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Rosemary Overell, Affective Intensities in Extreme Music Scenes: Cases from Australia and Japan

Sam Grant
p. 275-278
Référence(s) :

Rosermary Overell, Affective Intensities in Extreme Music Scenes: Cases from Australia and Japan, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014

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1Brutality is a core attribute of the global grindcore scene. Grind music is considered to be harsh, violent and “brutal” in its tonality, performance and subject matter. But brutality is also a state of being which signifies belonging: belonging within a scene, a country, and with other fans. Brutality is grind’s defining ethos, with fans often shouting “brutal” at artists during a gig to show appreciation for the music and atmosphere. Affective Intensities in Extreme Music Scenes is Rosemary Overell’s first book, published in 2014, which draws from her previous research on Australian grind. Overell, who obtained her doctorate majoring in cultural studies and Japanese studies from the University of Otago in New Zealand, has been a fan of Australian grind since 2003. The work builds on her scenic experiences in Australia and her knowledge of the Japanese language to explore what it means to be – and feel – brutal in the grind communities of Melbourne and Osaka. It also shows that experiencing a feeling of brutality constitutes true belonging in translocal and global grind scenes.

2Overell’s work is both academic and cathartic. She admits she often found it hard to compromise her position as a feminist with her fandom of grindcore music, a style which is replete with sexist and misogynistic themes, lyrics and artwork (107). Much of grind music addresses violence and rape towards women in unrelenting – brutal – detail, though Overell admits that her “initial revulsion” with the music eventually turned to “something close to enthusiasm” (5), so much so that she moved to Osaka for two years to conduct fieldwork on grind shows. Nevertheless, her feminist position and her love of grind are constantly at odds with one another, and she is candid in commenting that Affective Intensities in Extreme Music Scenes is “a highly personal attempt” to reconcile her contrasting positions (16). Such contradictions can be productive, however, since they encourage the “reflexivity vital to ethnography” (5).

3Grind has the power to connect and bind people, erasing the sense of individualised self and drawing fans into a collective gestalt which experiences it through a sense of oneness. Brutality is a metaphor for “affect”, unrestrained energy which has “the capacity to generate violence on a symbolic, virtual and material level”, an excess that goes beyond “normative understandings of everyday culture” (13). Affective experience contributes to a sense of belonging through shared moments (11), generating a feeling of inclusion and attachment in a particular place. Through grindcore, affect is responsible for brutal belonging – within a scene, in a live venue, in a moshpit.

4Overell chooses Melbourne as a location for investigating brutal belonging due to the strength of its local scene and the fact that, in Australia, Melbourne is considered “the home of grind”, its scene growing out of the punk and thrash movements in the 1990s. Osaka also has a strong grindcore scene which originated similarly to that of Melbourne, and is home to an annual grindcore festival. In order to investigate brutal belonging in these locations, she draws from her interviews with Australian and Japanese scene members as well as participant-observation in the live setting to see how affect accounts for brutal belonging. Overell is more than just an outside observer though, being a fan of the music means she becomes very much involved in the live spaces, and such is necessary to her ethnography since grindcore is an embodied experience, being “not a scene one simply views, [but] something one does, makes and experiences” (28). As such, during the fieldwork period of 2008-2010 Overall tried to attend at least one grindcore event per week and interviewed 35 scene members between the ages of 22 and 40, the large majority of which were male.

5Overell’s journey into brutal belonging takes her to a large number of live venues [termed raibuhausu in Japan] which exude different intensities and senses of belonging. Whether a live venue is truly “brutal” or not comes down to a mixture of the people and the music. Often venues are based in run-down parts of the cities and feature horror/sexual/nationalistic-themed art on their walls or flyers, being symptomatic of the aggressive, masculine nature of the music. Auditory brutality is not the same as physical brutality, and lyrical/tonal aggression rarely spills into uncontrolled physical violence (43). Even though live spaces can be dour and dingy, the true brutality of the space lies in the music and the affective interaction between scene members.

