Study: Death Metal Brings Feelings Of Joy, Not Violence
Jiri Navratil [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Study: Death Metal Brings Feelings Of Joy, Not Violence

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SYDNEY, Australia (CelebrityAccess) A study from Macquarie University downunder has found that, basically, listeners of death metal are not monsters but, rather, “nice people.”

The university’s music lab used the song “Eaten,” a cannibalism-themed song by the band Bloodbath, as a case study, which has lines like “I’ve had one desire since I was born / to see my body ripped and torn” and, using the song in a psychological test, determined that death metal inspires joy, not sorrow.

The results are right here, clear as crystal:

“The result of arousal ratings for the two songs revealed a significant interaction between Music and Group (F1,78 = 8.04, p = 0.006, ηG2=0.040">η2G=0.040ηG2=0.040). The main effect of Group and the main effect of Music were not significant (ps > 0.6), suggesting that across participants, the two pieces of music were perceived to have similar levels of arousal.”

In other words, death metal fans are not desensitised to violent imagery.

“[Death metal] fans are nice people,” Prof. Bill Thompson, from the Sydney university, told the BBC. “They’re not going to go out and hurt someone.”

Thompson said the latest study is part of a decades-long investigation into the emotional effects of music.

“Many people enjoy sad music, and that’s a bit of a paradox – why would we want to make ourselves sad?” he asked. “The same can be said of music with aggressive or violent themes. For us, it’s a psychological paradox – so [as scientists] we’re curious, and at the same time we recognize that violence in the media is a socially significant issue.”


The test involved asking 32 fans and 48 non-fans to listen to death metal or pop while looking at unpleasant images, with the intention to measure how much participants’ brains noticed violent scenes and compare how their sensitivity was affected by the music playing. For the opposite of “Eaten,” the scientists used “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.

The scientists then used “binocular rivalry,” showing participants a violent image in one eye and an innocuous scene in the other

“The brain will try to take it in – presumably there’s a biological reason for that, because it’s a threat,” Prof Thompson explained. “If fans of violent music were desensitised to violence, which is what a lot of parent groups, religious groups and censorship boards are worried about, then they wouldn’t show this same bias. “But the fans showed the very same bias towards processing these violent images as those who were not fans of this music.”

“The dominant emotional response to this music is joy and empowerment,” Thompson added. “And I think that to listen to this music and to transform it into an empowering, beautiful experience – that’s an amazing thing.”

Bloodbath was fine with the experiment, with lead singer Nick Holmes telling BBC News,  “The lyrics are harmless fun, as the study proved.” He added that Bloodbath’s lyrical content was “basically an aural version of an 80s horror film”

0.6), suggesting that across participants, the two pieces of music were perceived to have similar levels of arousal."In other words, death metal fans are not desensitised to violent imagery."[Death metal] fans are nice people," Prof. Bill Thompson, from the Sydney university, told the BBC. "They're not going to go out and hurt someone."Thompson said the latest study is part of a decades-long investigation into the emotional effects of music."Many people enjoy sad music, and that's a bit of a paradox - why would we want to make ourselves sad?" he asked. "The same can be said of music with aggressive or violent themes. For us, it's a psychological paradox - so [as scientists] we're curious, and at the same time we recognize that violence in the media is a socially significant issue."The test involved asking 32 fans and 48 non-fans to listen to death metal or pop while looking at unpleasant images, with the intention to measure how much participants' brains noticed violent scenes and compare how their sensitivity was affected by the music playing. For the opposite of "Eaten," the scientists used "Happy" by Pharrell Williams.The scientists then used "binocular rivalry," showing participants a violent image in one eye and an innocuous scene in the other"The brain will try to take it in - presumably there's a biological reason for that, because it's a threat," Prof Thompson explained. "If fans of violent music were desensitised to violence, which is what a lot of parent groups, religious groups and censorship boards are worried about, then they wouldn't show this same bias. "But the fans showed the very same bias towards processing these violent images as those who were not fans of this music.""The dominant emotional response to this music is joy and empowerment," Thompson added. "And I think that to listen to this music and to transform it into an empowering, beautiful experience - that's an amazing thing."Bloodbath was fine with the experiment, with lead singer Nick Holmes telling BBC News,  "The lyrics are harmless fun, as the study proved." He added that Bloodbath's lyrical content was "basically an aural version of an 80s horror " />

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