Why Do Metal Vocalists Growl?

I love growing in music. The pure and raw emotion that comes from it is unmistakable. While some people may attribute the noise to a malfunctioning blender, I’m a bigger fan of enjoying the sound.

After enough time of listening to this noise, it is only natural to wonder where it originated. What was its origin? Why is it still popular? These are all significant concerns.

So why do death metal vocalists growl? Metal growls are a form of Primal Therapy, where people will scream and lash out like an animal to experience the emotion fully. Modern bands, like Death, Venom, and Slayer, enjoyed the noise and took it for their uses.

Let’s get into the details of screaming and growling in music. Including some tips, you can use if you want to try it on yourself.

The Emotional Release of Screaming or Growling

Lifehack.org reminds us that people can scream because of pain, fear, anger, or being in a metal band. Not that being in a metal band is a healthy emotional state. Still, it does bring us to the point of screaming as therapy: Primal therapy.

What is Primal Therapy?

Primal therapy is tapping into the raw emotional energy of yourself. There are two sides to every person in primal therapy. Person one is the one who has vast coping mechanisms and behaviors to deal with negative feelings and emotions. Peron two Is the actual feelings that the person is going through without any device to deal with it.

At this point, it is fair to ask where I’m going with this. When you scream, you are feeling those genuine emotions within yourself. You are possibly engaging in the form of primal therapy. So, the next time someone breaks into your house because you are scream-singing in the shower, tell them you are going through treatment.

What are the Origins of Death Metal Growling?

The first recorded instance of “growing vocals” comes from 1966. There were plenty of reasons for rebellion back then, but not a lot of people who could scream on stage and get away with it. Regardless, we have The Who and their song “Borris the Spider” to thank for the first recorded instance of growling vocals.

That technique’s been perfected over the years and pulls inspiration from all across history. Here’s a video attributing the genre’s origins to Vikings from the 10th century.

Fast forward almost 20 years for the real introduction of Death Metal. Below is a timeline to remind us of what went on during that period.

Year Band Event
1981 Venom Welcome to Hell was released
1981 Slayer Appeared on Metal Massacre III
1982 Kreator Band founded.
1983 Mantas / Death Band founded.
1983 Slayer Release of Show no Mercy
1983 Possessed Band founded.
1984 Death Mantas changes its name to Death and releases demo, Death by Metal.
1985 Sepultura Release of Bestial Devastation
1986 Kreator Release of “Pleasure to Kill,” one of the heaviest thrash metal songs to date.
1986 Sepultura Release of Morbid Visions
1987 Napalm Death release of Scum

The 1980s exploded with a new genre of music: Death Metal. Death Metal changed what music could be. It created an arena to express violent tendencies. Artists could scream about murdering s while turning around and walking a Chihuahua on Sunday afternoon.

Whatever reason you believe for people doing it, it happened. It created an entirely new arena of inspiration. It brings up a different term: cookie monster vocalists.

Cookie Monster Vocalists

Fourteen years ago, an article written by Jim Fusilli of the Wall Street Journal delved into this group called “Cookie Monster Vocalists.” They directly reference their inspirations, many of whom we’ve already gone through. The Wall Street Journal gave them mainstream recognition.

Back in the 80s and 90s, there were entire classes around the subject. They reminded us that this complicated singing technique came from muscle control, not just from the throat. There was a DVD released called “Zen and the art of Screaming” as a result of this. The same article also reflects on the death of this genre.

To avoid getting depressing, one must not think of this genre is completely gone; you just have to look a little bit closer to see the modern death metal.

Modern Death Metal Bands

We are going to give you five examples of death metal vocalists that are or have been active recently.

Children of Bodom

The band has separated as of December of 2019, but they are one of the world’s most popular death metal bands. Their lyricist, Alex Laho, has an incredible vocal range that reaches to the depths of black metal. He is still active under a new group, Bodom After Midnight.

Cannibal Corpse

Cannibal corpse is another example of an incredibly popular metal band that refuses to leave. They have been around since the late 1980s. With a lead singer that has the nickname Corpsegrinder, you probably have an idea of what to expect.


Gatecreeper has been around since 2013. They are from Arizona, so “face-melting” can mean a couple of things. Still, there is no mistaking with their vocalist and guitarist can accomplish. Kerrang named them one of the most essential death metal bands of the last decade.

Death metal is not dead. Instead, many of the best genres of music go underground for a bit to return. Given the current happenings, expect delays.

So, now that we have cleared the air on that part of the subject, how do vocalists scream? We will go into the details next.

How Do Metal Vocalists Scream?

Now that we got the why and where out of the way, we can start to explore the how. I won’t get to everything here. There is a high likelihood of me devoting an entire blog to this. But we will get through some of the short how-to here.

Similar to a bootist “on” all screams are not created equal. Artists like Slipknot and Korn have have found a way to inject their own personality into the mix. Here’s a video on how to amplify your personality through guttural vocals.

Don’t Lose Your Voice.

First, we will be taking some ideas from the general guide on not losing your voice. It gives you some good ideas of where to start. Losing your voice is a significant issue for people who are just getting into any style of scream-singing.

Here’s a video from the world’s best-known metal vocal coach Melissa Cross talking about how she brings classical singing elements into guttural performances.

So avoid drinking cold water, tea, or having a large meal before you practice. But you want to keep the air moist and buy a humidifier to ensure your vocal cords do not dry out. Also, avoid alcohol, caffeine, and sugar, as this can cause mucus to build up, which can damage your vocal cords.

Stick to warm water during your practice sessions. Things like warm tea and honey are great for after practice to heal your vocal cords. Don’t try to go beyond your range; you don’t want to injure yourself.

The Vocal Fry

The Vocal Fry is a technique used in singing that activates the muscles in your throat so that you can reach abnormally low notes. As a result of this, it is considered an extreme vocal technique that shouldn’t replace your regular singing practice. When reducing the amount of tension in your vocal cords, It allows you to relax with lower tones.

When you apply this logic to death metal, you need to learn to use the vocal fry to reach the guttural noises. You aren’t seeking to be louder; you are trying to be thicker. This technique provides you with a more considerable amount of vocal range, not a noisier range.

The Pros and Cons of Death Metal Growing

First, we will explore the pros of learning this vocal technique. Scream-singing by itself will train your vocal cords in such a way to go beyond what they would typically do. By stepping outside of your comfort zone, you will improve your powerful singing voice and acquire a new skill. Plus, it gives you an entirely new genre of music to explore.

Unfortunately, there is a risk for you in damaging your vocal cords. Sonny Moore is one such example, who had to cancel a show last minute as they cut his vocal cords to smooth them out. If you only practice in this genre, it will also limit your versatility. If your backup dream is to be a country-western singer, an ability to scream won’t help you too much.


The satisfaction of producing, or hearing, a guttural roar is a powerful sense of raw emotion. You may be doing it to engage in primal therapy or follow in the footsteps of death metal greats. In either case, more power to you.

Some may want you to believe that this genre is dead. These people aren’t looking in the right places. Bands like Bodom after Midnight, Cannibal Corpse, and Gatecreeper are all great examples of modern death metal.

If you want to learn how to do it yourself, be aware of the techniques needed to ensure you aren’t losing your voice. Also, try and keep it within your range and keep your vocal cords moist. If you want to be a death metal singer yourself, practice as much as you can without injuring yourself. But be aware of the fact that it may limit your genre potential.

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