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Heavy Metal and Happiness – Sinclaire Sparkman

While the melting eardrums thing is up for debate, metalheads are actually some of the most relaxed and balanced people I’ve met. I spent a fair bit of time around the Nashville metal scene a couple years ago. I interviewed bands, I met plenty of people and of course rocked out to whatever style the scene had to offer. I have to say I saw no babies murdered during my social metal adventure, and most fans of the music just want to have a good time.

Even with the volatile nature of the mosh pit, metalheads know there is a certain etiquette involved, like picking someone up if they fall down and not core dancing in a slam pit. In fact, it’s the people that think that it’s okay to punch people and flail aimlessly that ruin the fun, but I digress.

Metal and its many subgenres have a bad reputation for amplifying feelings of anxiety, depression and anger, but it’s actually quite the opposite for people who enjoy the musical style. A handful of psychological studies were done in 2015 to test the affects of metal on the mind. Across the board, the studies found that metal styles or “angry music” often had positive affects on the people being studied. A study by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem asked people to complete tasks after listening to extreme music. They performed better.

A study conducted by Australia’s University of Queensland asked people who love extreme music to describe a frustrating situation, and then let half of the subjects listen to metal and half sit in silence. Extreme music calmed people, regulating the frustration and enhancing positive feelings just about as much as sitting in silence.

I find this to be the case in my life as well, and many metalheads I’m sure would agree. I don’t feel angry when I listen to metal. I actually feel better. My mind relaxes as the double bass kicks in and the lyrics growled in time with guitars tuned to H-flat creates mental ecstasy and relief from the everyday drawl.

Psychologists know that people who feel their emotions are more likely to find a state of balance and happiness. Instead of ignoring feelings that exist even if avoided, the music to match the emotion helps to vent them out rather than push more into the psyche.

Anger, used in the right way, can actually inspire people to greatness, but it is not metal music that makes people angry. Music is well-known for its expressive qualities and an expression of anger is just as valid as one of love.

Emotions are just tools, anyway. We drive them with our perception of reality, although somehow paradoxically we are still driven by our feelings. The driving forces behind the mind bind us to find and wield the power inspired by our inner core of emotion. Music allows us focus to do this.

Many of my family members do not understand my taste in music. When I was a teen my parents were constantly anguishing over the effect this music was having on their daughter, and I get that, it sounds scary if you’re not a fan.

If you don’t like the music, it’s probably not going to have the same effect as it would on someone that enjoys it. Heavy breakdowns and guttural screams might even cause great feelings of anxiety to those that aren’t familiar with the style. For me though, when I turn on some heavy tunes, I find happiness.

Sinclaire Sparkman is The Democrat’s news editor and former editor of NashMetal Music. Email her at ssparkman@lebanondemocrat.com and follow her on Twitter @wilsoncoreports.

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