Notion: Time zone of the conference is Central European Time (CET)


  • 8.45-9.00

    Conference opening

  • 9.00-10.00

    1st keynote lecture

    Marcus Moberg

    Åbo Akademi University in Turku

    Marcus Moberg is Professor in the Study of Religions at Åbo Akademi University in Turku, Finland. His research focuses on institutional religious change in the Western world, religion, media and popular culture, and the discursive study of religion. In addition to these topics, Moberg's research has also focused on the relationship between religion and metal music and culture. Key publications include Christian Metal (Bloomsbury 2015), Church, Market, and Media (Bloomsbury 2017), The Bloomsbury Handbook of Religion and Popular Music (co-edited with Christopher Partridge, Bloomsbury 2018), and Religion, Discourse, and Society (Routledge 2022).

    Metal and “Religion”: A View from the Discipline of the Study of Religion

    Ever since its emergence and initial development during the late 1960s and early 1970s, heavy metal has been characterized by its, often highly conspicuous, fascination with the apocalyptic visions of the Bible, the world of mythology and legend, different strands of Occultism, Western Esotericism, Paganism, and Satanism. These themes have since long ago developed into an integral and defining characteristic of the genre as a whole. Largely for this reason, the history of heavy metal has also been ridden with controversy. The genre has been the subject of numerous moral panics and Satanism-scares in social contexts as varied as North America and Western Europe, former socialist Eastern Europe and, more recently, countries such as Indonesia, Iran and Egypt. The presence of “religion” throughout the world of heavy metal has, by now, also received a fair amount of scholarly attention. However, due to a lack of proper and critical engagement with the both folk and scholarly category of “religion”, a substantial part of this scholarship remains problematic from a Study of Religion point of view. This address outlines some main areas of focus in the study of metal and religion, discusses their respective virtues and weaknesses, and provides some suggestions for how the study of religion and metal could usefully develop in the future.

  • 10.00-10.30

    Coffee break

  • 10.30-11.00

    Reinhard Kopanski (University of Oldenburg): "“Psalm of an Unborn” – Conservatism in Christian Metal" (online)

    Popular Christian Music (PCM) is of considerable importance for the Evangelical movement and simultaneously a market of millions including a network of labels, music producers, bands and music magazines. It is well known in academic circles that popular music has – among other things – been used by musicians for many decades to convey political attitudes of different convictions. However, a potential connection between music and politics in PCM has so far been academically overlooked with regard to German contexts. In this paper I would like to offer some initial insights into my upcoming research project “Music, Religion and Politics” (funded by the German Research Foundation), in which I investigate the question of how strictly conservative (socio)-political attitudes of Evangelical Christians as well as the Evangelical view on an assumed decline of values in society are reflected in their musical practice. Using close readings (songs/context), I want to showcase how stances on issues such as homosexuality, gender equality and abortion are negotiated in songs by German Evangelical metal bands such as Sacrificium (Death Metal) and Burning Nations (Metalcore). On the one hand, Christian Metal is still often met with rejection in traditional Evangelical communities due to the equation of rock and (heavy) metal as “devil’s music”; whilst on the other hand, Christian metal is rejected by many metal fans because the culture of (heavy) metal is largely characterised by a skeptical attitude towards religion (see Strother 2013; Moberg 2015). I will argue that these bands succeed in balancing the dual tension of Christian Metal by serving metal's genre conventions while clearly embracing conservatism.
  • 11.00-11.30

    Miroslav Vrzal (Masaryk University): "Czech black metal and Satanism in the late 80s and early 90s: Törr, Root and Master´s Hammer"

    Metal experienced a great boom in Czechoslovakia at the turn of 80s and 90s. Styles of extreme metal such as thrash metal, death metal, and black metal were also established there. Czech black metal at that time was based on explicit satanic discourse, and the main inspiration for Czech black metal bands were western black metal bands such as Venom or Bathory. The contribution deals with the form and the role of Satanism in the discourse and ideological background of bands Törr, Root, and Master’s Hammer which were the main representatives of Czech black metal in the late 80s and early 90s.

