Death Metal is known for its aggressive, distorted sound and harsh lyrics.
Over time, it has split into many sub-genres like brutal death metal, melodic death metal, and technical death metal.
Death metal bands aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re interested in the genre, this list will introduce you to the most popular and best death metal bands.
Obituary is an American death metal band that came out in the early 1980s in Florida.
Their 1992 album The End Complete is one of their best-selling death metal albums and charted on both Europe and U.S. music charts.
Despite the band’s split from 1997 to 2003, they’ve successfully released eleven studio albums and perform live to this day.
Widely believed as the first death metal band, Possessed originated in San Francisco’s Bay Area in 1983.
They had released only two albums Seven Churches (1985) and Beyond The Gates (1986) before separating.
Their influence on the genre is so profound that fans consider them ‘the godfathers’ of death metal.
Obscura is a German death metal band founded in 2002 by the band’s guitarist and vocalist, Steffen Kummerer.
If you’re a fan of technical death metal bands, you will love the complexity in their lyrics and the philosophy of the songs.
The band has released six studio albums, of which Cosmogenesis (2009) was awarded “Best Death Metal Album of the Year 2009” by Loudwire.
Liverpool’s Carcass is an English extreme metal band formed in 1985 and is responsible for the grindcore and melodic death metal sub-genres.
Their early works were considered “splatter death metal” and “hardgore” for their gruesome album covers and morbid lyrics.
Two of the band’s members are vegans, so a lot of their songs are about animal rights.
5. Cattle Decapitation
Cattle Decapitation is an American death grind band from San Diego, mostly known for their controversies outside of their music.
Similar to the band Carcass, Cattle Decapitation wrote songs protesting animal abuse by putting humans in the gory situations people usually put animals in.
They also have some controversial album covers like one with a cow spilling out human remains.
Suffocation, formed in 1988 was integral to New York’s death metal scene.
The band made a noteworthy debut with their album Effigy of the Forgotten in 1991, which is considered a classic by most fans of death metal bands.
They’ve released eight studio albums, all incorporating their signature guttural vocals, stylistic drumming, and frequent use of breakdowns.
7. At The Gates
At The Gates was formed in 1990 and was massively significant in the Swedish death metal scene for introducing a Gothenburg-style of death metal.
Their four albums include Terminal Spirit Disease, their breakthrough album, and Slaughter Of The Soul, their most successful album.
Their comeback album, At War with Reality, won them a Swedish Grammy (Grammis) in 2015.
Gojira is a French heavy metal band popular for its modern and technical death metal styles of music.
Apart from the gory theme, like most death metal bands, most of their lyrics focus on themes of spirituality and environmentalism, inspired by the beauty of their hometown.
The band has gained widespread success with their albums being Grammy nominated for Best Metal Performance, Best Rock Album, and Best Metal Performance.
9. Bolt Thrower
Founded in 1986, Bolt Thrower is considered one of the best death metal bands to ever come out of Britain.
They formed as a grindcore band, influenced mainly by bands such as Slayer, Crass, and Discharge.
Bolt Thrower released eight studio albums but eventually announced that they were splitting, following the death of their drummer Martin Kearns.
10. Napalm Death
Napalm Death is praised as the pioneer of the grindcore genre for incorporating elements of crust punk and death metal into the genre.
If you’re looking for music with distorted guitars, blasting beats, growling, and screaming, then this band is the one for you.
The band holds a Guinness World Record for the shortest recorded song ever, with “You Suffer” being a total of 1.316 seconds long.
Autopsy is one of the leading death metal bands to introduce the death-doom style of music by combining slow tempos with extremely depressive and pessimistic lyrics.
Their 1989 debut album, Severed Survival influenced many future death metal bands like Cannibal Corpse, Entombed, and Dismember.
The group disbanded in 1995 and then reunited in 2009, but didn’t release any new music until recently in 2020, after a long hiatus.
Although Vander formed in 1983, they didn’t release their debut album Ultimate Incantation until 1992.
Since then, Vader has released eleven more studio albums focused mostly on themes of H.P. Lovecraft, World War II, and horror.
One of their albums, Welcome to the Morbid Reich, won Heavy Metal Album of the Year in 2012.
Gatecreeper is a popular American death metal band that was formed in 2013 and is fairly young compared to the other bands on this list.
