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Harsh Vocals

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"Blgfrhg, blrghghth, grgahtg, grgathhg SATAN!"

The use in music of vocals that are...well, harsh. Typically this refers to vocals that are growled, in attempt to make the music sound more "evil". This is commonly associated with extreme metal but shows up in other genres as well. See Soprano and Gravel for when this is paired up with cleaner, usually female, vocals. Compare Metal Scream, when the singer makes their vocals sound more intense by, well, screaming.


Please note that Harsh Vocals are not the same as Screamo, which is another genre of music entirely. Most metalheads will be rather upset if you refer to them as such.


  • All Death Metal singers (The Other Wiki even refers to this vocal style as a "Death Growl"). In the early years of the genre, "Cookie Monster" vocals were basically the only thing that separated it from just dirty, fast thrash. (in fact, a lot of Allmusic reviews of the genre use the words "Cookie Monster") Bands who go beyond strict use of deep growls (and perhaps occasional high-pitched screams) are often accusing of being sellouts and posers unless the band in question has Progressive Metal leanings or otherwise has segments where cleans could actually fit the song.
  • Marilyn Manson varies depending on the song, but when a song with harsh vocals is done live, oftentimes, it will become even harsher.
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  • Epica's and After Forever's Mark Jansen
  • A female example - while not being actual growling, Magali Luyten's both singing and talking voice are very raspy.
  • Tom Waits gargles whiskey and broken glass.
  • Dicky Barrett from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones!
  • Captain Beefheart used this voice, among many others, quite often. However, unlike Tom Waits, it was nowhere near his natural voice.
    • In his case it was more like a transparent imitation of Howlin' Wolf.
  • Buster Poindexter (aka New York Dolls) singer David Johansen, best known for singing "Hot Hot Hot".
  • The grindcore band Caninus affectionately parody the use of this vocal style in metal by having two pitbulls trade off on lead vocals.
  • Buzz Osborne of The Melvins' primary vocal style can be described as this. As with Captain Beefheart, his speaking voice is quite different.
  • Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister was one of the first people to sing exclusively with a throat full of gravel.
    • One of his fans, Metallica's James Hetfield, employs lots of this. To the point one day his voice blew out, forcing him to take some vocal therapy.
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  • Terje Winterstø Røthing from Kaizers Orchestra when he's singing for his project, Skambankt.
  • Nils Frydakahl of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum.
  • Frances Quinlan of Hop Along pairs this with country-inflected crooning to make some damn interesting indie rock. See here.
  • The lead singer of Skillet, John Cooper. Not only does he sing like this, it's his normal speaking voice.
  • Louis Armstrong.
  • Max Cavalera of Sepultura and Soulfly. ROOTS! BLOODY ROOOOOOOTS!
  • Johan Hegg of Amon Amarth.
  • Screamin' Jay Hawkins. When he isn't, y'know, screamin'.
  • Das Ich is a good example of this trope's use in darkwave.
  • Minoru Niihara of Loudness.
  • Hurricane Smith, best known for "Oh Babe What Would You Say"
  • PJ Harvey's song "Joy" from Is This Desire?.
  • Albert Kuvezin's singing is all like this. This is a result of him being a VERY accomplished throat singer. Here's an example.
  • NWOBHM/Black Metal band Venom were perhaps the Ur-Example of the "Cookie Monster" style.
    • They were the first to use it extensively. The vocal style was first used by The Who in their novelty song "Boris the Spider".
  • Dan McCafferty of Nazareth. His gravelly style is rather similar to that of Deep Purple's Ian Gillan, although both (especially Gillan) are capable of more melodic styles.
  • Carl McCoy of Fields Of The Nephilim.
  • Masha Arhipova from Arkona.
  • Marianne Faithfull, since the 1970s.
  • Detonator, vocalist of the Brazilian comedy Metal band Massacration. The In-Universe explanation is that the God of Metal ordered him to cut off his nuts to make his voice more Metal. Yeah, it's THAT kind of band.
  • Another female example: Angela Gossow. And her hand-picked successor, Alissa White-Gluz.
  • Infamously to anyone who's played Rock Band 2, Mallika Sundaramurthy from Abnormality (as in "Visions"), who is also a rare female example.
  • Mike Patton sometimes uses this type of vocal style in his music. But that's because he uses almost ''every'' vocal style in his music. His performance as The Darkness in the videogame of the same name essentially is Nightmare Fueled death metal vocals.
  • Nathan Explosion of Dethklok/Metalocalypse. It's his normal voice.
  • Not quite what's meant here, but Leonard Cohen did say, "Only in Canada could somebody with a voice like mine win Vocalist of the Year" when accepting the Juno Award for Best Male Vocalist in 1992.
  • Otep's Otep Shamaya does a lot of this, and is also another rare female example.
  • Very common in Industrial and related styles, pioneered by Skinny Puppy back in the 80s.
  • Killing Joke's Jaz Coleman mainly alternates between harsh vocals and a much smoother, crooning style - sometimes both get used within the same song for the sake of contrast. For a few musically Lighter and Softer albums in the mid-80's, he dropped the growling almost entirely.
  • Kamijo of Versailles doesn't do this very often, but there's still a few examples of this, such as in "The Red Carpet Day".
  • Another female example is Jyou of exist†trace, although she's cut down on it in later releases.
  • Psychostick takes it to the logical conclusion and has the vocals for Six Pounds of Terror performed by a small dog.
