**This post was put on Johnny Ringo Reviews on Friday the 13th, but I’m not sure what compelled me to write about death metal on that particular day. Either way, every one of these albums rules and this is one of my favorite lists I ever made**
Friday the 13th has always been one of my favorite days. Not because of the movie of the same title, but A: because it falls on Fridays, and B: because the vibe throughout the entire day always seems to be fairly creepy, particularly if it’s raining. In celebration of a strange semi-holiday and a fairly brutal series of horror films, i’ve dedicated my post of the day to celebrate 13 of my favorite death metal albums of all time. I’m sure there are better genre choices for this list, but i’ve been listening to a ton of old school death metal recently and felt compelled to blab about each, also, this is just a small list(in no particular order) and I know there are many better choices out there, but these are my main albums I constantly go back to, if you feel I left off something awesome, leave a comment. For more strange lists and tons of other stuff, be sure and “like” my Facebook page. Thanks for reading!
P.s. After reading all the band names on here like Autopsy, Death, Obituary, and Grave, it reminds me of this classic Mitch Hedberg joke.
“I used to play in a Death Metal band. Most Death Metal bands have dark names like “Obituary”. We weren’t that intense. We were just “Injured”.
One thing you’ll notice about this list is that each of these albums have one thing in common, aside from containing awesome, brutal music, they have incredible artwork. This album has one of my favorite album covers ever, but it also contains some of the most putrid, vile riffs/lyrics/vocals i’ve ever heard. Thanks to songs like “Twisted Mass Of Burnt Decay”, “In The Grip Of Winter”, and “Dead” this album is definitely a death metal icon. Though the album has awful production, that makes it even more heavy because Chris Reiffert and co were able to craft music genuinely heavy without the use of any sort of studio tricks.
Anybody reading this who’s familiar with Bolt Thrower might be thinking “what? where is “War Master” or “For Victory?”. The thing is, man, this album was actually (and sadly) my introduction to Bolt Thrower. I read an article about them in Decibel when the album came out and it sounded cool, so I decided to pick up the album. I expected it to be incredibly heavy, however, I did not expect it to completely change the way I looked at death metal, nor did I think it would be one of my favorite metal albums of all time. Simply put, everything about this album is 100% perfect. It’s got well-crafted lyrics about war, it’s got an incredibly ominous vibe to it, and most importantly, it’s got some of the most disgusting riffs ever. On top of the awesomely brutal riffs, each song is perfectly encased in the most bone-crushing production value ever that gives it an incredibly explosive sound. It’s kind of weird saying that this is my favorite Bolt Thrower album considering their impressive discography, but I developed a connection to this album unlike most and i’m forever loyal to it and still listen to it multiple times to this day.
Regrettably, I got into death metal much later in life than I would have liked, so most of the albums that got me addicted to the genre are more recent releases, thus I had to do more digging to get into the classics of the genre. I mention that as my reason why I chose “Perseverance” for this list instead of “Scream Bloody Gore” or “Human”. This is one of two albums that got me into death metal. The first time I heard “Scavenger Of Human Sorrow” on a radio show I was listening to that focused on metal, my jaw dropped and I couldn’t believe it was possible to craft something so heavy and technical. Though this album isn’t rated as highly by most fans of the band, I honestly believe it’s one of their best albums. It’s got some of their catchiest songs ever like “Scavenger”, “Bite The Pain”, “Spirit Crusher” and “Flesh And The Power It Holds”. Also, this album could very well be called “Guitar Hero: Death Metal” because of the guitar clinic that Chuck Schuldiner and Shannon Hamm put on, but the album also features some incredibly preposterous drumming by Richard Christy. I owe my love of death metal to this album, and though it’s not their best album, it’s number one to me.
This is another album that, alongside it’s incredible riffs, features absolutely legendary album art. Everytime I put this cd in, I find myself completely lost in the scenery on the album cover, it’s so awesome. One interesting thing about this album is that it features a song that I would consider to be a prime candidate for the top five or ten of my favorite metal songs of all time, in fact, I would go so far as to say that the riff in “Override Of The Overture” has one of my favorite riffs of all time in it. There’s just something about the tone of swedish death metal that just completely rules and I can’t get enough of it. I think you could play Nickelback songs through that HM-2 pedal and make them sound amazing. This album is one that’s not very technical and they don’t have alot of tricks other than the tone that they utilize, but man, this album is a necksnapper of the highest degree thanks to it’s breack-neck pace and a handful of mosh-worthy songs that will make you want to start a circle pit anywhere you happen to be listening to it, whether it be at work, or in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner with your family.