  • 11.30-12.00

    Anna-Katharina Hoepflinger (Ludwig Maximilian University): "“Do They Really Mean It?”. Five Functions of the Reception of Religious Symbols in Black Metal"

    After more than 50 years of Heavy Metal history there are still debates in public media like newspapers and YouTube clips about whether religious symbols used in Metal would refer to religious worldviews of the musicians or are “merely” used in a playful sense. In this context, the “merely” is rather conspicuous: a playful handling of religious symbols appears to be weighted differently than an ideological commitment to the respective tradition or worldview. This question about seriousness or playfulness is thus on the one hand normatively charged, on the other hand, the dualistic division into play or seriousness is far too simple. Rather, religious symbols in Metal may be theatrical and carry serious meanings at the same time – and furthermore refer to very different (subcultural) meaning making processes. In this paper, based on a qualitative socio-empirical study in Swiss Black Metal, I shall map out five functions of the reception of religious symbols in Metal: a function of emphasis, an aesthetic, an identificatory, a demarcating and an ideological function. In the process, I will also reflect on what it means for an analysis of Metal if we do not strictly examine these functions separately, but allow fluid connections between them.
  • 12.00-13.30


  • 13.30-14.00

    Oksana Smorzhevska (Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv): "Folk-metal band "Shadow of the Sun": music, outlook, action" (online)

    Neo-paganism (native faith) is dynamic, diverse and multifaceted. It is not only a component of the religious life of Ukraine, but also took its place in music, cinematography, visual arts, and fiction; became part of the cultural life of Ukrainian society in general. Neopaganism (Native Faith) is a subcultural religion (according to the definition of Dmytro (Vogneslav) Baryshev, priest of the Circle of Communities of the Native Faith. And one of the manifestations of such subculture is a cultural product formed under the influence of Native Faith ideas and views. In particular, this is the music of a folk metal band "Shadow of the Sun". The frontman of the band is Serhiy (Novoyar) Vasylyuk. The band has its own unique style and genre of performance - "Cossack rock". In the band's work and, in particular, Novoyar's work, we can clearly see the embodiment of the key concept of the native faith "Native Land - Native Language - Native Faith". The song "The sword of Arei" (author - bard Vasyl-Zhyvosil Lyuty) is especially popular in the native faith community. The song was included in the album "Thunder in God's Forge" (2014). The band "Shadow of the Sun" performed this song together with the author during the All-Ukrainian campaign "The First Minute of Peace" on May 8-9, 2015. The song has already become legendary. It was especially updated after February 24, 2022. A thunder rumbles in God's forge. Warriors with shoulder- long hair are waiting. The hand of gray-haired Svaroh Smith a strong sword for Arei… Foes will be vanished in Ukraine. The sword of Arei will bring our land back! "The sword of Arei" sounds majestic and insightful. At the same time, there is no strained pathos in it. This song does not leave anyone indifferent, regardless of religious or other beliefs. The leader of the band "Shadow of the Sun", public figure Serhii Vasylyuk (Novoyar), who voiced the opinion of many native believers that "Ukraine begins with language", does a lot to popularize the Ukrainian language through song. It is important for him and his associates to organize concerts and conduct educational activities among the Ukrainian military in the east of Ukraine. He links the popularization of the Ukrainian language with the improvement of the economy. Today, Novoyar defends Ukraine from rashist invaders in the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
  • 14.00-14.30

    Jeremy Swist and Aneirin Pendragon (Brandeis University and University of St Andrews): "Hellenic Polytheism & Heavy Metal: From Classical Reception to Contemporary Ritual" (partly online)

