"Death Metal was never meant to be pretty, baby!"
— Michael Amott In the liner notes of the 2000 reissue of "Dark Recollections" by Carnage
, also known as "that genre concerned parents
hate", is a particularly notable subgenre of metal
that is usually characterised by growled, roared
, or shrieked vocals
, heavily downtuned guitars, and generally quite proficient musicianship utilising a variety of unusual techniques and instrumentation such as tremolo picking, palm muting, double kick blast beats, and complex, evolving song structures with frequently morphing time signatures played at quite tremendous speeds. Lyrics usually (though not always) focus on gore and death, and some pretty gory album covers
are not at all uncommon.
It is The New Rock & Roll
; easily one of the most misunderstood musical genres since its own inception, its critics almost always characterise it as an unlistenable noise attack, ignorant of the genuine, if not universally endearing, musicianship involved. Special hate is often reserved for the distinct and distinctively named vocal style, commonly characterised as ugly, unmusical, or mere screaming with an equal degree of ignorance as to the immense skill and physical fitness required to sing death vocals well without quickly ruining one's voice.
The style evolved from Thrash Metal
in the eighties, with some bands influential on the genre (thrash or otherwise) including Slayer
, Celtic Frost
. The first band to get acknowledged for playing death metal was the thrash band Possessed, with their landmark album Seven Churches
. While Possessed may have been the Trope Namer
(they even had a song named "Death Metal"), the Trope Makers
, and according to some sources the Ur Examples
, were Death
, who released their first album, Scream Bloody Gore
, in 1987. They replaced the overt thrash influences of Possessed with an at-the-time unparalleled fusion of brutality and technicality, solidifying the genre.
Initially just an underground niche for the most extreme of metalheads, death metal only managed to gain recognition outside the underground thanks to some of the more popular and controversial bands, such as Deicide, Cannibal Corpse
and Morbid Angel
, who in the early 1990s were suddenly being noticed by livid moral guardians the world over. There was the brutality of the music itself, featuring extensive use of dissonance, atonality, syncopation, deep forays into the deranged realms of frequently shifting Uncommon Time
, and the general tendency to angrily take a hatchet to most of the other things that make pop music accessible and catchy (like simple melodies and rhythms); this, combined readily with the decidedly offensive (some might say antisocially so
) thematics of the genre helped culture warriors and moral crusaders to froth up an image of terrible music that promoted violence
, sexual violence
, and probably somehow drugs as well
. This culminated in Cannibal Corpse
being banned from performance in several countries.
Since then, the genre has mostly remained underground, with a devoted but relatively modest following, stellar critical acclaim and a thoroughly international scene (for example, did you know Botswana has a thriving death metal scene?); however a few bands have had a large amount of recognition, as have a couple of subgenres. The genre's influence has also been felt in many other genres, including Gothic Metal
, Groove Metal
, Nu Metal
, and Metalcore
. These, and several other forms of more traditional or popular metal have developed a harder, more abrasive sound, with harsher vocals and heavier distortion in response to the pioneering sounds of Death Metal, while retaining more accessible or conventional song structures and motifs.
For the hip-hop equivalent see Horrorcore
Multiple scenes with specific sounds have popped up over the years; for those wondering, the main ones are:
- Florida: Thrashy, riff-oriented material, frequently with a pronounced technical edge and virtuosic playing. Easily the most successful scene to the point where bands with that sound were relocating there back in the day (Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Malevolent Creation); notable native bands include Death, Obituary, Deicide, Atheist, Monstrosity, Six Feet Under, Brutality, and Nocturnus.
- New York: A mix between aggressive, grind and hardcore-influenced material that laid the template for brutal death and doomy, dirgelike acts. Also includes bands from surrounding states, primarily NJ and PA; notable bands include Suffocation, Immolation, Incantation, Malignancy, Morpheus Descends, Dehumanized, Pyrexia, and Internal Bleeding.
