DEATHCORE VS SLAM METAL: HOW 2 TELL THEM APART
It has come to my attention that some people are still confused about the difference between SLAM METAL and DEATHCORE. While they may seem similar to the novice observer, the truth is that they couldn’t be more different — in fact, they really have nothing at all to do with each other (srs). Think of it like Islam and Christianity: they some common roots, but at the end of the day they really have nothing to do with each other and will never see eye-to-eye.
In a nutshell, deathcore is what happens when some pretty boys want to be rockstars, and think that it’s super cool and scene to be in a “sick metal band.” The end result is basically generic death metal with some equally generic breakdowns, but since the guys in the band are cute and have a lot of tattoos, kids eat it up and they sell lots of t-shirts at their Warped Tour booth when they’re not busy banging their jailbait groupies.
On the other hand, slam metal is grimy, blue-collar death metal that is pretty much the most extreme, inaccessible and brutal metal subgenre on the planet. Slam is pure brutality: none of the pagentry or larger-than-life personas of black metal, gimmicky costumes of neo-thrash or artsy nonsense of drone, stoner rock and all that, just CRUSHING FUCKING SLAMS. Even diehard metal fans (like the readers of this site) hate slam, so if you are in a slam band it’s because slam is in your blood, because you are never going to make a dime or get famous from it.
While deathcore and slam are almost completely heterogeneous, let’s acknowledge that there is a small amount of common ground (at least at a superficial level. In both camps, you’ll find lots of mesh shorts, sweatpants, weed references, and merch that prominently features controversial slogans in Impact font — but that’s about where it ends. To me, the differences could not be more obvious, but apparently some people still have trouble making the distinction between the two. Because I enjoy giving back to my community, in this post, I will go over a few easy ways that you can tell the two apart!
PART 1: THE MUSIC
First things first: you must understand the difference between BREAKDOWNS and SLAMS. Breakdowns are single-note, palm-muted, chugga-chugga riffs, essentially the same thing you’ve been hearing since “Raining Blood” and Pantera’s “Domination” only tuned down a little lower.
It is the part where the singer says some kind of anthemic slogan and all the little kids mosh their balls off. In case this concept is not clear to you, here are 30 examples, all of which pretty much sound the same — should get the point across.
SLAMS are also palm-muted riffs, but usually on the chromatic scale (as heard on Pantera “A New Level”) rather than single-note chugs. They are really more about creating a chunky texture than any kind of real melody or discernable “song” in the conventional sense. Basically, imagine tuning down to A or B and just kind of randomly playing power chords up and down the first 5 frets or so on the bottom strings- that’s more or less what slam is all about.
In terms of arrangement and overall songwriting, slam is more about stringing together one slam riff after the next, creating a relentless, crushing steamroller kind of feel. There’s really not much resembling a “rock song,” as opposed to deathcore, which uses more or less traditional rock song structures. Deathcore songs have verses, choruses, bridges, and use breakdowns as just that: an overt “here is the mosh part” kind of thing. As you can see from this song, it wouldn’t really be accurate to call the slam riffs breakdowns, because they aren’t breaking anything down– the essential characteristic of slam metal is that the whole song is nothing but slams.
Slam often uses extensive syncopation (which is essentially accenting the up-beat, rather than the down-beat), such as many of the riffs in this song. Syncopation is what makes things like breakbeats sound “funky,” so that’s probably explains why people often say that slam “sounds like rap-metal,” even when it doesn’t at all. (That said, I’m far from an authority on music theory, so please feel free to correct me on this one if I have this one wrong)
Another note on arrangement/composition: slam never, ever uses the skank beat (sounds too much like old school dinosaur metal). Slam is primarily mid-tempo slam riffs, with blasts/gravity blasts used as accents.
Like I said earlier, deathcore is basically just little Hot Topic kids playing what amounts to generic death metal. This song could easily of the 9 zillion bands who regurgitated Cannibal Corpse and At The Gates riffs ad nauseum over the past 10 years or so- it has all the familiar elements like tremolo riffing, shrieks, and skank beats as well as super clean, sterile production. All in all it’s just dull, predictable “death metal by the numbers” until you get to the breakdown at 3:00. And that, my friends, is deathcore in a nutshell!
The new thing in deathcore is copying Meshuggah, ala this new Whitechapel song. I think this is a nice development, because it makes it much easier to draw a line between deathcore and slam– cue butthurt djent nerds getting up in arms about how Whitechapel is different from Periphery or whatever. No care, just note that if a band has gauged ears, skinny jeans and sounds like kids at Guitar Center who just heard about “polyrhythms” and bought 8-string guitars, it’s safe to say that they are nu-deathcore. Expect to hear a lot more of this thing in the next few years.