    In the past decade, classicists’ and ancient historians’ studies of metal music’s pervasive and multifarious engagement with classical mythology and history has largely focused on constructions and functions of heroes, heroines, and other mortal figures such as Achilles, Alexander the Great, Dido, and Caligula (e.g. Cavallini; Djurslev; Croftein-Sleigh; Magro-Martínez). While the chief gods, goddesses, and lesser divinities of the Hellenic pantheon often play a role in songs, albums, album artwork, and even band names (Lindner & Wieland) dedicated to these and other subjects related to classical civilization, their appropriation, transformation, and significance in the massive catalog of songs that reference them—beyond Apergis’ study of the adaptation of ancient hymns by practicing polytheist bands in Greece—still need critical examination. Our presentation will first identify and discuss the most popular deities in the reception of the Hellenic pantheon in lyrics, artwork, and other media both by bands that practice Hellenic polytheism and by the vast majority that harness the gods for symbolism that harmonizes with the traditional core themes of metal music—be it power, masculinity, and violence (Zeus, Poseidon, Ares), occult, chthonic, and even satanic opposition to Abrahamic religions (Hecate, Persephone, Hades), or the celebration of transgression, hedonism, and the irrational elements of human nature (Dionysus). Of particular interest is the preponderance of ritualistic invocations of these gods, and their syncretism with deities from other ancient traditions, including Christianity, a not uncommon phenomenon in paganism today. Secondly, we will consider the degree to which this prolific and easy incorporation of the Hellenic pantheon corresponds to inherent similarities between the performance and consumption of metal music, especially in the context of concerts and festivals, and the practice and experience of contemporary Hellenic polytheism. This comparative study by two professional classicists will be conducted partly through autoethnography, drawing from one researcher’s subjective experience as a veteran metalhead and the other’s as a practicing Hellenic polytheist.
  • 14.30-15.00

    Shamma Boyarin (University of Victoria): "Wordless Ecstasy: The Jewish Drone/Doom Mysticism of Dveyekus"

    A Hassidic story tells about a Jewish shepherd boy who was raised ignorant of Judaism but knew that he was Jewish. One day he entered a synagogue on Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement. All day he sat, extremely moved by the prayers, but he could not participate because he did not know the prayers or the language. Towards the end of the day, as the liturgy was coming to a close, wanting to contribute something, he took out his shepherd pip and played a tune that he used to gather the sheep. While the congregation was outraged—feeling he had desecrated the prayer service—the Rabbi, a Hassidic master, told them they were wrong: the shepherd’s wordless prayer from the heart was not only acceptable to God but worth more than theirs combined. While the doom/drone band Dveyekus make no explicit reference to this story in their work, the band is working with a similar sensibility (and it is very likely that the members know the story and draw inspiration from it). Dveyekus, a Yiddish word coming from the Hebrew word meaning “to cleave,” in a mystical context refers to a kind of religious ecstasy achieved, for example, through music. This idea is embedded in Dveyekus’ album Pillar Without Mercy (Tzadik, 1993): melding niggunim, traditional Hassidic wordless tunes, with doom/drone and jazz, Dveyekus connects the inherent mysticism of the Hassidic tradition with the mystical potential of drone (as expressed by Owen Coggins in Mysticism, Ritual and Religion in Drone Metal [Bloomsbury, 2018]). In this paper, I will explore the various elements—musical, textual and visual—that go in to Pillar Without Mercy to contribute to Dveyekus and to their relationship to Jewish musical traditions and metal.
  • 15.00-15.15

    Coffee break

  • 15.15-15.45

    Stoyan Sgourev (New Bulgarian University): "“Burning the bridges”: the pursuit of authenticity in Norwegian black metal" (online)

    We develop a process-based framework, articulating the escalation of difference between “private” self and “public” display as an alternative trajectory in the pursuit of authenticity to alignment and compromise. A parsimonious model presents an endogenous dynamic of binary choice that generates momentum toward polarization. The model is illustrated in the context of “black” metal – a branch of heavy metal music that appeared in Norway in the early 1990s, notorious for its involvement in criminal activities. Using fanzine data, we construct a narrative of how a process of escalation led to innovation and transgression through self-selection and exclusion. The analysis addresses two related theoretical problems – what motivates actors to challenge normative scripts and “burn the bridges” to social acceptance, and why such challenges may prove more effective in achieving recognition than compromise. Examples from politics, culture and sports reinforce the importance of these problems.
  • 15.45-16.15

    Matouš Mokrý (Masaryk University): "Unholy Alliances: Preliminary Remarks on the Esoteric Interaction with Black Metal"

