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Death metal
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Death metal

  

Death metal is a form of heavy metal music which emerged in the United States (especially Florida), Europe (especially Britain) and Canada in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Death metal has, like most subgenres of heavy metal, proven notoriously difficult to define. Some fans and musicians have a firm concept of the genre, its categories and subcategories. Others consider such categorization limiting or useless. There is often crossover from one metal genre to another, and the influence of non-metal genres is not uncommon.

Death metal is usually identified by extreme intensity and speed. The vocals, or growls, as they're often called, are rough and/or incomprehensible and they usually communicate macabre subject matter. This style of music is known for very abrupt tempo and count changes, and extremely fast drumwork. Most bands of this use guitars and drums, often two guitars, which play both rhythm and lead guitar parts, a bass guitar, a drum set, and a vocalist. Some bands add incidental synthesizers for effect. Lyrics tend towards extreme, unpopular worldviews and profound violence. The focus on morbidity likely inspired the naming of this genre as "Death" metal.

Table of contents
1 Early History (up to 1991)
2 Later Developments (1990s onwards)
3 Key Artists
4 External links

Early History (up to 1991)

Death metal is clearly an outgrowth of heavy metal, but the full story is complex and interesting, and is the subject of some debate among fans and musicians.

Although growling vocals are usually the prime factor in identifing death metal, this by itself would also include albums such as "Welcome to Hell" from 1981 by British metal group Venom, where the vocals may be mostly "growling," but the music is not what is generally meant by "death metal" today.

Instead, many fans place the birth of death metal around 1985, due to U.S. bands such as Florida's Death (band) and California's Possessed (band). This music, although fitting the above description of "extreme brutality and speed" for its time, did not create anything significantly new compared to their immediate predecessors, and one would be hard pressed to identify strong and specific musical differences between, say Death's debut album from 1987 and same-period work by thrash metal bands such as the Brazilian Sepultura or even the aforementioned Venom, except perhaps slightly "growlier" vocals.

To their credit, early "death metal" bands such as Death did push the format forward, something that would ultimately pay off in a new form of music that was substantially different than their closest forefather, thrash metal.

Other death metal historians maintain that the 1985 brand of "death metal" is more aptly summarized by the oft-used moniker "post-thrash" and that the band Death receives inflated credit partly because of its name. Under this paradigm, the modern concept of "death metal"--the point when it clearly decouples from the origins in heavy metal and thrash metal--can be set to 1989 or 1990, when the above-mentioned band Death and others had started to mature, and another crucial source of input had been merged into the brutal stew of riffing and growling. This input was hardcore punk.

Just as in the original creation of (modern) heavy metal by Iron Maiden and other bands was sparked by the youthful energy of punk rock in the late 1970s, so did cross-fertilization between metal and punk once more create something new in the late 1980s. The chaotic and often confusing development that took place around this time is well illustrated by the band Napalm Death, often characterized as a "grindcore" band (see below). This band acknowledges heavy influence in its early days from early demos by the band Death (such as "Infernal Death"), and was simultaneously always part of the hardcore punk scene. However, Napalm Death themselves changed drastically around or before 1990, leaving grindcore (and most of the band members) behind, and on 1990's Harmony Corruption they can be heard playing something one might call "death metal" by the above characterization. In fact, the project band Terrorizer's album from 1989 is clear signs that some merging of hardcore punk and thrash metal is going on, with members from Florida's Morbid Angel and the new line-up of Napalm Death co-composing.

Many similar works rapidly appeared hot on the heels of "Harmony Corruption": Britain's Carcass, Sweden's Entombed, New York's Suffocation (band), and many others, and this development into a more well-executed, clearly distict brand of metal was cemented when the band Death themselves followed the trend they had participated in starting, the technical album "Human" from 1991. Another fine example of this type of death metal is Morbid Angel's "Blessed Are the Sick" from 1991. At this point, all the above characteristics are clearly present: abrupt tempo and count changes, occasionally extremely fast drumwork, morbid lyrics and growling delivery.

Whichever way one prefers to view the history of death metal, confusing the story is the ubiquitous mixing of terms, even among artists themselves; Bill Steer in the early line-up of Napalm Death once said "death metal died in 1990, and everyone in the 90s who claims they're playing death metal is lying or a loser".

Later Developments (1990s onwards)

During the 1990s, death metal grew in many directions, spawning a rich variety of subgenres, including the following:

Grindcore is considered by some to be an even more extreme variant of death metal. However, many fans of grindcore and music historians would place it in a genre by itself, since the genre historically developed in parellel to death metal (both developed in the 1980s, Death Metal from thrash metal and grindcore from hardcore punk), each influencing the development of the other, but with early grindcore having a much more obvious hardcore punk and peace punk influence.

There are also other heavy metal subgenres that have come from fusions between death metal and other genres. Bands like My Dying Bride (doom/death hybrid) and Emperor (black/death hybrid) are two examples.

Key Artists

Some important bands are Death, Possessed (band), Morbid Angel, Napalm Death, Suffocation and Cannibal Corpse.

Other notable death metal bands:

External links


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