Metal Vocal Techniques & Genres

The Behing The Scenes Of Metal Music


Josh Wiles

This graphic represents death since it is a common theme for the metal music genre.

Metal Music and Vocals:

A good portion of humanity knows or at least has heard of metal music. Most people, especially an older group of people, just think it’s a bunch of noise and screaming but not many take the time to better understand it. There are a lot of misconceptions about metal and how to do the vocals. Most people think it’s easy to do. A good bit of the population think metal is just a lot of screaming, shouting, yelping, and grunting, but if you listen to metal you know this is a big misconception. There are numerous types of different vocal techniques that there are just too many to name and there are new techniques appearing more and more. 

The first of the vocal technique that I will be mentioning in this article is known as death grows—no one really knows who exactly started the death growls but most think it was Kam Lee and Chuck Schrodinger who were among the first bands to utilize the growl. A death metal growl can inflict serious damage to the vocal cords if not done and prepared for correctly, this happened to the singer of Bring Me The Horizon, Oli Sykes, who had ruptured his vocal cords which was most likely due to a mixture of poor technique, lack of resting and extensive touring. But other musicians have proven to have a long career using the death growl technique such as Ben Duerr, who’s been a vocalist in the metal genre going on nine years and more if you include the practice of trying to achieve death growls and other vocal techniques.

 The death growl technique consists of using the diaphragm and air pressure in the throat to form the sound which is similar to the overtone singing. The higher pitches come from the increase of pressure in the throat and is where most of the injuries take place. A kvlt scream is a powerful high-pitched buzzing scream that is typically used in black metal.  The origins of the growled vocals can be traced to Viking culture. The Vikings in Slesvig were the ones who sang their songs using growled vocals back in the 10th century.

The tunnel throat is a more hollow sounding type of scream singing which is commonly used in deathcore and death metal, this technique is achieved by pressing their tongue against the back of the bottom teeth and using their mouth and throat to create a sound.

The pig squeal is a technique that is typically used in deathcore. The singer does this technique. They use breath, vocal cords, and tongue to emit a high pitched sound that sounds like well a pig squeal (and is the one vocal where I can’t understand what they are saying).

The creaky tone of the vocal fry is produced by loosely closing the throat and allowing air to slowly bubble through, doing this technique will produce the lowest vocal register and with control can lead to some record breaking low notes. 

Types of Metal and Sub-Genres:

Metalcore also known as Metallic Hardcore is a fusion of music genres that combines elements of Extreme Metal and Hardcore punk. Metalcore is known for it use of intense passages conductive to moshing, breakdowns, and slow.

The genre deathcore is a heavy metal sub-genre that merges the energy of hardcore punk with metalcore and the challenging instrumental passages and the explicit lyrics of death metal. Deathcore is known for its blast beats, drop tuning, guttural vocals, and the frequent instrumental breakdowns. The genre usually utilizes simplistic chord progressions. The deathcore genre bands often employ a variety of styles. There are deathcore bands who play with a more melodic style and some use a more brutal style. Some deathcore bands merge different genres together like metalcore and Grindcore.

Slam metal is similar to death metal but focuses on the slow or the mid tempo as well as in breakdowns sections built on the chromatic palm muted riffs also called as “slams.”

The genre known as death metal is a style of extreme metal that has features of distorted, commonly down tuned guitars, playing the palm-muted and the tremolo-picked riffs and the double kicked percussion that utilizes the various blast beat techniques that are used. The chromatic chord progressions and the abrupt changes in tempo and time signature are also quite common. The vocalist of this genre adopt the guttural vocal techniques such as growling and grunting and utilize the bleak and often vulgar lyrics that delves into violence, politics, anti-religiousness, science fiction, philosophy, and of course death. 

The genre known as melodic death metal utilizes the guitar harmonies and melodic sound of heavy metal while keeping the characteristics of death metal, particularly the down tuned and heavily distorted guitars and the harsh aggressive sound. The genre contains more melodic guitar riffs and solos than the traditional death metal genre. On occasion acoustic guitars are used. The drum technique known as blast beats are still used in the genre but not as much as they are in death metal. Some bands like Shadow of Intent who by some at one time were considered symphonic melodic progressive black deathcore, play keyboards in their music as well.  The vocal style that is used is usually harsh. 

The black metal genre is another style of extreme metal which is typified by the tremolo-picked riffs, the shrieked vocals, the distorted electric guitars, and the double-kick drumming and the blast beats styles frequently features raw, under produced sound.  

The genre known as progressive metal features complex layered arrangements in longer than typical songs. The genre often includes lengthy instrumental passages allowing performers to display technical interplay and proficiency. Signature changes are common in the genre as of the incorporation of western classical music influences. The sound of the music is generally driven by the guitars and the drums. But it’s quite typical to add elements that are non-standard to rock and metal such as an array of orchestral elements and synthesizers. The vocals that are used are often feature operatic, with high-register vocals. But it also employs cleanly sung mid-range and the gruffer tones of extreme metal. The melodic counterpoint with multi-layered arrangements and choral effects are often included in the genre. The lyrics attempt to be poetic and intellectual in its expression and themes.

There is many more genres and sub-genres of metal and as well as vocals but these are just a few to introduce you to the genre.