Metal music can be an extremely useful tool-- from helping you work through your emotions to helping you find a sense of purpose.
Main image courtesy of Unsplash.
Metal music, along with all of its subgenres, is surrounded by a lot of misconceptions. For years, people have accused metal music of anything from promoting unhealthy lifestyles to being outright evil-- often without knowing anything about the genre itself.
Yet metal music is much more than just guitar solos, percussion, and loud beats. The genre has been shown to have a slew of positive effects on listeners’ health-- especially their mental health. This includes helping people sort through feelings of depression, anxiety, or anger-- among others-- and providing many with a strong sense of community by putting them in contact with other people who share their niche interests.
Listening to metal music, then, can be an extremely therapeutic activity-- and getting involved with the community if you love the genre can prove helpful in gaining a sense of belonging and forging new friendships. When metal music is used with the intention of helping people feel better about themselves and make sense of their emotions, it is called metal music therapy-- and we can largely trace the benefits of metal music therapy back to the sense of community that the genre has built up around it.
Today, there are a lot of different types of music therapy out there. For a long time, music therapy only referred to therapeutic interventions administered in-person that used music in order to help patients reach one or more individualized goals.
In recent years, though, this definition has expanded a lot. Although in-person music therapy is still widely used, especially when patients’ goals involve physical rehabilitation, it is increasingly common to find people using music independently as a means of stress relief or putting together small groups to make music and support each other.
Consequently, music therapy now refers to anything from in-person or virtual therapeutic intervention from specialists, to listening to specific types of music in order to manage emotional states, to discussing song lyrics and their meanings with friends. Any genre of music can be used in music therapy-- it just depends on each person’s goals and personal tastes.
Among the variety of genres of music out there, metal music is uniquely situated to reach people who are struggling with their emotions in one way or another. Metal bands-- and the metal community itself-- tend to value raw emotion in their music, and their lyrics often cover sensitive topics that are considered taboo in other genres and forms of media. Songs will cover the artists’ personal struggles and traumas, for example-- with addiction, with depression, with difficult life events, and anything else that they feel like sharing.
These difficult topics can be dark, but they can also help reach others struggling with similar problems-- when you are going through a hard time and hear music that seems to capture your emotions perfectly, it can be extremely encouraging to learn that you are not alone. By addressing real-life problems in a raw, emotional way, metal music tends to help people manage their mental health.
Metal music’s therapeutic uses don’t stop with just the lyrics, though. While the genre’s tendency to gravitate toward emotional performances and raw lyrics can do wonders for fans’ mental health, the community surrounding the genre is at least as effective.
A dedicated and thriving community has sprung up around metal music since the genre started gaining relevance in the 1980s. Although outsiders with no knowledge of metal music may not quite see it, this community has proven itself to be a great source of comfort, friendship, and even purpose to those within it.
Metal music isn’t the most mainstream genre, so when fans meet each other and get to talk about their shared interest in the music, it means something to them. Meeting fellow metalheads in-person can be rare, but it tends to instill a quiet sense of community between people-- which helps a lot when someone feels alone in other aspects of their life.
Plenty of platforms exist to help metal fans establish more connections with like-minded people-- more substantial and consistent ones, perhaps, than nodding in solidarity at a stranger wearing a shirt with a metal band’s logo on it. Heavy Metal Therapy, for example, is a website where people can share their experiences with metal music and how it has helped them-- from reflecting on lyrics, to telling stories, to sharing playlists. Magazines and publications, such as the Heavy Metal Revue started by Brian Slagel, exist to help give the genre more exposure while also providing more outlets for fans to discuss events happening within the community.
As they contribute to the culture of the community-- by connecting with fellow metalheads in person or online, discussing songs or performances, attending concerts, and contributing to or reading niche publications about the genre-- a lot of fans claim to find a sense of purpose.
Brian Slagel, for example, always felt connected to metal music, and often found himself frustrated with the fact that the genre was not mainstream. Eventually, though, he came to terms with the fact that his favorite music didn’t need to be approved of by the masses in order for it to be valuable to him. Once he realized this, he found plenty of ways to contribute to the metalhead community-- founding publications like the Heavy Metal Revue and publishing compilation albums to give metal bands exposure and, eventually, founding his own record label, Metal Blade Records.
Slagel, like many other metal fans, found a lifetime of purpose through metal music-- and a community of people who share that experience. Metalheads no longer feel alone when they listen to music that speaks to them and interact with others who feel the same way-- and that sense of purpose and community is invaluable.
When it comes to finding ways to manage stress and feelings of loneliness, music can be extremely helpful-- you just have to find the genres that speak to you and connect with people who share your interests. For those who love the sound and styles of metal music, you’re in luck-- with the types of topics covered in the genre and the strong, passionate community surrounding it, metal music is uniquely equipped to help its audience improve their mental health.