- California: A mixture of brutal, riff-oriented material that eschews leads in favor of a massive sea of winding, interconnected riffs building off one another, and melodic proggy tech that carries heavy late-era Death influences, with many of the former bands gradually turning into the latter. Notable bands include Deeds of Flesh, Disgorge, Decrepit Birth, Arkaik, Severed Savior, and Odious Mortem.
- Sweden: Raw, punkish material with a darkly melodic undertone and frequent doom influences, as well as a trademark "chainsaw" guitar tone. Some acts also helped give birth to death 'n roll by way of infusing their music with hard rock elements. Notable bands include Entombed, Dismember, Grave, Unleashed, God Macabre, and Carnage.
- Finland: Dark and doomy material with a focus on creepy atmospheric sections and occasional bits of eerie melody. Notable bands include Amorphis (early material), Demilich, Demigod, Convulse, Sentenced (early material), and Adramelech.
- Poland: Focuses more on the technical, thrashy side or the more atmospheric blackened edge of death metal. Notable bands include Vader, Behemoth (starting with Pandemonic Incantations), Decapitated, Hate, Trauma, Lost Soul, and Yattering.
- Quebec: Highly technical and aggressive material with a general focus on speed; later bands also started adding in progressive elements. Notable bands include Gorguts, Cryptopsy, Kataklysm (early material), Neuraxis, Martyr, and Quo Vadis.
- Russia: Very big on slow, but rock-bottom heavy slam, though some of them have begun to move in a more technical direction with prominent Dying Fetus influences. Notable bands include Katalepsy, Abominable Putridity, Abnormity, 7 H. Target, and Big End Bolt.
- Australasia: Weird, experimental fare with heavy jazz, post-rock, and black metal influences that borrows heavily from Gorguts and Atheist and runs the gamut from winding, playful, jazzy riff-fests to extremely dark, moody, and often nightmarish soundscapes. Notable bands include Psycroptic, Stargazer, Ulcerate, Mephistopheles, The Amenta, Beyond Terror Beyond Grace (Nadir, mostly), and Portal.
- Italy: The most recent scene, involves extremely fast, blast-heavy brutal death with occasional blackened death influences. Notable bands include Hour of Penance, Fleshgod Apocalypse (pre-Agony), Septycal Gorge, Putridity, Hideous Divinity, and Antropofagus.
There are many different subgenres of death metal. Three of them (Melodic Death Metal
, Technical Death Metal note
) have their own entries. Here is a quick list of bands by basic subgenre:
Old-School Death Metal
Pure, classic death metal.
- Abysmal Dawn (new band playing material in the vein of the original Florida acts, particularly Morbid Angel)
- Bloodbath (new band, old sound)
- Bolt Thrower (eventually)
- Broken Hope
- Cannabis Corpse (new band, old style)
- Cannibal Corpse
- The Chasm
- Death (later stuff is technical/progressive)
- Deceased (unique in that they basically play death metal with traditional metal structures)
- God Macabre
- Gorguts (early; shifted to technical/progressive/avant-garde for Obscura onwards)
- Hail of Bullets (same as Bloodbath - new band, old sound)
- Hypocrisy (early)
- Intestine Baalism
- Jungle Rot
- Malevolent Creation
- Monstrosity (along with Technical Death Metal)
- Morbid Angel
- Necrophagia (another possible Ur Example)
- Nocturnus (Well known as one of the first bands from this genre to incorporate Science Fiction elements into their music, both in instrumental and lyrical terms. Also labeled as Tech Death)
- Pestilence (before they shifted towards Tech Death; first album was death/thrash)
- Sentenced (first few albums)
- Scaphism (new band, old sound)
- Skeletal Remains (new band, old sound)
- Shub Niggurath
- Six Feet Under
- Solstice (not to be confused with the UK doom outfit of the same name.)
- Soul Embraced (Christian Death Metal, their last two albums featured heavy elements of Alternative Metal and Melo Death respectively )
- Ten Masked Men
- Tiamat (early)
Death metal with a strong thrash influence. Many early death metal bands were rooted in thrash.
Melodic Death Metal
- Assorted Heap
- Atheist (also Technical Death Metal, possibly the Ur Example of the latter.)
