Alexandra Kolesnik participated in the seminar at University College London

On June 3, IGITI Research assistant Alexandra Kolesnik participated in Social Sciences Research Student Seminar at the Department of History of University College London. She presented a paper “Representing history in British heavy metal music of the 1980s” based on her dissertation research. Discussing the paper participants touched on the theoretical framework of the research project, and practical questions.


A new musical movement that swept the industrial regions of England (Midlands) and named ‘New Wave of British Heavy Metal’ became a peculiar way of experience and reflection on internal political problems in England, as well as social and economic crisis. A rich artistic and figurative language used by musicians included extensive ‘usage’ of images of the past, mainly military history of England: from the Crimean War to battlefields of the World War II. The bands reflected current social and political problems through representations of ‘heroic’ past and mythological images in their songs’ lyrics as well as live performances.

The paper explores the case of heavy metal band Iron Maiden that became one of the new heavy metal movement leaders in the early 1980s. I assert that the ways of representing the past through ‘heroic’ and pathetic historical images in band’s lyrics and history flavored live performances became the expression of mass culture historical imagination. On the one hand, actual social issues that was raised in heavy metal songs’ lyrics and criticized through historical images became a powerful tool to exhibit their class identity; on the other hand, the ‘heroic history’ of England became a passionate demonstration of their ‘Englishness.’

Drawing on methods found in popular music studies and sociology, the paper discusses methodological questions on the analyzing representations of the past in popular music, such as: how the statements about the past are arranged; what do it represent and what/who do it focus on; what kind of ‘history’ is constructed in popular music.