Helsinki professor becomes pioneer of metal music research

What do Mozart and Judas Priest have in common? Esa Lilja, a Finnish heavy metal scholar, shares the answer with us.

Esa Lilja’s credentials include a doctorate and an adjunct professorship in musicology at the University of Helsinki – and a love of heavy metal.

His foot is tapping to the beat of heavy metal music. He’s sitting in the rehearsal space of the metal band Tyrantti, listening carefully. As a musicologist, Lilja focuses on the chords and melodies of heavy metal and other genres, as well as the way they connect in harmonies.

“My most important finding was,” says Lilja, “that because of distortion, which is essential in all heavy metal…