Heavy Metal and other forms of music which have been perceived as an aggressive or negative influence may have been getting a bad rap all these years.
Recent studies have focused on the neurological and physiological effects of listening to heavy, fast or raucous music and the results may be something of a surprise.
An Australian public research institution, the University of Queensland, which is located in Brisbane conducted the research which concluded that such genres of music have a calming and neutralising effect, the same as an affectionate hug, apparently.
Public perception of heavy metal is always changing. It’s hard to believe that the Wall Street Journal would ever say something like; “you’ll find that as rebellious as some of its practitioners may be, and as negative as some of their music may seem, metal is ultimately a positive force for those who embrace it.”, as they did in a 2013 article entitled Metal Can be Good For You, which examined the social benefits of being a heavy metal fan.
“Look inside any city’s metal scene and you’ll find a community of individuals that bond through their favorite music. While they often express their collective identity with monstrous tattoos, tribal piercings and band t-shirts, penetrate the defensive armor and you’ll find a group of affable, often knowledgeable music fans who listen to metal for catharsis, energy and empowerment.”
As part of the University of Queensland studty, Leah Sharman and Dr Genevieve Dingle focused their attention on ’39 regular listeners of extreme music, between the ages of 18 and 34′.
“We found the music regulated sadness and enhanced positive emotions,” said Sharman. “When experiencing anger, extreme-music fans liked to listen to music that could match their anger.
The music helped them explore the full gamut of emotion they felt, but also left them feeling more active and inspired,” reads the study.
“Results showed levels of hostility, irritability and stress decreased after music was introduced, and the most significant change reported was the level of inspiration they felt.”
Despite the aggressive, or occasionally negative lyrical content of the songs used in the study, it seems as if the pace and energy contained within allows listeners to release pent up emotions which could otherwise have a damaging effect.
“A secondary aim for the study was to see what music angry participants would select from their playlist,” said Sharman.
“It was interesting that half of the chosen songs contained themes of anger or aggression, with the remainder containing themes such as – though not limited to – isolation and sadness.
“Yet participants reported they used music to enhance their happiness, immerse themselves in feelings of love and enhance their wellbeing.”
So, get out the Black Sabbath, Metallica and Iron Maiden records and throw your horns in the air; it’s scientifically good for you. If you’re completely new to the genre, here’s a handy Bluffer’s Guide from a few years ago.