Scientists study the psychology of death metal

Psychology professor William Forde Thompson of Australia's Macquarie University and his colleagues have published a series of scientific papers about the appeal of death metal. The scientists were surprised to learn that death metal fans aren't particularly angry or violent people and actually in a happy place whilst head-banging to the likes of Morbid Angel (above) and Cannibal Corpse (below). The research reminds me of how my dad was always so surprised at my love for goth music even though I was a generally happy teen. From Scientific American:

“It’s the paradox of enjoying a negative emotion that I was interested in,” says Thompson, a professor at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. “Why are people interested in music that seems to induce a negative emotion, when in everyday life we tend to avoid situations that will induce a negative emotion?” A number of studies have explored the emotional appeal of sad music, Thompson notes. But relatively little research has examined the emotional effects of listening to music that is downright violent.

Thompson’s work has produced some intriguing insights. The biggest surprise? “The ubiquitous stereotype of death metal fans—fans of music that contains violent themes and explicitly violent lyrics—[is] that they are angry people with violent tendencies,” Thompson says. “What we are finding is that they are not angry people. They’re not enjoying anger when they listen to the music, but they are in fact experiencing a range of positive emotions...."

Chris Pervelis, a founding member and guitarist of the band Internal Bleeding (whose songs include Gutted Human Sacrifice [below] and The Pageantry of Savagery), is confident that the positive emotions he experiences when he plays and listens to Death Metal are the real thing. “When I’m locked into it, it’s like there’s electricity flowing through me,” says the 50-year-old, who runs his own graphic design business. “I feel really alive, like hyper-alive. And the people I know in Death Metal are smart, creative and generally good-hearted souls.”

"Dissecting the Bloodthirsty Bliss of Death Metal" (Scientific American)

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