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Best Death Metal Album since 1985

Created :  Jun 17, 2023      Last updated :  Jun 18, 2023      38 items
Article: https://loudwire.com/best-death-metal-album-each-year/

Playlist: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7BE9cQXJ8hj0WLpNDgXPS3?si=f3b7af8a6c6d4deb
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1Seven Churches
1985: Possessed, 'Seven Churches'
The debate as to whether Possessed or Death released the first true death metal album will never be settled. It's impossible to have the conversation about the genre’s birth without at least mentioning the snarling ‘Seven Churches’ and it's sinister melodies cut with pounding rhythmic intent. With themes of horror and death, not to mention titling a song “Death Metal,” we're more than happy to include this record on our all-encompassing list.
2Beyond the Gates
1986: Possessed, 'Beyond the Gates'
Possessed take 1986 by default as the lone arguably death metal release of the year, ‘Beyond the Gates’. Sepultura’s ‘Morbid Visions’ fell more in line with the first wave of black metal than the rumblings of the newborn death metal genre, leading Possessed to get the nod. While not as sinister as the debut, the band’s final full length demonstrated more Venom worship among the increasingly agonized rasp from frontman Jeff Becerra and more traditional death metal rhythms.
3Scream Bloody Gore
1987: Death, 'Scream Bloody Gore'
For some, death metal truly begins here. Chuck Schuldiner’s vision of a more extreme take on metal bred from thrash was fully realized on Death’s ‘Scream Bloody Gore’ debut. Evil Chuck’s throat-ripping howls matched the gruesome lyrical content, backed by a foundation of tremolo-picked riffs that were simple but bulldozing, rife with just enough melody that would prove to be a subtle hallmark of the genre as it moved forward.
4Leprosy
1988: Death, 'Leprosy'
In just one year, Chuck Schuldiner made vast improvements to his death metal blueprint, coming away with the defining ‘Leprosy.’ Lyrically, the topic remained the same — death — but here we saw Chuck begin to ask the deeper questions about life and the end (“Born Dead,” “Pull the Plug”), while a greater sense of pacing was explored with sudden tempo shifts hinging on crushing guitar work, which, at times, began to find some technicality.
5Altars of Madness
1989: Morbid Angel, 'Altars of Madness'
Survey a group of metalheads and ask them what the greatest death metal album ever recorded is and odds are you’ll find an overwhelming amount at least mention Morbid Angel’s iconoclastic debut, ‘Altars of Madness.’ Like a death metal Tony Iommi, Trey Azagthoth commanded tectonic riffs to the tune of “Maze of Torment” and “Immortal Rites,” while David Vincent’s demonic barking blasphemed its way through nearly 40 labyrinthine minutes.
6Cause of Death
1990: Obituary, 'Cause of Death'
In a highly competitive year as death metal continued to explode, Obituary immediately distanced themselves from the crop, taking obvious influence from Celtic Frost and Hellhammer. Forgoing blast beats entirely, Obituary’s ‘Cause of Death’ was predicated on oozing riffs, erratic structures and the swamp-born guttural belch of John Tardy. Every track is a standout, but “Chopped in Half” serves as the quintessential song from death metal’s perennial cavemen.
7Human
(1991)
1991: Death, 'Human'
While Schuldiner’s contemporaries were still dipping their toes in the water, the Death mastermind was already revolutionizing the genre he kickstarted just four years prior (cannonball!). With Cynic’s Paul Masvidal (guitar) and Sean Reinert (drums) and fretless wonder Steve DiGiorgio (bass), arguably the most ironclad lineup was assembled, ripping through complex melodies that were extinguished by hook-bound grooves, comfortably unpredictable from moment to moment. ‘Human’ is a rare glimpse at death metal perfection.
8The IVth Crusade
1992: Bolt Thrower, 'The IVth Crusade'
In what was possibly the densest year for death metal, tough decisions have to be made and Bolt Thrower’s war-torn ‘The IVth Crusade’ takes it all. You know Bolt Thrower when you hear them, but this album offered something a bit different, slowing things down with great effect. The grooves swung lower as the Brits looked for “Where Next to Conquer,” leaving behind a smoldering riff minefield.
