21 Essential Death Metal Albums You Need To Own
Hi, My name is Luke and I am a death metal addict. It’s been 20 years since the devil’s music has infected every facet of my life and I can’t help myself but I hope I can help you get hooked on some absolutely essential entry level (And not so entry level) albums you need in your collection. This collection of ear bleeders are personal choices of favourite albums, they might not be the “classics” from their back catalogue but they definitely stand on their own as ripping, head-banging quintessential releases.
21 STONE COLD CLASSICS:
Death - Human
Chuck Schuldiner was a pioneer of the genre, he created some of the most iconic sounds within Death Metal that have been bastardized and replicated since his early days with pre-Death band Mantas. Human is a pynical of the progressive death metal sound without going full wanker prog, This album has some of THE heaviest riffs you’ll ever hear, the crushing riff in “See Through Dreams” actually just sounds like bodies being grinded (Ground?) up.
Check out: See Through Dreams
Deicide - Once Upon The Cross
Glen Benton once burnt an upside down cross into his forehead. Now that is pretty fuckin’ metal. I got this album secondhand when I was around 14 years old and to be honest I had to shelf it for a while, I wasn’t ready for the blistering heaviness that blew out of my speakers.
Check out: Once Upon the Cross
Morbid Angel - Gateways To Annihilation
Oooh, It’s not one of their first four releases. How bold. It’d be easy to just slap one of their first three albums on here but no doubt if you’re reading this list you’ve already listened to their first records over and over again. The fucking artwork alone is a masterclass in Death Metal aesthetics (Painted by the incredible Dan Seagrave) Gateways to Annihilation is a otherworldly album, as if a timeless demi-god had stepped into the studio to help record alongside Erik Rutan, Steve Tucker, Pete Sandoval and the Sailor Moon loving Trey Azagthoth (Seriously, isn’t that like the most metal last name ever?) Sporting some of the fastest double kicks in creation and some of the utterly heaviest songs of all time the fact that Gateways isn’t name dropped more is absurd.
Check out: Ageless, Still I Am
Pestilence - Consuming Impulse
Martin Van Drunen (Ex-Hail of Bullets, Ex-Pestilence) is one of the greatest Death Metal vocalists of all time and Consuming Impulse is one of the best Death Metal albums of all time. Unlike most of the bands on this list, Pestilence hail from outside the US, The Netherlands to be exact. Consuming Impulse is a dirty wall of filth with a huge thrash influence, the magical thing about this album (along with the pummeling sonic onslaught) is the album cover, it’s bright and eye catching and simply terrifying, especially to a youngin’ before the internet was invented.
Check out: Chronic Infection
Cannibal Corpse - The Bleeding
Of course The Bleeding was Chris Barnes’ last record, the thing about Cannibal Corpse is they’ve been around since the late 80’s and they’ve never, ever released a band album, they are more consistent than almost every other band on this list and as a Death Metal band who has sold over 2 million albums worldwide it’s safe to say they’re the biggest band on this list as well. The Bleeding is basically an album chock full of “Hit singles” from CC. Boasting such classics as “Fucked with a knife”, “Force fed broken glass” and “Stripped, Raped and strangled”
Check out: Stripped, Raped and Strangled
Cynic - Focus
So, this album might not be for everyone but fuck it’s good. There are so many current death metal/tech death/prog metal bands that owe their career to this record. This album is the reason that Death’s Human came out the way it did (Chuck enlisted half of Cynic’s lineup to help record and tour that album) Infusing odd time signatures with haunting, sometimes ethereal vocals with brutal drive death metal passages and proggy flourishes Cynic perfected a Death Metal genre that honestly has never been bettered.
Check out: The Eagle Nature
Obituary - Cause Of Death
Seriously, If you’re into Death Metal and you don’t own this record sort your shit out. That’s all I’m going to say.
Check out: The whole fucking thing (Especially Chopped in Half)
Incantation - Onward To Golgotha
Onward to Golgotha is a challenging listen, even for the most seasoned DM fan. Overpowering guttural vocals delivered by (the now ex) singer/Guitarist Craig Pillard, Riffs deeper than the Grand Canyon served up by John McEntee (who took over vocal duties in 2004) and drums that basically sound like a washing machine trying to break its way out of the laundry by none other than Jim Roe. This album was their first full length and is a perfect demonstration of New York state Death Metal, Doomy and sludgy where it needs to be and absolutely pummeling in every sense of the word.
Check out: Blasphemous Cremation
Autopsy - Severed Survival
If you like your Death Metal well produced and slick this is not the place for you. Severed Survival is ugly as fuck. Autopsy formed in 1987 after Chris Reifert (Vocals/Drums) recorded Scream Bloody Gore with Death and subsequently left the band to do his own thing. Keeping things barbaric and caveman as fuck SS is a beast of a record, much like Scream Bloody Gore it lends itself to creepy chords being played to create an almost horror movie vibe. It still blows my mind that Chris can sing while playing drums like that.
Check out: Charred Remains
Suffocation - Effigy Of The Forgotten
This is it, The point of creation of another sub-genre of Death Metal. Slamming Brutal Death Metal or Slam Death Metal can be traced back to this album and specifically the opening track Liege of Inveracity. Vocalist Frank Mullin took the guttural vocal to an all time low and matched the rhythm of the guitars and drums and just flat out created another genre, This album is the heaviest shit ever especially because it came out in 1991.
