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New Australian study explores the appeal of death metal

From a research titled Who Enjoys Listening To Violent Music And Why?.

“Eyes bulging from their sockets, with every swing of my mallet, I smash your fucking head in, until brains seep in through the cracks.”  That’s from ‘Hammer Smashed Face’, by Cannibal Corpse, whose music was banned in Australia for ten years. Want some more? “Brutality now becomes my appetite, Violence is now a way of life, The sledge my tool to torture, As it pounds down on your forehead.”
 
When a group of researchers at NSW’s Macquarie University started work on their study Who Enjoys Listening To Violent Music And Why?, the main thrust was to investigate emotional experiences induced by death metal music. In real life, people tend to avoid unpleasant and negative experiences. So why then are they drawn to lyrics that throw that stuff in their faces?
 
Past studies on head bangers showed they saw themselves as intelligent and athletic, and considered the lyrics and artwork – extreme sexual violence, murder, decapitation, suicide, and drug and alcohol abuse – as art, and nothing more. The Macquarie University researchers investigated if death metal draws a certain kind of personality. Is it because it’s loud and rebellious or was there something deeper? Are they angry people who become angrier when they listen to the style?
 
Researchers William Forde Thompson, Kirk N. Olsen and Andrew Geeves got together 48 fans of death metal and 97 non-fans and played them between four to eight cuts of death metal music of 60 seconds long, and rated their emotional experiences. They got a surprise.
 
“Our results revealed striking differences in the emotional responses of fans and non-fans of death metal. For non-fans, listening to music with violent themes resulted in uniformly negative experiences. It left them feeling tense, afraid and angry,” the researchers, Thompson and Olsen wrote in a piece for The Conversation.
 
“But the music had the opposite effect for its fans, giving rise to positive experiences such as power, joy and peace. Fans, it seems, can selectively attend to particular acoustic and lyrical attributes of violent music in a way that promotes psycho-social goals. Instead of leaving them feeling hostile, the music helps fans to discharge or distract from their own negative feelings, increase energy levels, and generate powerful, visceral emotional states.”
 
Those who did the study said the music made them “feel alive” and “made electricity surge through their bodies”. It’s niche music, so it makes them feel apart from what they consider commercialised pap. The study did suggest that there was a possibility that death metal-lovers have actually become desensitised to violence through long time exposure to it, hence their “positive” responses.
 
Or possibly they were not troubled by violent song lyrics because they had an increased ability to distance themselves psychologically from them and were able to view the depictions as fantasy, not reality. Researchers suggested, “For fans, violent music provides both a source of powerful visceral emotions and a form of social surrogacy, leading to a strong sense of community and shared identity.”