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Death metal: where to next?



In the last one of these, we laid down the roots of death metal for you. If that didn’t put you off entirely, or even piqued your interest for a deeper dive, strap in for a slightly wilder ride this time out. Like any broad genre classification, ‘death metal’ actually means a LOT of things and many of them bear little real resemblance to each other - we’re not especially fans of micro-genreisation here at MTN Towers, but a little more granularity can ease your journey a little!


As you’ll come to notice, the death metal scene was already branching out in different directions very early on. From the dizzying technicality of Atheist and Cynic, to the melodic chops of the Gothenburg scene via In Flames, At The Gates and Dark Tranquillity, to the ‘death and roll’ clatter and swing birthed by Entombed and the doubling-down on aggression of bands like Immolation, Incantation and Cannibal Corpse - well, we’d started to need a lot of dividers in our death metal collections.


Here, then, are five albums that exemplify some of the most common subgenres and will hopefully set you down the right branch of the rabbit hole…


BRUTAL DEATH METAL


Cryptopsy - None So Vile (1996)

This thing is still wild nearly 20 years on. Jazzy slap bass, Neanderthal slam riffs and tremelo-picked flurries float over some of the most incredibly varied and savage drumming you'll ever hear, overlaid with a fully-bonkers and fully-indecipherable vocal performance from a clearly-deranged man who calls himself 'Lord Worm'. Utterly essential.


PROGRESSIVE DEATH METAL


Death - The Sound Of Perseverance (1998)

Since 1991's Human, Chuck Schuldiner had been teasing and testing the boundaries of technicality in extreme music, pushing farther and harder with each release whilst maintaining the core songwriting principles that had seen his band so beloved. This album is possibly the ultimate expression of how to blend chops, songs, and brutality, and still towers over the entire scene. Cleaner than you might expect, but no less mighty for it.


MELODIC DEATH METAL


At The Gates - Slaughter Of The Soul (1995)

Every other melodic DM band in the whole world has ripped this album off. Yes, all of them. Pretty much perfecting the entire subgenre meant we didn't get a new album from At The Gates for a very long time after this - and the new stuff wisely doesn't even try to do this again. The perfect storm of crisp production, epic riffs, and Tomas Lindberg's pained howl, Slaughter Of The Soul is less of an album and more of a Haynes manual for how this stuff has to be done.


DEATH AND ROLL


Entombed - Wolverine Blues (1993)

Another perfect storm from Sweden, there's clearly something in the water over there. I suspect it might be beer. Tempering the aggression with some VERY 1970s groove and swing, Wolverine Blues is the goddam template for pretty much everything that Southern Lord Records put out for about a decade. It's rock and roll played on chainsaws, kids!


DEATH/DOOM


diSEMBOWELMENT - Transcendence Into The Peripheral (1993)

If you prefer your music slower and moodier, let these Aussies crush you into your component atoms. Melancholic to the fullest extreme, most of this album moves at speeds measured against continental drift. It's ponderous and miserable in ways you can't actually fathom until you hear it, but no less dynamic and aggressive than death metal should be. A masterpiece of depressive atmosphere.


Pop your thoughts and a little rating below - if you're hearing these albums for the first time or you're an avid listener, we'd like to hear from you!

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