"Death! Death! Death!" - Theoden
My new review is up on Angry Metal Guy! Click these Magic Words!
The band in question are relative newcomers out of Sydney, playing an old fashioned grimy sound, a sound emerging from the scene in the early 90’s that came to be known as death metal. I thought I’d take a moment to inform anyone who’s curious what that actually means.
People bandy around the phrase ‘death metal’ a lot because it sounds so severe, and some seem to think it’s just a more aggressive way to say ‘metal’ or ‘heavy metal,’ but that’s not the case. Death metal is a specific style, one that’s grown its own sub-branches since it sprouted.
Thrash metal(Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Exodus, (m)et al.) was the churning, chugging underground of 80’s rock. It was as angry, tarnished and socially critical as hair metal like Poison was blissed out, glossy and unconcerned. As thrash had evolved from its predecessors, it too would spawn a darker, grislier offspring.
Thrash had made the guitars faster and more jagged. It had taken the classical-style singing of bands like Judas Priest and uglied it up into harsh shouts and snarling punk barks. A particular vein of thrash, even more evil and heavy - exemplified by Slayer - paved the way for metal to evolve again. A scene emerged in the overcooked marsh of Tampa, Florida, with more dissonant guitars, more intricate riffs, and, most iconically of all, more monstrous vocals.
The guttural growls, roars and gurgles used in death metal vocals are a massive entry barrier for anyone interested in the style. They’re just so different from what most people are used to in a vocal performance. I’d offer two pieces of advice: First, like with other music, no two sound the same. Some death growls sound horrifying and grimy, others are more like beastly roars. Amon Amarth’s vocalist Johan Hegg sounds like a sea god chastising you to leave his poor whales alone. Second, you have to get used to vocals not carrying the melody. Growled vocals are a texture instrument, filling in the sound with the satisfying grit of consonants and the sometimes terrifying familiarity of a living voice.
Death metal can be a great cathartic purgator of fears and stresses. It can be a blunt, bashing commentary on the evils of humanity or the indifference of the universe. It can also just be a fun, groovy chug to headbang to. It’s not my favorite metal subgenre, but my musical world is much richer for it. Or at least much louder.