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Screaming is a form of vocalization, most commonly heard in sub-genres of heavy metal and hardcore punk, though screamed vocals also feature in music genres such as alternative rock or emo, and more experimental genres such as experimental indie rock.


Types of screaming


Modern art music

Some composers have employed screaming in avant garde works in the twentieth century, typically in the post-World War II era, as composers began to explore more experimental compositional techniques and nonstandard use of musical instruments (including the voice). Composers who have used shouting or screaming in their works include Luciano Berio, George Crumb, and Karlheinz Stockhausen. The use of screaming and hoarse vocals in choral and orchestral works continues today in some productions such as film scores; mainstream examples include some works by Don Davis and Wojciech Kilar.

Punk rock

Yelling and shouting vocals are common in punk rock and hardcore punk. Early punk was distinguished by a general tendency to eschew traditional singing techniques in favor of a more direct, harsh style which accentuated meaning rather than beauty.[1] The logical extension of this aesthetic is shouting or screaming, and in hardcore, vocals are usually shouted in a frenetic manner similar to rapping or football chants, often accompanied by "gang vocals"[2][3] in which a group of people shout along with the vocalist (this style is very common in punk rock, most prominently Oi!, streetpunk and hardcore punk).[4]

Heavy metal

While occasional screaming has been used for effect in heavy metal since at least Led Zeppelin, screaming as a normal method of lyrical delivery first came to prominence in heavy metal as part of the thrash metal explosion of the 1980s.[5] Thrash metal was influenced both by heavy metal and by hardcore punk, the latter of which often incorporated shouted or screamed vocals. Musicologist Robert Walser notes, "The punk influence shows up in the music's fast tempos and frenetic aggressiveness and in critical or sarcastic lyrics delivered in a menacing growl."[5] It should however be noted that the vocal delivery of thrash metal is incredibly diverse; some bands such as Anthrax use much cleaner vocals, early Metallica uses very hardcore punk influenced vocals while other bands such as Slayer use more "evil" screams and shrieks, bearing little resemblance to hardcore punk.

Screaming in some subgenres of heavy metal music is typically demanding and guttural. The death growl is common in death metal. Separate forms of extreme metal vocalization can be found in black metal, which has a higher-pitched, generally violent sound; brutal death metal which uses guttural vocals with high screams, and deathcore with either use a "pig squeal" vocalization or a high pitched scream. Such techniques were pioneered by Mike Patton, as heard on Faith No More's 1992 album Angel Dust, namely on tracks Caffeine, Malpractice, and Jizzlobber.

Death metal, in particular, is associated with growled vocals. Death metal, which tends to be darker and more morbid than thrash metal, features vocals that attempt to evoke chaos and misery by being "usually very deep, guttural, and unintelligible."[6] Natalie Purcell notes, "Although the vast majority of death metal bands use very low, beast-like, almost indiscernible growls as vocals, many also have high and screechy or operatic vocals, or simply deep and forcefully sung vocals."[7] Musicologist Deena Weinstein has noted of death metal, "Vocalists in this style have a distinctive sound, growling and snarling rather than singing the words. Making ample use of the voice distortion box, they sound as if they had gargled with hydrochloric acid."[8]

The progressively more forceful enunciation of metal vocals has been noted, from heavy metal to thrash metal to death metal.

To appreciate the music, fans first had to accept a merciless sonic signature: guttural vocals that were little more than a menacing, sub-audible growl. James Hetfield's thrash metal rasp was harsh in contrast to Rob Halford's heavy metal high notes, but creatures like Glen Benton of Deicide tore out their larynxes to summon images of decaying corpses and giant catastrophic horrors.[9]


Post-hardcore music is usually imbued with a vulnerable, emotional vocal tone. Early post-hardcore groups (such as Rites of Spring and Embrace) often featured screamed vocals that were more or less similar to that of '80s hardcore punk and anarcho-punk. In contemporary genres, screams are more accessible; one very common technique is that of metalcore and later hardcore punk subgenres, shouting in a distressed, raspy manner. Howard Jones of Killswitch Engage and George Pettit of Alexisonfire are examples of this; the former screaming in a husky tone and the latter using a higher yell. Some bands such as Dance Gavin Dance scream in a much deeper harsh-sounding tone, while Jeremy Mckinnon of A Day to Remember, and Jesse Barnett of Stick to Your Guns go a step further, employing death growls.

