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Death Metal 101?


MetalheadFromBama
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I've been listening to death metal for almost thirty years and I honestly don't know where I'd start with this. Although to be totally honest I'd start with Hellhammer just because:

 

 

If the point is to get people interested in DM and give them a jumping-off point, there's no one-size-fits-all approach. If the point is learning about the genre, the one thing I see overlooked most often is demo recordings of the early stages of a lot of different scenes. I don't have the knowledge to give a great overview of everything that was going on at the time - I didn't start really enjoying DM until 1993 or 94, by which time it was already a decade old - but I've gotten a lot out of just listening to what I can find of the early days. It's fine to talk about early albums like Seven Churches or Scream Bloody Gore, but they didn't happen in a vacuum. Seven Churches in particular gets a lot of props for being "the first death metal album" but there's a lot of early thrash influence in there and it's always sounded transitional to me, rather than being some pure essence of a new genre. Honestly the whole crop of essentialist arguments bothers me, especially when we're talking about the early days of these genres, but that's a different topic. Here's a Possessed demo recording called "Death Metal" from 1984:

 

Here's a Mantas demo called "Death By Metal" from the same year (they became the band we all know as Death and I've seen pictures of this demo with either name on it). This is more savage and "death-metally" IMO - not that thrash inflections are absent here, or that the comparatively polished sound and musicianship of Possessed don't have their place in the genre, but this is straight up heavier if you listen past the recording quality:

 

And here's something from Necrophagia's "Death Is Fun" demo, also from 1984:

 

By 1985, the year Seven Churches came out, there was more going on - here's "Rotting In Hell", a demo recording from R.A.V.A.G.E. (who later became Atheist), I love the energy and musicianship even if the sound is primitive:

 

Also in 1985, here's Xecutioner, later Executioner, who finally became Obituary, with a much more thrashy sound than the monolithic walloping they'd become known for a few years later:

 

Also 1985 - Sepultura's "Bestial Devastation" demo:

 

Here are a couple from 1986 - Morbid Angel - "Scream Forth Blasphemies":

 

Massacre - "Aggressive Tyrant" (featuring Kam Lee, who did the vocals on most of the Mantas demo above):

 

Lots of other bands got their start during this time and over the next couple of years, and there's no way I could list all of them, but here's a handful: Carcass and Paradise Lost in England; Darkthrone (yes, that Darkthrone, first making shitty recordings as Black Death) in Norway; Sarcofago and Mystifier in Brazil; Nihilist, Edge Of Sanity, and Grotesque in Sweden; Sinister and Asphyx in the Netherlands; Funebre and Abhorrence in Finland; Ripping Corpse, Malevolent Creation, Brutality, Nocturnus, Cynic, Deicide (as Amon), Revenant (members of whom would form Incantation), Immolation (as Rigor Mortis) in various parts of the USA... There's really no way I could do justice to a proper list of bands that were active before the huge surge of popularity that DM saw in the 90s, but my point is, the groundwork for that was being done years in advance, and full-length studio albums are just the tip of the iceberg.

 

After 1990 I wonder if it's better to go scene by scene (Finnish death metal, the Buffalo-Tampa connection, why everyone in Norway jumped ship for black metal) or style by style (prog/doom/brutal/melodic/technical) and explore the developments through either lens. There are also books and documentaries that deal with all of this and could probably have a lot more to offer than we could. If you're just looking for some good music and don't mind digging around, there are lots of great recommendations going back years in our stickied threads.

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  • 6 months later...
On 7/23/2020 at 4:59 PM, FatherAlabaster said:

I've been listening to death metal for almost thirty years and I honestly don't know where I'd start with this. Although to be totally honest I'd start with Hellhammer just because:

 

If the point is to get people interested in DM and give them a jumping-off point, there's no one-size-fits-all approach. If the point is learning about the genre, the one thing I see overlooked most often is demo recordings of the early stages of a lot of different scenes. I don't have the knowledge to give a great overview of everything that was going on at the time - I didn't start really enjoying DM until 1993 or 94, by which time it was already a decade old - but I've gotten a lot out of just listening to what I can find of the early days. It's fine to talk about early albums like Seven Churches or Scream Bloody Gore, but they didn't happen in a vacuum. Seven Churches in particular gets a lot of props for being "the first death metal album" but there's a lot of early thrash influence in there and it's always sounded transitional to me, rather than being some pure essence of a new genre. Honestly the whole crop of essentialist arguments bothers me, especially when we're talking about the early days of these genres, but that's a different topic. Here's a Possessed demo recording called "Death Metal" from 1984:

 

Here's a Mantas demo called "Death By Metal" from the same year (they became the band we all know as Death and I've seen pictures of this demo with either name on it). This is more savage and "death-metally" IMO - not that thrash inflections are absent here, or that the comparatively polished sound and musicianship of Possessed don't have their place in the genre, but this is straight up heavier if you listen past the recording quality:

