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Death metal: a brief primer

Our resident coil wizard is a Very Big Fan of death metal - all of your MTN crafts are forged to the sound of blastbeats and guitar amps set to ‘OBLIVIONISE’.  With this in mind, we have a few blog pieces around this most exhilarating and misunderstood musical form heading your way. Expect to find out the essential death metal bands and albums you need to hear to gain a deeper insight into the world of MTN, and possibly even discover a whole new world of cathartic extremity. For now, though, you may be wondering what death metal even is. Never fear; we gotchu, babes.

Venom metal band
Venom; pioneers of multiple sub-genres.

To really get a sense of what we’re dealing with here, we need to cast our musical minds back to the very very early 1980s. A time of lycra and leather, of perms and mullets, of New Romantics and goths, before autotune and beat grids and ubiquitous cookie-cutter pop moppets stinking up the radio with their identikit guffings. Yes, there was pop music but that didn’t mean remotely the same thing as it seems to these days - even the most trite and manufactured groups still had personality. It almost felt like you could look and sound however the hell you wanted and still stand a chance, as long as all you did was be 100% authentically yourself. A different world, for sure.

Faster, harder, louder, dirtier.

Focusing on the metal side of things then, we were already in a post-NWOBHM golden time. NWOBHM, incidentally, stands for New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, and is a loose grouping of all the stuff that came about in the wake of Zeppelin and Sabbath, and almost as a reaction to punk’s wholesale rejection of that scene’s excesses. Punk, NWOBHM, and even the earlier ‘pub rock’ scene of the likes of Dr Feelgood et al, far from being disparate are in fact all faces of the same movement towards a more ‘real’ grass-roots rock scene again. As bands like Iron Maiden grew out of the NWOBHM and started to bestride the entire globe whilst seemingly starting to recreate the very same excess they were born out of the protest of, we saw others stripping things back even further again. Formative here were the Geordie crucifix-botherers known as Venom on our side of the pond, whilst over in America the first seeds of death metal were being sown by Slayer, Possessed and of course Death.

 It's about making you feel like an unstoppable monster. That rush of adrenaline - you ain't getting the same thing from any other music.

So, what is it that characterises ‘death metal’? All the bands mentioned above sound quite different, but there are commonalities; faster, harder, louder, dirtier. The vocals became more extreme in delivery - clean singing gives way to screaming and growling, less of a melodic device and closer in feel to another percussion instrument. To the untrained or unwilling ear, it can all seem...a bit of a mess, really.

Now, what’s the point?

It's about catharsis. It's about making you feel like an unstoppable monster. That rush of adrenaline - you ain't getting the same thing from any other music. THAT's the point. We'll guide you through the very best examples of where to get this sensation of unfettered power from, and hopefully you'll grow to love it the same way MTN do...

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