Death Metal is a Heavy Metal genre, emerging itself at the beginning of the eighties, and always as popular in the Heavy Metal scene as of today. The Death Metal movement find its origins in the USA, particularly near Florida, although we can include other important scenes around the USA (New York notably) and others less important around the world.
Death Metal, as well as Trash Metal and some forms of progressive metal are some of the hardest varieties of Heavy Metal, and maybe of all music with Jazz, Blues and certain forms of classical musical, to play and produce.
The diverse genres of Death Metal, going from technical death metal to progressive death metal, and including slam death metal or deathgrind, make it a very intriguing musical genre.
Death Metal is not only a very technically challenging form of music to play, it is also a very difficult genre to compose properly.
Death Metal music
Origins of Death Metal
Unlike Black Metal, there are no distinct and official Death Metal waves. Yet, we can easily retrace the history and evolution of Death Metal music throughout the ages.
The pioneer bands which really contributed to the creation of this Heavy Metal genre are Necrophagia, Obituary and Morbid Angel. I recommend you maybe look for some of their albums, to see what “first wave” Death Metal was about.
Another major influence was the band Death, which can be label as the pioneer of modern Death Metal. But the true influence of this genre was the release of the Death Metal demo, in 1984, by the band Possessed.
In the early nineties, bands acknowledged a more modern playing style and structured musical genre for Death Metal. More modern bands include Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation and Cephalic Carnage.
With the arrival of the “second wave” bands also came a wide variety of Death Metal sub-genres, including Deathgrind and Progressive Death Metal.
Death Metal musical style
In Death Metal, the most common lineup is a combination of a vocalist, one or several guitarists (as the Lead Guitarist and Rhythm Guitarist), a bassist and a drummer. The roles and characteristics of each musicians are of the following :
- Death Metal Vocalist : The Death Metal vocalist will, at least in theory, use exclusively Death growls. Death growls are a form of vocalization where the musician grunts, expiring (or inspiring) air through his lungs. It is highly discouraged to use the throat to achieve that kind of sound, at risk of irritations or lesions in that area. Although most Death Metal groups are trying to sound the heaviest possible, often at the point of being unintelligible to listeners unfamiliar with the lyrics, some bands prefer sacrificing the heaviness in favor of music and words easier to understand, which is the case in certain groups of technical or melodic Death Metal.
- Death Metal Guitarist : To be able to maintain a heavy sound and atmosphere, the guitars are generally tuned in C, which is two notes down compared to the original and traditional tuning. D and B tunings are also present, sometimes used respectively in the Melodic / Technical and the Brutal Death Metal sub-genres. As in Black Metal, heavy distortion is very present and sometimes seems greatly exaggerated. Also similarly to Black Metal, techniques such as tremolo picking or Palm Muting are commonly used. Death Metal riffs are often extremely complex, especially in Brutal / Technical bands, and require not only great precision but also great speed since the tempos are very high. Finally, it is not rare to see long and complex guitar solos in most forms of Death Metal.
- Death Metal Bass : The Death Metal bassist often has a role of great importance, as we are very far from a musical style where the bass is just following the guitar as in Black Metal. The bassist often plays differently than the guitarist, and sometimes even solos, or openings. Similarly to the guitar, the bass is often tuned in C, to bring a heavier sound.
- Death Metal Drumming : The role of the drummer in Death Metal is once again essential. Not only does Death Metal drumming require great speed, but it always requires a mastery of complex sound structures. Drum patterns are generally quite complex, and their drummers frequently use methods such as blast-beats, gravity rolls, gravity blasts and others.
Death Metal example : Dying Fetus
This is a very good song from the death metal band Dying Fetus.