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The 50 best death metal albums ever

(Image credit: Earache)

40. Carcass – Symphonies Of Sickness (1989)

Carcass reached a creative high/low (depending on your point of view) with their second album. Housed in a collage of gruesome body parts, cadavers and bodies in various states of disrepair, the music was equally brutal, although this time the band were already beginning to stretch themselves with slightly longer material and more complex arrangements. It’s still earthy grindcore of course, and with song titles like Cadaveric Incubator Of Endo Parasites or Swarming Vulgar Mass Of Infected Virulency their humour shone through, their shock value unabated. And on Exhume To Consume they went way beyond the bounds of taste.

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39. Bloodbath – Nightmares Made Flesh (2004)

The sole Bloodbath album with Peter Tagtgren on vocals, Nightmares Made Flesh may have since been overshadowed by the band’s recent triumphs with Nick Holmes, but there’s no arguing with the fact that (a) Eaten is the Bloodbath’s biggest anthem, and (b) Tagtgren’s vocals are fucking scary. As with all Bloodbath albums, it’s death metal perfection.

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38. Arch Enemy – Doomsday Machine (2005)

Further refining their dark, melodic sound, Arch Enemy hit a rich vein of songwriting form in the mid-‘00s. Doomsday Machine is arguably the peak of that period, with timeless anthems like Nemesis and My Apocalypse and countless strong deep cuts, from the glowering, grinding Carry The Cross to berserk instrumental Hybrids Of Steel. An underrated classic.

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37. Cannibal Corpse – Kill (2006)

With the old guard making a comeback and a new crop of bands taking death metal to exciting new plateaus, it was up to Cannibal Corpse to reassert their dominance. Not only was Kill one of the best extreme metal albums of 2006 but its still stands as the finest collection of songs in their catalogue. Given a supreme production job by Hate Eternal’s Erik Rutan, the likes of blistering opener The Time To Kill Is Now and monstrous Death Walking Terror gave the scene an almighty kick up the arse and ensured Cannibal’s position at the head of the table from where they’ve ravenously continued to feast since.

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36. Opeth – My Arms, Your Hearse (1998)

Opeth came of age on their third album. Black metal, death metal and traditional Scandinavian folk were all part of the Swedes’ DNA, but here they embraced the warm tones and sepia-tinted atmospheres of prog for the first time. From the widescreen whoosh of April Ethereal to the crackling embers of sombre closer Karma these songs sizzled with intelligence and soul, as Opeth audibly transcended their death metal roots and entered an entirely new musical world that they would effortlessly claim as their own.

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35. The Black Dahlia Murder – Nocturnal (2007)

Of all the American bands that worship at the altar of At The Gates, The Black Dahlia Murder have long been both the most distinctive and the most legitimately deathly. 35 minutes of flat-out fury and spite, Nocturnal suggested that Trevor Strnad and his comrades were determined to drag melodic death metal away from the mainstream and back into the fires of Hell. With shades of Cradle and Dimmu thrown in for good measure, it’s a sublime display of malicious but melodic intent.

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34. Napalm Death – Utopia Banished (1992)

As explosive as ever but sounding considerably bigger and dirtier than they had on 1990’s Scott Burns-produced Harmony Corruption, Napalm Death sounded reborn on Utopia Banished, which is widely regarded as a benchmark release for both the band and extreme music in general. Listen to Got Time To Kill and try not to smash something.

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33. Celtic Frost – Morbid Tales (1984)

The first fruits of Tom G. Warrior’s post-Hellhammer endeavour, Celtic Frost’s Morbid Tales pre-dates more standard notions death metal by a couple of years, but the musical and spiritual connections between songs like Dethroned Emperor and just about every death metal band ever is impossible to deny. Tom rules. Be like Tom.

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32. Dismember – Like An Ever Flowing Stream (1991)

A cast-iron classic from the seminal Stockholm scene of the early 90s, Like An Ever Flowing Stream sits alongside Entombed’s Left Hand Path as an absolute pinnacle of Swedish death metal. Vicious, scything riffs, an underlying rock’n’roll rumble and enough punk energy to sink a longship, songs like Skin Her Alive and Soon To Be Dead will still plug you into the mains, nearly 30 years later.

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31. Entombed – Clandestine (1991)

If their debut album put Swedish death metal firmly on the map, Entombed’s second was all about showing who was boss. Clandestine sounded immaculate: furious and visceral but majestic and precise, with more hooks than an angler’s tackle-bag and some of the most lethal riffs ever written in the name of the Dark One.

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