As anyone who has read our acclaimed ‘Things That Are Fucking Metal‘ series will know, suicide is Fucking Metal™ – and you don’t get to generally get to the point of suicide without depression. That being said, depression is not metal in the slightest.
I’m going somewhere with this, trust me.
A couple of our online brother rags – Metal Insider, Metal Injection, and I’m sure a few others – have today picked up on a story regarding a study conducted at an Australian university regarding metal and depression. They’ve both suggested that the conclusions drawn are a little unfair, but I’m leaping to research Dr. Katrina McFerran’s defence a little here, and suggesting perhaps a little over-defensiveness regarding her results.
Here’s what she stated, for starters:
“Most young people listen to a range of music in positive ways; to block out crowds, to lift their mood or to give them energy when exercising, but young people at risk of depression are more likely to be listening to music, particularly heavy metal music, in a negative way.
Examples of this are when someone listens to the same song or album of heavy metal music over and over again and doesn’t listen to anything else. They do this to isolate themselves or escape from reality.
If this behavior continues over a period of time then it might indicate that this young person is suffering from depression or anxiety, and at worst, might suggest suicidal tendencies.”
The general analysis of this is that she’s suggesting people who are depressed actively seek metal out because of its darker attributes or – shock horror – that metal actually causes depression. Granted, perhaps the study does highlight a negativity – and a bias in general – towards the genre; the study was an attempt to determine why many young metal fans use the genre in a negative way (whatever that means – can you ‘use’ metal?) after all, but that isn’t really what she’s saying.
The line of interpretation there is a fine one for sure – you could tip it either way, but I honestly don’t think she was suggesting metal makes you depressed, but rather that obsession with dark and depressing songs is only going to lead to one place.
Taking that into account, you really have to wonder what was classed as ‘metal’, and I will question the authority of the study on this count. A lot of people outside our particular subculture have no idea about what metal really is – they see people wearing large amounts of black, or whatever other stereotypes we tend to conform to – and if you discount the angsty goth bands and mopey emos that also subscribe to such fashion-related tropes and you might wipe out a large percentage of their sample. This brings me back to the Randy Blythe-inspired discussion that raged about a month ago to do with metal subgenres. Perhaps it doens’t go as deep as that, but it highlights why genres are important; if there’s no distinction given in the names, then people will assume Amon Amarth and Evanescence are the same thing
You also have to look at the sample/focus of the research. To get her results, Dr. McFerran conducted interviews with 50 young people aged between 13 and 18 (along with a national survey of 1000 listeners). Teenagers are, for the most part, a mopey bunch of bastards. Everything is super serious, and if Sally turns you down when you ask her to ‘go steady’ it’s pretty much the end of the world. I’m not convinced that you could glean the most un-biased results from them to be honest.
Ultimately though, bear in mind this study was conducted at the University of Melbourne; Australia. Their prime minister’s a Sheila and they only live bloody upside-down don’t they? Blimey mate, that’s enough to make anyone depressed!