While Victoria metalheads prepare to bang their heads upon the arrival of Pacific Northwest folk metal outfit Agalloch, those who prefer some academia with their riffs are invited to Weaving Influences: Positioning Agalloch in the History of Heavy Metal, a talk by Agalloch guitarist Don Anderson.
A professor in the English department at State University of New York Westchester Community College, Anderson was invited to speak by a UVic professor.
“It started because I went to graduate school with a professor [at UVic], Jentery Sayers,” Anderson said. Sayers reached out when he saw Agalloch was coming through Victoria, and asked Anderson if he was interested in giving a talk.
“At first, I didn’t really know what that would look like and what that would mean, and I wasn’t sure what to say, but I said ‘OK, sure’ and he immediately put me in touch with Shamma [Boyarin].”
Boyarin, an English and Religious Studies professor at UVic, is no stranger to academia and metal: In 2013, he helped organize the South of Heaven: Religion and Heavy Metal symposium, and the Tribe & Rite heavy metal student conference in conjunction with the Heavy Metal UVic student club and Department of English the year after that. He recently finished teaching a course on heavy metal based out of the English department.
Boyarin says metal studies is a growing presence at UVic. “It’s getting bigger. A lot of it is [Heavy Metal UVic president] Casey Lazar and I piggybacking off each other,” he said. Referring to Anderson and Weaving Influences, Boyarin said that he’s “interested to hear somebody who plays black metal talk about their place in it.”
Anderson acknowledges that the combination of academia and heavy metal might be strange, or even contradictory. “I feel like there’s always been tension with academia sort of absorbing or welcoming certain types of artistic movements that may be seen as ‘anti-establishment,’” he said. “But that’s the history of art.”
According to Anderson, nothing is off limits to critical discussion. “As an academic, I’m always interested in thinking rigorously about anything, whether it’s film, culture, music, politics, or philosophy. I don’t think there’s anything that shouldn’t be thought about in a rigorous fashion.”
Weaving Influences is one more step for metal studies at UVic, but Boyarin stressed that its success comes down to students. “A lot of it’s from me, but it’s also been very student-driven and responding to students saying ‘let’s do this, let’s do that.’”
“It’s really a bottom-up type of thing,” he said. “It’s been like that since before I became involved, and hopefully it continues to have that student presence.”
Weaving Influences: Positioning Agalloch in the History of Heavy Metal takes place Friday, June 19, at 2 p.m. in Cornett B111. Agalloch plays the Victoria Event Centre the same night at 8 p.m. An extended interview with Don Anderson can be found at https://martlet.ca/culture/a-brief-chat-with-agallochs-don-anderson/.