Interestingly enough, this has also been shown to be true in animals, with dogs having clearly identifiable reactions to certain types of music, as has been recently recorded in the Dog Relaxation Experiment run by Betway Insider.
Putting aside our furry friends and their appreciation of different musical genres for a moment, however, how exactly does heavy metal affect our mood?
Heavy metal: the sound of anger?
Given all that we know about the connection between our emotional states and behaviour, and the music we listen to, you would think that a musical genre associated with head banging, satanism, mosh pits and expressions of rage would have a strong correlation with negative emotions and behaviour.
Interestingly, however, studies have repeatedly shown that metal – along with other forms of “extreme music” – can actually positively influence the listener, even inducing feelings of calmness, rather than anger or rage.
In a 2015 study at the University of Queensland in Australia, for example, researchers found that music such as heavy metal allowed the listeners to process anger rather than simply experiencing and perpetuating it.
Although it might have sounded to them as if it would simply intensify any feelings of anger, these Australian researchers found that the music helped them to experience anger more fully, which often left them feeling more active and inspired, rather than simply amplifying feelings of rage.
Similar conclusions have been drawn in more recent studies, which have confirmed that music with violent themes – such as heavy metal – does not necessarily make fans more angry or violent. Instead, external factors made a more important contribution.
How does heavy metal affect your mood?
With these conclusions in mind, however, how exactly does heavy metal impact your mood?
In the studies and interviews referenced above, heavy metal music has been shown to have a number of effects on behavioural states and moods.
For example, the energetic, powerful sounds that characterise heavy metal have been shown to provide an emotional release for fans and listeners. And by providing a way for listeners to process an emotional state – whether it be anger, frustration or sadness – this can actually help to make listeners happier in the long run.
Another way in which heavy metal can impact your mood is through the feeling of community you get when listening to this kind of music, particularly in a live setting.
The heavy metal music community is very well defined around the world. By attending live events with other likeminded individuals, listeners can develop a strong sense of community and inclusivity.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the mosh pit. From the outside, it might look like a chaotic scene where individuals are in violent conflict with each other. In reality, they are intensely social spaces with well-defined rules and etiquette.
It is perhaps for these reasons that the 2015 study by Queensland University confirmed that listening to head-banging music can have the same effect on its listeners as a warm hug!
Another example of how heavy metal can be used to shape your emotional state is in the context of high-performance sports such as weightlifting or powerlifting.
An older study from 2012 confirmed that yelling, grunting or shouting before exercise can help to increase strength and performance output. Extreme music such as heavy metal can help to put you in a similar mindset, which can boost your performance.
Based on this, we can see quite clearly that heavy metal is not the anger and violence-inducing music many people assume it is – in fact, quite the opposite appears to be true.
Although headbanging itself might have some negative consequences – such as whiplash or concussion – listening to headbanging music alone will not necessarily have any negative effects. Not only can it provide a way for you to process emotions, it can also help to foster a sense of community among its listeners.