I remember being at school once and we had a little talent show-cum-concert in the conference room. One kid told a story about a tractor, a 13-year old girl inexplicably decided to mime an Alice Cooper song, and another boy pretended to call a motorcycle race that only he could see. But the highlight of the day for me was when four boys got up on stage and played a Sepultura cover song. Sepultura, for the uninitiated, are an enormously influential Brazilian metal band who were hugely popular at the time – at least amongst those who enjoyed their music a little meaty. At the cessation of the song, a few of us clapped whilst the rest of the room sat there stunned.
“I think he just needs a hug,” offered one of the teachers in reference to the vocalist’s seemingly pained screams throughout. It has taken until now to validate my initial suspicions that the teacher was wrong. He did not need a hug. He had just given himself a four-minute virtual hug, right there in front of the whole school.
It has always been an unfair assumption that heavy metal could be blamed for outward displays of aggressive delinquency. An awesomely-titled study, ‘Extreme metal music and anger processing’, has recently given weight to what many a metalhead has always known; that listening to extreme metal music actually provides calmness, not anger.
The research conducted by the psychology department at the University of Brisbane in the sunny Australian state of Queensland, reached an outcome suggesting that rather than extreme music shaping angry thoughts and emotion, that actually “extreme music matches and helps to process anger”.
Honours student Leah Sharman, and Dr Genevieve Dingle, studied 39 regular listeners of so-called “extreme” music, between the ages of 18 and 34. “We found the music regulated sadness and enhanced positive emotions,” Sharman said, according to The Guardian. “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,” the study explains. “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”.
The study was published on the website of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, and might go some way to helping people blame someone other than Ozzy Osborne or Marilyn Manson, next time there is a suicide or school shooting. Then again, perhaps their waning careers will do that. Plus, they have video games to put the blame on now. That could be the next area of study…