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PRINT April 1992

UNDERTONE

Heavy Metal

IN THE WANING MONTHS of 1991, as America passed from recession to “economic free-fall,” a struggle for the hearts and minds of the white teen proletariat took shape. Reaching the top of the charts, heavy metal’s established meanings and ingrained signifiers—the boundaries of what can and can’t be said, of what constitutes the genre itself—were suddenly in a free-fall of their own. A civil war began within the borders of a semiotics that time forgot.

Representing fanatical sonic fundamentalism, raising disillusion to a fiercely mystical pitch, Metallica mount a jihad against everything craven, impure, compromised. Instead of sex or satanism, they speak bitterly of power as a plague and all the world and its denizens mere carriers. But Metallica, their latest slab, jettisons the mindless instrumental ballast of their earlier music, extracting organic matter from pure mass with a surgical

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