2019

We did this little slide show video thing summarising just some of what happened in 2019, we know it’s a bit cheesy but we were feeling smug and proud of ourselves so….

This was really only a fraction of what we did in the end. This time last year we had 300 followers on social media which we thought was pretty good, but things grew beyond what we could have imagined and now:

– we think nearly 6000 people follow us in total across all our social media

– we published journal articles, posters, presented at conferences, did workshops, did blogs, wrote book chapters, had representations at festivals and showcased peoples art, poetry and writing.

– we created extensive playlists available on a range of apps, all informed by you guys

– most importantly, we saw the community develop and watched you lot start to support each other without much help from us.

So obviously we aren’t stopping now! We’ve got lots of exciting ideas planned, some building on what we’ve already started, some covering new ground, but all based on your feedback. This should include research activities and events, engaging more with media, continued spreading of the word and…. T-shirts!

Finally, we do have an enormous thank you list as you might expect:

Head roadies – Angela and Anthony

Contributors to the sites – Ben, Melissa and the Iron Giant, Maarten, Timbo, Randall, Hannah, Kostas, Danny, Dance Mary

Organisations – Sophie Lancaster, Chill Welfare, GetPsyched, PPN North West (BPS), ISPS, PSYPAG, Hallam Uni, Metal Insider, Metal Music Studies Journal (especially Karl), the Polyphony, Redemption Festival, Download Festival, Safe Space (Dani off of Bury Tomorrow), Nick at Signhouse UK

You Always Double Knot in a Mosh Pit

By Ben Ryan, staff journalist for HMT and Metalhead Mental Health Practitioner

I went to my first gig for years recently, to see Killswitch Engage who were supported by Tenside and Revocation and it helped remember what I loved about the metal scene.

I was going to go on about the Biopsychosocial model (commonly used in mental health settings) and how it looks as how strong we are in our physical selves, in our internal selves and in our social selves. Then I would reflect on my experiences in a structured way. But then I got really exited and just decided to have a rant how much fun I had!

As always my analysis will be more of a formal mildly biographical rant.

Biology:
So first is the volume, it hits you right in the chest and triggers a rush of endorphins with a dash of adrenalin and a touch of panic. Not nasty hormone stink panic, nononono, no. A nice lovely shaky energy. A ‘ooohh what’s gonna happen next?’ panic. What was especially strange was Revocation who, after about ten mins, I could no longer hear. Their intense sound sort of blurred into a loud silence that I found really relaxing and kind of zen. When Killswitch came on I was in constant motion.

Psychological:
Then you have the gestalt mentality of organised chaotic expression. That wild build up of promised danger that erupts in the most consensual of violence; the mosh pit. Mosh pits are something that my logical sensible brain dislikes. They are sweaty, messy and I have had some less than amusing injuries (I break easy, be gentle). In the middle of a crowd however it’s something that takes you over. It’s something primal and freeing and it makes me laugh a scary laugh that I only otherwise make when I feel like a hunter or a warrior. Any gig I have been to allows me to tap into something ferocious wild and young inside. I feel spiritual, invincible and unstoppable.

Social:
And then finally there’s the people around you and the unspoken and spoken connections you make. I went with friends but we lost each other about two songs in. I then proceeded to jump around with a hundred strangers, one of which finally found my shoe gave me a hug and loudly told me I’m old enough to know “YOU ALWAYS DOUBLE KNOT IN A MOSHPIT!”. I was soaked in the DNA of a hundred sweaty people as we stood stand by stand screaming lyrics we all loved.

Ah so yeah I guess that is what happened to strengthen my wellbeing a biologically psychologically and socially.
I went home with ringing in my ears and a smile on my face, saying hey to other gig goers on the way out and trying to remember where my shirt went.
Revocation

‘Doesn’t it make you feel better?’ Why Angry Music Feels Good…

‘Doesn’t it make you feel better?’ Why Angry Music Feels Good…

by Hannah Cahill

Angry music is not new. People have always been angry and written music to suit their mood – music is a universal language which can often express the inexpressable.

I am a classical musician and teacher and I love angry music. My favourite musicians of all time are Beethoven and NIN’s Trent Reznor, two surprisingly similar men. Beethoven was the first angry music I connected with and the reason that I went on to study music. He was the rock star of his day – women fainted at his gigs as he played the piano wildly with his long black hair falling over his eyes. His music was shocking and new. Comparing Beethoven to most of his predecessors is like comparing Nine Inch Nails to Take That. He was also the first ‘artist’ as we think of them – he was not employed by a church or court like most composers, he did his own thing. He was an isolated, misunderstood, sometimes depressed man who, at one point, was very likely suicidal at the thought of losing his hearing forever. You can read Beethoven’s Heiligenstadt Testament HERE if you are interested.

