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cuban sci-fi heavy metal dood


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Written by fabiorojas

September 23, 2018 at 4:01 am

Posted in uncategorized

world wide heavy metal

My good friend Jeffrey Timberlake and his MA student Adam Mayer have a forthcoming paper on the world wide diffusion of heavy metal (early version here). It is coming out in Sociological Perspectives:

The purpose of this paper is to explain the timing and location of the diffusion of heavy metal music. We use data from an Internet archive to measure the population-adjusted rate of metal band foundings in 150 countries for the 1991–2008 period. We hypothesize that growth in “digital capacity” (Internet and personal computer use) catalyzed the diffusion of metal music. We include time-varying controls for gross national income, political regime, global economic integration, and degree of metal penetration of countries sharing a land or maritime border with each country. We find that digital capacity is positively associated with heavy metal band foundings, but, net of all controls, the effect is much stronger for countries with no history of metal music prior to 1990. Hence, our results indicate that increasing global digital capacity may be a stronger catalyst for between-country than for within-country diffusion of cultural products.

My inner Beavis yearns to come out.

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Written by fabiorojas

March 10, 2014 at 12:05 am

the most metal words of all time

At Degenerate State, there was an interesting post where someone applied natural language processing models to heavy metal lyrics. From the article:

To get the lyrics, I scraped While darklyrics doesn’t have a robots.txt file, I tried to be gentle with my requests. After cleaning the data up, identifying the languages and splitting albums into songs, we are left with a dataset containing lyrics to 222,623 songs from 7,364 bands spread over 22,314 albums.

Before anyone asks, I have no intention of releasing either the raw lyric files or the code used to scrape the website. I collected the lyrics for my own entertainment, and it would be too easy for someone to use this data to copy darklyrics. If people are interested I may release some n-gram data of the corpus.

So what do you find? A few tidbits  – the heavy metal word cloud:

Tag Cloud of All Metal Lyrics

Then, the most “metal words:”

Rank Word Metalness
1 burn 3.81
2 cries 3.63
3 veins 3.59
4 eternity 3.56
5 breathe 3.54
6 beast 3.54
7 gonna 3.53
8 demons 3.53
9 ashes 3.51
10 soul 3.40
11 sorrow 3.40
12 sword 3.38
13 goodbye 3.28
14 dreams 3.28
15 gods 3.24
16 pray 3.22
17 reign 3.15
18 tear 3.12
19 flames 3.12
20 scream 3.11

And the least metal words:

Rank Word Metalness
1 particularly -6.47
2 indicated -6.32
3 secretary -6.29
4 committee -6.16
5 university -6.09
6 relatively -6.08
7 noted -5.85
8 approximately -5.75
9 chairman -5.69
10 employees -5.67
11 attorney -5.66
12 membership -5.64
13 administrative -5.61
14 considerable -5.60
15 academic -5.51
16 literary -5.49
17 agencies -5.48
18 measurements -5.47
19 fiscal -5.45
20 residential -5.45

The bottom line? Academia, the law and administration are the least metal topics of all time. Who knew?

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Written by fabiorojas

April 19, 2017 at 1:46 am

for the love of metal

“Mortals,” a black metal band from Brooklyn.

Last week was a good week. I met a lot of dear friends and heard a lot of good talks. But I’ll also remember last week for its heavy metal content. One orghead volunteered to go out with me to the Empty Bottle, for a metal meetup. So here we go.

First up was “97-shiki,” a local Chicago band that plays what I’d call punk with a twinge of industrial and Ornette on trumpet. They weren’t metal, but I’m glad I saw them. The hip thing is to sell cassettes (!), but with a code so you can download the music. Second up was “Mortals,” a traditional metal group from Brooklyn situated squarely in the cookie monster/black metal genre. A bit noisier than 97-shiki, and often battling feedback on the monitor. Got the CD, Savanger. My two year old daughter loves “Wolf metal.” She also loves the fact that girls can play metal really, really loud. Two thumbs up from clan Rojas. The last band was Wizardry, another black metal band from Brooklyn. Interestingly, the most danceable of the evening, as noted in various blogs.

Finally, our good friend asked about “The Ontology of Noise,” a recent ambient music release from Nana April Jun, who is Christofer Lämgren, the Swedish sound and installation artist. Connection to metal?