9Covenant
1993: Morbid Angel, 'Covenant'
In 1993, death metal went commercial… sort of. Morbid Angel’s ‘Covenant’ became the first death metal record to see a major label release, but there wasn’t a whiff of selling out in the air, steamrolling through another 10 tracks of Hell-born hymns. Sure, David Vincent’s vocals had become quite intelligible by now, but the tradeoff for this slight notion of “accessibility” paid dividends with the immediacy of the occult-driven lyrics. “Bow to me faithfully” indeed.
10The Bleeding
1994: Cannibal Corpse, 'The Bleeding'
It’s about time Cannibal Corpse made it onto this list, huh? Their absence until now is indicative of just how cut-throat the early death metal scene was, but in 1994 these gorehounds just couldn’t be matched. The final album with deranged lyrical genius Chris Barnes onboard was also one many call the band’s best. ‘The Bleeding’ possesses the perfect combination of fleet-fingered fretwork, pulsating rhythmic beatdowns and catchy songwriting that culminated in a string of Corpse favorites.
11Pierced From Within
1995: Suffocation, 'Pierced From Within'
The 1995 representative was fiercely debated with Death’s ‘Symbolic’ and At the Gates’ game-changing ‘Slaughter of the Soul’ to contend with, but ultimately Suffocation’s watershed moment, ‘Pierced From Within,’ stands tall. Even without the technician Mike Smith behind the kit, the New York purveyors of both technical and brutal death metal nearly cleaved the Earth in two with the bulging might of all-timers like the contorting “Thrones of Blood” and Hulk-like title track.
12None So Vile
1996: Cryptopsy, 'None So Vile'
‘None So Vile?’ How about ‘None So Fast?!’ Crpytopsy’s concussive tour de force sophomore album is entirely chaotic, almost sounding as if two albums are being played on top of one another. Lord Worm’s feral, rushed delivery is impossible to follow even with a lyric sheet while grooves and flurries of surgical, oddball chords whiz by, all anchored by the artillery fire of Flo Mounier. This is death metal at its most untamed.
13Black to the Blind
1997: Vader, 'Black to the Blind'
Polish death merchants Vader were coming off their heralded ‘De Profundis’ with a covers album to tide fans over until they dropped the cut-throat sub-30 minute blastfest known as ‘Black to the Blind.’ With just one song cracking four minutes, Vader’s mechanical riffs were a devastating blur and a resounding statement that competition was still high regarding pure speed.
14Obscura
1998: Gorguts, 'Obscura'
In 1998, many failed to wrap their heads around the atonal warped chaos of Gorguts’ third album, ‘Obscura.’ Luc Lemay found notes completely off the fretboard, exploring vastly uncharted territory in extreme metal. Dizzying time signatures are unforgiving and the structures come across as entirely random, but the fact that this was all calculated is a testament to the genius at work here
15Still Life
1999: Opeth, 'Still Life'
After three albums, gradually finding their way and wearing down a path they exclusively walked, prog / death progenitors Opeth delivered in full in 1999 with ‘Still Life.’ Contained within was everything the Swedes had been hinting at, fully realizing their vision of light against dark, painting with broad-brushed death metal rhythms and Akerfeldt’s best-in-the-business growl and the delicate touch of airy passages to contrast their extreme roots.
16Follow the Reaper
2000: Children of Bodom, 'Follow the Reaper'
We’re with you in the fact that Children of Bodom aren’t the most immediately striking as a “death metal” band, they ultimately fall under this expansive umbrella. ‘Follow the Reaper’ is their defining moment as Alexi Laiho puts on a shred clinic for damn near every second of the album. Maiden-like harmonies and neoclassical leads are positively infectious as Bodom helped keep melody alive in a most trying era.
17Blackwater Park
2001: Opeth, 'Blackwater Park'
Most Opeth aficionados consider ‘Blackwater Park’ to be the high point of the band’s discography, seamlessly blending their opposing musical sides into a well-woven tapestry. Rather than contrasting the light and dark sides like before, the styles stepped on each others’ toes, allowing more breathing room in the composition, unfurling a new facet of this always evolving group.
