Death Metal

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What is death metal ?

       What is death metal? First and foremost it is music. Listen closely enough and you will appreciate this. The vocals you once thought mindless and chaotic now represent a musician pushing his instrument to its max. The drums that were noisy and all over the place are an epic demonstration of the drummers skill and stamina, fine tuned by countless hours of practice. The guitars that were mindless crunching and shredding become lightning fast pieces of art featuring melodies and harmonies that would even make Bach shed a tear. True, death metal is not a form of music for everybody to enjoy, but it is a form of music that everybody should respect.

       First, we'll start with what makes up the foundation of the sound for any death metal band: the drums. Essential for any drummer in the genre is a nice solid double bass. This can be achieved with either a double-kick pedal or with two different bass drums. More extreme bands will even rig their drums with "triggers" to allow their drummers to obtain an even faster double bass effect, although some fans complain this creates a more electronic sound. Along with double bass there is another commonly used technique called "blast beats" or even "gravity blasts". Blast beat is a style of drum playing where the snare is hit for every off beat of the double bass. Played at the speed of which most death metal is performed this method acquires an unmistakable sound. Similar to blast beats, "gravity blasts" are almost the same thing, just twice as fast. Drummers are able to do this by hitting the edge of their snare drum with the middle of the stick on the latter half of the initial snare hit. Played at fast enough speed this can acquire an almost mesmerizing effect. Of course these are not the only methods a death metal drummer can imply, and the best drummers in the genre fill in the sound with rolls, fills, and everything else in their playing arsenal.

       It just simply wouldn't be metal without the guitars, which naturally make up a huge part of the sound which is "death metal". Typically, guitars are down-tuned, with drop C almost being a minimum for proper sound. Most death metal bands implement the use of two guitarists, a rhythm and a lead. The rhythm typically plays "the lower half" of the song and can vary from a "chug chug" sound to even relatively simple power chord progressions. The lead guitar plays "the upper half" of the song which is typically varied forms of melodies and harmonies (which the rhythm guitarist can get in on) to further fill in and compliment the music. Typical techniques that guitarists will use include pinch harmonics, palm muting, and sweeping.

       Often overlooked and taken for granted, the bass player in death metal is often just as talented and skilled as his guitar counter-parts. The bass adds to the "fullness" of the sound that definitely wouldn't be there if the bass was missing. (Metallica's "...And Justice for All" for example) The most skilled bassists in the genre can incorporate two-handed tapping techniques that make for a truly unique aural experience.

       Probably the aspect of death metal that turns most people off to the genre is the vocals. From low growls, and unintelligible grunts to epic wailing and ear piercing shrieks, death metal forces a lot into your ears. While the majority will complain they have no idea what the vocalist is saying, those who appreciate it will say that its about the overall atmosphere and how the vocalist uses his voice as an instrument. (Not to mention that most lyrics can be looked up or even requested from the band) To the untrained person, attempting these types of vocals could seriously damage your vocal chords and might permanently impair them. Therein lies the beauty of what death metal vocalists are doing, they can send their voices to the extreme of every possible extreme day in and day out and not cough up blood at the end of the night.

       Although death metal remains an extreme and harsh genre of music it is filled with talented musicians that push their talent to the edge every time they pick up their instrument. Even metalheads themselves realize that their music is an acquired taste, and the day that their music hits mainstream they would simply choose a different type of music. Death metal can be interpreted as much more than just music. Its an outlet for "different" people to come together and do something they all love, which is just making music. The fact that death metal sticks out as an extreme genre only adds to the pride they have in their music. Death metal, enjoyed by an elite few, noise to many others, deserves respect from all.

Written by Dorito

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