Scientists have found that music therapy helps to ease anxiety and improve functioning in the more than 264 million people who – according to the World Health Organization – suffer from depression globally.


34-year-old Byron’s recent experience confirms that music therapy is indeed working.


He says his battle with depression began after the nationwide lockdown was declared. “I was working from home and even though the change of scenery was refreshing at first, I soon started feeling lonely and melancholy.”


When he started losing contact with family and friends, he realised that something was wrong and he reached out to NWU Wellness. He says his subsequent appointments with counsellors and a psychiatrist have helped a lot.


Facing the dark side


Byron has always liked playing video games and listening to very extreme heavy metal. “I like gothic stuff, horror movies, Tolkien-inspired tales with dragons and wizards – things such as Dungeons and Dragons,” he says.


No wonder then that he found heavy metal music therapeutic. “During my battle with depression, playing metal made me feel something. I like the honest emotions that come from metal. Not all music has to be happy or sad. Sometimes you need to get angry, and metal gets that right.”


Metal shining through the shadows


Throughout his recovery, he tried to change his outlook on life, be creative and learn new skills. After watching YouTube videos on how to play a guitar, he started practising and has become very good at it.


“This gave me the idea to capture the absolute emptiness of depression in a black metal album.” He ended up writing lyrics about his mental health, resulting in an album reflecting his journey with depression.


Byron designed the album cover and the logo himself. He chose the band name Spectre and called his album Alone. “I honestly felt like a ghost was haunting my own home, and obviously the title of the album mirrors my loneliness.”


He says black metal, which is the only genre that captures how he felt, is atmospheric, authentic and dark, but not evil. “I want to categorically state that it is not evil music,” he emphasises.


Byron says there are various bands that write about history, mythology, fantasy and even mental illness.


“Bands that inspire me are Darkthrone, Immortal and Gorgoroth, while the album Transilvanian Hunger by Darkthrone captures the essence of black metal perfectly. I would say my album pays direct homage to that album.”


Get help and hold on to hope


“My advice to anyone dealing with depression is to ask yourself if you are feeling any emotions right now. If you are apathetic, feeling nothing whatsoever, seek help immediately.”


“Depression tears away at you slowly, but there is hope. You can fight this beast – I did it through metal, and I will never look back.”


Byron says he might start a full band at some point. “I am even considering making some softer metal to use as a teaching tool one day.”

Byron uses heavy metal to

Byron chose this picture for his album, as it symbolises his sense of being lost in the dark forest of depression.

Byron Bunt, lecturer in history in education, shares his fight against depression and describes how he used black metal music to overcome this dark foe.


    Byron’s self-released album can be found on his Bandcamp page.


    He says black metal has a very specific aesthetic appeal, and is often associated with black-and-white pictures. “I chose a picture of a forest, because I felt I was lost in a dark forest.”


    “My focus on academia started while I was still studying to become a history teacher,” says Byron.


    He is a history enthusiast who developed his love for history while playing video games such as Age of Empires, and now incorporates video games in his lectures. He is also fascinated by places such as Rome, Egypt and Babylon, which have great significance in history.

When haunted by the ghost of depression, Vanderbijlpark history in education lecturer Byron Bunt found help from NWU Wellness and also from a more unexpected source: heavy metal music.

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