Death growl


Death growl

A death growl, also known as death metal vocals, guttural vocals, death grunts, and harsh vocals[1] among other names, is a vocalisation style usually employed by vocalists of the death metal and black metal music genre, but also used in a variety of heavy metal and hardcore punk subgenres.[2]

Death metal, in particular, is associated with growled vocals. Death metal, which tends to be darker and more morbid than thrash metal, features vocals that attempt to evoke chaos, death, and misery by being "usually very deep, guttural, and unintelligible."[3] Natalie Purcell notes, "Although the vast majority of death metal bands use very low, beast-like, almost indiscernible growls as vocals, many also have high and screechy or operatic vocals, or simply deep and forcefully sung vocals."[4] Sociologist Deena Weinstein has noted of death metal: "Vocalists in this style have a distinctive sound, growling and snarling rather than singing the words. Making ample use of the voice distortion box."[5]

The progressively more forceful enunciation of metal vocals has been noted, from heavy metal to thrash metal to death metal.

To appreciate the music, fans first had to accept a merciless sonic signature: guttural vocals that were little more than a menacing, sub-audible growl. James Hetfield's thrash metal rasp was harsh in contrast to Rob Halford's heavy metal high notes, but creatures like Glen Benton of Deicide tore out their larynxes to summon images of decaying corpses and giant catastrophic horrors.[6]

Death growls are sometimes criticized for their "ugliness".[7] However, the harshness of death growls are in keeping with death metal's often dark and disturbing subject matter.[7]

Contents

Technique

Growls can be obtained with various voice effects, but the effects are usually used to enhance rather than create, if they are used at all. Voice teachers teach different techniques, but long-term use will still take its toll - these techniques are designed to reduce rather than eliminate harm.[citation needed] The Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre in The Netherlands reported in June 2007 that, because of the increased popularity of growling in the region, it was treating several patients for edema and polyps on the vocal folds.[8]

History and variations

Early precedents

The use of growling, "monstrous" vocals for ominous effect in rock music can be traced at least as far back as "I Put a Spell on You" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins in 1956. Though humorous in intent, the 1966 novelty song "Boris the Spider" by The Who features bassist John Entwistle's deep, guttural, gurgling growls which may have influenced modern death metal vocalists.

In 1969 and the early 1970s, the song "21st Century Schizoid Man" by King Crimson is notable for its heavily distorted vocals sung by Greg Lake. The songs "Iron Man" by Black Sabbath and "One of These Days" by Pink Floyd both contain brief passages of ominously growled, low-pitched vocals (in both cases studio-manipulated) against a heavy background of rock riffs. Other examples are Roger Waters's screams in some Pink Floyd songs, such as Candy and a Currant Bun (1967), Careful with That Axe, Eugene (1968) and the beginning of Another Brick in the Wall (part 2). Punk rock bands like The Clash and the Stiff Little Fingers also regularly employed gruff sounding vocals, however nothing like the death growl common in metal music today.

Origins in heavy metal

The advent of the growl as it is used today coincided roughly with the gradual emergence of death metal, and it is thus difficult to pinpoint a specific individual as the inventor of the technique. Different vocalists likely developed the style over time. The band Death (and its precursor Mantas) with its two vocalists — initially Kam Lee and subsequently Chuck Schuldiner — have been cited as among the first (although Schuldiner would eventually switch to a more high-pitched screeching). Possessed are also considered by some to be one of the earliest bands to employ growls, as are Necrophagia and Master. Around the same time, bands such as Hellhammer, with Tom G. Warrior on vocals, and seminal act Massacre also employed a variation of the growl. The vocalists from the British grindcore band Napalm Death — consecutively Nic Bullen, Lee Dorrian and Mark "Barney" Greenway — further developed the style in the late 1980s, adding more aggression and deeper guttural elements to it, while also speeding up delivery of the lyrics. Another singer who gradually deepened his voice into the growling used today on death metal and grindcore was Chris Barnes, original singer of Cannibal Corpse. On the band's video biography, he says that he wanted to sing as high as Rob Halford, but his voice was too low pitched for that. So he started trying to blend it with the other instruments, coming up with a dark and really low guttural voice that became his signature.

See also

References

  1. ^ Fusilli, Jim (February 1, 2006). "That's Good Enough for Me". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on January 3, 2009. http://web.archive.org/web/20090103110228/http://opinionjournal.com/la/?id=110007902. 
  2. ^ York, Will (July 2004). "Voices from hell". San Francisco Bay Guardian. http://www.sfbg.com/38/42/art_music_metal.html. Retrieved 2007-04-21. 
  3. ^ David Konow, Bang Your Head:The Rise and Fall of Heavy Metal. Three Rivers Press, 2002, p.228.
  4. ^ Purcell, Natalie J. Death Metal Music:The Passion and Politics of a Subculture. McFarland, 2003, p. 11.
  5. ^ Weinstein, Deena. Heavy Metal: A Cultural Sociology. MacMillan, 1991, p. 51.
  6. ^ Ian Christe, Sound of the Beast:The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal. HarperCollins, 2003, p.239.
  7. ^ a b Sharpe-Young, Garry. Death Metal, ISBN 0958268444
  8. ^ "Grunten" sloopt de stem (Growling destroys the human voice), Nederlands Dagblad, June 28 2007 (Dutch)

External links


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