The Ontology of Noise researches the dark associations of post-black metal. No traditional instruments are used on the album and all techniques are digital in their application. There are almost no arrangements or layers, but the pieces consist of single streams which change intuitively. This makes The Ontology of Noise a concrete journey through an abstract language evolving around light and darkness, nature and artificiality, and sometimes even takes the form of a sound very similar to an electric guitar…

The Ontology of Noise explores the filmic qualities of noise – the image-creating mechanisms that arise almost hallucinogenically from subtle variations of frequences. By using a special set of digital mastering and filtering techniques, the recordings often sound very much like the sounds of nature; wind in trees and water. The Ontology of Noise opens up an audial perception for these sounds of nature and ask questions about their ontology..

The older I get, the more I love metal.

Written by fabiorojas

November 25, 2010 at 12:30 am

Posted in culture, fabio, sociology

“i like all kinds of music” is usually a wildly misleading untruth

Jack Black

I’m a big time snob. If I enjoyed wine, I would quickly become a giant blowhard who lectures you about how your local supermarket has some exceptionally good bottles at low prices and you’d be unwise to ignore my sage advice. I am that way with music How bad am I? Let’s just say that I side with Jack Black’s character in High Fidelity.

As a complete music snob, though, I enforce an unannounced truce with the rest of humanity. If you don’t have the good sense to listen to what I like, I will leave you alone as long as you leave me alone. Just pull back on the Bieber and I won’t assault your delicate mind with full blast Albert Ayler.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by fabiorojas

May 4, 2020 at 2:31 pm

Posted in uncategorized

jenn lena in freakonomics

Orgtheory friend and leading cultural sociologist Jenn Lena was interviewed for Freakonomics this week:

Q. You are interested in factors that determine whether particular musical styles, genres, etc., will gain mass appeal — or remain circumscribed to a small niche. Have you discovered something about the process of “influence” or “contagion” that the social network scholars have ignored or underemphasized? What does your work tell us about the role of networks in shaping popular tastes?

A.The most common way for music to blow up from a small scene into global pop is for a controversy to erupt. Music history is littered with examples of “moral panics”: be-bop jazz was blamed for white-on-black race riots in the mid-1940s, just as rap music was blamed when riots erupted in Los Angeles following the Rodney King trial. In both cases, sensationalized news reports and especially a focus on the “dangerous” elements in the music attracted young people in droves. Moral panics, like magnets, repel and attract. This is also true when disputes involve dueling scenes, like the fights between “mods” and “rockers” in the U.K. in the early 1960s or the battles between fans of heavy metal and punk that played out on the pages of Creem magazine in the early 1980s. It is equally true when outsiders attack: the Parents’ Music Resource Center’s efforts to ban heavy metal and rap music resulted in those Parental Advisory stickers. When rock fans staged the infamous Disco Demolition at Comiskey Park they may have kept disco in the limelight for an extra year.

The interview is filled with lots of other insights. Self-recommending!

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Written by fabiorojas

December 20, 2012 at 12:01 am

Posted in blogs, culture, fabio

The History of the World Part I, or, Why I Love Dengue Fever

When fans group together types of music, we tend to think in terms of “family likenesses” built from conventional (aesthetic and historical) wisdom.  I think Reebee Garafalo’s famous Genealogy of Pop/Rock Music chart illustrates this wisdom well.  printpagerockmusic3As you can see here, there is a desire to represent trajectories of sounds, but these also reflect (or are contingent upon) chart success, political content, geographic location, etc.  I think the contribution of the chart is summarized well in Edward Tufte’s Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative (Graphics Press):

“With intense richness of detail, this nostalgic and engaging chart fascinates many viewers (…) Also the illustration presents a somewhat divergent perspective on popular music: songs are not merely singles – unique, one-time, de novo happenings – rather, music and music-makers share a pattern, a context, a history.”

This chart depicts the outcome of a process that fascinates Pete Peterson and I.  As Brayden kindly mentioned, we recently published the results.  Our basic idea is that the mechanisms that produce Garafalo’s “Genealogy” are organizational.  These mechanisms are represented in our manuscript as “attributes” (although we originally conceptualized them as “resources”) and include things like the scale of production, the source of funding for the genre, the clarity of purpose among musicians and fans, the degree that sites of production are spatially co-located and so forth.  After looking at sources on 60 contemporary musics produced in the U.S., we determined there were four major “genre forms”.  When ordered into trajectories, these forms organize the life course of any music, to a greater or lesser degree.