    Since the early 1990’s, black metal’s employment of dark occult, pagan, and warrior themes, individualist antinomian elitism and romanticism concentrated on dark aspects of humanity and nature, together with its violent antichristian acts and from that resulting media visibility have transformed the scene into a well-known space filled with discourses and symbols which are also present in various (mostly dark) esoteric alternative spiritualities. As a result, esoteric actors could thus use black metal for propagation of their own ideas and practices not only within the scene, but also outside it. The paper aims at demonstrating evidence for ongoing esoteric reflection of black metal by non-metal occult actors and their active involvement with the scene for the sake of their esoteric interests. Via three case studies from the realm of radical right-wing esotericism (Satanic organisation Order of the Left Hand Path/Ordo Sinistra Vivendi; esoteric Heathen Michael J. Moynihan; and Thelemite Traditionalist Sebastián Jahič), the presentation will try to provide preliminary first steps towards the discussion of the phenomenon, whereby, for certain established proponents of mostly darker forms of esoteric spiritualities, black metal represents an important mirror for their (social) reflection and an arena for dissemination of their ideas already since the first half of the 1990’s, and whereby black metallers’ movement towards more systematic and active involvement in esoteric spiritualities was (and still is) sometimes accompanied by an active interest of established esotericists in the scene.
  • 16.15-16.30

    Coffee break

  • 16.30-17.00


    Online discussion with the representative (Bartłomiej Krysiuk) of the Polish black metal band Batushka.

  • 17.00-17.30

    Yves Müller and Anna-Katharina Hoepflinger

    Presentation of the Ossarium project.

  • 19.00-??.??

    After party in M13 metal club

    M13 club: m13 ROCK HELL

    The after party includes a concert of the melodic death metal band Slaves of Passion with a singer and student of the Department for the Study of Religions at Masaryk University: Lenka Chmelařová.

    Cost: 150 CZK


  • 9.00-10.00

    2nd keynote conversational lecture (online)

    Niall Scott

    University of Central Lancashire

    Niall Scott is Reader in Philosophy and Popular Culture at the University of Central Lancashire. He is the principal editor of the Intellect journal Metal Music Studies and was a founding member and chair of the International Society of Metal Music Studies (ISMMS) and co-creator of WMC, the World Metal Congress. He has published widely on heavy metal music and its culture from a philosophical and theological perspective, including in edited collections such as Reflections in the Metal Void (2012), Heavy Metal and Gender with Florian Heesch (2016) and Heavy Metal Music and the Communal Experience with Nelson Varas-Diaz (2016).

    Apophatic transgressions and hymns to the void

    Christianity often receives bad publicity in the metal world. A range of views can be identified from explicit anti-Christian sentiments expressed in ‘satanic’ and existential hatred of the religion and its institutions through to seeing it as ‘peculiar’ in the case of Christian metal (Moberg, M. 2012). In a more charitable vein being both a Christian and a metalhead may be met with bemusement. Previously I have written on inconsistencies in the Christian perspective regarding theologies concerning evil and some of death and black metal’s rejection of the Abrahamic conception of God. In this paper my aim is to show that metal culture, especially extreme metal, is arguably indebted to Christian theology, especially concerning role of apophasis and the contribution negative theology makes in its lyrical expression and aesthetics of sound. Apophatic tendencies, I maintain, are transgressive in both spheres - of religion and of metal in a differentiation between a negative negation and a positive negation of the divine.

  • 10.00-10.30

    Coffee break

  • 10.30-11.00

    Dawid Kaszuba (Jagiellonian University): "Eembodied voice of the oppressed. The feminist exorcisms of Lingua Ignota"