If you read much about metal, you’ll see that many critics overuse the term “brutal” to describe riffs (guilty!), but this album, for me, personifies the term in two ways. First of all, it’s because they are the originators of the “brutal death metal” style, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a death metal band playing anything more brutal than Suffocation in the early 90’s. The second reason is because I had just recently purchased this album on cassette and I was driving down the road listening to “Infecting The Crypts” when a lady went straight in a left-turn only lane while I was turning left in a left/straight lane and BOOM…the brutality took a new meaning. Listening to brutal death metal and feeling metal collide into metal at 35 mph is a feeling I still can’t shake, man. Also, ya know, they completely caved my skull in when I saw them live at MDF X. Anyways, the point of this is, this album is absolutely the definitive brutal death metal album and you’ll have a hard time convincing me of any album that out-brutals Suffocation, vocal-wise or otherwise.
Once I discovered Death and fell in love with technical death metal, Gorguts were one of the next bands of the genre I came across and they made my jaw drop equally as much, but for a different reason. See, I always thought technical meant playing alot of different riffs as fast as possible, but Gorguts does things a little differently, they play with a ton of actual skill. They are definitely the most progressive band on this list. The only thing about this album is, like bands like Cynic, it’s a little difficult to consistently headbang to this album, you just kind of sit back and enjoy the crazy riffs and hope your brain doesn’t explode from Luc Lemay’s incredibly complicated riffs and gravel-throated, demonic screeching vocals.
This album is one of many on the list that not only has a band name and album title fitting of a death metal best of list, but it also contains badass artwork and incredibly brutal songs. Grave are a swedish death metal band and like their fellow Swedes Entombed, Dismember, and At The Gates, they are absolutely 100% devastatingly heavy. They use the same type of guitar tone you hear on Entombed and Dismember albums, but they are a little more old school in their approach, using more gravel/bile/coal-gargling vocals over sludgy, violent old school death metal riffs to beat you over the head instead of a thrashier approach like other bands of the genre. I didn’t discover this album until a couple of years ago sadly, I really think if I had discovered Grave in high school, they would be one of my all time favorites. This album definitely holds it’s weight on this list alongside the other genre heavyweights, and if given a choice between this album, Entombed’s “Left Hand Path” and “Everflowing Stream” by Dismember, i’ll usually choose this album just because of it’s maximum headbangability.
Decapitated are a band i’ve never listened to much, but have always had a great respect for. My introduction to Decapitated came when I heard “Spheres Of Madness” on Headbangers Ball and I was floored at how brutal the opening riff was, but for some reason I didn’t listen to many of their albums. This album was released very early in 2006 and since it was fairly early in the year, I was able to give it a fair listen and when the opening riffs of “A Poem About an Old Prison Man” came crashing in I was blown away at just how vicious this album was. Cool thing about Decapitated is, they were formed in 1996 when their drummer Witold “Vitek” Kiełtyka was just twelve years old…TWELVE! You can tell the dude was a master of his craft because on songs like “Day 69” he absolutely disembowels his drum kit. It didn’t occur to me until after about five or ten listens just how technicaly masterful, and aurally devastating this album really is but it still floors me to this day just how good this record is. The sad thing is, this album is the last that “Vitek” would ever perform on, but the bright side is…it fucking rules!
Bloodbath is a death metal supergroup of epic proportions and they are another band that I may have never discovered if it weren’t for listening to metal hour on a random college radio station. I had read before that Mikael Akerfeldt was in this band which I didn’t think much about, but when I first heard the song “Eaten” I knew this was a band i’d never stop enjoying. Though this is the only album by them i’m a huge fan of (probably because Dan Swano left), i’m DEFINITELY a huge fan of this album. The riffs on here are super heavy and stuff thanks to the ever-prolific Dan Swano, but the two reasons I ADORE this album are A: Jens Bogren’s production. Crushing doesn’t describe what the sound of this album feels like. B: Peter Tagtgren’s monstrous vocals. The M.V.P. on this song, other than Tagtgren and the production, however, is the song “Eaten”. It’s lyrics are a vile, disgusting, sadistic plea to be cannibalized, but the reason I love it is how catchy it is, also, the part at 3:27 where the drums come slowly creeping back in leading to more brutality just kills me every time, man. I have the lyrics to that song memorized so if i’m ever in a precarious situation, surely I can sing my way out of it.
