of a rib of thrash in the second half of the Eighties, death metal
exasperates the lessons taught by past bands and revolutionizes
the extreme metal concept, showing it's ability to overcome the
apparent limits of a musical genre that has evolved time and time
Now the infernal machine produced by the death metal scene will
be vivisected by Metal Hammer in the Millennium special to feed
our ravenous readers. So, whet your appetite with a succulent porridge
of ripping, growling vocals, obsessive drumming, razor-edged guitar
riffs and exciting yells of every kind. Article by Enrico De Paola.
Leaving out the indisputable
importance of Venom and Bathory, who we already
talked about elsewhere, among the founders of death (but of black,
thrash and every other type of extreme metal too), we can't avoid
mentioning once again, Celtic Frost, the Swiss band born
of the ashes of Hellhammer that, since the ancient Eighties, would
pave the way for many past and present musical groups. Baptism
began in 1984 with 'Morbid Tales', a mini-LP characterized by
fascinating sounds that join the classical thrash rhythms and
the most funeral doom atmospheres from the band's singer/guitarist
and leader Tom G. Warrior's deep and dark voice (similar to death-style).
The confirmation of
the very good qualities showed by the band came the following
year with the convincing EP 'Emperor's Return' and the first full-length
album 'To Mega Therion.' These are two sources of never-ending
inspiration for death metal's birth and development. But with
'Into The Pandemonium' Celtic Frost release their most innovative
album: lyrical female vocals, orchestral arrangements and every
sort of experimentation are just the music now played by many
black and death metal bands (Cradle Of Filth and Therion, for
Besides Venom, Bathory and Celtic Frost, we can't forget the great
importance of Slayer who show a very personal and uncompromising
sound since their second album 'Hell awaits' (1985). It's a real
sonic assault produced by bass-player/vocalist Tom Araya, the
axe-men Jeff Hanneman & Kerry King and the extraordinary drummer
Dave Lombardo. Although the band is still a thrash act, Slayer's
music is so much more violent and different from that one of buddies
Metallica, Megadeth, Exodus et cetera, that in their case they
began to talk (though improperly) about death metal. Above all
the third album, the famous and unrivalled 'Reign In Blood', will
be the cult for the future sheer death metal bands such as Death,
Obituary and Morbid Angel. No less fundamental to the genre's
birth were Possessed, an American band from the Bay Area,
still a favorite among every death/black metal band worth the
genre. (For your information it is the ensemble with guitarist
Larry Lalonde later on in thrashers Blind Illusion along with
the inspired bass player Les Claypool (both went on to the freaky
The optimum metal
mix of Slayer and Venom that Possessed offer on 'Seven Churches',
'Beyond The Gates' and 'The Eyes Of Terror', is still an important
point of reference for the current musical scene and keeps on
being universally praised almost fifteen years after its first
market appearance. At last we have to tell about the German thrash
scene that was beginning in those years, led by Sodom and Kreator.
These last, above all, decidedly emerge, turning out to be particularly
adept at revising Slayer's lessons in their own personal and gripping
way. The neurotic and raging voice of singer/guitarist (and undisputable
leader) Mille Petrozza makes the Kreator name one of the favorite
by thrashers, while the second official release of the German
band 'Pleasure To Kill' gives an important inspiration to dawning
death groups. Nearly the same is the impact aroused by the debut
of Sodom that, just in 1984, delighted thrash fanatics
with their EP 'In The Sign Of Evil'. But, while the German scene
begins to create their effects, in Brasil Sepultura take their
first steps that, in 1985, release their negligible mini-LP 'Bestial
Devastation' Also the band's first full-length album is lacking
of interest: in fact, 'Morbid Visions' is a record on which there
are evident mistakes and obvious musical inability. You'll need
to wait for just a couple of years to be enraptured by the Brazilian
band that, in the years between the Eighties and Nineties, marks
sheer thrash/death masterpieces like 'Schizophrenia', 'Beneath
The Remains' and 'Arise'.
The first (and maybe
most important) champions of the classical death metal concept
are called Mantas. With this name, soon abandoned for the more
famous Death, was born one of the most influential bands
in the extreme metal story. After the dignified (yet not exciting)
debut with 'Scream Bloody Gore' in the far-away 1987, the very
young Death leader/guitarist/vocalist, Chuck Schuldiner, succeeds
every time in reaching more and more ambitious goals, setting
up a perfect machine. The line-up troubles met over their winding
road don't seem to weaken the band, but, on the contrary, strengthen
the qualities of a band that, despite their troubles and despite
their name, never split up. In the same year in which the four-piece
led by Schuldiner release their first masterpiece with 'Leprosy',
not one band exists worth to be compared with Death. But from
Netherlands the unfortunate Pestilence show to have already
learned the lesson, releasing the promising debut 'Malleus Maleficarum'.
