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Expedience
Metal freak

Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2008 4:22 am
Posts: 4132
PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2016 6:52 am 
 

I'd like to gauge the general importance of lyrics to listeners here. What exactly do they mean to you personally, if anything?

My first instinct was always to say 'none whatsoever'. I'd never really considered them as anything other than a string of words. Rather than take meaning from what is being said, I would instead assign them a meaning based on the music I was hearing. When Summoning is being played I'd imagine them singing about ornate halls deep in abandoned mountain valleys, and I wouldn't give a shit if the booklet lyrics said something completely different.

I wonder how common this is with other metal listeners. I also wonder how much I'm missing by not paying attention to what's being sung, because I also listen to folk, rock and opera and take much more from lyrics in those two genres.

Something I've also considered is whether we're drawn to metal because we form ideas differently somehow. I was talking about an acoustic rock song with a friend recently and became aware that she didn't like it because she couldn't understand the words (the vocals were very low in the mix). This was a shock to me. The way people get enjoyment from music must vary extraordinarily widely, whether verbally, rhythmically, musically, structurally or otherwise.

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Morn Of Solace
Metal newbie

Joined: Tue Apr 01, 2014 2:19 am
Posts: 318
Location: Italy
PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2016 8:14 am 
 

It really depends on the genre, i often found them to be the proverbial "icing on the cake", but an icing that can bring my enjoyment up to 11! :)

banal or incomprehensible lyrics don't really destroy a riff-driven album, but can make the difference on singer-songwriter one by turning simple catchy chords to really an experience.
I still remember how my view of New Model Army changed after i started to pay attention to the words, becoming one of my favorites instead of simply a "good band with catchy riffs" and making me discover how carefully crafted are their songs.

Great words can't save an album i don't like, but can really give me the will to keep trying to listen it from time to time!

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Dhranna
Metal newbie

Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2015 9:27 am
Posts: 128
Location: United Kingdom
PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2016 8:43 am 
 

Lyrics are of vital importance to me in a lot of music. Over the years Ive found my own way to balance that out depending on the style of music. I feel you can give equal attention to all aspects of a song if you so desire. I know people who feel that lyrics are nothing more than a distraction. Sometimes they're not important. As far as metal goes, esp BM which I mainly listen to, the lyrics are often terrible, juvenile, in broken English/ a foreign language or incomprehensible. I'm quite happy with that for BM but would find it unbearable in other music genres.
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Bishop_Drugsalot
Metal newbie

Joined: Sun Jun 10, 2012 10:42 am
Posts: 339
Location: Finland
PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2016 8:59 am 
 

They are important. As much as the general content of them, I care about how they fit with the music. That's why I can't really get behind life-affirming lyrics in black metal (or white metal whatever) and so forth. Certain lyrical themes are of course more dear to me than others but well written meaningful lyrics mean a lot no matter the content.
The lyrics actually play a bigger part for me in almost every other genre than metal, hence I have to dig a little more to find stuff I really dig.
Well, not maybe dancepop, funk and so forth but in country, folk, and others in that vein.

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wrathchild_88
Metalhead

Joined: Tue Mar 14, 2006 4:16 pm
Posts: 411
Location: United Kingdom
PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2016 10:34 am 
 

Lyrics are the least important thing about music to me. I tend to think of vocals as another instrument; how they fit in sonically with the rest of the band and their general tone matter to me more than what they're saying.
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ScandalfTheShite
Metalhead

Joined: Sun Oct 21, 2012 10:46 am
Posts: 613
Location: Finland
PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2016 11:43 am 
 

For the most part, I don't really care. But sometimes good lyrics make the songs even better, and are in that way an essential part of the whole experience. For example Reverend Bizarre and Babylon Whores had interesting topics in their songs. I don't of course understand all their meanings, but can still appreciate them. Celtic Frost's To Mega Therion has lyrics which are well in line with the majestic atmosphere. Also the Finnish lyrics of Enochian Crescent/The Crescent have really affected my own writing.

But for the most time I don't really pay attention to them. I listen music with headbones, and don't read the booklets.
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Last edited by ScandalfTheShite on Sun Feb 07, 2016 11:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Festivus
Metal newbie

Joined: Wed Jun 04, 2014 4:26 pm
Posts: 316
Location: Portugal
PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2016 11:50 am 
 

Depends on the genre. I don't really pay attention to lyrical content in death or black metal, per example. But those usually don't have mind blowing and deep lyrics, with the selling point being the vocals and the instruments.

