Does metal cause violence, or violence cause metal?

by Brett Stevens
April 10, 2013 –

the_heavy_moments_in_lifeWe recently had a mass stabbing here in Texas. Whenever we have a mass shooting anywhere in the world, I brace for the inevitable: they’re going to blame heavy metal.

They did it with Columbine. They tried it with a dozen others, blaming metal and/or industrial, even if the music wasn’t really “metal” at all. Since the 1980s, when Judas Priest got sued over supposedly backward-masked lyrics exhorting fans to kill themselves, it has been a common media trope to blame heavy metal for suicide, violence and self-harm.

A writer over at ScienceAlert asks the vital question of whether metal causes violence, or is caused by violence, in the context of an article on metal and self-harm.

First, the article points out that most people grasp the right meaning of song lyrics only 28% of the time on a four-song test, which puts us 3% ahead of guessing randomly. Even backward masking doesn’t seem to make a discernible impression.

The article dissipates a bit after that, attacking opera as likely to inspire suicide, and sort of missing the point there. Opera is about the heavy topics in life, lost lovers and regaining honor and other intense life-decisional topics, much like metal is.

In fact, if metal has a relationship to violence, it’s as neither cause of or caused by, but “aware of,” because metal is for realists who don’t deny the dark side of life as well as the light. If that was spurred on by early exposure to violence, horror, sadness or a lack of parental love, so be it — we all have to “wake up” sometime and face reality.

Fortunately, psychological research shows that they needn’t have bothered. Teenage metal fans are also more likely than most to suffer neglectful parents. That’s a much more credible explanation of why they’re drawn to both self-harming and a musical subculture that expresses their disaffection with mainstream society that has failed them.

From the article, it sounds like metalheads are just those who awaken a bit earlier. Opera fans tend to be in their 40s-80s and are aware of all that life entails, including those “heavy” decisions and heavy moments like saying goodbye to others or choosing aggression over passively accepting fate. But somehow, we never hear the media reasonably discussing this idea after a school shooting.

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7 comments

  • Scaramanga

    Heavy metal gave me a girlfriend, made me read Plato, made me listen to classical music, made me more educated. Yes blame metal I say!

    1. Metal Command

      Heavy metal made me stop thinking like a human zombie, and start thinking about the future and the bigger consequences of my actions and those around me. It has forever ruined me as a conformist who hopes all problems will magically go away, wrecked me as a consumer, made me permanently “heavy” and caused me to view pop music as children’s songs. I may not be a more “productive” $$$ member of society, but I’m surely a less destructive and more thoughtful one.

  • bitterman

    If metal means Pantera, Lamb of God, Slipknot like so many people want it to… then of course it causes monkey brain rationalizations for shooting schools. That’s why it’s good to listen to esoteric underground distorted guitar music like Burzum or Mayhem, legitimate reasons for violence. To rebuild from destruction, violence is needed to get to that point anyway. Too bad everyone nowadays won’t even bother to buy a gun just for protection, like the “donate to the sea” french whale humpers in Gojira. These types of people (also Nordic wigger guy from Ulver, among others) aren’t metal though, just fake compromised plastic excuses makers.

    1. shoko asahara

      lamb of god – now here is the obvious mall metal/violence connection. some guy was trying to get on stage to warn everyone about how terrible that show was going to be, and what does he get for it? a brain hemorrhage and a free trip to hell. so this guy in texas was obviously depressed and self mutilating because someone told him ghost was a poser band, and that the guy from carcass is in a fucking terrible band fronted by a hemaphrodite. so he took action. and then was promptly arrested.

      death to false metal!

      1. Metal Command

        People listening to Lamb of God are going to kill themselves anyway. You have to be miserable to listen to that, so it’s not a huge surprise when you finally make good on it and kill yourself.

  • Kait Good

    omg i am doing a school project on this of my choice and this is perfect,,i am a metal freak and im not violent

  • Andy

    Hey I’m a music fan. i like all kinds of music, except country. I listen to Metal, Emo, Punk, you name it, that is dark.Let me ask you this question, does this saying make sense? “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Just think about this, same goes with music, well in my opinion, but it could be different from a whole lot of people. I have been doing lots of research on music violence for my project at school, and this site is one of them that I’m gonna use.