Young Beethoven

So many people find angry or aggressive music comforting because they connect with the lyrics, and the feeling of catharsis that screaming them out can give, but the music itself is speaking to us too. I find a lot of metal music to be rhythmically far more innovative and interesting than most other modern genres – something especially important when much of the music has a lack of distinctive melody.

Here are some thoughts on a few angry songs I love and why I think they feel good. I find it interesting that a lot of the reasons that music like Slipknot and Nine Inch Nails seem to speak to me on a deeper level are rooted much more in classical music than in pop music – frequently changing dynamics (volume) for example, is a huge part of the classical music world but really not that common in pop music.

  1. Nine Inch Nails & Changing Metre

The vast majority of pop and rock music picks a nice regular time signature like 4/4 (4 beats in every bar) and sticks to it for the duration of the song. This allows people to dance to it, and it feels comfortable. It also makes the song more easily memorable and therefore usually more sellable.

Metal and some Rock music is known for its love of 7/4 and 7/8 (which means they have 7 beats in the bar) – time signatures which we call ‘irregular’ because they don’t fall into the comfortable zone of having 2, 3 or 4 beats in the bar like most music does. This can give the music a stilted, unsettled feel. Some songs which use these time signatures (for some or all of the song) are Spiders by Slipknot, Money by Pink Floyd, Outshined by Soundgarden and 2+2=5 by Radiohead.

Irregular time signatures don’t necessarily feel good by themselves, but they can enhance the overall nervous mood in a song like Spiders, which in turn can make the song speak to us on a more visceral level. When it does feel good though, is when you have an irregularly timed song which breaks into regular time, like having a regular chorus after an irregular verse.

NIN’s Somewhat Damaged from The Fragile is a really interesting song. When it starts you think it’s in a totally different time than it is (it sounds like 6/8). Then the drums kick in and you realise it’s actually 9/4, kind of. The 9th beat is at the end of every ‘normal’ 8 beat sentence, like he just leaves each line lying there a little bit longer than its supposed to be, just hanging there. The 4 note motif from the beginning is still there underneath sort of fitting in. The whole effect is really unsettling.

Before the final section, the drums disappear for a while, leaving you feeling rhythmically lost. When they return, he finally allows you into everyone’s comfort zone of 4/4. You feel safe, everything is where it should be… but then it builds to the most amazing, angry, cathartic ending, with him screaming ‘fell apart, where the f**k were you?’ before releasing you into the floaty calm sounds of the intro to The Day The World Went Away.

For me, this song is the ultimate cathartic musical experience – it starts off so simply and you have no sense of how different the end will be. It is so unsettled all the way through until you reach 4/4 where you somehow feel more comfortable with the rising aggression than you did when the rhythm was constantly changing. It is a very clever trick. The link into the next track allows you to hold that feeling a little longer and bathe in the newly found calm after the storm.

Rhythm and metre is so important in the way music makes us feel. Take for example NIN’s March Of The Pigs. Its time signature keeps changing between 7 and 8 beats per bar, and the mood goes from wild to calm and then almost jazzy and then back to wild again within minutes. It is a song which is virtually impossible to ignore. However, play the remix All The Pigs, All Lined Up, which is altered to be totally in 4/4, and the mood completely changes; although it is still loud and angry, it is suddenly much more rhythmically comfortable and predictable, which has the effect of making it sound a little less desperate.

Trent Reznor (pic from NiN archive)

2. Slipknot & Structure

Most pop/rock music is structurally very predictable. It usually consists of alternating verses and choruses, broken up by a middle 8 before the climactic return of the chorus. It is a very old structure dating back hundreds of years.

A noticeable difference with more extreme music in many of its forms, is that it is often far freer with its structure. Although it does often follow the same old structure, there are so many examples of when it doesn’t. I find that there is so much more variety and unpredictability in these genres than in most.

There are countless varying structures and it would take forever to look at them all but one song that works really well is Slipknot’s XIX from The Gray Chapter. This is a different kind of anger – it is desperation, loss, grief at the death of bassist Paul Gray. Lyrically, it is not at all suited to a standard structure. It starts small and builds layer upon layer of sound, building up to a desperate sounding climax. This song has a lot in common with the first three minutes or so of the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony. Both them are in the key of A minor and are structurally similar. Both use an ostinato (a repeated musical idea) which moves between different octaves and both have a slow build up texturally, adding new layers on to existing ones.

