Dismember – Like An Everflowing Stream [Sweden]
Alongside Entombed‘s Left Hand Path, Dismember‘s Like An Ever Flowing 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? Probably.
Bolt Thrower – War Master [UK]
War Master was Bolt Thrower’s first pure death metal release (any evidence of grindcore now jettisoned) and a bone-fide death metal classic was born. While the UK may not have been as prolific as the U.S in the death metal stakes, we did produce arguably its greatest band – the mighty and magnificent Bolt Thrower – and War Master signalled a band who were ready to take on the big guns of the scene.
Karl Willets vocals were deadly yet distinctive – a voice that would become one of the most recognisable in death metal – while the band outclassed themselves with a more considered approach to their deathly bludgeoning. Slowing down and embracing a keener ear for melody, the likes of “Cenotaph” and “What Dwells Within” were juggernauts, smashing and crashing their way into your head-space with glimpses of thrash and doom hidden within their DNA.
Self determination, defiance, bloody-knuckled hard-work and a DIY aesthetic summed up the UK’s finest ever proponents of death metal and that was none more apparent than on this classic release.
Death – Human [USA]
Chuck Sculdiner changed the landscape he originally helped to mould when Death released Human in 1991.
Out went the gore and in came the intelligence, Chuck dismissing the lump-headed violence of old and embracing an introspective, humanistic approach. Backed up by a formidable death metal supergroup in its own right, Chuck and guitarist Paul Masvidal (Cynic), bassist Steve DiGiorgio (Sadus, Autopsy, Testament and more) and drummer Sean Reinhart (Cynic) changed the face of death metal overnight and, alongside the influence of Atheist‘s Unquestionable Presence and Pestilence‘s Testimony Of The Ancients, birthed a new breed of technical, progressive death metal.
Death‘s flawless freedom of expression floored the majority of their peers with “Flattening Of Emotions”, “Lack Of Comprehension” and “Vacant Planets” particularly showcasing the diversity each band member bought to the table. Flurries of frenzied riffs and intricate bass and drum work competed with jazz-fusion passages of improvisation while still maintaining the backbone of death metal; these were songs you could philosophise over while still head-banging to your head fell off!
Entombed – Clandestine [Sweden]
Following up Left Hand Path – a benchmark for Swedish death metal – was never going to be an easy task but Entombed‘s sophomore release was arguably heavier and more polished than their genre-defining debut. Retaining the crunch and aggression already expected of them, the result was another death metal milestone and one that tuned out to be an absolute riff monster!
With riffing as immensely catchy as it was relentless, Entombed‘s carnal rock fusion indicated that death ‘n’ roll was coming but, at this stage, Clandestine was resolutely death metal in nature.
The guitars dominated and with that god-like tone, Entombed‘s thrashy/groovy distillation of death metal’s core ingredients offered up a variety of sound that has ensured Clandestine‘s place at the very peak of Swedish death metal’s hierarchy.
At this stage in their career, Entombed were practically untouchable.
Autopsy – Mental Funeral [USA]
The thickest, most putrid sound of death imaginable is at the very core of Autopsy‘s death/doom masterpiece, the incomprehensibly evil sounding Mental Funeral.
Wallowing in the kind of muddy riffs that submerge the senses, Mental Funeral 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 (check out “Robbing The Grave” from the 21 minute mark) but the impact was greater due to the lumbering doom riffs that often preceded these 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!