article by Svennerick
An often underrated trademark of Death Metal music is the use of vocals as an instrument for their often inhumane force and sound which enhances the message behind the dark lyrics and the right way to provide them. Outsiders often consider them to be indistinguishable, although everyone who has spent some time exploring the genre will realize that many vocalists have certain characteristics or techniques.
It might be the low guttural gurgling of Matti Way or the insanely tortured and dynamic growls of Luc Lemay, there is a variety of ways to sound like a pure demonic force.
One band who are undeniably influential to the whole of Death metal Morbid Angel. Apart from reinforcing what a death metal band should be in an artistic way or developing a unique approach to riffing, their vocalist David Vincent was also one of the first vocalists to apply a constant distortion to his vocals, removing the human character that remained in many voices at that time.
Vincent’s legacy in singing the most iconic death metal tracks started early on. Everyone here probably screamed GATHERED FOR A SACRED RITE SUBCONSCIOUS MINDS ALLIED or GHOULS ATTACK THE CHURCH, CRUSH THE HOLY PRIEST once while blasting Morbid Angel’s first official offering, Altars Of Madness.
It appears that the air is coming from the diaphragm and then resonates in the chest and forces the false chords to vibrate while his throat remains opened which allowed him to produce a clear scream. Developing a more intricate and classical influenced sound on Blessed Are The Sick, Vincent’s voice also developed further. As he explains in the “Tales Of The Sick” documentary he quit smoking after Altars, which made his vocals sound a lot deeper and showcased a perfect style for Blessed. Here you have a combination between the higher register found on Altars and his “new” acquired style which makes use of very clear mid-range growls. With that sound he definitely helped to support the dynamic structures of Blessed with a variation of those two sets of vocals, especially accentuating tempo shifts with a low bellowing grunt giving the music more fuel. It’s also of note to mention that his voice got much clearer, which might have been due to a few factors: The higher prominence of his natural speaking voice, the break from smoking or the higher production budget. Keeping those factors aside, we see a huge step for David Vincent to morph into one of death metal’s most iconic voices, which didn’t hold for long, but still remains remarkable.
Delving into Covenant, which many consider the end of the classic era for Morbid Angel, we don’t see that much of a progression. The growls portrayed here still move in the mid-range territory, although Vincent now combines both the lower AND higher end of his growls into his singing, similar to Karl Willets for example. Of note the the more “shouted” and expressive quality of the vocals in comparison to Blessed, which draws its lines back to the more chaotic feeling found on Altars. It’s also to mention that David sang the most iconic Morbid Angel track, “God Of Emptiness”. This song in particular includes some of the most massive sounding vocals Vincent ever offered, while his thick, low chanting during the mid parts of the track brings his other singing abilities to shine and show what plethora of sounds one human voice is capable of producing.
Fall From Grace – Let’s see what caused a huge and rather sobering downfall in death metal, next to Atrocity turning into a gothic band.
It’s Domination, the album which deserves its own article. The biggest aesthetic complaint isn’t the flat production, the lyrics or the 7 string guitars, it’s the vocal performance. I can’t fathom what happened to his voice. There are unnecessary effects all over David’s voice, which is really thin and weak sounding on it’s own right and the effects don’t help. A true Abomination on what could’ve been at least a better sounding album.
Weak aside, no place for those who our struggle leaves behind.
Those words come to mind when thinking about the monster who came after David Vincent,Steve Tucker.
A rather young bassist/vocalist who stepped into Dave’s footprints and didn’t disappoint at all.
The first album featuring him was Formulas Fatal To The Flesh, which showed Morbid Angel going back to its original vision while expanding their sound and creating their most spiritual work to date.
Tucker forces out air from his diaphragm which directly vibrates his false chords, while projecting his voice which gives us a really resonant and forceful bestial deep growl, which goes hand in hand with some of the lyrics. BIL UR SAG, YOU QUAKE THE EARTH!
There are also higher screams merged between the growls, which are used to emphasize certain phrases and bring some dynamics in his style, which are trademarks of his performance on Heretic.
As his voice didn’t go through as many changes as David Vincent’s ones, there is not a lot to say about Gateways To Annihilation, but his way of giving the slower and massive songs an even heavier sound with his low growls is remarkable and shows us a vocalist who is capable of adapting to the band’s music and pushing it even further.
But the purpose of a vocalist often goes beyond conjuring the thoughts and words which accompany the music – it’s also about expressing them in a live setting with gestures and emotions.
Vincent’s vocals always remained a bit more gritty and thicker in live settings, while often he is headbanging and doing some growls on the tempo shifts, unlike on the recordings (Referring to Live Madness 1989). It may not be special but it goes in hand with the more punk attitude of early death metal and the bestial force which Morbid Angel’s music was during the first three albums.
Now it’s latex and pentagram time – the performance of David at Wacken 2006 is almost as cruel as the world’s biggest cesspool for people who never got beyond blasting Children Of Bodom.
Here we see David’s way too eccentric performance combined with weird and rather unfitting gestures for a band once praying to the ancient ones. Also proving that point is a live video from “World Of Shit”, that was recorded in 2014. The vocals lack force and once again Vincent proves to have been defeated by his wife’s band. What we see is a shell of what once one of death metal’s most iconic voices, who degraded into fry chord shouts which sound extremely weak. Combine that with glitter on his vest and hilarious facial expressions which make you ask who you are listening too. David should rather continue to play his parts like everyone else instead of reducing the music’s impact with his way of acting and his rather questionable dresscode.
Similar to his performances on the records, Tucker never changed his live appearances – always a sleeveless shirt and solid steady growls.
Considering his voice didn’t see as many changes throughout the years is extremely impressive, considering most growled vocals turn to a rather disappointing affair after turning 40 and being in the business for some years but not for Steve Tucker. Like Vincent he uses some growls to enhance the powerful effect of the music. Sometimes he even goes into higher screamed vocals to accentuate his growls like on the albums. Growls of that quality in a live setting, no matter what age, shows that Tucker has the lead when it comes to technique and also performance since he doesn’t make you feel at the wrong place watching him perform, even though many don’t consider his work with Morbid Angel as the “true” Morbid Angel.
Both Vincent and Tucker knew or still know how to perform, especially on the same songs. Every song flows and moves with either of them (taking into consideration Vincent at his peak), although Vincent undeniably was present on the band’s most iconic records. “Chapel Of Ghouls” or “Rapture” aren’t horrendous with the low growls of Tucker, he does the tracks justice but it isn’t the same without Vincent’s higher pitched charismatic vocals.
In conclusion it’s up for everyone to decide who is the better vocalist and as someone who enjoys every era of Morbid Angel before Illud happened, I have mixed feelings. But seeing what Vincent has turned into and considering the influence Formulas has on me, I will go with Tucker, he does the Band more justice than Vincent now, even with the iconic tracks and he doesn’t have to form a tribute band to a band he used to play in or ridicule himself on Ihsahn’s couch.