- Jul 22, 2005
Most research on the psychosocial effects of exposure to violent media has focused on screen-based media, such as television, movies and video games. There is far less research on the consequences of exposure to music with violent themes. Some genres of music, including but not limited to extreme metal, rap and hip hop, are often, though certainly not always, characterized by aggressive sounds and violent lyrics. As such, many researchers are interested in whether exposure to music with violent themes leads to aggressive thoughts, feelings, emotions and behaviours (e.g. [5,15–20]; but see [21,22]). To date, it has been difficult to infer causal links between long-term exposure to violent music and aggressive or violent behaviours, because research has often relied on correlational evidence. For example, it has been reported that preference of heavy metal music is correlated with reckless behaviours [23–25], low academic performance  and mental problems such as depression and anxiety . However, it is difficult to conclude that exposure to heavy metal music played a causal role in such outcomes and should therefore be avoided. Indeed, some research has highlighted the psychosocial benefits of listening to extreme metal music, whereby some fans use extreme music to process feelings of anger, and to relax .
Prof Thompson said the findings should be "reassuring to parents or religious groups" concerned about violent music.
More broadly, there is still concern that violence in media leads to social problems. "If you're desensitised to violence, perhaps you wouldn't care if you saw someone on the street getting hurt - you wouldn't help."
But while research has found some evidence of such desensitisation in people who play a lot of violent video games, music, it seems, is different.
"The dominant emotional response to this music is joy and empowerment," said Prof Thompson. "And I think that to listen to this music and to transform it into an empowering, beautiful experience - that's an amazing thing."
Nick Holmes identified with that, saying that most of the music he enjoyed was "melancholic, dramatic, sad or aggressive and not much in-between".
"I take joy and empowerment from those styles," he told BBC News.
On the topic of the Eaten's lyrics, he added: "I didn't personally write them, but I would be frankly astounded if anyone listened to that song and then felt a desire to be eaten by a cannibal."