Does heavy metal music affect the brain? (5 ways)

This blog post aims to answer the question, “Does heavy metal music affect the brain?” and explores metal music, and its various subgenres and studies how one of its renowned subgenres, heavy metal music, affects the brain to help understand the answer. 

Does heavy metal music affect the brain?

Yes, heavy metal music does affect the brain in the following 5 ways –

  • Anger and displays of rage.
  • Depression.
  • Acceptance.
  • Cognitive function.
  • Coping with stress. 

These 5 ways in which heavy metal music affects the brain will be discussed in further detail below after taking a deeper look at what metal music means. 

What is metal music?

Metal music is a kind of rock music that features heavy drumming, violent lyrics, distorted guitar chords, and low-frequency bass notes. It’s a relatively simple genre to study and learn about because it simply focuses on a few core elements and seldom deviates from them.

Musicians may add speed to their performances by increasing the song’s tempo or playing a fast-shredding guitar solo. Aside from that, the components are nearly identical. The term ‘metal’ is said to have originated with the hippy movement, although its roots are unclear.

Many people consider metal to be a subgenre of rock, although it is not. It just sprouted off of it, much like rock developed off of blues. Plus, metal can’t be a subgenre when there are so many subgenres already.

Some metal subgenres are, in fact, hybrids of rock and metal. Aside from that, there isn’t much that the two genres have in common. Rock, in fact, has more in common with blues than it does with metal.

Between the histories of rock and heavy metal, the history of metal music is frequently forgotten. People only track heavy metal’s milestones without paying much attention to the mother genre because it is metal’s most successful subgenre and possibly the most popular subgenre in music history.

Subgenres of metal music.

Heavy Metal.

Heavy metal is the fundamental subgenre of metal, from which all subsequent subgenres branched forth. Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Led Zeppelin are among the pioneers of this subgenre, which is the closest to the oldest type of metal.

The unholy trinity has a tremendous impact on all heavy metal bands, causing them to stick to their sound without changing the distortions or pace.

Although they perform a separate genre, many hard rock bands are lumped together as heavy metal. Although Led Zeppelin has been confused for one of them, it is a special situation because it founded heavy metal.

Power Metal.

Fantasy, dragons, and legendary creatures are all staples of power metal. The lyrics mostly address these issues, with metal elements incorporated into the music.

The style is primarily recognised for its undistorted noise and high voices. It’s as different as night and day from dark metal and other subgenres, and because of the imaginations linked with it, it’s undoubtedly the most melodic of all subgenres.

It’s also regarded as a close relative of gothic metal. HammerFall and DragonForce are two of the subgenre’s forerunners.

Thrash Metal.

Thrash metal is perhaps the most well-known style of heavy metal, thanks to bands like Megadeth and Metallica. With so many subgenres to choose from, it’s now fading off the map, but it’s still on the minds of die-hard fans.

The subgenre aided in the expansion of early metal music’s popularity. It sped up the music and added some complicated guitar chords and riffs, creating a powerful sound. Thrash metal is also responsible for the popularity of shredding guitar solos.

Glam Metal.

Glam metal is no longer around, which is why you’ve probably never heard of it. You may have heard it referred to as hair metal. Glam metal bands are recognised for their glitzy looks and ‘glam’ aesthetics. Dokken, Van Halen, and Alice Cooper are among them.

Their music was fantastic, but they lacked vital elements, which hurt them. While doom and black metal focused on dread and problematic issues, glam metal took a more straightforward approach to metal.

Glam metal bands were the ‘Lady Gaga’ of heavy metal, capturing everyone’s attention with their looks everywhere they went.

Black Metal.

‘Distortion,’ bellows black metal. Along with shouted voices, quick tempos, and severe noise, it’s the genre’s only most vital component.

This subgenre features contentious lyrics centred on religious views and iconoclastic ideals. There were also some diabolical overtones thrown in by the writers. Mayhem, Emperor, and Darkthrone are examples of black metal bands.

Death Metal.

Death metal arose from thrash metal and was influenced greatly by black metal. It’s a noisy subgenre that heavily relies on distorted chords and pounding beats. That’s not to mention the snarling vocals.

Death metal is frequently mistaken for thrash metal, and vice versa. The most noticeable distinction is that thrash metal produces catchy noises, but death metal is unconcerned with marketing. It’s all about distorted tones and loud voices.

Death metal spawned a slew of subgenres, including progressive metal and black metal.

What are these 5 ways in which heavy metal music affects the brain?

Anger and displays of rage.

The argument that listening to extreme music induces anger, as well as anger-related behaviours like aggressiveness and delinquency, has yet to be proven using controlled experimental procedures. 

In a research, 39 extreme music fans between the ages of 18 and 34 were given an anger induction before being randomly assigned to either 10 minutes of listening to extreme music from their own playlist or 10 minutes of quiet (control). 

Heart rate and subjective assessments on the Positive and Negative Affect Scale were used to assess emotion (PANAS). The results revealed that during the anger induction, PANAS hostility, irritability, and stress rose, and then decreased after the music or quiet.

During the anger induction, the heart rate increased, remained constant (not raised) in the music condition and dropped in the quiet condition. During music listening, PANAS active and inspired ratings increased, which was not apparent in controls. 

Extreme music did not make furious people angrier, according to the findings; rather, it seemed to mirror their physiological arousal and result in an increase in pleasant feelings. For certain listeners, listening to extreme music may be a good approach to processing their rage.