Check out: Liege Of Veracity
Immolation - Dawn of Possession
Everyone seems to think of Sweden or Tampa, Florida when they think of Death Metal but up state New York delivered some of the most brutal and talented Death Metal bands ever. Immolation are a perfect example of this and Dawn of Possession is an absolute crowning jewel in a catalogue of crowning jewels. There must have been something in the water up there because bands like Immolation, Suffocation, Mortician Cannibal Corpse and Malevolent Creation all started around there. Immolation are a one of those DM bands that understand that vibe is just as important as brutality, creating sonic landscapes that can both creep you out and make you headbang until your head falls off your neck. The double kick in this album is otherworldly.
Check out: Those Left Behind
Bolt Thrower - Warmaster
To be honest I could’ve put down any Bolt Thrower albums and it would be apt. One of the best bands I’ve ever seen in my life., Bolt Thrower hail from the UK where, as surprising as it sounds, has a rich history of classic DM bands (Benediction, Cancer, Desecration, Necrosanct etc) Bolt Thrower went full on fuck off Warhammer metal on this album and sported one of the most metal albums covers ever. Slow, menacing and crushing is the best way to describe this album, it’s no wonder so many hardcore bands rip off the riffs from this album, their absolutely mint. Innit.
Check out: The Shreds of Sanity. Oooft
Malevolent Creation - The Ten Commandments
Another band where I could put down basically any of their early material and everyone would probably say “Yeah, nah, alright” I thought I would start from the beginning for Bret Hoffman and company. The Ten Commandments is another perfect slab of Upstate New York Death Metal, Heavy and punishing, Creepy and brutal.
Check out: Malevolent Creation
Disincarnate - Dreams Of The Carrion Kind
I cannot fucking believe that more people don’t put this absolutely PERFECT DM album in their top 10 death metal albums, it is absolutely absurd how underrated this thing is. Created as a James Murphy (Death, Konkhra, Obituary, Testament) solo act, Disincarnate released one demo and one album because really, they didn’t need to improve on perfection. I don’t think I can hype this album enough so just go and listen to it. Immediately.
Check out: The whole fucking album, it’s criminal if you haven’t heard it yet.
Six Feet Under - Haunted
Alright, we’ve all seen the memes, yeah, they’re hilarious but you can’t deny that the impact Chris Barnes had on the Death Metal genre. Haunted is the first album from his post Cannibal Corpse project Six Feet Under and it’s fucking good. Boasting Current and ex members of Obituary, Massacre and Death it’s no surprise that it sounds menacing. Much slower and groovier than Chris’ last band SFU still bring enough brutality to keep even the hardest DM fan happy.
Check out: The Enemy Inside
Mortician - Hacked Up For Barbecue
Posers beware, this band is only for true horror death metal freaks. Programmed Drums, Brutal Riffs, Guttural Vocals, Horror movie samples, what more could you want? If you don’t love this you’re a fuckin’ poser.
Check out: Three On A Meathook
Monstrosity - Imperial Doom
Floridian Death Metal was everywhere in the early 90’s and it was the goods, Monstrosity was a breeding ground for members to go onto bigger and (sometimes) better things, but those members crushed it before they moved on. This album sported then current and future members of Malevolent Creation, Atheist, and you guessed it, Cannibal Corpse. Corpsegrinder was in Monstrosity between 1990 and 1996 and released some solid straight forward Floridian DM but it all started with 1992’s classic Imperial Doom. Bludgeoning and groovy the album showcases what was to come from “The Neck”
Check out: Vicious Mental Thirst
Atheist - Elements
The only band to come close to Cynic in the race of progressively driven death metal bands in the early 90’s was Atheist and to be honest there's times where I couldn’t tell you who did it better. The absurd thing to think about when it comes to Atheist is they release three almost flawless Progressive DM classics within 4 years, 1990’s Piece of Time, 1991’s Unquestionable Presence and the culmination of their creative run Elements which is, dare I say it, a masterclass in Progressive Death Metal. Let’s just go through the check list together...Flamenco guitars? You got it, Fretless, mind melding bass? You got it, Transcendent, time signature defying guitars? You got it.
Check out: Air
Asphyx - The Rack
Martin Van Druen, what a dude. He helped put Pestilence on the map then continued with the mighty Asphyx to create some of the best Death Metal (and later Death Doom) to grace our collective ears. The Rack is where it started, Galloping, thrash inspired Death Metal riffs and drums rumbling under the chaotically enticing vocals of Van Druen, how can you go wrong? You can definitely hear the band flirting with the idea of going full death doom on tracks like The Sickening Dwell.
Check out: Wasteland Of Terror
Massacre - From Beyond
Probably the brightest album cover on the list but definitely not the brightest music, another thrash inspired DM band. Massacre was born out of another two ex-Death members (and pre-death band Mantas) Guitarist Rick Rozz and Vocalist Kam Lee, Both of whom are back in the current lineup of Massacre. The down pick riffing of this album is absolutely crushing.
Check out: Cryptic Realms
Incubus - Beyond The Unknown.
No, not that fuckin’ Incubus you dweeb. The REAL Incubus before they were forced to change their name to Opprobrium. Seriously, tell your mum you want to listen to some Incubus in the house then shock the shit out of her and put on this scathing, rifftastic record and watch the colour drain from her face when she thinks pretty boy Brendon Boyd and co have gone full Death Metal.
Check out: Curse Of The Damned Cities