- Chaos Synopsis
- Excruciator (new band playing an old sound)
- Flayed Disciple
- Incubus (not the Alternative Rock group, obviously; later changed name to Opprobrium. Also Christian Metal.)
- Infernäl Mäjesty
- Invocator (first album)
- Morbid Saint
- Num Skull
- Ouroboros (Along with Technical Death Metal)
- Possessed (possible Trope Namer of the entire death metal genre, and Ur Example of death/thrash)
- Rigor Mortis
- Ripping Corpse
- Ritual Carnage
- Rumpelstiltskin Grinder
- Sepultura (From Schizophrenia to Arise; later became Groove Metal with Chaos A.D., followed by a brief Nu Metal jaunt with Roots and a return to their Chaos A.D. sound with Against. The death/thrash influence returned starting with Dante XXI, though.)
- Sodom (Tapping the Vein only)
- Torture Squad
- Warbringer (On Waking Into Nightmares at least)
Death Metal with a greater emphasis on melody, along with a dose of Power Metal
or traditional Heavy Metal
riffage. For more information, go here
Brutal Death Metal
Death metal with more emphasis on brutality and speed, and less on melody. Often incorporates elements from grindcore (in particular, obviously, goregrind).
Technical Death Metal
- Abnormality (notable in that Mallika Sundaramurthy is one of the few frontwomen in a heavily male-dominated genre)
- Ade (mixed with Folk Metal)
- Big End Bolt
- Blood Red Throne
- Blood Vomit
- Brain Drill (also Technical Death Metal)
- Cankered Corpse
- Cerebral Bore (another female-fronted example)
- Cryptopsy (before turning to Deathcore with The Unspoken King, though they returned to the genre with the self-titled)
- Decrepit Birth (their first album only)
- Deeds Of Flesh
- Defeated Sanity (Along with Slam and Tech)
- Dehumanized (one of the Trope Codifiers along with Pyrexia, Internal Bleeding, and Suffocation.)
- Disgorge (Along with Slam)
- Dying Fetus (notable for their hard-hitting political lyrics; they're essentially the Rage Against the Machine of death metal)
- Euphoric Defilement
- Flayed Disciple
- Flesh Consumed
- Fleshgod Apocalypse (mixed with Symphonic Metal, later switched to full-blown symphonic with death metal elements)
- Forced Asphyxiation
- Goratory (semi-notorious as the band that just about every major death metal musician to hail from New England has played in at some point)
- Guttural Secrete
- Hate Eternal
- Hideous Divinity
- Hour Of Penance
- Infernal Revulsion
- Internal Bleeding (Trope Codifier along with Dehumanized, Pyrexia, and Suffocation. Also arguably the Ur Example of slam; while Suffocation and Pyrexia were making use of slam breaks before Internal Bleeding was even around, they were one of the first bands to make them a central element of their music.)
- Internal Suffering
- Intestinal Noose (A strange new variant with a brutal sound and fluffy lyrics)
- Kataklysm (early - shifted to classic death metal with melodeath elements in their recent material)
- Katalepsy (Autopsychosis and onward)
- The Kennedy Veil
- Krisiun (modern material, their older material was more straight death metal)
- Logic of Denial
- Odious Mortem
- Panzerchrist (mixed with Black Metal, though)
- Parasitic Extirpation
- Pyrexia (Trope Codifier along with Suffocation, Dehumanized, and Internal Bleeding)
- Septycal Gorge
- Severe Torture
- Severed Savior
- The Sickening
- Suffocation (Ur Example and Trope Codifier)
- Suicidal Causticity
- Torturous Inception
- Unfathomable Ruination
- Vomit the Soul
Essentially what happens when a death metal band starts to increase the technical musicianship borrowed from Jazz
, Classical Music
, and/or Progressive Rock
. For more information, go here
Slam Death Metal
Seen mainly as a progression of brutal death with subtle but noticeable hip-hop influences and a generally heightened focus on mosh-oriented rhythms, slam death metal is characterised by gurgling vocals, breakdowns, and grooves. Sometimes considered to be "proto-deathcore"; there is also a certain overlap between slam death metal and the more extreme deathcore bands, which is why Waking the Cadaver are on this list.
