasingly controversial reception, deploying Pierre Bourdieu’s theories of cultural production to explain how fans’ frustrations became compounded over time and how their judgments were informed by broader social belief systems within metal subculture. For many 1980s thrash fans, Metallica represented an underground opposition to undiscerning outsiders responsible for saturating MTV’s daily request charts with glam metal. The negative associations between mass culture and Metallica become reinforced by Metallica’s appearance at Grammy Awards ceremonies, collaborations with mainstream artists, and friendships with high profile stars.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGlobal Metal Music and Culture
Subtitle of host publicationCurrent Directions in Metal Studies
EditorsAndy R. Brown, Karl Spracklen, Keith Kahn-Harris, Niall W. R. Scott
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis Group
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781315742816
ISBN (Print)9781138822382, 9781138062597
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameRoutledge Studies in Popular Music

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