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History of Mixing Clean and Harsh Vocals



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01.06.2016 - 09:58
Ganondox

Posting this as a discussion rather than an article as in all honesty I don't know where many of these trends came from and I need some fact checking for my theories.

So, metalcore is known for having screamed verses and clean choruses, but it's hardly a defining characteristic of the genre. Like hardcore punk, early metalcore often had spoken word passages, and like general extreme metal it occasionally had brief sung portions, but that had little in common with the distinctive verse/chorus style which later developed. Post-hardcore mixed clean and screamed vocals since it's inception, but it didn't really use that particular style until after metalcore adopted it. The first metalcore band I know of to use this style is Killswitch Engage, and they differed from earlier metalcore bands by taking more from melodic death metal than directly from hardcore punk. As far as I can, the vocal indeed originated in melodic death metal with In Flame's Clayman, and Soilwork's A Predator's Portrait. Killswitch Engage did utilize a mixture of clean and harsh vocals before those albums were released, but in a different style: their debut uses the clean vocals more for atmosphere rather a catchy hook, and I believe they were inspired directly by Fear Factory. Like the other bands, Fear Factory moved more towards the verse/chorus format over time, making the history rather complicated, so I'm looking for people more versed in these things to help me piece this all out.


In order to discuss history of mixing clean and harsh vocals, first the history of harsh vocals needs to be discussed, as the first harsh vocals were technically mixed with cleans. Screaming and shouting was first used as a method of lyric delivery rather unintentionally with the Blues, where some Blues thing did it in order to heard in noisy clubs. While the shouting was harsh in comparison to the screaming of the day, it's a far cry from the harsh vocals of today, and the only actual screaming was the most intense moments of a song. This pattern continued into rock n' roll and hard rock. While traditional heavy metal moved away through the blues in most, it kept the tendency for screaming at climaxes, though the general singing style is more operatic. Robert Halford managed to bring metal screaming to a new level, but it was still very different from the vocals extreme metal is known for. With the exception of various avant-garde pieces that never got much attention, harsh vocals didn't become a primary method of lyric delivery until the late 70s with industrial music (which came out of avant-garde) and hardcore punk. Industrial music used a vast variety of vocal techniques, often multiple ones for a single song, but it's most famous for it's distorted screams which became a trademark style in aggrotech, but had little influence on metal, at least not until much later. Hardcore punk meanwhile used harsh shouts after general punk demphasized melodic vocals and hardcore emphasized general aggression. The hardcore shout was incorporated into the range of vocal utilized in thrash metal, and the death growl originated from further experimenting with harsh vocals in thrash metal and later death metal proper. Grindcore and black metal further demonstrate taking hardcore and metal influenced vocals to new extremes. So that's the origin of just using harsh vocals for songs.

The first band known to extensively mix clean vocals with death growls was the industrial death metal band Fear Factory on their 1993 release Soul of a New Machine. Like it's predecessor, most early industrial metal bands experimented extensively with creating different forms of vocals through sonic effects, just based in a more accessible rock/metal format. While Godflesh was particularly extreme, coming from same mind behind grindcore, they were never exactly death metal. Fear Factory just took the idea further and mixed actual grindcore as well with death metal into the template, as well as atmospheric clean vocals which were likely influenced by Godflesh's use of sampling. But while industrial metal was partially defined by it's eclectic vocals, the mixture of clean and harsh vocals never really became a trademark aspect of the genre. The first genre partially defined by mixing harsh and clean vocals was gothic metal as it emerged from the death/doom scene. Visceral Evisceration was the first death/doom to add operatic female vocals back in 1994, and their heavily melodic sound acted as predecessor to gothic metal, but they never really got anywhere. The first proper gothic metal band to use the "beauty and beast" vocal style Visceral Evisceration demonstrated was Theater of Tragedy, as demonstrated in their 1995 debut, and they actually got somewhere. Since then, contrasting male death growls with operatic female vocals has been closely associated with gothic metal.

