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History question about Slayer's music style

Re: History question about Slayer's music style
October 12, 2007, 04:13:52 AM
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You can play a chromatic section which still has a tonal centre   ::)


I'm aware of that. I am being literal. One can say most death metal is in E minor because of the E pedal. But if one looks at the notes, they are unrelated to any key, including E minor.

More to your point, death metal does not have a tonal center. The notes are all over the map, so to speak. This is not a judgment, an observation. This is also why I like the music.

Iron Maiden is an example of a band who, for the most part, strictly adheres to the key signature.  Likewise, the guitar playing of Randy Rhoads.

Re: History question about Slayer's music style
October 12, 2007, 05:44:57 AM
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I'm aware of that. I am being literal. One can say most death metal is in E minor because of the E pedal. But if one looks at the notes, they are unrelated to any key, including E minor.

More to your point, death metal does not have a tonal center. The notes are all over the map, so to speak. This is not a judgment, an observation. This is also why I like the music.

Iron Maiden is an example of a band who, for the most part, strictly adheres to the key signature.  Likewise, the guitar playing of Randy Rhoads.


Nice to see someone in the forum explain Death Metal on a basic musical level instead of superfluously intellectualizing it.  

I think Slayer's solo style is nothing more than random fingering at a fast pace that is meant to sound "evil".  By random, I mean it is not meant to follow any mode or scale.  As long as it didn't sound blues or rock it was ok.  They obviously had no desire to practice/work on having their solos "fit" or have any tonal value and it definitely gave them a signature sound.  I have no complaints; a whirlwind of half steps with trademark Slayer rhythm guitar playing in the background had me hooked for years, and yes, I am writing in past tense  because anything after Reign in Blood is not Slayer to me.  In regards to Death Metal: I think what we lose in the solo department (complexity), we gain in the rhythm.  

Nice response to Born for Banning.    

Re: History question about Slayer's music style
October 13, 2007, 04:29:15 PM
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I'm aware of that. I am being literal. One can say most death metal is in E minor because of the E pedal. But if one looks at the notes, they are unrelated to any key, including E minor.

More to your point, death metal does not have a tonal center. The notes are all over the map, so to speak. This is not a judgment, an observation. This is also why I like the music.

Iron Maiden is an example of a band who, for the most part, strictly adheres to the key signature.  Likewise, the guitar playing of Randy Rhoads.


Within most songs there is an inherent bias towards a given scale or just a tonal centre, generally the open 1st string, be that E, C or B, generally, there is libral usage of passing notes and chromatic sections, though, most metal songs aren't truly atonal.

Edit: This post mostly applies to death metal, as black and thrash is almost completely modal.

AttheGates1996

Re: History question about Slayer's music style
October 13, 2007, 06:16:54 PM
I think the question about Slayer shouldn’t lie in the solos but in the rhythm riffs. They are so ridiculously chromatic and fast for the 80’s, was there any band before that sounded remotely the same?

Re: History question about Slayer's music style
October 15, 2007, 05:31:17 AM
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Within most songs there is an inherent bias towards a given scale or just a tonal centre, generally the open 1st string, be that E, C or B, generally, there is libral usage of passing notes and chromatic sections, though, most metal songs aren't truly atonal.

Edit: This post mostly applies to death metal, as black and thrash is almost completely modal.


Yes, "traditional" metal and thrash are largely diatonic. I may give up on these threads soon since it seems to being nowhere, but death and black are not. It seems that a lot of people seem to think that theory equals "good", which is why there is a lot of defensiveness when I say it's atonal. This is a good thing. It is death metal's strength. But I realize there is going to be debate about this forever. Hail Satan :)

Re: History question about Slayer's music style
October 15, 2007, 11:33:42 AM
Slayer's music is onften mistakenly refered to as atonal, but most is tonally-centered (often in a phrygian mode) with chromatic tones incorporated for color in much they some way Grieg does with the main theme of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" (which also bears a strong resemblence in form to a lot of Slayer riffs).

The traditional Priest/Maiden and hardcore influences are firmly established, but I think people overlook the strong influence in Slayer's work. Wheras Mainen/Priest informed the melodic basis of much of Slayer's music, and hardcore (as well as metal) informed its rhythm, its compositional outlook is very rooted in classical. Aside from the interview from their combat tour, I don't know who well this classical influence has been documented in their interviews, but the narrative / narrative-directed quality of Slayer's music and the compositional outlook in which it is reflected owes much more to classical music than either heavy metal or hardcore.

