Woodland cathedral: Cascadian black metal and implicit religion

Gonzalez, Rafael Emmanuel
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In the sociology of religion, the notion of 'implicit religion’ refers to those features of ordinary life which seem to contain an inherently religious element within them – whether or not they are expressed in ways that are traditionally described as 'religious’ (Bailey 1997). This master’s thesis considers the relationship between implicit religion and secular popular culture through the genre of black metal music. A sub-genre of heavy metal music popularized in Norway during the 1990s, black metal have found considerable acclaim in North America in recent years, specifically with regard to bands hailing from the Pacific Northwest, often referred to as Cascadian black metal due to their proximity to the Cascade mountain range. Despite a thriving sociology of heavy metal culture, and a surge in popularity, far less attention has been given to this elusive sub-genre. In order to expand the literature on this topic, I analyze two black metal bands from this scene, Agalloch and Wolves in the Throne Room. Due to their status as forerunners of the Cascadian black metal scene, these two bands have been chosen due to their popularity and visibility outside of traditional heavy metal circles. Using implicit religion theory, I examine the 83 song lyrics from these bands for evidence of hidden religious or spiritual elements. Conventionally assumed to be hostile to religion, I argue that black metal music not only betrays this assumption, but is even capable of promoting religious expression.

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Black Metal, Implicit Religion, Music, Religion, Sociology of Religion