How death metal is the soundtrack of child prodigies

Heavy metal has long been saddled with a reputation for attracting admirers more interested in decibels than Descartes. New research, however, promises to rescue the genre from the mosh pit of intellectual obscurity.

A study has revealed that death metal and thrash bands such as Slayer and Slipknot produce the music of choice for today's brightest youngsters.

A survey which was carried out among students at the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth, a cohort drawn from the top 5 per cent of the nation's youngsters, drew praise for metal's "visceral brutality" with more than a third rating it among their favourite styles. Researchers admitted they were surprised to find that "intelligent" genres traditionally associated with the precociously bright, such as classical and jazz, were the least popular.

What they discovered instead was that youngsters liked to let off steam to hardcore sounds, particularly if it had an emotionally charged or overtly political message behind it. One respondent said: "You can't really jump your anger into the floor and listen to music at the same time with other types of music."

Stuart Cadwallader of the University of Warwick, which conducted the survey, said heavy metal was found to provide a form of "catharsis", particularly for those with low self-esteem.

They found the aggressive music a useful conduit for their frustrations and anger, according to the findings revealed at the British Psychological Society conference in York yesterday.

Mr Cadwallader said this intellectual elite often found themselves facing situations and issues not encountered by less able students.

"Perhaps the pressure associated with being gifted and talented can be temporarily forgotten with the aid of music," he said.

While other musical forms such as rock, pop and R&B were rated as the most popular, students said they felt particularly attracted to the "thrashiness" of heavy metal.

Answering questions in an online survey, one student said Systems of a Down's anti-war track, "Bring Your Own Bombs" particularly appealed. Another track, "Aenima" by Tool, was praised for its subject matter - "the stupidity of the celebrity culture".

Another praised "the visceral brutality offered by metal bands like Slipknot and Machine Head." The student added: "The cathartic release offered by heavy music played loud, either by my hi-fi or myself on guitar, is a wonderful thing when it's needed."

However, many of the students disagreed over what constituted a heavy metal fan andargued that they liked to pick and choose from different styles according tothe way they were feeling.

One student concluded: "As with most music, it depends heavily on the person's mood at the time. So while there probably is your 'average metalhead fan', there will also be a lot of other fans who just feel 'metalheady' every so often. Which I guess goes some way to justify my playlists being named 'emotions'."

School of rock

System Of A Down Los Angeles-based four-piece whose politically-charged output has much to do with the fact they are descended from Armenian genocide victims.

Machinehead Boasting albums entitled Burn My Eyes and Hellsalive, the Oakland-based nu-metallers were banned by MTV for lyrical insensitivity after the Waco siege.

Slipknot Once compared to a "threshing machine devouring a military drum corps" this Des Moines nine-piece achieved notoriety with their first album, Mate.Feed.Kill.Repeat.

Slayer Recently celebrated 25 years of exploring the delights of satanism and serial killers.

Finntroll Finnish folk-death metal band that sings in Swedish and draws on Norse legend.

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