Log hair, long beard, and dark clothing; these characteristics that often accompany a “metalhead” can be associated with negative behavior. As I was thinking about what to write about for this week, I figured that relying on sensationalist and irrelevant information would be interesting. Thus I dedicated myself to look for some reliable articles on the subject. Sadly, researchers are too preoccupied with saving mankind (whatever that means) and few answers have been offered for “is metal music (compared to other genres) beneficial or detrimental for your brain?” Nonetheless, let’s give it a shot.
To start off, all music has positive effects on the brain. Musical stimuli prompt the brain to increase how much dopamine it releases. Dopamine is a molecule that studies with mice tie to motivation and movement, which may explain the urge to dance or partake in some kind of movement every time one listens to a good piece of music [A].
Now that the field is somewhat leveled, how do responses to metal music compare to that of other music genres. A study that compared responses to classical music, self-selected music, heavy metal, and silence found that those who were chosen to listen to heavy metal showed spikes in amylase segregation. Amylase, an enzyme found in saliva, breaks down starch and provides us with the energy we would need when entering “fight mode.” However, the article describes heavy metal in relation to the tested subjects as “arousing and unpleasant;” thus I would consider the option that music taste does play a role (especially when self-selected music could be metal music). On a different note, the same article notes that the scientific community does not correlate a taste for heavy metal music and questionable behavior in adolescents or adults [C].
Chemistry and biology aside, some studies more oriented towards the social sciences also have conflicting findings towards heavy metal. One of them finds that while fans of the genre do not react negatively to the music, non-fans tend to report increases in feelings of anger and hostility when exposed to the stimulus. Other studies do not find a relationship between heavy metal and emotions like depression, sadness, or stress (a least, from the hands of non-fans) [B]. Now, a study that focuses on the social value of metal music and not on its intrinsic one finds it could benefit mental health. The study assesses the small community that metal fans belong to and its characteristics; the closeness of members works as a support for others and the appreciation of diversity plus reluctance to follow mainstream trends provides individuals with a sense of stability. The study contends that listeners of the genre are less likely to seek mental help than listeners of popular genres ( while not seeking help does not mean there is not an issue, the rest of the study suggests that it is indeed a result of healthier states mind) [F].
So what is the bottom-line? None, thank you for your time, have a nice day.
Jokes aside, what I could draw from this is that the little interest the scientific community has had on metal music has found differing results when conducting studies (and consequently, formulated different opinions on the genre). Music as a whole is a form of entertainment that regardless of the response, causes both the mind and body to react. There is no doubt that different types of music elicit different responses and that is one more reason to be fascinated by it. If there is anything I would like the readers to remember from this is that amylase breaks starch, and mercury (Hg) is a heavy metal; you can have a smooth digestion while head-banging to a Freddy Mercury song (and please do). Also, it makes for a good conversation whenever you do not know what to say at a family meal, or on your next date (I’m leaving my references and other resources below so you can peruse further). With no more to add, I wish you keep enjoying your summer, and whatever your musical tastes are, that world cup final was metal \m/ .
[A] Angier, Natalie. “A Molecule of Motivation, Dopamine Excels at Its Task.” The New York Times. October 26, 2009.
[B] L. Sharman and G. Dingle. “Extreme Metal Music and Anger Processing.” NCBI. May 21, 2015.
[C] Greger, Michael M.D. “The Health Effects of Heavy Metal Music.” NutritionFacts.org. December 7, 2017.
[D] Labbé, Schmidt, Babin, and Pharr. “Coping with Stress: The Effectiveness of Different Types of Music.” SpringerLink. October 27, 2007.
[E] BuzzFeedVideo. “How Music Affects Your Brian.” February 19, 2017.
[F] DNews. “How Heavy Metal can Make You a Better Person.” July 13, 2015.