Melissa Cross‘ reputation definitely precedes her. When it comes to instructional videos on metal vocals, hers was the first–and only–one that came to mind. But after watching The Zen of Screaming, I found myself agreeing with a few of the not-so-positive reviews on Amazon. Pretty much half of the DVD is product testimonials, with guys from various (mostly) metalcore bands singing her praises and telling us how her techniques really helped them. And while it’s great to know that Andrew WK, Lamb of God and Shadows Fall swear by her methods…they really do more than enough to drive that point home.
As for the exercises themselves, I’d probably agree that this is pretty standard stuff you could learn at any voice lesson. Mind you, I’m not about to go to a voice teacher, tell them I need to learn to scream for my solo sludge-metal project, and wait for them to figure out what planet I’m from–so in that regard, I’m glad I bought the DVD. This is certainly the sorta stuff I’d rather practice in the comfort of my own apartment, anyways.
That said, I don’t think my neighbours hate me yet. (Or if they do, it’s not because of the singing exercises.) What I’ve been practicing is some pretty simple, silly-sounding stuff–I’m not exactly screaming for vengeance. In fact, The Zen of Screaming doesn’t really tell you how to your inner Halford out–after teaching us all the techniques, there’s about a five-minute segment on “heat” and “fire” towards the end. And even that portion pretty much amounts to “bark like a dog” or “screech like a kitty cat”–the former while doing jumping jacks. (No, really!)
Now, I see that there’s been a sequel, which goes much more in depth about screaming techniques with the likes of Underoath, Unearth and Arch Enemy, but I don’t think I’ll be buying it. One thing Melissa Cross did teach me is that singing shouldn’t be about copying someone else–it’s about finding your own voice. I guess that’s what I’m still trying to do.