Case Study: Death Metal Positive, But Only For Select Personality Types

A trio of Australian PhD researchers recently shared the results of an ambitious case study on death metal listeners.  The project, titled “Who Enjoys Listening to Violent Music and Why?” (Thompson et al., 2018), aimed to determine if there were personality differences in fans who enjoyed death metal and if lyrical content that involved inducing harm or death to individuals had any effect on the listener’s experience.  Examined were possible differences in emotional stimuli between death metal fans and non fans, genders, and participants who either were or weren’t given a lyric sheet.  The publication indicates findings similar to earlier studies that measured emotional reaction of music and personality bias as stated:

These findings are consistent with evidence that personality mediates preferences for music (Rentfrow & Gosling, 2003; Vuoskoski & Eerola, 2011a, 2011b) and that, conversely, music preferences communicate information about one’s personality (Rentfrow & Gosling, 2006). Rentfrow and Gosling (2003) examined the structure of music preferences, as well as the association between personality and music preferences. They used exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis to reveal that music preferences revolved around four major types of music: Reflective and complex (classical, jazz, blues); intense and rebellious (alternative, rock, heavy metal), upbeat and conventional (country, pop, religious), and energetic and rhythmic (hip-hop, rap, soul, funk, electronic, dance). Preferences were also dependent on personality variables. For example, people who preferred intense and rebellious music – including heavy metal – tended to be open to new experiences, considered themselves to be intelligent and athletic, and showed no signs of neuroticism or disagreeableness.

The findings are fascinating and the case study is certainly worth the read.  Ultimately, the researchers conclude that death metal elicits a profoundly positive emotional response amongst fans despite generating a much different reaction from non fans.  According to the study, fans of death metal feel an incredible sense of empowerment, joy, and peace (in that order).  Non fans, meanwhile, were doomed to a troubled experience:  tension, fear, and anger topped their emotions.  Regarding the participants that had lyrics presented, the fans were apathetic to the content, while non fans were disturbed and struggling to comprehend the moral narrative.

Death metal is a truly unique and exciting creature; an unwelcoming habitat to the casual listener yet the enshrinement of a true paradise to those who can survive its savage climates.  There truly is no form of music eliciting such polar opposites in listening response.  My only gripe with this research is the misconception that death metal can be encapsulated in a single listening experience.  The study cited Cannibal Corpse as the source music, but would the poetic workings of Demigod or Demilich have pended different listening results?  Would the catchy melodies of Dissection or Necrophobic have had a different effect despite the vicious lyrics?  Classifying death metal as a single genre can be undermining, as it can be literally any genre of music from classical (e.g. Morbid Angel) to jazz (Cryptopsy) to punk (Hellhammer) to blues (Entombed) to virtually anything.

In any case, I highly recommend this study and commend the researchers for putting the time and money into clinical research of the genre that Death Metal Underground has for decades been deconstructing philosophically.  _______________________________________________________________________________

Thompson, W. F., Geeves, A. M., & Olsen, K. N.   Who enjoys listening to violent music and why? Psychology of Popular Media Culture. Accepted January 26, 2018.

Who enjoys listening to violent music and why? (PDF Download Available). Available from Researchgate [accessed Mar 07 2018].

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20 thoughts on “Case Study: Death Metal Positive, But Only For Select Personality Types”

  1. Mister Syre says:

    That’s the kind of content I enjoy from this site.

  2. Necronomeconomist says:

    DMU commentators definitely “showed no signs of neuroticism or disagreeableness.”
    Was that not lost on anybody else?

    1. forced to twerk says:

      They’re talking about people who listen to godsmack and high on fire, no dmu-canonized death metal listeners were taken into serious consideration

    2. Spinal says:


  3. FOAD says:

    Lmao can this site get even more redditty

    1. LostInTheANUS says:

      How do I upboat your comment?

      1. How do I motorboat that butthole?

        1. LostInTheANUS says:

          Just call me, you know my number

  4. this post gave my autism autism says:

    How can music be violent? It’s just sound waves. You could say old country music is violent on account of shooting a man in Reno. I don’t like this kind of careless language in “serious” “studies.”

  5. Covfefe says:

    And those findings that are pointed out in the article are things we already knew. The disturbing thing is that there’s funding for useless research like this.

  6. Mr. Eazzy says:

    I commend the study and the writer of the article.

  7. Rainer Weikusat says:

    In other news, it was reported that prolonged exposure to Arch Enemy causes cows to turn blue.

    1. Rainer Weikusat says:

      Since I’m in a bit of rowdy mood (too much bad pseudo-reggae targetted at drunk halfcenturysomethings): Here’s something from the best death metal band I’ve recently seen live (speed metal heavy and certainly below Mr Stevens hallowed music students of 1992):

      In times where the effects of 60s of Arch Enemy on self-declared “death metal fans” get researched, that’s certainly worthy of some attention (If you don’t think it turns cows blue, watch the video!).

      For people who might be able to cook up some interest in German black metal, this here is also quite nice:

      That’s Unholy War, fairly simple but good stuff, also heavily speed metal influenced, Krematorium, Hessian one-man-band, “This is the death that you deserve”, closer to punk, has been compared to Absurd (but is really much better), Norrut, very cool band from Saxony, Strix Nebulosa (hmm … “elaborately crafted”?), Bilskirnir and a great Runenwacht beer metal track (plus a few other things I also like but can’t presently turn into a soundbite).

      Usual disclaimer: If you think this is about me, you are sorrily mistaken.

      1. A concerned citizen says:

        Rainer, while I know exactly what site I am currently on and enjoying the first link you posted, I’m asking myself: What kind of very obvious NSBM-Bullshit is that black metal sampler? I mean seriously?

        1. Rainer Weikusat says:

          This calls for a better answer than I can give in the relatively short time I have at the moment, but …

          Can you define this term? Then, I could answer this based on your idea of it.

          Based on my idea, AFAICT, none at all. I’d base this on actually thematizing the ‘exploits’ of the mad Austrian and his gang of murderous drug addicts (who are directly and indirectly responsible for the greatest, useless mass slaughter of Europeans, mostly Russians and Germans[*], and destruction of cultural heritage in known history).

          [*] Both terms loosely used to refer to “whoever happened to live within the boundaries of …”.

  8. Coolest Monkey In The Jungle says:

    Since 99% of proles believe that death metal is Korn and Papa Roach, what do you expect (by the way, this is mostly (((Sepultura)))’s fault). Even reasonably intelligent people I have met do not understand what death metal is after I have explained it to them. It seems like the propaganda has won. Go and watch some peaceful, non violent Hollywood movies like Black Panther instead.

    By the way, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture is pretty violent – I wonder how many school shootings can be attributed to it?

    1. Nespithe & Burzum says:


  9. Nathan Metric says:

    No signs of disagreeableness? That sounds like bull.

  10. Death – Human is more pozzed out than Elton John. What happened to sacrificing dumb cunts and aborting retarded kids?

  11. Zorak says:

    ‘intelligent and athletic’, that’s how I’d describe most metalheads I know

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