There is an axiom, which says that music does not change, but only its instruments and technology.
But it certainly evolves, like the human entity as a whole and based on external conditions.
However, its cornerstone remains stable for centuries.
If, for example, you add electrical instruments to an ancient paean, that is the definition of Doom Metal.
Death growl vocals (or growl), is not an 80’s musical technique with the advent of Death Metal.
On the contrary, the Death growl date from the 8th c. and specifically by the bloodthirsty Vikings.
Although they had no idea what Death Metal was, they knew a lot about the… Death itself, which they challenged with their metal weapons.
Going back in time…
Unfortunately, little is known about the songs and music sung by the Vikings.
According to what we know (so far) they did not know writing and therefore we have not recorded their rich history.
However, we know that the Vikings possessed numerous musical instruments and highly valued poetry.
There are many archeological finds that show us the importance of music in the life of the Vikings.
Music played a leading role in their gatherings at celebrations and official events.
At the same time, it is very likely that the Vikings created and sang to boost their morale before a great battle.
There are many songs that have been found and can be dated from the ancient Scandinavian era.
But only one song has been discovered and can certainly be attributed to the Vikings.
In Denmark in the 14th century, a piece of wood was found in which the first lines of one of their songs can be seen… “I dreamed a dream”.
Experts say it was rescued from generation to generation.
As for their vocal skills and the first, in fact, the appearance of the Death growl technique, there is the testimony of a trader-traveler.
The Arab-Spaniard Abraham ben Jacob, around 900 after a trip to Scandinavia states:
“Never before I have heard uglier songs than those of the Vikings in Slesvig (today Denmark).
The growling sound coming from their throats reminds me of dogs howling, only more untamed.”
A phrase that is very insightful describes what Death growl is.
We must not forget that at that time the attitudes and habits of the “barbarians” and “civilized” were very different!
But other testimonies of travelers – merchants, who were found near the Vikings, state that their songs looked (audio), like…
“An empty cart going down a slope.”
The first official appearance…
The first official appearance of the Death growl technique dates back to 1151 and Bingen Hildegard’s work, ** Ordo Virtutum.
An allegorical moral work, or sacred musical drama, composed during the construction and relocation of its Abbey in Rupertsberg.
It is the oldest moral work and the only Medieval musical drama that has survived almost entirely both textually and melodically.
In the play, the role of the Devil does not use a melodic song, but is performed in a way that Hildegard defines as “strepitus Diaboli”.
That is, as it is supposed to mean, low and growling voice.
These are vocals, which could not be given to any role other than the devil, as is completely self-evident.
From then on…
From then on, the history of “vocals from hell” became somewhat foggy, until 1966.
The Who song “Boris the Spider” was then released, which included Death growl sung by bassist John Entwistle.
A first taste, strange as it may seem, we have a few years earlier than Screamin ‘Jay Hawkins and “I Put a Spell on You” (1956).
These two songs are the harbinger of the use of Death Growl in contemporary music.
Then this technique spread to Rock music and of course, later, to widespread use, by Metal.
King Crimson – 21st Century Schizoid Man (1969)
Black Sabbath – Iron Man (1970)
Pink Floyd – One of These Days (1971)
Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells, Part Two (1973)
Holy Moses – Satan’s Angel (1982)
Death – Flesh and the Power It Holds (1998)
**Also known as Saint Hildegard and the Sibyl of the Rhine.
A polymath Benedictine abbess active as a writer, composer, philosopher, mystic, visionary, and as a medical writer and practitioner during the High Middle Ages.
She is one of the best-known composers of sacred monophony, as well as the most recorded in modern history.
She has been considered by many in Europe to be the founder of scientific natural history in Germany.