Why Are Extreme Metal Vocals So Grotesque And Indecipherable?

Will York of The San Francisco Bay Guardian writes: Why are extreme metal vocals so grotesque and indecipherable? Newcomers to the genre often wonder about this — that is, why metal bands spend so much time composing intricate music and detailed lyrics only to go and "ruin it" with those awful guttural, growling vocals.

I felt the same way the first time I heard this sort of thing, on NAPALM DEATH's "From Enslavement to Obliteration". "The music's pretty good, but the vocals are terrible," I thought. NAPALM DEATH helped originate the so-called Cookie Monster style of vocals, which has since (d)evolved into plenty of other subtle, sickening variations.

Before going further, it's important to clarify exactly what constitutes genuine Cookie Monster vocals. Really, the only genres in which vocalists use that particular style are death metal and its close cousin, grindcore — bands such as NAPALM DEATH, CARCASS, OBITUARY, and SUFFOCATION, whose focus is, or was, death, decay, and other such existential dilemmas. This vocal style is not to be confused with the rasping, higher-pitched shriek of Norwegian black metal bands such as DARKTHRONE, the thick-necked barking of weight-lifter metal bands like PANTERA, or the anxious roar of current "Headbanger's Ball" favorites like SHADOWS FALL. Read more.


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