Behemoth and Cannibal Corpse have become notoriously controversial death metal bands due to their lyrics glorifying acts of torture and murder, often through music videos or lyrics. Such themes have caused much debate – some members even having been charged with criminal activities for these actions.
Over time, the genre branched off into subgenres such as crossover thrash and blackened death metal – the latter of which blends elements from black metal with blast beats and tremolo picking for added intensity.
Behemoth are often the first band that come to mind when people hear “death metal.” Hailing from Poland, this powerful trio has left an indelible mark on music scenes worldwide and their aggressive sound often features Satanic imagery and devil worship themes. Additionally, Adam “Nergal” Darski often gives fiery speeches regarding issues within metal scenes worldwide.
Behemoth began life as a black metal outfit in 1991, yet by 2004’s Demigod album they had begun incorporating death metal influences. Subsequent albums like Evangelion and The Satanist further refined that sound.
Though their more contemporary work should be on any death metal fan’s playlist, their early riffs and production still deliver an intense punch. Their debut album Thelema 6 offers one such example; its opening track boasts an ominous atmosphere characterized by drum hits paired with guitar chords playing an infectious chuggy rhythm.
Behemoth songs are known for being filled with death metal innuendo and symbolism, so it makes sense that their lyrics might seem obscure at times.
Inner Sanctum stands out among Thelema 6’s finest tracks with guest vocalist Warrel Dane of Nevermore lending it an epic feel while at the same time honoring Behemoth’s later work and featuring some of their finest solos ever crafted by this band. While some might overlook this track due to guest vocals, doing so would be an awful mistake!
2. Cannibal Corpse
Cannibal Corpse are widely considered pioneers of death metal. They established the genre known as brutal death/slam by combining fast, intricate guitar riffs with pounding drums and guttural vocals; with lyrics that explore violent themes like murder, torture, decapitation and more. Though controversial at times throughout their career they’ve continued producing albums of uncompromising brutality that continue to make an impression today.
Even though their later work has never lived up to the heights of their earlier releases, they still deliver powerful aural assaults that are both technically competent and emotionally raw. Red Before Black is an example; although not vastly different than 13 slabs of brutal splatter came before it, Red manages to hit some fundamentals that other bands struggle with on third or fourth releases.
Cannibal Corpse reached their creative peak during the late 90s-mid 00s when they transitioned into blackened music with albums such as Gallery of Suicide and Bloodthirst. Now with their latest release combining sharp rhythms with dark ambient tones to form an impressive wall of sound.
No doubt about it: the band is adept at harnessing morbid imagery to connect with fans. From Vincent Locke’s shocking album covers and lyrics on their recordings to pushing artistic boundaries in ways other bands might shy away from doing; their use of shocking imagery has drawn much controversy over time, even to the point of censorship in certain countries.
Sepultura revolutionized thrash metal with their groundbreaking sound and innovative song structures that helped transform it beyond mere subgenre. Their animalistic, animalistic thrash metal remains revered today by modern bands such as New Zealand’s Alien Weaponry.
Though they initially played blackened death metal, Overkill soon transitioned towards a faster and groove-heavy style which set them apart from their peers. Their 1989 release Beneath the Remains is an example of their ability to combine both riffing and song structure to elevate metal music into art; featuring complex phrasings for diverse exploration of textures.
Songs’ melodic ascents are coupled with fast, thrashed power chords that create context and coherence for their expansive panorama of riffs. This technique enabled the band to craft an unforgettable musical landscape which has inspired numerous other metal bands since.
Roots was met with tremendous success upon release in 1996; however, following that success Max Cavalera decided to leave and pursue solo musical interests through Soulfly; Paulo Pinto and Igor Cavalera formed Nailbomb and ultimately left their respective bands altogether despite fan disappointment; instead opting to carry on under new frontman Derrick Green from Cleveland as frontman of their group.
In 1998, they released the album Against, which displayed a more mature and groove-driven sound. For its recording session, the band collaborated with Kodo percussion ensemble in order to achieve an organic yet hardcore punk-influenced sound; additionally, Cookie Monster vocals, an original style that blends low growls with high-pitched rasps was introduced for this record.
Obituary are one of the pioneers and mainstays of Death Metal today, having created their signature cookie monster vocal style during their early 2000s hiatus. Though they took an extended hiatus during this period, touring has continued and albums released through Dying of Everything are timeless classics from them – such as Cause of Death, The End Complete and Slowly We Rot are timeless gems as are their iconic albums Cause of Death, The End Complete and Slowly We Rot. Also noted for popularizing it among other bands by mixing low growls combined with raspy high raspy screams with powerful midtempo grooves; many bands have emulated Obituary over time as they pioneered heavy midtempo grooves in Death Metal since their formation over 20 years ago!
Obituary’s songs are heavily influenced by horror movie soundtracks and macabre themes, making them one of the first death metal bands to use extreme guitar distortion. Influenced by Black Sabbath as well, Obituary boasts a powerful, heavy sound.
Pioneering band and an integral force since 1984. They initially started as Executioner before changing to Xecutioner before adopting their current name in 1988. Executioner are widely associated with Florida Death Metal scene which they helped make popular throughout America.
Even after decades in the genre, they do not fit neatly into modern metal’s madness. Instead, their sound has not evolved much to keep up with trends; their hardcore edge remains distinctive. Still considered a top death metal band, their music continues to influence many new bands who have found their style since.
Mortification are another death metal band who first started out in 1991 with their self-titled debut album. Their music blends Swedish death metal (think Entombed) with aggressive Slayer-style thrash metal and other genre influences, creating a sound which has stood the test of time.
Mortification boasts one of the finest drumming in death metal today; their 1992 album Scrolls of the Megilloth features Terminate Damnation featuring more drum beats than Cannibal Corpse have combined! Furthermore, every member of Mortification plays equally well alongside their drummer to produce some truly incredible music.
Mortification took an extended hiatus from recording following the release of Scrolls of the Megilloth due to lead singer Steve Rowe being diagnosed with spinal cancer and recovering, yet still having limited mobility in his legs. Meanwhile, during that period they recorded and released Blood World through Nuclear Blast; their first full distribution in America; featuring heavy riffs with Manowar-influenced soundscapes but unmistakably Mortification’s signature sound.
In 1994 Mortification released Post Momentary Affliction with Phil Gibson playing a one-album stint before moving on to Paramaecium and Vengeance Rising. This record marked Mortification’s move towards more of a thrash and groove style, and also marked their own record label under Rowe Productions. By 2000 they released The Silver Cord is Severed which marked their final studio album for some time.