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Metal in Strange Places

The University of Dayton will see a heavy influx of "battle jackets" and black T-shirts this week as the campus plays host to a three-day metal music conference that will draw scholars, musicians and enthusiasts from as far away as Canada, England and Finland.

“Metal in Strange Places: Aural, Emotional, Tactile, Visual” on Thursday, Oct. 20, to Saturday, Oct. 22, is hosted by the department of English and examines cultural issues related to heavy metal music. More than 30 metal music scholars will present on topics that range from the genre’s influence on fashion and engineering design to an exploration of the metal community in Zimbabwe.

“Metal music studies is a growing field and it cuts across all disciplines: anthropology, sociology, English, history, philosophy - it’s everywhere,” said Bryan Bardine ’90, associate professor of English, who organized the conference. “That’s what makes it so cool to do this type of work because you can come at it from so many ways.”

Bardine has been researching metal music and culture since 2008 and is recognized as a leader in the field. He is an executive board member of the International Society for Metal Music Studies and also organized a 2014 campus conference, “Metal and Cultural Impact: Metal’s Role in the 21st Century.”

Metal in Strange Places is highlighted by a Saturday keynote address by Henkka Seppala, bass player for Children of Bodom, a melodic “death metal” band from Finland that has sold more than 1.5 million albums worldwide. Seppala holds a master’s degree in political science from the University of Helsinki and also co-owns a film production company.

Keynote speakers also include Tracy Reilly, NCR Professor of Law and Technology and director of the Program in Law and Technology within the University School of Law, who will discuss digital sampling and copyright infringement in metal music. In addition, Gabby Riches, a doctoral candidate at Leeds Beckett University in Leeds, England, will discuss the role and significance moshpits play in the lives of female metal fans in the U.K. and Canada.

The conference also includes a fiction reading, a photography exhibit and a panel on the metal scene in Dayton, which has the country’s 14th highest concentration of metal bands, according to data analysis by Noisey, Vice magazine’s music channel. It culminates Saturday night with a charity concert at Oddbody’s in Dayton that features five local metal bands and benefits the Alzheimer’s Association: Miami Valley Chapter and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Miami Valley. Seppala will sit in for a song with Dayton band Forces of Nature.

Bardine, who often sports metal band T-shirts and a battle jacket adorned with band patches, teaches two metal-related English writing courses — Metal as Cultural Experience and Metal, Globalization and Pop Culture. His research focus stems from his mutual love of metal music and Gothic literature, and involves the similarities between Gothic literature themes and heavy metal lyrics.

Andy Slade, associate professor and chair of the department of English, praised Bardine for using his own popular culture studies to introduce students to research and scholarship, regardless of their interest in the music itself.

“It’s not about creating fans; it’s about understanding something that is going on in the world,” Slade said. “Can you understand why other people might value it? Can you understand its limits? Because it’s not celebration alone — there’s also a critical edge to it.”

As a University undergraduate during the late 1980s, Bardine bought not one, but three copies of a cassette by the metal band Dio. Despite his best efforts to hide them, his roommates found and destroyed the first two.

“In this country, metal people are thought of as outsiders — they are not part of the norm,” Bardine said. “Some people look down on them. In society that’s a negative, but what it does for the people in the culture is it draws them together and makes them even more connected to the music and the other people within the culture.”

Slade said that notion of community also plays a large role in Bardine’s approach to metal music studies, which to some might seem an odd fit with a Catholic university.

“Bryan has been a leader in gathering scholars together,” he said. “This is a particularly Catholic and Marianist approach to advancing scholarship.”

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

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