Heavy metal has an extensive range of sub-genres, each with varying degrees of popularity. In 1993, one of them sprung out of nowhere – death‘n’roll. It’s the combination of death metal and rock‘n’roll, one which isn’t widely popular but has still maintained into the present day. And while it may not have the same clout as some of metal’s other musical strands, the toxic style is still worthy of appraisal. So here are 10 key records to get you started on this divisive musical concoction.
10) Horrific – Your Worst Nightmare (2009)
This tongue-in-cheek salute to death metal comes to life thanks to the rollicking rock‘n’roll ethos that runs right through it. Horrific don’t take themselves too seriously, and the music is the ultimate beneficiary of this carefree attitude. Songs like the driving anthem Death Rock and the no-frills battering-ram The Ultimate Sacrifix only emphasise the freewheeling nature that makes this record so downright fun.
9) Birds Of Prey – The Hellpreacher (2009)
Slow scorching slabs of sludge pepper Birds Of Prey’s 2009 release The Hellpreacher, an album that pierces though the sound barrier with its thick, dense sound. As sludgy as the record is, it’s stitched together with death‘n’roll at the forefront of the mix. Tracks like the steamrolling opener Mama or the riff monolith Tempt The Disciples barrel forth with complete disregard, while treading the fine line between vicious death metal and hook-laden rock‘n’roll. The Hellpreacher doesn’t reinvent the wheel but there’s still enough cranium-crushing material here to please even the most stubborn metaller.
8) Unleashed – Hell’s Unleashed (2002)
It may have been released years after the musical style had been spawned, but Unleashed’s 2002 comeback album is pure death‘n’roll through and through. It’s the sub-genre in its basest form, but it’s delivered with such utter contempt that it’s tough not to get sucked into the LP’s spiralling descent into hell. These dark Swedes have released better albums, but don’t let that stop you from spinning this one until it catches fire.
7) Dismember – Massive Killing Capacity (1995)
Dismember’s debut album Like An Ever Flowing Stream remains a death metal classic, but don’t discount their third album Massive Killing Capacity. Sure, it’s got a much more refined and accessible overall sound, but it’s still uncompromisingly brutal. Its rock‘n’roll elements only help to give their already sinister sound an even more devious connotation. The slower pace here really shines through on songs like the chugging stomper Crime Divine or the seriously mean Casket Garden, proving that these vicious volatiles can provide the goods no matter what the tempo or speed.
6) Death Breath – Stinking Up The Night (2006)
This scintillating LP is the most fast-paced entry on the list, and that’s thanks to its more death metal orientated speed – as slow as they go in stretches of it, the band mainly propel themselves forward through death metal’s traditional finger-peeling riffage. And boy does it pack a punch. This year marks the album’s 10-year anniversary, and remains the Swedish outfit’s only full-length album. We think it’s time they stunk up the night once more.
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5) Phazm – Cornerstone Of The Macabre (2008)
Of all the albums on this list, the most musically varied of the lot is Cornerstone Of The Macabre by Phazm. While their core foundation is death‘n’roll, they’re more than happy to embrace other very different influences – switching things up is the order of the day. Veering from the bouncy bar rocker Damnation into the swirling acoustic soother Strange Song seems second nature to the French four-piece. From doom metal to delicate instrumentals, Phazm utilise everything at their disposal to deliver an album that branches out from death‘n’roll in all sorts of inventive ways.
4) Six Feet Under – Warpath (1997)
Death metallers Six Feet Under put to bed the idea of the ‘difficult second album’ with this killer record. In what would be the last recording with founding guitarist Allen West, Warpath is exactly what you would expect from an album with such a devastating title. Frontman Chris Barnes delivers a throat-tearing vocal performance on each cut here, particularly on the sadistic slammer Nonexistence and thesordid shredder Animal Instinct. It’s music at its most primal, and Warpath knocks it out of the park with furious intent.
3) Gorefest – Soul Survivor (1996)
Another death metal band who fell for death‘n’roll’s seductive charm were Holland’s Gorefest. Their idea of a facelift was to rip off the actual face and replace it entirely. The record’s straightforward rock tunes, nestled into a shiny pop production, proved too hard for fans to swallow. Sadly, Soul Survivor helped to put a nail in the group’s coffin as disgruntled punters left the genre-deifiers by the wayside in their droves. Shame too, because It’s genuinely brilliant.
2) Carcass – Swansong (1996)
Diehard fans may have bemoaned Carcass’s swansong in the mid-90s, but with hindsight and an open mind, the more accessible sound found on the record only highlights just how multifaceted the influential group are. Gone are the intimidating complexities of their signature sound, instead replaced with deliberately digestible grooves and conventional song structures. Album peaks include the mid-tempo mesmeriser Black Star, the bass-driven banger Child’s Play and the pulsating pounder Polarized. Leave your preconceptions at the door and enjoy this one for what it is – a damn fine record.
1) Entombed – Wolverine Blues (1993)
Scandinavian death metal trailblazers Entombed nailed a distinctive sound with their first two fantastic records, but it was with 1993’s Wolverine Blues that they really decided to throw caution to the wind. Wolverine Blues divided (and still divides) fans with its rock‘n’roll traits. Don’t let that deter you from its devilish brilliance though. From start to finish, this record is a bloody-knuckled bruiser. You only need to listen to songs like the hellish nightmare Demon or the oozing scab Hollowman to realise that they haven’t lightened up in the mood department either. This is the one that started death‘n’roll, and over 20 years on, it is still yet to be bettered.