Blackened Death Metal
- 7 H. Target
- Abominable Putridity
- Blunt Force Trauma (Specifically the Japanese band; there are a few other bands also called "Blunt Force Trauma".)
- Cerebral Effusion
- Cerebral Incubation
- Defeated Sanity (along with Technical Death Metal)
- Devourment (Trope Codifier)
- Disfiguring the Goddess
- Disgorge (USA) (Along with Brutal)
- Inherit Disease
- Katalepsy (Pre-Autopsychosis)
- Prostitute Disfigurement
- Putrid Pile
- Sexcrement (early, before majorly dialing up the Hard Rock and Hair Metal influences to create a bizarre hybrid of death metal, groove metal, and glam)
- Short Bus Pile Up
- Soils of Fate
- Vomit Remnants
- Waco Jesus
- Waking The Cadaver (first album was deathcore)
Death metal with influences from Black Metal
. Sometimes confused for a straight-up fusion of death and black metal.
- Anaal Nathrakh (with Industrial Metal and grindcore influences)
- Behemoth (Trope Codifier; fell under this genre on Satanica and Thelema.6; later became Death Metal starting with Zos Kia Cultus)
- Beyond Terror Beyond Grace (Nadir onward; everything before that was deathgrind)
- Dissection (first two albums only, on Reinkaos they switched to Melodic Death Metal)
- Extol ( A christian example - also Technical Death Metal )
- God Dethroned
- Impaled Nazarene
- Katatonia (Their early death/doom material was significantly influenced by black metal.)
- Lecherous Nocturne (along with Technical Death Metal)
- Sarcófago (possible Ur Example)
Death metal fused with Doom Metal
. The Gothic Metal
genre evolved from this, as did the doom subgenre "funeral doom".
- Acid Witch
- Amorphis (early, and borderline at that)
- Anathema (early)
- Beyond Dawn (early)
- Celestial Season
- Coffins (mixed with Stoner Metal)
- Daylight Dies
- Dead Congregation
- Depressed Mode (second album has been described as "symphonic death/doom"; first album was funeral doom)
- Disembowelment (the inspiration for funeral doom, alongside Thergothon and Skepticism)
- Dir En Grey (later works, overlaps with Deathcore and experimental metal)
- Dream Death (possible Trope Maker / Ur Example)
- Forest Stream
- The Gathering (early)
- Hooded Menace
- Katatonia (early)
- Mar de Grises
- Morpheus Descends
- Mourning Beloveth
- My Dying Bride
- My Silent Wake
- Mythic (a rare all-female example)
- Novembers Doom
- Officium Triste
- Orphaned Land (early)
- Paradise Lost (early)
- Sempiternal Deathreign
- Swallow the Sun
- Theatre Of Tragedy (first two albums)
- Thorr's Hammer
Death Metal + Grindcore
. A potentially confusing subgenre, considering how similar the two genres are already to the average person.
- Aborted (mixed with brutal death)
- Animals Killing People (mixed with brutal death)
- The Berzerker
- Beyond Terror Beyond Grace (everything up to Nadir, where they changed to blackened death)
- Bolt Thrower (early)
- Brutal Truth
- Carcass (early)
- Cattle Decapitation (also Technical Death Metal)
- Cephalic Carnage (also Technical Death Metal)
- The County Medical Examiners
- Disgorge (Mexico)
- Exhumed (fully switched to Death Metal with Anatomy is Destiny)
- Impetigo (early)
- Lock Up
- Misery Index
- Murder Construct
- Napalm Death (since Harmony Corruption)
- Pig Destroyer
Death Metal mixed with Hardcore Punk
. Because of it's nature, it's most prone to Genre-Busting
and Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly
with other genres. For more information, go here
The death metal genre exhibits the following trope examples:
- Badass Normal: Many death metal artists showcase an everyday casual look, which comes across as more "normal" (save for the hair and, occasionally, the beards) than the styles worn by non-death metal artists. Many of them also appear (and are actually ) very nice and approachable, though their music and lyrics prove otherwise.
