Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Project Light Wood

Yea, I don't even...

Monday, August 15, 2011.

Project Light Wood was initiated as a means of psychology experiment to study the effect of the retracting of heavy metal and hard rock music from a hopeless metal head. The idea was to see if there was a correlation between a feeling of restlessness and depression with the continuous listening to the aforementioned genre of music. The experiment will go on for a week, with immediate effect from the 15th of August to the early morning of 22nd of August.

The name of the project is a play on the word Heavy Metal - for what else is a better counterpart to metal than the light yet solid and sturdy wood?

During these periods, any subgenre that falls under Heavy Metal (Power Metal, Doom Metal, Progressive Metal, just to name a few) will be consciously avoided. Any dark sounding rock music (e.g. Stoner Rock) is also included in the list. Some of the groups/circles to not be played throughout the week include Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, CROW'SCLAW, Demetori, and Sleep.

To make this task easier, these music are segregated by strategic means of putting them away in seperate folders.

-Off my Facebook page

So, it's pretty self-explanatory there. I've pretty much stop listening to anything related to Heavy Metal or Hard Rock for the last one week.

There are some occasional breaking of the rules tho; for example:
-Led Zeppelin/Black Sabbath mashup (it was too good to pass)
-Massive Attack live performance (technically not Heavy Metal or Hard Rock, but the music is pretty dark)
-Om's live (but to be honest, I just listened to barely half of the whole song, so yeah)
-Sleep's cover (I was too curious to see how Dopesmoker could be covered)

These, and besides the occasional air guitaring, I've pretty much avoided listening to full blown heavy (as it is) music.

Now, what I didn't state explicitly in that long wall of post was that whenever I feel really down - depressed, like - then I almost subconciously switched forward to some metal tracks. The heavier and more brutal the songs are, the more I would listen to it with religious attention.

Case in point? Demetori's Heian Alien ~ Crazy Xenomorph is one my favourite track in times of depression.

The Meshuggah-inspired riff never fails to get me headbanging. And gnash my teeth. It's one of those songs where I couldn't listen to it without feeling at least... something. Something primeval and ugly. Definitely not a song of sunshine and blue skies. But it is a song of a sexy, pantyhose-wearing alien, yeap.

The second example is Sleep's Holy Mountain:

If Crazy Xenomorph is all about aggression, this song, with it's overall dope-y atmosphere and abstract lyrics really takes you through the dark maze of your mind... and you feel like you're being enlightened somewhat. I don't know if I'm even making sense there, but the songs just take you through the eight minutes, if you're really into it. Doesn't really end up making you feel angry or having any killer intent, but it sure doesn't do much in giving you a feel-good-happy-time. This is the kind of song that'd actually give you an impression that the band was high and smoked-up when recording it (which I think isn't far from the truth).

The most striking result off the experiment is this: I can safely say there's a high correlation between my depression and listening of heavy metal (as well as sleep deprivation, but that's a different story). There are many instance of my bout of depression actually being amplified when I indulge in some of the heavy sound (as shown by previous example). Of course, different people who listen to Heavy Metal might have differing opinions. Human nature is a weird thing like that - what works for one person might go the total opposite for another one.

So, umm. What of the one episode I had which culminate in the last rambling? Well, with the removal of heavy metal from the picture, I had no choice but to face the problem head on. I talked with some people and said, yes, I'm feeling the blues, and it ain't doing me no good. I didn't shut myself out of the problem, leaving it to fester behind the brutal and heavy sound. It's something almost... therapeutic really, when you stop pretending you're all that tough-and-brutal, and you just... connect with people. It kinda makes you feel somewhat vulnerable, but the feeling afterward is quite a relief.

And with that being said, does it really mean heavy metal is all that bad for one's well being? That it's truly 'the Devil's music?'. Well, on one hand, it is true on the way some seek comfort in it (think of it as an ad-hoc relief), and that it doesn't really help in alleviating the problem (in some case, it might even enhance it) in the long run.

But on the other hand, some metal songs just, if you really listen to it at certain moods, it just end up making you feel really good. Take CROW'SCLAW's Hibernation Sickness (yes, for some reason most of the metal songs are Touhou arrangement, not surprisingly):

Just listen to the part from 2:25 to 3:05. The sound of the guitar being played with only the keyboard accompanying it is just... it gives off a sense of you being trapped somewhere under a blanket of snow and frost in a snowy land where it's all white over the horizon... and yet, over the whole solitude and loneliness, it really feels like there's actually hope, and you're just biding your time until it's spring. Far from making you depressed with the overall loneliness implied by the song, you could also feel really lifted up from listening to this, if you think of about it.

Or how about Hallowed Be Thy Name, from my all-time metal gods, Iron Maiden?

Clocking at 8 minute, the song lyrics is pretty straightforward - someone who is off to be send to the gallows. You take that sombre subject, but you add the melodious guitar riff and solo, and you'll be taken through 8 minutes before you know it. You forgot that it's all about someone who's off to be executed, for heavens' sake, and you just let the music takes you to the end. It shows how the theme of death doesn't need to be all that, well, despairing and doom. If you ask me, this song is not so much about death itself, but it's about... being free. The narrator goes from anger, disbelief, fear, before everything falls apart, and the reality of the situation is accepted. This is a perfect example of how a song needs to be strong both sonically and lyrically.