The band is known for setting the bar for most death metal bands, especially with their most recent album, An Unexpected Reality, in 2021.
This particular album ranked No.14 on Revolver’s “25 Best Albums of 2021” list.
After Cannibal Corpse, Deicide is the best-selling death metal band despite all the controversy that surrounds it.
The band has received backlash because of their lyrics and albums, covering topics like Satanism, anti-Christianity, and blasphemy.
It’s easy to see why they’ve upset religious folks with song titles like Death To Jesus, Fuck Your God, and Kill The Christian.
15. Amon Amarth
Amon Amarth is a Swedish melodic death metal band that was formed in 1992.
the band’s name is Sindarin for “Mount Doom” from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.
Their songs mostly deal with Viking mythology and history, which is why their music style has been labeled as “Viking metal.”
The band eventually caught the attention in 2008 with the release of their seventh album, Twilight Of The Thunder God.
The French metal band Benighted has consistently given out quality music for over 20 years, making a name for themselves among death metal fans.
The band includes vocalist Julien Truchan, guitarist Adrien Guérin, bassist Eric Lombard, and drummer Kevin Foley.
Together they’ve released seven albums.
17. The Black Dahlia Murder
Formed in 2001, The Black Dahlia Murder is a melodic death metal band from Michigan.
It is one of the most popular contemporary bands, with eight out of nine studio albums charting the U.S. Billboard 200.
The Black Dahlia Murder has been heavily influenced by other well-known heavy metal bands such as Carcass, At the Gates, Darkane, and Dissection, among others.
Decapitated, a Polish band, is regarded as one of the best death metal bands in the technical death metal genre.
With almost four successful studio albums, the band had earned an international fanbase.
Tragically, the band’s drummer died in an automobile accident in 2007 and the group stopped making music while they mourned.
They reformed two years later in 2009 and released four more albums.
Sepultura is a Brazilian heavy metal band that was formed in 1984 by brothers Max and Igor Cavalera.
The band is still going strong today and played a major role in influencing the groove metal, thrash metal, and death metal genres during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Out of 15 of their studio albums, Beneath the Remains (1989), Arise (1991), Chaos A.D. (1993), and Roots (1996) are their most successful.
Behemoth started as an extreme metal band with roots in black metal before they changed to death metal later on.
The band’s early works included heathenistic content to the extent that the lead vocalist was arrested for tearing up a Bible.
Many Polish officials believe the band allegedly promotes Satanism and murder.
Nile is best known for their musical and lyrical style which is heavily inspired by Egyptology and other ancient Middle Eastern cultures.
The band has consistently delivered brutal technical death metal since 1993, with Vile Nilotic Ritesbeing being the most recent of their nine studio albums.
Nile is one of those death metal bands whose song themes put a unique spin to the death metal genre.
Entombed is one of the first few members that influenced the Swedish death metal scene in the 1980s.
They started as an average death metal band with some elements of rock but their style later developed into a sub-genre known as “death ‘n’ roll”.
Along with Dismember, Grave, and Unleashed, Entombed is also referred to as one of the “big four” of Swedish death metal.
Death was founded by guitarist and vocalist Chuck Schuldiner in 1984 and was widely recognized as one of the most prominent bands in heavy metal music.
The band’s 1987 debut album Scream Bloody Gore is one of the first ones to be regarded as a death metal record.
The band ended after Schuldiner died of glioma and pneumonia in December 2001, but his lasting influence can still be found in today’s death metal bands.
24. Cannibal Corpse
Cannibal Corpse was originally formed in 1988 and is still active to this day.
Their most recent album Violence Unhinged (2021) has already reached the top 10 on the Billboard Top Album Sales Chart.
The band has a cult following made up of people who are obsessed with lyrics that depict intense violence and gore.
25. Morbid Angel
Morbid Angel is known to have inspired many death metal bands including Obituary, Immortal, Krisiun, and many others as well.
Their first four albums Altars Of Madness (1989), Blessed Are The Sick (1991), Covenant (1993), and Domination (1995) are still considered top death metal classics.
Best Death Metal Bands – Final Thoughts
Death metal might not be to everyone’s taste but it does have a loyal fanbase and dedicated artists.
There are so many death metal bands from decades ago that fans still cherish today along with new ones that give a modern touch to the genre.
If you’re a new fan of the genre, this list is the perfect place to start your death metal journey.
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