Johann Sebastian Bach and Metallica didn’t live in the same time, but they may have more in common than most would believe.
When some people think of fans of heavy metal music, they picture men with hair past their shoulders, tattered denim jackets and people yelling “Hail Satan!” at the top of their lungs. Others may view fans of classical music as reserved and highly intelligent, reading books by a fireplace.
Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland did a study to see personality characteristics based on a person’s musical taste. They discovered that of the 36,000 who participated in the study, fans of classical music and heavy metal had the most in common.
“The general public has held a stereotype of heavy metal fans being suicidally depressed and a danger to themselves and society in general,” said Adrian North, professor at Heriot-Watt University, “But they are quite delicate things.”
The study found that most metal fans were creative, at ease with themselves and more introverted; fans of classical music displayed these same qualities.
While the fans themselves may have similar personality traits, the music is also very heavily connected. Both genres are theatrical with grandiose performances and, frequently, large numbers of musicians and similar writing techniques.
One element commonly employed in heavy metal, called the tri-tone, found its origins in classical music and is also known as the Devil’s Interval.
“It’s made up of three notes…it sounds evil, which is why so many heavy metal bands use it,” said Dave Mustaine, vocalist of the band Megadeth, in an interview with ABC News.
Both genres of music incorporate few phrase repetitions and uncommon time signatures to create less predictability. The music requires remarkable skill in order to be performed well at live performances.
Another similarity that unites metal fans and classical music fans is their break from the mainstream. Neither heavy metal nor classical music has much radio time, but both are still successful with record and ticket sales.
Numerous metal bands embrace the connection to classical music by pairing tuned down guitars and fast-played drums with symphonies and orchestras. Some of these bands include Fleshgod Apocalypse, Epica and Blind Guardian.
Even the more famous groups, such as Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden, have used symphonic progressions that composers who lived 200 years ago used as well.
Stigmas of heavy metal and classical music exist in popular culture, but many of those stigmas can be wrong.
Their lyrical approach may be different, but their result ends up the same: music created to give the listeners an artistic experience.
Perhaps if Mozart were alive today, he would be composing symphonies and jamming Cannibal Corpse at the same time.