Now if it's a thrash or a traditional heavy metal band, I do pay attention to lyrics, yes... I mean, how can you not? They're right there and easy to hear them clearly. Each song tells a story for me in some sort of way or another. I sorta view each album as a tv show's season and each song in it as an episode... although this goes for any artist. Know what I mean?

Now, are lyrics vital to me? Well, it depends. A song doesn't need to have deep lyrics in order to be good. You gotta have both accepting musicianship and acceptable lyrics.

The only time lyrics might ruin a song for me is if they're highly ideological and said ideology clashes with mine. It's fine if I don't agree with everything, but if it's the total opposite or something I find silly or even offensive, I tend to avoid it. I know it's not metal, but I have a hard time taking Rage Against the Machine seriously thanks to their lyrics, even though I have enjoyed a few of their songs in the past and am willing to overlook the content of said songs if I'm quite drunk.
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droneriot
cisgender

Joined: Sat Aug 28, 2004 1:17 pm
Posts: 6272
Location: Germany
PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2016 12:05 pm 
 

A lot of times it is more important to me how the lyrics sound than what they are about. Word aesthetics of sorts. Can be a great instrument to enhance the music.

Two examples from the song "The Unearthly" by Revenant:

"Subterranean descent into ultra conscious non existence"

"Sub atomic reasoning
Creates uncertain distances
Between reality and consciousness
Temporal existence disintegrates into micro molecular infinity"

I haven't got a fucking clue what he's trying to tell me, but listen to the song it sounds so fucking cool that I'd rate it on the same level as a face-melting solo in terms of elements in a song that grab you by the balls.
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Kveldulfr
Veteran

Joined: Thu Feb 16, 2012 12:01 pm
Posts: 3464
Location: Nowhere
PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2016 1:38 pm 
 

In some subgenres, lyrics are almost as important as the music. Doom/death is one of them.

Lyrics also gain importance when the music matches them perfectly. Empyrium's first 2 albums are an excellent example of how you can get the message by the music alone and reading the lyrics only makes the experience better.

On death and black metal also happens this. Incantation's pitch black sound really brings a utter evil feeling, especially the Pillard albums. Benton on the first 2 Deicide albums sounded like if he was truly preaching to Satan.

Samael's first 3 are hard to compare in this aspect. Vorph' vocals are totally in a different level, like if he was just a vessel channeling another dimension's sounds.
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RapeTheDead
Metalhead

Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 10:48 pm
Posts: 576
Location: Canada
PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2016 3:37 pm 
 

Depends on the subgenre, really. Most harsh vocal-predominant subgenres have less of an emphasis on lyrics, because, well, you can't understand what they're saying in general. That being said, black metal lyrics are more valuable to the music than death metal lyrics, because generally black metal has an ethos and a method to its madness that lyrics give unique insight into. Death metal is a little more straightforward in the message it attempts to express, and having lyrical explanations for the brutish emotions it goes for would just dilute the potency.

As a huge generalization, though, metal's lyrics on the whole are kind of lame when compared to other genres (certain avenues of hip-hop, for example, have a lyrical depth to them that metal can't touch). That's cause the main focus is on the riffs, and the lyrics in metal are just letting you know what the riffs are about.
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droneriot
cisgender

Joined: Sat Aug 28, 2004 1:17 pm
Posts: 6272
Location: Germany
PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2016 4:10 pm 
 

RapeTheDead wrote:
That's cause the main focus is on the riffs, and the lyrics in metal are just letting you know what the riffs are about.

The riffs should let you know what the riffs are about. If you can't hear in the music that it's supposed to be a sad song, or a song about battle, or something morbid or whatever, and need the lyrics to point you the way, there's a fundamental problem with the songwriting.
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Wrldeatr
Metal newbie

Joined: Wed Mar 14, 2012 11:13 pm
Posts: 72
Location: United States
PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2016 2:15 am 
 

Yup, none whatsoever. Don't pay any attention to them, don't read the booklets.

