How Heavy Metal Can Help With Mental Health

It’s no wonder for some that it’s been years that Heavy Metal bands have gotten far from the lyric triad sex-drugs-cars, or even the Satanic religious duo that marked most of the inspirational thematic to many. For many reasons, which is not the time or place to discuss, HM bands have enlarged immensely their inspirational content adding more themes to their social production. It was not easy though to reach those new horizons, bands had to work hard to achieve this new level of excelency. It means more research, more reading, and even telling their own experience.

If you look carefully, and without prejudice, it’s possible to notice that themes like existentional issues, science fiction, astronomy, politics, and many others are possible now. Or in other words, HM bands are talking mostly about the most ample aspects of life, about the mistery of this thing called life that refuses to be understood completely. Bands have asked this burning question that has been concerning humankind since the beginning of times: Why am I here? There’s no easy answer to that and many have lost their ways trying to answer or finding an answer. So, it wouldn’t be any wonder if mental problems were part of this new thematic. In fact, it’s been a while that they are part of HM thematic. Bands just had to go deeper into those issues to produce their lyrics.

Of course, if you consider music as an entertainment, HM bands would have certain limits to explore some indigestible issues. Well, not exactly. Indeed bands like Pungent Stench explored themes like ampeuty (the sexual atraction to amputees) and  coprophagia (the comsuption of feces). But often the themes are lighter as in the Metallica’s anthemic Welcome Home (Sanitarium) whose lirical content shows all the anguish and fear one feels. Symphonic Metal band Lyria have a longer and deeper relation with the thematic since the songs “Let Me Be Me,” “Get What You Want,” “Last Forever” and “Hard to Believe” are somewhat related to helping your state of mind in order to progress as a person. But it’s “The Rain” that has a bigger approach because it was written to honnor an australian fan, Warren Mayocchi, who has a book called “Human: finding myself in the autism spectrum” where it is possible to find the poem that the song was inspired in. According to singer Aline Happ the relation with the fan began with the crowdfunding to 2014’s Catharsis when he sent a poem about him as a child. He was able to overcome his issues with autism with the help of his wife.

Here we bring you a live experience from a Metal musician who had a very special student who happened  to be disabled. Lyria’s drummer, Thiago Mateo, has been instructing drums to Miguel who has authism for six years. He was very kind to answer some of our questions:

How did you know Miguel?

I’ve never had contact with anyone with autism before I met him. I had only one experience with Down syndrome, but I was only an auxiliary to my instructor helping him integrate the student with the instrument. This instructor also had a student who was blind and autist, but her blindness was more severe. His classes were much more auditive to her. She liked samba and we used to give sonic samples to her amusement.
Based on those experiences I was used to never get away. I use to face them. So, because of that, I accepted Miguel as a student in 2013 when his father called me looking for a drummer instructor in a conservatory where I worked that time. He was 5 then and developed an interest on the instrument and used to practice with a small drum kit he had.
He started to play the drums when he was around 3 years old. Even having some experience with the instrument when he arrived there, he couldn’t keep up. It was usual no to follow me, to be heads up, to loose tempo and forget and then he started to play the drums. My plan was to make him play with the drums, make some noise to then make music.
Time went by and I started to know him – what I do with all my students. From my observation I get to know what the student needs. That helped to keep the flame because Miguel loves the drums. Anywhere he goes – McDonalds, for instance, he plays with the cups and straws. Any object to him can be the drums. He thinks on a song, starts to sing and play it.
Regarding to classes, I noticed that he could play rhythmically, although it is hard for him to pay attention because of his condition. So, my first effort was to make him stop dreaming and get some rhythm to make him play step by step. There was some difficult with the feet, he still plays with only foot, but he plays by ear. Everything he listens, he can play. He’s got lots of talent and I have to support it. Right now he’s starting to learn how to read music.

After six years of classes, how far could he go personally and technically?

He’s gone very far. He had lots of social and musical progress. I know it’s not only because of the drumming, but it has played a very important role in his life.  Talent is important, but social insertion is more important and that’s my gola. Little by little, I became a musical therapist using the drums as a technique. He’s developing very well, his comuniction skills are getting alright, he can express his emotions. It’s the right incentive. He always asks when I ‘forget’ something in my drum kit ‘Where are the cymbals?’.

In your opinion how important it is to have this kind of contact with art and music to individuals that develop this problem called autism?

Regarding to music, it is important that music catches you before you catch it. It is useless to say that music works by itself as a therapy if the person doesn’t like it. Music is a matter of identification, it’s a marvelous tool. For autist people, who really know what they want, and I learned it with Miguel, they also really know what they don’t want. Music helps a lot, but if the person doesn’t like, it’s useless. However, music therapy softens some cases and even can cure them.
Each note brings a feeling, every feeling induces a thought which induce actions to yield results. That’s my thing! To be in touch with what we hear to know what to do. In Miguel’s condition it is important to make art. It is always great to present art to kids. He’s familiar with music because of his family. He’s introduced to classical music because his mother studied lyrical singing and he loves bands as Queen. He also loves bands which mix symphonis and drumming. And also, he has a good ear to music, he likes Metallica and AC/DC. He can play ‘Master of Puppets,’ but he prefers classical music because of the more complex constructions.