PART 2: THE VOCALS
The other important difference is vocals. Deathcore kids, being more concerned with looking cool and having sweet merch than their actual music, generally take the easy way out when it comes to vocals. Instead of true guttural vocals, they use weak, inhaled bree-bree vocals– this Annotations Of An Autopsy song is perhaps the perfect example. Deathcore bands also use high-pitched screaming a lot- I assume they thought it looked cool when Killswitch Engage did it so they copied it.
When it comes to vocals, slam is all about the lowest, sickest fucking gutturals possible. No melody, no variation or dynamics, DEFINITELY no intelligible lyrics that little girls would be able to sing along to. There is never any high-pitched screaming, clean vocals, hardcore-style shouting, or anything but sick, sewer-sludge gutturals. Period.
Please note that slam bands do not use pitch shifters to make their vocals lower, that is a goregrind thing.
PART 3: CULTURE, FASHION, ETC
Another good way to tell the difference between slam and deathcore is by looking at their merch. This Devourment shirt is like one small step up from the retarded scrawlings of a 14 year-old stoner doodling on the back of his remedial English textbook during detention- nothing remotely cool or fashionable about it, just a 1-color print of some shitty drawing. Also, it’s probably printed on some cheap XXL shirt that’s supposed to fit 40 year-old forklift operators, not a soft, slim-fit American Apparel tee.
On the other hand, deathcore bands such as Carnifex have dozens of different merch items, almost always featuring brightly-colored cartoon illustrations and the band’s logo in some fake “death metal” font. It’s easy to imagine a 15 year-old girl with choppy hair and skinny jeans wearing this shirt. The Devourment shirt above? Not so much.
This is a tough one: The giant, misogynist slogan in Impact says deathcore, but his chin beard and 1970s birthdate says slam (or possibly even nu-metal/hard rock). Would need to do more research to definitively make the call.
Despised Icon is another interesting case. If you just listened to the song by itself, you’d think “very competent, if somewhat sterile and generic death metal.” But then when you watch the video, you are assaulted with a barrage of New Era hats, polo shirts, “urban-inspired” arm movements, and stretched ears — oh and a fucking DEEZ NUTS shirt! Once you see the whole picture, including their appearance, it’s clear they are a deathcore band.
Typical example of what you’ll find in a deathcore band’s “fan photos” album: guy from the band chilling with some smashable jailbait who thinks he is a god. Please note that both the fan and the guy from Suiside Silence are wearing pink — a dead giveaway that we are NOT dealing with slam.
Just in case you thought I was joking about the whole “deathcore fans = jailbait in pink tank tops” bit, well… do you believe me yet?
And here is the depressing contents of NJDOTS‘ “chilling with the fans” album. This is what kind of groupies you can expect from playing in a slam band. So many “relaxed fit” cargo pants in one place. Looks like they are standing on the side of some desolate road in Elizabeth, NJ- not quite as glamorous as having a sold-out House Of Blues in the background.
PART 4: THE LIVE SHOW
If you ever go to a deathcore show, expect something along these lines: the band playing in broad daylight to a huge crowd whose average age is probably around 8th grade. Little girls are screaming the singer’s name, singing every word, and the second the band is done playing the kids mob their merch booth and buy everything in site. They might as well be a mini-Bon Jovi.
Cephalotripsy playing a sick basement show, bringing the pitt riffment and straight DGAF-ing San Ysidro style. A deathcore band would never play a show like this, since people in deathcore bands want to be rockstars and there is nothing rockstar about this shit. People in slam bands just want to slam that sickness so they are pretty much down for whatever. No booking agent, no useless “manager,” no 8-band package tour or even a stage, just guttural slamming brutality. They probably didn’t even get paid for gas money.
CONCLUSION: DEATHCORE VS SLAM, SIDE BY SIDE
Hot, skinny guys with hand tattoos and v-neck shirts? Tremolo picking, screaming and skank beats? Huge breakdown preceded by an anthemic lyric that’s perfect to put on the back of a shirt in Impact font?? Smells like deathcore, brah!
Devourment ft Wayne Knupp (RIP) on vocals– THIS IS FUCKING SLAM! Old, ugly, pissed off dudes in baggy cargo pants SLAMMING THAT FUCKIN SICKNESS while the crowd of drunk Jiffy Lube employees push-moshes. Five minutes or pure pitt riffment with no keyboards, screaming, breakdowns, or melody. JUST CRUSHING SLAMS. Oh, and not a single girl in the crowd.
Can u tell the difference between these two exciting genres????? Which do is better, slam or deathcore??? Who would u rather share a prison cell with, Wayne Knupp or Mitch Lucker? Which genre has the best assortment of mesh shorts? Why did I spend so much time and energy on this topic????
Sergeant D.’s Stuff You Will Hate = CRUSHING FUCKING SLAMS.