But you'll need to
wait for years 1989-1990 to know the best shining moments of death
metal. It's just in these two years, in fact, that the most important
bands of the examined genre release their most exciting discs.
Above all in the United States (in the Bay Area and in Florida)
all hell breaks loose that will grace the now-famous Morrisound
Recording Studios. Morbid Angel debut with 'Altars Of Madness',
Obituary with 'Slowly We Rot', while Atheist release
their masterpiece 'Piece Of Time'. Less numerous, but however
fascinating the same, are the answers from other nations: Sweden
imposes its trademark with Entombed and their great debut
'Left Hand Path' (giving honor to the now very famous Sunlight
Studios), Brazil confirms the value of thrasher/deathers Sepultura
with 'Beneath The Remains', ; while in England the grindcore of
Napalm Death and Carcass breaks loose.
In 1990 excellent
releases confirm the death metal monsters Morbid Angel ('Blessed
Are The Sick') and Obituary ('Cause Of Death'), but there are
also surprises like the superlative comeback of Sadus ('Swallowed
In Black') of the incomparable bass-player Steve DiGiorgio, the
first death metal album by Napalm Death ('Harmony Corruption'),
the amazing debut of Nocturnus ('The Key') that are the
pioneers of symphonic death, the glorious return of Death ('Spiritual
Healing') assisted by James Murphy on guitar.
Probably among the
most disputable bands, but however fundamental for the genre's
development, surely Deicide stands out with their self-titled
debut. Deicide, (although led by a man called Glen Benton, who
has an evident reversed cross scarred on his eyebrow), can (rightly)
be disdained by many, they are one of the main representatives
of an original and extremely convincing sound, worthy to enter
by right the death hierarchy along with names such as Death, Obituary
and Morbid Angel. The debut of the now praised Cannibal Corpse,
leaves you rather indifferent because it's overshadowed by other,
more important, records.
From 1991 to 1994,
masterpieces are quite rare, yet on the contrary renewals and
births of bands are quite common. These are the years of the debuts
of Unleashed (a band with a sound very close to the death
metal origins), Tiamat, Hypocrisy, Egde Of Sanity,
At The Gates, Dismember, In Flames, Vader,
Sentenced, Malevolent Creation, Konkhra,
the violent American grind 'n'death of Brutal Truth of
bass player Dan Lilker (Anthrax, Nuclear Assault) and of many
other bands. Yet above all shined the release of 'Focus', the
wonderful gem of the progressive death metallers Cynic.
Good albums are released
by Carcass, Cannibal Corpse, Death, Deicide, Entombed, Napalm
Death, Pestilence and Sepultura. In '95/'99 some of the most important
discs of the Nineties were released. We're talking about 'Slaughter
Of The Soul' (At The Gates), 'Vile' and 'Gallery Of Suicide' (Cannibal
Corpse), 'Abducted' (Hypocrisy), 'The Jester Race' (In Flames),
'The Gallery' (Dark Tranquillity), 'Symbolic' (Death), 'Once Upon
The Cross' (Deicide), 'Black Earth' (Arch Enemy), 'The Haunted'
(The Haunted), 'Theli' (Therion), 'Haunted' (Six Feet Under),
'By Time Alone' (Orphanage), 'Steelbath Suicide' (Soilwork), 'The
Avenger' (Amon Amarth), 'Rusted Angel' (Darkane), 'Who's Gonna
Burn' (Carnal Forge), 'Something Wild' (Children Of Bodom) and
a bunch of other titles we hope to tell you about later in the
third Millennium special.
About at the end of
the Eighties, besides the death metal phenomena , the so-called
grindcore movement starts to take shape, especially in England.
It's a musical genre ruled by the 'no-compromise' law, showing
very short and extreme tracks, in which the hardcore element plays
a decisive part. But above all the punk attitude, rather than
the music itself, is the vital element around which the grindcore
was developing. What stimulates and feeds the bands belonging
to this scene is the protest against the society, against right-wing
thinking persons, against every either silently or explicitly
imposed rule. Most of the time the musicians really seem not to
be able to play an instrument with real professionalism.
Later, on the contrary,
a lot of grind combos show evident interest in death metal (with
which they already shared, although in different ways, the use
of growling vocals), becoming technically more prepared and try
to go beyond the just set boundaries. Indisputable leaders and
main pioneers are the English Napalm Death that, in 1987,
with their debut album unambiguously titled 'Scum', give us the
"scum" of the metal-hardcore musical limits, and arouse
the first claims and most absurd critics by the specialized press.
