In her nuanced, extremely perceptive book, Laina Dawes champions the liberating possibilities of metal while questioning the color-blindness of the metal world, celebrating the role of black women in creating rock music, examining the reaction of the black community to black punks and metalheads, and sorting out the gender issues that complicate sisterhood in a male-dominated sphere. Her thoughtful treatise on the power of music and identity challenges black women in the metal scene to join forces and spark a fresh revolution.
Growing up in Canada in the1980s, Dawes felt exponentially ostracized by her peers. Not only was she one of the few black students in her school, she was also into heavy metal music that was often wildly misunderstood by outsiders. In an effort to understand the exclusion and discrimination she felt (and that, she says, female punk and metal fans continue to experience), Dawes does an admirable job of studying the complex knot of gender, race, and rock. Drawing on discussions with musicians, sociologists, and fellow fans, Dawes identifies the misconceptions, misogyny, stigmatization, and outright racism that come into play when a woman of color "throws the horns" at a metal show. A black woman's appearance in a rock band, Dawes says, is perceived as an invasion of a man's space. And among blacks, metal was derided as "white" music. The good news, according to Dawes, is that attitudes are changing, as are the opportunities for aspiring black metal artists, not to mention the online communities that have made it easier for fans to communicate and commiserate. This is a thoughtful and inspiring study on a topic few outside the scene might have considered. 20 b&w photos.