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Metal Monday: OurStage Metal Awards ’09

OSBlog02_MetalMondays_MASTERAt the end of the year, when all is said and done, 10 top albums is simply not enough to give credit where it’s due. As a supplement to last week’s  Top 10 of Metal, I’m giving props to all the other bands who did something right this year. Think of the following lists as the “superlatives” section of your yearbook—but for metal albums.

See who the winners (and losers) are in metal for 2009 after the jump

Metal Monday: Best albums of ’09

OSBlog02_MetalMondays_MASTERIt’s about that time, folks. Everyone and their dog are making their year-end top album lists then checking it twice, and I’m following suit. This has been a quality year in the metal world thanks to releases from three of the biggest acts in thrash metal (Slayer, Metallica and Megadeth), many a  breakthrough releases, not to mention some newcomer juggernauts.

So, here it goes, my top 10 metal albums of 2009, starting at number 10:

METAL MONDAY: GRUNTING AND GROWLING, THE CURRENT STATE OF METAL VOCALS

Metal Monday OurStage Blog

With each passing year metal subgenres develop their own unique style, most noticeable through vocal differences.  Growls, grunts, screams, yells, moans, groans — you name it. While most metal genre tap their lung power, each put their own spin on vocals to develop a trademark primal scream.

Black Sabbath sporting some pretty rad mustaches (except Ozzy)

Black Sabbath sporting some pretty rad mustaches

Metal pioneers like Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath are purveyors of the moaning/wailing vocal style. The best example of this vocal style in its early stages is the song “N.I.B.” from Black Sabbath’s self-titled debut release, where the catch of the song is Ozzy’s “OH YEAH” at the end of the main riff in the song. Moaning and wailing is also prevalent among many Doom and Sludge metal bands such as Type O Negative and Candlemass (the best modern example being Candlemass‘s song “Samarithan” (that Messiah Marcolin is one creepy dude). Power metal and the new wave of British heavy metal used a similar approach, albeit with more power  (see: Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson)

Taking cues from punk bands and the new wave of British heavy metal, thrash metal emerged on the scene with its extreme screaming, yelling, and shouting. The quintessential thrash metal vocal style can be heard in any of the early Slayer and Metallica records. This change in vocal style is almost exclusively responsible for all non-clean metal vocals styles to come. Trash metal really cultivated the “pissed off” sound the genre is known for (particulary in songs about social issues sung in the vein of their punk predecessors).

Pioneers of Black Metal, Venom

Pioneers of Black Metal, Venom

A direct offshoot of thrash metal, black metal (you know, those evil satanists with the funny face paint and freaky clothes) emerged with a dry, raspy vocal style. The pioneering black metal band, Venom (followed soon by Bathory, Hellhammer, and Celtic Frost), were the first to  the raspy sound that became synonymous with black metal (most obvious with their album and song “Black Metal”). These gruff black metal vocals eventually evolved, became less raspy and spilled over into what we know as death metal growls. Death metal growls are, more or less, mid tone screaming (something akin to heavier Slayer vocals). Then, in the early 1990s, the inception of “brutal death metal” and the guttural “cookie monster” vocals became the mainstay for death metal (the obvious example here is Cannibal Corpse, being the most well known brutal death metal band in the history of bands).

Alex Erian of Despised Icon squealin' like a pig (maybe)

Alex Erian of Despised Icon squealin' like a pig (maybe)

The pig squeal, a technique in which the vocal “bree bree” mimick the sounds of a dying pig, is another extreme vocal styles from the 80s that was used by underground brutal death and grindcore bands. This technique only recently became popular with the rise of the deathcore genre and bands such as Despised Icon and Job For A Cowboy who used pig squeals on their early releases but have since migrated away from th technique.

Since the major vocal style developments of 80s and 90s, only a few other genres have built upon the styles from previous subgenres. Melodic death metal of the early to mid 90s featured the standard death metal growl, but varied the range in terms of the vocal register. Metalcore, the less intense cousin of deathcore, normally employs both clean, melodic vocals and a range of screaming but primarily features the mid-to-high register.

Melissa Cross, pro screamer (literally)

Melissa Cross, pro screamer (literally)

While vocal style are possibly the most key element in identifying what style of metal you are listening to, vocal technique is what ensures a singer’s ability to shriek, howl or groan for years to come. Though few will believe it, there is proper technique to screaming and growling that prevents vocal chords from being torn to shreds (protecting your voice may not sound very “metal” but being able to perform night after night is pretty important). Melissa Cross can fill you in on all of that, considering that she (and not me) is the expert.

Over the last decade, extreme of metal vocals have become less and less intelligible. Supposed lyrics give way to an abundance of indecipherable pig squeals (as in Despised Icon’s early music). On The Black Dahlia Murder‘s latest DVD, Majesty,  band members jokingly discuss the future of metal vocals, and mention that it would eventually revert to “people making fart noises with their mouths” – I, for one, would laugh hysterically if this prediction came true but, for metal’s sake, let’s hope that it doesn’t.

Now that you know all about different vocal styles, put yourself to the test. Try to figure out what styles are used in these rad OurStage metal songs (hint, some use fusion styles):

THE POTENTIAL NEW FACE OF CANADIAN PROGRESSIVE DEATH METAL

When thinking about Canadian metal, a few bands that might come to mind would be Quo Vadis, Strapping Young Lad, Into Eternity, Despised Icon, Cryptopsy, Voivod, or a multitude of other big names.  With any luck, Derelict will be among these soon enough.

Derelict has been around on OurStage for several months, and has achieved a fair amount of success in the metal channels (as consistent as any metal band on OurStage).  Even given the success that Derelict has had on OurStage, with no full-length release and no label backing, it’s nearly impossible to strike it big.  Now, they have a full album completed and lots of positive media feedback, but still no label. Last month, the band kicked-off a full Canadian tour with an album release show for their newest release, Unspoken Words. This album shows a lot of potential that is reminiscent of the Strapping Young Lad sound, and fits in with the new Agonist sound, but is still very unique. The sound they have borrowed from many other progressive death metal bands from Canada is a very dense, with thick and crunchy guitar tones, and mid-range evil vocals, and a drum sound that sounds like machine guns over drums of war. To help their situation, Derelict was the opener for a show on the Agonist’s latest tour to support their new album, Lullabies for the Dormant Mind.

We had a chance to catch up with the guys and get to know a little more about them from their label prospects to their opinion of the metal scene in Canada. Read on for the inside scoop and discover even more great Canadian metal bands:

Continue reading ‘THE POTENTIAL NEW FACE OF CANADIAN PROGRESSIVE DEATH METAL’

 


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