It’s been roughly seven years that I’ve distinguished myself as a death metal fan. And just doing that little bit has changed the way I think of myself. Formerly being just an oddball with a high intellect and the need to yell at the world, I never felt much of a place of belonging. But lo and behold, this belligerent grunting that is commonly called death metal made me immerse into a world where “Kill the Christian” actually has meaning. Death metal didn’t just teach me the difference between bands such as Decrepit Birth and Aborted, but it taught me how it feels to be involved in a culture with similar ground. Hey, I could be in yoga pants drinking Starbucks – but I’m not because I get much more enjoyment out of headbanging to Carcass. So I feel it’s appropriate to commemorate the bands and their albums that introduced me to this insane subculture. I hope ten is a good number to narrow it down.
10. The Black Dahlia Murder – Miasma
I’m honestly not sure how I got into this band. It almost seemed like this album just appeared on my iPod back in the day of its 2005 release. Regardless, this album has obviously stuck with me throughout the years. I still find myself constantly listening to this album, whether it was me not wanting to listen to my teachers when I was younger…and I listen to this album for the same purpose of not listening to anyone or anything else. As time grew I became an even bigger Black Dahlia Murder fan; this band would inevitably make my list of Top 5 Favorite Death Metal Bands. I know this band is gonna perpetuate as one of the modern iconic death metal bands, and I’m glad to know I followed them throughout their career.
9. Morbid Angel – Altars of Madness
There are several adjectives I can give to death metal bands: brutal, annihilating, destructive, etc. But how many of these bands sound like pure evil? Well, that’s what appealed to me about Morbid Angel. Their sound is so deep and guttural, it doesn’t even sound human – and no album represents this style better than their debut Altars of Madness. I have my own little list of go-to death metal albums, this is one of them. This is an album where – no matter how many times I listen to it – my bones rattle and my hairs stick straight up. It’s catchy, but extremely intense. As we all know Morbid Angel hasn’t exactly fallen into this category lately, I just hope with their newer material they fall back into their roots. Or better, they create something even more iniquitous.
8. Arsis – We are the Nightmare
Out of all the first death metal albums I listened to, this was the first to make me think “I really like this album.” Everything about this album makes it practically a perfect death metal album: it’s heavy in the places it’s supposed to be heavy and catchy in the places it’s supposed to be catchy. Arsis was the band to introduce me to the more melodic-stylings of death metal. When anyone outside of the culture thinks of death metal they see the stereotyped bands like Cannibal Corpse, who are brutal beyond imagination. No one sees enough of the bands such as Arsis, who craft each song carefully to where it encompasses both dexterity and aggression (not saying Cannibal Corpse doesn’t do that). Each song off of this album is different, therefore affects you differently; but it’s the way they all string together that allows the listener to hear the album all the way through. And we can’t forget that reoccurring riff from the opening title track. Overall, this album has been unforgettable for me since it’s borderline the perfect death metal album.
7. Spawn of Possession – Noctambulant
I had a friend who introduced me to death metal, and one time he was explaining to me the extent of the complex composition. He showed me the song “Scorched” off of Noctambulant. It shocked me; I even remember asking him if they could really play this song. When he told me they could, that got me even more interested. I then checked out the whole album, and realized that not only was the playing impressive but how the transitions of the different time signatures made the song extremely catchy. I’ve been following Spawn of Possession since. This band isn’t as active as I (and many others) would like them to be, but they’re definitely still active. Their latest album Incurso is one I listen to extremely frequently, even more than Noctambulant. But Noctambulant has to be one of the best technical death metal albums. Period.
6. The Faceless – Akeldama
One of the reasons I got into death metal was the technicality of the musicianship. Still discovering this band roughly around the time they were first gaining popularity, this album blew me away on the first listen. I was familiar with technical death metal before finding out about this band, but I feel this was one of the most recent technical death metal albums I heard – and that’s what provoked me the most. Since this band was fresh and new, it reminded me that this brutal force was still prevalent in modern music. Since this album The Faceless has grown radically and even ventured outside of the death metal realm. I love every album this band has released, but this album will always be the one to remind myself technical death metal is still very much alive.
5. Obituary – Slowly We Rot
There have been several death metal bands — always coming and going, new and old, some good some bad, that whole like. But I think all death metal fans can attest that there’s only one Obituary. No band can create a sound with equal amounts of aggression and groove. The first time I heard Slowly We Rot, I thought two things: 1. I never heard a band like this before, and 2. this certainly is a legendary death metal band. These two thoughts plug themselves in my brain each time I listen to Obituary. And it’s no wonder; not only are they still legendary, but they release new music and still uphold their classic groovy-brutal sound. Bands today should take a few lessons from Obituary.
