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.
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.