'Joy' comes in many forms.

‘Joy’ comes in many forms.

A scientific study has determined that death metal fans are usually nice people.

Ever since bands like Black Sabbath introduced macabre imagery into their music, certain subgenres of heavy metal have become more extreme and controversial.  In the case of death metal, fans are often thought to engage in violence and other unpleasantries, but recent scientific research suggests otherwise.

The Royal Society Open Science journal has published the results of a psychological study conducted by researchers from Macquarie University.  One of the determinations made was that listening to death metal does not result in a desensitization to violence.

The test involved two listener groups: death metal and pop music fans, with both listening to specific tracks.

The two songs selected for this research are polar opposites.  Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” was streamed next to Bloodbath’s “Eaten.”  The test subjects viewed violent imagery as they listened to both songs, and their brain wave activity was measured.

What researchers found was what many death metal bands and producers already know.

Death metal fans reacted largely the same to violent scenes as their ‘Happy’ counterparts.  They weren’t ‘shut off’ or excited by violence.

Similar to watching horror films, scary music does not erase emotional sensitivity.  But this is not something that certain religious groups and segments of society are willing to accept.

Researchers concluded that the joy a classical music fan gets from listening to a Mozart is the same joy a death metal fan gets from listening to obscure Swedish bands that specialize in black metal.  This is somewhat of a paradox, given that the music and lyrics of death metal bands are rarely uplifting and oftentimes extremely violent.  But this doesn’t mean that enjoyment cannot be derived.

Similar research conducted among people who play violent video games to the point of obsession has found some level of desensitization to violence.

But that doesn’t seem to translate into music.  The listening experience tends to be intellectually empowering and uplifting; more importantly, it does not get in the way of letting our minds biologically react with aversion towards violence. The poignancy of blues, for example, does not result in listeners seeking lives of despair.