...OK. The point is from that rambling is, you take heavy metal, and you could either go for sounds which are dark, harsh and brutal, or you go for the melodious, sophisticated, and self-empowering ones. Take it at face value, and it's a music for the angry and restless crowd, but go deeper, and it can be surprisingly emotional, tender... and liberating.

To conclude, a few key points I learned off this short experiment are:

1) Metal music could only empower you up to a point. It's a double edged sword - it could get you all riled up and energized, but it could backfire by feeding your negative energy. In the face of depression, connecting with others remains the best method in the long run.

2) Metal is not all about headbanging, screaming, and non-sophisticated sound. It could also be highly emotional, if you look beyond the harsh and loud sound. See 1).

3) Heavy metal is just one of the many self defense mechanism that I employ in the face of mental (and physical?) adversaries. A break from metal music once in a while is not a bad thing at all, really. Hell, there's always other stuff to really get me going: easy listening, funk, blues, good ol rock n roll, and jazz, to name a few.

And then there's also something EPIC like Orchestra:

A very surprising find off C80. I feel so ashamed for not having heard of them before.

Another surprise find from C80. I think I've found another kind of Touhou arrangement genre to listen extensively to...

4) And of course, the most important lesson would be that Heavy Metal is not everyone's cup of tea. Say what I might on how heavy metal have affected my thoughts and feelings, but it's there to remain in my favourite genre. Jazz may make me chill, easy listening made me to take things easy, and blues gives me the, well, blues... But, at the end of the day, there's just some honesty, power, masculinity, and energy in Heavy Metal that makes it stand out from the rest of other genre.

Ironically, one of the album title off C80 goes by the title "Never get away from HEAVY METAL" (by Icarus'cry). HELL YEAH.

I'll just end this by a quote off the brilliant documentary, Metal: A Headbanger's Journey:

Ever since I was 12 years old I had to defend my love for heavy metal against those who say it's a less valid form of music. My answer now is that you either feel it or you don't. If metal doesn't give that overwhelming surge of power that make the hair stand up at the back of your neck, you might never get it, and you know what? That's okay, because judging by the 40,000 metalheads around me we're doing just fine without you.
-Sam Dunn



  1. There is a lot of music that can make people feel sad, it's not exclusive to metal. Take this song, which is probably the only country-ish rock song I like ever, it's incredibly sad:

    Then there is this indie song that's one of the saddest things I've ever heard:

    I have a feeling I could write a lot more about this but yeah..=x good post though.

  2. I don't listen to metal, but there are a lot of songs which make me sad, like a bunch of Ingrid Michaelson songs. hipster stuff... :I

    The beginning of the 2nd C80 song kind of reminds me of an elevator lol

  3. @Lain: Mm, I'm not exactly saying metal song makes people sad, although I guess depression and sadness pretty much goes hand by hand, yeah.

    The first song has a bit of humour in it (a dark one - or maybe I have a twisted sense of humour), but the second one was pretty sad (in the message, I mean, not sad as in... well, you get the idea).

    @Butters: Well, music is universal, so it's all cool.

    Elevator music eh? I have not-so-sophisticated taste in music, so I'll take your for it haha.

  4. >There are many instance of my bout of depression actually being amplified when I indulge in some of the heavy sound

    Interesting. I've never thought about this myself, but yeah, metal is one of the genres I might listen to if I'm depressed, along with post-rock and some ambient stuff. I usually turn to metal if I'm pissed off, too.
    You might like this. Nice song to listen to if you're pissed the fuck off.
    This as well. Different and not metal, but it's heavy.

    >some metal songs just, if you really listen to it at certain moods, it just end up making you feel really good.

    Indeed. I know of several such songs, though I can't think of any good examples at the moment.

    >Iron Maiden

    Metal gods, indeed.

    Hmm, I should make some music posts myself, instead of just whining all the time. I might try out some Light Wood sometime as well.

    Up the Irons!

  5. Maybe it's something like metal being comforting for you in the short-term, but not actually doing anything to fix the reason you're feeling depressed in the first place?

    I'm not really into metal myself, but I've definitely got a playlist of songs I like to listen to loud when I'm feeling shit, and they tend to be pretty sad songs themselves.

  6. @Link: That's one good fuck-off song. And damn, Boris - I always meant to check them, but never got the chance to (I've only listened to The Evil One Which Sobs, Pink, and My Neigbour Satan) - brb, checking some of their stuff.

    I'd like to read some music post off you. And don't worry, I think no one whines more than I do here ^^;;

    And hell yeah, up the Irons!

    @serenity: yup, that's pretty much it. Can go on in a feedback - get depressed, listen to metal, depression still doesn't go off, listen to more metal. Rinse and repeat...

    Mm, I know what you mean. I still go for some of those sad songs myself. Depend on my mood, really.

  7. Very intriguing project and study..


    Hrrrrrrrngh <3

    >(which I think isn't far from the truth).

    Indeedumz. The three gentlemen were combusting ounces of the herb daily during the recording of their masterpiece follow-up album.

    And for some reason I really like that bizarre Cirno image.