The 10 hardest death metal songs to play

Photos of death metal bands Crypta, Death, Cannibal Corpse and Suffocation
(Image credit: Crypta: Estevam Romera | Death: Catherine McGann/Getty Images | Cannibal Corpse: Miikka Skaffari/Getty Images | Suffocation: Miikka Skaffari/Getty Images)

Built on a backbone of blast beats and tremolo picking, death metal has always been a proudly complex genre. And, since its inception, the likes of Death, Atheist and Obscura have pushed its technicality as far as possible. In celebration of the skill needed to be a good death metal musician nowadays, we got Fernanda Lira – singer and bassist of Brazilian rising stars Crypta – to list the 10 hardest songs to play in this genre.

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Death – Overactive Imagination (Individual Thought Patterns, 1993)

“It was hard for me not to just include 10 Death songs! Steve Di Giorgio, man! He’s one of my main inspirations, his bass riffs are insane. But I think Overactive Imagination, from Individual Thought Patterns, is just a compilation of some of my favourite extreme metal bass riffs of all time. It’s tough because there’s a bit of everything and he plays super fast.”

Cannibal Corpse – Frantic Disembowelment (The Wretched Spawn, 2004)

“This song’s complicated because it’s just a crazy sequence of notes and scales and stuff like that. I watched a guy on YouTube play it and it is just 100 percent absurd. Alex [Webster, Cannibal Corpse bassist] and Paul [Mazurkiewicz, drummer] are my two main references: I really look up to Alex when I’m mixing an album. I just love the way his bass sounds.”

Necrophagist – Stabwound (Epitaph, 2004)

“Any Necrophagist songs should be considered a nightmare for bassists – ha ha! – because they’re just pure insanity. Stabwound, I’m not gonna say it has a bass solo but, from one minute on, basically the whole song is like a bass solo. It’s just this never-ending series of bass notes! I’m not trying to put myself down, but I don't think I'd ever be able to play it!” 

Suffocation – Infecting The Crypts (Human Waste, 1991)

“This is one of my favourite songs from one of my favourite death metal bands. I like Suffocation and Derek [Boyer, bassist] a lot. On Infecting The Crypts, there are a lot of progressions and just relentless notes. What’s a bit complicated to me is skipping strings all the time, and on this song it happens a lot. It’s at least in the top five hardest bass riffs.”

Krisiun – Ageless Venomous (Ageless Venomous, 2001)

“If you’re a Brazilian metalhead, you know Krisiun. I remember one of my friends getting a Krisiun DVD, so, the first time I listened to Ageless Venomous, I also saw them playing it live. That was shocking for me. You assume it’s complicated when you hear it, but when you see the person playing it, you see the real thing.”

Nile – Permitting The Noble Dead To Descend To The Underworld (Those Whom The Gods Detest, 2009)

“A lot of Nile songs could fit in here, but I’ll mention Permitting… – I had to write it down because I always say the title wrong! Not only is it fast, but there are a lot of different riffs. There are a lot of tempo variations and they do this thing where, the third time they play the same riff, they add in a different note.”

Vital Remains – Dechristianize (Dechristianize, 2003)

“This would not be a complete list if Vital Remains weren’t here. I was stuck between Dechristianize and Infidel but, on Dechristianize, the bass is more varied. Again, there are all these tempo changes. Whenever you start to get comfortable with the tempo, they suddenly change it again. Vital Remains are probably a nightmare for drummers and guitarists, as well.”

Vader – Shock And Awe (Solitude In Madness, 2020)

Vader are one of my favourite death metal bands. All the fast Crypta songs are highly influenced by Vader, because they’re written by me and I’m listening to Vader all the time! Shock And Awe, it’s not the fastest, but it’s probably one of the faster Vader songs. It makes it very complicated for whoever plays using their fingers, like me.”

Deicide – Dead By Dawn (Deicide, 1990)

Deicide are one of the bands that made it easier for me to understand what death metal is. As weird as it may sound, some of their songs are really accessible, with catchy choruses. Dead By Dawn, I included this one because there are so many notes, but there are also so many breaks. It’s getting fierce and then it stops. It’s a crazy song!”

Behemoth – Shemhamforash (Evangelion, 2009)

“This isn’t the trickiest song on this list, but I wanted to include Behemoth because I love them! Ha ha! Shemhamforash, from the Evangelion album, is just very chaotic. There are a lot of things going on at the same time. There are so many parts and it’s so fast: it’s this blend of furious speed and a crazy structure.”

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Crypta’s new album, Shades Of Sorrow, is out now via Napalm. The band play Bloodstock Open Air, Derbyshire, in August.

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.