    In my presentation, I shall examine the use of Christian symbolism in the context of post-secular feminist narratives in the work of Lingua Ignota. The artist, a victim of domestic abuse, describes her artistry as a self-exorcism – an attempt to regain the language taken over by the oppressors. She uses her interest in Christian symbolism (for example, the works of medieval nun Hildegard of Bingen) and Biblical rhetoric to create a feminist „survivor’s anthems”. Her music remains strongly related to the Pennsylvanian noise scene, as well as metal sounds and aesthetics; however, it expands far beyond the generic frames. The genre-bending approach subverts misogynistic notions grounded in the metal music discourse. Based on the somaesthetic approach of Richard Shusterman and the post-secular anthropology of Thomas Csordas I shall analyse the self-descriptive category of “possession”. It allows Lingua Ignota to become a medium of the transcendental message, where her voice and body work as “tools” of linguistic articulation. I shall focus on the bodily use of the voice as an instrument (Simon Firth) and the symbolic embodiment of the muted female victims of violence – based on Nancy Miller’s concept of arachnology. To achieve it, I shall examine the feminist use of Christian rhetoric in the lyrics of her songs and transgressive performances, designed as explicit, cathartic rituals.
  • 11.00-11.30

    Márk Nemes (University of Szeged): "‘The ones who called Satan’ – an examination of a written manifestation of Christian moral panics regarding heavy metal"

    Since its emergence, heavy metal (or generally speaking rock music) was perceived in conservative Christian environments as “something to keep children away from.” The typical themes and appearance of bands, the expressive aggression during concerts, as well as and the image of ‘metalheads’ offered an appropriate manifestation of the ‘undesirable.’ The complete subcultural division, supplemented with the sometimes-outrageous acts of certain bands and the in-depth reports of these in sensationalist media, urged several prominent Christian authors take up the challenge of creating informative books and booklets for the potentially concerned families, warning them of the “imminent threat to the youth.” Within these booklets one may find elaborate descriptions of the ‘metalhead lifestyle’, complemented with band descriptions, as well as interpretative quotations and analyses of their lyrics. These explanations typically branded every popular formation with labels of Satanism, occultism, or at least hedonism and non-Christian lifestyle, in an attempt to create some form of moral panic to further away the Christian youth from such subcultures. In this conference I aim to present and analyze one such endeavor: Corradi Balducci’s Adoratori del diavolo e rock satanico or Satanism and Rock, published in 1991. The book itself consists of several chapters, discussing parallels between Satanism and various heavy metal bands, as well as multiple chapters discussing a simplified version of the history of Satanism and occultism. The aim of my presentation is to highlight the general themes and associative processes, through which the author aimed to stir moral panic around the heavy metal subculture, while also emphasizing the various cognitive associations with New Age, esotericism, spiritualism and counter culturalism. Finally, I plan to illustrate the effects of such publications by providing details regarding the congregational reach and success of these books and booklets, as well as their long-lasting effects, which can be observed even today.
  • 11.30-12.00

    Jakub Jahl (Charles University): "Marilyn Manson and the Antichrist of Modern Age"

    Marilyn Manson is a shock-rock and metal band which became famous in 1995 with the controversial album Antichrist Superstar. This piece of art foreshadowed the future evolution of the band and its singer, Hugh Brian Warner. In the following decades the band focused on different visions of modern antichrists (the mechanical antichrist destroying humankind with trans humanism, the military antichrist leading young people into bloody revolutions, the artistically antichrist as a moral depraved icon and many others). The focus of my study is about the transformation of the symbolic a metaphorical antichrist persona in the late 90's, and in the first two decades of the new millennium. The goal is to determine how the metal band Marilyn Manson reflected the change of postmodern western society in the global age and how this outcome was also influenced by the personal life of the leading singer. In its entirety it shows how metal music an influence its listeners and engage them in not only social and political issues, but also religious topics.
  • 12.00-13.00


  • 13.00-14.00

    Trip to the city centre (to the capuchin mummies crypt or Brno ossuary)

  • 14.00-14.30

    Marek Vodička (Charles University): "Metal and the Sublime"

    The sublime is an aesthetic experience described most famously by Burke and Kant as a mixture of awe, fear, and beauty. In some forms, especially in the case of Kantian “mathematical sublime”, this experience can have religious connotations, where encountering God is akin to an experience of the sublime. In my presentation, I will argue that certain genres of metal music, particularly technical and progressive metal, can be interpreted as often attempting to invoke the feeling of the sublime in their listeners, be it knowingly or unknowingly. On the examples of the bands Mastodon and Gojira, I will attempt to sketch out certain characteristics of progressive metal music that could be taken as expressions of the sublime.
  • 14.30-15.00