Re: History question about Slayer's music style
October 16, 2007, 09:20:39 AM
Many modern composers used similar effects in their pieces well before Slayer. Xenakis' "Eonta" in particular is a good example of the chaotic, seemingly random effect of many notes played against a much more static backdrop. This work is not serial either, so I'd say it qualifies as a legitimate comparison.

As for popular influences, in addition to the bands already mentioned, I hear similar things done in the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Important to recognize in all these situations: The "solo" or main lines may not so much be discordant by themselves, but because of the harmonic relationships established through the juxtaposition with the (usually) much more stable accompaniment, create the trademark "chaos". Morbid Angel is a prime example of this, Trey's solos being mostly derived from the pentatonic scales. However, because of the backing riffs, the two elements combine to produce a much more unstable sound.

Some points on atonality:

-All music will have tonal implications whether you want it to or not. At any given point in a progression of pitches, relationships will be established that necessarily imply a center, a reference note. It's simply unavoidable. Even Schoenberg recognized this, berating anyone that called such music "atonal".

- The tendency of nearly all professional musicians is to hear things in a tonal manner, as tonal music makes up the majority of their education. Therefore, even if a piece is written with very few intended "reference" pitches, most musicians will play it as if it was. The most important example of this is our tendency to play what we perceive as leading tones (the note a half step below the tonic; the approach tone to the tonal center) extremely sharp.

- The human tendency seems to me to be to hear things in a tonal manner anyways, as not only have many of us been raised on such music, but it's just fundamentally less aurally stressful when we know where we are. Kind of like how the eye is attracted to blank spaces; it takes more energy to process darkness. The ear, like the eye, is lazy, and will hear a tonal center as a path of least resistance. This point is extremely debatable.

Re: History question about Slayer's music style
October 17, 2007, 05:08:49 AM
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Slayer's music is onften mistakenly refered to as atonal, but most is tonally-centered (often in a phrygian mode) with chromatic tones incorporated for color in much they some way Grieg does with the main theme of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" (which also bears a strong resemblence in form to a lot of Slayer riffs).

The traditional Priest/Maiden and hardcore influences are firmly established, but I think people overlook the strong influence in Slayer's work. Wheras Mainen/Priest informed the melodic basis of much of Slayer's music, and hardcore (as well as metal) informed its rhythm, its compositional outlook is very rooted in classical. Aside from the interview from their combat tour, I don't know who well this classical influence has been documented in their interviews, but the narrative / narrative-directed quality of Slayer's music and the compositional outlook in which it is reflected owes much more to classical music than either heavy metal or hardcore.


I'm sorry, I'm sure you're a cool guy but this is just wrong. Slayer's music is not often in a phrygian mode. Slayer has absolutely nothing to do with Grieg or classical music at all. Slayer comes from "trad" metal and punk/hardcore.

Re: History question about Slayer's music style
October 17, 2007, 09:00:50 AM
If we--as most music scholars tend too--are defining tonal/atonal music as music with/without a tonal center, then I can say that I have yet to hear a metal band that is atonal.

A lot of metal may sound "atonal," but that is simply because the music is not diatonic (that is, working within the major/minor keys and modes).

Because the majority of metal musicians are "illiterate" when it comes to things like music theory, metal music tends to be built more on principles of "sound" and "convenience."

For instance, if you've ever watched the fretting hand of a classical performer and then compared it to that of the metal musician, one of the first things that one might notice is how the metal musician's movement is much more economical in terms of the notes he's fretting, whereas the classical musician moves across many strings and frets to sound his diatonic scale passages.

Part of this has to do with metal's tendency towards chromatic intervals (i.e., all half-steps as opposed to a predetermined mixture of half and whole steps), but too, there is the fact that the metal lexicon is governed less by a set of “rules” (keys/scales) and more so by an unspecified set of “sounds.”

That is why, when one listens to something like Gorguts or Demilich, one notices that, in spite of the fact that diatonic elements are completely absent from the music, virtually all of their riffs and melodies contain a tonic note (the “tonal center”) and a climax tone (often times accented with the “pinch-harmonic” technique), around which the interior portion of the melodies fluctuates.

This is the sticking point for most music theory buffs: the relationship between the tonic tone, the "in-between" notes, and the climax tone, is rarely governed by the principles of Common Practice theory and its associated concepts like leading tones, dominant tones, etc.

Re: History question about Slayer's music style
October 17, 2007, 09:38:00 AM
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If we--as most music scholars tend too--are defining tonal/atonal music as music with/without a tonal center, then I can say that I have yet to hear a metal band that is atonal.

