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Death metal riff types

Death metal riff types
October 20, 2012, 04:19:06 AM
ITT we identify, and classify, and name death metal riff/phrase types. Other types of metal are fine too I suppose.

Please link to the riff on youtube (you can do this by pausing at the part of the song where the riff starts and right-clicking, then selecting "copy video URL at current time") to maximize clarity and learning.

Power Chord to Tremolo Phrase (feel free to help me name these)
Example #1: Obituary - Dying
Example #2: Necrophobic - The Nocturnal Silence
Example #3: Infester - Excoriation Killz the Bliss

This extremely common death metal riff is takes a set of intervals, eg a melody, and creates two permutations: One played in power chords,  and one  tremolo picked. This riff creates contrast through a simulated change in timbre. I'm not sure who originated this riff style, but I'd like to know.


The Pedal Tone Riff
Example #1: At the Gates - Forever Blind
Example #2: The Black Dahlia Murder - The Window (WARNING: PEDOCORE)
Example #3: Kreator - Under a Total Blackened Sky

This riff style -- having its origins in speed metal but consummated by At the Gates -- is omnipresent in Gaythenburg melodic "death metal" and metalcore. It consists of a repeated note played at the lower end of the scale that alternates with various higher scale tones, forming a melody. Typically much less blocky and much more consonant than traditional death metal riffs, it's debatable whether or not this is death metal riff at all, but rather a heavy metal neologism.

The Gallop Riff
Example #1: Slayer - Raining Blood
Example #2: Sacramentum - Spiritual Winter
Example #3: Iron Maiden - The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

The gallop riff was widely used by NWOBHM and speed metal bands. although uncommon in death metal, it still crops up occassionally, usually as a nod to influences. Contrary to popular beleif, gallop riffs do not consist of triplets but of two sixteenth notes and a quarter note, or any proportional arrangement thereof. The this rhythm is be played on a lower tone in the register, serving as rhythmic and harmonic groundwork for a bar or two of melody interspersed symmetrically between gallops.

The Transmutation Phrase
Example #1: Suffocation - Breeding the Spawn
Example #2: Deeds of Flesh - Path of the Weakening
Example #3: Hacksaw to the Throat - Cascading Down (Ignore the name - this is some of the best post-2000 metal)

The transmutation riff consists of two riffs, A and B. Riff A can be divided into two sub-riffs, A1 and A2. Subriff A2, at the end of riff A's repetition cycle, becomes the basis for riff B. Thus, riff A transmutes into riff B. This technique is popular with 'brutal' death metal bands. If you know how to describe this technique in formal theory, do tell.

More to come...

Re: Death metal riff types
October 21, 2012, 02:51:26 AM
That pedal tone riff is interesting. I think of sections like this one from Slayer as a more advanced version of it, where you have one melody made up of lower tones centered around the root interacting with a completely melody using the same scale but higher up. At the Gates did this a lot on their first two albums (particularly the second), but I can't think of any specifics right now. It's very baroque. I don't know what to call it, but it's one of my favorite of death metal's bag-o-tricks. Here's a particularly strange take on it from Morbid Angel.

The power-chord-to-tremolo phrase thing is OLDER THAN TIME ITSELF (to quote Dark Angel). Early Napalm Death used it a ton, and I'm pretty sure they got it from the more alienated fringe of hardcore. It's probably been around even longer than that. It's one of the most natural things to do on a guitar when you're writing riffs, or at least it is for me.

Re: Death metal riff types
October 21, 2012, 04:23:27 AM
Interesting riff selections. Though the Slayer and Morbid Angel riffs you cited don't fit the pedal tone template per se, the concept is similar: a tone or series of tones serve as a foundation for a more complex series of tones higher in the register.

As for the Napalm Death song, I can't tell if they're playing tremolo or just playing the power chords faster, but the idea is there. I'll do some detective work on early grindcore/hardcore, or perhaps someone who specializes in that stuff can enlighten us.

I'm working on collecting examples for sequence riffs, "spider" riffs, dirge riffs, and chug riffs.

