Death metal crawled out of the fetid swamp of the late 80s metal underground, but it remains as impenetrable to many today as it did back then. For anyone who wants to get into this most extreme of genres but doesn’t know where to start, the head-spinning (and frequently stomach-churning) number of albums out there can be daunting. Luckily, we’re here to guide potential death-heads through the key albums you need to listen to get into this most extreme of genres. Just watch out for the splatter…
Death – Scream Bloody Gore (1987)
Death’s debut album provided the blueprint for what was to become the death metal genre. This gradual epiphany was predominantly due to the appearance of late frontman Chuck Schuldiner’s guttural approach to vocals, the only aspect that really set Death apart from their ferocious thrash metal contemporaries – a genre from which he took primary inspiration. The apex of the early formative demos and lineups, Scream Bloody Gore immersed their thrash roots in a fascination with horror and Chuck's grisly artistry.
Obituary – Slowly We Rot (1989)
If Death were The Beatles of death metal, then Obituary were its Rolling Stones: a dirtier, grimier, more streetwise proposition. But what their momentous debut album lacked in subtlety it made up for in noise and attitude. This was the ultimate horror movie soundtrack without a film: songs such as ’Til Death and the immortal title track were explosions of viscera, instantly becoming rubber-stamped death metal landmarks.
Morbid Angel – Altars Of Madness (1989)
Rightly hailed as a landmark for the emerging death metal Morbid Angel’s 1989 debut, Altars Of Madness, set the bar so high for the entire genre that people are still trying to match its brutal splendour more than 30 years later. This was a twisted, pitch-black and incredibly sophisticated upgrade for Chuck Schuldiner’s deathly blueprint. Trey Azagthoth’s churning, otherworldly riffs, David Vincent’s peerless growls and the band’s idiosyncratic approach and progressive mindset set them apart from their peers – songs like Chapel Of Ghouls and Immortal Rites have never been topped for otherworldly menace and riffs that tear your soul apart. Still untouchable after all these years.
Deicide – Deicide (1990)
Good old Glen Benton. While other bands merely talked about evil, the Deicide frontman really threw himself into it, even branding his own forehead with an inverted cross. Deicide’s debut album sounded exactly how an album made by an actual maniac should sound. Complex but vicious and dripping with anti-Christian vitriol, this was music for the damned.
Carcass – Heartwork (1993)
The finest British extreme metal album of the decade, the fourth record from former grindcore sick puppies Carcass was also the point where melodic death metal became a cohesive idea, and it still sounds fantastic all these years later. Every song has at least one unforgettable hook, genius riffs come thick and fast and Colin Richardson’s production was an authentic game-changer. Melodeath’s definitive statement.