Female Masculinity in Death Metal - public seminar

Wednesday, December 3, 2014 - 00:00

16:15, Tuesday 9th December, Performance Room (G06, 13UQ) School of Anthropology, Queen's University Belfast


In recent years, the male-dominated heavy-metal subgenre of Death Metal has been subject to an influx of female performers. These women are primarily vocalists and have mastered the once exclusively male technique of extreme guttural vocals, known as the ‘death growl’. 

In a manner similar to Laurie Anderson’s intentional vocal deception through the use of a vocoder, the female growler plays with the listener’s gendered aural comprehension of the voice; her voice is gendered as masculine. Thus, through the appropriation of the masculine voice, the female growler manipulates and exposes a system of masculine filtration, whereby the listener is mislead by the performer’s mask or ‘audio drag’. However, such performances of female masculinity (Halberstam, 2010) raise questions about performative intention and of the masculinity performed by male death-growl vocalists. 

What does it mean when a female performer subverts the exclusivity of the masculine voice in this way? Does the performance of female aural masculinity result in a transcendence of masculinity and thereby a transcendence of gender? Can the female growler escape the gaze? This paper will address these and other questions in relation to the performance of female masculinity in Death Metal.