Growls & Screams in Modern Metal Music

Oli Sykes

Modern metal music has developed differently all over the world, with bands from various European nations currently dominating the market, but the style has evolved gradually over the decades into something quite different to the heyday of early heavy metal. Much of this transition has been put down to the divisive rise of death growls and screams in today’s metal music, which for some people is off-putting, and for others enhances their enjoyment of the genre even more.

The death growl is a name for the vocal style adopted increasingly in recent years by many hardcore metal bands, also sometimes nicknamed “Cookie Monster vocals”. These harsh, guttural tones are used when performing songs with chaotic, aggressive instrumentals to replace traditional singing. Fans of the style enjoy the way dark and disturbing lyrics are enhanced by this kind of delivery, especially in a live performance setting.

Performing death growls without proper training can be dangerous, and many high profile singers have actually developed vocal chord polyps and other problems due to the pressure the vocal style puts on the throat. There are professional techniques to help minimise this damage, although a death growl by nature involves a lot of strain on the vocal chords.

Screams are a related phenomenon that have gradually crept into different styles of music, namely death metal, hardcore punk and industrial genres for the most part. Having said that, screaming has been part of music since long before these genres existed, initially being sung (as opposed to literally screamed) in classic opera performances and later being incorporated into some experimental classical music by alternative composers.

Today, the most extreme use of screaming tends to be performed by metalcore and especially deathcore bands, the latter of which are known for extremely low and high pitched screaming techniques as well as “pig squealing”. A combination of screaming and death growl techniques is common among a lot of the most extreme metal bands in music today.

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