Jake Denison — Why I Listen To Metal When I Work

I’m one of the few people in the world who will be casually writing some code while listening to a song with the title of “Raining Blood”.

Metal to me is as necessary as coffee (which is the universal fuel for software devs). Even the Team Lead of my NASA internship once said, “This is Jake. He takes coffee and metal as arguments, and returns code.”

So why do I listen to metal? Why would one of the most aggressive and violent genres of music provide the perfect environment for me to write code, one of the most mentally challenging jobs out there?

  • Tempo — Metal and it’s subgeneres are generally of a faster tempo or heavier composition. Both this attributes act as a metronome for the speed and depth at which my mind operates. Thrash metal like Slayer, Metallica, and Sodom tends to make me think faster. It’s perfect for bashing out rough code or menially copying code segments across files.
  • Heaviness — The heaviness of a song determines the depth at which my subconscious goes. The best way to explain it is that I feel more motivated and have an easier time slowing down and checking details when the song is slow and heavy. Older Black Sabbath, Bong Thrower, Acid King, and even some Led Zeppelin are my go to bands for slow, detail oriented work.
  • Aggression — Aggressive music in general keeps me motivated and goal oriented. Brutal lyrics, disemboweling riffs, skull crushing bass lines, and face melting solos just getting me moving like nothing else can. Slayer, Kreator, Sepultura, and Anthrax put me in the zone.
  • Complexity — Many metal genres feature complex musicality, including changing key and time signatures, exotic scales, syncopated rhythm, and asynchronous bass lines. As my brain processes this kind of input from my ears, it stimulates the frontal lobe of the brain, sort of like oiling your neurons and increasing the speed at which the brain makes connections. Tool, Dream Theater, Symphony X, and Death are all prime examples of this kind of music.

So give metal a try! It’s not for everyone and it’s something to ease yourself into, but it truly is a great genre with awesome power.

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