Gutural art

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Death Metal/Throat Vocal Analysis
Chuck Stelzner

PHYS498POM

What is growling?
Wolves do it. Dogs and bears do too. Should humans? “On a regular basis” is often the answer, and one need only tune in the right radio station to hear it. Popularized partially as an outgrowth of the semi-screaming style of punk music vocals and the hoarse shouting of thrash metal, death metal growls, screams,and grunts are guttural and, some say, invoke a pseudo-evolutionary response – a “Pay attention!”, if you will. Bands like Possessed, Massacre, Morbid Angel, and Death sowed the seeds, along with their numerous European contemporaries (Celtic Frost, Venom), for a seemingly atonal range of vocals, produced essentially by blowing all the air out of one’s lungs as quickly as possible through torturedvocal cords, with the help of a raised Adam’s apple (contrary to traditional, operatic vocals). The followers and colleagues of these bands, and of course many more, birthed a new age, where atonal singing is seen as the new way to express extreme emotion – goodbye unamplified vocal projection, goodbye true vocal volume to signify emotional vocalizing! In much of popular music, especially inEurope, gone is the ‘clean’ vocal except as a side effect of a healthy career; to wit, many of death metal’s frontrunners only seek out classical voice training after their band has achieved some manner of fame, so to expand their fan base. And the rest, who stick with seemingly atonal vocal stylings, run the frequency spectrum: from screams so high they put squeaky car brakes to shame to growls soguttural that one is transformed into a rusty, human garbage disposal, slogging through the last of the stringy celery leftovers. Again, what is growling? There are certainly those who think they have never heard such a thing, however it is almost impossible to avoid at least a reasonable facsimile of growling (leastwise because of its similarity to gargling and the real guttural sounds madeeverywhere in the animal kingdom). For a demonstration, a tutorial on reproducing the basic growling vocal style is as follows: -First, drink some water. Milk, if possible. A simple demonstration will not give you throat lesions, but it might make you cough otherwise. -Next, attempt to hack up some spittle. Make a sound like a cat with a hairball, while arcing your jaw shut several times. This is thesound like that social misfit in church, or right before your father spits from the car window. Yes, like that. -Swallow. Ensure your throat is lubricated. Drink more water or milk if necessary. -For the first try, pretend that you are gargling. This simulates the sensation of growling. Using real mouthwash is entirely acceptable. -Once you are comfortable with this, jut your jaw forward and put yourmouth nearly closed, into an exaggerated O. -While using as much air as necessary, attempt to cough the ‘word’ “ooooooh”. -Alternately, force your mouth open as wide as possible while trying to cough the

word “lie”, opening wide after the sound of the letter L. Many online discussion forums touch on this (metaltabs.com, kerrazy-torrents.com), and every major metal band, whether they use agrowling/screaming vocal styling, has a thread in their online forum where some person new to the scene asks how to reproduce the vocals of X band or Y singer. Many questioners are only harassed, as it has been realized that traditional instructions for death vocals are not in the least bit universal. Some people are only able to reproduce one style, some can do anything that they can hear withminimal practice, and some simply run home to their Chloraseptic spray and Zinc lozenges after trying for thirty seconds. Among the suggestions for ‘coating the throat’ are bananas, milk, hot ‘n spicy teriyaki beef jerky, hot tea, warm water, roomtemperature water, and even baking soda dissolved in water. The issue with these is that many see them as crutches along the way – would you really keep a...
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