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Death growl

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Death growl, also known as growled vocals, harsh vocals, death vocals, death grunts, unclean vocals, Cookie Monster vocals,[1], or simply growling, is a vocalization style usually employed by vocalists of the death metal music genre, but also used in a variety of other heavy metal subgenres.[2] Melodic death metal, grindcore, doom metal, gothic metal, thrash metal, deathcore and some metalcore bands tend to use the vocal style with substantial modification. A very similar style is used in black metal, though black metal also incorporates higher pitched shrieks or screams.


Template:Cleanup Growls can be obtained with various voice effects, but the effects are usually used to enhance rather than create, if they are used at all. Voice teachers teach different techniques, but long-term use eventually wears the voice out, so any technique is actually for "less harm", not for harmless vocalization.[citation needed]The University Medical Center St Radboud in Nijmegen (The Netherlands) reported in June 2007 that, due to the increased popularity of growling in the region, it was treating several patients for edema and polyps on the vocal folds[3].

Most "correct" growls use either a variation of vocal fry or false vocal cords, both with the use of the diaphragm. Death growls are often referred to as an overtone style of singing. While supporters of more traditional vocal styles claim that this is not real singing, the majority of "good" growling techniques apply the same principles that are witnessed in "clean" vocals.Template:Or These principles include timing and cues, holding a note (or gurgle) for a certain amount of time without it fraying, and being able to sing rhythmically underneath the growl while alternating between different pitches if necessary. Generally speaking it requires practice and training to master a death growl that does not inflict serious damage on the vocal cords, unlike clean singing which depends on natural talent as well as training.Template:Or Though the changes in pitch are more prevalent in the less guttural styles. Some notable examples of vocalists who use alternating pitches in their vocalisation are Mikael Åkerfeldt from Opeth, Mille Petrozza from Kreator, Phil Anselmo, formerly from Pantera, Morten Veland from Sirenia, Chuck Billy of Testament, Angela Gossow from Arch Enemy, Death's vocalist Chuck Schuldiner and Dez Fafara from Devildriver.

History and variationsEdit


Early precedentsEdit

The use of growling, "monstrous" vocals for ominous effect in rock music can be traced at least as far back as "I Put a Spell on You" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins in 1956. Though humorous in intent, the 1966 novelty song "Boris the Spider" by The Who features deep, guttural, gurgling growls somewhat similar to those performed by modern death metal vocalists.

In 1969 and the early 1970s, the song "21st Century Schizoid Man" by King Crimson is notable for its heavily distorted vocals sung by Greg Lake. The songs "Iron Man" by Black Sabbath and "One of These Days" by Pink Floyd both contain brief passages of ominously growled, low-pitched vocals (in both cases studio-manipulated) against a heavy background of rock riffs. Additionally, "Piltdown Man" from Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield might be considered a good example of this style. Punk rock bands like The Clash and the Stiff Little Fingers also regularly employed growled vocals in their early work, but with the effect of sounding tough, rather than ominous.

Origins in heavy metalEdit

The advent of the growl as it is used today coincided roughly with the gradual emergence of death metal, and it is thus difficult to pinpoint a specific individual as the inventor of the technique. Different vocalists likely developed the style over time. The band Death (and its precursor Mantas) with its two vocalists — initially Kam Lee and subsequently Chuck Schuldiner — have been cited as the first (although Schuldiner would eventually switch to a more high-pitched screeching). Possessed are also considered by some to be one of the earliest bands to employ growls, as are Necrophagia and Master. Around the same time, bands such as Hellhammer, with Tom G. Warrior on vocals, and seminal act Massacre also employed a variation of the growl.

The vocalists from the British grindcore band Napalm Death — consecutively Nic Bullen, Lee Dorrian and Mark "Barney" Greenway — further developed the style in the late 1980s, adding more aggression and deeper guttural elements to it, while also speeding up delivery of the lyrics. In Brazil, the band Sarcófago, with Wagner Lamounier who also did some low guttural vocals and backing vocals. Around the same time, in the United States, Chris Reifert (from Autopsy) began combining shrieks with his deep grunts.

Variations and newer developmentsEdit

Some death metal bands such as Carcass, Exhumed, Vital Remains, Dying Fetus and Deicide have experimented using two vocal tracks, alternating between growling grunts and pitch shifted vocals or violent shrieks. Vocalists of doom metal bands tend to put more emphasis on adding atmospheric and emotional overtones to their growls. Nick Holmes (from Paradise Lost), Darren White (from Anathema) and Aaron Stainthorpe (from My Dying Bride) were the main developers of growls within this context, in the early 1990s. Stainthorpe was one of the first to utilize both growls and "clean" vocals in death metal.

Funeral doom metal bands have taken a different approach to growls. Deep guttural vocals are often replaced by hoarser, almost whispered growls. Examples of vocalists which make use of the technique are "Matti" (from Skepticism) and John Paradiso (from Evoken).

There are other genres which have their own approach to death growls, such as deathgrind and brutal death metal. In those styles, the vocals often attempt to be as guttural and indecipherable as possible without the use of effects, sometimes inhaling the growl. Examples are Frank Mullen of Suffocation, Lord Worm (ex-Cryptopsy) and John McEntee of Incantation.

There are a number of symphonic and goth metal bands that combine operatic clean female vocals (often classically-trained sopranos) with a male growl/grunt. For example Cradle of Filth, After Forever, Epica, and Leaves' Eyes all employ this technique in a significant portion of their songs.


  1. Fusilli, Jim (Wednesday, February 1, 2006). That's Good Enough for Me. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved on 2007-04-21.
  2. York, Will (July 2004). Voices from hell. San Francisco Bay Guardian. Retrieved on 2007-04-21.
  3. "Grunten" sloopt de stem (Growling destroys the human voice), Nederlands Dagblad, June 29 2002 (Dutch)

External linksEdit

fr:Grunt it:Voce death he:גראולינג nl:Grunt ja:デスヴォイス no:Growlru:Гроулинг simple:Death gruntsv:Growl

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