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The 50 best death metal albums ever

(Image credit: Death)

20. Death – Scream Bloody Gore (1987)

The album that birthed a new generation of metalheads. Scream Bloody Gore was to inadvertently provide the embryonic blueprint for what was to become the death metal genre. This gradual epiphany was predominantly due to the appearance of 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.

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(Image credit: Earache)

19. Bolt Thrower – Realm Of Chaos (1989)

A monument to its creators’ singular vision, Realm Of Chaos shattered the death metal mould with a sustained assault of mid-tempo savagery that has arguably never been beaten. Aside from generally sounding /exactly/ like a swarm of tanks powering over the horizon, songs like World Eater and Dark Millennium upped the ante for all of heavy music.

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(Image credit: Roadrunner)

18. Suffocation – Effigy Of The Forgotten (1991)

Effectively ground zero for the entire “brutal death metal” genre, Suffocation’s full-length debut stripped death metal down to bone, sinew and pulsing heart, delivering a distinctly thuggish, New York alternative to their peers’ frequently ornate and complex aesthetic. Meanwhile, Frank Mullen’s guttural growls on the seminal likes of Infecting The Crypts have never truly been topped.

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(Image credit: Earache)

17. Morbid Angel – Blessed Are The Sick (1991)

After the chaotic energy rippling through their debut Altars Of Madness, the second album from Morbid Angel sealed their place at the head of the death metal pack. Blessed Are The Sick showed the Tampa, Florida legends learning to bring a bit more control to their breakneck sound, but within the album's sputtering blasts, half-time crawl and Trey Azagthoth's luminous leads is a feast of death metal DNA. 

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(Image credit: Earache)

16. Entombed – Wolverine Blues (1993)

Entombed’s third album 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 25 years on, it is still yet to be bettered.

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(Image credit: Earache)

15. Carcass – Necroticism – Descanting The Insalubrious (1991)

British death metal has never had an easy ride, but back in the early 90s, these anatomically precise ne’er-do-wells were setting the deathly rulebook ablaze, outgrowing their earlier status as grindcore pioneers and imbuing their trademark sound with jolting doses of traditional metal melody and razor-sharp song structures. Bolstered by frontman Jeff Walker’s darkly witty lyrics and the blistering six-string skills of Bill Steer and Michael Amott, 1992’s Necroticism – Descanting The Insalubrious remains a flawless monument to ingenious heaviness.

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(Image credit: Metal Blade)

14. Cannibal Corpse – The Bleeding (1994)

Before parting to form Six Feet Under and taking the original band logo with him, Chris Barnes helped helm some of the most horrifyingly violent and undeniably catchy anthems in the band’s arsenal. Who else could be so acclaimed for creating a song as contemptible as Stripped, Raped And Strangled?

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13. Obituary – Slowly We Rot (1989)

If Death were The Beatles of death metal, the 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.

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(Image credit: Roadrunner)

12. Death – Leprosy (1988)

With Scream Bloody Gore having set a new standard in extremity, 1988’s follow-up Leprosy would end up being the final nail in Death’s thrash-tinged coffin. This new subgenre dubbed death metal was gaining traction, and with renowned songs such as Pull The Plug and Open Casket expanding on the fatal sensibilities for which they'd become known, Leprosy would eventually stand out as the pinnacle of their early era – savage riffs and thrash-beaten decomposition.

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(Image credit: Music For Nations)

11. Opeth – Blackwater Park (2001)

A new millennium brought a new sense of urgency to Opeth’s bold musical efforts. Blackwater Park was not just a career peak from a young band with the wind in their sails, it also had a profound impact on the entire world of heavy music, as lengthy, elaborate epics like The Leper Affinity and The Drapery Falls reintroduced progressive ideals and creative bravery to the extreme metal world, while acoustic reveries like Harvest showcased a desire to move beyond it. Full of gorgeous melodies but still thunderously heavy, Opeth’s breakthrough album is widely and rightly revered as a landmark.

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