(TMU) – For most people, it would seem counter-intuitive to suggest that fans of the death metal musical genre are actually fairly normal and balanced people, rather than stereotypical anti-social misfits.
Yet a decades-long investigation published Wednesday by the Australian Royal Society journal Open Science has found that death metal fans are not only not sensitive people, but they are actually emotionally serene and empathetic types–perhaps even model, upstanding citizens.
The suggestion seems absurd. After all, classic examples of songs from the scene are rife with violent and thundering percussion, machinegun-like snare drums, b****** vocals and storms of shredding riffs. The band logos are largely illegible while album covers art splattered in blood and infernal imagery.
And then there are the lyrics. Oh, hell no. Take, for example, the chorus to the classic 1991 song Sickening Art by Swedish death metal pioneers Dismember–with lyrics written from the standpoint of a serial killer, a gruesome yet common theme in the underground genre:
A end to your misery”
Horrible stuff, right? Why would anyone be drawn to such a marginal, alienated genre of music?
That was precisely what Professor Bill Thompson at Sydney’s Macquarie University and his team sought to find out in their study of the emotional impact of music on listeners.
Thompson told BBC News:
“[Death metal] fans are nice people. They’re not going to go out and hurt someone.”
In a separate interview, Thompson told Scientific American:
“The ubiquitous stereotype of death metal fans—fans of music that contains violent themes and explicitly violent lyrics—[is] that they are angry people with violent tendencies. What we are finding is that they are not angry people. They’re not enjoying anger when they listen to the music, but they are in fact experiencing a range of positive emotions.”
Indeed, songs such as Sickening Art–and similarly harsh classics like Premature Burial, Sons of Vengeance, Asphyxiation, and Maze of Torment–have more or less the same impact on metalheads as the Pharrell Williams hit Happy does on pop fans. As Thompson said:
“The dominant emotional response to this music is joy and empowerment … And I think that to listen to this music and to transform it into an empowering, beautiful experience – that’s an amazing thing.”
In one of the psychological tests that the Macquarie University music lab undertook, 32 death metal fans and 48 non-fans were recruited to view unpleasant and violent imagery while listening to either Happy, or its polar opposite–the song Eaten by Swedish death metal band Bloodbath, whose lyrics describe the yearning of the subject to be cannibalized and eaten while they are still alive.
The aim of the study was to gauge how participants’ brains reacted to violent scenes and to what degree their sensitivity to the footage was impacted by the musical accompaniment.
The researchers noted that Eaten was “selected because it has explicitly violent lyrics that are accompanied by music with acoustic qualities that are characteristics of biological signals of aggression (e.g. nonlinearities, low mean pitch level, growling or screaming vocalizations).“
As each participant listened to either Happy or Eaten, they were exposed to a pair of images. While one of their eyes was exposed to scenes of violence–for example, an assault in the street–the other eye viewed a peaceful image such as people walking peacefully down the same street.
The principle of the test was binocular rivalry, where those presented with a neutral image in one eye and a violent one in the other were expected to focus more on the violent scenes. The researchers assumed that the focus of subjects was determined by humans’ propensity to focus more on the violence, which is naturally processed by people a potential threat.
Lo and behold, death metal fans reacted just as any normal person would, displaying revulsion at the scenes of street violence–a clear indicator that their basic human sensitivities and empathy were still intact.
“If fans of violent music were desensitized 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 study also noted how fans and non-fans process music in radically different ways, reflecting “individual circumstances, personality, and social and cultural influences“:
“Although our investigation considered music in which violent lyrics are accompanied by aggressive musical sounds, it should be noted that lyrics and music need not always have congruent emotional connotations. For example, the lyrics of ‘John Wayne Gacy Jr’ by Sufjan Stevens depicts a serial killer, but the music is calm and relaxing. Similarly, ‘Strange Fruit’ by Billy Holiday describes the lynching of African Americans, but the music has ambiguous connotations that could even be construed as peaceful for some listeners. The relative importance of lyrics and sounds of music would be a valuable topic for future research.”
In a separate study published in August, Thompson and co-author Kirk Olsen also noted that the harsh, rapid, and discordant character of death metal may release neurochemicals in listeners such as epinephrine, which “may underpin feelings of positive energy and power reported by fans, and tension, fear and anger reported by non-fans”–verifying what all metalheads know, which is that the genre is an acquired taste.
