According to historians, Death Metal first emerged sometime in the mid-to-late 1980’s, a period of time dominated by otherwise terrible music. The likes of Mike & The Mechanics, Rick Astley, Paula Abdul, and Mili Vanili were taking sonic craps all over the airwaves and the only beacon of light was the thriving thrash scene (and Night Ranger). Copulated in this thrash scene’s loin with the seeds of the likes of Slayer, Venom, Celtic Frost and others- death metal was gestated and born.
So here, I present you with my list of the top ten death metal bands based on popularity, originality, technicality, and/or historical importance. Enjoy.
Arch Enemy is neither the first or the greatest band on this list but their influence is undeniable. Arguably the first death metal supergroup, Arch Enemy was formed in 1995 by members of Carcass, Carnage, Spiritual Beggars, Merciful Fate and Armageddon. Since their inception, the band has released eight studio albums, the latest of which, The Root of All Evil, which received favorable marks from fans and media alike.
Interesting Factoid: Most of you should already know this but Arch Enemy’s iconic singer, Angela Gossow, is not the band’s first. Carnage’s Johan Liiva was a founding member and performed vocals with the band until 2000.
Formed in 1989 in Long Island, New York, Suffocation paved the way for a long line of death metal bands to start experimenting with more elements of grind-core and increased technicality in their music. One of Suffocation’s trademarks, breakdowns, gave birth to a bastard, disfigured child I think most metal fans would rather have stayed locked up in the basement:
boy bands with guitars deathcore.
This list would simply not be complete with out a nod to Cannibal Corpse. Formed in 1988, this little band that could have released eleven studio albums, two of which sold over a million each, solidifying them as the top-selling death metal band of all time in the United States.
Cannibal Corpse are probably best known for their slasher inspired lyrics and raunchy album covers that have resulted in the band being banned in several countries and many record stores refusing to carry or display their albums.
What stared as a band pioneering Scandinavian death metal, turned to a band pioneering their own brand of a death metal and rock ‘n roll hybrid known now to some as Death ‘n Roll, Entombed has racked up nine studio albums, two live albums, and a hearty handful of demos and EPs since 1990.
Editor’s Album Recommendations: Left Hand Path, Clandestine, Wolverine Blues
Formed in 1987, Deicide hold the records for the second and third best-selling death metal records in the United States (Self-titled and Legion, respectively), still tour the world playing sold out shows and plan to release their tenth studio album next year.
Good as Deicide is or was, many will agree things just aren't the same with out the Hoffman brothers’ axe team assault of the early albums. The brothers left -- less than amicably -- in 2004 because of royalty and publishing disputes.
I’m sorry to say that I actually don’t know much about Obituary, but was told that if I didn’t include them on this list myself and all my seed would burn in false metal hell. So here. Obituary, formed in Tampa under the name Xecutioner in 1985 they, along with Death, are credited as being “one of the fundamental act’s in the the development of death metal.” As with most other band’s on this list, Obituary is still alive and kicking and they plan to release their ninth studio album sometime next year.
*I’m admitting my ignorance here, so if anyone wants to recommend me an album or two in the comments section, feel free.
Arguably my favorite band on this list, Carcass was formed in 1985 and despite probably having more to do with the grindcore genre, we can all agree they belong on this list. With only recording five (so far) studio albums, Carcass has become one of the most ‘cited as an influence’ band in this and the grindcore genres.
Editor’s Album Recommendations: Symphonies of Sickness, Heartwork, Swansong
Formed in, you guessed it, Tampa, Florida in 1984, Morbid Angel has become the third best-selling death metal band in the United States and still to this day holds claim as recording the best-selling death metal album, Covenant. Their influence on the scene is undeniable and though they haven’t released an album since 2003 (they have one planned for 2011) interest in this band remains high a they continue to tour and stay active in the community.
Morbid Angel’s success spawned from (in addition to their unmatched skill, technicality and general bad assery, of course) their being one of the first death metal band signed to a major label (Giant Records) and the appearance of one their music videos on the now iconic t.v. program: Beavis and Butt-head.
Many will argue that Possessed is the first of the death metal bands, and I really couldn’t tell you for sure, but it is true that this band was formed in 1983 (as was Death) and had already broken up by the time most of the other bands on this list were in their infancy (1987).
Despite only releasing two full-length recordings, Possessed’s influence on this genre is so great you simply won’t find a death metal band not either directly or indirectly influenced by them, nor will you find a heavy metal message board on the net that hasn’t engaged, at some point or another, in an all out war amongst it’s members over Possessed place in death metal history. Where their place is, I cant really say but if Possessed created death metal, there was one band that took it to another level...
Surprised? No, I didn’t think you would be. Over and over, no matter where you go, Death will make their merry way to the top of death metal ‘best of’ lists. Death is the top-selling death metal band in the world and is only topped by Cannibal Corpse in the US. Lead singer/guitarist Chuck Schuldiner (RIP) was affectionately known to metal fans everywhere as the Godfather of Death Metal and in his short time on this earth made seven full length records with Death, three with Voodoo Cult, two with Control Denied, and one solo. After putting Death aside to focus on Control Denied, Chuck was diagnosed with a brain tumor and passed away while recording their second record on December 31, 2001.
**Members of Death have gone on play with the likes of Cynic, Iced Earth, Sebastian Bach, Acheron, Deicide, Obituary, Six Feet Under, and Testament.
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Chief Editor and Writer for Metal CallOut. Favorite sub genre of heavy metal includes Black, Death, Folk and Traditional. Josh can be found at Google+.