Is Metal Music Bad for Mental Health?

Dear Reader

It is 11:38 am on 23 April 2021. It is a classic cold and sunny spring morning here in the UK. Today, I am feeling positive about the future because I think the Covid pandemic is getting closer to being fully contained and I have hope (for now) that by the end of next year, it will be a distant memory.

As for myself, I have not changed much internally since my last posts in February. I have days of happiness and appreciation for life (good days). I also have days when I wake up contemplating purchasing a small bottle of vodka to sip on, to chase away the black dog of depression (bad days). Fortunately, whether it is a good or a bad day does not bother me too much anymore.

This morning, I find myself lurking in one of my usual haunts: I have cup of coffee no. 2 in hand (probably 2 too many). I am enjoying one of my preferred publications on Medium: “Invisible Illness”, and I am reflecting on an excellent article I just finished reading by Chandrayan Gupta titled: “Metal Music Could Actually Ease Depression and Negative Emotions.(1) and I recommend it to my readers.

I am thinking to myself: “Could metal music do that though? If I start listening to death metal right now to complement my coffee, would that work out well for me?”. It would be fun, but it would make my mood rise too high and derail the rest of my day.

Music has a profound effect on mood. In my case, sounds themselves can affect my energy levels and how I feel. For instance, the sound of builders drilling when I am walking around town can make me feel on edge. Typically, I listen to fast jazz piano music in the morning for the chirpy, meandering narratives to get into the active gear for work. In the afternoon, I am at my desk listening to cool rap music to get into the relaxed/focused gear. In the evening, I am ruminating at home listening to heavy, aggressive, emotive music to get into the fun/destress gear.  

If I were to listen to anything soothing right now, my brain would switch to the smooth gear and I would want to go back to bed to “meditate” (fall asleep). Last year, I had a period of listening to classical Indian raga music in the evenings for stress relief, but it did not last. I would get bored after 20 minutes of it and want to disrupt the peaceful vibe and switch to a darker vibe because it resonates with me more.

The truth is that depression and negative emotions are human and relatable. Everyone can relate to metal music and appreciate the purpose and the value for the listener, even if they do not like it themselves.

Angry Music = Angry Feelings?

In the discussion section of the article, Chandrayan references some scientific studies that attempt to discover whether extreme music and violent tendencies are related.

I took particular interest in the study paper from “Frontiers in Human Neuroscience”: “Extreme Metal Music and Anger Processing” (2). Firstly, I admire the great, clickbait title as it certainly caught my attention. For the study, 39 people were recruited for the sample. People were chosen who listen to “one or more extreme genres of music, such as heavy metal, punk, hardcore, and screamo, and listen to these at least 50% of the time they chose to listen to music.” The participants were evaluated before and after an interview that involved “describing one or more events within their life that produced a strong feeling of anger over a period of 16 min.” They then listened to their chosen angry music for 10 minutes and were evaluated a third time.

The methodology of the study is sound, despite the small sample size. The conclusion was “that extreme music fans listen to music when angry to match their anger, and to feel more active and inspired. They also listen to music to regulate sadness and to enhance positive emotions.” The conclusion affirms my own belief. I hope the study has/will be conducted again with a larger sample size.

My Catharsis

Disturbed frontman David Draiman feeling the power of metal (3.03).
Screenshot from music video: Disturbed – “Prayer” (official music video) on the Disturbed YouTube channel (3)

I enjoy listening to death metal sometimes such as Cannibal Corpse. I enjoy the expression of violent, murderous rage. In a related way, I enjoy watching serial killer documentaries because I find them cathartic. It is tragically fascinating that some people can sink so far down the insanity hole that they become demons. I believe catharsis comes from exploration and attempting to understand all forms of human emotion and behaviour. With catharsis, comes the big picture when evaluating your life situation. 

Some evenings, I grab my Fender guitar and my Peavey amp from the cupboard. I plug-in, press the distortion button on my amp, and grind-out some fast-picking, metal-style riffs. I work up a sweat and have a little rave with myself. It gets me in the mood to hit my metal playlist on Spotify.

Right now, I am feeling “Prayer” by the Chicago, heavy-metal band Disturbed. Today, I recommend this song to my readers. In my interpretation, it is a song about gratefulness. It helps me to remember that there are lots of people who have been scarred by life as much as and far worse than I have.

Hit the track, stand up, put your arms out, and sing along if you want.

Check out Chandrayan Gupta’s article on the publication: Invisible Illness

Written by MentalAshok


Published by mentalashok

Mental health content writer

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