 

And here's something from Necrophagia's "Death Is Fun" demo, also from 1984:

 

By 1985, the year Seven Churches came out, there was more going on - here's "Rotting In Hell", a demo recording from R.A.V.A.G.E. (who later became Atheist), I love the energy and musicianship even if the sound is primitive:

 

Also in 1985, here's Xecutioner, later Executioner, who finally became Obituary, with a much more thrashy sound than the monolithic walloping they'd become known for a few years later:

 

Also 1985 - Sepultura's "Bestial Devastation" demo:

 

Here are a couple from 1986 - Morbid Angel - "Scream Forth Blasphemies":

 

Massacre - "Aggressive Tyrant" (featuring Kam Lee, who did the vocals on most of the Mantas demo above):

 

Lots of other bands got their start during this time and over the next couple of years, and there's no way I could list all of them, but here's a handful: Carcass and Paradise Lost in England; Darkthrone (yes, that Darkthrone, first making shitty recordings as Black Death) in Norway; Sarcofago and Mystifier in Brazil; Nihilist, Edge Of Sanity, and Grotesque in Sweden; Sinister and Asphyx in the Netherlands; Funebre and Abhorrence in Finland; Ripping Corpse, Malevolent Creation, Brutality, Nocturnus, Cynic, Deicide (as Amon), Revenant (members of whom would form Incantation), Immolation (as Rigor Mortis) in various parts of the USA... There's really no way I could do justice to a proper list of bands that were active before the huge surge of popularity that DM saw in the 90s, but my point is, the groundwork for that was being done years in advance, and full-length studio albums are just the tip of the iceberg.

 

After 1990 I wonder if it's better to go scene by scene (Finnish death metal, the Buffalo-Tampa connection, why everyone in Norway jumped ship for black metal) or style by style (prog/doom/brutal/melodic/technical) and explore the developments through either lens. There are also books and documentaries that deal with all of this and could probably have a lot more to offer than we could. If you're just looking for some good music and don't mind digging around, there are lots of great recommendations going back years in our stickied threads.

Thanks for the recommendations. Since I can’t find anything about these certain events, what would you happen to know about the Buffalo-Tampa connection, and the reason why Norway jumped ship for Black Metal? Because nothing’s coming up when I search for those topics.

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16 hours ago, MetalheadFromBama said:

Thanks for the recommendations. Since I can’t find anything about these certain events, what would you happen to know about the Buffalo-Tampa connection, and the reason why Norway jumped ship for Black Metal? Because nothing’s coming up when I search for those topics.

Totally unimportant tidbits. Cannibal Corpse, Malevolent Creation, and Glen Benton of Deicide were all big contributors to the "Florida death metal sound" and they all relocated from the Buffalo, NY area before they broke out. Several of the big names from the 2nd wave BM scene in Norway started off playing death metal, but abandoned the style before ever doing much with it. More than anything it just makes me wonder how things might have gone differently.

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On 2/18/2021 at 3:47 PM, MetalheadFromBama said:

Thanks for the recommendations. Since I can’t find anything about these certain events, what would you happen to know about the Buffalo-Tampa connection, and the reason why Norway jumped ship for Black Metal? Because nothing’s coming up when I search for those topics.

This video explains a lot about Florida. Lots of interviews, stuff about Morrisound and some history in there.

Florida thrash til death documentary:

 

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  • 8 months later...

Probably start with Death, since the genre gained it's name from the style of metal that they played. Then go on to stuff like Possessed, Entombed, Necrophagia, Nasty Savage, Obituary, and Morbid Angel. From there, check out Cannibal Corpse, Six Feet Under, Deicide, Necrophagist, Dying Fetus, Nile, and Vader.

I'm not that into death metal so I really can't give that many good recommendations on the genre.

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On 2/18/2021 at 4:47 PM, MetalheadFromBama said:

Thanks for the recommendations. Since I can’t find anything about these certain events, what would you happen to know about the Buffalo-Tampa connection, and the reason why Norway jumped ship for Black Metal? Because nothing’s coming up when I search for those topics.

The Buffalo-Tampa thing is easy. The sub-genre of death metal was still relatively new and unknown back in the late 80's/early 90's and most recording engineers were having a hard time recording it well and getting the records to sound right. So when some early death metal records started coming out of Morrisound Studios in Tampa FL all engineered by Scott Burns and sounding really good it quickly became the place every fledgling death metal band in the US aspired to record. So bands from up north started moving down there to Tampa figuring it'd be much easier to record there if they lived there and also they get like 99 feet of snow each winter in Buffalo so you don't have to twist dudes' arms to get them to give all that up for sunshine and chicks in bikinis. 

