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Death metal, 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 and 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, Venom, Celtic Frost and Kreator. 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, sex, sexual violence, satan, 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, 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.


There are many different subgenres of death metal. Three of them (Melodic Death Metal, Technical Death Metal [1] and Deathcore) have their own entries. Here is a quick list of bands by basic subgenre:

Old-School Death Metal
Pure, classic death metal.

  • Adramelech
  • Autopsy
  • Benediction
  • Bloodbath (new band, old sound)
  • Bolt Thrower (eventually)
  • Brutality
  • Carnage
  • Convulse
  • Death (Trope Maker, possible Ur Example and Trope Namer; however, later stuff is technical/progressive)
  • Deicide
  • Dismember
  • Entombed
  • Gorefest
  • Gorguts (early; shifted to technical/progressive/avant-garde for Obscura onwards)
  • Grave
  • Hail of Bullets (same as Bloodbath - new band, old sound)
  • Hypocrisy (early)
  • Immolation
  • Incantation
  • Massacre
  • Master
  • Monstrosity
  • Morbid Angel
  • Necrophagia (another possible Ur Example)
  • Nihilist
  • 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)
  • Obituary
  • Pestilence (before they shifted towards Tech Death)
  • Soul Embraced (Christian Death Metal, their last two albums featured heavy elements of Alternative Metal and Melo Death respectively )
  • Ten Masked Men
  • Tiamat (early)
  • Unleashed

Death/Thrash Metal
Death metal with a strong thrash influence. Many early death metal bands were rooted in thrash.

  • Cancer
  • Dew-Scented
  • Ghoul
  • Grotesque
  • Hypnosia
  • Insanity
  • Massacra
  • Merciless
  • Morbid
  • Morbid Saint
  • Num Skull
  • Possessed (possible Trope Namer of the entire death metal genre, and Ur Example of death/thrash)
  • Rigor Mortis
  • Ripping Corpse
  • Sadus
  • Sepultura (early; later became Groove Metal. The death/thrash influence returned starting with Dante XXI, though.)
  • Slaughter
  • Vader

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).

  • Aborted
  • Aeon
  • Blood Vomit
  • Brain Drill
  • Cankered Corpse
  • Cannabis Corpse
  • Cannibal Corpse (Trope Codifier, of the public image of death metal as well as this subgenre specifically. Since getting Corpsegrinder as their vocalist, they have moved away from the subgenre.)
  • Cerebral Bore
  • Cryptopsy (before turning to Deathcore with The Unspoken King)
  • Decrepit Birth (debatable; some would consider it Progressive Death Metal)
  • Deeds Of Flesh
  • Demilich
  • Fleshgod Apocalypse
  • Hate Eternal
  • Impaled
  • Impending Doom (mixed with Deathcore)
  • Iniquity
  • Intestinal Noose (A strange new variant with a brutal sound and fluffy lyrics)
  • Kataklysm (early - their recent stuff is closer to melodeath)
  • Kronos
  • Malignancy
  • Mortician
  • Nile
  • Panzerchrist (mixed with Black Metal, though)
  • Sepsism
  • Suffocation (another Trope Codifier of brutal death metal)

Slam Death Metal
Seen mainly as a fusion of the brutal and technical styles, 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.

  • Blunt Force Trauma (Specifically the Japanese band; there are a few other bands also called "Blunt Force Trauma".)
  • Cephalotripsy
  • Cerebral Incubation
  • Crepitation
  • Despondency
  • Devourment (Trope Codifier)
  • Disfiguring the Goddess
  • Disgorge
  • Enmity
  • Dying Fetus (notable for their hard-hitting political lyrics; they're essentially the Rage Against the Machine of death metal)
  • Guttural Secrete
  • Ingested
  • Katalepsy
  • Soils of Fate
  • Vomit Remnants
  • Waking the Cadaver

Blackened Death Metal
Death metal with influences from Black Metal. Sometimes confused for a straight-up fusion of death and black metal.

  • Akercocke
  • Anaal Nathrakh
  • Angelcorpse
  • Behemoth (Trope Codifier; fell under this genre on Satanica and Thelema.6; later became Death Metal starting with Zos Kia Cultus)
  • Belphegor
  • Dissection (first two albums only, on Reinkaos they switched to Melodic Death Metal)
  • Goatwhore
  • God Dethroned
  • Hate
  • Impaled Nazarene
  • Katatonia (Their early death/doom material was significantly influenced by black metal.)
  • Necrophobic
  • Panzerchrist
  • Sacramentum
  • Sarcófago (possible Ur Example)
  • Zyklon

Death/Doom or Doom/Death
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)
  • Asphyx
  • Autopsy
  • Beyond Dawn (early)
  • Catacombs
  • Celestial Season
  • Cianide
  • Coffins
  • Crucifier
  • Daylight Dies
  • Delirium
  • Demenzia
  • 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)
  • Dream Death (possible Trope Maker / Ur Example)
  • Evoken
  • Forest Stream
  • The Gathering (early)
  • Incantation
  • Katatonia (early)
  • Mar de Grises
  • Morgion
  • Mourning Beloveth
  • My Dying Bride
  • My Silent Wake
  • Mythic (a rare all-female example)
  • Necare
  • Novembers Doom
  • Officium Triste
  • Orphaned Land (early)
  • Paradise Lost (early)
  • Paramaecium
  • Rapture
  • Runemagick
  • Salem
  • Saturnus
  • Sempiternal Deathreign
  • Septicflesh
  • Swallow the Sun
  • Theatre of Tragedy (first two albums)
  • Thorr's Hammer
  • Unholy
  • Winter

Deathgrind
Death Metal + Grindcore. A potentially confusing subgenre, considering how similar the two genres are already to the average person.

  • The Berzerker
  • Bolt Thrower (early)
  • Brutal Truth
  • Carcass (early)
  • Cattle Decapitation
  • Cephalic Carnage (also Technical Death Metal)
  • Exhumed
  • Impetigo (early)
  • Lock Up
  • Misery Index
  • Mortician
  • Napalm Death (since Harmony Corruption)
  • Origin
  • Pig Destroyer
  • Regurgitate
  • Repulsion
  • Terrorizer

The death metal genre exhibits the following trope examples:

  • Complete Monster - Any songs with Gorn will likely have this.
  • 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
  • Gorn - Possibly the most common lyrical theme.
  • Harsh Vocals - The main vocal style of the genre.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Public Medium Ignorance - "Death Metal. Is that like Slipknot or something?"[2]
  • 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.
  • 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 as such.

Notes

  1. (technically it's four genres; Progressive Death Metal and Technical Death Metal share the same page)
  2. Face Palm
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