Contrary to those who have linked aggression and anger to extreme music, such as heavy metal, new research from the University of Queensland in Australia shows these genres of music can actually induce positive feelings in those who are feeling angry.

The study, which was published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, involved 39 regular listeners of extreme music whose ages ranged from 18 to 34 years old. These people listened to heavy metal, punk rock, screamo, or hardcore music, and had to have listened to these types of music at least 50 percent of the time they put a music player on. The study found that extreme music fans listened to these genres to experience a range of emotions, from sadness to anger, in order to calm themselves down. The music's energy was able to match their anger, but also enhance positive emotions, making the subject feel more “active and inspired.”

The participants were subjected to an “anger induction” period, which was essentially an interview to induce stress. The 16-minute-long interview involved the participants describing one or more events that evoked feelings of anger. To increase anger, the participants were provoked by a list of topics ranging from significant others to finances. Then, they were given the option to listen to extreme music from a playlist of their choice, or to just sit in silence for 10 minutes.

“Results showed levels of hostility, irritability, and stress decreased after music was introduced and the most significant change reported was the level of inspiration they felt,” said Leah Sharman, an honors student at the University of Queensland, in a statement. She worked on the study with School of Psychology lecturer Genevieve Dingle.   

The extreme music, particularly the heavy metal music, was highly arousing for both fans and non-fans alike, but not in the sort of way that one might construe as anger. They found there was no aggression. In fact, the results of the study showed that those listening to extreme music were just as relaxed as those who were sitting in silence.

The majority of the participants were Australian-born, but the rest of the participants were from other locations such as Sweden, Indonesia, South Africa, and the United States.

“It was interesting that half of the chosen songs contained themes of anger or aggression, with the remainder containing themes like — though not limited to — isolation and sadness,” Sharman said. “Yet, participants reported they used music to enhance their happiness, immerse themselves in feelings of love, and enhance their well-being. All of the responses indicated that extreme music listeners appear to use their choice of music for positive self-regulatory purpose.”

Source; Sharman L, Dingle G. Extreme Metal Music and Anger Processing. Frontiers in Human Nueroscience. 2015.