The Ten Greatest Death Metal Bands
Death metal isn't a genre of music for the easily scared or those unable to handle very heavy and very violent sounds. Death metal is a genre for people that want to find the extremes of music - the heaviest, the evilest, the most powerful. If you can handle them, here is the ten greatest death metal bands of all time according to Max V. - 16.05.2009
Swedish metal titans Entombed have released some admittedly sketchy work in their career. For instance, Same Difference is a pretty bad album, and not everyone will like their relentless refusal to remain the same, always experimenting with new things for better or for worse. But Entombed are notable and legitimately one of the greats - for two reasons.
The first is Left Hand Path, their 1990 opus that was an early masterpiece of death metal. Left Hand Path is one of the best death metal albums of all time, and its influence is pretty large in the metal community. That alone would get them notice. But the next reason is the fact that they have consistently remained interesting and good while changing and released some great work while they have. Wolverine Blues is a phenomenal album, easily the best of their frantic early '90s work. And in the new millennium, they have established themselves as one of the top bands in the genre with great albums like Morning Star and Inferno. They've released a lot of sweet albums and have been there since the beginning, and that makes Entombed one of the ten greatest death metal bands in the history of the genre.
Nile first set themselves apart from the pack with their love of Egyptian mythos and imagery, resulting in songs such as Sacrifice Unto Sebek and Ramses Bringer Of War and album artwork as badass as any. But Nile have become one of the most successful death metal bands in the world today and a current leader of the scene not because they like ancient Egypt, but because they are the current best brutal death metal band in the world (or at least top three). Working within the templates set by Cannibal Corpse before them, Nile write devastatingly technical, incredibly heavy yet still interesting death metal. Amongst The Catacombs Of Nephren-Ka is one of the best death metal albums of all time - not only is it already a great display of bludgeoning death metal, it sets itself apart with an epic feel accentuated by Middle Eastern elements floating into the songs. It feels like the sands of the desert, not to mention the incredible guitar work by Karl Sanders. Later albums like Annihilation Of The Wicked continue this streak, and Nile have proven themselves to be a band that has pushed the horizons of death metal. They will go down in history as a band that truly proved themselves as a leader of death metal - their only flaw is they still have much to do.
There are fun death metal bands and there are scary death metal bands and Deicide is probably the scariest death metal band there ever was. These guys were not fucking around. The debut (a downright classic) is one of the most toxic, Satanic, brutal albums ever recorded and Glen Benton's penchant for burning inverted crosses into his forehead and threatening suicide at 32 (to be the Anti-Christ) didn't hurt the cause. What all of this can mask is that Deicide is genuinely a great death metal band. Although never as good as Cannibal Corpse (the only death metal band to outsell them) and never reaching into the stratosphere of quality like Carcass or Death, Deicide made up anything they lacked in amount of good work and importance to death metal. Don't forget that they were one of the leaders of the nascent death metal scene in the early 90s, and they probably are one of the most important death metal bands ever for bringing extreme, violent Satanism to the mix before anyone else. Yes, some new ideas would get them higher, but you can't deny their importance. Combine that with their long history of good death metal, and you've got one of the best death metal bands of all time.
Suffocation were the connoisseur's death metal band and they honestly still are. Not as popular as bands like Cannibal Corpse and Deicide that got there by brutality and not as prolific (i.e, influential) as bands like Carcass and Morbid Angel, they never attained the level of popularity and recognition those bands did.
But when Suffocation were operating on their highest level, they were honestly one of the top three death metal bands in the world. Almost no one can match them for sheer quality and consistency. First off, Pierced From Within is a masterpiece - incredibly heavy (with more than a spoonful of groove), technically amazing, both savage and polished, and nearly perfect. That album is something else. It never gets boring or repetitive, either. Suffocation's discography is full of albums of that caliber, from the masterpiece Effigy Of The Forgotten to their new self-titled, as punishingly awesome ever. Technical, heavy, and downright scary, Suffocation's sheer quality and skill at technical death metal (if not legendary status) garners them this spot.
6. Napalm Death
No one had ever heard anything like Napalm Death. On Scum, they absolutely went farther into the depths of heaviness and speed then anyone had ever gone before. Admittedly, Scum isn't a great album.
What makes Napalm Death worthy of this is the fact that they were singular, they were alone, and they made death metal that was beyond what anyone could have imagined. From Enslavement To Oblivion is an amazingly good album, compressing bursts of greatness into these lightning-fast songs, most burning brightly before flaming out in a blaze. And then after practically inventing grindcore, they became one of the most successful death metal bands ever, making quality albums year after year with their own particular brand of speed, groove, breakdowns, and (!) melody. Even without the grind, Napalm Death would be one the best death metal bands ever. The grindcore makes them legends.