18Resurrection Through Carnage
2002: Bloodbath, 'Resurrection Through Carnage'
Well hello again, Mr. Akerfeldt. Bloodbath united Sweden metal veterans under a purely death metal banner as they sought to pay homage to the genre’s groundbreakers. Bloodbath resurrected (through carnage!) old school death metal with gravedirt guitar tones, a gritty production and bare bones riffs. With style and substance to be had, this debut proved simplicity can be wholly underrated. Death metal the way they used to!
19Dechristianize
2003: Vital Remains, 'Dechristianize'
After wallowing in the underground throughout their career, Vital Remains received a much-deserved bump when Deicide’s Glen Benton signed on in 2003, promptly issuing the lauded ‘Dechristianize.’ Rounded out by constant Tony Lazaro (guitar) and superhuman Dave Suzuki (drums, lead guitar, bass, lyrics), the ever-formidable trio brought the extreme world to its knees with the mind-bending and incredibly fluid albeit complex compositions behind the title track and 10-minute album closer “Entwined by Vengeance.”
20Epitaph
2004: Necrophagist, 'Epitaph'
By 2004, technicality was nothing new to death metal, though Necrophagist’s sophomore album ‘Epitaph’ managed to send the genre head-first into a 15-plus year obsession with advanced guitar playing. The reason your local scene is flooded with seemingly world-class talent is thanks to songs like “Stabwound” and “Only Ash Remains.” Not only did Necrophagist establish themselves as the new elite, and quickly, but they crammed all of this virtuosity into fairly standard compositions, making it instantly palatable for even the most novice listener.
21Ghost Reveries
2005: Opeth, 'Ghost Reveries'
After the monumental ‘Blackwater Park,’ Opeth fans thought their favorite Swedish metallers couldn’t get any more perfect. However, to many, 'Ghost Reveries' is Opeth’s quintessential death metal masterpiece. Packed with 10-minute compositional works bordering virtuosic, 'Ghost Reveries' is, in many ways, Opeth’s most complete work. Weaving through the light and dark with an artist’s stroke, tracks like “Ghost of Perdition” and “The Grand Conjuration” remain cornerstones of Opeth’s career, while the psychedelic riff to “Atonement” remains one of the 21st century’s most powerful leads. Mikael Akerfeldt’s finest death metal gutturals arguably reside within 'Ghost Reveries', as does some of his most gorgeous clean singing.
22With Oden on Our Side
2006: Amon Amarth, 'With Oden on Our Side'
Amon Amarth are from the school of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but in 2006 they veered off their typical melodeath routing just a bit for the fiery ‘With Oden on Our Side.’ This is the album that helped break the band in America, exchanging some of their double kick-lead passages for more arena-centric moments (think anthemic dynamics, not cheesy “flick-your-Bic” choruses). The Swedish horde cut sword-raising melodies with chopping rhythms, replete with the viking lore the band made their name off of, coming away with some of their best tracks like “Asator” and “Cry of the Black Birds.”
23Antichrist
2007: Akercocke, 'Antichrist'
Devout Satanists and debonair dressers Akercocke have a fleeting relationship with their progressive tendencies, typically going for the most obvious take on a riff, preferring the savage and more brutish elements of death metal. They’ll transition into clean moments on a whim, but often times with simplicity when it comes to the guitars, but not at a loss to standout albums like ‘Antichrist,’ as they have an ear for indelible hooks, a driving force behind Akercocke.
24Communion
2008: Septicflesh, 'Communion'
Reuniting in 2007 and unifying the two halves of their name, Greece’s Septicflesh made a meteoric return statement in the form of ‘Communion.’ Pure nightmare fuel, Septicflesh wrapped their warped blackened death metal around petrifying orchestration, peppering the atmosphere with jarring chunks of riffs. The push / pull dynamic can be challenging at first, but worth the payoff.
