Yesterday, in the first of a two-part feature, we posted our review of the new album by Living Sacrifice. Today, we’re posting (for want of a better word) a meditation on these questions: When there’s no clean singing in extreme metal, do the lyrics really matter? And if they do, how do they matter?
THE MEDITATION: Think about songs in which you can hear the words. Sometimes the lyrics can be important. Beautifully crafted lyrics can tell a story that sticks with you, or they can express ideas or emotions in a way that resonates like poetry.
That kind of lyricism can combine with the music in a way that produces something more powerful than the sum of the parts — the words enhance the music and vice-versa, and each makes the other more memorable.
Of course, those things are possible only if you can hear the words. In extreme metal songs with no clean singing, you can’t hear all the words or sometimes any of them. It’s rarely the content of the lyrics that contributes to the emotional appeal of those songs. Instead, what matters is the sound of the singer’s voice, which functions mainly as another instrument.
As a consequence, the songwriter’s ability to create memorable lyrics is often pretty unimportant in this subgenre. On those rare occasions when I look up the lyrics to a metal song I like, I’m not surprised to find that usually the lyrics suck – and I don’t really care that they suck because they don’t matter much to what I hear or how I feel about the music.
I suspect that lyrics rarely play an important part in the creation of extreme music either. Most bands seem to work out the riffs, the rhythms, and the melodies first (if melody happens to be a part of the band’s sound), and the lyrics are added later. By definition, the words aren’t inspiring the sound; if anything, the reverse is true. Sometimes, the words seem to have nothing at all to do with the feeling that the music conveys. (more after the jump . . .)