IMC 2018: Sessions

Session 1049: 'Sing and cry, "Valhalla, I am coming!"': Nationalism and Internationalism in Viking Metal Music

Wednesday 4 July 2018, 09.00-10.30

Moderator/Chair:Katherine J. Lewis, Department of History, University of Huddersfield
Paper 1049-a'Nata vimpi curmi da': Linguistic Atavism and the Construction of Primordial Nationalisms in Folk Metal Music
(Language: English)
Simon Trafford, Institute of Historical Research, University of London
Index terms: Medievalism and Antiquarianism, Music
Paper 1049-bBeyond Viking Shores: The Uses and Abuses of Cultural Memory in Heavy Metal
(Language: English)
Kathryn Ania Haley-Halinski, Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse & Celtic, University of Cambridge
Index terms: Medievalism and Antiquarianism, Music, Teaching the Middle Ages
Paper 1049-cPerforming the Viking Age and the Nation: The Case of 'Skuggsjá' by Ivar Bjørnson (Enslaved) and Einar Selvik (Wardruna)
(Language: English)
Lea Grosen Jørgensen, Afdeling for Litteraturhistorie og Retorik, Aarhus Universitet
Index terms: Language and Literature - Comparative, Medievalism and Antiquarianism, Performance Arts - General
Abstract

Paper -a:
Amongst the most distinctive features of folk and Viking metal music is a proclivity for lyrics in medieval and ancient languages. This practice is an oppositional strategy to distance the music and its accompanying subculture both from the globalised and hegemonic Anglophone norms of mainstream pop music and from a neo-liberal modern world perceived as inauthentic, but it is also a tool in imagining a primordial barbarian past constituted as linguistically, culturally, and emotionally purer and therefore more desirable than the present. This paper explores these phenomena in the context of ongoing discussion of medievalism and identity in Europe and the US.

Paper -b:
For decades, heavy metal bands have drawn upon a romanticised cultural memory of ‘Viking’ history for inspiration. Karl Spracklen has criticised such bands for instrumentalising white masculinity at the expense of other perspectives. Although this paper will acknowledge such problems, it will challenge Spracklen’s oversimplification of heavy metal’s uses of cultural memory. Through analyses of the imagery, sound, and fan cultures of metal bands from Asia and the Middle East, such as Orphaned Land, Tengger Cavalry, and Chthonic, this paper will inspect how heavy metal shares cultural memories of medieval / early modern history from a variety of cultures and perspectives through an internationally-popular entertainment medium, facilitating international communication and even new opportunities for scholarly outreach.

Paper -c:
On its website, the musical piece ‘Skuggsjá’ (2016) is presented as a ‘fusion between past and present, both lyrically and musically’. Commissioned by the Norwegian government for the 200th anniversary of Norwegian independence, Skuggsjá’s music combines heavy metal with historical instruments in its retelling of Old Norse literature concerning the history of Norway.

Combining medievalism and Professor Joep Leerssen’s research in comparative literature and Romantic nation-building, this paper will discuss the resemblance between Skuggsjá’s modernisation of history for a modern audience and the national agenda in 19th-century Romantic medievalism. With this historical context in mind, Skuggsjá’s sound of the ‘past’ then, does not only refer to the Viking Age, but also to the century in which Norway achieved its independence, and when motifs and sagas from the Old Norse literature were adapted by Romantic writers in order to regain and (re)construct a national identity.