Re: Death metal riff types
October 22, 2012, 03:55:34 AM
Not a riffing style, but what do you call this technique?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTss-w4PdIY&t=0m36s
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBzgkAt0gdw&t=0m50s
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3X7R2B_tKDY&t=3m15s
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HqbFtl2h10Y&t=0m25s

Or, playing a melody, then adding a second guitar which plays the same melody but higher/lower.

Re: Death metal riff types
October 22, 2012, 06:40:21 AM
I suppose we could call those parallel harmony riffs.  That technique's almost as old as metal itself.

Re: Death metal riff types
October 25, 2012, 05:32:32 AM
Updated.

Re: Death metal riff types
October 25, 2012, 06:55:10 PM
Or, playing a melody, then adding a second guitar which plays the same melody but higher/lower.

homophony

Re: Death metal riff types
October 27, 2012, 04:41:16 AM
When I think Pedal tone I think of Demilich and this riff in particular :

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=_z3FcSWJvJw#t=4s

Re: Death metal riff types
October 29, 2012, 03:28:29 AM
When I think Pedal tone I think of Demilich and this riff in particular :

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=_z3FcSWJvJw#t=4s
Could you explain why you would consider that riff a pedal tone? I don't really hear it.

Added transmutation riff -- if you have better examples, please share.

Re: Death metal riff types
October 30, 2012, 10:55:52 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=10KiyFFVnGg#t=72s

For what it's worth, I have a penchant for mean-spirited Hellhammer styled riffs.

Personally I find it hard to classify 'riffs' in theoretical terms as they already contain melody, harmony, rhythm as well as dynamics/technique. More often I think of them as shapes within a structure. Some build up, some are expository. And black metal is even harder to define. The Beherit song, Sadomatic Rites is basically 4-5 sets of riffs played one after the other with each part building into the next without repeating. Burzum's Jesu død sounds like one massive riff, though it is helped by and consists of many.

Re: Death metal riff types
October 30, 2012, 06:59:45 PM
Personally I find it hard to classify 'riffs' in theoretical terms as they already contain melody, harmony, rhythm as well as dynamics/technique. More often I think of them as shapes within a structure. Some build up, some are expository. And black metal is even harder to define. The Beherit song, Sadomatic Rites is basically 4-5 sets of riffs played one after the other with each part building into the next without repeating. Burzum's Jesu død sounds like one massive riff, though it is helped by and consists of many.
A better name for this thread would be 'Metal techniques'.

I agree that riffs, even those consisting of the same intervals and rhythms, can serve different ends depending on the context. However, just because penguins use their wings for swimming instead of flying, does that mean we shouldn't call them wings?

Black metal is interesting, because even though it has a smaller range of techniques, those techniques are used in structure with greater fluidity and convey a more significant spectrum of emotion.

This thread may be accused of missing the forest for the trees, but the inner sperg compels me.

Re: Death metal riff types
October 30, 2012, 10:42:27 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqnZ5cp_kaE&feature=player_embedded

Just a short example of one riff morphing using other techniques...

Re: Death metal riff types
October 30, 2012, 10:56:01 PM
Ah yes sorry I forget to answer the question. I believe this is how I perceive it be a pedal tone or a slight variation or rather maybe even an alternating pedal tone.

In classic Demilich fashion, a lot the riffs are based on using the A and C( or in tabulation, 0 and 3 on the low A string)  in this alternate pedal tone fashion.

Re: Death metal riff types
November 01, 2012, 05:22:23 AM
In classic Demilich fashion, a lot the riffs are based on using the A and C( or in tabulation, 0 and 3 on the low A string)  in this alternate pedal tone fashion.

I really like the wide intervals that Demilich uses in their riffs. Gives them a quirky, twisted feel.

Here's a fellow doing a pretty good cover of "Erecshyrinol". He sets up a great camera angle for viewing the full guitar, so you get to see how the riffs work; looks tough but fun as hell to play.

Demilich - "Erecshyrinol"

Re: Death metal riff types
November 01, 2012, 04:02:42 PM
Great cover and not any easy song to learn!