Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Music

Music Research Seminar: Owen Coggins

Drones not Drones

Drone Metal Mysticism: Religious Language and Protest in Extreme Metal Music

Lecture Theatre 1, School of Music

The speaker is Owen Coggins (Open University)



Drone metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music, with bands such as Earth, SunnO))) and Bong creating radically extended pieces of low, slow, heavily amplified and distorted droning noise. In this seminar I examine the discursive constructions of genre around perceptions of speed, pitch and timbre, and investigate the circulation of language connoting religion, mysticism and spirituality around drone metal sound. Monotonous and overwhelmingly loud concerts are spoken of as cathartic, even therapeutic transcendence and mystical experience, while repeated listening to hour-long recordings is described as ritual practice and the creation of sacred space and time.

Based on extensive participant observation fieldwork, surveys, interviews, analysis of sound recordings and material culture, I also draw on the work of Michel de Certeau in the study of mysticism to argue that drone metal sound and surrounding discourse together constitute a mystical tradition for participants. Extending this work from my PhD research, I investigate the nascent development of heavily amplified drone as protest, such as the Drone Not Drones events and the Drones Against Frontex organization, both of which use drone music in activism against military technology (particularly drones in the sense of unmanned aircraft). I draw on the discourses of listeners relating to endurance, resistance, violence and sacrifice in reflecting on religious language and protest in drone metal.

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