Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 423-443

First online:

Three profiles of heavy metal fans: A taste for sensation and a subculture of alienation

  • Jeffrey ArnettAffiliated withDepartment of Human Development & Family Studies, University of Missouri-Columbia

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Profiles of three fans of heavy metal music are presented, in order to examine the definition and boundaries of the heavy metal subculture. It is suggested on the basis of these profiles that a high level of sensation seeking can lead to a liking for heavy metal music, because the music provides such high-intensity sensation. However, fans become part of thesubculture of heavy metal music only to the extent that their high sensation seeking is combined with alienation. Although all three people profiled enjoyed the high sensation qualities of the music, their involvement in the subculture varied according to the depth of their alienation. Jack, deeply alienated, was deeply committed to the subculture. Brian's alienation was moderate, and his involvement in the subculture was moderate as well. Marvin was not alienated in the least, and was essentially outside the subculture.