Styles & Forms | Death Metal & Grindcore | Rock

Death metal and grindcore both had roots in the decaying thrash metal scene of the mid-1980s. As that decade concluded, musicians on both sides of the Atlantic were looking for new and horrific ways to shock. The styles ended up gravitating towards one another, but began life as very different entities.

Death metal bands like Morbid Angel and Death set their violence, suffering and pain-obsessed lyrics to a more intricate framework than the more punk rock-influenced early grindcore acts. As well as the sharing of guitarist Bill Steer, the debut albums from Napalm Death and Carcass (1987’s legendary Scum and the following year’s Reek Of Putrefaction) had much in common. Both were showcases for breathtakingly fast and often jarringly short material as well as biting social comment. However, both quickly realized the limited possibilities of what they were doing and began more rounded careers. Carcass eventually found themselves stranded in no man’s land with the more mainstream Swansong album in 1996, fragmenting soon afterwards. Fiercely defensive of their underground status, Napalm Death have rarely sounded more ferocious or incisive than on their last two albums, Enemy Of The Music Business and Order Of The Leech.

A Gruesome Glut

Just as Napalm and Carcass lit the touchpaper in the UK, Chuck Schuldiner’s band Death were doing likewise with their own 1987 debut, Scream Bloody Gore. Fellow Floridians Morbid Angel weren’t lagging far behind guitarist/singer Schuldiner, and by the early 1990s the North American death metal scene included thousands of bands. Each seemed personified by a gruesome name and indecipherable logo. Among the first to make an impression were Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, Deicide, Immolation, Autopsy, Malevolent Creation, Gwar and Suffocation. Brazil also had Sepultura, with Scandinavia throwing forth Dismember, Entombed, At The Gates, Carnage and Hypocrisy.

As quickly as death metal became big business, its quality control mechanism flew out of the window. Major labels began signing such generic second-wavers as Cancer, and before too long records were being judged upon who had produced them, and where.

Melodic Death Metal

After a period of stagnation, In Flames, Dark Tranquillity, Soilwork and Sentenced have all revitalized death metalThe juxtaposition of tuneful segments and traditional intensity has resulted in a melodic death metal that is known as the Gothenburg sound. Meanwhile, former Carnage/Carcass guitarist Mike Amott and his fellow Scandinavians Arch Enemy have dared to appoint an unknown female, Germany’s Angela Gossow, as their lead vocalist and are reaping the increased rewards of their best release to date, 2001’s Wages Of Sin. South Carolina’s Nile have also given death metal a cinematic, symphonic twist with their highly recommended 2002 album, In Their Darkened Shrines.

‘We’re out to wind up as many people as possible.’
Jeff Walker, Carcass

Leading Exponents

Morbid Angel
Napalm Death
Cannibal Corpse
In Flames
Arch Enemy

Death Metal Style

Musically death metal and grindcore have much in common with thrash metal and black metal...

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Source: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music, general editor Paul Du Noyer


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