25Cosmogenesis
2009: Obscura, 'Cosmogenesis'
With two Necrophagist recruits in the band, Obscura’s Steffen Kummerer helped keep techdeath under the bright German lights in 2009. Upon release, some called ‘Cosmogenesis’ tracks like “Choir of Spirits” and “Incarnated” the reincarnated spirit of Death’s Chuck Schuldiner, which is always a welcome endorsement for any band. While still overtly technical, Obscura’s push for songwriting over flashy guitar work resulted in the year’s best death metal album.
26Polarity
2010: Decrepit Birth, 'Polarity'
Decrepit Birth are among the top of the sprawling techdeath heap, dead-set on breaking the “riffs per minute” meter. Packing three albums worth of guitar playing in under 40 minutes, the California troupe never settle into a moment for too long, integrating grooves into their nimble fretwork (ala Suffocation), while newly introduced moments extinguish the longing for the band to milk a riff or two every once in a while. Everything about ‘Polarity’ is highly memorable from the aforementioned guitars to KC Howard’s surgical drum performance to Bill Robinson’s deathly bellows from dimensions known only to the vagrant singer.
27The Great Mass
2011: Septicflesh, 'The Great Mass'
Even before its release, Septicflesh’s masterwork, ‘The Great Mass,’ was being hyped as the album of the year and not just in the death metal realm. Here, the orchestration doesn’t come off as a necessary addition, but as the lynchpin of the band’s sound. The standard aspects of the band merely serve as the frame to the artful symphonic moments, driven by rapidly fluctuating drum tempos with seeming ease.
28Monolith of Inhumanity
2012: Cattle Decapitation, 'Monolith of Inhumanity'
Not that Cattle Decapitation needed to step up the intensity or dynamism within their own ranks, but they did so anyway with 2012’s ‘Monolith of Inhumanity.’ A whirlwind of a listen, these cruelty-free death-grinders blaze through torrents of riffs, switching from mechanical grooves to dissonant squelches with pure mania. There’s no comfortable place to settle into and the animalistic growling and agonized shrieking of Travis Ryan are perhaps the best he’s ever recorded here.
29Colored Sands
2013: Gorguts, 'Colored Sands'
Five years after re-forming and playing instrumental new material, Gorguts had finally come through on their long-promised follow-up to 2001’s ‘From Wisdom to Hate.’ Rather than creating another Frankenstein of a record, mainman Luc Lemay focused his penchant for dissonance into more direct riffs, opting to challenge himself with composition and mood. It was a surprise, but a welcome one as one of death metal biggest innovators was back in the game.
30Shadows of the Dying Sun
2014: Insomnium, 'Shadows of the Dying Sun'
Melodic death metal has been around for two decades, but just as the subgenre seemed to have been milked dry, Insomnium crafted a more perfect sphere. 'Shadows of the Dying Sun' is true melodeath mastery, with vocalists Ville Friman and Niilo Sevanen switching off between clean and guttural singing, respectively, with captivating character. Who knew death metal could be this catchy? The riffage on this record is top notch as well, with a dense wall of sound adding a soothing warmth to must-hear cuts like “While We Sleep,” “Revelation” and “Lose to Night.”
31Blessed Be My Brothers...
2015: Sarpanitum, 'Blessed Be My Brothers...'
Sarpanitum offer a rare combination of gleaming melody cut with devastatic sonic abrasion. ‘Blessed Be My Brothers’ defies conventional standards, injecting contagious harmonies amongst the otherwise brutal death metal foundation, backed by a masochistic drum performance from Leon Macey whose fills sound more like a row of cannons firing. With themes of ancient civilizations and mythology, the leads scream the glory of empires long past while the rhythmic-minded portion of the record quickly tears them down.
32Scent of the Buried
2016: Interment, 'Scent of the Buried'
While Interment’s ‘Scent of the Buried’ appears in the modern section of this list, sonically, it aligns itself with the basement-dwelling grime of the early Swedish death metal scene and could easily be mistaken for a gem from that halcyon era. Whammy-driven solos and HM-2 pedal-obsessed riffs dominate this one, making the loss of Dismember all the more palatable as their iconic sound is on full display.