This kind of structure allows us to be gently drawn into the mood. By the end of the song you have built up to an emotion which you may not be able to access right away. It draws you in. XIX has the added point of ending with one last yell on the 7th (G), a dissonant (clashing) note. By finishing the song on the 7th, the song doesn’t end ‘properly’, allowing you to hold on to that feeling a little longer and embrace it. Instead of shutting those difficult emotions out, you are asked to really feel them.

3. Dissonance & ‘Hurt’

If you want to experience how a tiny harmonic change can totally affect the sound of something, try listening to both NIN and Johnny Cash’s versions of Hurt. The two versions usually divide opinion, but it really shows how harmony can make a song feel very different. Although this is not exactly an angry song, it demonstrates a specific type of dissonance in a way that is easier to hear, so I want to include it anyway.

The two versions vary a little in key, instrumentation and other things but it is the tritone in the original NIN version which gives this version its distinctive sound. A tritone, sometimes called diabolus in musica (the devil in music) is the interval (distance) of an augmented 4th or diminished 5th. It is one of the most dissonant intervals in music – some emergency vehicles have sirens tuned to this interval as it’s very hard to ignore!

In the NIN version, as the first word, ‘I’ is sung, the guitar plays a note which is a tritone above the home note. It reappears in that place in the bar throughout the song. In the Johnny Cash version, there is no tritone so that clash is missing. Personally, I think the tritone in the NIN version adds an uncomfortable feel to the music, whereas the Cash version simply sounds sad. NIN also fills the background space with something like white noise which adds to the mood.

Another great use of the tritone is the last two notes of the piano melody in the opening of NIN’s The Wretched. In both this song and NIN’s Hurt, the tritones (and white noise) are dropped in the chorus, making the choruses feel more euphoric.

Tritones are found everywhere in music, two together make up the chord of a diminished 7th which is your standard ‘scary’ chord from old horror films, but using them in a melody like this is far less common.

***

There are, of course, other more technical effects such as extreme vocal techniques, distortion, detuning guitars and other less theory based things as well as the lyrics which all contribute to the emotional impact of angry music, but I will leave those areas to the singers and guitarists.

The key point with all of this is the unpredictability. The songs that have the most dramatic effect on the listener are often the ones with the most extreme contrasts. They allow us to feel unsafe and wild and get in touch with the more hard to reach parts of ourselves.

It is said over and over that music expresses that which cannot be said – so what if you are feeling angry? Frustrated? It seems that is much more acceptable historically to connect with music that is happy, calming, sad (in a gentle kind of way) or exciting, but far less acceptable to enjoy music which emulates states of extreme anger or frustration, which most people feel just as much as they might feel happy.

It is so important to be able to connect with all sides of ourselves and music is a fantastic way of doing just that. If you need to get something out of your system, a nice poppy song won’t always help with that… I am a big believer in constructive anger, embracing those feelings and letting them out in a healthy way, channelling them into something creative.

And, as Trent says, doesn’t that make you feel better?

—————————————-

Hannah Cahill is a music theorist and teacher with an interest in the psychology of music. You can find her on Twitter at @cahill_music (twitter) or via her blog http://www.cahillmusic.co.uk
The play lists for this piece can be found here:
Track list:
Spiders Slipknot
Money Pink Floyd
Outshined Soundgarden
2+2=5 Radiohead
Somewhat Damaged NIN
March OF The Pigs NIN
All The Pigs, All Lined Up NIN
XIX Slipknot
(2nd Movement of 7th Symphony Beethoven)
Hurt NIN
Hurt Johnny Cash
The Wretched NIN

Metal Music Studies Article

We are delighted that Metal Music Studies (that’s a real academic journal, people!!!) published an article about Heavy Metal Therapy. It outlines where we have come from and the key theoretical ideas behind our project. We realise that not everyone will be able to access the full thing but here is the link:

https://www.ingentaconnect.com/contentone/intellect/mms/2019/00000005/00000003/art00008

Metal Music Studies is the journal for the International Society for Metal Music Studies, they have a cool webpage 🤘🏻

Play Crack The Sky

Play Crack The Sky

As a red blooded male with more issues than Marvel comics and it’s fair to say that I suck at touching emotions. Today I had a counselling appointment which went really well (and we all know really well= incredibly painful, upsetting and tiring). I hopped into my car and my head was swirling. Before I could drive I put some music on, music that fits the genre of Emo.

emo guy.jpg

Generic Emo (not Ben) ^^^^^

In the early 2000’s there was a second wave of Emotional Hardcore or, as it became known as; Emo. The features of Emo are… hazy. Songs that include big shifts, build ups an changes, personal lyrics and mainly following punk chord structure but longer in duration. I am not in any way musically talented so that my best shot at describing it. As a fan of thrash metal at the time I looked down upon a lot of the bands and the fashion that came with the second wave emo.

