These 5 releases are absolute death metal perfection and albums we simply can’t live without.
And remember, this is just Part 3…. there’s loads more in this series to come!
Presented in alphabetical order as opposed to any sort of ranking….
Atheist – Unquestionable Presence (1991) [USA]
The finest progressive death metal album ever conceived? We certainly think so and with Unquestionable Presence, Atheist transformed the death metal landscape in a blitzkrieg of technical bass lines, dissonant and warped riffs unaccustomed to generic structure and an almost improvised feel to Steve Flynn’s commanding drumming.
Led by Kelly Schaefer’s rasp-inflected growl, the primitive nature of death metal was dissolved overnight within a framework of challenging lyricism and even more challenging musicianship. Structured chaos reigned as thrash, death, jazz, fusion and prog rock collided in an esoteric force of will, fuelled by integrity, vision and an unwavering commitment to forge forward into new terrain. While Atheist’s debut, Piece Of Time, had turned heads; Unquestionable Presence blew minds.
A landmark record in the history of death metal, it’s more than a little unnerving to think that this pioneering piece of artistry came from the minds of 4 human beings.
Unquestionably unmatched, unparalleled, and utterly unique.
Cannibal Corpse – Tomb Of The Mutilated (1992) [USA]
With their 3rd album, Tomb of the Mutilated, Cannibal Corpse perfectly encapsulated the grim and grisly aesthetic they’d been aiming for with what can only be described as the perfect semblance of over-the-top aggression (comically so) and censorship baiting artwork – unsurprisingly, they succeeded.
A balls-to-the-wall gore metal triumph, this album can only be described as a musical milestone in death metal (and metal in general) with the boundaries of obscenity and decency pushed as far as they could feasibly go! This was a band who knew exactly what they wanted to achieve and by wallowing in the eviscerated innards of unimaginable horror – while also polishing their overall sound – they achieved infamy.
Opener “Hammer Smashed Face” may have been the cataclysmic door-opener that enabled Cannibal Corpse to leap into the big leagues, but the likes of “I Cum Blood” and “Entrails Ripped From A Virgin’s Cunt” were just as brutal and equally as incendiary.
Deicide – Deicide (1990) [USA]
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.
Malevolent Creation – Retribution (1992) [USA]
A stone-cold classic from death metal’s early days, Retribution is the greatest record Malevolent Creation lent their name to and remains a searing blast of hellish speed and aggression.
Thrash’s influence still looms large with Rob Barrett and Phil Fasciana’s riffs echoing Slayer and Kreator at their most scathing while still pushing death metal forward into unchartered territory and Brett Hoffman’s formidable vocals are guttural yet discernible, a positive in a genre when lyrics can be lost amidst a barrage of grunts and squeals. The production, a vast improvement on the weak sound found on their still excellent debut, adds serious muscle and clarity to a set of songs primed for ultimate impact and helps push Retribution into the elite of death metal albums.
As a gateway album to death metal’s brand of frenzied fury, Retribution is indispensable. It’s bridging of thrash and death providing easy access to the uninitiated and “Eve Of The Apocalypse”, “Slaughter Of Innocence” and “Mindlock” are discernible highlights, each track administering a thrashed-up, groove-laden bashing to the brain.
Napalm Death – Harmony Corruption (1990) [UK]
Take a trip to Morrisound Recording studios and this is what you get….pure early 90’s death metal genius from a band who’d already revolutionised grindcore with their 2 previous releases!
Napalm Death’s Mentally Murdered EP had already indicated a change was coming but few could have predicted Napalm’s wholesale embrace of death metal. Roping in soon to be scene legends John Tardy (Obituary) and Glen Benton (Deicide) made it pretty clear that death was the order of the day and their contribution to “Unfit Earth” signalled a union between giants of the genre.
In purely death metal terms, the band would never fully capture again such a dense wall of death and while Harmony Corruption could be accused of being a meat ‘n’ potatoes kind of release (especially when compared to the majority of Napalm Death’s back catalogue), that would be missing the point.
In 1990, this was death metal!
Also in this series: