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Suicide, Self-Harm and Survival Strategies in Contemporary Heavy Metal Music: A Cultural and Literary Analysis

Abstract

This paper seeks to think creatively about the body of research which claims there is a link between heavy metal music and adolescent alienation, self-destructive behaviours, self-harm and suicide. Such research has been criticised, often by people who belong to heavy metal subcultures, as systematically neglecting to explore, in a meaningful manner, the psychosocial benefits for individuals who both listen to contemporary heavy metal music and socialize in associated groups. We argue that notions of survival, strength, community, and rebellion are key themes in contemporary heavy metal music. Through literary-lyrical analysis of a selection of heavy metal tracks, this paper aims to redress the balance of risk and benefit. We argue that listening to this type of music, the accompanying social relationships, sense of solidarity and even the type of dancing can ameliorate tumultuous and difficult emotions. Songs which could be read as negative can induce feelings of relief through the sense that someone else has felt a particular way and recovered enough to transform these emotions into a creative outlet. This genre of music may therefore not increase the risk of untoward outcomes in any simple sense but rather represent a valuable resource for young people in difficulty.

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Correspondence to Charley Baker.

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Baker, C., Brown, B. Suicide, Self-Harm and Survival Strategies in Contemporary Heavy Metal Music: A Cultural and Literary Analysis. J Med Humanit 37, 1–17 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10912-014-9274-8

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Keywords

  • Self-harm
  • Suicide
  • Heavy metal music
  • Subcultures
  • Adolescence
  • Alienation