This would change.

I went to Download for the first time in ’05 and was blessed enough to see Funeral for a Friend at their height of fame. They were superb, vitriolic, angry and they knew how to work the crowd.

My favourite bands from the era are the very vanilla Taking Back Sunday and Funeral for a Friend. Taking back Sunday ended up very pop, which is fine. ‘Brand New’ quickly became my favourite all time band. These artists did something for me that I, like many men struggle to do; give form to our thoughts and feelings.

These days I don’t gig much but I did see Brand New live a few years ago. I can count on one hand how many times in the last fifteen years I have cried but that night I sobbed my heart out to ‘SoCo Amaretto and Lime’. I screamed my voice to a whisper to ‘You Won’t Know’ and for a fair part of “Gasoline” I was, unbeknown to me or him, holding some random guys hand instead of my wife’s (She and his girlfriend thought it was hilarious and just left us to figure it out). It was cathartic, beautiful and I have never felt such a burden lifted from me. After my session today I listened to Limousine, a harrowing tale of a 7 year old girl fighting for her life following a road traffic accident. I finally hit that ‘gear’ of feeling therapeutically upset when ‘Jesus Christ’ kicked in, a song about someone feeling utterly unworthy in the eyes of everyone, including God.

Emo to me became a tool I used when the walls came up and I found myself cut off from feelings. Like all good metal it is cathartic, uncompromising and brutally honest. For me it’s been a wonderful accompaniment to counselling which as a therapy should be cathartic, uncompromising and brutally honest.

Now I’m off to balance it all with some Deftones and Queens of the Stone Age.

HMT is 1

Turns out that 1 year ago today I created the Facebook and Instagram accounts for Heavy Metal Therapy so I guess it’s kind of our first birthday. Now, I didn’t really do anything with them for about a month, mainly as I just wanted to make sure I got the name before someone else nicked it! And partly because I was nervous about it (and there have been times when it has really challenged a few insecurities but that’s a discussion for another time). It was only really supposed to be a little Facebook group: it kinda is still a slightly bigger Facebook group, my original aim was to see if I could get 100 likes. But there have been a few milestones over this past year…..most of which were unexpected:

  • About 4000 people now follow hmt on various social media across the whole world
  • After the fb and insta pages came the website and logo and people generously gave designs I could use
  • People started sending in their recovery stories and were open and brave and generally amazing
  • Then people sent poetry and art too!
  • It expanded further to blogs, articles, book chapters, conferences, posters 🤓
  • I’ve collected some amazing roadies who advise on metal genres, help with social media, collaborate with me on stuff, contribute to the webpages and are generally giving of their time for free and for the love of metal
  • I spent probably too many hours collating the heavy metal and psychology research for the website, sent tons of emails to various scholars in heavy metal studies. Some replied and I was lucky enough to meet a few of them too
  • I had at least 3 freakouts about giving up the whole thing
  • About 1000 leaflets have been distributed across loads of metal festivals thanks to the kindness of some key organisations like Sophie Lancaster Foundation
  • People sent in nearly 200 song suggestions for playlists
  • And now I have a grand total of 2 heavy metal therapy t-shirts as well 🤣

Just wanted to say thanks to everyone who believed in the project, put up with me droning on and contributed* 🤘🏻you guys rock 🤘🏻

*The big soppy thank you list –

Angela, Stevie, Danny, Anthony – you 4 especially

Mary, Rufus, Elisabeth, Dave, Sarah, Joel, Ben x2, Charley, Nick x3, Karl, Sam, Linda, Jen, Jasmine, Rosey, Andy, Dan, Andres, Heather, Amanda, Scott, Jennifer, Rich. The guys at Sophie Lancaster and Chill Welfare

Anyone who did a story, poem, blog or design

Anyone who read a draft of owt (Jurga, Mark, Cat, Charlotte, Paul),

Anyone who didn’t laugh in my face

I’m not crying, you are….

(image from greatnameplates)