Subversive Medievalism in Subway to Sally’s Anti-War, Anti-Christian Repertoire, 3 November 2016

Ruth Barratt-Peacock is a researcher at the graduate collage Modell Romantik: Variation – Reichweiter – Aktualität at the Friedrich-Schiller University Jena. She is currently writing her PhD Concrete Horizons: Romantic Irony in the Poetry of David Malouf and Samuel Wagan Watson on Romanticism in Contemporary Australian Urban Poetry. She graduated from the University of Tasmania and then the University of Jena and Conservatorium Weimar with a double degree in Musicology and Literature. Her Master’s thesis Medieval Metal and Temporal Dislocation in the Construction of Alternative Cultural Identities in the Contemporary German Medieval Reenactment Scene examined mittelalter metal in the context of reenactors’ attitudes towards Germany’s current socio-economic model and re-enactment as a space of resistance.

The German band Subway to Sally are considered to be one of the two most well-known mittelalter metal bands. Yet atypically for mittelalter metal, they rarely set original medieval texts and never those from the ‘medieval market cannon’. By their own description, they are a folk-rock band, and use a classic rock set-up with neo-folk instruments (fiddle, Irish whistles, pipes), rather than the medieval and pseudo-medieval instruments common to mittelalter metal. In this seminar, I will explore some of the ways in which Subway to Sally take medieval genre and tropes to their extreme limits, using them to critique religion, warfare, and sexual mores in modern European society. From the transgressive female gaze and the subversion of the Marian lyric, through to the use of medieval genre and tropes such as the Danse Macabre or analogous anthropomorphism, Subway to Sally situate the listener in the medieval period before subtly introducing new imagery or re-interpreting existent themes to express strong anti-established religion, anti-war sentiment. I propose that their critique of contemporary society explains, in part, their continued resonance within reenactment culture.