- Contemptible Cover: The most famous example being Cannibal Corpse's entire discography, but this trope is all over the place in death metal.
- Darker and Edgier: Death metal was possibly intended as the D&E version of thrash metal, which was already the D&E version of traditional/speed metal.
- Which was the D&E version of hard rock, which was the D&E version of classic rock, which was the D&E version of 60s pop... Extreme metal in all its forms is about as dark as it gets within metal.
- Bloodier and Gorier: YES.
- Fandom Rivalry: The death metal fandom is sometimes at odds with the Black Metal fandom.
- Fan Disservice: See Misogyny Song below.
- For the Evulz: Usually the motivation of Gorn-themed lyrics.
- Gorn: Possibly the most common lyrical theme.
- Harsh Vocals: The main vocal style of the genre.
- Humans Are Bastards/Misanthrope Supreme: If Metal-Archives lists "misanthropy" and/or "nihilism" among a given band's lyrical themes, expect generous doses of these.
- It's Popular, Now It Sucks: As with Black Metal (though possibly to a lesser degree), the fandom of death metal sometimes displays this attitude with regards to some bands.
- Loudness War: Not a problem with older releases in the genre (unless they've been "remastered"), but this plagues modern releases. It's almost impossible to find a modern death metal album that isn't horribly brickwalled, with generous doses of clipping on top. May be a case of Stylistic Suck.
- Love It or Hate It: One of the very worst cases of it: either you like it for being highly complex and puzzling, or dislike it altogether for being downright unlistenable, probably for just one thing. Professional critics are equally polarized.
- Mean Character, Nice Actor: Many death metal musicians are actually very friendly when not playing. Two examples are Kyo (singer of Dir En Grey) and Alex Webster (frontman of Cannibal Corpse).
- Metal Scream: Relatively prevalent in the music, and often of the type 2 variety, though it's not uncommon for vocals to lean towards type 3.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Anywhere from 9 to 11, though only a few bands get up to 11.
- Misogyny Song: A common theme of Brutal and especially Slam Death Metal lyrics. Began with early Cannibal Corpse and was later popularized by bands such as Devourment, Waking The Cadaver and Waco Jesus. Though it's likely that they want to troll the general public than actually promote misogyny. Some bands have gained notoriety for this, at one point or another.
- Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Quite a few slam acts have a very wigger-ish aesthetic; while the origin of this isn't precisely known, it seems likely that it came from the more "urban" styles of Internal Bleeding, Dehumanized, and Dying Fetus, all of whom had very prominent NYHC influences.
- Protest Song: If it's even remotely politically-tinged, it'll usually be this.
- Public Medium Ignorance: "Death Metal... Is that like Slipknot or something?"note This confusion is a bit of a Berserk Button for many.
- Also common is people thinking death metal is noise. As in, disorganised, non-rhythmic, non-melodic noise with indecipherable screaming. That also exists, but it's nothing like death metal.
- Rated M for Manly: Oh yes.
- The Scrappy: Deathcore. If you consider it part of the death metal canon, that is. Melodic death metal has earned scorn from some corners of the metal fandom (particularly Metal-Archives) due to its more melodic sound and vaguely commercial nature.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: A lot of death metal lyrics and song titles feature scientific/medical jargon and other gibberish-sounding words, which is no surprise considering the lyrical and aesthetic themes associated with the genre.
- Troll: Many of the artists that write the misogynistic Gorn lyrics are moreso this than not.
- Trope Maker: Death. It's unclear whether they were the first death metal band (because they were around at roughly the same time as Possessed, Master and Necrophagia), but they are generally agreed to have properly established death metal as a genre with Scream Bloody Gore.
- Trope Namer: Generally either Possessed (with the song "Death Metal" off Seven Churches) or Death (their style apparently being dubbed "Death's metal" in their early days, before death metal really took off as a genre).
- Trope Codifier: Cannibal Corpse in the public eye; metalheads are more likely to cite Morbid Angel, Obituary, or Deicide as such.