Harsh vocals or death growls are vocals used in the extreme classifications of heavy metal. This type of vocal technique comes from the lower regions of the diaphragm harshly pushing air into the throat creating a guttural, animal-like growl. Harsh vocals were first used by bands like Possessed and Necrophagia who were two pioneers of the death metal subgenre of heavy metal. These bands found influence from progressive rock and shock rock where artists like King Crimson and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins occasionally employed overly distorted and low pitched vocals. Some death metal singers, like Chris Barnes formerly of Cannibal Corpse and currently of Six Feet Under, employ such a deep growl that they are affectionately know as Cookie Monster vocals. Other bands, like Disgorge, make theirs so unintelligible that it sounds like flicking a garbage disposal on and off. No matter which incarnation is used, harsh vocals are essential to death metal.
Growled vocals would soon spread throughout extreme metal with black metal, thrash, grindcore, metalcore, death/doom, sludge metal and progressive metal using various different pitch techniques to create incarnations that fit best for each. Some, like black metal and grindcore, take their vocals from a low pitched growl to higher pitched harsh shrieks while metalcore and some progressive acts employ a slightly higher pitched growl than traditional death metal. Death/doom uses death growls while employing a slower pace giving the vocals an even more guttural feel than normal. Finally hardcore, thrash, nu metal and sludge metal incorporate more of a raspy tone into the harsh vocals giving the vocals an even more forced effect than normal. Harsh vocals continue to be a huge part of heavy metal with the vast majority of acts using them at one time or another.