Serving Arizona State University Online Since 1995  Current Issue: Thursday, October 13, 2005





Scene Points: Pretty Screams

 by Chelsea Ide  published on Thursday, October 13, 2005


The Dillinger Escape Plan sounds pretty. The math metal masters out of New Jersey are praised constantly for their intricate guitar work and complex rhythm section, but rarely do I run across someone saying, "I love that guy's vocals."

Well, I do. I think Dillinger Escape Plan vocalist Greg Puciato's vocals are pretty.

Yes, pretty. It's not a metal term, but I'm not your average metal woman, so please spare me the e-mails with synonyms.

I know a slew of people, many whom I work with, who can't fathom how screaming could ever, EVER be considered beautiful vocal work. The reality is, they haven't given the screamers a chance.

Great vocals convey emotion. If you're singing about sadness and you don't sound as though you're about to break into tears, your message carries far less meaning. Sometimes arty indie bands use complex metaphors that regular folk might not comprehend immediately, but when they hear the quiver in the singer's voice, they get it.

When Puciato is yelling "I'm paranoid" in "I Love Secret Agents," his intonation balances with the chaotic guitars, allowing the listener to picture him frantically looking about the room. Without ever knowing he was saying he's paranoid, the listener gets it. The urgency and timing of his vocals convey his emotion, understanding the words is secondary.

That's the point, right there. Metal and hardcore vocalists may be hard to understand, but while (some) write meaningful lyrics, all understand that their voice is an instrument.

If you were raised in choir, you may have a hard time believing that growling into a microphone is the same as singing in "Les Miserables." Lately, the Mars Volta has garnered attention for the use of vocals as an instrument. If you have seen the band live, you know that vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala is just making noises when the band jams. I'm not knocking him in the least; it's impressive.

But the way he uses his voice as an instrument is comparable to the way Despised Icon vocalist Alexandre Erian uses his. Erian's guttural growling wraps the listener in a blizzard of metal; the pig squeal screaming crashes down upon your head, and the sweeping guitars bring you back up.

Screaming is pretty in the way that killer guitar solos are -- it's art. Not all screaming (for musical purposes, of course) is pretty, but those who understand how to use their instruments to evoke something and can intertwine it with guitars and drums to create something truly powerful deserve recognition. You can call it amazing, intricate, pretty, brutal, powerful or pretty, just don't you dare say it's not music.

Last week I offered up the title of one of my favorite songs and asked if any of you knew who wrote it. Some of you did, most of you didn't. If you want to give this whole "screaming vocals" thing a try, check out the spastic metal kings in Converge, particularly the band's song "The Saddest Day." It can be found on Petitioning the Empty Sky.

If you end up loving metal and hardcore and need a concert buddy, I'm at them all, and you can reach me at

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