Who Was the First Death Metal Band?

by Patria

Metal music, with its thunderous riffs and powerful vocals, has been a defining genre in the world of music. Within the vast tapestry of metal, there exists a subgenre that stands out for its extreme intensity and darkness: death metal. The origins of this brutal and relentless style can be traced back to the early days of metal music, a journey filled with innovation and experimentation. In this article, we will embark on a historical voyage to discover the first death metal band, exploring the roots and evolution of metal music along the way.

The Birth of Metal Music: A Prelude to Darkness

Before we delve into the emergence of death metal, it’s essential to understand the broader context of metal music’s birth. Metal music, characterized by its amplified sound, distorted guitar riffs, and often thunderous drumming, came into existence in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Bands like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple laid the foundation for what would become one of the most influential and diverse music genres in history.

The Advent of Extreme Metal Music

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a new wave of bands began pushing the boundaries of metal music, giving birth to various subgenres. One of the most influential of these subgenres was thrash metal. Bands like Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth infused metal with speed and aggression, setting the stage for even darker and more extreme forms of metal music.

The Early Pioneers: Possessed and Venom

As metal music continued to evolve, two bands, in particular, played pivotal roles in shaping the path to death metal. Possessed, a band hailing from California, is often credited with laying the groundwork for the genre. Their 1985 debut album, “Seven Churches,” featured a relentless blend of aggressive guitar work and guttural vocals, setting a precedent for the brutal sound that would define death metal.

Venom, a British band formed in 1979, is another significant player in the development of extreme metal music. While their music leaned more towards the black metal side of the spectrum, Venom’s dark and menacing image, coupled with lyrics that often dealt with themes of Satanism and the occult, had a profound influence on the emerging death metal scene.

The Emergence of Death Metal: Death’s “Scream Bloody Gore”

Amidst the experimental atmosphere of the early 1980s metal scene, a band named Death emerged as a pioneer of the death metal genre. Formed in 1983 by Chuck Schuldiner, Death released their debut album, “Scream Bloody Gore,” in 1987. This landmark album can be considered the first true death metal record.

“Scream Bloody Gore” featured a level of brutality and extremity that had not been heard before in metal music. Schuldiner’s growling vocals, combined with intricate guitar solos and relentless drumming, created a sonic landscape that was both terrifying and exhilarating. The lyrical themes of death, gore, and violence further solidified death metal as a distinct and extreme subgenre within the larger realm of metal music.

The Evolution of Death Metal: Morbid Angel and Cannibal Corpse

Following Death’s groundbreaking debut, the death metal scene began to flourish. Bands like Morbid Angel and Cannibal Corpse emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s, pushing the boundaries of the genre even further. Morbid Angel’s 1989 release, “Altars of Madness,” is often hailed as a classic in the genre, showcasing technical prowess and a relentless assault of sound.

Cannibal Corpse, formed in 1988, gained notoriety for their explicit and graphic lyrics, matched by the ferocity of their music. Albums like “Tomb of the Mutilated” and “The Bleeding” solidified their status as one of the most brutal and enduring bands in the death metal scene.

Death Metal Goes Global

As the 1990s progressed, death metal spread across the globe, with bands from various countries putting their unique spin on the genre. In Sweden, bands like Entombed and Dismember embraced a style known as “Swedish death metal,” characterized by a buzzsaw guitar tone and a mix of melody and brutality. In Florida, bands like Obituary and Deicide continued to push the boundaries of extreme music.

Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, Pestilence and Asphyx contributed to the European death metal scene with their technical prowess and relentless aggression. These bands, along with many others from different corners of the world, helped establish death metal as a global phenomenon within metal music.

Death Metal’s Endurance and Legacy

Over the decades, death metal has evolved and diversified, giving rise to numerous subgenres and hybrid styles. Melodic death metal, progressive death metal, and technical death metal are just a few examples of how the genre has continued to evolve and expand. Bands like Opeth, Nile, and Gojira have further blurred the lines between death metal and other forms of extreme music, showcasing the genre’s adaptability and enduring appeal.

In retrospect, it’s clear that death metal’s origins can be traced back to Possessed, Venom, and, most notably, Death. While these bands were instrumental in defining the genre, it’s essential to recognize that the development of death metal was a collective effort, with countless bands contributing to its growth and evolution.


In conclusion, death metal, a subgenre born from the fiery depths of the metal music scene, has a rich and complex history. While Death’s “Scream Bloody Gore” is often regarded as the first true death metal album, it’s important to acknowledge the influence of bands like Possessed and Venom, who helped pave the way for this extreme style of music.

Metal music, as a whole, continues to thrive and diversify, with death metal standing as a testament to the genre’s enduring appeal. From its humble beginnings in the 1980s to its global presence today, death metal remains a genre that challenges the boundaries of musical expression and continues to captivate audiences with its unrelenting intensity.

In the ever-evolving landscape of metal music, death metal stands as a reminder of the genre’s ability to push the limits of creativity and deliver music that is both powerful and uncompromising. So, as we explore the history of metal music, let us not forget the pioneers who ventured into the darkest corners of sound, giving birth to a genre that refuses to be silenced.

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