A lot of metal may sound "atonal," but that is simply because the music is not diatonic (that is, working within the major/minor keys and modes).

Because the majority of metal musicians are "illiterate" when it comes to things like music theory, metal music tends to be built more on principles of "sound" and "convenience."

For instance, if you've ever watched the fretting hand of a classical performer and then compared it to that of the metal musician, one of the first things that one might notice is how the metal musician's movement is much more economical in terms of the notes he's fretting, whereas the classical musician moves across many strings and frets to sound his diatonic scale passages.

Part of this has to do with metal's tendency towards chromatic intervals (i.e., all half-steps as opposed to a predetermined mixture of half and whole steps), but too, there is the fact that the metal lexicon is governed less by a set of “rules” (keys/scales) and more so by an unspecified set of “sounds.”

That is why, when one listens to something like Gorguts or Demilich, one notices that, in spite of the fact that diatonic elements are completely absent from the music, virtually all of their riffs and melodies contain a tonic note (the “tonal center”) and a climax tone (often times accented with the “pinch-harmonic” technique), around which the interior portion of the melodies fluctuates.

This is the sticking point for most music theory buffs: the relationship between the tonic tone, the "in-between" notes, and the climax tone, is rarely governed by the principles of Common Practice theory and its associated concepts like leading tones, dominant tones, etc.


I like what you have to say. That's was an enjoyable read. You may be right about the "tonic" note and you obviously understand the music well, but I'm going to have to maintain that if the music is not diatonic and is largely chromatic (as you rightly claim it is) then it is atonal (devoid of a tonal center) regardless of the existence of a "tonic" note. That's just how I see it.

I like your last paragraph about the theory fetishists. I think we're largely on the same plane here. Finally, someone understands where I'm coming from.

Re: History question about Slayer's music style
October 17, 2007, 10:44:38 AM
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If we--as most music scholars tend too--are defining tonal/atonal music as music with/without a tonal center, then I can say that I have yet to hear a metal band that is atonal.

A lot of metal may sound "atonal," but that is simply because the music is not diatonic (that is, working within the major/minor keys and modes).

Because the majority of metal musicians are "illiterate" when it comes to things like music theory, metal music tends to be built more on principles of "sound" and "convenience."

For instance, if you've ever watched the fretting hand of a classical performer and then compared it to that of the metal musician, one of the first things that one might notice is how the metal musician's movement is much more economical in terms of the notes he's fretting, whereas the classical musician moves across many strings and frets to sound his diatonic scale passages.

Part of this has to do with metal's tendency towards chromatic intervals (i.e., all half-steps as opposed to a predetermined mixture of half and whole steps), but too, there is the fact that the metal lexicon is governed less by a set of “rules” (keys/scales) and more so by an unspecified set of “sounds.”

That is why, when one listens to something like Gorguts or Demilich, one notices that, in spite of the fact that diatonic elements are completely absent from the music, virtually all of their riffs and melodies contain a tonic note (the “tonal center”) and a climax tone (often times accented with the “pinch-harmonic” technique), around which the interior portion of the melodies fluctuates.

This is the sticking point for most music theory buffs: the relationship between the tonic tone, the "in-between" notes, and the climax tone, is rarely governed by the principles of Common Practice theory and its associated concepts like leading tones, dominant tones, etc.



Your comment about the movements in metal being more economical is simply untrue, at least in the clearest comparison of classical guitar and metal guitar.

-The resonance of open strings on a classical instrument is a desirable quality in many pieces, as music is written to take advantage of this unique aural quality of the instrument. Therefore, many times a classical guitarist will stay in first position to achieve this resonance. However, the timbre of open strings is harder to control with distortion, as the notes seem to sustain indefinitely when subjected to this electronic effect, and are used less exclusively.

-If anything, classical musicians are more attentive to economy of motion than metal musicians. In a style that rewards only absolute perfection, then perfect, controlled technique is paramount. Shifting unnecessarily disrupts this goal, and as you are aware, every note from low E to high Ab is obtainable in first position. That's a huge range, and makes shifting necessary only in certain idiomatic instances. If shifting is employed for a reason other than extending the range, then it is usually due to an artistic choice made by the performer to obtain a different tonal color.

- Most musical intervals are obtainable by keeping the hand in one place. You don't need to shift more because the music is diatonic.

- The tendency in metal seems to favor higher frets on lower strings anyways, as they have a darker, more aurally pleasing quality when combined with distortion.

-Basically how much you shift has nothing to do with whether the music is "tonal" or "atonal", shifting is about adding color or extending the range.

