The 10 Greatest Old-School Death Metal Debuts!
Definitive death metal debuts dissected.....
With Deicide‘s classic self-titled debut soon to turn 29(!) years old – and Entombed‘s Left Hand Path recently celebrating the same milestone – Worship Metal takes a look at the definitive death metal full length debut albums.
No bullsh*tting around, let’s crack on with it…..complaints/gripes/grievances/general whinging (or praise if you feel so obliged) can be left in the comments section below:
Malevolent Creation – The Ten Commandments (1991)
A perfectly executed balancing act between thrash and death, Malevolent Creation‘s The Ten Commandments remains a transitional milestone and one as instrumental in bridging the thrash/death divide as Pestilence’s Consuming Impulse and Sepultura’s Beneath The Remains. The band may have evolved into an even more potent death metal machine in the preceding years but this outstanding debut arguably remains their finest moment; feral, unpredictable and fearless.
With no jazz influences, no classical interludes and no experimental or technical showboating, The Ten Commandments simply let rip with ten tracks of direct and clinically efficient hammering and herein lay the key to The Ten Commandments‘ success; consistent songwriting.
Carried over from thrash’s heyday – with Malevolent Creation distancing themselves from death metal’s penchant for blasting away just for the sake of it – catchy choruses were paramount (check out “Thou Shall Kill”), groove initiated and confidence in ‘their’ sound flowed with abundance, a band content to let the quality of the songwriting speak for itself.
Autopsy – Severed Survival (1989)
The thickest, most putrid sound of death imaginable was at the very core of Autopsy’s debut masterpiece, the incomprehensibly evil sounding Severed Survival.
Wallowing in the kind of muddy riffs that submerge the senses, Severed Survival bucked the prevailing death metal trends of playing faster and playing harder and instead upped the brutality by slowing….things….right….down.
In turn, Autopsy did hit harder, announcing themselves as the go-to death metal band for those who sought variation to go along with their gore. There was still speed when speed was required of course,but the impact was greater due to the lumbering riffs that often preceded furious bursts of noise.
When death metal was at it’s freshest and during it’s most enticing and exciting period, Autopsy dragged the genre back down in the gutter, to writhe in the decaying mass of human existence. Which is exactly where it belonged!
Suffocation – Effigy Of The Forgotten (1991)
Where the fuck did this come from?!
In 1991, Suffocation were beyond brutal, they were another beast entirely and while Effigy Of The Forgotten must have come as quite the shellshock to the uninitiated; the furious technicality on display and multiple layers that rewarded the brave with each subsequent listen bringing into question the very nature of what death metal could achieve….and how extreme it could go!
With the most brutal vocals imaginable, courtesy of Frank Mullen’s pioneering throat savagery, a monumental and groundbreaking performance from Mike Smith on drums and some of the first breakdowns heard in death metal, Effigy Of The Forgotten was a true unknown and changed the face of death metal overnight.
Technical death metal had arrived!
Dismember – Like An Everflowing Stream (1991)
Alongside Entombed’s Left Hand Path, Dismember’s Like An EverFlowing Stream is one of the most crucial documents of the pioneering Swedish death metal scene; establishing a format and sound that’s still retro-fitted by a leg of bands to this very day; often replicated in a fruitless attempt to invoke the same response this primitive beast induced back in 1991.
Featuring the obligatory downtuned, ultra-distorted guitar and bass riffs – ably backed by Matti Karki’s feral barks, inhuman gurgles and animalistic roars – this is the sound of Scandinavian death metal perfected and each and every song on this all-time classic still slays, grinding its way into your sub-conscience with each serrated buzzsaw riff.
The best thing to ever come out of Sweden?
Immolation – Dawn Of Possession (1991)
The word classic gets bandied around with alarming regularity of late (and we’re as guilty as the next blog) but there’s no other way to describe a moment in extreme metal history that continues to surpass 99.9% of all death metal out there. We refer, of course, to Immolation’s awe-inspiring debut album, Dawn Of Possession. Released today this would still blow minds but as it stands, Dawn Of Possession is a time-capsule that perfectly encapsulates the experimental inventiveness of early 90’s death metal….a time when anything seemed possible and the idea of ‘heavy’ was being routinely challenged.
These New York natives were darkness incarnate and blessed (or should that be possessed) with some of the most sinister and hauntingly disharmonic riffs in the then fledgling genre. They were beyond heavy, they were the sound of demonic armageddon and their ever-threatening grooves and chromatic displays of precision riffing were the next logical step in death metal’s evolution.
Immolation may have evolved into an ever more technical wrecking machine over the years but Dawn Of Possession is home to their most vivid collection of twisted tunes.
Possessed – Seven Churches (1985)
Strictly speaking, Seven Churches pre-dates death metal and subsequently takes the majority of its influences from established genres of the era, notably speed and thrash metal, but without it death metal may never have taken form and must be considered a definitive release in the history of death metal.
Released 2 years prior to Death’s Scream Bloody Gore debut, Possessed took a cut and paste approach to their music by incorporating the viciousness of Venom, the speed of Motörhead and the thrashing, atonal guitars of early Exodus and Slayer, eventually stumbling upon an innovative and primitive sound which allied thrash and death like no one else before them.
“The Exorcist”, “Burning In Hell” and “Seven Churches” are held together by Jeff Beccara’s unholy roar, simultaneously aping Lemmy from Motörhead yet producing a guttural tone that would go on to be the bread and butter of death metal.
