Session 4: Head Bang Up- to- Date

4th Global Conference

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Heavy Metal Generations

Wednesday 9th May – Friday 11th May 2012
Prague, Czech Republic


Crafting Cultural Narratives: Explorations of the Nightwish Imaginaerum Concept from Script to Play
Toni-Matti Karjalainen
Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland

Nightwish, the biggest export article of Finnish music and a pioneer of grandiose symphonic metal, has crafted its unique narrative of fantasy charged escapism with strong intent and devotion. As put by the creative mastermind of the band, Tuomas Holopainen: “We try to create our own Nightwish universe, imagination land, own Nightwish mythology”. This mythodology, and Holopainen’s personal vision, is strongly and consistently represented by the lyrical, musical, and visual landscape of Nightwish albums. The million seller Dark Passion Play (2007), an ample effort characterized by progressive songwriting and extensive collaboration with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, followed by the extensive 3 years long World Tour, were thought by many to be verging on the border to which Nightwish could expand its vision. However, Holopainen and the band went on bringing their ideology another step forward by embarking to work on an even more exaggerative concept named Imagenaerum. It not only comprises another replete concept album (to be released in November 2011), but also a full feature motion picture (to be released in March 2012), and novel ideas to add on the visual experience in their forthcoming concerts.

The paper describes and explores the background, birth, and implementation of the Imagenaerum concept. Due to the ongoing nature of the study and the timing of the Imagenaerum album and movie, initial findings and conclusions are presented concerning the ideological, cultural and commercial aspects of the concept; the idea and intent of the band, its expected perception among the global fan base, and its marketing and hyping in various media. Data is being collected through various secondary sources, such as magazine and Internet interviews, announcements and discussions in the bands’ Facebook and home site, personal interviews, as well as observations in concerts.

The paper contributes, in particular, to the “Globalisation of heavy metal” subtheme of the conference by illustrating how Nightwish has, based on Holopainen’s fundamental ideas and vision, managed to craft an unique and universal cultural narrative that seems to deeply touch fans of different age, gender, and cultural background within various heavy metal genres and beyond.

Download Draft Conference Paper (pdf)


Metal Outside it’s Traditional “Home”
Igor Gafarov
BSU of Culture and Arts, Minsk, Belarus

The main goal of the presentation is to address the idea of cultural exchange and the role of metal outside the western culture. It is a popular view, sometimes not conscious, that cultural occurrences bring with them the hierarchy of power that spawned them. If we lean upon the ideas of Michel Foucault, we would rather say that cultural occurrences and “traditions” are an unpredictable result of power struggles. That means that actual “traditions” are not determined by the power structure that facilitated their birth and do not stay bound by it. In context of metal studies it raises a problem of metal outside it’s traditional “home” in Europe and US.

What we hope to prove is that metal in global context is not “misinterpreted” but rather “reapplied”. The tendency to look up to the foreign experience as liberating and progressive is not a sign of some special naivete. Rather it is a conscious effort to find alternative models that are not yet rooted in the power struggle within the region. That model worked in different time with western ideas in different regions and, for example, with ideas of Buddhism in the west.

The case of metal is especially interesting, as it is actualised all around the world in different context. Many of the interpretation of metal culture try to understand it as a ideological program or platform. Rather it should be understood as an instrument of contest, not a motivation to it. Especially interesting is the contrast between the “western” usage of metal and it’s perception outside of the European-American tradition in the Third-world countries. In the last years especially metal is perceived as a liberating force in different struggles in the context of religion, race, nationality and gender.