Despite a wealth of research on music and emotion, little is known about why different people experience different emotions when listening to the same music. The present study addressed this gap by examining the personality traits and processes that orient people toward, in particular, violent, death-metal music. This research explicated the relationship between three particular traits – schizotypy, need to belong (NTB), and need for uniqueness (NFU) – and preference for death-metal. Participants completed various personality measures, were played a clip of a representative death-metal song, and answered questions regarding their liking of violent music. To assess the causal impact of NTB and NFU on music preference, belongingness and uniqueness needs were heightened via a mortality salience (MS) induction. Preference for death-metal was associated with higher levels of schizotypy, NFU, and traditionally masculine values. Preference was predicted by a two-way MS by NTB interaction, such that participants with high NTB had an increased preference for death-metal when given MS. Preference was also predicted by a three-way MS by NTB by NFU interaction, such that participants with dually high NTB and NFU had an increased preference for death-metal when given MS. Results suggested that preference for death-metal music derives in part from two sources. First, some people may like death-metal simply because it is consonant with their personalities. Second, death-metal may fulfill a process of dynamic defense for some people, whereby those with especially high needs to feel both special and accepted are drawn in for the sake of psychological security. This research thus offers a framework within which the personality profile of death-metal music fans may begin to be constructed.