Possessed take the honour of inventing death metal on their debut album, this is constantly up for debate but we’re standing by it; no Seven Churches, no death metal.
Deicide – Deicide (1990)
Deicide’s debut is a true classic of the genre, completely devoid of mercy and intent on bludgeoning its blasphemous rhetoric over your head until you submit…it’s fuckin’ brilliant in other words.
With a terrifyingly tight approach to satanic slaughter, Deicide unleashed insane blastbeats, demonic growls, howls, screeches and barks and riffs that were creative, coruscating and as fiery as Hell itself.
Classic follows classic as “Lunatic Of God’s Creation”, “Sacrificial Suicide”, “Dead By Dawn” and “Carnage In The Temple Of The Damned” blur into a swirling vortex of noise and religion-despising diatribes. The bands commitment to causing offence remains completely believable – and generally disturbing – as vocalist Glen Benton channels demonic possession to the point of lascivious lunacy.
Deicide would go on to release albums equally as mesmerising (Legion, Once Upon The Cross, The Stench Of Redemption), but none would be quite as epochal as their genre defining debut.
Entombed – Left Hand Path (1990)
Entombed may have only been in their late teens when they released this seminal work but their youth was no reflection on the game-changing, buzzsaw noise that erupted from their fetid, putrid pool of groove and gore.
Brandishing a guitar-tone that sounded like a chainsaw cutting a swathe through decaying corpses, Entombed shouldered the burden of channeling Sweden’s endless pool of creativity and created an instant classic at the very first attempt.
While the influence of anarcho-punk pioneers Discharge can clearly be heard, this was an album that entered the new decade with nothing but nihilism and a new dawn on its mind. D-Beat repetition may have been an inspiration but Entombed were so much more than just mere plagiarists. Each track on Left Hand Path takes on a deathly life of its own, from the thrashing belligerence of “Revel In Flesh“, to the glorious grooves of “When Life Has Ceased” and on to the Satan-summoning “Premature Autopsy” in an exhilarating and enthralling 45 minutes.
The albums piece de resistance though is the eponymous, opening track itself, an epic masterpiece which should be heralded as one of Death Metal’s most breathtaking songs. It’s not often that a band can harness the entire power of their sound on the opening song of their debut album – Black Sabbath are one of the few to manage it – and “Left Hand Path” is the death metal equivalent of that metal milestone.
Left Hand Path is a legendary release from a band who steamrolled the gates of hell on their own path to infamy; definitive in every sense of the word.
Death – Scream Bloody Gore (1987)
An album of incomparable influence, Death‘s defining debut has been dissected and discussed over and over again, and we’d be surprised if we could come up with anything original to say about an album that is considered the first true death metal album.
Here was the moment when extreme metal took a sharp turn into all-out savagery and tracks such as “Infernal Death”, “Zombie Ritual” and “Regurgitated Guts” have gone down in death metal folklore as classics of the genre….even if Death would go on to deliver more accomplished and more succinct blows as their career developed.
With Scream Bloody Gore, Chuck Schuldiner was carving his own path and, as originators go, there remains no one more important in extreme metal history than this maverick of mutilation.
Morbid Angel – Altars Of Madness (1989)
Altars Of Madness is still the pinnacle of death metal and one of the finest extreme albums ever conceived. Chuck and Death may have popularised the genre but Morbid Angel chrystalised it, gave it a complete and recognisable identity and produced one of the greatest albums in Metal history on their genre defining debut.
How songs with this much groove could be performed in such a non-standard manner still blows minds! Here were unconventional musicians, unafraid, challenging preconceptions and embracing the extreme and yet somehow composing music that invites rather than repels; each track lingering long in the mind and although “Immortal Rites”, “Visions From The Dark Side” and “Evil Spells” are highlights, the entire album is utterly indispensable.
Altars Of Madness captured the souls of millions of newly-converted death metal fanatics and the flood gates were well and truly open; Morbid Angel had arrived and, with this iconic debut, so had death metal!
Honourable mentions: Incantation – Onward To Golgotha / Cannibal Corpse – Eaten Back to Life / Obituary – Slowly We Rot / Monstrosity – Imperial Doom / Necrophagia – Seasons Of The Dead / Asphyx – The Rack / Grave – Into The Grave / Nocturnus – The Key / Unleashed – Where No Life Dwells / Atheist – Piece Of Time / Demigod – Slumber Of Sullen Eyes / Benediction – Subconscious Terror / Nile – Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka / Broken Hope – Swamped In Gore / Massacre – From Beyond / Cryptopsy – Blasphemy Made Flesh / Convulse – World Without God / Baphomet – The Dead Shall Inherit / Killing Addiction – Omega Factor / Morta Skuld – Dying Remains / Oppressor – Solstice Of Oppression / Revenant – Prophecies Of A Dying World / Brutality – Screams Of Anguish / Ripping Corpse – Dreaming With The Dead / Demilich – Nespithe / Edge Of Sanity – Nothing But Death Remains /At The Gates – The Red In The Sky Is Ours / Gorefest – Mindloss (we could go on and on!)
Great list, besides the honorable mentions I would add Nespithe, The Red in the Sky is Ours, To the Depths In Degradation, and Ritual of Infinity. I would probably replace Ten Commandments with Onward to Golgotha
Immolation for sure. Still one of the heaviest albums out there. I would have liked to have seen Obituary’s “Slowly We Rot” on this list, but nonetheless a great primer.