At this point, evolution becomes much harder to track. As far as I know, the Melvins mixed clean and harsh vocals before Godflesh or Fear Factory did, but I'm not familiar with their early discography. I know sludge metal in general utilizes both very harsh shouts and clean vocals, maybe from bands being unable to decide if they are angry hardcore punk or melancholic doom metal (maybe it was the same thing with gothic metal). Progressive extreme metal bands tended to use more clean vocals than other extreme metal bands, with Cynic notably using robotic vocals on their 1993 album Focus. Where it really gets confusing is with groove metal, because many of those bands it's not clear when there vocals are harsh or not, likely because many of those bands take from both death metal and hard rock as well as thrash metal. Robert Flynn of Machinehead in particular cites Fear Factory as an influence on his vocals. Nu metal takes the confusion up a notch as it takes from both groove and industrial metal (with Fear Factory being one of the most influential bands on the genre) as well as countless other genres such as grunge and hip-hop. The vocals are as eclectic as industrial metal, only focusing on technique rather than production with rapping and death growls in addition to all manners of singing and shouting. I believe it's with nu metal that the metalcore verse/chorus style first started to develop. Popular metal has always had more melodic choruses than versuses, but this was much more pronounced in popular nu metal bands than in prior metal bands, and I think this is due to the grunge and hip hop influence. First off, with it's dynamics influenced by particular strains of alternative rock like that of the Pixies, grunge had more pronounced choruses than most metal subgenres, though unlike nu metal and metalcore it's choruses rather than verses were often screamed. Popular hip-hop also showed it was possible to create pop with flat-out unmelodic verses as long as the chorus was melodic as the lack of melody in the verse makes the chorus even catchier, and nu metal took the same pattern. So with those four influences, it was only a matter of time before some nu metal started making music with screamed verses and clean choruses. But again, it's hard to point nu metal as being the originator as it as gradual shift, and this happened in the same period of time that metal bands from many different genres started following that pattern.

So here is how I think it happened: back while touring for Whoracle, Anders also joined the Swedish supergroup Passenger, which was made to be something different than all the member's melodic death metal background. They started seriously working on that project in 2000, the same year as Clayman. Passenger's first album shows a clear influence from nu metal (and their only single "In Reverse demonstrates the screamed verse/clean chorus structure), so Anders was probably a fan of nu metal while he was working on Clayman. The influence only grew stronger through Soundtrack to Your Escape. Soilwork is known for their close association with In Flames (compare the music videos of "Rejection Role" and "Trigger"), and they furthered the development of melodic death metal influenced by American metal. From that point on, American metal and European metal took more and more from each other, further developing the sound and building up the New Wave of American Heavy Metal, ironically in a reaction to nu metal. Also, during the same period of time Ross Robinson moved away from nu metal and started producing post-hardcore. As a result popular post-hardcore has indirectly been influenced by nu metal. With most modern metalcore either drawing primarily from melodic death metal or post-hardcore, it's really no surprise it's taken that trend despite little direct influence from nu metal (though recently many metalcore bands HAVE been taking direct influence from nu metal). But it's really not unique to metalcore at all, metalcore just has the most popular bands. I've also seen the trend in melodic death metal, groove metal, industrial metal, thrash metal, djent, technical death metal, alternative metal, folk metal, and even gothic metal. It's funny because gothic metal did the whole "mix growls with clean vocals" thing before metalcore, but now Lacuna Coil new stuff seems more reminiscent of metalcore than gothic metal:
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02.06.2016 - 00:14
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
It should be an article, you can try submit it as article
----
Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
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02.06.2016 - 07:43
Ganondox

Written by Bad English on 02.06.2016 at 00:14

It should be an article, you can try submit it as article


Yeah, but first I need to polish it up a bit. As it is, do you see anything that needs correcting?
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02.06.2016 - 08:05
Paz
ex-News Man
Written by Ganondox on 02.06.2016 at 07:43

As it is, do you see anything that needs correcting?

Why do you ask him He can't even properly introduce himself in English.
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02.06.2016 - 09:37
Ganondox

Written by Paz on 02.06.2016 at 08:05

Written by Ganondox on 02.06.2016 at 07:43

As it is, do you see anything that needs correcting?

Why do you ask him He can't even properly introduce himself in English.


Not for the grammatical stuff, obviously. Mainly just because before you he was the only person to comment in the thread.
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02.06.2016 - 09:56
Paz
ex-News Man
Written by Ganondox on 02.06.2016 at 09:37

Not for the grammatical stuff, obviously. Mainly just because before you he was the only person to comment in the thread.

