The Partial Historians

Special Episode – Classical Reception in Metal Music with Dr Jeremy J. Swist

We are thrilled to bring you an exploration of the relationship between the ancient world and metal music. We’re joined by Dr Jeremy J. Swist an expert in the subject. Dr Swist is a lecturer in the Department of Classical Studies at Brandeis University. He holds a PhD in Classics looking at the Reception of the seven kings of Rome in imperial historiography from Tiberius to Theodosius. His research covers everything from historiography to the classical reception in metal music.

Special Episode - Classical Reception in Metal Music with Dr Jeremy J. Swist

It’s a big topic and we delve into many facets of reception. One important area is thinking about Roman virtus as it is explored in metal. We also consider the connections between metal music and sword-and-sandals cinema. AND the way in which this genre of music can be a way of exploring the edges of human experience.

There may even be a discussion of Spartacus!

There’s lots of bands mentioned including:

* Black Sabbath (of course!)* Kreator* Bathory* Venom* Ex Deos* Ade* Stormlord* ADX* Autokrator* Jag Panzer* Sound Barrier* Angel Witch, and more.

Jeremy has very kindly compiled a Spotify list for you to enjoy as well.

The Power of the Visual

The connection between heavy metal and the ancient world is not just about the lyrics or the stylisation on stage though. One of the primary ways classical reception happens is through album artwork.

Consider the depiction of Poseidon on the cover of Wrathblade’s 2017 album God of the Deep Unleashed. 

Poseidon cuts an incredibly fearsome and muscular figure as he looms in a giant wave above to destroy an ancient town.

Meanwhile the French band Autokrator have worked in twists on Roman imperialism with the cover of the eponymous album from 2014 and then their latest album released in 2021. 

The 2014 album is a wash of red colour over a black background. Before the Colosseum is a fearsome, slightly skeletal sculpture of a Roman...

Autokrator's 2021 album cover for Persecution shifts the colour scheme to greys over a black background.

The building in the background you may just recognise from the Roman forum while the sculpture draws references to Marcus Aurelius.

Coming to Grips with Metal

Neither of us know much about metal music so this was a real treat for us to learn more about the rich references to the ancient world in this genre. So join us for an engaging and insightful conversation.

If you're looking for even more metal after listening to this episode, you might want to check out the upcoming conference Heavy Metal and Global Premodernity which is being co-run by none other that Dr Jeremy J. Swist and Dr C Naylor Davis.

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