Through the aeons, humanity has relied on the power of music to regulate emotions, to celebrate, to communicate and to inspire creativity. In the case of metal, it can also be quite soothing to line up in a pit and take a run at your besties in a Wall of Death. Often-maligned as a style of music that cultivates anger and hostility, science has proven quite the opposite — that metalheads tend to be “significantly happier” and more well-adjusted than average. Not convinced? Here are six examples of science proving that heavy metal is good for your health.
Heavy metal can decrease stress and enhance positive emotions
A 2015 Australian study examined the supposed correlation between heavy metal and anxiety and depression. In the study, the testers induced levels of anger in participants and then allowed them to listen to metal tracks of their choosing for 10 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of silence. About half of the respondents chose music with aggressive themes, while the rest picked songs dealing with isolation and sadness. Lo and behold, the subjects’ levels of hostility, irritability and stress all decreased after listening to metal. Obviously people outside of metal won’t have the same reaction to tracks like Cannibal Corpse's Hammer Smashed Face, but for metalheads, the results were hardly surprising.
Metal gives people a sense of community
Countless studies have shown that belonging to a community fosters a heightened sense of self-esteem and improves mental health. Anybody who’s spent time at a metal festival knows only too well the chest-inflating joy of being surrounded by thousands of happy, smiling people who share the same musical passions as you. Throw in all of the denim, leather, band patches, tattoos, band tees and piercings and it feels like the loudest, brightest and infinitely most fun tribe on Planet Earth. Even in everyday situations, there’s a deep sense of connection in simply throwing the horns at the bloke in the supermarket wearing a Venom Prison shirt or honking at the car with a Slipknot bumper sticker. Whether at festivals, among friends or online, community matters and metal’s is second-to-none.
Playing metal can literally boost your immune system
Admittedly, this one applies to all forms of music, including metal, but it’s well worth mentioning. A 2002 study showed that actively participating in musical activity — bashing away on an instrument or even singing along with a song — produced a “significantly greater” increase in SlgA levels; these are antibodies that protect against infections in your mouth and gut. Low levels can lead to fatigue, food sensitivities, inflammation and nasty conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome. So the next time you’re upstairs playing power chords and somebody shouts at you to keep it down, let them know that you’re building up your immune system and if they had half a brain, they’d grab an instrument and join you.
Metal can improve critical thinking
This one is utterly fascinating. A Canadian psychologist published a paper that outlines how heavy metal might be used to promote scientific thinking in the classroom. Focusing on some of metal’s more infamous — and dubious — connections to crimes, the author confronts the age-old question, “Can music lead people to commit harmful acts?” Citing bands like Judas Priest and Slayer, the paper notes that the case could be used to facilitate discussions on how negative attitudes towards a subject like heavy metal can generate powerful social biases that can lead to unjust persecution and other such consequences. Of course, with so many songs devoted to historical events, mythological belief systems and classic literature, metal can also serve as a gateway for people to explore exciting new ideas and intellectual pursuits.
Metal inspires open-mindedness
In a 2013 British study, testers determined that metalheads had a much higher openness to new experiences. It makes sense. Unlike mainstream music fans, metalheads need to actively seek out new music either on their own, by exploring music sites, reading magazines or by participating in online communities. With so many genres and sub-genres, there are limitless options for fans to explore not just different styles but different themes and cultures. It’s therefore not at all shocking that headbangers would be more open to new ideas and experiences than someone who listens to whatever generic sludge is being fed to them via commercial radio.
Sharks fucking love metal
This has nothing to do with humans, it’s just cool as hell. While filming great white sharks for the show Bride Of Jaws for Shark Week, a documentary film crew found that cranking death metal through specialised underwater speakers attracted sharks to the boat. Sharks feel sound through detectors along their body, which allows them to zero in on their prey. The crew played some Darkest Era, positing that the sturdy thump of the tempos and clattering, resonant tones would get sharks’ attention, causing them to investigate. Sure enough, a 12-foot shark arrived in seconds, followed by a 14-footer right after. So if you ever find yourself facing a shark attack, start shouting out your favourite death metal tracks — maybe they'll let you off as a professional courtesy.