6It is in the live spaces that Overell makes one of her most salient discoveries, being that true brutal belonging comes through the physical closeness of artist to audience, and that “bodily proximity can spread brutal affect” (63). Music’s effect on the body has long been documented by ethnomusicologists, with Hirschkind noting that music “invests the body with affective potentialities”, sensibilities that allow one to experience emotion “rooted in the experience of the body in its entirety” (2006: 79, 101). Likewise, Overell’s interviewees discuss how brutal belonging can be intensified through the proximity of artist to audience, whereas separating the two by a barrier or high stage detracts from it (61). Removing physical barriers therefore removes the divide between performer and listener, Overell noting that successful brutal belonging contributes to an “evacuation of the self”: a feeling of singularity shared by artist and audience whereby “the process of being, and becoming, brutal demonstrates that identity is processual rather than fixed”. In such instances, she says, the self in uncontainable (52). Indeed, one can go further than Overell to say that the self is always uncontainable, but brutal belonging reminds us of our connection with others which is easily forgotten in daily activities. Brutal belonging brings us closer to one another, and therefore, to our true self.

7Overell’s feminist stance is drawn from regularly, and mostly employed with neutral critical distance. Female interviewers have been notable in metal scenes since the days when Vanessa Warwick presented MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball, and even though more recent examples such as The Atlantic's Kim Kelly and Metal Suck’s Whitney Moore are making names for themselves, women still face ostracisation as metal reporters (Wise 2014). In spite of her majoritive neutrality, Overell’s feminist stance does occasionally cause misunderstandings: she notes that interviewees were “on their best behaviour” around her since she was female (96), when it is common for band members to be polite and respectful to interviewers, in notable contrast with other familiars, since they promote their work. However, her discussions on the pornographic aspects of grind promotion are carried out with impressive impartiality: Melbourne commonly hints at soft-porn in its flyer artwork, sometimes using “extreme” pornography for promotion, whereas Osaka’s grind flyers range from soft-porn to sadistic sexualised objectification, a part of Japanese culture for decades most notably depicted in films such as Ginî Piggu 2: Chiniku no hana (1985) and Muzan-e (1999). Overell correctly notes that such promotion epitomises patriarchy but that disregarding misogyny contributes to brutal affect, brutal sociality outweighing “cerebral awareness” (101).

8Tours between Melbourne and Osaka have been commonplace since 2000, but cultural differences between the two cities can mediate affect. Patriotic ideas of “Australian-ness” and Japanese ideas of national spirit (Yamato-damashii) (137) repress brutal belonging due to some scene members’ lack of foreign cultural cognition, leaving them to feel like outsiders or even facing discrimination (160-161). Most importantly, Overell deduces that though in both scenes brutal belonging is seen as entwined with national identity, the live experience can still feel like “home” (165). Such experiences highlight the importance of eroding boundaries.

9Affective Intensities in Extreme Music Scenes shows that to belong in grindcore is to be brutal (170). Grindcore’s focus on taboos and offence generates a feeling of belonging, and often this feeling is inarticulateable except only through expression of the word “brutal!” at live events. Freedom of expression, to share live spaces and to transgress the restrictions of normative daily working practices contribute the most to shared brutal belonging, and to a sense of human oneness. To truly belong, and to feel brutal, is to enjoy the absence of that which restricts us.

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Hirschkind Charles (2006), The Ethical Soundscape: Cassette Sermons and Islamic Counterpublics, New York, Columbia University Press, 270 p.

Hino Hideshi (1985), Ginî piggu 2: Chiniku no hana. Japan, Sai Enterprise.

Wise, Lauren (2014), “The Gender Gap In Heavy Metal Journalists”, Haulix Daily, 30 June 2014,, accessed 3 September 2017.

Yamanouchi Daisuke (1999), Muzan-e: AV gyaru satsujin bideo wa sonzai shita! Japan, JVD.

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Référence papier

Sam Grant, « Rosemary Overell, Affective Intensities in Extreme Music Scenes: Cases from Australia and Japan », Volume !, 14 : 2 | 2018, 275-278.

Référence électronique

Sam Grant, « Rosemary Overell, Affective Intensities in Extreme Music Scenes: Cases from Australia and Japan », Volume ! [En ligne], 14 : 2 | 2018, mis en ligne le 26 avril 2018, consulté le 23 janvier 2019. URL :

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Sam Grant

Sam Grant est doctorant au Department of Music à SOAS (University of London). Ses recherches portent sur la musique classique du Moyen Orient et le heavy métal. Il a produit des recension, des interviews et des émissions pour le site féminin Sonic Cathedral de 2003 à 2008. Il a co-fondé le site internet de musique post-industrielle The Heathen Harvest Periodical en 2011. Il a obtenu son master en ethnomusicologie à SOAS en 2016.

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