There is a misconception that those who enjoy heavy metal music tend to be angry and violent people, yet nothing could be further from the truth.
Death metal music can often be defined by chaotic song structures and time signatures, with vocalists using snarls, grunts, and low gurgles known as death growls as vocalizations. Lyrical themes may refer to Z-grade movie violence while covering Satanism, religion criticism, antireligion or anything else of interest to them.
1. Cannibal Corpse
Cannibal Corpse are one of death metal’s best-known bands. While death metal has seen numerous young riffers and djenters emerge over time, Cannibal Corpse remains one of death metal’s defining acts, playing to their name by employing brutal bass and guitar riffs and crushing grooves that continue to live up to their moniker – from tracks such as ‘Hacksaw Decapitation’ and ‘Sickening Metamorphosis’ showing their darker side of death metal music.
The Corpse are known for their macabre lyrics and album/t-shirt artwork depicting extreme violence and gore, leading them to attract criticism in the past; but vocalist George ‘Corpsegrinder” Fisher has since defended this as artistic expression that is clearly fictional. Their current lineup consists of guitarists Rob Barrett and Erik Rutan, bassist Alex Webster, and drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz.
Obituary’s lineup – comprised of brothers Tardy and Trevor Peres as well as shredder Trevor Peres – creates a dark and groove-heavy sound on their 2023 album Dying of Everything. Their classic Florida Death Metal sound, established on albums like 1989’s Slowly We Rot and 1990’s Cause of Death, blends underground aggression with old school rock & roll abandon. Lyrically, Obituary addresses themes such as death, violence, addiction, and insanity.
Obituary has distinguished themselves for 30 years by adhering to a straightforward yet minimal approach that has made them one of the most influential and iconic death metal acts ever.
Tumba, Sweden-based melodic death metal pioneers CARCASS draw influence from early 1980s heavy metal and 1970s hard rock music for their melodic death metal sound, featuring growled vocals, detuned guitar riffage, trem-quaked leads, distorted detuned guitars riffage and growl-vocals reminiscent of early heavy metal albums from those periods – unlike CARCASS’ pulverizing thrash metal; their style more closely aligns with early 1990s heavy metal bands such as CARCASS who borrow more heavily from early 1980s heavy metal bands from this genre; their debut is essential listening; however Frozen in Time may well be their finest moment yet!
Autopsy has long been recognized as one of the pioneering death metal bands. Their distinctive sound consists of distorted guitars with detuned tunings, aggressive drumming, growled vocals and dark, occult-themed lyrics. Early heavy metal musicians like Black Sabbath and Ozzy shocked parents with their violent lyrics while providing audiences with an experience free from society’s restrictions and constraints. Metal music gives listeners an overwhelming feeling of power over society while simultaneously giving listeners freedom from its constraints.
Death Metal experienced widespread growth throughout the 90s thanks to dedicated record labels like Earache Records and Roadrunner, featuring artists like Carcass, Napalm Death, and Morbid Angel who found commercial success through them.
In the 1990s, several bands explored new sounds and established subgenres like melodic death metal and progressive death metal. Dark Tranquillity combined aggressive Death Metal with melodic elements; others, like Archspire pushed death metal further with blasting extremity and rapid gunfire vocals.
Death metal is often misunderstood and derided as one of the more controversial subgenres of music. While often perceived as harsh and vulgar, death metal should be given more consideration by anyone interested in heavier genres.
Death metal as a genre stands on its own, yet has also impacted other genres of music. Deathcore blends elements of extreme metal with melodic elements found elsewhere; other examples of death metal’s influence include blackened death metal from bands such as Belphegor and Necrophobic; melodic death metal by Dark Tranquillity and At the Gates; among many more.
Gatecreeper have been making waves on the underground scene since 2006, yet never truly broke through to mainstream audiences. After the release of their debut album Sonoran Depravation and a split EP with crossover thrashers Iron Reagan, however, Gatecreeper finally gained the recognition they deserved for creating rancorous yet fuzz-drenched death metal that sounds like it is ripping open someone. Based out of Tucson Arizona and hailing from American Music Club Records Records (AMCR)
Entombed are renowned death metal band who rose above underground with classics like Left Hand Path, Wolverine Blues and Hollowman to become popular mainstream acts like Black Sabbath and Motorhead, even citing them as major influences in their music. Their songs feature abrupt tempo/count changes; fast yet brutal drumming; growling vocal delivery and abrupt changes between songs – hallmarks of Entombed’s music that has since inspired others within and outside genre boundaries.
In 1989, drummer Nicke Andersson and guitarist Alex Hellid entered Sunlight Studios with bassist Uffe Cederlund and vocalist Lars-Goran Petrov to record Nihilist (soon to become Entombed), their critically acclaimed debut.
Clandestine marked Entombed’s entrance into the emerging death metal movement with its blend of groove and hard rock metal with signature chainsaw riffs and pummeling walls of noise, featuring live fill-in vocalist Serge Petrov before his untimely passing from bile duct cancer six years later. Over subsequent releases Uprising (1999) and Morning Star (2001), Entombed would continue evolving and shifting before returning to their roots with 2003’s Inferno album.
Possessed and Death are often recognized as two of the early pioneers of death metal, but Necrophagia should also be acknowledged as a key figure. Their 1987 debut Season Of The Dead remains an influential release within the genre; while its primitive sound may at times lead to some poor performances, its catchy songs and B-Movie atmosphere helped set it apart from other releases of death metal music.
After their first album, Killjoy reformed with an international lineup that included musicians from America (Killjoy and Frediablo), Norway (Fug – Frediablo’s brother), Italy (Titta Tani), and Japan (Mirai Kawashima). Together they recorded Holocausto de la Morte and Black Blood Vomitorium.
Although modern death metal bands have diverged significantly from its roots and now cover various other genres, bands like OUTER HEAVEN, TOMB MOLD and RIVERS OF NIHIL still provide some of the finest headbanging music available. From brutal power chords to melodic riffs and decrepit keyboards; these bands provide it all!
MORBID ANGEL are one of the iconic death metal bands of all time. Acclaimed for their brutal, darkly creative albums that helped define this subgenre of metal music, MORBID ANGEL can rightly claim credit for shaping modern death metal as we know it today. Their latest offering “Tremendum” shows they still possess the power to produce a wall of sound that’s uncompromising and relentless.
DYING FETUS are among the most ferocious death metal bands. Based in Maryland and known for pioneering extreme metal music, this Maryland-based group are must-listens for fans of extreme metal. Their music typically short and fast-paced with lyrics that focus on extreme heaviness, violence, and aggression.
Early death metal bands began as offshoots of thrash metal groups looking to become more extreme. Over time, however, some bands gradually integrated elements from other musical genres into their music; an example would be Opeth who combined death metal and progressive rock into an extremely unique genre that featured both violent and melodic sounds.
As much as some death metal bands may be associated with sinister and violent themes that justify torture and murder, the genre has also given birth to more nuanced approaches such as discussing mortality, life cycles and cosmic cycles. Bands such as Morbid Angel, Obituary and Death all played vital roles in shaping death metal into such a complex genre.
Akerfeldt and Opeth have become well-known for a particular type of death metal music that many consider more progressive than other extreme genres, as they were among the first metal bands to incorporate elements like acoustic guitars and soft vocals into their signature death metal sound.
Opeth’s initial roots lie in death metal, yet this band has never followed any set of rules and continues to push boundaries with every release. From heavy and aggressive albums like Deliverance and Damnation, to progressive offerings such as Spectral Sorrows and Purgatory Afterglow; Opeth are masters of their craft.