How to Listen to Death Metal (Part 1/2)
A step by step guide that will introduce the non-metallic music fan to the louder forms of metal. It will teach them how to listen to Death Metal. Basically this is suitable for anybody that tries to actually listen to his music. So, you may feed this to your underground jazz-listening mates, but it probably won’t do much good on your Lady Gaga-listening sister. This course will take you up to ‘level 1’; the realm of the melodic Death Metal fan. “That far?!” you might be wondering. “Yes, that far.”
If you’re a grunt-crazing, noise-loving metalhead like me, then you probably know this well from experience: people asking you how in the name of Satan’s hairy balls you can listen to this ear-wrecking noise pollution some dare to call music. Usually I end up giving a long and not very convincing answer that includes such phrases as ‘well-crafted songs’, ‘complex structures’ and ‘musician excellence’. I can imagine fellow headbangers taking a similar approach and perhaps they get tired of it too. That’d be very understandable!
“So, why this guide?” you might ask yourself. If you already listen to metal, then this guide is not for you dummy! (If you still want to read it, be my guest though!) This guide is for those you need or want to explain or convince why this metal stuff is any good at all. From now on, you can just give ‘em the URL to this page and then enjoy another beer.
If, up to this point, you’ve been reading all this with a “what kind of crap is this? Metal sucks!” attitude, then you’re definitely not a bewildered metal fan and you probably got sent here by someone who is. Excellent! Read on, for the sake of your friendship with that person, and discover why he or she is not suffering from severe brain damage to be able to like stuff like this:
That was Demonic Resurrection from India by the way, but for a first step towards liking extreme metal, it wasn’t really any good. Much too abrupt. It’s advanced material. In this guide we’ll take small steps towards understanding, and hopefully even appreciating, extreme metal music.
No fan of Blink 182 and The Offspring woke up one morning and suddenly noticed an urge to listen to Dying Fetus. No sir! The trick is to take things louder gradually, step by step. This guide will take you by the hand and introduce you to increasingly noisy bands, while you hardly notice it.
And we’ll do that in a purely music focused manner and using actual metallic examples. Let your ears hear so your brain may understand.
Why Extreme Metal Isn’t All That Bad
Right then, let’s take off. Hów to listen to Death Metal? Fact is that most extreme metal bands write really high quality music. It goes far beyond the intro-verse-verse-chorus-chorus-verse-chorus-outro structure with boom-chicka-chicka-chicka drumming of modern pop music. And yes, it is so much more than just trying to make a racket!
Death Metal and other forms of extreme metal frequently feature complex song structures, tempo changes, insanely fast, technical and unorthodox drumming patterns, guitaring master skills and bass lines that do much more than just indicate a steady rhythm. It is generally loud though, and the layman often does not favor that. What scares off most people, though, are the Cookie Monster vocals. With that in mind, we’ll take it very easy in the first step.
Step One – Acoustic Instrumentals
Step one is namely to come to appreciate the quality of metal music without Cookie Monster or the instrumental loudness. That is very well possible, because many metal bands take a regular break from excessive musical violence by doing acoustic instrumentals. Songs that are not infrequently musical gems.
That was good, wasn’t it?!
Another beauty, though not one hundred percent instrumental, is Argenteum Astrum (Latin for Golden Dawn) by the Greek Death Metal formation Horrified. It features some classical female singing, but don’t let that distract you. Listen to the heartfelt guitar playing. That’s pure emotion right there!
Now, that was good, wasn’t it?!
That one was a lot longer and if you closed your eyes while listening really ‘into’ the music, you have been able to feel the story of sorrow. These acoustics equal to classical music at its best.
Now, in essence, that already concludes the first step. If you’re ready to move on, do so. If you feel you’re not, or if you just need some more of this mind-soothing music, have a listen to these Heavenly Acoustics.
Step Two – Switching on the Amplifier
It’s the guttural vocals that put most non-metalheads off, so let’s first crank up the instrumental loudness a tad in this step.
It’s a tiny, incremental step, at least in terms of loudness, to go from the above acoustic songs to this amplified instrumental, titled Song for December, by Finland’s Omnium Gatherum. In fact, you might even like it more. (And if you don’t like this at all, you have some serious problems with your ears!)
I say that was quite good, wasn’t it?!
Up to here, things have been rather slow and clean, so it’s time to step up the pace and the distortion a little bit. We’ll do that with Nightrage, a band featuring musicians from Greece and Sweden. Their song Sting of Remorse starts off in the same clean and slow fashion and then after a short while kicks in some distortion and soon after that some melodic solo guitaring by Gus G.
We’ll step away from the fast guitar shredding for the time being and instead rough things up a tiny bit in terms of rhythm guitar distortion. On top of that, In Flames (Sweden) does a very decent job at introducing harmonic dual guitar lines in which two guitars play the same melody, but in a different pitch. Their Dialogue with the Stars is a great example.
Wasn’t that pretty?!
I will stick with In Flames a little longer, because their song Man Made God provides a good next step up. Just a bit more pace and a bit more loudness, though still beautifully melodic and harmonic.
I don’t know about you, but personally that song gives me a ‘kick-ass’ feeling!
We must make a bit of a jump now, to Canada’s Kataklysm. Their song The Last Effort (Renaissance II) is slower and darker. Though still melodic, the melodies must be sought elsewhere. No more harmonic guitar playing, but melodic low-tuned rhythm guitars. Give it a try! And do finish it, because it’s got a lot more in store for you than you might think.
Different but good! Wasn’t it?!
At this point it becomes unavoidable. It’s time to venture into the realm of extreme metal vocals.
This was part 1/2. For part 2/2, go here. This will take things louder and vocals rougher. It will teach you actually how to listen to Death Metal.
Helping people get deaf since 2009