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stefan86
Metal newbie

Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 11:52 am
Posts: 329
Location: Sweden
PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2016 4:42 am 
 

I was thinking about making a thread about this. I found myself searching more and more for lyrics and topics that actually resonate with my personality, rather than just listening to stuff that's catchy. I think this is one of the reasons a lot of death metal just faded for me, since a lot of it has horror movie and Lovecraft themes that give me absolutely nothing.
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Empyreal
The Final Frontier

Joined: Thu Nov 30, 2006 6:58 pm
Posts: 21377
Location: Where the dead rule the night
PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2016 10:17 pm 
 

I think lyrics are extremely important. Great lyrics are rare in any kind of music, but when done poignantly, written with a literary touch, they can enhance the experience if you're reading along. Horrendous's last album and Atlantean Kodex's last are good examples. Dawnbringer's last two have some amazing lyrics, like I'm reading a pulp sci fi book or fantasy book or something. Tad Morose, Primordial and Tarot all have amazingly good lyrics.

I don't even mind if the lyrics aren't TOO well written. Average workmanlike lyricism and a lack of poetic voice aren't enough to ruin an album for me. It's about the intent for me, and a song with a meaning can be affecting even if the lyrics are too blunt or something. Sonata Arctica's Pariah's Child has some Engrish-y lyrics but they're all very clear in their meaning and delivered with passion, so I dig it.

Where lyrics ruin it for me are when they're written with some kind of shitty intent. Dave Mustaine's political conspiracy ramblings are a negative for me, an instant deal breaker. I was listening to Dream Theater's Octavarium and "Never Enough" is easily the worst on that album, solely for the extremely petty passive aggressive lyrics bitching about fans. So lame.
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TheMizwaOfMuzzyTah
Metalhead

Joined: Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:18 pm
Posts: 1665
PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2016 10:39 pm 
 

It's a whole other world...the words of a song as opposed to music. I guess a song with lyrics is equally important in all of it's parts. Words are always secondary for me though I've listened to many albums for the first time with lyrics in hand. If they are good or great then it's double the euphoria. If they are bad and the music is good it's ok, I'm no Joyce myself, but as a songwriter myself I definitely appreciate good lyrics.

They aren't all that hard to write either, I don't think. As long as the intent is there like Empyreal said. I think some bands try too hard with their lyrics, reaching - see: black metal, Opeth. I never feel like I fully understand what the hell Akerfeldt is ever singing about.

Again, Dio was a good lyricist, he's got it all in there. Steele is up there too. Hetfield's good. Dax Riggs is a morbid fuck but cheers. Steve Tucker has good stuff all over Altars. For what is was I thought Edge of Sanity's 'Crimson' is an effective piece words included. Schammasch have over-the-top but strangely powerful lyrics.

We don't have a verifiable poet laureate though, do we?

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Mysticaloldbard
Metalhead

Joined: Mon Aug 17, 2009 7:10 pm
Posts: 1483
PostPosted: Wed Feb 10, 2016 1:10 am 
 

TheMizwaOfMuzzyTah wrote:
Opeth. I never feel like I fully understand what the hell Akerfeldt is ever singing about.

Well, you aren't alone:
Mikael Akerfeldt on Deliverance's lyrics wrote:
A lot of those songs aren’t about anything. I don’t know what they’re about …

I feel like I'm echoing the general consensus when I say good lyrics can enhance a song, bad lyrics can ruin one, and middling lyrics do nothing. As far as reading the lyrics, that's something I rarely ever do, because, more often than not, lyrics are plain boring on paper. My interest in lyrics is more along the lines of what droneriot said: the aesthetics of their sound. I'm so preoccupied with the riffs and vocal melodies, the lyrics seem to go through one ear and out the other half the time. I can hum through Iron Maiden's discography but still don't know all the words. Then there are bands such as Blind Guardian whose lyrics stuck to me like barbs on clothing. In short: I guess it depends. Some bands have lyrics that pop out to me, others have songs I've been listening to for years but can't recall more than a verse from.
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Thiestru
Metalhead

Joined: Thu Oct 09, 2008 9:18 am
Posts: 1318
Location: United States
PostPosted: Wed Feb 10, 2016 1:34 am 
 

TheMizwaOfMuzzyTah wrote:
Steve Tucker has good stuff all over Altars.


Huh?
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