Bloodbath lead singer Nick Holmes was hardly perturbed by the use of their song in the test, noting that “the lyrics are harmless fun, as the study proved.” Continuing, Holmes noted that Bloodbath is “basically an aural version of an 80s horror film”–just like similar bands including Cannibal Corpse, Exhumed, Autopsy or Dismember.
But such disclaimers haven’t spared the genre the brunt of controversy in the thirty-plus years since death metal’s inception.
In the past, genre precursors like thrash and heavy metal have been attacked by conservative groups like the Parents Music Research Center for “destroying families,” causing violence, and causing all sorts of other evils–which, along with the popularity of gangsta rap, hip-hop, and other “dangerous” genres, eventually provoked the long-bygone “PARENTAL ADVISORY: EXPLICIT LYRICS” label of the 1990s.
In one police training video from the 1990s, “heavy metal rock music” bands like Iron Maiden, Slayer, AC/DC and “The Metallica” are described as promoting “demonic themes” that promote rampant drug use and “ritual crime” by “satanic cults,” with “latchkey kids” using the music to channel their “rebellion against parental authority and social standards.”
Holmes himself notes that the music he tends to lean towards is “melancholic, dramatic, sad or aggressive and not much in-between.” He added:
“I take joy and empowerment from those styles.”
As for whether he worries that songs like Eaten could one day be taken seriously and lead to a case of cannibalistic fan-on-fan murder, Holmes noted:
“I didn’t personally write [the lyrics], but I would be frankly astounded if anyone listened to that song and then felt a desire to be eaten by a cannibal.”
12-Year-Old DJ Gets Busted For Hosting ‘Underground Rave’ In Catholic School Bathroom
A 12-year-old boy in the U.K. organized a rave in the bathroom of his Catholic school that managed to last for 30 minutes before it was shut down and his equipment was confiscated. However, his parents are backing the young DJ up.
Cael Bell is an enterprising, up-and-coming turntablist who decided earlier this month that it was time to display his talents for his mates at Urmston in the Greater Manchester region.
So Bell took to Snapchat and began advertising an underground rave that would take place in the lavatory of the private school during lunch period on Dec. 11. The event was open to “all year 8 boys” at the school. Attendees would also receive complimentary soft drinks and Cadbury Twirls.
As Consequence of Sound noted, “while a school bathroom is a below-average setting for such a lunch, it is certainly cleaner than your typical rave.”
Bell managed to sneak his speakers and other gear into the restroom and held a set for 30 minutes before the school’s authorities broke up the underground gig. The school even confiscated Bell’s lights and speakers.
When Cael’s mother, Louise Bell, learned about her son’s transgression she wasn’t peeved in the least bit. In fact, the young mum actually thought that her son’s antics were ingenious. She wrote in a Facebook post: “Am I wrong for finding this funny?”
“I had to laugh. It has been a terrible year and I couldn’t be angry with my son for trying to spread some cheer,” she later told The Mirror in an interview.
“When I got the call, it made perfect sense,” Louise continued. “Cael had been up, dressed and ready to leave for school early that morning which was unheard of in our house. He had the biggest smile on his face so I knew he had something up his sleeve.”
“I asked him what he was so happy about and he told me they were having a rave in school,” she added. “I thought nothing of it, I didn’t think for one minute there was any truth to it.”
“But when I heard what Cael had done, from advertising the rave on Snapchat to actually pulling it off and even providing refreshments, I couldn’t help but see the funny side.”
When Cael’s father also learned about his son’s antics, he was thrilled and encouraged his son, telling him: “go on son!”
“In our eyes, he hadn’t done anything wrong,” Louise continued. “We would have been furious if the teachers had reprimanded him further, past confiscating his things.”
Even the school had to admit that they were impressed by the lad, informing her that they had only confiscated his equipment because it “couldn’t facilitate such behavior.”
“When we asked him why he’d done it, he told us school was boring and that they had nothing to do at lunch time,” Louise said. “I wish there had been a Cael when I was in school, it would have been much more fun.”
“Music is Cael’s motivation and we couldn’t be mad at him for expressing and sharing that passion. It was very inventive of him.”
American Flag Clad Trump Supporters Rock Out To Rage Against The Machine – Band Reacts
Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello shared a video on Twitter Friday night, which showed supporters of US President Donald Trump, clad in American flags and “thin blue line” flags, rocking out to the band’s song “Killing in the Name” in Philadelphia.
The video was also shared from the band’s official Twitter account, with the caption “They just don’t GET IT do they?”