The following 'From Enslavement To Obliteration' creates the usual
mess of contrasting judgments, is featuring more than twenty tracks,
many of which are characterized by a derisive length of a few
vocals, sharp bass parts, obsessive guitar rhythms and terribly
hammering drums, are the core of the sound of the first Napalm
Death. But the grindcore excesses of the beginning are soon left
for death metal that, from 'Harmony Corruption', gets more and
more technical and mature. Beyond that, the changing line-up of
the Birmingham-based band is stupefying. In fact, in Napalm Death
have been playing: Mick Harris and Nick Bullen (then they'll both
be in Scorn), Justin Broadrick (Godflesh), Bill Steer (Carcass),
Lee Dorrian (Cathedral), Mark Barney Greenway (Benediction), Jesse
Pintado (Terrorizer) and Mitch Harris (Righteous Pigs).
Beside Napalm Death, among the primary bands of the grindcore,
Carcass has to be mentioned. Above
all, their music is distinguished by the use of a double growl.
For Carcass count the same things as earlier for Napalm Death.
As time passes, the band starts to prefer more complex structures
that in the end flow into the death metal world. But, different
from Napalm Death, the last part of Carcass' carreer doesn't repeat
the same patterns as do many other bands, but lead the way for
next generations. The grind 'n' death sound extremism find its
last exponent in Terrorizer, a band featuring famous guest musicians
such a guitarist Jesse Pintado (at the time in Napalm Death),
and two Morbid Angel members, bass player David Vincent and drummer
Pete Sandoval. The result of their cooperation with singer Oscar
Garcia is their much talked about 'World Downfall'.
Although its detractors
think the opposite, death metal is a kind of music that is not
easy to play. In the most important bands belonging to this extreme
rock genre, are the names of very skilled and fantastic musicians
that, with their share, succeeded to write some of the most charming
pages in the metal history. Among those musicians it's right to
mention the extraordinary drummer Gene Hoglan, who's able to compete
with the highly regarded Dave Lombardo (Slayer, Grip Inc., Fantomas)
and Paul Bostaph (Forbidden, Slayer). After being a part of the
Californian thrashers Dark Angel, Hoglan joined Death for
two albums, and then left to play with Strapping Young Lad.
Beyond this, he also
proved himself to be an indefatigable session man working with
succesful bands like Testament, Fear Factory and
Old Man's Child. Worthy of mention also is the eclectic
bass player Steve DiGiorgio, who, after emerging with the underestimated
Sadus, offered his in incredible talent to Death, Testament and
Control Denied. But he who needs more than a simple clap
is the real guitar hero James Murphy.The technical and the musical
background of this last extreme champion, really don't seem to
have expressive limits. Murphy, in fact, has got very numerous
collaboration that sometimes are apart from a real metal context.
We remember him with pleasure from Death, Obituary, Disincarnate,
Cancer, Testament (those ones of the amazing 'Low' and
the recent 'The Gathering') and Konkhra. Not less meaningful
is James' solo work on 'Convergence' and 'Feeding The Machine',
while even more surprising his guest appearences on the Explorer's
Club project and the tribute to Rush 'Working Man'.
Among the first leaders
of the extreme sound in Italy are just two names: Necrodeath
and Schizo. The unconditioned love for Slayer and Kreator
is underlined with pleasure by Necrodeath who, about thirteen
years ago, made the historical record 'Into The Macabre', and
album on which the very good and undoubtful qualities of the band
emerge. So we welcome with enthusiasm the recent come back of
the band led by Peso and Claudio, who today seem to intentionally
be playing the role of best Italian extreme metal act of all times
with their latest release 'Mater Of All Evil'.
Schizo also payed
their share to the Italian death metal cause. The band of guitarist
Vittorio Bianco, bass player Alberto Penzin and drummer Pat Pappalardo
who at the end of the Eighties presented themselves to the public
with the praiseworthy 'Main Frame Collapse'. In the Nineties,
on the contrary, the number of Italian acts worth to be respected,
greatly increased, along with releases from the shadows of the
past, like Schizo's mini-LP 'Sound Of Coming Darkness'. This is
the period in which Sadist are noticed, who are one of the most
important and innovative musical bands of our 'Bel Paese' extreme
Their debut 'Above
The Light' (recorded with a line-up including the leader Tommy
on guitar/keyboard, Andy on bass and Peso on drums) soon features
the unmistakable trademark of a band that will be able to fascinate
and surprise with every release. Among the relatively more recent
bands are, appreciated beyond, Detestor, with their pure-death
metal debut "In The Circle Of Time', the old-style death
metallers from Bari, Natron, and Fiurach, a band born from the
ashes of Agarthi, who stood out last year with an epic symphonic
death metal influenced by thrash which caractherizes the good
METAL RECOMENDED DISCOGRAPHY
- 'Piece Of Time' (Actice Records - 1989)
A progressive death metal masterpiece by one of the most important
and underestimated bands from Florida. Unfortunately the accidental
death of the excellent bass player Roger Patterson will bring
troubles on Atheist's way.