-Gorguts and Demilich frequently employ diatonic writing and soloing techniques. For example, "inherited bowel levitation" is entirely derivative of the phyrgian mode.

-What are you defining as a "climax tone"?

-The concept of tonicization applies regardless of mode or pitch organization. This is a huge part of common practice theory, or any music really. Leading tones, dominant tones and the rest are manifestations of this concept, not the definition of it. This theory does not "govern" anything, it explains things into a system of thinking about and organizing pitch.

Just because metal sometimes disregards major/minor tonalities does not mean it isn't still governed by the physics of sound. Furthermore, it wasn't the first music to do this. Check out Robert Cogan's Sonic Design for more information on this topic.

Re: History question about Slayer's music style
October 17, 2007, 10:52:43 AM
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Your comment about the movements in metal being more economical is simply untrue, at least in the clearest comparison of classical guitar and metal guitar.

-The resonance of open strings on a classical instrument is a desirable quality in many pieces, as music is written to take advantage of this unique aural quality of the instrument. Therefore, many times a classical guitarist will stay in first position to achieve this resonance. However, the timbre of open strings is harder to control with distortion, as the notes seem to sustain indefinitely when subjected to this electronic effect, and are used less exclusively.

-If anything, classical musicians are more attentive to economy of motion than metal musicians. In a style that rewards only absolute perfection, then perfect, controlled technique is paramount. Shifting unnecessarily disrupts this goal, and as you are aware, every note from low E to high Ab is obtainable in first position. That's a huge range, and makes shifting necessary only in certain idiomatic instances. If shifting is employed for a reason other than extending the range, then it is usually due to an artistic choice made by the performer to obtain a different tonal color.

- Most musical intervals are obtainable by keeping the hand in one place. You don't need to shift more because the music is diatonic.

- The tendency in metal seems to favor higher frets on lower strings anyways, as they have a darker, more aurally pleasing quality when combined with distortion.

-Basically how much you shift has nothing to do with whether the music is "tonal" or "atonal", shifting is about adding color or extending the range.

-Gorguts and Demilich frequently employ diatonic writing and soloing techniques. For example, "inherited bowel levitation" is entirely derivative of the phyrgian mode.

-What are you defining as a "climax tone"?

-The concept of tonicization applies regardless of mode or pitch organization. This is a huge part of common practice theory, or any music really. Leading tones, dominant tones and the rest are manifestations of this concept, not the definition of it. This theory does not "govern" anything, it explains things into a system of thinking about and organizing pitch.

Just because metal sometimes disregards major/minor tonalities does not mean it isn't still governed by the physics of sound. Furthermore, it wasn't the first music to do this. Check out Robert Cogan's Sonic Design for more information on this topic.



Extremely well said. :)

Re: History question about Slayer's music style
October 17, 2007, 10:52:57 AM
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I like what you have to say. That's was an enjoyable read. You may be right about the "tonic" note and you obviously understand the music well, but I'm going to have to maintain that if the music is not diatonic and is largely chromatic (as you rightly claim it is) then it is atonal (devoid of a tonal center) regardless of the existence of a "tonic" note. That's just how I see it.

I like your last paragraph about the theory fetishists. I think we're largely on the same plane here. Finally, someone understands where I'm coming from.



No.

Chromaticism is not atonality. It doesn't matter "how you see it": it is not the case. Furthermore, I've already explained that absolute atonality cannot exist.

Re: History question about Slayer's music style
October 18, 2007, 03:55:10 AM
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No.

Chromaticism is not atonality. It doesn't matter "how you see it": it is not the case. Furthermore, I've already explained that absolute atonality cannot exist.


Wow. Way to accept a compliment. >:( You are of the opinion that atonality cannot exist. I say you're wrong and so is Schoenberg. You choose to see (hear) "tonal relationships". I do not because they are not there.

Re: History question about Slayer's music style
October 19, 2007, 08:12:54 AM
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I'm sorry, I'm sure you're a cool guy but this is just wrong. Slayer's music is not often in a phrygian mode. Slayer has absolutely nothing to do with Grieg or classical music at all. Slayer comes from "trad" metal and punk/hardcore.


I'm sorry, friend, but you're wrong. SLAYER's music almost always has a tonal center and its usually the fifth scale degree of a minor scale (phrygian) or its the first.
And listen to the main melodies in both South oh Heaven and Raining Blood and compare those with the main theme in the Grieg piece mentioned. Very similar melodies, motion is almost exactly the same.