Metal music not linked to self-harm, say many

Numerous studies in the past have propounded the benefits of listening to genres like metal. There have also been surveys detailing that an exceptionally high number of bright students listen to metal.

Metalheads in the city are surprised by the findings of a new study which claims that young heavy metal fans are five times more likely to self-harm or attempt suicide. 

The study, conducted by researchers from the Universities of Manchester and Liverpool, found that groups belonging to alternative subcultures — which also include goths and emos — are at greater risk of hurting themselves.

However, the study has not been able to figure out why people listening to such genres are at risk. Reasons put forth range from a sense of alienation from society, victimisation and stigma associated with belonging to these subcultures and a feeling that young people who have faced more adversity may be more likely to become part of a subculture. 

Salman U Syed, founder of Infinite Dreams and promoter of Bangalore Open Air, says, “I really doubt the authenticity of this study. Till date, I have never come across a depressed heavy metalhead. This is a genre which is associated with rebellion. You don’t get depressed and rebel.” 

Munz Tdt, lead vocalist of ‘The Down Troddence’, too expressed his surprise at the findings of the study. “I disagree with the findings and not just because I belong to this community. I have usually heard people say that metal music helps them get out of their depression or anxiety. It is about being a rebel and fighting back, instead of sitting in a corner and crying”

He adds, “Metal, or music in general, helps people channel their emotions in a good way. For example, I had gone through a lot of problems as a teenager. Metal music helped me channel my anger in a positive way and enabled me to reach where I am today. If that wasn’t there, I don’t know what I would have done to myself.”

While agreeing that there are bands, musicians and songs which talk about or focus on suicidal tendencies, Munz clarifies that none of them promote these thoughts or actions explicitly. “They just talk about it, just like other genres of music or even other forms of entertainment like movies.”

Avid music aficionado Vasudevan B, a student at Manipal Institute of Technology, notes that the interpretation of the lyrics and how closely one identifies with them determines the way one reacts to them. “Some of the lyrics of certain songs are quite heavy and do promote violence of sorts. If you identify too much with the words, then there are chances that you might take some extreme steps. But being a musicophile, I personally concentrate more on the music than the lyrics.”  

Not just the artiste community, but also doctors are rallying behind the positive effects of metal music. Says Dr Shreya Chatterjee, psychologist, “Various studies have proven that such music has helped young fans to regulate their own emotion instead of making them more sad or aggressive. The hypothesis which gets maximum support is that young listeners of genres like these try to match their anger with the anger or pain expressed in the songs and this helps them cope better. In some cases, people with severe anger issues did much better when they listened to hardcore metal songs.”

What is metal music?

Heavy metal is a genre of rock music that is characterised by loud distorted guitars, emphatic rhythms, dense bass-and-drum sound, and vigorous vocals. Some see heavy metal as the most commercially successful genre of rock music.

On the other hand...

Numerous studies in the past have propounded the benefits of listening to genres like metal. There have also been surveys detailing that an exceptionally high number of bright students
listen to metal.

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