By the early 2000s, the amount of screaming in any given song or album could vary widely from band to band, with some bands eschewing the technique altogether or using it very infrequently, often at climaxes of songs. My Chemical Romance, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Matchbook Romance, and Story of the Year are examples of bands achieving widespread success who only occasionally made use of screaming. Some post-hardcore bands such as A Skylit Drive, Escape The Fate, Underoath, The Devil Wears Prada, Silverstein, Scary Kids Scaring Kids, Chiodos and Alesana utilize low growls. Other post-hardcore bands, such as Hawthorne Heights, use screaming strictly as backing vocals to compliment the more prominent clean vocals in order for their music to have a more "hardcore" sound.[10]


There are bands who play screamo in the vein of bands that were around in the early to mid nineties,[11], such as Funeral Diner, Saetia, Orchid and Beyond Broken Sorrow[12]. These bands use a more intense, high-pitched scream, and usually have screaming for a whole song.

Nu metal

Nu metal sometimes employs screaming. It also includes shouting and rapping as well as various other styles of vocals. Jonathan Davis screams in most of Korn's earlier songs. Linkin Park's singer, Chester Bennington also screams in certain Linkin Park songs. Screaming is used prominently on Limp Bizkit's debut album Three Dollar Bill, Yall$ where Fred Durst can be heard frequently utilizing a high pitch scream.

Many other nu metal bands employ a stronger use of screaming in their music as well as more concrete metal influences (Often groove metal and industrial metal) bands such as Spineshank and Ill Nino.

American nu metal band Otep fronted by female frontwoman Otep Shamaya is also known for her usage of death growls as well as high pitch screaming - thus being one of the more "heavy" classes of nu metal bands.

In industrial music, some bands like to combine screaming techniques with clean vocals to create a concrete sound with a noticeable change in tone. Examples include Waylon Reavis of Mushroomhead, Edsel Dope of Dope, Phil Anselmo of Pantera, Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed and Corey Taylor of Slipknot. This technique is also sometimes vaguely known as "yelling".

Other genres

Most of the tracks on Nirvana's first album, Bleach feature Kurt Cobain employing intense screams into the melodies. They are also accompanied by vocal cracking in some cases which can either indicate improper technique, stylistic choice, or a combination of both. Cobain later adopted a screaming style which was less guttural and perhaps more representative of the "proper" technique. This could be due to the extensive wear on his throat over time, demanding compromise.

Some tracks of the album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by The Smashing Pumpkins such as "Zero" "XYU", "Bullet with Butterfly Wings", "Tales of a Scorched Earth", and "Jellybelly" featured lead singer/guitarist Billy Corgan screaming in a high-pitched voice tone and using guttural grunts.

Experimental music genres often feature screamed vocals if vocals are employed in the music, as a form of alternative expression rather than conventional singing. Noise music is notable for screamed vocals, an example being the well-known noise artist Masonna.

Other post-hardcore bands such as Glassjaw have used guttural or screaming voices while still implementing melodic "clean" vocals.

Aggrotech bands such as Aesthetic Perfection and Amduscia have also used screaming vocals, combining them with electro music.

Health concerns

Some "screaming" vocalists have had problems with their throats, voices, vocal cords, and have even had major migraines from screaming when doing it incorrectly. Some vocalists of metalcore bands have had to stop screaming, or making music altogether, or even undergo surgery (such as M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold) due to screaming in harmful ways that damage the vocal cords.

Damage to the vocal cords can usually be avoided by using a screaming technique that incorporates the thoracic diaphragm. By using this technique, air is pushed out with the stomach, taking tension off of the throat.


  1. ^ Dave Laing, One Chord Wonders:Power and Meaning in Punk Rock. Open University Press, 1985, p. 54.
  2. ^ "Demiricous One (Hellbound) review". Retrieved 2007-04-29. 
  3. ^ Tacos (February 17, 2006). "Aiden Our Gangs Dark Oath review". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved 2007-04-29. 
  4. ^ Brian Cogan, "Oi!". Encyclopedia of Punk Music and Culture. Greenwood Press, 2006, p. 146.
  5. ^ a b Walser, Robert. Running with the Devil:Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music. Wesleyan University Press, 1993, p. 14.
  6. ^ David Konow, Bang Your Head:The Rise and Fall of Heavy Metal. Three Rivers Press, 2002, p.228.
  7. ^ Purcell, Natalie J. Death Metal Music:The Passion and Politics of a Subculture. McFarland, 2003, p. 11.
  8. ^ Weinstein, Deena. Heavy Metal: A Cultural Sociology. MacMillan, 1991, p. 51.
  9. ^ Ian Christe, Sound of the Beast:The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal. HarperCollins, 2003, p.239.
  10. ^
  11. ^ "A Day with the Locust", L.A. Weekly, September 18, 2003 [1] Access date: June 19, 2008
  12. ^ Ryan Buege, "Circle Takes the Square is in the Studio". Metal Injection, June 15, 2008. [2] Access date: June 17, 2008


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