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The 50 best death metal albums ever

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30. Nile – Annihilation Of The Wicked (2005)

More crushing than one of the Great Pyramids landing on your head, Nile’s third full-length album was at times so fast, dense and disorientating that it verged on psychedelic. Still lost in some subterranean, ancient Egyptian maze of horrors, Karl Sanders’ crew skilfully brought epic grandeur and an air of mystery back to the heart of death metal via the pulverising likes of Cast Down The Heretic.

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29. Necrophagia – Season Of The Dead (1987)

Possessed’s Seven Churches may be death metal’s generally acknowledged starting point and Death’s Scream Bloody Gore debut may be the first pure DM album – at least in terms of how we expect the genre to sound – but Necrophagia’s horror-drenched debut came out several months earlier than Chuck Schuldiner’s first foray and remains a criminally overlooked work of influential extremity. 

Raw, chaotic and primitive, it was as inspired by the celluloid works of Argento and Fulci as it was by Slayer or Celtic Frost and, as a result, made a massive contribution to death metal’s eventual vocabulary and aesthetic.

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28. Deicide – Once Upon The Cross (1995)

The third instalment in Glen Benton’s personal crusade against the Church was very nearly as destructive and terrifying as the first two. More blunt and brutal than ever, songs like Kill The Christian and Christ Denied were every bit as violent and unrelenting as their titles suggested. “Armies of darkness unite!” growled Glen, not unreasonably.

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27. Cryptopsy – None So Vile (1996)

It’s impossible to talk about technical death metal without mentioning this second album from Montreal’s Cryptopsy. Sit back and revel in the twisted lyricism of vocalist Lord Worm - served via an unholy torrent of inhuman gutturals and demonic shrieks - whilst the hyper blasts of Crown Of Horns and Slit Your Guts’ disturbing tremolo picking offset by relentless breakdowns pound your cranium into ruthless submission. Brutal and beautifully chaotic, None So Vile remains the pinnacle in the band’s discography and is a must-have for any extreme metal fan’s collection. 

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26. Cannibal Corpse – Butchered At Birth (1991)

Noticeably uglier than their debut, Butchered At Birth saw the Buffalo quintet cement their place as death metal’s premier fiends. The grotesque artwork caused outrage across the globe, but it’s Chris Barnes’s deeper guttural grunts and the chilling production that made the likes of Covered With Sores such abhorrent highlights and set the blueprint for what followed.

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25. Behemoth – Demigod (2004)

Nergal has been an unstoppable force since whacking leukaemia, but he wasn’t exactly a shrinking violent in 2004 either. Demigod was a bombastic and haughty statement of renewed intent, as Behemoth polished up and streamlined their blackened death attack, resulting in some of their biggest anthems ever, not least the colossal Conquer All.

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24. Gojira – Terra Incognita (2001)

Long before anyone outside of France knew they existed, Gojira were bending death metal into peculiar new shapes. The genre-mincing genius of L’Enfant Sauvage and Magma were still years away, but even in 2001, songs like Lizard Skin and Rise were hinting that extreme metal was about to get a whale-sized boot up the backside.

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23. In Flames – The Jester Race (1996)

In Flames recruited singer Anders Fridén for their classic second album, proving the Gothenburg Sound was no mere flash in the pan. Their second studio outing established a thrilling, effervescent blueprint for the Gothenburg scene’s most successful band. It’s a simple formula – Maiden-style melody with a death metal delivery – but a gloriously effective one that has had a colossal, enduring impact on how metal sounds today.

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22. Autopsy – Severed Survival (1989)

Filth-ridden, pot-addled and inexorably hell-bound, Autopsy’s ultra-ugly formula was subversive, even by death metal standards. Severed Survival was one of the genre’s first masterworks: a sloppy but incendiary eruption of blood-splattered extremity, with weird detours into crippling doom and some of the goofiest lyrics of all time.

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21. Morbid Angel – Covenant (1993)

A third monumental classic in a row for Florida’s finest, Covenant is arguably the heaviest of the three, with a richer, darker production and some of Morbid Angel’s sharpest hooks. From the pummelling, infernal insanity of Rapture to the lumbering might of God Of Emptiness, it’s the sound of a band at the peak of their powers.

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