    Vojtěch Volák (Charles University): "Immanent Lobster God: Creating the New within Metal Subgenres"

    This paper attempts to bring the metaphysical insight of Deleuzo-Guattarian philosophy into the process by which new subgenres of metal music are created. This is done by analyzing the concept of double articulation as a stratification in the double form of "Judgement of God" and "Body without Organs". Thus, in the first part of the article I will approach concept "God is a Lobster" as a concept through which assemblages have a tendency towards both stasis and change simultaneously. This invocation of God tries to avoid the transcendental excerption of creation behind the veil of external agency. It thus seeks to explain the process of creation without the theistic creatio ex nihilo, and thereby approaches the new as the immanent process of creation that is called God. God that is the double articulation, that is a relation of content and expression, but springing from within intensive processes immanently. In the second part of the article, I will then attempt to show through the concept of the godly lobster the process of creation and emergence of new genres of metal music as assemblages that have found a “Judgement of God”, a momentary stage of stasis from which they allow lines of flight to emerge towards the “Body without organs” as the new substance of a new double articulation.
  • 15.00-15.15

    Coffee break

  • 15.15-15.45

    Anna Lénárd (Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts): "The visibility of religious Indonesian heavy metal bands in Europe" (cancelled)

    Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population. Indonesia has the biggest number of heavy metal bands in Asia. This vibrant contemporary headbanging scene has several layers and groups, and its relation to Islam is extremely diverse from the religious One Finger Movement to secular bands. But in Europe, these Muslim metalheads are often ignored both by the religious communities and also by the heavy metal scene for different reasons. The all-female hijabi group, Voice of Baceprot recently made headlines in the mainstream media, though the background and the context of their work were misinterpreted, and their story became the victim of public prejudice related to Islam. Through what mirror do we look at their story? What stereotypes should be cleansed of our culture in order to see these works in their own context? As an artist, I am working on a project called “Islam and visibility”. The aim of this project is to call attention to those obvious topics that show how deeply Islam is ignored or misinterpreted in our cultural heritage and contemporary art life.
  • 15.45-16.15

    Pasqualina Eckerström (University of Helsinki): "The unintended consequences of state-enforced orthodoxy: ‘Blasphemous’ metal music as secondary deviation in Iran" (online)

    The concept of blasphemy has been the subject of considerable legal debate and normative analysis. However, we know much less about the lived realities of people living under regimes that not only criminalize blasphemy, but also actively monitor and enforce blasphemy laws. This paper analyses metal music as a form of religious deviance in Iran, where the production and consumption of most types of metal music has been banned. We examine how Iranian metal musicians negotiate the tension between free artistic expression and religious orthodoxy, and argue that the effect of control is opposite to its intention: The religiously deviant label is carried as a marker of authenticity in the scene instead. In this way, the control itself works to inspire ‘blasphemous’ acts, just as the theory of secondary deviation suggests.
  • 16.15-16.45

    Sergio Miranda-Bonilla (University of Guanajuato): "Theological language, postreligional paradigm, demythologization and metal music cultures" (online)

    This paper proposes the use of theological language associated with dogma, mythologies and morality as an instrumental metaphor to interrogate the cultures of metal music from the post-religional paradigm. It takes Martin-Barbero’s vision of culture as palimpsest and the the Maffesoli perspective of tribes. The horizons of meaning that rock and metal configure are understood from this platform, beyond identities, as «spiritualities». From here, the conflict between the nostalgic and avant-garde authenticities, synthesized by Fernán del Val Ripollés based on Frith, Keightley or Grossberg, among orthodox groups of metal music fans, could find a descriptive mechanism in the paradigm of the Ecumenical Association of Theologians from the Third World. This enables testing demythologization, proposed by theologian Rudolf Bultmann, as an exercise in cultural criticism.
  • 16.45-17.15

    Round table "Metal Studies in Central and Eastern Europe: status, vision, perspectives" + closing words

You are running an old browser version. We recommend updating your browser to its latest version.

More info