Necrophagist are the most technically skilled death metal band I've ever heard. That doesn't necessarily mean they should be number five just based on that, but it's something to take into consideration. Dizzying sweeps, incredibly fast drum beats and complex, rippling songs make them just hard to even listen to (in a good way). But the real reason Necrophagist garner the number four spot (and with two albums, nonetheless!) is because they outpace bands like Cryptopsy and Cephalic Carnage to make the best really, really technical death metal in the world. Few other bands have their tightness, and almost none can so perfectly meld together these crazy songs in weird time signatures into a convincing whole, and that's what important - that all these super difficult parts make a unified album, not just a series of technical showcases a la Batio. Listen to Epitaph or Symbiosis In Theory. Necrophagist makes amazing death metal while setting apart from the pack with their intelligence and technicality, and that gives them a spot here.
4. Cannibal Corpse
Cannibal Corpse are the brutalest, evilest, goriest, vilest, most fun and maybe most consistent death metal band ever. For real complex, real thoughtful death metal, I would wholeheartedly advise you to find all the Cannibal Corpse records you can find and buy them (or burn them). This band has been on the scene nearly since the inception, making such songs as Fucked With A Knife, Necropedophile and Force Fed Broken Glass. But the great thing about Cannibal Corpse is that they aren't just a gimmicky violent band. They legitimately make amazing death metal, and have been for fourteen albums. Not only is Corpsegrinder Fisher one of the best vocalists death metal has ever seen, but Cannibal Corpse is tight, brutal, and heavy. Listen to I Cum Blood and you'll see what I mean. For concise, powerful, incredibly fun and influential death metal, Cannibal Corpse are the best - not to mention they are the number one selling death metal band of all time and a huge influence. Hard not to love Cannibal Corpse, especially because they refuse to sell out and seem to be ready to keep tearing heads off forever. The kings of brutal death metal.
Carcass are number three on this list because not only are they hugely influential in the field, their best work is some of the most complete death metal albums of all time. They changed the death metal landscape at first, then expanded their sound and made three classic albums before fading into the distance. Less quantity of great work is all that kept them from being higher.
First off, Reek Of Putrefaction is revolutionary simply for being the most heavy, sick thing in the world at the time of its release. Grind was very, very new, and Carcass (along with Napalm Death) were at the forefront of it. Then Symphonies Of Sickness expanded their horizons without losing any of the power. What really gets them so high, though, is the masterpiece we know as Necroticsim-Descanting The Insalubrious. They added a new member, and then made what may be the best death metal album of all time. Then they proved they could make more literate metal with Heartwork and Swansong, two fantastic albums, before fading off into the distance. The introduction of goregrind and its huge influence on future bands combined with the lack of bad material and the amount of classics makes them the third best death metal band of all time.
2. Morbid Angel
Morbid Angel are the quintessential death metal band. While other bands like Napalm Death experimented with grindcore and Chuck Schuldiner's Death constantly changed, Morbid Angel most represent what we know as death metal. After the pioneering Altars Of Madness, arguably the best death metal album of the 1980s, Morbid Angel went on an unrivalled streak of classic albums, from Blessed Are The Sick up to Gateways To Annihilation in 2000. What makes Morbid Angel special is that they truly set the template for what a death metal band is. Their blastbeats and dizzying guitar work by Trey Azagthoth was a leap forward for the genre, and for sheer pure death metal, nothing can touch their best work on albums like Domination. Anyone who wants to know what death metal is should be given Domination or Blessed Are The Sick, and they'll get it. Morbid Angel managed to take the best elements of what everyone else was doing, and combine it into something almost genetically perfect. For their insane run of classic, high quality albums (including two or three masterpieces) and their almost unrivalled importance to death metal, Morbid Angel are almost the best death metal band ever.
Death will always be the greatest death metal band of all time. Not only did they outclass the competition at every turn, they operated on a level that has never been seen again in death metal. They were a step above on their best work, on a higher plane.
After introducing death metal to the world and making brutal death metal albums as good as any, Death did something incredible - they evolved, becoming more progressive and introducing thought, ideas and scope to the death metal palette. While everyone else was playing songs about guts and demons, Death moved past that back in 1991. No other death metal band has ever reached the level of complexity and genius they did. Not content to be rudimentary, they made albums like Individual Thought Patterns and Symbolic, filled with different ideas and glorious, sweeping songs. They made the world of death metal a richer place without losing sight of what they started out trying to do. And they also helped give death metal its name and influenced legions of kids with some of the best brutal death metal around on albums like Leprosy. Other bands expanded death metal and took it to the far reaches of brutality, but Chuck Schuldiner's Death managed to take the elements of technicality, anger, extreme heaviness, and screams and make it into something more than the some of its parts. They were always the best death metal band, they are the best death metal band, and they will always be the best death metal band ever.
Honourable Mention: Atheist: over three albums, they established progressive death metal and introduced elements of jazz and extreme technicality to death metal - plus Unquestionable Presence and Piece Of Time are two incredible albums. But they only released three albums and the death metal/prog/jazz thing didn't always quite work, denying them the number ten spot.
Other Bands That Get Honourable Mention:
.At The Gates: Swedish melodic metal band released Slaughter Of The Soul, which is a phenomenal album, but honestly aren't consistent or great enough. Almost made number ten. They're still the best melodic death metal band I've heard, but that ain't saying much.
.Gojira: Awesome, but a bit inconsistent. Besides, The Way Of All Flesh was great but From Mars To Sirius could have used some work. They're still a current leader of the death metal scene.