"Headbanging Against Repressive Regimes" (Book)
Reviewed by Rockstar_Scribbler on March 4, 2011
Immediately after the first couple pages of Mark LeVine's “Headbanging Against Repressive Regimes: Censorship of Heavy Metal in the Middle East, North Africa, Southeast Asia, and China,” I was hooked given the relevance of the material in today’s world.
This book is not in story form, nor is this a biography. This is a report on the state of heavy metal music in these cultures. Published by FREEMUSE.org, an organization that claims to be the world’s largest knowledge base on music censorship, this report takes you into the specific regions and gives in depth detail on the types of heavy metal music in these areas as well as political insight on censorship of this genre.
The book starts with a brief introduction for readers not familiar with the start of heavy metal and lightly touches on the West’s forms of censorship, most notably the P.M.R.C. (the acronym sounds more bad ass versus Parents Music Resource Center). Side note: I never heard the “Explicit Material” warning (placed on albums after the P.M.R.C.) rulings, was given the nickname “Tipper Sticker” - funny stuff.
After the introduction, the book breaks out chapters on Egypt/Morocco/Iran, China, and Indonesia/Malaysia. Each chapter relives the history of heavy metal music in their culture, the attempts (successful or not) at censorship, and in some cases specific case studies on these areas. Given most heavy metal music has influence from the U.K. and U.S., a lot of time is spent discussing the local bands of the region and how they have taken the influence of bands such as Metallica and Judas Priest and made it their own, mixing in local traditions and culture. One example of this is the Chinese artist, Cui Jian, whose 1986 “I Own Nothing,” a song that includes both Western influence and Chinese heritage.
“Headbanging Against Repressive Regimes” provides a researched report on politics, religion, and rebellion in areas of the world that continue to aggressively censor areas of pop culture. The author intelligently argues throughout that despite the threat some leaders feel heavy metal brings to their region, the truth is that the music being made is not violent in nature, or a direct threat to their societies. Music, including heavy metal music, is simply an expression.
Highs: The depiction of heavy metal to certain areas of the world, and the political response and reasons for censorship.
Lows: For those looking for a biography, move on; this is a report on the current state of heavy metal music in these specific areas.
Bottom line: An in depth report on heavy metal music that is very relevant given the current climate of the world.