Heavy metal is a genre of rock music characterised by loud, distortion-laden guitars and simple, heavy rhythms, frequently repeated. Early pioneers of the genre include Blue Cheer, Black Sabbath and Metallica. Particularly popular among young men, heavy metal has been the frequent target of religious and parental groups, such as the Parents Music Resource Center and the Orthodox Research Institute, worried about the harmful effects they believe are the result of listening to the music.
Many heavy metal songs and albums feature violent lyrics and imagery, such as Slayer's "Reign in Blood" and Megadeth's "Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good!" This has led to concern that exposing adolescents to these lyrics will desensitise them to violence. While no studies have shown a conclusive link between listening to heavy metal and violent tendencies, some parents have expressed concern that listening to violent music desensitises their children to violence.
A number of heavy metal albums contain profane, blasphemous and obscene music and lyrics, causing them to earn "Parental Advisory" stickers. This has led to fears that impressionable children exposed to these lyrics will repeat the words and develop inappropriate attitudes towards sex, language and religion. However, as with violent imagery, studies have failed to show a link between exposure to explicit lyrics in songs and a distortion of values.
Heavy metal music has long been blamed for promoting suicide in adolescents. According to West Chester University, a number of a lawsuits have been filed claiming the rock music contributed to the death or misbehavior of adolescents, including one filed against the band Judas Priest. The lawsuit alleged that two males, 18 and 20 years of age, had been pushed to suicide by the listening to the band's music. While the court found that Judas Priest did have a "toxic influence" on the teens, the band did not bear sole responsibility for their deaths and was therefore not liable. There is no scientific evidence that heavy metal is a cause of suicide.
Markers for Dangerous Behavior
According to West Chester University, a number of studies suggest that adolescents who listen to heavy metal music are more likely to engage in a number of undesirable and hazardous behaviours, including drug and alcohol use, sexual activity, behavioural problems and poor grades. However, no evidence exists to suggest that heavy metal actually causes these behaviours. Rather, the inverse may be true, and these behaviours may push the listener towards heavy metal.
When listening to heavy metal, many enthusiasts will partake in "head-banging", a dance-like movement in which they whip their heads back and forth, usually in time to the music. According to an article published in the journal BMJ by two researchers from the University of New South Wales, head-banging can cause mild brain trauma. This helps explain why attendees at heavy metal concerts often appear dazed and confused after the show.
- BMJ: Head and Neck Injury Risks in Heavy Metal
- Story Compositions: One Reason To Avoid Heavy Metal Music
- Media Awareness Network: Negative Effects of Music
- West Chester University: Effects of Rap and Heavy Metal Lyrics on Adolescent Behaviors
- "Media violence and children: a complete guide for parents and professionals", Douglas A. Gentile (2003)