Hey guys, Kevin Goetz here again with another free lesson.
I've heard quite a few people complain about metal's lack of "dynamics" in the traditional sense of the word, because modern mastering tends to entail smashing a mix's volume peaks into oblivion so we can sneak out just a tiny bit more overall volume, because apparently everyone wants the loudest damn album ever made.
But metal can still be written in a way that FEELS dynamic, even if we can't rely on changing volume levels to convey this sense. Instead, it has to be done through increasing or decreasing the level of intensity in our arrangements.
In quick summary, more intensity means higher pitches, faster tempos, more notes, and denser arrangement, while less intensity means lower pitches, slower tempos, fewer notes, and sparser arrangements. In terms of individual instrumentation tricks, look at tremolo picking, blast beats, double kick runs, and heavy usage of cymbals to increase intensity.
For a much more in-depth analysis of this concept, take a look at this video I've prepared that dives much further into the idea, and provides audio examples so you can hear the rising and falling intensity for yourself.
I don't really get the point where "dynamics in the traditional sense of the word" is out of the question... I like metal, but if everything is as loud as everything else, I find even the best of songs rather uninteresting.
The reason why there aren't many volume changes in metal is first and foremost that nobody seems to use volume changes in metal.
That's mainly due to audio engineering. The drums are perhaps the most dynamic instrument by themselves, guitarists can mimic it using a volume pedal I suppose, as could the bassist, but your vocalist's volume would actually need to be ridden quite hard in the PA by your house engineer. If you go in saying "Yeah, our songs rely on dynamic volume, don't compress us too much," he's gonna HATE you. That makes his job a living hell, even if your bassist is good enough to ride a pedal to match the drum's dynamics, which is rare.
I'm an engineer myself, I know it's though, but it's not impossible. Mainly what you're saying is that sound engineers hate bands that have electric instruments and want dynamics, still outside of metal it's very much possible to do this, one example being Pink Floyd.