The reason Norway "jumped ship" and turned to black metal was because being trve kvlt elitist cunts even then, they felt that death metal while still relatively unknown to the mainstream masses was already old hat or passee in the underground metal circles so they came up with their version of black metal just to be different and edgy and original. And elite.

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On 10/29/2021 at 6:39 AM, GoatmasterGeneral said:

The reason Norway "jumped ship" and turned to black metal was because being trve kvlt elitist cunts even then, they felt that death metal while still relatively unknown to the mainstream masses was already old hat or passee in the underground metal circles so they came up with their version of black metal just to be different and edgy and original. And elite.

And we are all indebted to them for it, bless their blackened little hearts🥰

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On 10/28/2021 at 9:39 PM, GoatmasterGeneral said:

so they came up with their version of black metal just to be different and edgy and original. And elite.

And I'm glad that they did, because if it wasn't for black metal I probably would be in prison for multiple homicides or simply dead by now. Black metal is the expression of passionate hatred refined into beautiful art and I need it to continue to exist in order to keep fighting through this life with all of it's disappointments and misery. Listening to black metal is really the only thing that I live for anymore.

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  • 1 month later...
On 7/24/2020 at 7:59 AM, FatherAlabaster said:

I've been listening to death metal for almost thirty years and I honestly don't know where I'd start with this. Although to be totally honest I'd start with Hellhammer just because:

 

 

If the point is to get people interested in DM and give them a jumping-off point, there's no one-size-fits-all approach. If the point is learning about the genre, the one thing I see overlooked most often is demo recordings of the early stages of a lot of different scenes. I don't have the knowledge to give a great overview of everything that was going on at the time - I didn't start really enjoying DM until 1993 or 94, by which time it was already a decade old - but I've gotten a lot out of just listening to what I can find of the early days. It's fine to talk about early albums like Seven Churches or Scream Bloody Gore, but they didn't happen in a vacuum. Seven Churches in particular gets a lot of props for being "the first death metal album" but there's a lot of early thrash influence in there and it's always sounded transitional to me, rather than being some pure essence of a new genre. Honestly the whole crop of essentialist arguments bothers me, especially when we're talking about the early days of these genres, but that's a different topic. Here's a Possessed demo recording called "Death Metal" from 1984:

 

Here's a Mantas demo called "Death By Metal" from the same year (they became the band we all know as Death and I've seen pictures of this demo with either name on it). This is more savage and "death-metally" IMO - not that thrash inflections are absent here, or that the comparatively polished sound and musicianship of Possessed don't have their place in the genre, but this is straight up heavier if you listen past the recording quality:

 

And here's something from Necrophagia's "Death Is Fun" demo, also from 1984:

 

By 1985, the year Seven Churches came out, there was more going on - here's "Rotting In Hell", a demo recording from R.A.V.A.G.E. (who later became Atheist), I love the energy and musicianship even if the sound is primitive:

 

Also in 1985, here's Xecutioner, later Executioner, who finally became Obituary, with a much more thrashy sound than the monolithic walloping they'd become known for a few years later:

 

Also 1985 - Sepultura's "Bestial Devastation" demo:

 

Here are a couple from 1986 - Morbid Angel - "Scream Forth Blasphemies":

 

Massacre - "Aggressive Tyrant" (featuring Kam Lee, who did the vocals on most of the Mantas demo above):

 

Lots of other bands got their start during this time and over the next couple of years, and there's no way I could list all of them, but here's a handful: Carcass and Paradise Lost in England; Darkthrone (yes, that Darkthrone, first making shitty recordings as Black Death) in Norway; Sarcofago and Mystifier in Brazil; Nihilist, Edge Of Sanity, and Grotesque in Sweden; Sinister and Asphyx in the Netherlands; Funebre and Abhorrence in Finland; Ripping Corpse, Malevolent Creation, Brutality, Nocturnus, Cynic, Deicide (as Amon), Revenant (members of whom would form Incantation), Immolation (as Rigor Mortis) in various parts of the USA... There's really no way I could do justice to a proper list of bands that were active before the huge surge of popularity that DM saw in the 90s, but my point is, the groundwork for that was being done years in advance, and full-length studio albums are just the tip of the iceberg.

 

After 1990 I wonder if it's better to go scene by scene (Finnish death metal, the Buffalo-Tampa connection, why everyone in Norway jumped ship for black metal) or style by style (prog/doom/brutal/melodic/technical) and explore the developments through either lens. There are also books and documentaries that deal with all of this and could probably have a lot more to offer than we could. If you're just looking for some good music and don't mind digging around, there are lots of great recommendations going back years in our stickied threads.

 

 

I LOVE THIS POST!

Oh to be a well off American/western European teen/early 20s in 1980s.

 

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