Becoming Metal: Narrative Reflections on the Early Formation and Embodiment of Heavy Metal Identities


Paula Rowe


Journal of Youth Studies




Heavy metal music has long been researched as a risk factor for youth development. Over the last decade, however, there has been a significant shift towards studies that are more sympathetic to metal fans, but still we know very little about young people’s pathways to forming metal identities. What is the allure of metal as an identity choice? What can be gained from the early embodiment of metal identities? To explore these questions, this paper reports on findings from qualitative research with metal youth in Australia that captured rich, narrative reflections on ‘becoming’ metal. The results show that metal was vitally important when participants felt vulnerable to bullying and exclusion by popular peers at school. But crucially, the young ‘metalheads’ were able to disrupt power relations at school by embodying ‘chosen’ heavy metal identities as a strategic response for countering ‘unchosen’ marginal school-based identities. The politically transformative properties of subculture at the level of the individual are revealed through ways that the metal youth, as self-described outsiders, were able to act alone to challenge dominant school norms and enter into social relationships on their own terms, protecting themselves from social threats to their mental health and well-being in the process. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

Music and Health Institute Terms

Adolescents; Engagement Level; Mental Health; Music Listening; Wellness and Well-Being

Indexed Terms

heavy metal; identity; structure; subculture; individualism; bullying; Identity Formation; Narratives; Well Being

Study Type

Phenomenological Study; Qualitative Methods

PubMed ID


Document Type