How To Appreciate Death Metal Music in 7 Simple Steps

“How can you listen to this death metal crap?” I’ve heard it from my parents all through and from my indie-folk listening peers alike. I get it. If you play it at a party, you will likely receive menacing glares fro the if-it’s-not-featured-on-Pitchfork-then-it’s-not-real-music crowd, and the occasional “You know, I used to like Metallica in middle school…” sympathy comment. Like classical music, freestyle experimental jazz, and good beer, death metal is an acquired taste. Read on, and perhaps you too will appreciate death metal in the way Clement Greenburg proclaimed splotches of spilled paint as highbrow art. Story and illustration by Rieko Whitfield


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1) Do you homework. The first step in successfully converting to a metal head is to appreciate the wide range of genres and subgenres of heavy metal. Look up a few bands and see which genres appeal most to you (Refer to chart). As this is a hotly debated subject within metal circles, I apologize in advance for any inaccuracies.

2) Start off with “clean” vocals. If you’re a metal newbie, I would suggest familiarizing yourself with the classics.

3) Slowly transition to “growling” vocals. This phase is a major milestone in your conversion to death metal. Progressive death metal bands such as Opeth and Between the Buried and Me often incorporate both clean and growling vocals.

4) Look up the lyrics. There is a wide misconception that metal lyrics are all about death and gore. Metal music often explores intellectual themes such as existentialism, religion, and morality.

5) Study music theory. Though death metal instrumentals sound convoluted and chaotic, every note is executed with skillful precision, every drumbeat to fit complex time signatures. If you can get a grasp of what is going on technically, you will listen to metal music on a new level.

6) Stay open minded. Even if extreme metal is not your cup of tea, every music lover should respect other genres outside of their music scene. I find death metal just as beautiful as, say, Joanna Newsom.

7) Go to live shows. The raw energy of both the performers and the patrons of the metal scene will blow you away. For upcoming shows, check out August Burns Red on 2/5, and In Flames, Trivium, and Veil of Maya on 2/6, both at the Regency Ballroom.

Last 5 posts by Rieko Whitfield

One thought on “How To Appreciate Death Metal Music in 7 Simple Steps”

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