New Study Asserts That Metal Helps Fans Cope with Death

  • Axl Rosenberg

Telling a metalhead that they music they love works as a healthy outlet for them to deal with negative emotions is like telling any human being that they need oxygen to live. Like… duhhhhhh. There will always be schmucks who take the dark, often violent themes of metal lyrics way too seriously, but most of us listen to music about death and destruction all day so that we don’t actually do anything deadly or destructive. “I’d be in jail if not for metal” is a common claim amongst metalheads, as is “Metal helped me get through some really grade-A fucked up shit.” As our friend Kim Kelly once wrote, very touchingly:

“When I was an angry, pierced-up kid in high school, and my mother was lying in a hospital for months and months, drifting in and out of comas, with nothing but a lifetime of brain damage to look forward to — what do you think I was listening to? …[W]hat cheered me up and made me feel strong, made me feel like I wasn’t alone, and convinced me that there was a bigger world outside of my six-hundred-odd person town in the middle of nowhere? A world worth living for, fighting for? …It was black metal. I couldn’t talk to my friends about how I was feeling, about the howling void of bleakness, hopelessness, and sadness that threatened to consume me. The harshness, the raw, agonizing pain and aggression and sheer misanthropic ferocity that shone through Leviathan, Xasthur, Darkthrone, Cult of Daath, Kult ov Azazel — THAT made sense to me then.”

Although this concept seems pretty obvious, there are a lot of stupid people in the world. So science had to take time to do a study to verify that extreme music does, indeed, help people cope with heinous personal situations.

Metal Injection reports that the scholarly journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture recently published a study entitled “The Memory Remains: How Heavy Metal Fans Buffer Against the Fear of Death” (you can tell the study was written by people who don’t generally care about metal because they used the title of such a shitty Metallica song for their study… and apparently didn’t even bother to listen to the lyrics of the song before doing so — “The Memory Remains” is about Axl Rose being full of himself, not death or depression). To read the full study costs twelve bucks, which seems like a waste of money given its self-evident conclusion, so I’m not gonna buy it. But here’s the part that’s free for your perusal:

“Heavy metal music is often associated with death and dying by nonfans whereas members of this subculture report that listening to metal music is their escape from depression and even helpful against death-related thoughts. According to terror management theory, self-esteem and cultural worldview serve as a symbolic, 2-component buffer system working against the fear of death. What remains unclear in recent research on terror management theory is if (a) the presentation of cultural goods directly after mortality salience is enough to help against the fear of death or if the buffer components still need to be activated and (b) if the activation of 1 buffer component is enough. Metal music can be seen as cultural good for fans and thereby can form part of their social identity. Two studies investigated whether heavy metal music is able to serve as a cultural worldview buffer against existential anguish by using implicit measurements. In Study 1, we found that fans had no further need to increase their cultural worldview but only if they listened to metal music after the induction of mortality salience. Results of Study 2 revealed that metal music made further support of self-esteem unnecessary for fans whereas nonfans still had the need to increase their self-esteem.”

If the authority figures in your life are the kinds of folks who call metal “the devil’s music,” this study probably won’t help you change their minds, because there is no way to introduce logic and reason into a conversation with someone who believes in Santa Claus and The Tooth Fairy. For everyone else, though, you can now counter any anti-metal argument by screaming “SCIENCE SAYS IT’S GOOD FOR ME!” and sticking your tongue out. That’ll show ’em but good.

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