This isn’t the first time i’ve written about this album on my site, and honestly, it’s a crime I don’t mention it more. This is seriously one of the finest death metal albums money can buy. It came out in 1990 just before the huge death metal explosion hit, but it’s timing was perfect as it inspired many of the bands to come shortly thereafter. This album features some incredible musicianship courtesty of James Murphy(Death/Testament/Cancer) on guitar and Donald Tardy on drums, but the real instrument on this album that really stands out about them all is the voice of John Tardy. The dude’s voice is absolutely unreal and aside from Chris Reiffert of Autopsy, he has the best voice in death metal. If you haven’t heard Obituary, or James Tardy, picture what it would sound like if you were driving down a haunted road and you ran over your neighbor’s cat and said cat was decapitated, yet due to mystical forces, it became reunited with it’s head, only to track you down and gnaw at your brains while you’re sleeping…that’s what it would sound like…or ya know…something like that.
Next to Obituary, Autopsy, and Dismember, Pestilence’s “Consuming Impulse” has one of my favorite album covers on this list. In fact, if I could own a shirt with any album cover from this list on it, I would either choose this album, or Obituary. “Pestilence” is the second album by these Dutch death metal monsters and it’s definitely the rawest of the albums on this list…well, almost as raw as Autopsy. Also, other than awesome names and album covers, they share one more thing with Autopsy and Obituary…they have one of the most recognizable voices in metal. Their vocalist is the legendary Martin Van Drunen(Asphyx, Hail Of Bullets) and he unleashes an aural assault on this album that is just as heavy as Reiffert or Tardy, but it’s more vicious, anguished screams than blood-curdling growling. The album has some amazingly fast, upbeat riffs and it’s a banger for sure. This record is also incredibly fun to listen to while jogging, until you punch someone in the face on accident from flailing your fists wildly that is…
This list is pretty varied in what metal subgenre’s it covers, you’ve got brutal death metal, technical death metal, Swedish death metal, Dutch death metal, old school death metal, and in Nile’s case…Egyptian death metal. The funny thing about that whole “Egyptian death metal” style is the fact that Nile’s main songwriter Karl Sanders actually lives in South Carolina. Another funny fact about Karl Sanders is, other than being an incredibly talented guitarist with a violent growl, he’s also pretty talented at other instruments. In the liner notes for “Annihilation Of The Wicked” he’s credited for also playing keyboards as well as two instruments i’ve never heard of called a bağlama as well as a bouzouki. I’m not sure what they are, but i’m sure they add to the super weird vibes the album gives off at times. On top of weird instruments and lyrical concepts the album is actually stupid heavy. It’s the first to feature drum-god George Kollias on the skins and when you hear songs like “Cast Down The Heretic” and “Sacrifice Unto Sebek” you can hear him put on a clinic. The best song on the album, and another of my all time faves though, is “Lashed To The Slave Stick”. I could write an entire blog post on just how bad ass this song is. The riffs crafted by Karl Sanders and Dallas Toler-Wade is absolutely mindblowing. Seriously the most brutal song ever.
For my final album on the list, i’ve included the only one that has an album cover so disgusting that it needed a censored version (i showed the unedited version on the left cause i’m rebellious). If you don’t listen to death metal, or if you’ve ever seen Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, you’ve heard of Cannibal Corpse and particularly their hit single “Hammer Smashed Face”(seewhatididthere). With song titles like “I Cum Blood”, “Addicted To Vaginal Skin”, and “Necropedophile”, the first time I came across this album I was completely shocked, disgusted, and a bit queesy, and I KNEW I had to hear more. I would consider Cannibal Corpse to be the gateway drug to death metal due to their violent lyrics/song titles, their astonishingly disgusting album art, and of course, their wrecklessly vicious music. It’s the perfect music to listen to as a rebellious teen mad at your parents and the world, seeking the meanest, nastiest music you can possibly find. Oddly enough, my introduction to this band came from someone who didn’t listen to any metal at all, he just thought “Hammer Smashed Face” was a brutal song and it would scare me and he’s right, it totally did, but it also inspired me to listen to more violent music and if I were to ever start a death metal band, my vocals would be completely 100% inspired by Chris Barnes.