Ah, I see

Remember one thing, all the reviews, articles, or even news updates are verified by the staff members. They will tell ya if it's good enough and also help with editing, if needed. Go for it!
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03.06.2016 - 10:45
Ganondox

Well some revisions I need to make: first, is I relistened to Fear Factory's Replica, and the clean vocals are in fact in the chorus, I just didn't notice it was a chorus last time I listened to it as the chorus came in rather late. Also, the Melvins, I can't really tell if they used harsh vocals or not because their style is so erratic, but it's not really anymore extreme than thrash vocals. "Zodiac" could potentially be considered a song that mixed clean and harsh vocals that predicates Fear Factory, but the distinction between clean and harsh isn't nearly as pronounced.
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04.06.2016 - 10:39
Ganondox

Written by Guest on 03.06.2016 at 13:30

Interesting article, Just a minor mistake, Soul of a New Machine was released in 1992 & not in 1993


I'll fix that in the final version, this is really just a draft. Something else I noticed is that on Killswitch Engages's Alive or Just Breathing, the vocals sound like a mix of Fear Factory's and Soilwork's styles. At least according to Dino Fear Factory is an influence on Killswitch, and I know Killswitch has had some connections with Soilwork, as well as citing the Gothenburg scene as an influence. Then Atreyu's debut came out the next month, pretty much the first "emo" metalcore ever, and they site influence from In Flames and Soilwork as well as classic rock, and the influence of all those is pretty obvious. Finally it's interesting that in contrast to the American metalcore bands, Bullet for My Valentine started as a nu metal band, further cementing the loose connections between melodic metalcore and nu metal.

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06.06.2016 - 11:29
Ganondox

Good point to take note of. I should probably also mentioned Ulver and Amorphis in the final version.
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06.06.2016 - 16:40
jupitreas
hi-fi / lo-life
Some notes:
-The first bands that utilized something that approached the stereotypical metal 'harsh vocals' were actually Pink Floyd (Careful With That Axe Eugene) and Alice Cooper (a fair majority of their early 70's material featured very raspy singing that sometimes almost sounded like a growl). Obviously, the proper growls that appeared in death metal in the 80s were vastly more extreme, but those two bands are an important piece of the puzzle as to where these kinds of vocals came from.

-One band that you very noticeably omitted here is Killing Joke. Jaz Coleman has been mixing harsh and clean vocals from the very beginning, including on such seminal tracks as "The Wait" from the 1980 debut album, which features harsh verses and clean refrains. This vocal approach was influential on many bands, but especially on Godflesh and Fear Factory.
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07.06.2016 - 10:40
Ganondox

Written by jupitreas on 06.06.2016 at 16:40

Some notes:
-The first bands that utilized something that approached the stereotypical metal 'harsh vocals' were actually Pink Floyd (Careful With That Axe Eugene) and Alice Cooper (a fair majority of their early 70's material featured very raspy singing that sometimes almost sounded like a growl). Obviously, the proper growls that appeared in death metal in the 80s were vastly more extreme, but those two bands are an important piece of the puzzle as to where these kinds of vocals came from.

-One band that you very noticeably omitted here is Killing Joke. Jaz Coleman has been mixing harsh and clean vocals from the very beginning, including on such seminal tracks as "The Wait" from the 1980 debut album, which features harsh verses and clean refrains. This vocal approach was influential on many bands, but especially on Godflesh and Fear Factory.


"Careful With That Axe Eugene" follows the tradition of occasional screaming in avant-garde pieces, it just differed from all those previous pieces by the fact it was actually popular because Pink Floyd. The effect of the screaming in Eugene is also very different than in heavy metal, at least until post-metal, so I don't know if it was actually that much of a influence. Still worth a mention. Regarding Alice and Cooper, I'll investigate that, but from how you describe that I don't know if it's any more significant than Blues screaming and Lemmy's distinctive rasp.

With Killing Joke, this is why I want a discussion before I write an article, as I'm still pretty ignorant. Reason I didn't investigate them is because I didn't really consider them to be part of industrial metal, just industrial rock, but from what you say they sound like they are definable worth investigating and including. Listening to the "The Wait", I can definitely hear the roots of Fear Factory's style there (though it's not nearly as pronounced of a difference between harsh and clean) and it definitely sounds more metal than their other songs from the album.
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07.06.2016 - 17:13
jupitreas
hi-fi / lo-life
Written by Ganondox on 07.06.2016 at 10:40

"Careful With That Axe Eugene" follows the tradition of occasional screaming in avant-garde pieces, it just differed from all those previous pieces by the fact it was actually popular because Pink Floyd. The effect of the screaming in Eugene is also very different than in heavy metal, at least until post-metal, so I don't know if it was actually that much of a influence. Still worth a mention. Regarding Alice and Cooper, I'll investigate that, but from how you describe that I don't know if it's any more significant than Blues screaming and Lemmy's distinctive rasp.

Yep, well they are after all 'proto-screams' ie. not really what we come to expect from a metal scream, but both these bands were certainly influential on metal. Along with Pink Floyd, other progressive rock bands like King Crimson and Mike Oldfield also occasionally employed various harsh vocal styles and they too were certainly influential.

