More open to new experiences is the elixir of heavy music

All of us who listen to heavy music know we are connected, however loosely, to a broader, global community. Whatever our individual experiences have been, the vector for living a life with heavy music invariably points towards happiness.

Words: Sunil Singh

In an 80-year study conducted by Harvard University about ‘happiness’, their research found that the number one indicator of deep-seated happiness were the collective relationships in your life–partner, family, and friends. That shouldn’t surprise anyone who takes an honest audit of their lives.

However, very much in parallel, there have been many articles over the past few decades that people who listen to Heavy Metal music are some of the happiest people on the planet. Well, Thanks, Science! But we, the fans, have known this for a long time.

So, putting the recent Harvard study together with the music ones, the relationship that people have with heavy music is one that is not like any other genre in music. It’s complex. It’s cathartic. It’s communal.

For millions like us, it’s been a consistent place of restorative energy and being grounded and centred. The benefits are not only individual but also, unsurprisingly, collective.

Nick Covington, who is a co-founder of The Human Restoration Project, a non-profit organization aimed at humanizing education for students and teachers, is also a big Death Metal and doom fan. As a Board member of HRP, I have gotten to know Nick really well and have met him in person in his hometown of Des Moines, Iowa. The guy is always smiling, radiating an infectious lightness on a myriad of topics. Again though, those of us who listen to the darker side of heavy music do not see a contradiction here–only predictable alignment.

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Liv Boeree, a well-known professional poker player, plays Heavy Metal guitar and is a big Children Of Bodom fan. She is also a physicist and loves nature and animals. While she is an amalgam of all her interests, Liv has worn her love of heavy music on her sleeve, sometimes sporting torn Metallica shirts at poker tables. One of her latest endeavours is something called Effective Philanthropy, which is a nice marriage of her analytical chops, honed through a physics degree and competitive poker, and the kindness/generosity that helps define her.

The idea of heavy music helping ground you, giving you a more balanced, spherical view of the world, cannot be understated. Liv’s latest video is not only timely but hopeful that the world we inhabit is not as angry and dark as portrayed in the media.

The world of heavy music continues to not only grow in terms of fans around the world but, as already conveyed here, offers well-being and openness to the positive aspects of life that very few things can.

Sometime later this year, my book Sonic Seducer: Lust For Life Through The Transcending Moments, Memories, and Magic of Rock and Roll will come out. To be honest, though, the whole book is a Trojan horse for heavy music, especially stoner/desert rock. In my research for it, I came across a short video called Heavy Metal Music Saved My Life.

To be honest, I almost didn’t click on it. Not because I didn’t think it wasn’t going to be interesting but because I already knew that was a well-established fact. Am I grateful, however, that I did? I won’t spoil it for you, but the part I do want to share is when Brann Dailor, singer/drummer for Mastodon, begins to open up about the importance of Mastodon in his life.

It’s quite sobering. Talking about touring, eating only baloney sandwiches. Talking about making no money. Asking himself/viewers, “that music must be pretty special to endure all that”.

He then talks about the death of his sister and it being wrapped up in the “biology” of Mastodon. For most of us, this music is a luxury item, adding huge benefits to our lives. For people like Brann Dailor and others in this short documentary series, it is, without exaggeration, a life-saving preoccupation.

That’s why being part of the MetalTalk community here has already been such a rewarding experience. Sure, going to see live shows for free is a nice perk, but being involved with a community of writers who collectively are covering one of the widest ranges of artists in this genre, has truly been the best part.

There are those who pretend to be the “last defenders of hard rock and Metal”, but closer examination of what they listen to, one finds it is mostly “Dad Rock”, which thinks Heavy Metal got hit by a bus at the beginning of the 21st century. If you don’t have High On Fire or Ufomammut, for example, on your list of essential heavy bands, then you are musically illiterate in the realm of which you think you command.

“The illiterate of the twenty-first century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Alvin Toffler, Future Shock(1970)

In 2023, Roadburn, founded by the incomparable Walter Hoeijmakers in 1999, won the award for Best Small Festival at the European Festival Awards. The festival, held every year in Tilburg, Netherlands, has grown in scope with its ethos of constantly trying to “redefine heaviness”, a phrase that greets you as soon as you go to their landing page.

And, it’s in the wisdom of ‘Walter’ (as he is simply and humbly known by bands and Roadburn attendees) that I would like to end this article and positive philosophy of listening to heavy music.

“Listening to new music after your 30s. Some claim this is a hard thing to do and stick listening to the same music they already know until the end of time. Others keep on exploring. By discovering and listening to new music, new neurological connections are made. The more neuroplasticity in one’s brain, the more open to new experiences.”

More open to new experiences. In that short sentence is the elixir of heavy music and the joy and happiness it brings to ourselves and to others.


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