We Have Proof That Listening To Death Metal Doesn't Make You Violent

Screaming, growling and often aggressive lyrics might form the backbone of death metal music -- but it doesn't inspire real-life violence among fans, a new study claims.

The study, published in the Royal Society Open Science journal on Wednesday, found listening to genres including extreme metal, rap and hip hop widely does not reduce sensitivity to violence outside of music.

Image: AAP

"The vast majority of fans actually get a lot of enjoyment out of it and process the music in a way that makes them feel empowered," lead researcher Professor Bill Thompson told 10 daily.

"They don't take it literally; they see it more as a comment on society rather than an endorsement of violence."

A team of Australian researchers from Macquarie University used the track 'Eaten' by death metal band Bloodbath and Pharrell Williams' song 'Happy' to examine the reactions of listeners.

The findings go against long-held suggestions about frequent exposure to violent media -- a fairly large field of study that includes television, gaming and music.

READ MORE: Listening To Music Makes You Less Creative So You Might Want To Press Pause

Thompson said music has not been widely researched, despite some genres often having violent lyrics that are amplified by "hyper-energetic sounds" like screaming or growling.

"From a biological standpoint, most people would perceive it to be aggressive, but we've found fans do not," he said.

Researchers played violent and neutral pictures simultaneously to each eye while participants -- both metal fans and non-fans -- listened to the two very different songs. They were then asked which picture they focused on.

Pharrell Williams' 'Happy' was one of two songs played to participants.

"For most people, the brain will dwell on the violent image, presumably because it is sensitive to threats," Thompson said.

"If you were desensitised to violence, you would expect a reduced tendency to process the violent image for longer than the neutral image. This wasn't the case."

The study found both the 32 metal fans and 48 non-fans showed bias towards the violent image regardless of the music genre. For non-fans, the bias was stronger while heavy music played.

Thompson said the findings should be reassuring for religious groups, politicians and parents concerned about violent music.

"They are just as sensitive and alert to violence that occurs around them as anybody else," he said.

"One of the biggest worries is that fans will become dulled to actual violence, or they might become violent themselves. That doesn't seem to be true.

He acknowledged a "small subset" of people who may have issues with violence, but noted this could come down to pre-existing factors.

While the findings are reassuring, Thompson said he is not immune to the sometimes "problematic" nature of violent song lyrics.

"I don't endorse them and I find them misogynistic," he said.

"What we wanted to do was run experiments without judgement on what fans are experiencing.

"We haven't yet addressed the questions around lyrics and those who harbour misogynistic views."

Featured image: AAP

Contact the author