Quote:

With Killing Joke, this is why I want a discussion before I write an article, as I'm still pretty ignorant. Reason I didn't investigate them is because I didn't really consider them to be part of industrial metal, just industrial rock, but from what you say they sound like they are definable worth investigating and including. Listening to the "The Wait", I can definitely hear the roots of Fear Factory's style there (though it's not nearly as pronounced of a difference between harsh and clean) and it definitely sounds more metal than their other songs from the album.


Killing Joke is not really industrial rock either, technically it is most accurate to classify them as post-punk. With a band like Killing Joke, though, genres don't really make a whole lot of sense anyway, since they've always been dancing to the beat of their own drum and have included elements of punk, metal, disco, reggae and new wave from the very beginning. What is more important is that A LOT of metal bands cite them as an influence so it is difficult to imagine that Coleman's harsh vocals weren't a key, seminal influence on metal vocals. Also you should keep in mind that these songs were often performed with more vigor live, just check out some of those John Peel sessions they did in 1979.
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07.06.2016 - 19:20
Dave FC

I would say that the first 'absolutely metal' growls are featured on Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells (partII) from 1973. It is nearly 5 minutes of singing, not simple screamings or shrieks... But this is not the case of mixing clean and harsh.
I think Olfield's Five Miles Out (the song, 1982) is brilliant in this case with male and female clean vocals and also powerful growls (and some synthesized voices).
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08.06.2016 - 07:12
Ganondox

Written by jupitreas on 07.06.2016 at 17:13

Written by Ganondox on 07.06.2016 at 10:40

"Careful With That Axe Eugene" follows the tradition of occasional screaming in avant-garde pieces, it just differed from all those previous pieces by the fact it was actually popular because Pink Floyd. The effect of the screaming in Eugene is also very different than in heavy metal, at least until post-metal, so I don't know if it was actually that much of a influence. Still worth a mention. Regarding Alice and Cooper, I'll investigate that, but from how you describe that I don't know if it's any more significant than Blues screaming and Lemmy's distinctive rasp.

Yep, well they are after all 'proto-screams' ie. not really what we come to expect from a metal scream, but both these bands were certainly influential on metal. Along with Pink Floyd, other progressive rock bands like King Crimson and Mike Oldfield also occasionally employed various harsh vocal styles and they too were certainly influential.


I know those bands were influential on metal, but vocally the roots of the harsh style clearly come from thrash metal, which mixed hardcore/punk and traditional metal vocal styles, and I don't think progressive rock was as influential on that regard. I will be sure to add something about progressive rock though.

Quote:

With Killing Joke, this is why I want a discussion before I write an article, as I'm still pretty ignorant. Reason I didn't investigate them is because I didn't really consider them to be part of industrial metal, just industrial rock, but from what you say they sound like they are definable worth investigating and including. Listening to the "The Wait", I can definitely hear the roots of Fear Factory's style there (though it's not nearly as pronounced of a difference between harsh and clean) and it definitely sounds more metal than their other songs from the album.


Quote:

Killing Joke is not really industrial rock either, technically it is most accurate to classify them as post-punk. With a band like Killing Joke, though, genres don't really make a whole lot of sense anyway, since they've always been dancing to the beat of their own drum and have included elements of punk, metal, disco, reggae and new wave from the very beginning. What is more important is that A LOT of metal bands cite them as an influence so it is difficult to imagine that Coleman's harsh vocals weren't a key, seminal influence on metal vocals. Also you should keep in mind that these songs were often performed with more vigor live, just check out some of those John Peel sessions they did in 1979.


Industrial rock directly came out of post-punk as well as industrial music, so whatever. Either way it's not technically metal. But yes, Killing Joke was certainly a major vocal influence on at least a few bands, so I will note them.

Written by Dave FC on 07.06.2016 at 19:20

I would say that the first 'absolutely metal' growls are featured on Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells (partII) from 1973. It is nearly 5 minutes of singing, not simple screamings or shrieks... But this is not the case of mixing clean and harsh.
I think Olfield's Five Miles Out (the song, 1982) is brilliant in this case with male and female clean vocals and also powerful growls (and some synthesized voices).


The Who did it first with "Boris the Spider". Again, I don't consider either use really significant to the evolution seen in metal, they are just novelties.
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27.04.2022 - 05:00
Ganondox

I've noticed this thread is coming up as a top result for discussing the history of the differences, I never actually bothered submitting a revision as an article. The one development which I need to emphasize since then is that Jesse Leech credits his style to Dan Swano from Edge of Sanity, another progressive/melodic death metal band. Loudwire also did a feature on the subject, but it's notoriously poorly researched.
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