Can death metal bring you joy?


2019-06-20 00:00

Introduction

Death metal music is a kind of heavy metal which explores the themes of death and destruction. But does it inspire it's fans to appreciate violence? According to a new study, it does not. The death metal band Bloodbath might sing about cannibalism, but its fans do not go and eat their neighbours. Neil and Rob talk about this kind of music and teach you some vocabulary.

This week's question

The electric guitar is an essential element to death metal music. In which decade were the first electric guitars produced? Was it:

a) the 1920s

b) the 1930s

c) the 1940s

Vocabulary

genre
a style of something such as music or films 

lyrics
the words of a song 

desensitised (to something)
feeling that something extreme is normal 

joy/joyful
happiness noun/adjective 

cannibalism
the eating of human flesh by another human 

aesthetic
an artistic appreciation of something, a feeling that something is beautiful from an artistic point of view

Transcript 

Note: This is not a word for word transcript  

Neil
Hello, and welcome to 6 Minute English. I'm Neil. 

Rob
And I'm Rob. 

Neil
Rob, do you like metal? 

Rob
Er, that’s an odd question. I’ve never really thought about it. I mean, I use metal things every day – my toaster, my bike, the underground… 

Neil
No, no - not that kind of metal, this kind of metal.

[Death metal music] 

Rob
Oh, that kind of metal. The musical genre, the type of music... 

Neil
Yes, and in particular, death metal. 

Rob
That fast, loud, aggressive sounding, guitar-based music style? 

Neil
Yep, that’s the one. 

Rob
Nope. Not my cup of tea at all. What kind of person do you think I am? 

Neil
Well, that’s the point. The type of person who likes death metal may not be the kind of person you think they are. More on that shortly, but first, a quiz. The electric guitar is an essential element to death metal music. In which decade were the first electric guitars produced? Was it:
a) the 1920s
b) the 1930s, or
c) the 1940s? 

Rob
I think quite early, so I’m going to say the 1920s. 

Neil
Well, we'll see if you're right later in the programme. Does violent music give people violent thoughts? Recent research claims to have found the answer. This is how the topic was introduced on BBC News. What was the conclusion? 

BBC News Presenter
A psychological study of fans of death metal suggests that they are not desensitised to violence despite the genre’s association with growling, often graphically violent lyrics including depictions of cannibalism. Researchers found that the main response of fans to the music they love was joy, not violence. Adding that most are very nice people who wouldn't dream of hurting anyone, let alone eating them. 

Neil
So what conclusion did the researchers come to? 

Rob
Well, they found that the response to the music was joy, not anger or violence. It made people happy. 

Neil
There was a fear that listening to music with violent lyrics, which means violent words, would make people desensitised to violence. 

Rob
If you are desensitised to something, you don’t see it as unusual or unacceptable, it doesn’t bother you. 

Neil
The newsreader also said that the lyrics of death metal include topics such as cannibalism, which is the practice of eating human flesh. Listening to someone singing about eating people apparently didn’t make them feel like snacking on their neighbours. Let's hear the introduction again. 

BBC News Presenter
A psychological study of fans of death metal suggests that they are not desensitised to violence despite the genre’s association with growling, often graphically violent lyrics including depictions of cannibalism. Researchers found that the main response of fans to the music they love was joy, not violence. Adding that most are very nice people who wouldn't dream of hurting anyone, let alone eating them. 

Neil
Professor Bill Thompson from Macquarie University in Sydney conducted this research. What does he say people don’t feel when listening to this kind of music? 

Professor Bill Thompson
Most fans are not angry. Most are actually musically trained people who really get a lot of empowerment and aesthetic interest out of the music. They feel joyful. They feel transcendent, they feel empowered. But what they don’t feel is angry. 

Neil
What don’t people feel? 

Rob
They don’t feel angry! What they do feel is joyful, the adjective from joy. They feel happy. Something else they feel is empowered. This is a feeling of being in control of your life, that you can make and follow your own decisions. 

Neil
Music is certainly a powerful art form. Professor Thompson also said that fans have an aesthetic interest in it. This means that they appreciate it as an art form. Let’s hear Professor Thompson again. 

Professor Bill Thompson
Most fans are not angry. Most are actually musically trained people who really get a lot of empowerment and aesthetic interest out of the music. They feel joyful. They feel transcendent they feel empowered. But what they don’t feel is angry. 

Neil
Time to review our vocabulary, but first, let’s have the answer to the quiz question. In which decade were the first electric guitars produced? Was it:
a) the 1920s
b) the 1930s
c) the 1940s
What did you think, Rob? 

Rob
I took a guess at the 1920s. 

Neil
Well electric guitars were early, but not quite that early, I'm afraid. The first ones were produced in the 1930s. So well done if, unlike Rob, you got that correct. Now, onto the vocabulary. 

Rob
Yes, we had a few words connected with music. We had genre for a style of music and also lyrics for the words of a song.

Neil
Some of the lyrics of death metal songs are about eating people, which is called cannibalism. 

Rob
Cannibalism is a form of extreme violence and there was some concern that people exposed to such violent lyrics in songs might become desensitised to actual violence. 

Neil
This means that they would accept violence as normal and not be worried by it. However, the research showed that this doesn’t happen and fans actually feel joy, which is another way of saying happiness. 

Rob
The research also suggested that fans have an artistic appreciation of death metal, described as an aesthetic interest. 

Neil
The final word was for a feeling that fans might get after listening to the music, empowered

Rob
Someone who is empowered is in control of their own life and decisions. 

Neil
And I feel empowered to bring this edition of 6 Minute English to a close. We look forward to your company next time. Until then, you can find us in all the usual places on social media – that's Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. And there's our website, and of course, we have a free app which you can find in the app stores. You'll be able to listen to 6 Minute English on the move. You just walk and we talk. Just search for bbclearninglish. Bye for now. 

Rob
Goodbye!