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Death metal: where to start!

As with anything that's been around for four decades, there's a lot of this stuff. We promised you a guide, so we think this is where to begin - the roots, Ground Zero, whatever you want to call it. Here are five old-school, formative and essential death metal records from the OGs.


slayer hell awaits thrash metal album art
Slayer - Hell Awaits

Primal, fast, and demonic in a way nobody else had even considered attempting yet.

  1. Venom - Black Metal (1982) The second album from this Geordie 3-piece is arguably one of the most influential of all time. Literally every metal band you've ever heard of classes this murky thrasher as essential, and with plenty of good reasons. Key tracks: Countess Bathory, Leave Me In Hell, Black Metal

  2. Possessed - Seven Churches (1985) The genre takes its name from Chuck Schuldiner's band Death (more on which later in this list), but Possessed beat them to an album release by a full two years and Chuck himself claims this as an influence. Half the band were 16 years old when this savage beast burst out! Primal, fast and demonic in a way nobody else had even considered attempting yet. Key tracks: Burning In Hell, Twisted Minds, Death Metal

  3. Slayer - Hell Awaits (1985) From the first track on, Slayer set out a whole new stall from their debut album. Darker, heavier, more technical, some of the first real recorded 'death growls' - 'Hell Awaits' is an absolute ICON of where thrash starts to become death metal, and that's just the title track. Some of these songs were still in Slayer live setlists nearly 40 years on... Key tracks: Hell Awaits, Necrophiliac, At Dawn They Sleep

  4. Death - Scream Bloody Gore (1987) Widely credited as the point where thrash fully evolved into death metal, Death's debut drew from horror movies for lyrical inspiration and featured Chris Reifert, later of Autopsy, on drums. There have been many heavier albums since, but arguably none more important to codifying an entire scene. Key tracks: Zombie Ritual, Sacrificial, Evil Dead

  5. Massacre - From Beyond (1991) In Kam Lee, Massacre had probably the greatest death metal vocalist available for many many years - he was in early versions of Death as both vocalist and drummer, even, and is still putting out great records with a host of bands. The rest of the band were legends in their own right too, having played (or been credited) on Death's second album, Leprosy. Sharper production than most and some absolutely cracking songs make From Beyond a vital document of a scene that by now was splintering off in all kinds of nastier directions. Key tracks: Cryptic Realms, From Beyond, Corpse Grinder


There have been many heavier albums since, but arguably none more important to codifying an entire scene.

Things get weird from here, but stick with us - we have a map and snacks! See you on the next one...





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