‘Feel the Knife Pierce You Intensely’: Slayer’s ‘Angel of Death’—Holocaust Representation or Metal Affects?

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This article tackles a well-known but little-studied phenomenon: the importance of Holocaust themes to heavy metal. The fascination of metal bands with evil and death has until recently been met outside the scene with such reactions as moral panic, disgust or indifference. In the last ten years, however, scholars in an emerging discourse of Metal Studies have attempted to engage more critically with the social and musical dimensions of metal, in order to contextualise and understand its lyrics and imagery. Although a number of writers have touched upon the recurrence of Holocaust imagery, no one has dealt at any length with extreme metal as a form of Holocaust memory. My article focuses on what might be called the founding text of extreme metal, Slayer’s ‘Angel of Death’, which lived up to the sub-genre’s name by pushing both its musical form and its lyrical content beyond previously maintained limits and taboos. It considers the song's mobilisation of affective intensities as involving problematic politics, but also a challenge to conceptions of Holocaust representation. I consider how affects are evoked by ‘Angel of Death’ through offering readings of the song itself as well as of ways that its reception have been recorded on social media, in concert videos, and reaction videos uploaded to YouTube.
Original languageEnglish
Article number61
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 14 Nov 2019


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