Death Metal

Observing the progress in Heavy Metal music, you can see clearly that Death Metal is in the natural course of evolution for Thrash Metal, Speed Metal and early Black Metal.

Chuck Schuldiner, the frontman and lead guitar of Death, one of the most representative bands of this genre, says in an interview dated xxxx that his main inspiration was bands like Venom, Mercyful Fate, Exciter, early Metallica and Anvil.

Slayer, a Thrash band formed in 1981, was also a source of inspiration for the birth of Death Metal.
The second album by Slayer, Hell Awaits, is credited with “essentially inventing” a lot of the sound and rage that would later become Death Metal. Their third album, Reign in Blood, inspired the creation of the Death Metal subgenre according to AllMusic. Most representative bands in the genre, including Death, Obituary and Morbid Angel, were significantly influenced by it.

Death Metal also follows the rule of only three main instruments: guitar, bass and drums. The lyrics are also approaching similar subjects to Thrash and may address slasher-style violence, politics, religion, philosophy, true crime, and science fiction. Fewer songs about demons and Satan compared to Black Metal and as Schuldiner said:

“Reality is far more evil than a demon. You know, there is no tearing someone’s heart out. That just does not happen in life. I see no demons around me.

I see… I think… If there’s evil, it’s people.”

Chuck Schuldiner

The main characteristics of Death Metal’s musical arrangements: deep growling vocals but also clear singing eventually,  heavily distorted and low-tuned guitars played with techniques like palm muting and tremolo picking, powerful, aggressive drumming with double kick and blast beat techniques, minor keys or atonality, swift changes in tempo, key, and time signature and chromatic chord progressions are typical in a Death Metal composition.

To fully understand Death Metal you need to get an overview of what was going on in the music world in the late 80s and early 90s with the arrival of Grunge..

It was a dark period for Metal with Grunge ruling and swallowing youths’ hearts with Nirvana and Alice in Chains at the scene. Stealing also a big chunk of capital from the music industry market that was then inclined full steam towards the chill guys from Seattle.
Some thrash bands changed direction and adapted with a more commercial sound but Trash lived through despite all, sharing the scene with Death Metal and Glam. 

Death Metal never had a large following, but for some ardent Heavy Metal fans, it was a better option than Pop-metal or bands like Metallica and Megadeath who ended up somehow losing their initial identity but were still selling millions of records in the early 1990s. Death Metal maintained a modest but devoted cult throughout the 1990s and in its turn was an inspiration to Melodic Death Metal. Schuldiner’s “Voice of the soul” is a true musical masterpiece inspiring many Melo Death bands born during the ’90s.

If you listen to “Voice of the Soul”, a very touching piece, you will certainly be touched by Schuldiner’s manner of expressing his feelings through his guitar.

Other early American Death Metal bands include Macabre, Master, Massacre, Immolation, Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, and Post Mortem in addition to Possessed and Death.

Since then, Death Metal has evolved and given rise to numerous subgenres. Melodic Death Metal blends aspects of both the new wave of British heavy metal and Death Metal. The complicated musical genre known as technical Death Metal features strange time signatures, unorthodox rhythms, and peculiar harmonies and melodies. Death-Doom is a genre of Metal that blends the slow tempos and depressing mood of Doom Metal with the deep snarled vocals and double-kick drumming of Death Metal. Grindcore’s speed, intensity, and brevity are combined with Death Metal’s complexity in genres like Deathgrind, Goregrind, and Pornogrind. Deathcore blends elements of Metalcore and Death Metal. 

Death Metal’s growled vocals and heavily distorted, out-of-tune guitar riffs are combined with elements of Heavy Metal and hard rock from the 1970s to create death ‘n’ roll.
Blackened Death Metal, a subgenre of Death Metal that incorporates Black Metal and Death Metal elements, has a primarily “satanic” theme. Alternating between guttural and “ripped” vocals, a focus on musical skill rather than the usual rawness of Black Metal, and the sporadic use of riffs that are more “melodic” and intricate than Black Metal yet darker in climaxes than Death Metal are a few examples of what this may look like. It falls somewhere in the middle of the styles; it isn’t only a Death Metal subgenre. Some bands include Sarcophagus, Blasphemy, Behemoth, Dissection, Blasphemy, Belphegor, and Angel Corpse.

The most extreme form of Death Metal is known as Brutal Death Metal; bands that pioneered this genre include Krisiun, Nile, Suffocation, Cannibal Corpse, and Immolation. Brutal Death Metal is distinguished by its extremely guttural vocals and lyrics that are sung slowly in time with the guitar riffs, and abrupt tempo changes. However, the definition of the genre has evolved through time, and nowadays bands who fit the description of Brutal Death Metal sound even more violent, have more brutal vocals and lyrics than before, and nearly always incorporate a gore theme. Dying Foetus and Decapitated are good representative bands in the genre.