33Wrong One To Fuck With
2017: Dying Fetus, 'Wrong One to Fuck With'
Dying Fetus bludgeoned 2017 with their most muscular effort since the classic 'Killing on Adrenaline.' Seeing a band this far into their career release something this essential is a bit of a rarity and this trio continues to flesh out pit-ready grooves that have come to define their career. With touring more vital than ever, it's a collection of songs like this that keep Dying Fetus ahead of their younger contemporaries as any song would generate a room full of fist-swinging and elbow-smashing.
34Where Owls Know My Name
2018: Rivers of Nihil, 'Where Owls Know My Name'
With their third full-length, Reading, Pennsylvania quintet Rivers of Nihil have crafted a technical/progressive death metal album that draws from Cynic, Atheist and Gorguts without aping them. At the same time, the album juxtaposes jazzy, melodic guitar solos with saxophone lines and leads that alternately provide a dusky, psychedelic vibe and freeform bursts of dissonance. Then, there’s the occasional melodic vocal passage to provide a brief respite from Jake Dieffenbach’s vocal roar. Matching the creativity of the music is the conceptual theme: The last man on earth becomes immortal and watches the earth die around him. It’s the perfect existential/nihilistic compliment to extreme music that relies on texture and mood almost as much as volume and aggression.
35Hidden History of the Human Race
2019: Blood Incantation, 'Hidden History of the Human Race'
Too much hype can kill a band, but Blood Incantation have been here before. Colorado’s mystic death metal quartet had generated underground buzz prior to their 2016 debut, Starspawn, which was instantly championed as an achievement of the genre. Coming next is the 36-minute, four-track Hidden History of the Human Race, with one song occupying nearly half the runtime. The identity of these four songs is astounding, especially the shroom-inspired “Inner Paths (To Outer Space)” instrumental, which offers some breathing room before the marathon sprint of the thrill-seeking closing track. Blood Incantation are playing flawless death metal.
36Verminous
2020: The Black Dahlia Murder, 'Verminous'
It’s undisputed — The Black Dahlia Murder are the premiere 21st century death metal group. What’s kept this band at the forefront is their penchant for reinvention and willingness to go in directions completely opposite of what was heard on the preceding album. Always just a smidge over the top thanks to Trevor Strnad’s bug-eyed vocal frenzy and vivid lyricism, TBDM matched this element insanely well on Verminous, an album rife with melodies rooted in classic heavy metal that remains firmly grounded in their ever-present technical death metal foundation. This is a thrilling new high as the band creeps up on 20 years of existence, ready to keep their seat at the throne warm over the next decade. —JD
37Bleed the Future
2021: Archspire, 'Bleed the Future'
Did anyone think it was possible to take technical death metal — in its purest form — in a more extreme direction than anyone had previously explored? We can think of five Canadians, at least, who did and thy name be Archspire. The Bleed the Future title track topped out at an absurd 360PM, but the sheer speed and precision of this group is actually not what’s most impressive about their fourth album. There’s more hooks here than the collective tackle boxes at a Bass Master tournament — even the drumming is catchy as hell. Archspire exist in a vacuum of sorts by being able to pull off such an elite level of technical lunacy while making each individual track a completely memorable standout. And, right now, nobody else is anywhere near the level of vocalist Oli Aleron, whose “shotgun” vocal technique is genuinely unlike anything in extreme metal. All hail your new tech-death overlords!
38It's Time...to Rise from the Grave
2022: Undeath, 'It's Time... To Rise From the Grave'

If you haven’t heard, there’s a new legion of death metal that has sprung up over the last couple of years and it’s one of the most exciting times in the genre’s entire existence. Undeath are among the leaders of this new wave and while It’s Time… To Rise From the Grave, the Rochester, New York group’s second album, doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it certainly brings things back to a more primitive state where our earliest ancestors first invented the wheel to begin with.

Undeath are a must-follow on social media and their fun-loving nature permeates the music, even if the lyrics are still quite gruesome. It all feels a tad tongue-in-cheek, which is a good thing because death metal doesn’t need to be super duper serious and after two years of literal Hell on earth, we can all afford to lighten up a bit and remember that fun is entirely permissible. —JD
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Info / Statistics
Artists : 46,070
Reviews : 10,025
Albums : 165,295
Lyrics : 216,786