What gives a death metal band a doomy, gloomy vibe?

Akkush

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I like death metal band with that feel, like Mortiferum, or Morbid Angel's Gateways album.
Just wondering, what gives this vibe other then:

- Fuzzy, dark, downtuned guitars
- Moderate or slow tempo
- Dissonance, minor tonality (but that is quit common in metal)

Or that's all?
 

LostTheTone

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A big deal is the theme and presentation of the theme. Just having an album called Gateways To Annihilation primes how you feel about the music. Not that Gateways is hugely different to how the earlier albums were presented, but when you are trying to create that kind of feeling yourself need to choose good song names and have the right kind of lyrics in mind. Even when it's just for your own consumption, it matters.

Writing a song called (for sake of argument) This Eternal Emptiness is going to result in something different to writing one called Forcible Castration. Even if you start with the same riff, those themes are leading you in different directions. Just picking up from the theme will lead you towards creating more space in the music, less speed, longer songs, less technical, more ambient and thematic repetition. That's just the stuff you would use to express that theme.

Of course these are all things that doomy music uses, and you can run it from the other end, but being led by the theme helps you to make things mesh together and feel more genuine.

And of course some of the doom comes from the production too - Judicious use of reverb to create the subtle sense of music inhabiting some big, gloomy, empty space, and EQIng to tame the brightness.
 

CanserDYI

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"forcible castration" remind me to stay away from that album lololol
 

Werecow

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The way how a song is structured, Gateways has a good flow between the slower parts leading into the faster ones.
Another great example of that is Bolt Thrower - The IVth Crusade. Moderately fast sounding riffs flowing into epic slow passages. Even without the lyrics, the music by itself feels like looking out over a battlefield just after the battle has finished. The last song on the album sounds like a funeral dirge that gradually builds in intensity.
 

LostTheTone

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"forcible castration" remind me to stay away from that album lololol

I would have to check, but I'm about 60% sure that is actually a Venom Prison song, or at least is so close that it makes no odds - A frustrating and mediocre band who can't quite decide if they are supposed to be thrashy, doomy or groovy and so end up with a mess of bits that never quite gel. Which is a shame because their singer is being utterly wasted; she would be a sensational black metal singer but is stuck with this pile of meh.
 

Schweick

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Aesthetic synergy, I should think.

The music itself. The production. The band's look. The lyrics. When everything about that band is just resonating at its pitch perfect "frequency."

Instances that immediately come to mind...

Master of Reality era Sabbath
Unknown Pleasures era Joy Division
Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing era Discharge
Earth AD era Misfits
Apocalyptic Raids/Morbid Tales era Hellhammer/Celtic Frost
 

Winspear

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Good thread topic. I can't expand on other answers but just wanted to say how significant stuff like this is to my enjoyment of something.
Meshuggah is a good example - they sound like listening to a black hole, whereas bands that copy them just sound like bands inspired by Meshuggah. I can think of barely any examples that manage to present such atmosphere, despite the fact that Meshuggah are extremely easy to copy and I couldn't point out how similar bands are musically or sonically different.
 

LostTheTone

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Good thread topic. I can't expand on other answers but just wanted to say how significant stuff like this is to my enjoyment of something.
Meshuggah is a good example - they sound like listening to a black hole, whereas bands that copy them just sound like bands inspired by Meshuggah. I can think of barely any examples that manage to present such atmosphere, despite the fact that Meshuggah are extremely easy to copy and I couldn't point out how similar bands are musically or sonically different.

I think you're right and while its hard to really put your finger on what exactly makes the difference, I think most of us can tell fairly quickly whether we are listening to the real deal or not.

And that's something that does come from the creative process involved, which illustrates why it matters to be thinking in the right way.

To put it somewhat pretentiously; when Meshuggah (or insert another distinctive sounding band - Slipknot, Cynic, whoever) are writing a song in their style, they don't set out to sound like Meshuggah. They are just making music to communicate something. Most other polyrhythnmic metal is being written by people because they like Meshuggah and want to sound like that. They are using a technique because we associate that with Meshuggah, not because that's creatively interesting or appropriate for the song.

Now, I don't go as far as Quaarthon and insist that you need to fill the vocals booth with pigs blood in order to make black metal. But you do need to have an idea for what a song is trying to say, and that idea is what tells you how the song is supposed to sound.

It sounds a bit weird to say that there is even such a thing as cookie cutter death-doom. There probably isn't enough it around for anyone to sound generic. But you still kinda know what I mean when I say that; death doom that makes sense on paper but which doesnt quite have a spark to it.

You can definitely do things around the other way - My band largely does work like that, where the bassist and guitarist are writing the music and then I'm writing vocals. I have to tailor what I write to what I can hear in the song, which is somewhat limiting. But even then I'll get a working title or a couple of lines to tell me what they had in mind. And its a kinda modern alt metal band; we dont do a lot of atmospheric stuff, its mostly just aggression. If you're in a more evocative genre though, you gotta have a clear idea o what you're trying to say, and that goes double as a one man project.
 

Akkush

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Good thread topic. I can't expand on other answers but just wanted to say how significant stuff like this is to my enjoyment of something.
Meshuggah is a good example - they sound like listening to a black hole, whereas bands that copy them just sound like bands inspired by Meshuggah. I can think of barely any examples that manage to present such atmosphere, despite the fact that Meshuggah are extremely easy to copy and I couldn't point out how similar bands are musically or sonically different.

Like Gateways for me. It would be more accurate to say that I'm a Gateways to Annihilation fan then a Morbid Angel fan. I like their Tucker era albums, but even Formulas and Heretic are completily different in therms of riff style and mixing.

Soo I have got a hard time figure it out how to write something like that...
 

LostTheTone

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Like Gateways for me. It would be more accurate to say that I'm a Gateways to Annihilation fan then a Morbid Angel fan. I like their Tucker era albums, but even Formulas and Heretic are completily different in therms of riff style and mixing.

Soo I have got a hard time figure it out how to write something like that...

It's always difficult, but I think you'll find it comes easier the more you do it.

The best place to start is to just go listen back and ask yourself what is provoking the reaction out of you - What does it make you feel and why. And yeah, thats a difficult question, for sure, but it can give you that starting point.

In the end, all music is written a note at a time, you know? And you build up into a whole piece, so you just need that one thing to push you off into starting composing.
 

Mortargag

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Note choice, production and the amount of reverb (only half-joking). Not necessarily in that order.
Most death metal I write tends to become that swirly evil/sad combo type stuff. I attribute it to my fave patterns (most are quite dissonant), harmony choices which are again dissonant but with peaks of melody that are artificially happy sounding.
I purposefully allow a lot of string noise which makes it uglier and more interesting (at least to me).

That's my method.
 


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