Reuters

Why do most heavy metal bands hail from Scandinavia and Northern Europe?

I thought it might be fun to offer a little context for this map (below), which has been making the rounds at Reddit and FlowingData.

(Click the map for a larger image)

It shows Sweden and Finland with a fairly massive lead in metal bands per capita. Northern Europe and Scandinavia do well across board with Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and tiny Estonia besting the U.S. and U.K. by a considerable margin, as our colleagues at The Atlantic Wire have noted.

This is surprising, no? The United States and United Kingdom, after all, gave birth to the genre with influential American bands like Iron Butterfly and Metallica; Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden hail from England. Not to mention, Australia’s AC/DC or Canada’s Anvil.

Sweden and Finland are no slouches on the metal band front. Sweden is home to some of the most influential metal bands around like Opeth, In Flames, Dark TranquillityAt The Gates, and Amon Amarth. Finland is home to Children of BodomApocalypticaImpaled NazareneNightwish, and more. Finland’s, Lordi was the first metal band to win the Eurovision Song Contest in 2006. Both countries are reasonably small which helps boost their per capita numbers.

Geography and personality appear to play a role. Several psychological studies link heavy metal to personality types that are drawn to “intense and rebellious” music (which includes rock and alternative as well as heavy metal). An important 2011 study on “The Structure of Music Preferences” by Jason Rentfrow, Lew Goldberg, and Dan Levitin identifies heavy metal as part of an “intense music preference” defined by music that is distorted, loud, percussive and fast and linked to aggressive personality types.

My own research with Rentfrow and others shows that intense music preferences (including preferences for heavy metal music) are geographically strongest in the upper Plains states of Montana, Wyoming, and Nebraska as well as New Mexico, Nevada and Missouri in the United States. The study also found preferences for heavy metal strongest in states with large proportions of white residents.

A Twitter commenter writes: "Let’s call this one the "grunge effect" because of high heavy metal concentration in places with depressing winters."

Top image: Reuters/Jumana El-Heloueh

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