4. Necrophagist – Epitaph
My same friend told me to listen to this album after he realized how much I liked Spawn of Possession. Of course, I had a similar reaction: the dexterity of the musicianship got me, but the catchiness of the odd time signatures is what held me on each song. But what separated Necrophagist for me? I think it’s their unique style of playing. Studying other techy-death bands, I can’t find one like Necrophagist. Something about the mix of the squealy solos and the harsh gutturals stood out to me for more than other bands of the genre. It sounded rough, but put together. Now I’m older and a professional journalist, I created a better ear for this sound and reflected on why at this age I liked this band so much. To me, the album sounds very natural. While close-to-perfect production sounds amazing, this isn’t an album that is flawless and clean – it’s still very raw. The intricate playing is mind-blowing, yet the aggression that persists and the definition of each note are also prevalent. Out of so many technical death metal albums, I think this is the reason why others see this album and ultimately this band in high regard. Now as we all know, Necrophagist hasn’t released an album since this one – and it’s been ten years. But patience and hope are key that Necrophagist will find a way to unleash some vigorous and technical new material!
3. Cannibal Corpse – The Bleeding
For the longest time, Cannibal Corpse was a band I knew of but couldn’t get too into them. That is, until I heard The Bleeding. It was a couple of years after becoming familiar with the band. I had this album but never really listened to it. I decided to put it in my car, and listened to it on the way home from class. It was the song “Stripped, Raped and Strangled” that immediately caught my attention. I can’t remember what first got me: how shocked I was at the lyrics or the catchy chops throughout the song. Either way, when I listened to this song is when other songs off this record stood out too me: “Force Fed Broken Glass”, “Fucked with a Knife”, and “Staring Through the Eyes of the Dead” were other tracks that fed my new obsession. Even though I consider Bloodthirst to be my favorite Cannibal Corpse album, this one is definitely in second place. It has some of the best Cannibal Corpse songs in just one album. Now, whenever I see Cannibal Corpse live I release my best gutturals whenever “Stripped, Raped and Strangled” is played.
2. Deicide – Scars of the Crucifix
At fourteen years old, I was pretty freaked out by this band. I mean, a song called “Fuck Your God?” Not something that excited my parents. But hey, I was curious. I discovered this album the same way I discovered most metal albums in my youth: by going through my brother’s discography on our shared computer. I thought the name Deicide sounded cool, and then I looked up the definition and knew I had to listen. Even though I expected to hear something insane and evil, all I remembered hearing was good musicians – the message that they portrayed was just a little more unorthodox than what I was used to, and that made me like them more. To this day I consider Deicide to be the first true death metal band I heard, and Scars of the Crucifix is still my favorite album by them. I’ve still followed Deicide since then, and absolutely love their latest album In the Minds of Evil. So thanks Deicide for making me some crazy death metal lady.
1. Death – Human
Remember my friend who introduced me to Spawn of Possession and Necrophagist? Well, how do you think I found out about death metal? I was about sixteen, just starting to get informed with metal and the culture. He and I hit it off right away, just always talking about bands. I mentioned to him I liked Black Dahlia Murder and Deicide, and he called this genre death metal. Since I was not familiar with the term before, he asked if I knew Death. I said no, and he told me to look them up since they’re the first death metal band. So I did what he told me to do, and found the album Human. I still remembering listening to this album and thinking about how influential it must be. Now that I have several years of Death knowledge under my belt, I know it’s one of the most highly influential pieces of work they have released. My Death knowledge also found myself listening to every other piece of work they released, getting a tattoo of the album cover Scream Bloody Gore on my leg, and calling Death my favorite band. Well, this album was what led me to indulge in death metal. My friend showed me this, and this album alone spawned an intense interest I never had with any other band. The musicianship and composition intrigued me – I just never heard it executed the way Death did it. And learning the history of the band and how they grew throughout their career, well it goes to show this band influenced a wide range of death metal fans. Myself included.
Well here it is. It didn’t take long after listening to these albums for me to realize my calling to become a music journalist. Well here I am, stating the death metal albums I very much adore and how they made me who I am today. So why don’t we all sit back and listen to these kickass albums together?