Every once in a while scientists turn their minds from stars or finding more nutritious foods towards life’s real questions: for example, how to sound as metal as possible.
Former physicist turned data scientist Iain of Degenerate State crunched the numbers and has the keywords you need to say to impress. Iain mined DarkLyrics.com, “the largest metal lyrics archive on the web,” for the lyrics of 222,623 songs by 7,634 bands and analyzed them to find the most, and least, metal words in existence. By comparing the data from DarkLyrics with the Brown Corpus — a 1961 collection of English-language documents that is “the first of the modern, computer readable, general corpora” — he put together a list of the 20 most and least metal words, along with their “metalness” factor.
So without further ado, Iain’s top 10 most metal words are:
And the top 10 least metal words:
Iain’s method is actually more complex than you’d be inclined to think. He first analyzed the data from DarkLyrics and came up with word clouds showing the most common words in all of the songs. Just looking at this data doesn’t offer any special insight into the genre, however, he found.
“Metal lyrics seem focused on “time” and “life”, with a healthy dose of “blood”, “pain” and “eyes” thrown in. Even without knowing much about the genre, this is what you might expect,” he writes.
But looking only at the frequency with which each word appears in songs doesn’t actually tell us anything about which words are closest to the spirit of metal.
“To do this we need some sort of measure of what “standard” English looks like, and […] an easy comparison is to the brown corpus,” he adds.
Iain attributed each word a “metalness” factor, M, as the logarithm of the frequency with which it appears in lyrics over the frequency with which it appears in the brown corpus.
“To prevent us being skewed by rare words, we take only words which occur at least five times in each corpus.”
He plotted the Metalness of all 10,000 words here, so you can know exactly how intense each word you say is. Unsurprisingly, topics like university and employment don’t quite have the metalness of say, demons or the fiery hells.
Iain says that his final analysis isn’t perfect — because of the different topics in the brown corpus and the lyrics, some words are naturally favoured with more or less metalness. A more precise measurement should involve comparison with other musical genres.
“A better measure of what constitutes “Metalness” would have been a comparison with lyrics of other genres, unfortunately I don’t have any of these to hand.”
However, it’s accurate enough to tell you what you need to know — the next time that sexy someone in a Judas Priest t-shirt saunters by, leave your uni and job alone. Your burning soul, the cries of the beast running through your veins and so on are all you need to talk about.