Death metal is a subgenre of heavy metal. It emerged in the early 1980s and is known for its dark and brutal lyrics. In this article, we will explore some of the greatest death metal bands that are considered pioneers and forefathers of death metal.
The 21 Best Death Metal Bands
Death was founded in Florida by Chuck Schuldiner in 1984. It is the first death metal band in the world, and “Scream Bloody Gore” by Death is the first death metal album.
Death disbanded after the death of Chuck Schuldiner in 2001.
Morbid Angel was founded in Tampa, Florida, in 1983. It is one of the many death metal bands from Florida.
At first, the members had decided on the name Heretic, but since there was already a band with a similar name, they decided to change the name and go with Morbid Angel.
In the beginning, the band had four members. At the end of 1992, Brunelle was allegedly fired from Morbid Angel for drug abuse.
Its debut album, “Altars of Madness,” is often hailed as a cornerstone of the genre, and Morbid Angel is one of the early death metal groups that share certain elements with black metal. Sepultura and Deicide also belong to this group.
Morbid Angel is one of the most successful death metal bands. It is one of Earache’s best-selling bands.
No discussion of death metal is complete without delving into the gore-soaked annals of Cannibal Corpse.
Cannibal Corpse is a death metal band from New York. It was founded in Buffalo in 1988.
The band has released 14 albums and is one of the most successful death metal bands. Like many other bands, Cannibal Corpse has gone through many lineup changes. Currently, only two of the founding members, Alex Webster and Paul Mazurkiewicz, remain. Chris Barnes, the vocalist of the world, left the band in 1993 to form his own band, Six Feet Under.
Since their inception in 1988, this American quintet has been notorious for their explicit lyrics and unrelenting brutality. Albums like “Tomb of the Mutilated” and “The Bleeding” solidify their place as best-selling pioneers of the genre.
Entombed is a death metal legend and was founded in Sweden under the name “Nihilist” in 1987. It took death metal to new, groovier realms, birthing a subgenre known as “death ‘n’ roll.”
Its first album, “Left Hand Path,” remains a classic, blending ferocious riffs with a rhythmic pulse that set them apart in the Scandinavian death metal scene.
Unfortunately, death metal fans had to realize that from the beginning of the 1990s, Entombed moved away from death metal and towards garage rock. The new style could then be described more as death ‘n’ roll.
Entombed is still active today, but under the name Entombed A.D. Entombed A.D. consists of the former members Nico Elgstrand, Lars Göran Petrov, Victor Brandt, and Olle Dahlstedt. Alex Hellid has left the band.
The guys from Carcass are from Liverpool, England. Like many other death metal bands, Carcass was founded in the 1980s.
For personal reasons, Carcass disbanded in 1996, and later, in 2007, members Jeff and Bill decided to start again. The band is still active today.
Albums like “Heartwork” and “Necroticism – Descanting the Insalubrious” showcased a more melodic and technically proficient side. The lyrics often deal with animal rights, which is because Bill Steer and Jeff Walker are vegetarians.
Although Carcass has seen many band members come and go, founding members Bill Steer and Jeff Walker are still with the band.
At the Gates
At the Gates is a Swedish death metal band. The band shaped the worldwide known Swedish melodic death metal. The album “Slaughter of the Soul” was particularly groundbreaking and popularized the famous chainsaw sound of the HM2, an effect pedal with a lot of gain.
Like Carcass, At the Gates also split up for a while in the 1990s. Between 1990 and 1996, they were inactive, but since 2007, they have been touring again and meeting death metal fans from all over the world.
At the Gates is one of the reasons why many musicians have bought an effects pedal with a chainsaw sound. The reason was the album “Slaughter of the Soul,” which popularized the famous chainsaw sound of the HM2, an effect pedal.
At the Gates is one of the best death metal bands of all time.
There are many death metal bands in Florida. Deicide is one of them.
Deicide was founded in Tampa, Florida, in 1987. It was founded by brothers Eric and Brian Hoffmann and drummer Steve Asheim.
At first, the members decided on the name “Carnage. Then they settled on “Amon.”. Later, they were also dissatisfied with this name, and “Amon” became “Deicide.”.
Deicide is one of the bands that focuses on satanic and anti-Christian lyrics, which is why they had a lot of problems with the law.
Deicide is still active today.
Obituary is the next band from Tampa, Florida. It was founded in 1984 and is one of the forefathers of death metal.
The band has released 10 studio albums to date. Especially the voice of John Tardy is very popular with the fans. John Tardy’s distinctive growls and albums like “Slowly We Rot” and “Cause of Death” contributed significantly to the genre’s growth in the early ’90s.
Obituary is also one of the death metal bands that disbanded in the 1990s, between 1997 and 2003. Today, the band is still active and is one of the best death metal bands.
