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Running with the Devil
Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music
Robert Walser


1993 • 254 pp. 16 illus. 12 musical examples Questionnaire. 6 x 9"
Music / Cultural Studies / Popular Culture

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"Walser belongs to a small but influential group of academics trying to reconcile 'high theory' with a streetwise sense of culture . . . an excellent book." —Rolling Stone

A comprehensive musical, social, and cultural analysis of heavy metal music.

A Choice Outstanding Academic Book.

A musicologist and cultural critic as well as a professional musician, Robert Walser offers a comprehensive musical, social, and cultural analysis of heavy metal in Running with the Devil. Dismissed by critics and academics, condemned by parents and politicians, fervently embraced by legions of fans, heavy metal music attracts and embodies cultural conflicts that are central to our society. Walser explores how and why heavy metal works, both musically and socially, and at the same time uses metal to investigate contemporary formations of identity, community, gender, and power.

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Reviews / Endorsements:

"Making surprising connections to classical forms and debunking stereotypes of metal's musical crudity, Walser delves enthusiastically into guitar conventions and rituals."—Washington Post

"Walser is truly gifted at doing what few critics before him have done: analyzing the music . . . In virtuoso readings of metal music that forge persuasive links between metal and particular classical music traditions, Walser reveals the ways that musical structures themselves are social texts." —The Nation

"Running with the Devil takes musicology where it has never gone before; I once saw the chapter on metal guitarists and the classical tradition performed live in a lecture hall, but even on paper it smokes."—SF Weekly

"Essential reading in all popular music (and cultural studies) courses."—Simon Frith

“An eye-opening account of the world of heavy metal, as well as a model for how Cultural Studies work ought to be done. Walser lays bare the vision embodied in metal as a total cultural phenomenon—music and words, performers and fans, critics and devotees. The book is exemplary in its rich material, subtle positionings, and elegant writing.”—Sherry B. Ortner, University of Michigan


Winner of the Irving Lowens Award for the best book in American Music from the Sonneck Society for American Music (1993)

ROBERT WALSER is Professor and Chairman of Musicology at UCLA. He is editor of Keeping Time: Readings in Jazz History (Oxford University Press, 1999) and of the journal American Music.