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Understanding the Screaming

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        "Maybe one day I'll probably make more of an impact than you'll ever fake and I'll take what is rightfully mine. You ran away so I'm calling the shots this time." This is a quote from the song "Vengeance" from one of the most successful bands (Woe, Is Me) of its genre: Metalcore. "What is Metalcore?" one might ask. It's defined by its musical components, based off of its origins and evolution, as well as its key characteristics.

        We could begin to understand Metalcore if we can break it down into its musical components. Simply stated, Metalcore is a  fusion between extreme metal and hardcore punk. Extreme metal is a very loose term that covers a multitude of heavy metal sub-styles. Metal is generally characterized by heavier instrumentals (faster, aggressive, heavily distorted), darker themed lyrics, "heavier" vocals (guttural, harsh, abrasive), or appearance and stage presence (face/body paint, occult or satanic imagery). Bathory and Slayer are a couple of great examples. Extreme metal is usually less known to mainstream fans of the subgenres as where hardcore punk has been around since the late 70's. Black Flag and Dead Kennedys being two of the most notable bands of that era. Hardcore is said to be the true spirit of punk. Unlike extreme metal, punk's focus is more on rhythmic songwriting over melodic, with the main blueprint being anything that is louder, harder, and faster with more shouting, screaming or chanting in the lyrics. Those lyrics focus more on political and social views. Instrumentals are primarily focused on how technical the piece can become through complexity while throwing in rhythm and key changes.

        Being a composition of genres, there needs to be an explanation as to how metal and punk first collaborated, as well as evolved, to make this wonderful, harsh, melodic mashup of musical genius. That takes us back to a golden era for music: the 80's. Many hardcore bands of the age took a liking to and started emulating, some of the bigger names in the metal scene. We see this with Black Flag taking inspiration from Black Sabbath, as well as Suicidal Tendencies drawing off of the music from their idols Metallica and Slayer. Bands like these previously stated started mixing and mashing their own interpretations of what they knew and what they admired, putting their own unique tweak on it. This birthed the metalcore love child that would grow into the music enjoyed by masses today. This birthing took place in 1984 at a Berkeley club called Ruthie's Inn, in California, where these lesser know bands opened for acts including Megadeth and Slayer. This ultimately paved the way for many more adaptations of music and compositions, generating more popularity moving into the mid 90's. A few of the more better-known bands to thrive in the 90's were Hatebreed and The Dillinger Escape Plan. More and more bands were emerging under the banner of Metalcore until it was apparent that there was a demand for this form of art. So, in the early 2000's came several independent labels, such as Century Media and Metal Blade, wanting to sign young bands affiliated with this fast growing scene. This gave rise to a mainstream resource to allow groups like Killswitch Engage, Atreyu, All That Remains, and As I Lay Dying to gain recognition. Having independent labels also opened up new avenues and subgenres to music listeners across the pond in Europe. With mass production and distribution underway, metalcore bands became dime-a-dozen across the globe. A study by Encyclopaedia Metallum revealed the true extent of this in May 2016 citing the number of metal bands per 1 million people in Europe. Between Finland, Sweden, and Norway, there are more mainstream metal bands than the rest of the world combined!

        Some major characteristics that truly define Metalcore are based on the music composition and band make-up itself. For starters, metalcore predominantly consists of aggressive verses paralleled by melodic choruses. This is achieved by one, quite often two vocalists, by mixing vocalistic styles of clean singing and screaming. Clean vocals are the typical melodic and harmonic stylings whereas screaming is much more diverse. This can incorporate low growling, guttural sounding notes, and nearly unintelligible lyrics on one end of the scale. On the opposite side of the scale, screaming can be high-pitched, aggressive, and most noteworthy, long lasting while being controlled. Adding to the mix and mash up of lyrical stylings, Metalcore is also widely known for its instrumental technicalities. Two guitarists "dueling" is not uncommon to hear on many tracks. The intricacy of the riffs split with the lead and rhythm guitars make for some intense sounds to pleasure and titillated the listeners. Throw in a drum kit rocking a double kick beat and the music really feels as if it has come alive. Once you have all of these components of this well-oiled machine accounted for and working well, it's time to sew it all together. The outcomes are some face melting riffs rolling right into some passionate personified tension in the form of breakdowns. Breakdowns are simply put as the part of the song where various instruments have a solo. This typically is played out as the instrumentalists play through the verse together, and then several or all players individually repeat the verse as a solo. Metalcore breakdowns are more technical wherein the drums become more simple. They slow the tempo slightly to give the music a slow, heavy feel. The guitars will follow that rhythm of the kick using palm muting techniques (dampening of the chord or note played). Palm muting is used to achieve a high attack noise that decays slowly adding to the heavy feel. Throw in some pinch harmonics or dissonant chords and watch the moshing ensue.



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