Possessed is an American death metal band formed in 1983. It is considered to be the first death metal band.
Considered precursors to death metal, Possessed’s early work, especially “Seven Churches,” laid the foundation for the genre with its raw intensity and occult themes.
The difference between Possessed and the other death metal bands is that Possessed was the first band to utilize growling. They also play very fast.
Since the band broke up several times, they have only released four albums.
If you are looking for a death metal band that writes satanic lyrics, you should listen to Possessed’s albums.
Formed in 1988, Suffocation is credited with pioneering brutal death metal. Albums like “Effigy of the Forgotten” set a new standard for extremity in the genre.
Suffocation released its self-titled album, in 2006. A promo for Dark Ages, a series on The History Channel, appropriately featured the song and most of the band.
The band departed from Relapse Records in 2007. In September 2008, the band signed with Nuclear Blast Records, through which they will release their upcoming album, Blood Oath.
In the beginning of 2012, Mike Smith announced the band’s dissolution and band founder Frank Mullen left the group around the end of 2018.
Combining technical proficiency with themes inspired by Egyptian mythology, Nile has carved a unique niche in death metal. Albums like “In Their Darkened Shrines” showcase their intricate instrumentation and lyrical depth.
Bolt Thrower was founded in 1986 in Coventry, England Since its inception over 35 years ago, the band has released over eight studio albums.
With a sound often described as “war metal,” Bolt Thrower’s heavy, militaristic approach to death metal, especially on albums like “The IVth Crusade,” has left an enduring impact on the genre.
In 2016, the band announced that they were disbanding after drummer Martin Kearns passed away.
Decapitated is one of the few death metal bands from Poland. It was founded in Krosno, Poland, in 1996.
In their mid-teens, Vogg, drummer Witold “Vitek” Kiełtyka, and vocalist Wojciech “Sauron” Wąsowicz formed Decapitated. A year later, bassist Marcin “Martin” Rygiel joined the group. Following the release of two demos, the band signed with Wicked World, an Earache Records subsidiary, and released Winds of Creation, their debut album, in 2000.
The albums Nihility and The Negation were released by the band between 2002 and 2004. With Adrian “Covan” Kowanek on vocals, the band’s ambitious fourth album, Organic Hallucinosis, was released in 2006.
In 2007, the band members had a car accident. Unfortunately, Vitek died at the age of 23 on November 2, 2007. Covan survived, but he slipped into a coma as a result. After a period of disbandment, Vogg decided to continue the band and reformed Decapitated with new members. The fifth album, Carnival Is Forever, was released on July 12, 2011.
Immolation, one of the most important death metal bands in the US, was founded in Yonkers, New York, in 1986. Together with other extreme metal agitators from the N.Y.C. area, Incantation, Mortician, and Suffocation, the band climbed to prominence very fast.
Between 1991 and 2010, Immolation has amassed several critically acclaimed albums, including Dawn of Possession, Close to a World Below, Unholy Cult, and Atonement, that deftly strike a balance between raw power and technical prowess. The band is led by guitarist Robert Vigna and vocalist Ross Dolan.
Immolation’s last album, Acts of God, the group’s eleventh studio album, was released in 2022. The band is still active.
Dying Fetus is an American death metal band from Annapolis, Maryland. It was founded in 1991. Its lyrics deal with politics, violence, and religion and used to be interspersed with gore elements.
Despite being established in 1991 and having experience in the scene, Dying Fetus has been influential in shaping the views of upcoming death metal enthusiasts. Even though they never stray from their style, the band successfully brings their audience back to life.
Autopsy’s pioneering work in death/doom metal, particularly on albums like “Severed Survival,” laid the groundwork for the development of multiple subgenres within extreme metal.
Amon Amarth’s thematic focus on Norse mythology, combined with their melodic death metal sound, has elevated them to the status of Viking metal icons. Albums like “Twilight of the Thunder God” showcase their epic approach to death metal.
While later exploring progressive rock, Opeth’s early albums, such as “Blackwater Park” and “Still Life,” are fundamental in the fusion of death metal with progressive elements.
Bloodbath, featuring members from Katatonia, Opeth, and Paradise Lost, is a death metal supergroup known for its old-school approach and brutality. Albums like “Nightmares Made Flesh” are a testament to their uncompromising sound.
Pestilence, hailing from the Netherlands, is celebrated for their technical prowess and contributions to the development of technical death metal, particularly on albums like “Consuming Impulse.”
Among the death metal bands, there is also a young, successful death metal band: Heretic Warfare.
Heretic Warfare was founded in Münster, Germany, in 2021. In 2020, the band released their first album, “Hell on Earth,” and is still successfully on the road.
What is your favorite death metal band? Let us know in the comments!