  • The web series "The Female Vocalists of Extreme Music" showcases...pretty much exactly what the title says: women who do growls, screams, etc., usually in Heavy Metal, but other genres slip through sometimes. To date, it's covered hundreds of bands and vocalists—far too many to list on one page.
  • Pantera's Phil Anselmo, one of the most influential vocalists in post-Heavy Metal, combining both machismo and sociopathy to create a sound much more terrifying than your usual, run-of-the-mill "scary" voice. You can even hear some of it as far back as Power Metal, his debut with the band during their forbidden "glam phase". Granted, the tone itself was mostly copy-pasted from Kyle Thomas of fellow Texas Thrash Metal band Exhorder, though he would later take certain... liberties with it.
  • Ar tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica has EXEC_over.METHOD_SUBLIMATION ~ ee wassa sos yehar, with its infamous "kowarero" refrain.
  • Project Pitchfork prominently began using this vocal style in the early-mid 2000s. There are a few exceptions, such as "Timekiller", where the singer uses a relatively normal baritone voice.
  • Darby Crash of The Germs used this as more or less his entire singing style.
  • Parodied on Homestar Runner, where Strong Bad describes Death Metal as being sung from "the bowels of your lungs", as opposed to "the top of your lungs".
  • Villains Black Shadow, Blood Falcon and Deathborn all have the same sinister, distorted guttural vocals in all their Leitmotifs in F-Zero GX (while Deathborn's adds Ominous Latin Chanting and an Ominous Pipe Organ.) Bio Rex's theme isn't as sinister, but still uses lots of harsh growling and the occasional Metal Scream.
  • Another female example is Christine "99" Kowalski, the guest vocalist on Front 242's 05:22:09:12 Off album.
  • The futurepop band Pride and Fall uses these in "Turn The Lights On", which is somewhat of an Out-of-Genre Experience for them.
  • Diamanda Galás: Who made shrieking an art.
  • Yoko Ono is notorious for her One-Woman Wail. Not only on her own records, but also on John Lennon's first two albums. Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins and Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions.
  • Michael Bohn of Issues, who contrasts his vocals with the smooth, poppy, R&B vocals of fellow vocalist Tyler Carter.
  • Dream Theater's James La Brie normally did melodic vocals but has done occasionally employed harsher vocals, notable on Black Clouds and Silver Linings. The song ''A Nightmare to Remember" is also the only time the band has used the death growl technique, though that wasn't done by La Brie.
  • Hacktivist has emcee Ben Marvin, who does this combined with rapping in contrast to fellow emcee Jermaine "J" Hurley, who uses clean vocal raps.
  • No humans or any other living creatures on Earth hold a candle to the sound of a whale, as evidenced on the album Songs of the Humpback Whale, which showcases nothing but these sounds. The singing is very loud, for it can be heard from quite a distance around. Yet "vocals" is not really the correct term here as whales have no vocal cords and generate sound by forcing air out of their nasal cavities. And what we call singing is merely a series of grunts, squeals, cries and rumbles.
  • Little Richard.
  • Much like fellow metal virtuoso vocalist Mike Patton, Devin Townsend uses almost every vocal style under the sun, and is very good at implenting harsh vocals into his music.
  • 'Macho Man' Randy Savage had this as his normal speaking voice.
  • LADYBABY has this with Ladybeard. The girls come in singing in a tone normally meant for J-pop, then he comes in with the growling vocals.
  • Harvey Fierstein, despite very much being a Camp Gay, has a very gravelly voice that you really wouldn't expect to hear in the show tunes he usually sings.
  • A Pale Horse Named Death use harsh vocals very sparingly, such as on "Devil Came with a Smile".
  • Former Kiss drummer Peter Criss was known for his very rough and raspy voice that he used to great effect when he sang. Most notably on "Black Diamond"
  • Sabaton vocalist Joakim Brodén usually avoids traditional growls, though his singing voice is noticeably deeper-pitched and gruffer than is common in Power Metal. The exception is when he sings the bridge in the band's cover of Melodic Death Metal band Amon Amarth's "Twilight of the Thunder God", shifting into a Metal Scream for the last line.
  • Simone Pluijmers from the Netherlands, another female vocalist.
  • In recent years, Bob Dylan has started veering into this territory when he sings. His trademark nasal groan is still present, but age has added a gruffness that may even rival that of Tom Waits.
  • Yet another female example would be Courtney Love.
  • And a less famous female example in the form of Porcelain Black.
  • The Dark Element's "Dead to Me" has guest vocalist Niilo Sevänen providing a deep-pitched roar at several points.
  • Bruce Springsteen probably has the roughest voice ever to grace the Billboard Top 10.
  • Country Music singer Tyler Farr is known for having an incredibly raspy and guttural voice.
  • For a full-on "Cookie Monster" female, Adrienne Cowan of Seven Spires, a Dimmu Borgir fan who in a few songs growls like her idols (and has downright covered them).
  • Japanese Idol-fusion Girl Group PassCode has Yuna Imada, an adorable 4'10" young lady whose death-screams (which sound nothing like her real voice) punctuate 90% of the group's songs. Her fellow member Kaede Takashima also tries it in a couple of songs.
  • Another Japanese Idol example is Ladybaby. Its screams were originally performed by a crossdressing Australian pro-wrestler, six feet tall with a full beard, whose shtick was that he was in fact a five-year-old girl. After he left, the group was without a screamer for over a year until the only remaining member recruited Emily Arima, who can growl lower than plenty of men but is praised for her mid-range screams.
  • Andrew and Grant of Unleash The Archers provide these.

Alternative Title(s): Death Growl


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