Listeners are drawn to music that reflects or enhances their emotional condition (Juslin and Sloboda, 2010; Wheeler et al., 2011). (Saarikallio, 2011; Thoma et al., 2012; Papinczak et al., 2015). 

Extreme music includes heavy metal, emotional (emo), hardcore, punk, screamo, and all of its subgenres. Extreme music is defined by chaotic, loud, heavy, and forceful sounds accompanied by passionate vocals, with lyrical themes of anxiety, sadness, social isolation, and loneliness (Shafron and Karno, 2013).

It has been suggested that extreme music causes anger and displays of rage such as aggressiveness, delinquency, drug usage, and suicide actions as a result of these musical features (Selfhout et al., 2008). 

There is certainly evidence of the impact of a listener’s emotional state on their choice and preference for music listening, even when they are furious. 

Approach motivation (defined as the want to go forward) may be stimulated by anger, according to research on anger processing (Carver and Harmon-Jones, 2009), such that after feeling anger, we try to carry out approach-driven actions, such as furious facial expression and physical reprisal.

Extreme music has been understood as generating anger among its listeners, and this may trigger aggressive actions, due to the highly stimulating nature of the music and the negative sentiments usually featured in the lyrics (Gowensmith and Bloom, 1997). 

Extreme music may, however, be chosen when a listener is furious because the stimulating quality of the music may mirror the listener’s already present internal arousal, allowing them to explore and process this emotional state.

Depression.

Depression is a mental illness that produces poor emotions and a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities. If you enjoy metal, listening to it might help you cope with any unpleasant feelings you may be experiencing. It may also aid in the reduction of cortisol levels, which can lead to a reduction in stress.

Acceptance.

Many people may desire to be liked and included in a group. Going to metal shows, listening to your favourite bands, and simply being a fan may help you form bonds with individuals who share your passion.

Feeling alone or alone may have a detrimental influence on your health and well-being. Knowing that you share a passion for the same kind of music as so many people might help you feel less alone and more like a part of something greater than yourself.

Cognitive function.

Musical tastes and cognition were investigated in a 2015 research. It was discovered that those who love powerful music, such as heavy metal, think more rationally and in more complicated terms than those who don’t.

In a 2019 poll of over 90,000 developers (coders), respondents were asked what forms of music help them focus. Participants said that listening to a variety of music, ranging from classical to video game soundtracks, helped them focus. 

However, an estimated 2,000 participants claimed that metal helped them focus the most. Metal music does not affect the brain or correlate with intellect in any manner, according to scientific studies.

Coping with stress. 

Heavy metal has been demonstrated to assist kids to cope with stress during challenging times. Metal is known for being loud and intense, with vocals that are occasionally shouted or screamed as well as singing. And if you like the way it sounds, this distinct music genre might have a favourable effect on your mental health.

Metal songs are known for combining emotive lyrics with the genre’s signature larger-than-life sound. Metal music may serve as a therapeutic release for severe emotions such as wrath. It can also help you relax. This high level of energy can provide an emotional release for metal fans.

According to a tiny 2002 research, listening to metal music can enhance both your body and mind and may even assist your immune system. However, you could say the same thing about any song you enjoy.

Conclusion – 

This blog post attempted to answer the question, “Does heavy metal music affect the brain?” and reviewed metal music, and its various subgenres and studied how one of its renowned subgenres, heavy metal music, affects the brain to help determine if heavy metal music affects the brain. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

References –

McFadden, C. 7 Amazing Mental Benefits of Listening to Heavy Metal. (2020, January 1). Retrieved from  https://interestingengineering.com/7-amazing-mental-benefits-of-listening-to-heavy-metal#:~:text=Its%20is%20actually%20good%20for,your%20cognitive%20abilities%20and%20memory

Rigby, S. Is heavy metal bad for your mental health? (2019, March18). Retrieved from  https://www.sciencefocus.com/science/is-heavy-metal-bad-for-your-mental-health/

Heavy metal music may have a bad reputation, but it has numerous mental health benefits for fans. Neuroscience News. (2019, August 4). Retrieved from https://neurosciencenews.com/heavy-metal-music-mental-health-14642/

Effects of Listening to Heavy Metal Music on College Students. Metal Insider. (2020,  February 28). Retrieved from https://metalinsider.net/news-around-the-world/effects-of-listening-to-heavy-metal-music-on-college-students

Wright, S. A. Yes, Listening to Metal Can Benefit Your Mental Health. (2021, October 29). Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/health/benefits-of-listening-to-metal-music

Does listening to heavy metal music make your brain open to newer levels? Quora. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.quora.com/Does-listening-to-heavy-metal-music-make-your-brain-open-to-newer-levels

Sharman, L., & Dingle, G. A. Extreme Metal Music and Anger Processing. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 9, 272. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4439552/

Reeder. Unbelievable Effects of Heavy Metal Music on Student’s Brain Activity. (2020, December 10). Retrieved from https://metaladdicts.com/effects-of-heavy-metal-music-on-brain/

12 Things Science Has Learned About Metalheads From Music Studies. Loudwire. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://loudwire.com/heavy-metal-music-studies/

Shukla, A. The Social Psychology Of Heavy Metal & Rock Music: Research On Metalheads. (2022, January 8). Retrieved from https://cognitiontoday.com/the-social-psychology-of-heavy-metal-rock-music-research-on-metalheads/

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