Death Metal

Jared Anderson
Death metal is an extreme offshoot of heavy metal music defined by growling vocals, distorted guitars, and complex song structures. The genre was directly influenced by thrash metal bands like Slayer and Kreator, and reportedly got its name from the band Death, who, in the mid 80s, cemented death metal's sound.

As the name suggests, death metal lyrics abound with macabre, violent images and angry exhortations o­n society, religion, and philosophy. Distorted guitars and nontraditional song structures tend to add to the lyrical atmosphere of fear, horror, and confusion. The growling vocals are sometimes derisively referred to as "Cookie Monster" growls because of their ostensible similarity to the voice of the Sesame Street character.

Death metal bands have been singled out by activists who say that the societal context of the brutal lyrics are usually lost o­n younger listeners, who make up the bulk of death metal fandom. In turn, critics say, this leaves teenagers and young adults to glorify violence without understanding the consequences.

While Death was a seminal act for the subgenre, bands like Morbid Angel, Obituary, Necrophagia, and Venom also made invaluable contributions.

Vital Remains live
In the 1990s several new genres shot off of death metal. In Sweden, a group of bands including In Flames, At the Gates, and Dark Tranquility pioneered "Gothenburg metal", typified by more melodic vocals and instrumentation than previous death metal bands. o­nce the sound traveled to other countries it became known as melodic death metal. Other subgenres include doom and deathcore, which combines the screaming vocals and breakdowns of hardcore with death metal instrumentation.

Bands like Opeth, Cryptopsy, Atheist, and Decapitated fused elements of progressive rock, jazz, and classic music into the genre. Like many other metal artists, death metal bands tend to be comprised of classically trained musicians who have added new dimensions to the raw sound pioneered by early metal acts in the 70s.