In an interview with Rollings Stone earlier this year, Morello said that lyrics of the song make him think of Frederick Douglass, although it is not clear if he was an inspiration for the song, which Zack de la Rocha wrote.
“‘F*** you, I won’t do what you tell me’ is a universal sentiment. While it’s a simple lyric, I think it’s one of [Zack de la Rocha’s] most brilliant. And to me, it relates to Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass said, the moment he became free was not the moment that he was physically loosed from his bonds. It was the moment when master said, “Yes.” And he said, “No.” And that’s the essence of “F*** you, I will not do what you tell me,” Morello said.
The lyrics for the song also explicitly discuss the connection that police departments across the country have with white supremacy, in the lines “some of those that work forces are the same that burn crosses,” and “you justify those that died by wearing the badge, they’re the chosen whites.” In fact, these lines account for about 50% of the words in the song, so they are pretty hard to miss.
Morello has previously said that it was encouraging to hear the song chanted at the “Fed goons who are shooting tear gas at American citizens,” but he doesn’t seem very proud of this most recent video.
Political campaigns have a long history of making musicians cringe by playing their music at political events.
In recent weeks, the Trump campaign has been criticized for its use of songs for campaign purposes, including Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son,” which is about how poor people get sent to war, but those who are wealthy or connected with politicians stay out of harm’s way and reap the benefits of the conquests. Many could easily argue that Trump is a representation of the “fortunate son” that is criticized in the song.
He has also used Bruce Springsteen’s song “Born In The USA,” which is frequently misunderstood by politicians and appropriated for political campaigns. Springsteen himself has called the song a “protest song,” partly based on Ron Kovic’s 1976 autobiography Born on the Fourth of July, which tells the story of a Vietnam veteran who becomes anti-war after returning home with a physical disability from the conflict.
Springsteen described how the song was misunderstood in a 2005 interview with NPR’s Terry Gross.
“‘Born In The USA’ is a classic situation of a song misinterpreted by some because of its chorus. My music has been a football where I had people from the far-left to the far-right who misrepresent us. It’s something I live with and I always have the opportunity to go on stage and say my piece about it,” He said.
The Flaming Lips Held A Concert Where Everyone Was In A Plastic Bubble
Although many people throughout the United States have started to get back to work, the live entertainment industry is still on hold for the most part.
Some artists and production companies have come up with creative ideas to keep the shows running, but they look nothing like the events of 2019. The most popular style of COVID-era concert this past summer was the drive-in, with many artists touring drive-in theaters that were repurposed as outdoor concert venues.
However, at these shows, everyone is still required to stay in their cars, and it doesn’t feel much like a real concert.
Last week, the popular rock band The Flaming Lips actually played an indoor concert venue but they performed in giant plastic bubbles, and all of the fans in attendance were inside the bubbles also. The show happened at The Criterion in Oklahoma City, where the band used the strange setting to shoot a music video.
The band’s frontman Wayne Coyne told CNN that he came up with the idea when the pandemic began, but didn’t expect the virus to stick around long enough for it to actually be necessary.
“I did a little drawing… where I drew a picture of The Flaming Lips doing a show in 2019. And I’m the only person in the space bubble, and everybody else is just norma. Then (I did another drawing with) The Flaming Lips playing a show in 2020. The exact same scenario, but I’m in a bubble, and so is everybody else….I don’t think anybody would have thought, in the middle of March that this is still going to be going, you know, eight months later. I think we all thought this is a month, this is maybe two months, but we’re going to get a handle on this,” he said.
The band first revealed the idea on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” back in May, and the reaction inspired them to expand it into a full concert experience.
“We do a couple of songs with about 30 people in the bubbles. And we start to think, ‘Well, you know, just from doing that, we start to get an idea that we could actually do it, you know, and it could actually happen,'” Coyne said.
“Since May, the desire to see the live music has just gotten, you know, more, more amplified,” he added.
Although this is the first time that they have required their fans to wear them, the band has previously performed in space bubbles, so they knew exactly where to find them.
“I like the way this looks, because you can get as excited as you want, you can scream as much as you want, you just can’t infect the person next to you, no matter what you forget about, how excited you get. That barrier is still there, they’re protected, and you’re protected… that part of it is what we really felt like was the success,” Coyne said.
“We, as The Flaming Lips, we like the idea that we are doing something different…. I think it could be cool. It could be fun. And we could all have a, you know, a crazy unique experience,” he added.
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