DOI: 10.1386/jfs_00079_1 ISSN: 2046-6692

A community of death: Death metal fandom and terror management theory

Andrew Thomson
  • General Medicine

Death metal is the most brutal music in existence. It is a subgenre of music that seeks pure heaviness punctuated by guttural vocalizations more akin to a wounded beast than a human singing lyrics. To the mainstream world, death metal is sometimes misunderstood and enigmatic: how do people listen to such harsh, aggressive music? Death metal fans create a unique corner of fandom, an insular group joined together by a passion for music that is frequently rejected and feared by normative society. This fandom has developed into much more for many fans: it has become a community that has further developed into a world-view. This research aims to argue the theoretical connections between the fandom of death metal music and the studies undertaken through terror management theory (TMT). The central idea of TMT is that our fear of death serves as the primary driver of our actions. The primary aim of this article is to explore the question of how a genre of music that is focused primarily on death serves as a buffer against existentialist dread and considerations of our own mortality? Death metal fandom occupies a unique, dichotomous territory within TMT, as it serves as both a mortality salient (MS) (a threat to the world-views of the mainstream) and a preventative measure against Death Thought Accessibility (thoughts and considerations of our own deaths). Death metal fandom, often vilified by mainstream culture and frequently perceived as a monstrous and violent outlier to normative society, is ironically non-political and not a true threat to the establishment and its tenets. The death metal community does not attack the mainstream, but it is attacked by the mainstream. Threatened by the rejection of beauty and musical normativity exhibited by death metal, the world-view of the mainstream is threatened, causing it to lash out at that which differs from it. This research intends to explore potential assemblages through a mapping of connectives untethered by methodological expectations. It will explore this irony through a developed exploration of death metal fans, the music and the brutality that has helped create a community of fandom that is more supportive and effective at warding off fears of mortality than might initially be expected.

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