If you don’t listen to much heavy music, it’s easy to write off its volume and intensity as ‘noise’ and not much more. The screams and growls can seem intimidating and perhaps irritating, as opposed to a song you can more easily sing along with.
We at Depth Magazine listen to a lot of music, and have a very wide range of music that we love, across multiple genres. So from this perspective, we wanted to share our observations on heavy music, and perhaps give a new perspective on songs that might otherwise be written off. We love to focus on artists who have heart and authenticity, all the way along the ‘spectrum’ of sound, from lighter alternative music or pop/rock through to metalcore and hardcore.
When we featured the delicately beautiful track, “Next To Nothing”, by Lilac Lungs, it may have seemed jarring or bizarre for the next article we wrote about to then feature While She Sleeps (and Oli Sykes) and “Silence Speaks”. But that is exactly how it went.
The fact is that both of those songs have heart and are speaking with emotion.
We are moved by both tracks.
Music Is An Artform
If you asked two different artists that work with paint to paint something expressing sadness, you would expect two different pictures; because there’s two different people creating. The same experience occurs with two different musicians. They make their choices about how they want to work and what they want to put towards their creations.
Music is an artform and the medium of expression is specific to the artist, and is unique as they are. When music is judged by its genre (ie. that weight of sound, or lack of), it is missing the point of what has is being created and expressed. With the paint analogy, it would be like refusing to appreciate any value of a watercolour painting because ‘I only like oil paintings’.
We all get to choose what we listen to, but automatically rejecting a song (becoming blind to that kind of creation) because it’s heavy may be a missed opportunity of hearing something great, and potentially inspiring.
Heavy Sounds For Heavy Topics
Heavy music tends to talk about heavy topics: Dark/’big’ emotions, depressing topics, mortality. To us it makes perfect sense to express those things with heavy sound and deeper and perhaps distorted vocals.
John Floreani of melodic hardcore band Trophy Eyes and Little Brother offers a good example of how when emotion gets heavier, the vocals can naturally evolve into more of a scream than a controlled/calm melodic sound. As he gets more powerfully moved by what he’s singing, his voice grows with the intensity of the emotion. It’s a beautiful thing to witness, if you let yourself feel what he’s feeling.
As another example of heavy emotions and heavy sounds, Ambleside sing about the pain of loss in “Wash Away”, the song feeling like an inner struggle with remembering, regretting and wanting to let go all at the same time.
These things aren’t pretty, so should they be pretty to listen to and digest as a song? The result of expressing powerful emotion as heavy as it is makes for a sound that sounds and feels very REAL.
“Bottle up the pain,
Let it rain and wash away,
Let it carry you to a better place
Don’t forget my name.”
Activism is another driver for the creation of heavy music. Hardcore punk band Stick To Your Guns are extremely passionate about respect and compassion for people and animals, regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender etc. They speak on stage about veganism and people from all walks of life being welcome at their shows. But they’re not singing from the angle of “we love everyone and life is beautiful”, they’re singing from the angle of “we are greatly disturbed by mistreatment and we will stand in our truth against the powers that be”. That angle obviously carries a lot of fire, passion, anger, and frustration, and results in their heavy sound.
Stick To Your Guns are a powerhouse of unconditional love, but with fire in their hearts and a determination to wake others up from blindly obeying, especially when it results in harm. Listen to the Better Ash Than Dust EP for examples of this in action, such as “Universal Language”.
“I can’t believe you will not see
The ones you’ve come to hate
Are just like you and me”
Wake Up Calls
Several other artists and songs come to mind by way of passionately and aggressively trying to wake people up, to face reality and ask questions. When I hear the authenticity behind the causes that these artists stand for, to me it make perfect sense for their music to express very strong and loud messages.
The song we mentioned earlier, While She Sleeps by “Silence Speaks”, is urging us to reconnect with each other human-to-human instead of indifference (“when did our veins run numb?”) and make a difference through connection versus segregation and separation.
“Tear the borders break the walls
Take us back to when we’re all
Together as one, taught to love
Born to live and let go”
Northlane‘s “Intuition” is another passionate wake-up call of a song. When the artist feels that the information they are sharing has damaging or painful consequences if not heard or understood, it naturally comes outward with force. Northlane want us to question everything that we’ve been taught, with the purpose of finding ourselves, and to be alive in your life versus just going through motions.
Architects‘ song “Gravity” even starts with the statement; that it is a wake-up call, which again makes perfect sense to be something expressed with force and volume behind it. People don’t get easily ‘woken up’ with whispers. The demand for people to pay attention to what’s going on around them is needing to be loud and clear. It also speaks about the empowered state of facing something difficult, which is another area where heavy music goes.
“So stand your ground
The earth will shake
So twist the knife
Cause I am finally awake”
Bring Me The Horizon speak about confronting difficulty and darkness in songs like “Doomed”. There are quieter sections in the song that seem to express a deep low and defeat, with the ‘fight’ coming in in the heavier parts. Bring Me The Horizon’s That’s The Spirit album was described as being a focus upon embracing the dark, to celebrate it as a means of growth and enlightenment. Bring Me The Horizon often speak about using things like hate as inspiration to change for the better.
“So leave the light on, I’m coming home
It’s getting darker, but I’ll carry on
The sun don’t shine, but it never did
And when it rains, it fucking pours
But I think I like it
And you know that I’m in love with the mess
I think I like it”
If someone is drowning metaphorically in pain or sadness, they’ll be flailing wildly or preparing to meet their doom. Lilac Lungs spoke about this metaphor from a stance of fear and quiet defeat (“I think I’ll sink a little more”), before gaining power in their own way. Others may go down fighting, like Bring Me The Horizon (“Save me from myself. Don’t let me drown!”).
Above all just listen to what’s being shared. Even if it’s not immediately pleasurable to your ears or your soul.
It’s a natural progression for artists to have strong passionate feelings and then express them in powerful songs that are (deliberately) hard to ignore. For some it may not feel right at all to use piano and clean vocals (for example) to share their potent message.
Going beyond the sound alone, and into what is being expressed by the artist can help to understand, relate and appreciate the choices for their music. These are intelligent songs, that carry a whole lot of heart, attempting to wake us up into living lives we can be proud of and making peace with all that we are.