Bruce Dickinson and the continuing evolution of heavy metal


On Dec. 8, a local Canadian metal band, Death Preacher had a show. Seemingly, this has nothing to do with Iron Maiden lead singer, Bruce Dickinson. But he is involved. Somewhat. Several other bands were featured, and with the exception of the bands’ genre–heavy metal, the show might not have been too memorable. Except, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, a fan was seen giving a Nazi salute. He was asked to leave, but wouldn’t on his own, and had to be removed by security.

While the events of the show are arguably interesting, the incident provoked the ire of popular Iron Maiden frontman, Dickinson. The show’s promoter has also been quoted as saying “Not at my show.” He also called upon other fans to help support what is essentially a zero-tolerance policy against racist behaviors at shows. Read the full report here:

Dickinson and others have decried the link some have tried to make between fascism, Nazism, and heavy metal. His statement in the above article is brilliant in pointing out the sacrifices people have made for ridding the world of Nazism. Heavy metal needs more legendary figures like Dickinson to set boundaries in regard to what’s acceptable at metal shows and what heavy metal is about.

But the incident overall raises a question, and perhaps I am the only one with this question, but do people even understand heavy metal anymore? Reading various reports of and subsequent responses to this incident, I read at least once a reference to “heavy metal devil horns” in relation to the Vancouver incident. The fingers used to salute heavy metal? They aren’t “devil horns.” The origin of the international sign of heavy metal has been discussed in documentaries, and would-be fans should avail themselves of the information. And, it is appropriate to see the metal sign at a metal show. You don’t see that gesture at hip-hop concerts. I have been to those, too.

It just seems that in an age wherein certain exclusionary politics and related forms of expression have experienced a resurgence, some people view heavy metal as a “place” where all non-polite behaviors are accepted. Largely, it is not. Heavy metal is its own brand of anti-social without the larger society’s ills infiltrating it. The fan at the Death Preacher show is not the first person to be criticized for attempting to bring “white power” ideas into heavy metal. Last year, Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo did the same salute and met swift backlash from colleagues. Read more about it here

Dickinson’s commentary on the Vancouver incident isn’t the only reason the British singer has been in the news lately. He just completed a short American  tour to support his new book, “What Does This Button Do?” The book was released this fall. The portions dedicated to Dickinson’s formative years and his battle with cancer are particularly eye-opening. The New York Times calls the memoir “…as wide-ranging as he [Dickinson] is.”

All of this activity around and related to heavy metal goes to prove that the genre hasn’t gone anywhere. However, like other genres, heavy metal and its most beloved practitioners have had to evolve to give the musical form continued relevance.



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