Tag Archives: Metalheads

The bright side of choosing dark music

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Metal’s misunderstood haven: the mosh pit. Photo by Flickr user Metal Chris.

Heavy metal isn’t blamed for so many things anymore — not like violent video games. But even 30 years after the PMRC attempted to paint loud, aggressive music as a one-way ticket to juvenile delinquency, metal still has reputation issues. People who listen to metal regularly (or dare go to shows) are seen, as Atlantic writer Leah Sottile puts it, “like I’m a ticking time bomb that could go off anywhere between the water cooler and the break room.”

But the paradox, as she points out, is that many people who listen to metal say the music calms them down. This is something Jeffrey Jensen Arnett confirmed at length in his book Metalheads, and that many other fans have said over the years. Sottile has her own theories for why this is, which she feels are backed by a recent small study out of the The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The study found that people who chose music that suited their mood, whether they were happy or angry, experienced better well-being overall.

Sottile says:

It’s no novel idea that someone might choose to rev themselves up with aggressive music before a engaging in a tough task: A fourth quarter tie-breaker, a tense salary negotiation. And no surprise, the folks who chose angry music had no problem completing their tasks.

But [the study] also found that the people who chose to be pissed off actually showed a greater sense of well-being overall than the people who avoided feelings of unpleasantness.

She also talks about the concept of constructive anger: “if you listen to Judas Priest’s ‘Hell Patrol’ in your cubicle and then finally ask your boss for a raise, that’s a form of constructive anger. You’re getting mad, and it gives you the courage to solve an issue.” No wonder such people feel better about themselves.

What do you think? Do you listen to metal? How has it helped you deal with your emotions in a constructive way? Do you feel like you’re more content than the average person?

Metal soothes the savage beast


Australian great white sharks relaxed in the presence of speakers playing AC/DC during a recent experiment. Photo by Flickr user 126 Club.

Scientists haven’t done very many studies involving humans and heavy metal, but something compelled a team of researchers down under to play a few heavy metal tunes for some great white sharks. Specifically, the tunes included “Back in Black” and “You Shook Me All Night Long” by AC/DC.

Now, it’s been a longstanding misconception that heavy metal makes its listeners unruly, wild, aggressive, and ready for risk. There’s even this idea that if you play heavy metal for plants, they’ll die. (Mythbusters disproved this; in fact, plants exposed to extreme death metal grow better than plants exposed to other kinds of music.)

So what did the sharks do when they heard some of the biggest hits to come out of Australia?

After [tour operator Matt] Waller played the songs using underwater speakers, the sharks became “more investigative, more inquisitive and a lot less aggressive.”

“They actually came past in a couple of occasions when we had the speaker in the water and rubbed their face along the speaker which was really bizarre,” he said.

Now, the sharks couldn’t actually hear the songs, but they could feel the vibrations — vibrations that would feel differently, and probably move at a faster tempo, than other types of music. Alas, the study doesn’t seem to show that the sharks were given the chance to hear, say, Celine Dion or Beethoven, so we don’t know how they’d respond. But it’s interesting nonetheless that one of nature’s most feared animals apparently has a soft spot for electric guitars.

In his book, Metalheads, Jeffrey Jensen Arnett found that metal had similar effects on human listeners, who reported that the music kept them calm, helped them unwind, and prevented them from seeking trouble. What they wanted was intensity — intense music that matched the intensity of their own temperaments.

Many lives flourish in the presence of this music. If they’re not flourishing, it’s because of something else in their lives — and in spite of heavy metal.

In the spirit of relaxation and good health, here’s a tune that plants, humans, and sharks can appreciate, Accept’s “Fast as a Shark”: