A recent study conducted at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and published in The Royal Society's journal Open Science pitted brutal Bloodbath track "Eaten" against Pharrell Williams' upbeat pop hit "Happy" to prove what metal fans have basically been shouting from the rooftops forever: exposure to music containing violent themes doesn't make people more violent. More specifically, the study found, it doesn't desensitize folks from reacting when confronted with graphic imagery. The researchers noted there has been far more focus on television, movies, and video games in past studies, so they wanted to hone in just the effects of violent themes in music to "infer causal links" rather than assume based on "correlational evidence."
Using what's called a binocular rivalry paradigm, fans and non-fans of metal were shown different images in each eye, one violent and one neutral while the respective songs played, and their subconscious reactions were recorded. When confronted with these two opposing images, people tend to pay more attention to the violent image "presumably there's a biological reason for that, because it's a threat," Professor Bill Thompson told BBC News. He added that metalheads "are nice people" and just because they enjoy gut-wrenching lyrics about cannibalism and murder, "they're not going to go out and hurt someone."
When BBC News asked Bloodbath frontman Nick Homes what he and the band though of the study, he told them, "We don't have any issue with it ... The majority of death-metal fans are intelligent, thoughtful people who just have a passion for the music." Noting that the lyrics are all in good fun, the vocalist explained that fans listening to brutal extreme music was comparable to cinemaphiles who seek out horror flicks or even historians attending battle re-enactments.
The study's broader purpose is to dispel notions that a certain type of media will affect a normal person so deeply that they are then inspired to go out and commit violent crimes — a belief that led to Marilyn Manson and Rammstein being scapegoated for the Columbine school shooting, for instance. As the study underlines, it's important to keep in mind the entertainment we consume is secondary to the society in which we live. Indeed, until we admit our problems run much deeper than a band such as Cannibal Corpse getting a rise out of a crowd by playing "Hammer Smashed Face," the world is not going to get any less violent.