AT THE GATES - 'Slaughter
Of The Soul' (Earache - 1995)
One of the most praised and influential death metal albums in
the scene. A superb example of melodic death metal strongly influenced
by "dear ol' Eighties thrash. An absolute must of rare beauty
and blasting power that you can't miss.
ARCH ENEMY - 'Burning Bridges'
(Century media - 1999)
Among the best come backs of one of the emerging bands of melodic
death metal with roots in the past of thrash and metal in general.
'Burning Bridges' features the bass player Sharlee D'Angelo (Mercyful
CARCASS - 'Necroticism: Descanting
The Insalubrious' (Earache - 1991)
'Heartwork' (Earache - 1994)
See 'Millennium Special # I'
CHILDREN OF BODOM - 'Something
Wild' (Nuclear Blast - 1998)
Fusing Malmsteen-style neoclassical metal, melodic death metal,
Eighties thrash, classic power, black metal influences and symphonies
featured by nowadays bands wasn't an easy deed, but Children Of
Bodom hit the mark perfectly. As phenomenal as the next 'Hatebreeder'.
CYNIC - 'Focus' (Roadrunner
A band constituted by exceptional musicians named Jason Gobel
(Monstrosity), Paul Masvidal (Death), Sean Reinert (Death), Shawn
Malone (Gordian Knot), 'Focus' features an original progressive
death metal in which there are evident different influences, from
fusion to jazz. A renowned chapter in death metal.
DARK TRANQUILLITY - 'The Gallery'
(Osmose - 1995)
Among the youngest outfits of the Nineties there are the Swedish
Dark tranquillity, that, on 'The Gallery' create a very complex
and articulate death metal, that, without neglecting the classic
impact of this musical genre, is enriched by fascinating and charming
DARKANE - 'Rusted Angel' (WAR
Darkane's debut is almost on the same level of Carnal Forge's
one for impact and power, but differs owing to the presence of
arrangements in a classical music style. Orchestral death metal
which doesn't forget the lesson of At The Gates.
- 'Leprosy' (Combat - 1988) -review-
'Individual Thought Patterns' (Combat - 1993) -review-
See 'Millennium Special # I
DISMEMBER - 'Death
Metal' (Nuclear Blast - 1997)
Pure death metal shot in your face with no hesitation or mercy.
Among the most extreme and indomitable true death metallers of
ENTOMBED - 'Left Hand Path'
(Earache - 1989)
See 'Millennium Special # I'
IN FLAMES - 'The Jester Race'
(Nuclear Blast - 1996)
When you talk about melodic death metal you soon think of the
Swedish In Flames and this charming disk! 'The Jester Race' represents
the highest peak of a band very able to balance death metal with
melodies of the classic Heavy Metal from the past.
HYPOCRISY - 'Abducted' (Nuclear
Blast - 1996)
Hypocrisy, band of extreme metal King Midas Peter Tagtgren, did
one of their best chapters with 'Abducted', a fabulous extract
of death metal with black influences that winks an eye to Pink
MORBID ANGEL - 'Altars Of
Madness' (Earache - 1989)
'Blessed Are The Sick' (Earache - 1991)
'Altars Of Madness' and 'Blessed Are The Sick' need no comment:
two shining episodes released by the first real masters of death
metal. It's a pity that the next Morbid Angel's release is not
as good as these first two works of the band.
NOCTURNUS - 'The Key' (Earache
One of the most progressive, melodic and technical records released
by former Morbid Angel member Mike Browning. One of the first
examples of symphonic death metal, excellently played and using
OBITUARY - 'Cause Of Death'
(Roadrunner - 1990)
The masters of death metal should have been mentioned with any
of their records with no risk of disappointing the lovers of the
genre. Yet 'Cause Of Death' shines particularly because it features
guitar hero James Murphy.
PESTILENCE - 'Testimony Of
The Ancients' (Roadrunner - 1991)
High quality progressive death metal that we hope will never be
forgotten by next generations. Along with 'Consuming Impulse'
it represents the highest peak reached by the Dutch band.
SADUS - 'Swallowed In Black'
(Roadrunner - 1990)
Second official release from Sadus, band of the famous bass player
Steve DiGiorgio, very talented musician we find also in Death
('Human' and 'Individual Thought Patterns'), Testament ('The Gathering')
and recent Control Denied ('The Fragile Art Of Existence'). On
'Swallowed In Black' is shown a technical and complex death metal
with a great impact.
- 'Steelbath Suicide' (Listenable Records - 1998)
As worthy as the subsequent 'The Chainheart Machine', 'Steelbath
Suicide' features a melodic death metal played with enviable skill.
There are influences of Eighties thrash (especially in the very
heavy guitar riffs) and classic metal too.