According to the BBC, Macquarie University’s music lab ran a psychological test on death metal music to determine if the genre inspires violence. The University analyzed by using the cannibalistic-themed song “Eaten” from the death metal supergroup Bloodbath (Katatonia, Paradise Lost, Opeth), and you can find the outcome here. The results are what any true death metal fan would expect as they are not “desensitized” to violence.
This study is part of a decades-long investigation by Professor Bill Thompson, from the Australian University based out in Sydney. This particular experiment involved recruiting 32 fans and 48 non-fans of the subgenre to participate by listening to “Eaten” or the pop song Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” while looking at violent imagery. Lead researcher Dr. Yanan Sun described the process stating that participants would listen to “Eaten” or “Happy” while they were given two different images simultaneously as one eye would show violence, and the other would depict a normal-peaceful clip.
Dr. Sun explained the experiment was to measure how much the participants’ brains would notice the violent images while comparing to see how their sensitivity was affected by the music (“Happy” or “Eaten”).
Prof Thompson concluded that fans of death metal are “nice people” and you will not see them “going to go out and hurt someone” after listening to such brutal music.
“Many people enjoy sad music, and that’s a bit of a paradox – why would we want to make ourselves sad? The same can be said of music with aggressive or violent themes. For us, it’s a psychological paradox – so [as scientists] we’re curious, and at the same time we recognise that violence in the media is a socially significant issue.”
Thompson explained more on the experiment:
“The brain will try to take it in – presumably there’s a biological reason for that, because it’s a threat. 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.”
The BBC asked Bloodbath’s frontman Nick Holmes (Paradise Lost) about what the group thinks about their music being used in this type of research experiment, Holmes responded:
“We don’t have any issue with it. The lyrics are harmless fun, as the study proved.”
Later, he told the BBC about the group’s lyrical content:
“Basically an aural version of an 80s horror film. The majority of death metal fans are intelligent, thoughtful people who just have a passion for the music. It’s the equivalent of people who are obsessed with horror movies or even battle re-enactments.”
The overall reason behind this research is due to particular parental, religious, and other censorship groups who are worried that certain genres of music will expose and influence people to violence. With a test such as this, maybe their next one should be on black metal.
However, people have placed blame on violence from video games, movies, and all sorts of entertainment over the years. While we find this particular test humorous, it is crucial in the long run as many more like this should be conducted.
Bloodbath’s “Eaten,” is from their sophomore effort 2004’s Nightmares Made Flesh, you can order your copy here. The group released their fifth full length album, The Arrow of Satan is Drawn, in October 2018 via Peaceville Records and you can grab your copy here.