English Composition 1
11 November, 2017
Not Killing Me Softly With This Song
Music is widely accessible from all forms of media with the capability of influencing attitude and to manipulate emotions, and listeners are drawn to music that reflects their emotional state. Heavy metal is a genre that is characterized by chaotic, loud, heavy, and powerful sounds with emotional vocals, often containing themes of anxiety, depression, social isolation, and loneliness (Sharmon and Dingle). Due to these musical characteristics, heavy metal has been claimed to lead to anger, and expressions of anger such as delinquency, drug use, and suicidal tendencies (Sharmon and Dingle).
Heavy metal originated in the surrounding areas of Birmingham, England, during the late 1960s and early 1970s with bands such as The Kinks, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix (The Roots of Heavy Metal). During the early 70s, most of the world’s population was still recovering from the turmoil that plagued the 60s causing new genres of music to emerge, one of which was heavy metal. Black Sabbath- one of the first bands that originated in Birmingham- gave a voice to the time of despair. “At the forefront of the controversy surrounding extreme music is the prominence of aggressive lyrics and titles, such as “Pure Hatred” by Chimaira, and “Violent Revolution” by the band Kreator” (Sharmon and Dingle). The subculture of the music, as well as the generalized sound, has led to the accusations that heavy metal causes suicide, aggression, and depression.
Studies conducted by Karen R. Scheel and John S. Westfeld have proven that one’s emotional state, home life, and history of substance abuse play an imperative role in what music he or she prefers. In their studies, people who are suicidal prefer to listen togrunge, heavy metal, and screamo. Though, heavy metal tends to draw people who are suicidal not, vise versa. “The impact of the heavy metal music subculture on suicide has been the subject of much public debate but little scholarly research” (Stack et al. 19). Nonetheless, heavy metal has been accused of being the leading cause of suicide on multiple accounts, including the instance where two families sued heavy metal band Judas Priest for supposedly driving their sons to suicide (Rother).
“Reno, December 23-Two days before Christmas in 1985 two young Nevada men shot themselves after listening to multiple albums by the heavy metal band Judas Priest. The families had argued that the musicians had played subliminal messages in several recordings, including the album “Stained Class,” thereby enticing the two troubled young men to try and kill themselves” (Rotehr). As the investigation continued both men were discovered as having a long line of domestic and drug abuse, and while the suicide letters wrote that Judas Priest and several other bands blatantly drove the men to suicide, Judas Priest was not held legally responsible for the death of the two men (Giles). Since this tragic event, many studies have been conducted in an attempt to find out the psychological effects heavy metal has on teens and young adults.
A study conducted by K.R. Scheel and J.S. Westfeld revealed that several people between the ages of sixteen and thirty-four have a better understanding of suicide and death. 40% of participants liked or strongly liked heavy metal music. 6% listed heavy metal as their favorite genre. Out of the four genera’s tested heavy metal had a significant negative correlation. “Heavy metal fans showed significantly lower survival and coping beliefs and responsibility to family” ( Scheel and Wetsfeld)
Musical characteristic such as delinquency, drug use, and suicidal tendencies have been linked to heavy metal, though it is not the music or the subculture that causes these issues. There are multiple factors that play into one’s suicidal thoughts and acts, such as home life, personal life, and work life, heavy metal is merely an escape.