“Any music,” that is, made within the contemporary U.S.  As soon as I started to look at music created abroad, as I was asked to do for a fantastic conference held at Erasmus University last fall (and organized by the estimable Tim Dowd and Susanne Janssen), I realized we needed some new forms and it is these I wish to discuss. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Jenn Lena

December 2, 2008 at 5:37 pm

Posted in uncategorized

friday afternoon links – gratuitous umlaut edition



Heavy metal uniquely combines a horror aesthetic with a heightened taste for idiosyncratic spelling. Much orthographic controversy in metal revolves around the umlaut (e.g., ö):

  • The first group to use the dreaded umlaut was German prog rock band Amon Düül back in 1967. Düül is the name of a character from a Turkish novel. The first gratuitous umlaut was Blue Öyster Cult in 1970. See Will Farrell mock them in this video. Key phrase:“More cowbell.”
  • The gratuitous umlaut is a topic of discussion among metal aficionados who created the “heavy metal umlaut” wiki page to parse out legitimate and illegitimate umlauts.
  • Legitimate umlauts: Icelandic diva Björk, German rock band Die Ärzte, Rhode Island’s Swedish “Viking Metal” band Vänhørwick.
  • Gratuitous umlauts: Mötley Crüe (neither is needed), Frank Zappa’s 1996 album Läther, Canadian thrash band Infernäl Mäjesty.
  • The gratuitous umlaut has even spread to non-Germanic/Nordic languages where there is no need for them, such as Spanish band Mägo de Oz (Wizard of Oz). A satirical metal band uses the umlaut over a consonant: This Is Spin̈al Tap. Band leader Michael St. Hubbins says: “It’s like a pair of eyes. You’re looking at the umlaut, and it’s looking at you.”

Accoding to the wiki page, Spin magazine snarkily noted that the metal umlaut was the “diacritical mark of the beast.”

Written by fabiorojas

March 30, 2007 at 4:03 pm

d&d is kool

Vice magazine has an insightful article artist/GM Zak Smith on the dogged persistence of RPGs. Let’s start:

“Dungeons & Dragons is some of the most crazy, deep, deep, deep nerd shit ever invented.”

-Ice T

Smith elaborates:

But beyond all that, the reasons that D&D is still worth playing are the people you play it with. As opposed to online RPGs where players interact through screens or headphones, when you sit down for a game of Dungeons & Dragons you do it with your people. In the same room. With snacks. Without the rest of the bar watching. There’s a story about three witches and a pack mule, which you all not only watched but invented, and then the witch threw a Dorito at you and drank your scotch.

My games are alcohol free, but I digress:

You learn things about your friends during these times, too. Who are these people when the stakes are low and wagers are little and no one is cool? Poker night gives you permission to get into your friends’ wallet; D&D night gives you permission to get into their heads. Sometimes it’s no surprise: Patton Oswalt played a drunken dwarf, Marilyn Manson says he was a dark elf, VICE international atrocity expert Molly Crabappleplayed a thief—but would you have pegged our porn correspondent, Stoya, for a druid with a dog named George? It’s important to know when there are hippies in your house.


The game is meant to reflect the people playing. D&D came out of the mimeographed, amateur-press wargame scene and reached the height of its popularity in the mid-80s, when zines had staples in them, Metallica didn’t suck, and computers had not yet quite eaten the world—and it still carries a heavy debt to the handmade and the DIY. Every rule in the game has been crossed out and rewritten thousands of times by thousands of pencils in thousands of ways by thousands of Brads, Steves, and Marcys for tens of thousands of tables who wanted to do it this way instead of that way, and none of them needed to learn code to do it.

Yes! People coming together and making an absorbing world with each other. Read the whole thing.

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Written by fabiorojas

August 21, 2015 at 12:01 am

all things gregorian chant

To balance out some of our “metal” posts, here are a few links related to Gregorian chant:

Written by teppo

October 30, 2010 at 6:17 pm

rest in peace, holy diver

Ronnie James Dio died a few days ago, of stomach cancer. He was the front man for Black Sabbath in the post-Ozzy era. His own band, Dio, was an outstanding metal band. He’s responsible for popularizing the devil’s horn sign, and providing a really heavy vocal style. His tunes also had rock solid grooves. 

I only got into metal a few years ago and I quickly fell in love with Holy Diver, probably his most shredding tune. It’s funny. At the time of its release, Holy Diver was slammed for indulging in demonic iconology. But if you took the time to read the lyrics, I thinks its about the difficulties of the righteous as they dive into a world of evil. Here’s the original video. Epic. Killswitch does a shredding version of it as well, but more courtly and less barbarian. Click on it below.

Gladly, Ronnie Dio had a sense of humor. Check out this clip from the movie Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny, a light hearted satire of metal. Rated R for foul language.

Thank you.

Written by fabiorojas

May 27, 2010 at 12:50 am

Posted in culture, fabio