Aussie scientists have once again looked into the death metal genre, finding out that fans of such music tend to be “nice people”.

If you spent your weekend at the 2019 edition of Download Festival, or if you’ve ever hit up a heavy music concert, you likely would have discovered you were in the presence of some pretty nice folks.

Yes, despite menacing sounds, furious stage shows, and often uncomfortable lyrics being prevalent in the genre, metal fans tend to be some of the most welcoming, caring, and communal music-lovers out there. Now, science can back that up.

You might recall how last year, music psychologist William Forde Thompson from Sydney’s Macquarie University attempted to find out why exactly people enjoy the genre of death metal.

During his findings, Thompsons wrote that fans of death metal “are not angry people,” explaining that “they’re not enjoying anger when they listen to the music, but they are in fact experiencing a range of positive emotions.”

Now, he’s at it again, with a new study finding that the often-maligned genre actually inspires happiness in its listeners.

Published in the Royal Society journal Open Science, this new study is the latest in a decades-long investigation which has seen William Thompson and his colleagues attempting to learn more about the emotional impacts of music.

As part of the study, 32 fans of death metal and heavy music and 48 non-fans participated in listening to certain songs while viewing imagery which may be considered ‘unpleasant’.

While being played Bloodbath’s ‘Eaten’ (which features lyrics based around the topic of cannibalism), participants were shown images of a violent scene through one eye, and a non-violent scene through the other.

The idea was to test how fans of metal reacted to violent imagery when paired with similar-sounding music, compared to how they reacted to non-violent music – in this case, Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’.

“It’s called binocular rivalry,” researcher Dr Yanan Sun explained to the BBC. “The basis of this psychological test is that when most people are presented with a neutral image to one eye and a violent image to the other – they see the violent image more.”

“The brain will try to take it in – presumably there’s a biological reason for that, because it’s a threat,” added Professor William Thompson.

“If fans of violent music were desensitised to violence, which is what a lot of parent groups, religious groups and censorship boards are worried about, then they wouldn’t show this same bias. But the fans showed the very same bias towards processing these violent images as those who were not fans of this music.”

“[Death metal] fans are nice people,” he concluded. “They’re not going to go out and hurt someone.”

As Thompson explains, these finding should be considered reassuring to parents, meaning that young metal fans might be able to listen to bands like Bloodbath without being hassled by their elders for a change.

Try it for yourself, check out Bloodbath’s ‘Eaten’:

YouTube VideoPlay

Get unlimited access to the coverage that shapes our culture.
to Rolling Stone magazine
to Rolling Stone magazine